Ultimate ADOM (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £17.49
Where To Get It: Steam
Previous Review: Early Access

Ah, ADOM. I’m going to say this now, if you don’t like hard, old school roguelikes, stay away, because ADOM is very, very traditional. In the “If you don’t know the systems, you’re unlikely to get past Level 3, and random start is Challenge Mode” sense.

MONSTER CLOSET, WOOOOOOOO!!!!

Also if you find a clunky UX which occasionally does things like have text that’s obviously code (such as, in at least one of these screenshots, “DRINK_SYMBOL”) offputting. Because that’s a thing too.

Anyway, yes, despite this, it’s not a bad roguelike. It is, after all, one of the earlier ones that’s gone through a lot of rejigging, although this version doesn’t have the massive world traditional ADOM does. Gender options are alright (including, as I mentioned in my Early Access review, Tentacled… Gotta love Tentacled and Non-Binary as options… Although, as with older RPGs, each gender comes with stat mods… Not my favourite), class and race options are pretty plentiful, and there’s certainly a fair few systems to interact with, like summoning, grafting, corruption and mutation… There’s not all that many roguelikes where I can say “I, a Gray Elf Necromancer, decided I wanted a third arm that belonged to a goblin. I never did find a third dagger for it before I died, but I could have, and that would have rocked. Damn you, dark elf immune to life draining magic, which was my main healing…”

Bree-Yark is… God-damn, I think that’s one of the oldest tabletop/roguelike memes in existence… Glad to see it here.

And aesthetically, it’s alright. No major issues besides skinny text for accessibility, the chibis and monsters look alright… Honestly, my main problem is that it’s clunky. Progression has gotten faster, so levelling isn’t a big problem, but going through a mini-menu when you want to do certain things gets annoying quickly, even with a turn based game where taking your time and thinking is the preferable path.

In the end, Ultimate ADOM may well please traditional roguelike fans who don’t mind a little jank, but folks looking to get into roguelikes should definitely look elsewhere. I honestly wish I could say more, but… There’s not a lot else to say that I haven’t said before.

The Mad Welshman is one of the deities in this game. Well, he’s like one of the deities in this game. Certainly as stylish.

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Ambition: A Minuet In Power (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.99 (Game plus soundtrack £23.18, Soundtrack £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam

My word, this one is a delight. I mean, I’ve heard some… Interesting things about the developers, nothing you could repeat, mind you, but…

I am joking, I’ve heard nothing. But that’s the most fitting intro I could think of for a game set just before La Revolution, in which scheming is rife, including yours. Who shall you side with, who shall you snub, and what shall you wear, while avoiding poverty because your fiancee ran off to God knows where before you even arrived?

The obligatory Map Screenshot. Look, it’s in my contract…

In any case, this is a life simulation game, in which you’re balancing various stats (it’s a relatively simple one, so it’s favour with factions and characters, money, peril, and exhaustion) while engaging in social situations in a visual novel style format. Read the text, enjoy the expressions, pick the most suitable path for you, and see what ending results (or, you know, aim for a specific one)

At the time of the review, I was, essentially, already on my way to revenge, revolution, and a lesbian romance with an older widow. Perfect path for me, honestly, I love me Dat Good Queer Shit, I dislike the Bourgeoisie, and the noblewoman who snubs you at the beginning of the game is a hateful bitch. I could have curried favour with another lady (a painter for the Queen), some men, the military, the church, but… Naaahhhhh. So, what do I like and dislike about the game, then, now I’ve mentioned this?

I’m not normally one for older women, much less toppy ones. But when they understand me this well? Yes. Yes please, and thank you.

Aesthetically, I love it. Expressive characters, solid writing, clear UX, music that fits both the period and the mood, good tooltips… My only bitch with the UX is that when something is grayed out, this is the time to hit Escape to go back, but it does not, in fact, inform you of this. Oh, and the windowed mode going a bit fucky from time to time. But, overall, it pleases me, very good.

Now, the core gameplay loop and the writing? Oh. God. Yes. The gameplay is simple in all its elements. When you’re not at a party, you get one thing to do a day, like buying a new dress, selling or disseminating that Hot Gossip, engaging in encounters, trysts, furthering one of the stories, some days gives you invitations to parties, where declining hurts your credibility (remember, this is also the word for “Someone believing you”), and accepting sets a day aside for attending said party. When you do, you get two social encounters, picked from a pool. Do well, get nice things, maybe some bad things, like Peril (leading, obviously, to bad things. Do poorly, get more of the latter, and expect your reputation to plummet.

Let me romance this charming partner in crime, god-dammit! Look at that radiant smile, and the willingness to help cover up my crimes!

It’s easy to navigate, which leaves… The writing. The characters are, as mentioned, expressive visually, and it’s the same in terms of writing. Madame Honorade Gazelle (alas, a Bourgeoisie… Maybe I can persuade her otherwise), for example, is a firebrand, teetotal, but passionate, and caring not for your silly conventions. Camille, your maid… Well, I screenshotted one of her exchanges above, she’s most definitely not law abiding when she needs (or wants) to be, and a cheerful and helpful servant. Alas, not romanceable. Maybe that could be in a patch, or a DLC? After all, out of the romance options, only two are gay (out of six), and we could do with a bigger scandal, couldn’t we?

In any case, to folks who like lifesims, visual novels, and intrigue with a historical touch, this is a very good pick. I’m having a lot of fun, and I expect to have more.

Give us Camille if you want to live, developers. The villains and villainesses demand Camille. (We won’t really hurt you. Camile pweaaaasee?)

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Jupiter Hell (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.49
Where To Get It: Steam
Previous Reviews: Early Access 1

Well, this is certainly pleasing. Not unexpected, but pleasing. Jupiter Hell has had quite the glow-up since I last saw it, and I am happy.

He’s angry… I mean, this is the default state, but… Yup, definitely some killing to be done here!

I mean, not aesthetically, although its intro is very nice, much machismo there, yes… And health items are still hard to spot in certain areas (would it kill ya to add outlines for the colourblind, mmmm?) but in other terms.

First though, your reminder as to what Jupiter Hell is: It’s a turn based game, in which all actions take a certain amount of time, and you walk/run around, pick up items, shoot the hell out of zombies, demons, and security bots, and move from level to level, with risk-reward decisions at every step. For example: You’re low on ammo for your favourite weapon. Do you ditch it for a while for something with more common ammo for the area, or do you stick with it in the hopes of finding more, at the risk of being caught in an awkward situation?

Oh, and there’s the challenge modes: Do not do them if you’re not up for a very roguelike challenge mode (hard as balls even on medium difficulty), but they do exist, and they are interesting (such as “Angel of Carnage.” Rocket launcher only, all ammo can be turned into rocket launcher ammo, good luck, because there’s a high chance of killing yourself!)

You’d think a fight between a security robot with a minigun and a marine with a pair of uzis would be an unfair matchup. You’d be right, bot never had a chance.

Anyway, me oh my, the stuff since the last update has become pretty interesting. More areas, lore (surprising nobody who’s played any of the spiritual predecessors, the Doom series, Mars has become a portal to hell and the company stationed there was doing bad things that caused this whole mess), and something I don’t think I’ve seen in a roguelike before: Messages that can incentivise you to take another path, or warn you about problems ahead.

“Some asshole got into the strongroom on CALLISTO MINES L1, here’s how they did it, please fix [NARRATOR: It wasn’t fixed, and everyone involved with that strongroom is dead, loot to your heart’s content]” or “Shit, the power’s out in IO HUB, you’ll need a multitool to bring the power back [TRANSLATION: Dark level, but if you have high enough firepower, this is a good thing, don’t bother fixing the lights.]”

It’s a pretty welcome thing, honestly. Refreshing.

Wait, it has… Story now? Yes, and quelle surprise, capitalism and the military industrial complex did a demonic whoopsie!

Anyway, overall, Jupiter Hell has a good easy difficulty for folks, it’s relatively simple, pretty accessible, barring a few issues, and as far as roguelikes go, yes, I still recommend this one.

Now, The Mad Welshman doesn’t have to worry about demons for all of… A week? Things just keep cropping up, he doesn’t know where they come from…

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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.

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The Henry Stickmin Collection (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Try this one WEIRD game! Completionists will HATE it!

I mean, that’s a really good capsule summary. It’s weird (unsurprising, considering it’s a meme ridden ex-Newgrounds series, a notable time for experimentation in Flash games, not always to the better, but enjoyably so, in this case), and yes, as a completionist, I can say that 100 percenting this game is a bastard.

If you’re confused, this is an MLG replay of failing utterly by 360 no-scoping your friend there. SO PRO, MUCH 1337. Oh, and content warning flashing imagery for that.

Okay, let’s get into it. Henry Stickmin (not to be confused with Henry Stickman) is a not-great human, er… Stickman. And with him, you go on a choose your own adventure style game (but with some quick time events) where failing still provides entertainment. There are six episodes, one of which requires you to have completed all the endings of the previous two to complete (part one of “Completionists will hate this.”) Choose your method of getting past the obstacle, watch what happens, likely retry, rinse, repeat. As noted, there are quick time events (some of which are brutal, so folks not okay with twitchy games, note well), and… Collectibles.

Oh boy, the collectibles. So, normally, I would be fine with collectathons. Love ’em. But Henry Stickmin wants to make it as hard for you as possible. There are people you have to click within about half a second, or multiple people you have to click within a few seconds, as many as 15. Some of whom are small. The same with the paintings in Stealing the Diamond. Oh, and the Among Us collectibles. And that one achievement where you have to click Gary Mann 5 times, or click where Henry’s going to land correctly in three different scenes…

STANDO!

Yup. I hate the completionist aspect of this one. I’m also less than fond of it using infamous meme “Shoop Da Whoop” (A blackface meme), even considering that it was popular back in the day. Gollywog dolls were too, and I sure as hell wouldn’t defend them. But overall, it picks some solid ones, fun references to Avatar, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Predator, Looney Tunes, Zelda, Pokemon, Phoenix Wright… I could go on for a fair while, but its silly humour lands more often than it misses. Or maybe I’m just an old.

Aesthetically, well, it’s very clear. Choices are nice and big, the text is clear… The music is a bit of a mixed bag, but overall, it works.

Now, when it comes to the audience? I’ll freely admit, the appeal is somewhat niche. Masochistic completionists, I guess, old folks like me who get the memes, Newgrounds Nostalgics… Seriously, I don’t really know. All I know is I found it a generally alright experience, except for the completionist stuff, which I hated.

No, The Mad Welshman has not 100%ed this game. Don’t bug him about it.

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