Library of Ruina (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Okay, let’s get an important warning out the way right now: Library of Ruina somewhat spoils the ending of Project Moon’s previous game I’ve reviewed, Lobotomy Corporation. It is, after all, a direct sequel.

And damn, does it have a great intro. The game, also, is solid, if a little grindy at times, and annoying at others. But we’ll be getting into that.

Instant bonus points for the use of my favourite word, Angela. And Project Moon.

So, our protagonist (?) is a Fixer, essentially, a high-grade mercenary in a city where urban legends are both real and deadly, and, having been seemingly killed, he is resurrected, and given a very special job: To kill others in increasing power, who are invited to the library, to create pages from their souls… To hopefully create… The Perfect Book.

And how do you do that? Essentially, by deckbuilding, and using those cards (balancing powerful attacks with lower cost cards) in turn-based battles. Using the powers of the pages to increase your own, as “burned” books create pages, which your increasing cast of Librarians and Assistants can equip to take on their likeness (to an extent) and abilities… And the pages, when burned, can Realise other pages (level them up), and give you cards from said page’s deck, to use in your own combat decks. You don’t need to engage with that last part for the early game at least, but it’s highly recommended to take a look, and see where a Page’s base deck can be improved or changed to fill a good role.

Yes, the ones who came before you have all died here. Repeatedly. I’ve been… Grinding them… Ohohoho…

Earlier fights can be replayed for their pages, which is useful if you want to get said pages to their level cap (although fights also give XP to that page), but generally, you engage in an upward journey, eerily similar to the Sephirah of the previous game (and, indeed, said Sephirah are represented by familiar characters from Lobotomy Corporation, still under the control of Angela from the previous game), occasionally fighting equally familiar Anomalies from the previous game, such as the Forsaken Murderer to progress.

Each Anomaly is, essentially, a sort of puzzle boss, with some pretty specific strategies, although the Anomalies give hints sometimes, and you learn their patterns. Dying doesn’t do anything bad, at least as far as I know, so you’re welcome to try, try again. And, funnily enough, it’s the anomalies where I find the most grind and irritation. Forsaken Murderer, in particular, was, as the technical term goes, “A right bastard”, and it, along with some later fights in the current content, required some good strategy and a fair amount of grind to get things to the level I wanted.

This one, thankfully, wasn’t too bad. Later ones will not be as forgiving.

Aesthetically, the game is split between a well painted manga style, and a more stylised chibi set for the turn based fights themselves, with a sort of Art-Deco look to some elements, contrasting with the blood-red lettering of some elements, the scratchy backgrounds of character thoughts at the bottom, but every element that needs to be clear is clear, from health, to the emotion system, and the UX. Yes, there are lots of fonts, but each has its purpose. The sound, similarly is good, and the music solid.

Basically, if you want to see where Lobotomy Corporation’s world went after the first game, or if you like deckbuilding turn based combat with RPG elements, Library of Ruina is a solid pick, and its eerie world, with some light elements, but mostly surreal and a little dark, appeals.

The Mad Welshman loves libraries. He also loves tastefully done flesh-walls. Perhaps there’s some way to mix the two?

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Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £11.39 (£13.48 for game and soundtrack, £2.09 for soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access 2, Early Access 1

Glowmancers… Terrible to be in a relationship with, because they’re self destructive, toxic, and quite happy to take you down with them.

Oh, and they’re the same as enemies too.

WELP.

Yes, Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale has left Early Access, and do you know what? Still humorous, still a good cartoony aesthetic, still a solid level of simplicity leading to all sorts of strategic fun. For those not caught up, it’s a sort of deckbuilding roguelike, in that you attain tiles, which can be weapons, abilities, etcetera, they fall onto the board in a random manner, and… Well, there, the similarities mostly end, because you still have to pay to put said tiles in your hand (most of the time), and, if you want good money, you want to be thrifty about which ones you use to defeat all the enemies that have also been shuffled into the deck, for lo, that is the goal: Kill ’em all before they kill you.

Rose actually looks less scary as the Evil Queen.

But what really makes it, for me, isn’t the strategy arising from dealing with the hand you’re dealt, it’s the characters. Not just the main characters, who are a right old band of murderous misfits (from Bruno the Warrior, to Rose, who is simultaneously a pure priestess (ha) and an evil queen, with part of her abilities being able to switch between the two. I talked about an enemy example right at the top, the Glowmancer, a boss of the game, and oh boy, she’s nasty. Heavy damage, but damages herself in the process, so you want to go in with things that stop her from damaging you (Damaging herself is less of an issue, that helps.)

The aesthetic and snarky humour basically supports this weird and wonderful world, where barbarian bikers brawl in belligerent bars, golems made of nuclear waste slop their way about, and killing buckethead goblinoids makes you feel less intelligent, thinking everything costs more than it does… What toll does the war on goblinoids take, mmm, mmm?

Look, it’s a good map, alright?

So yes… It’s a solid game. It has amusing humour, it has a good aesthetic, and characterful depictions. It has an oddball world. And it has an interesting take on the ol’ deckbuilding roguelike type experience, even if, like many of them, earlier areas become sort of rote after a while. Worth a go!

The Mad Welshman idly wonders what’s next for the procgen tile/card/dice based genre. Perhaps roguelike Shogi?

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Fareo: Shadowlands (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Rifts in time and space. They let you do lots of fun things! Well, until they inevitably go wrong, and heroes from across time and space have to stop whatever’s behind all of it, or shut down the machine, or whatever.

And so it is with Fareo: Shadowlands, a combination of roguelite and strategy RPG that does a fair amount different to my usual experiences. And I appreciate that.

This guy is an asshole. I mean, he’s meant to be, but… Asshole.

Even if I most definitely don’t appreciate Yan, the final boss. So let’s get him out of the way first. Like any boss, he has pieces which are associated with some of his attacks, and he has several of them. Like any boss, he can attack all around him, some of his attacks at range (so nowhere’s really safe), and he can do three a turn… Most of which are area attacks. And any two of them in combination destroys one of my heroes.

I don’t like Yan, final boss of the dungeon or no.

Otherwise, however, I’m quite enjoying Fareo: Shadowlands, partly because it’s aesthetically solid. I wouldn’t really use superlatives, or go “gosh!”, but it’s solid stuff, a consistent aesthetic, and, apart from parts being a little hard to hover over or parse (tooltips and icons in battle, mainly), it’s okay in terms of accessibility.

Friends would skewer me if I didn’t mention Fadrake. Which is good, because I actually want to mention that oh hey, there’s a beefy shark with an anchor called Fadrake, and he kicks ass…

But mostly because of its interesting systems. The basic idea is that you take one of three paths offered to you, which can be a number of things. For example, Rifts are a normal fight, Huge Rifts are a more difficult fight, Priest can (for a price in one of the currencies of the game, the coins) resurrect dead party members, so on. But some of these are necessary for levelling up heroes you find, items you find, enchanting items you find… And there are good reasons for doing so.

Before Level 5 (the maximum, which all four of your base party members start with), you only have one special ability. Levels 1 to 4 are for rune slots, modifiers you can make to your hero, costing 1, 1, 3, and 5 runes out of the 10 allotted to you in the prep phase for a fight. For example, Fandrake, a beefy shark boy with a massive boomeranchor, can, with 5 runes, make the party immune to damage reflection. But with his first two rune slots, he can make half his damage be unblockable Chaos type (rather than wearing away the enemy’s armour), and every time he kills someone with his special Sweep ability, all the party gets their potion effect.

The other important thing is the card/movement system. Each turn, you’re dealt a number of cards (2 x the number of currently alive heroes, an important fact to remember for later) in one of four types: Attack, Defence, Mana, and Potion. They serve a quadruple purpose: They’re spent on movement, 1 a tile. They buff the hero (In the case of Attack and Defense, better attack and a shield respectively. The last two give mana or use your equipped potion.) They trigger special abilities when used in the correct order (like Sword and Shield for Hasaki, which unleashes a devastating attack.)

Awww crap, it’s a robot… That looks a bit like a buff cat! I don’t know whether to fight or scratch it behind the ears, HELP!

The thing is, you have to use the cards while moving to get their effect. Just standing still does nothing. So it emphasises mobility and synergy for the best effect. But not moving, not spending those cards, unleashes the other, fourth use: Using the terrain. Sometimes this is necessary, to move a map obstacle out of the way. But each single tile terrain item has an effect, and putting it on top of someone, for good or ill, does things. Rocks stun. Snowy trees freeze. Scrolls power up. That sort of thing.

It still heavily incentivises moving around, which is a shift in thinking that’s important to playing, but it’s an interesting one. Flaws wise, well, apart from the bosses being fucking hard, and the aforementioned tiny icons, there’s some tiny amount of untranslated text, or poorly translated text, but that last one’s a minor niggle, and overall?

Overall, this is an interesting game, trying something different, and it seems to be working. I look forward to seeing what happens next with it, and recommend taking a look.

I feel like rifts between time and space throwing disparate groups together to clash in a fun way isn’t done enough. Just throwing that out there…

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Spellsword Cards: Dungeontop (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £12.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access 1 Early Access 2

I’ve spoken a few times before about how enjoyable I find the many tactics you can find in the simple decks of Dungeontop, the aesthetic, the battles.

You’re a big feller, ain’tcha?

And now, I’m faced with a door. A door to the final level. Between me and the final level is… A lock. And, not having encountered a key anywhere else but the first level, I think to myself.

Ah. So I have to survive four bosses without a heal after each one, to get to this, the final level. Sod.

So, yes, Dungeontop now has a challenge mode level. And it both amuses and frustrates, tipping toward the former. After all, you can exit the dungeon, earning your due gold for a run, at this point. Still… Mean.

A recap for folks, then. Spellsword Cards: Dungeontop is a strategy deckbuilding roguelike, which is to say, you start with a deck taken from your class (Warrior, Mage, Rogue) and your allegiance (Hand of Karim, Guardians of Helm, Tribes of the North.) From there, you go through a dungeon, moving from fight to fight, and the fights…

Looks grim, doesn’t it? But no. The asshole next to me is the boss.

The fights are a grid, on which you play units, and have a hero. You have 3 mana, cards cost between 1 and 3 mana, can only be placed adjacent to each other (or your hero), and they get to move, attack, or both (Some folks have abilities like multistrike or leap, which changes this.) Kill the enemy hero, you win the fight. Your hero dies, you lose. Them’s the basics.

Now, we’ve talked about the various decks in previous reviews, but what we haven’t covered is the final faction, the Tribes of the North. They’re a pretty interesting one, because many of their units rely… On fungus spores. It makes them grow in power, so setting up a good spore economy means your units have the potential to be absolute shitkickers… Provided they live long enough, because many of them are individually weak. Also in the deck are Evolve cards. These ones are also interesting, because every time they kill a minion, everything with evolve gets an ability. Where Helm relies on bruisers, and Karim relies on sacrificing your own, the Tribes of the North rely on teamwork and growth. So… I’m liking the cut of their jib!

Alas, in some situations, even teamwork can’t stop things from getting hairy.

Nonetheless, as mentioned earlier, the aesthetics are good, with some solid card art, some good atmosphere in the music, and sounds that do the job. The menu is still, somehow, a little small, not unreadably so, but… There’s a lot of screen real estate they aren’t using, and it somewhat annoys me.

Beyond this, though, Spellsword Cards: Dungeontop is a strong roguelike of its ilk, and comes recommended. It’s got a lot to play with, a lot to unlock, and the tactical end of things, even by the time you become familiar with the enemies you come across, is interesting. Worth a try!

Teamwork shall destroy our enemies far better than throwing others to the wolves.

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Last Regiment (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam

“Are you sure you want to leave this awesome game?” Well… Yes, because I have reviews to write, food to cook, life to live, etcetera, and… You’re sounding a little confident there, game!

Satyrs, goblins, yeti… Probably elves too… (there are elves)

Nonetheless, although The Last Regiment is in Early Access, although there are things I dislike about it, it definitely shows promise. Some stuff, however, it needs to work on, before I could give something approaching a thumbs up. So let’s summarise what it is, and get the stuff it needs to work on out the way fast.

So, The Last Regiment is a fantasy turn based strategy game, in which… Ehehe, the units are represented by cards you draw from a deck, with the addition of some building only cards you can draw from occupied buildings, but it’s… Only sort of a deckbuilder. More accurately, the cards, be they units or abilities you get in a campaign mission are pretty set, but in Skirmish and Multiplayer modes, you can pick and choose to make a deck consisting of twelve types of cards, 1 set rare (1 each in the deck), 1 set uncommon (2 of each in the deck), and 1 set common (3 of each), limited still by the faction you pick. It’s not a bad idea, honestly, and it seems to work just fine.

An example of a prebuilt faction character for skirmish mode.

However, that UX is definitely something that needs fixing. The menus are fine. But when you get into battle, and you can juuuust about see those tiny action buttons in the bottom left corner, that’s… No, that needs fixing, or at least be scalable for people who aren’t perfectly comfortable with the concept of eyestrain. Otherwise on the accessibility front, colours seem okay, elements, apart from the size relatively clear, tooltips are alright, and it starts with subtitles on, which should be a god-damn standard.

Play wise, well… The idea that cards are randomly drawn, on top of the usual resource management inherent to a turn based strategy game like this, isn’t nearly as bad as you’d think, because there are things that make units last longer, even if they’re still limited in what they can do. They can assault, rather than just attack, minimising damage (but not stopping, say, other attackers from engaging in a normal battle with the unit), fortify, buff, upgrade no matter where they are… It’s a game where I can see myself exploring it and not feeling cheated by worse than average odds, because I can even them out some, buy more time to build up defenses, or sneak around to capture things.

Tiny buttons, aka “A sin against god and man.”

I’m less fond of the campaign being fully linear, however. There’s multiple factions, and while I appreciate that the story’s meant to be shifting from one to the other as things go forward, it just feels needlessly limiting, and I have to go to skirmish mode to explore a faction before I play their campaign, and experience their story. This is, however, a personal taste thing, as is finding some of the Live2D animations a little off.

Overall, though? This shows promise as a strategy game, and worth a poke.

Props on having goblins be the first faction, though. Goblins need more love.

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