Banners of Ruin (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49 (£21.28 for bundle with Supporter stuff, Supporter Bundle on its own £5.79)
Where to Get It: Steam

I do love me some anthro dark fantasy. A tale of revenge, the last members of a clan of animals making their way through the enemy’s city to claim their head… Yes, this is very much my jam.

And, despite some qualifications, Banners of Ruin is also my jam.

Who are the bad guys? Well, they’re the ones on the side of ri- on the right hand side. This is dark fantasy, there is no right side…

So, in case you hadn’t guessed, this is one of those games where you pick cards for events (out of three each time, although you won’t always get a choice), level up your characters, build up a deck of combat cards with which to beat down the enemy, and weapons and armour to help screw them up, recruit more characters (potentially), fight a variety of enemies, and… Well, most likely die on your run until you really get to know the game.

Just roguelike things, y’know?

Honestly, though, while this isn’t anything new, per se, it’s solidly built. Choices are relatively simple, and everything is clear… Well… See, this is where one of the qualifications comes in.

See those tiny squares on the bottom? That’s where you drop your stuff.

Accessibility wise, it’s fuckawful. Serif fonts, often tiny. Colourblindness unfriendly symbols which are also tiny… Would a white outline, or, y’know, a high contrast colour kill you, folks? I can tell it’s bleeding from the drops, I can tell it’s a wound from… I know what the symbols mean because of your tooltips… It does have some of the basic stuff, like windowed mode, removing motion blur or screen shake, so on so forth, but… Something this ubiquitous is something that really needs looking at.

So there’s that. I did, however, like the fact that fights that seemed extremely deadly at first were actually manageable… Well, until the first boss, who utterly ruined me… But that’s generally the case with this sort of roguelike. I liked the fact that moving a party member from their position flummoxes the direct attack enemies, but doesn’t work at all on archers, and has only limited use with pikemen. However, be warned, keeping weapons in your stash also means they’re cards in your deck. Cards you can’t use, or, more accurately, I couldn’t quite use. Similarly, switching equipment from the looting screen is… Awkward. Tiny icons again, folks… Tiny icons.

I couldn’t exactly turn down a ferret with a polearm, could I?

And visually, I love it. I’m a sucker for painted art, and the art is good. Soundwise, I don’t feel particularly strongly either way.

If the accessibility issues were fixed, I’d whole-heartedly recommend this one to folks more experienced with card-based roguelikes, but as it is, it comes with that heavy accessibility qualification.

The Mad Welshman wants all dark animal fantasy to be as accessible as possible. The only thing I’d say we need more than dark fantasy anthro games is lesbian otome villainess isekai games.

Become a Patron!

Swarm The City (Demo Review)

Source: Review Copy (?)
Price: The actual game isn’t out yet.
Where to Wishlist It: Steam

I don’t normally review demos. Early Access, I’m comfortable with, because it’s an ongoing process. It’s fascinating to see how a game evolves (or devolves) as time goes on. But a demo is generally part of a finished product, even if it’s not the whole thing, and even if it’s sometimes different. But I did accept a key, and it’s not a public demo, so…

From relatively small beginnings…

…Take this as a review of the demo, and if any similarities exist between it and the game itself, well, those critiques apply. Otherwise… Well, this is for the demo of a real time strategy game about being an unseen dark overlord released in the modern day, unleashing your undead hordes to once again cover the world in darkness. Solid concept.

That said, it’s a rocky start when you have a slow loading time, and the quit, join the discord, and version number all blurred out by your filter. It loses that fuzziness once you hit that “start the game” (get to the main menu) button, and you get to make the game windowed from that point on, but… First impressions matter.

After that? Well, it was only the first chapter, but I can say it was… Okay. The UI is minimalist, although it could maybe do with some tooltipping, but this works. The (unskippable) text crawl at the beginning was sans-serif, which is a solid accessibility choice, as is the rest of the text, some of the icons are small, and it’s unclear at first that you have to go to the side of the skill button to level something up, but the basic concept is solid, and the visual aesthetic overall is the low poly good shit that I enjoy, animated fairly well. Musically, it was a bit sparse, and I’m genuinely uncertain how much playtime the other two chapters in the main game would offer, but…

To a full blown crisis thanks to a slow response from… Wait, shit, pretend I didn’t say that…

It’s okay. I have as many “hrm…” moments as I had “Ah!” moments, such as how you can play pretty tactically, but also the “move here” command doesn’t scroll along at the edge of the screen, which fixes you to a relatively short range in the larger maps… The demo, at least, seems solid for fans of relatively simple real time strategy that nonetheless has some layers to it, but, as I mentioned, I can’t speak for the rest of the game.

The Mad Welshman would like to pick your brains on this one…

Become a Patron!

Before We Leave (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.99 (Soundtrack £6.99
Where To Get It: Steam

An interesting title, that. Has a kind of Ray Bradbury feel to it. In any case, the apocalypse has happened, the world has returned to some semblance of normality, and people have decided to rebuild. On sea. On land. In space.

I mean, they’re humans, of course they- OHHHH, YOU MEAN DEHYDRATED! D’OH!

Honestly, it’s somewhat nice to have a chill exploration and resource management game like this, and the aesthetic quite pleases me. After all, sea shanties are definitely my jam, and any music that reminds me of them is OK In My Book.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games. After all, pollution is one of those things that screwed people over in the Before-Time, not that they remember, but they quickly learn that yes, smog from power plants, iron dust, and other “fun” stuff bad. Especially this useful, but awful black stuff, god, we’ve gotta get away from using that pronto!

However, sometimes it slows down a whole bunch. Once you’ve got a ship, for example, and colonised a second island, your previously quick pace up to that point slows down for a while until you get everything ready for fabric making, because wow, who thought the heat of a desert would make people super tired, meaning that unless your home to workplace route is short (ha, good luck with that), they’re going to spend long periods resting, also low on resources until you gun quickly for your new researches that can only be done with desert resources, and clothing, in that order.

You have discovered… Really Big Houses. But yes, those resources aren’t going to be helped by the fecund planet you just left for a while

Oh, and set up a trade route. Trade is pretty important in Before We Leave for new colonies. Once again, once you hit new planets, things slow down again… If you’re okay with these slow periods, in which you don’t really need to do anything with previous islands. In fact, once the research tree on an island is done, there’s nothing that needs doing, although increasing the population generally helps with resource flow… But again, is not, strictly speaking, needed… You can keep that relatively pastoral life for quite a while on your first island, with no detriment to the others. Especially as higher populations create more work, in the form of unhappiness management. Your efforts mostly focus on one island at a time in the early game.

And then, when you get to a new planet… Oh. Whoopsie, you didn’t pass on any of those red research points, and you have to start all over again, research wise. Thus creating another roadblock.

Welcome to Island 3. Relax, we already got weather-proof clothing, they’re just sleeping because it isn’t arriving there fast enough, and we can’t grow cotton here.

Aesthetically, the game works. Low poly hexes, low poly people, characterful, good music, clear UX… But mechanically, I find myself more frustrated by the roadblocks than charmed by the simple, clear play. It may be one of those games that “gets better later”, but… While I’d say give it a go if you like colonisation and resource management games, I can’t personally say it wowed me.

Before I Leave, I’d like to remind you all to hit up the Patreon, or at least gimme a Ko-fi. That way, I’ll have some snacks for the journey through space.

Become a Patron!

Legend of Keepers (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99 (Supporter pack £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam
Previous Reviews: Early Access

Let’s see here… Welcome back, Legend of… Kepers? Oh, Keepers, sorry, that was hard to pronounce. So, as you know, you’re here for your review meeting, in which we go over what you’ve learned, how you’ve improved, your general suitability as a procgen , your ability to show what dungeon keeping is like, the hassle, the danger, the awful marketing department, so on, so forth…

Place your monsters carefully, for maximum effect. Go for consistent builds. Murder the hell out of those self righteous twits.

A little improvement, not much change? Ah, well, that’s to be expected, you were pretty polished the first time around, didn’t really have many complaints. You’re still nice and presentable, that’s quite the accessible look you have there, presenting yourself clearly, very understandable… We’re always fond of pixel art here at WelshCorp, especially hi-def pixel art, very nice look! You’re not all that musical, but not everyone has talent in that area, and you’re certainly suitable.

Now, let’s see, you still have three classes, each with their own skill tree, each with their own gimmick… The brute, the trapper (actually very good at ruining morale, that’s nice!), and the damage-over-time specialist (poor dear, she gets in so many fights, I’d consider her the hard mode, honestly…) The brute is, alas, still a little bro-ish, but we can’t help our little quirks sometimes.

Marketing: They’re still jerks. But

Oh dear, that awful random party shuffle man is still in your department? Well, he adds a little tactical spice, but customer reports state that he’s really not popular with people. Well, at least he generally dies quickly.

Oooh, a little storytelling too as you progress through the seven two year stints of the game (week by week, with events?) Well, it’s only a small addition, but it’s a nice one, so you definitely score points there with us.

Well! I can see you’ve only improved slightly, Kepers… Keepers? Terribly sorry. Also, why is your first name not Legends, plural? It’s just your name? I’m nitpicking now, terrible habit of mine. Yes, you definitely pass muster among those players who’d like to explore the world of strategic and tactical rogue-sort-of-maybe-kind-of deals, and, of course, veterans of the field looking for a challenge!

So, since this is your final review session with us… Oh, you didn’t know? Well, our budget has been slashed, so we’re having to cut the fat, as it were. You’re lean, mean… Ahaha, well, we’ve replaced you with a cheaper employee. But you get a very nice severance package, why, it’s all of 120 gold!

AAaAAaAAAAAARGGGGH DAMN YOUUUUUU!

WAIT, NOT THE TABLE! NOT THE FACE!

The Mad Welshman is accepting further produc- er, employees. He’s talking about games to review, not writers. Pay him lots if you want more writers.

Become a Patron!

Loop Hero (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £12.49 (Soundtrack £5.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

I love the premise of this game: In a fate similar to The Neverending Story, the world has been unhappened. Reality has been forgotten. Except for one person, who is, on an endless loop, trying to remember how it all used to be, fighting through monster after monster, returning feature after feature.

Here’s an early run, and, by the end of the review, you’ll see a late run. Vast difference.

It all melts away when you return to camp, but… You’ve still made a difference, even if it feels pointless. And it hits home, time and time again, that the world contains good and evil, and things in between. Narratively, this game works pretty damn well, with its mechanics tightly fitting to this idea that the more the world is remembered in some fashion, the brighter the possibility of bringing it all back becomes.

Gamewise? It’s honestly okay, a nice touch on the strategic roguelike, where the path is set, but what you put on that path is where the calculation comes in. You want room, for example, for villages, or features that heal. You can’t overuse them, because you need items and experience to face the boss of each area. But you can’t overuse those, because if the pressure gets too much, you might as well retreat and lose some of the resources you gained.

You’ve got time. Seemingly endless time. And the more time you spend, the more loops you go through, the more resources you can get, to improve the camp back home, giving you more memories of the outside world, more cards to slip into your limited deck that allows you to recreate a microcosm of the dark world you lived in, to become stronger… And the other two classes.

Bones versus Bones, who will win?!?

I like the three classes of this game, each has their own playstyle, their own focus, and I love it. The warrior, the first, is the most straightforward: Hit things, get equipment from them, get stronger, use crits, fuck shit up, rinse, repeat. There’s still variation in how you do it, builds you can play with, but it’s the simplest in terms of gameplay.

The thief and the necromancer, by contrast, ah, they’re not quite so simple. The thief only gets their items (except for village quest items) at the end/start of each loop, the camp. But their power, their levels, are determined by how many trophies you caught (IE – Monsters you killed.) It’s high risk, high reward, and the one I often push too far with. The necromancer, by contrast, well, they don’t fight themselves. You’re buffing your skelly boys with each equipment drop, with each skill you learn. And yes, each class has their own skillsets they can pick from on levelup, although it’s semirandom.

Once it’s boss time, though… Well, the bosses are no pushovers, so you have to feel like you’re properly prepared to face them. And you’re probably still going to get wrecked your first time or couple of times. Considering there’s three bosses, though? It’s all good, and you will be beating them multiple times.

Aesthetically? Omigod I love it so much. C64 style graphics, even down to the palette, dark, brooding tunes, it oozes aesthetic, is clear, and I fucking love it.

It’s a damn shame this is all going to vanish into the void that’s consumed everything. Even if it’s extremely likely to kill us.

Yes, I definitely like this one, as it has many of the positive points I find in good indie games: Tight design, mechanics married to narrative, an interesting story, and it’s a game that can be played in smaller sessions, respecting your time. Yes, I like this indeed.

The Mad Welshman returns to his own loop, forgetting the past briefly so as to concentrate on the present, the future.

Nah, he’s having so much fun with the present and the past.

Become a Patron!