Outriders – First Impressions

Honestly, I’m not sure what to think about Outriders. I’ve been playing it for the last four hours and while I’ve enjoyed the demo, it’s mostly that I’ve enjoyed the abilities.

For anyone that doesn’t know, there’s a demo available for Outriders right now that lets you play through the first chapter of the game. There are four classes and you can level up to Level 7 and unlock World Level 4. Everything transitions over to the full game if you end up pre-purchasing or buying it… 

Where do I start? Where do I start? Uh,… Earth is doomed and people hence travel to a distant planet. One of the ships blows up in space for whatever reason and down on the planet, there are these alien storms that are very lethal. For whatever reason, we don’t die by it but get altered instead… hence, we’re one of the “Altered”, on top of being one of the remaining Outriders (the military people that came with one of the ships). There is black goo that is infecting people, killer storms, and some mad scientist that commands the other ship that is still in space to come down despite us not being ready. God damn it! Alas, stuff happens and we get put into Cryo to be saved later… but we wake up 31 years later instead of the few days, weeks, months that were planned. Alas, once we arise from our slumber, we are involved in a war, we are left to die and then we end up helping our friends, including my favourite character so far: The charismatic and never-sober Jakub! 

Oh no…. a storm is coming!

Well, since we’re an Altered, we have up to three different skills that can be exchanged for different skills. The four classes play quite differently, although I haven’t played too much of the Trickster just yet (more of that tomorrow, hopefully). The Technomancer is an ice-based long-ranged support character that can drop turrets and other gadgets to help allies or fight their way alone through areas. The Pyromancer is a mid-range fire-mage, kind of… You can inflict a lot of elemental debuffs and damage and you have some crow control, so I’ve been enjoying this one a lot. The Trickster is a time-based short-range assassin that does a lot of damage and gets shielded on top of the healing (more on that later) when they kill stuff up-close. The Devastator is an earth-based tank that goes into short to medium range and heals from killing encounters up-close.

Now, every class heals in some way. The Pyromancer has spell-leech/spell-vamp and the Technomancer heals based on long-ranged damage dealt. I love playing mages and I love snipers, so I’m enjoying both of these classes a lot. There are also skill trees in the game as well as gear that changes your spell-attributes (similar to how exotics in Destiny have special attributes). Some weapons also may synergise quite well with builds, I’ve noticed. A sniper I got has a poison shot, for instance, which works quite well if I don’t one-shot a target with it while another weapon has bonus armour pen on the first shot after reloading… I’d imagine that other weapons deal bonus damage on burning targets or targets with ailments as that could work quite well with the Pyromancer for instance.

Selfie Time!

Either way, that’s been great and interesting, but overall it feels kind of… off? The gunplay is great with some of the weapons… but others feel lacklustre. In Destiny (and the comparison was inevitable) you’ve got weapons that feel like they hit their targets and like they’re packing a punch. The gunplay is funplay. Here… you’ve got snipers that just let out a quick “pew” before you have to aim again and it’s just not as satisfying. Not all weapons are like that… but a lot of them are.

In the same way, there are some mechanics in the game that feel kinda iffy like the missing jump-button and the whole guarding-mechanic that is very Gears of War ish. I both like and dislike the guarding mechanic. Sometimes it feels unnecessary or I forget that it’s a thing. I wanna jump over an obstacle and am suddenly guarding and clinging to the wall… feels weird. At the same time, it’s cool since I haven’t played many games with that sort of mechanic.

At last… the character creation… ugh… the male voice sucks btw… I like the female voice a lot more… but my biggest problem with the character selection is that the skin tones don’t work properly. Belghast has a nice comparison in his post showing some unintentional racism where skin tones aren’t the same for all heads… I wanted to create a super pale character because… I’m super pale and a lich and all of that… but all of the skin tones look brown-ish… which I didn’t feel that great about. Luckily, you can cover your head quite well with a helmet to brush over that fact. You also have presets for hairstyles, head shapes and beards… but I can’t customize the body or shapes or whatever. At the same time, I can select a beard as a man but not as a woman… and as a woman, I can have makeup… but not as a man? I don’t know. I like my makeup on male characters, so that would have been something I would have personally enjoyed. Generally, the character creation is also lacking a lot and I hope they add stuff to it, including actual functioning skin tones. I don’t have to be a pale vampire with red lipstick in every game… but you know… I don’t feel comfortable creating POC as a white person… maybe that’s just me but I feel like I could be labelled racist or something. 

Looking Dope!

Anyways, Outriders is fun but I’m not sure if I’ll play the full game unless it’s on sale or free or something… I mean, I wanna play a looter shooter again… maybe I’ll get into Borderlands again, who knows? But Outriders may not cut it for me at a price point of 60 bucks..

What are your thoughts on the demo? Let me know!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Breathedge

After your grandfather’s funeral ship crashed, you’re stranded in space. Just you, your immortal chicken and an AI/board computer that tells way too many jokes. Welcome to Breathedge, the “ironic space survival game” by Redruins Softwork that is releasing its version 1.0 today! I’ve been playing it on and off ever since it came out in Early Access two years and a bit more ago… and as time went on, I really wanted to like but… you’ll see.

Developer: RedRuins Softworks
Publisher: HypeTrain Digital
Genre: Open World, Survival, Space, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Sandbox
Release Date: February 25th, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

In Breathedge, you’ve got to survive hunger, thirst, radiation, freezing temperatures and the lack of oxygen in outer space. Easy enough. Throughout your playthrough, you’ll find resources floating around that you then can craft into tools and equipment to venture further into space or to access new types of resources, such as rubber, lead or paint. Your goal is first and foremost survival… but you also want to get to safety, which is why you’ll have to find ways to reach distant points of interest, such as an extraction point that is way too far away.

In the beginning, your oxygen reserves are limited. When you venture out from your shipwreck, you’ll find yourself quickly running out of oxygen, which is why you’ll have to come back to your ship and replenish your reserves. While this is somewhat interesting, especially with the fluid and fun movement in space, it also makes things rather tedious. Collecting resources and having to come back to base every time you run out of oxygen is annoying and while I get that resource gathering is key in these type of games… I don’t see a point in tool durability and having to craft a completely new drill whenever its durability/battery runs out… It’s quite maddening, to say the least.

Eventually, you’ll venture out and find the blueprint for the oxygen station that you can then use to set up balloons that you can refill your oxygen at, making the journey and resource gathering less annoying. You’ll also craft other upgrades for your suit to withstand the radiation or to increase your oxygen reserves, but generally speaking, I feel like it all is more leaning into the annoying to the tedious side of things instead of actually adding value to the experience. The upgrades you can get for your tools merely function as some sort of band-aid that lessens the frustration… but it is not enough, in my opinion. Getting rid of the durability mechanic completely would have made the game more enjoyable in the early stages. As mentioned before, you’ll also need to watch out for your food and hydration, which is standard-survival-stuff… Breathedge doesn’t completely re-invent the wheel or the formula for survival with these mechanics. It just does things because other games did the same things, which isn’t very exciting.

Now, where Breathedge truly shines is actually the exploration and the presentation. As far as exploration goes, you’ll find different wrecks of different spaceships floating around, functioning as eye-catchers that will allow you to pin-point more points of interest. Your oxygen reserves are, as mentioned before, limited, so you’ll need to test your limits, find something good to utilize in your next exploration attempts, and get back to base. Slowly, you’ll learn where to find different resources and where you have to go later once you have more oxygen available. It is very much a trial and error kind of thing but I personally felt as if it was rather interesting and somewhat innovative… until I realised that Subnautica and other games did it before as well.

As far as the presentation goes, Breathedge delivers really well. The art style is rather pretty, outer space looks amazing, and eventually, you’ll unlock base-building and you’ll be able to add windows to stare out into the void… which is just beautiful when you play with the highest settings. The soundtrack features some interesting tracks… and some rather pretty tracks… all in all rather satisfying… if it weren’t for the AI thing that narrates your journey.

Now, I’ll have to mention that the developers label the game as an “ironic” space-survival game. See it as Subnautica… but less serious. You’ll find yourself in a setting that is truly difficult to handle with depleting resources and oxygen troubles… but the AI that accompanies you constantly mocks the game and tropes of the Survival genre and the gaming industry, resulting in the whole setting being rather laughable. The plot itself is somewhat presentable and fun… but the AI makes it feel less enjoyable by constantly cracking jokes at anything and everything. Breathedge opens with a message about how the game is just trying to entertain and how it doesn’t want to offend anyone… but… the jokes are hit or miss.

Most of the jokes that the AI tells you or that you encounter in the game are seriously offensive and inappropriate. There are some good ones here and there with references to Mass Effect or other games… There are jabs that the game takes at other games but generally speaking, you’ll find yourself trying to ignore the jokes as much as possible. The notice at the beginning references some real offensive and inappropriate jokes in the game that aren’t fun or anything. I’m alright with explicit or even some more offensive humour if it’s within certain borders (“haha, like East Germany in”… Okay, I’ll stop.) but this game is just trying too hard to be offensive and thinks that it’s alright to do so if you mention it at the beginning of the game. At one point, I found the game making fun of men that wear makeup while at another part the game makes fun of “libtards”… Generally, I didn’t enjoy a lot of the jokes because they were tasteless or silly. Crafting an accelerator powered by farts is something that grade-schoolers would laugh at but they are hardly the target audience of the game.

Apart from that the game also suffers from pacing. You’ll find yourself held hostage and interrogated by coffin-robots that want you to tell everything that happens but as time goes on, you completely forget about it, which is just… weird. The resource grinding, the durability of tools, the constant trips back and forth for oxygen, food and water,… there are so many things that slow you down considerably and it makes the game just feel very slow to the point where you lose interest in playing more of it. When you die, you’ll have to pray that there was an auto-save an hour ago or something, or you’ll quickly end up ragequitting because of all the progress you lost. Alas, I just save every few minutes in case something happens that makes me want to reload the save again… or in case I die… and all in all, I really wanna like the game but it’s just not that fun unless you only play it on and off…

And again, the game is trying so hard to be like other games but also not be like other games. I feel like they could have tried out more innovative ideas regarding food and oxygen or other mechanics of the game. Breathedge frankly only goes where other games have gone before and it doesn’t really try to do things differently or be crazy and creative around its systems. It’s only a small step for the gaming industry but a big step for this Indie Studio. I mean, RedRuins Softworks are a Russian studio whose first project, Breathedge, has gained a lot of

Hope you enjoyed this post. It’s a bummer that the game has so many shortcomings and I kind of enjoyed it after ignoring the jokes… but I just feel like I can’t get into it for too long unless I take some long breaks in-between sessions. Oh well…

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – In Other Waters

It’s always a pleasure to see well-executed world-building in games and media. Reading up on lore entries, piecing together a world and exploring every nook and cranny for potential hints at what holds the world together at its core (yes, that’s a Faust reference). It’s a pleasure to see games create an immersive experience that enables exploration and narration in different ways than what we’re used to, and while “immersion” has become more of a buzzword as of late, I’m more than happy to have played through “In Other Waters“, game that made me understand better what immersion actually is.

Developer: Jump Over The Age
Publisher: Fellow Traveller
Genre: Non-Violent, Sci-Fi, Underwater, Adventure, Exploration, Simulation
Release Date: April 3rd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
Copy was purchased.

In “In Other Waters”, you play as an Artificial Intelligence (or A.I. for short) that is guiding a stranded xenobiologist through a beautiful and mysterious alien ocean. Explore the depths of Gliese 677Cc and help Ellery Vas uncover the secrets that lie beneath the secret. After being called to this planet by Minae Nomura, Ellery finds herself in an abandoned base in an ocean of secrets with only you around to keep her company.

“In Other Waters”‘s non-violent Sci-Fi story is portrayed through the eyes of Ellery/EV who’s trying to find and rescue her old partner, Minae. To do so, she needs you, an A.I., to guide her through the ocean. Alas, you need to scan the environment, find points of interest and navigate towards them. You are experiencing the game through the UI, rendering the world around you in a topographic visual style. You only see the UI, which is interesting as a design choice. I found it rather intriguing and really enjoyed this take on exploration. These overlays, buttons and features at first feel clunky and hard to navigate through but eventually, these menus actually feel somewhat homely and suddenly, you actually know how to move through the world swiftly and what to look out for.

As time goes on, you’ll encounter life on this distant planet. Creatures roam the area, plants inhabit different biomes and areas. A click on them reveals information on their behaviours and once you’ve scanned multiple specimens, Ellery will end up naming them and adding theses to the taxonomy as well as observations and quite possibly even a sketch of them. The game actively encourages you to collect samples of plants and other matters by tying them into the world-building or introducing gameplay mechanics around them. Some of the plant seeds can be used to open pathways while others can protect you from vicious currents.

Since you’re the UI of Ellery’s dive suit, you’ve also got to manage your oxygen and power reserves and keep an eye on them as you explore more and more. Your lifelines can be resupplied with plant matter and animal tissues, among other things. There are also other ways to create safe zones or help you out in the game and I found these interactions rather amazing as they added value to what you found out about the world and to how the world works. Frankly, you make an observation of the world around you and make use of that observation, which is a rather interesting take on gameplay, but I would have loved to see more of those in the game apart from the three or four that you have in there.

The immersion is further enhanced by the fact that different areas look differently in the UI. In the abyss of the oceans, there is little to no light, so your sensors can’t pick up on your surroundings that well, resulting in your UI being darker. In other areas, the colour of your UI changes completely due to rust and other materials covering your lamps and tinting them. It’s an interesting mechanic and with the bright colours that usually make up the world, I feel like these UI colour changes add a bit more to the world. It kind of makes sense, after all. You’re a program, a machine, after all, so you get influenced by that kind of stuff.

You are Ellery’s eyes and legs in this world, controlling every move and action. But you’re also Ellery’s friend and only companion in this somewhat depressing world. Frequently, Ellery talks about the observations she makes and her feelings on the events happening to you and her. Her discoveries are shared with you. In a way, it reminds me of Robinson Crusoe’s ball that acts as if his only friend for the early days before he eventually meets Friday. Talking to you keeps Ellery sane to the point where she asks you questions on speculations and theories, even if you’re just an AI. She asks for your input at times and you can answer with just a no or a yes… but while your options are limited in that way, it feels truly meaningful when you get a response from EV and when you actually can communicate with her and help her out from time to time. This aspect of the game felt really meaningful and awesome to me.

The gameplay mechanics range from research and exploration to these brief interactions with Ellery. You can read up on logs written by Ellery whenever you’re in your base or you can dive into the waters to collect samples and complete the taxonomy. In the lab, you’re able to analyse matters and unlock more entries for the taxonomy, too. Nothing’s ever forced and you can go on with the exploration and the story whenever you want to. This sort of pacing felt incredibly well-executed. If you don’t like the research, for instance, you can just go on with exploration or the story. Dying brings you back to a nearby checkpoint with no losses, which is quite nice. At times, I wanted to find out more about the story… at other times, I just wanted to roam the area more and find out about the world and see places I haven’t been to. When I died, I got set back a bit on the map but it didn’t feel too bad or frustrating, which is great as frustration would have ruined the experience for me.

All in all, I really enjoyed the experience and was able to play through “In Other Waters” after about eight hours. Depending on how much you explore and how long you spend in different areas, you may find yourself spending more time on this title. The soundtrack is amazing, the game is pretty, the story is interesting, and the world… is alive. Being the A.I. and seeing the world through that UI makes it all fit together and enables you to experience the game differently from how other games would have handled it and while I obviously haven’t been sucked into the game completely, I’d still call this “immersion”. I’m sure there is more to the term than just that but all in all, I can’t stress enough how great this game is and how “In Other Waters” actually is a great example of what “immersion” actually is, in contrast to the buzzword that big magazines throw around in their reviews on Cyberpunk 2077, for instance.

Alas, that’s my recommendation for today. I really hope you enjoyed this review. After writing this review, I checked what the negative reviews on Steam had to say about this game and overall, I just feel like people got into the game expecting something else entirely. The story is conveyed through text. The UI is the main feature. The world feels lively. I don’t get why people play a non-violent game about exploration only to complain about it being “actionless”, which is a bit of a bummer… Certainly, it’s not a game for everyone but if you tackle it in the right way, it can be certainly worthwhile.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Kernmantle

So, a while ago, a developer sent me a request to review their game via my Steam Curator page. The developer in question developed Kernmantle and I kind of put off reviewing this game for quite a while since I’m not sure how to start or end it.

The problem with reviewing games is that I personally want to give every game a fair chance of getting played and reviewed. If a game seems to be abysmal or anything like that, I tell the developers in a kind e-mail that I think that it’s for the better if I do not review their game.

Developer: North of Earth
Publisher: North of Earth
Genre: Platformer, 2D, Physics-driven, Adventure
Release Date: October 5th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent by the developer.

In the case of Kernmantle, I accepted the game and decided to play it until I noticed that it’s absolutely not to my liking, despite what it seemed like. For anyone wondering, it’s a physics-based 2D Adventure where you climb up a 2000-meter-deep canyon and attempt to reach the top. It seemed interesting since it works with lighting in a pretty way while having a rather simple art style and I guess some mechanics behind it. Hence I gave it a chance.

At last, however, I noticed that that’s about it. Simple style, no story, pretty lighting, annoying soundtrack, abysmal controls.

A game that is all about climbing sounds like fun in a way… but the checkpoints are far away between each other and when you fall down once it’s more frustrating than Getting Over It or any other game, in my opinion. That’s not because of the depth that you’ve fallen or the lost progress… but for a different reason.

In Getting Over It, a game that I adore to be fair despite not being good at it, I know that I fell down because I didn’t get enough momentum or because I aimed at the wrong spot. It’s basically just me being at fault.

In Kernmantle, the controls are super janky and sometimes do not respond. So, while I’m holding onto the trigger of my controller, the grip just loosens it despite there still being plenty of stamina left in my hands. And that’s annoying when it happens once. It’s annoying when it happens twice. It’s frustrating at the third time and I stopped after the fourth time when I realised that it all was for nothing since there seems to be an invisible wall ahead of where I wanted to go with no other way to go from there.

At the same time, the game is incredibly condescending. The signs that are supposed to explain the game to you always end with something along the lines of “you moron” or “you idiot”, which is just rude. I feel like the developer is trying to be funny when they’re just insulting people that will refund this game afterwards anyways.

The character design and controls feel similar to Mount Your Friends but for whatever reason don’t work like that, although ripping off the controls would have been a lot better, in my opinion. A controller is required to play the game while Mount Your Friends at least allows Mouse+Keyboard: A feature that is much needed in games like these.

All in all, it’s a mediocre game that would be better with keyboard controls, akin to Getting Over It or Jump King. Paying ten bucks for this would be a waste. I can’t recommend Kernmantel, at all. Play Getting Over It or Jump King instead if you really want to.

Cheers.

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Disc Room

Are you ready to get sliced? Are you ready for science? Are you ready to die? If you answered any of those questions with anything, then fear not, you’re on your way on one helluva ride with today’s review, Disc Room!

The year’s (not 2021 but) 2089 and a giant disc has appeared in Jupiter’s orbit. Now, it’s your job to explore said Disc… FOR SCIENCE! Explore a majority of rooms filled with deadly discs and survive until all the goals of the room are completed. Compete against your friends, solve puzzles, unlock abilities, and die! 

Developer: Terri (Vellmann), Dose(one), Kitty (Calis), JW (Nijman)
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: Action, Adventure, 2D, Violent, Difficult, Indie
Release Date: October 22nd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
Copy was purchased.

Disc Room is a Race-Against-The-Time-ish Action-Adventure where you dodge deadly blades, discs, or whatever you want to call them. In about 50 different rooms, you need to keep all your eyes open and look around you in 360° to be able to dodge everything and anything. There are a plethora of disc types from big ones to small ones to homing and time-slowing discs. Dying at the hand of different blades can result in you unlocking abilities that help you survive, like the time-slow ability, the dash or the cloning-ability.

At first, the game seems rather simplistic and not that challenging – but eventually, you end up having to solve puzzles in the rooms. How are you supposed to die in less than 0 seconds? How do you die while there are four discs in the room, when there are only two, to begin? What does “Feed ????? 4 ?????” mean, and how do you accomplish it? The game grants you a lot of different puzzles that revolve around using the game’s mechanics to survive or not-survive in creative ways, which is awesome! 

Once you end up fighting so-called Gatekeepers aka Bosses and unlock new areas, each with their own themes, the game’s pace really picks up, as you get to explore each area independantly as long as you complete some goals. Just backtrack later and check older rooms out again once you feel confident in doing them! Each of the areas is special with different enemy types and new mechanics introduced. 

On top of that, the game offers a lot of replayability because of… a little friendly rivalry! I played it for the first time while watching my friend Jimmi play it on Stream. Whenever he beat a room, I was already on beating his time and surviving longer than him. I loved it when he was shocked to see that I was already at 24 seconds in one of the rooms when he was stuck at 16. While he tried to beat my 24-second-record in said room, I was beating his other records. Eventually, he got better than me, but if I try very hard, I’ll manage to screw him over again, for sure! I love it. 

I feel like the goals of the rooms and the Metroidvania-ish aspects of it (solving puzzles and problems with abilities that you unlock later into the game) really make this game special and a ton of fun, especially since these aspects are paired with tons of achievements, collectables, and the friendly rivalry integrated through your Steam friend list. 

The art style is simple but the game really doesn’t need to be more detailed, to be honest. The animated cutscenes are cute and offer a bit of mystery about the game’s story while also providing you with some interesting comics here and there. In General, the game has this web-comic-vibe that I really fancy. 

On top of that, the soundtrack is awesome! It’s a real SpaceWave/SynthWave banger that I could listen to for ages. Good thing that you can buy the Soundtrack as well over here, featuring 53 tracks. It’s anthemic, adrenaline-inducing, and just great! Might become one of my favourites!

All that being said, there are a few issues with the game. Being a game with saw blades and a lot of Violence, you may encounter a lot of Gore, which is unsettling and displeasing… but you have a warning for that on the Steam store, so that’s completely fine. My issue with it is that some of the rooms contain flashing lights and effects where the light turns dark and then bright again, which really messed with my eyes. Personally, I don’t have a problem with epilepsy but since it even fucked with my eyes, I’d imagine that other people could have real problems with it… but there is no warning about flashing lights and potential epilepsy triggers in the game, which is somewhat upsetting.

Apart from that, while I love the puzzles, I feel like it sometimes is a bit hard to get to clues on your own. A few times, I had to ask friends for input on the golden discs and what they think. I would have preferred if a room on the other side of the map would offer a clue to the puzzles in some way rather than you just have to do things.

At the same time, the game sometimes needs you to die from different disc types… but apparently, the different boss forms also count towards that, which is annoying, to say the least, because it shouldn’t be a thing. If a boss is already accounted for, why does the boss’ husk count as something separate. Otherwise, I’m completely fine with the difficulty and the challenge of the game but that little thing there just annoyed me a little bit.

Overall, however, the game’s great and provides a lot of entertainment, especially with the Achievements, the Steam Leaderboards, and the awesome soundtrack. I’d love it if more people could check this title out over here.

Post review commentary:

Anyways, I hope you’re having a great start into the new year! Personally speaking, 2020 has felt like a meat grinder (haha) – but I have high hopes for 2021! Hope you do, too! Happy New Year! Today’s review is the last one that I’ve prepared before going to my parents at the end of last year. Hence, look forward to more *fresh* content with that 2021-flavour in it!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Late to the Party #4 – Bioshock 1

So, it’s been a while since I last posted anything related to the Late to the Party series. The main reason for that is the fact that I’ve been busy playing games that aren’t that old On-Stream while not playing as many games Off-Stream.

Either way, in March, I started playing Bioshock 1 (Remastered) for the very first time during a 24-hour-stream (the kind that I don’t do anymore) and I really enjoyed playing it for about six hours. After that, we didn’t touch it again for quite a while since I soft-locked myself. It’s a rough time when your save file is soft-locked, no matter which save-file you’re trying to load. But more on that later.

So, what is Bioshock? Why did I want to play it? Why haven’t I played it yet?

Bioshock 1 is an Atmospheric Horror-Action-FPS game by 2K Boston in which you’re playing a man named Jack in the 1960s that is exploring the world of Rapture, an underground city, trying to find out what conspired there. You have a wide range of weapons available to you but you’re also forced to modify your DNA to become an even deadlier weapon, slinging fireballs and summoning bees and doing that kind of stuff.

But first things first, after a plane crash, we get to swim to safety to an island with a light tower where a capsule of sorts leads us deep into the sea. Once we arrive in the destroyed city of Rapture, we get to meet our first Slicers, enemies that are going crazy to receive more Adam (which is the stuff you pump into yourself to get stronger) and they attack anything and anyone. While you make your way through the world of Rapture you find out about Andrew Ryan, a businessman and objectivist, that wanted to create a utopia for society’s elite to exist outside of the government’s control and limits. Through several audio clips and tapes found in the world, we learn more about the world, while acquiring more powers (through Adam) and trying to progress further and further into the game, intending to eliminate the mastermind behind all of this!

What I really liked about the game in the first six hours of my playtime was that you were able to see that something obviously wasn’t going great with Ryan’s plan. This place called Rapture was supposed to be a utopia but ended up in ruins with flooded and destroyed areas as well as corruption, elitism, and a lot of danger. We find out more about the source of Adam, the science and research behind it, the world and what happened, as well as how the few sane people in the world are managing to come by. We go on errands, completing missions, and we can do so however we want.

I loved it.

We were able to be stealthy or more like Rambo. We can shoot our way through the game or play a spell slinger of sorts. The game gives you a lot of freedom which eventually transitions into the choices as well. Jack is trying to find a way to escape Rapture and obviously, needs to get his hands on more Adam. To do so, we need to defeat the iconic Big Daddies (that even I knew about) and either harvest or rescue the Little Sisters. Harvesting gives you more but it will kill the Little Sisters. Saving the Little Sisters grants them a life free of Adam and risks but you’ll end up with less Adam, though you may get some other rewards. This whole thing is completely optional most of the time and the morality behind it influences the ending.

But then I got stuck and didn’t play it again until October the 7th and October the 8th where I played through the game during a Spooktober stream.

The whole dark and gritty aesthetic that Rapture presents to you is just lovely and scary. I got goosebumps from some of the score’s tracks alone, while the enemies are beautifully gruesome, scary and just creative. The Big Daddies, for instance, are bio-engineered humans in diver suits while Spider Slicers jump and crawl away, shooting you from the ceiling. Overall, enemies like that seemed super fun to me and I really enjoyed battling them in most of the scenarios while using these 60s weapons, magical powers, and using a water puzzle of sorts to hack turrets, vending machines and other objects.

Now, the issue I had with Bioshock was that there’s a postal office of sorts with a hotel and stuff where I was supposed to photograph one of the Spider Slicers… but that Slicer was stuck in the ceiling, so I didn’t have the chance to take a snap from it. Alas, I needed to restart the last save file – a file from over an hour ago.

And then I didn’t play it again until the beginning of October… but when I reloaded and made sure that I’d take a few snapshots of the enemies that I needed, I actually was able to progress smoothly with only one crash or two in total. The story progresses quite nicely and while a lot of the “missions” felt like errands, I did actually enjoy the game a fair bit.

Ammunition and EVE (your mana) are limited, so you cannot always just fight everyone and everything. This made the game rather fun, especially as I was able to customize perks and skills to fit my needs!

Honestly, I wish I had played Bioshock earlier. I’m looking forward to playing the second game eventually! Bioshock is a great game and 2K really outdid themselves with it!

What has your experience been with the Bioshock franchise and the first game? Did you play the games/this game? Did you like it? Can you recommend the franchise as a whole or maybe just certain titles? Let me know!

Cheers!

Indietail – Submerged

I enjoy exploration-based games a lot. That’s a statement that I made in the past when I reviewed Outer Wilds, a game all about exploration. Similarly, I really enjoy other games like Subnautica or Breathedge where you end up challenging the oxygen limit that has been placed onto you or where you try to survive at all costs and still explore the world. Today’s Indietail is about Uppercut Games’ “Submerged”, an exploration-based Adventure game playing in a post-apocalyptic world.

Developer: Uppercut Games
Publisher: Uppercut Games
Genres: Exploration, Adventure, Third-Person, Single-Player, Parkour
Release Date: August 4th, 2015
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, PS4, XB1, IOS, Switch
Copy was purchased.

Our younger brother is sick, the world is flooded and the resources are scarce. Playing as Miku our main goal is to explore the world in search of rations, medicine and other items to help cure our brother. Other humans? We can’t seem to find any as nature seemingly won its fight against civilisation and as the city is in ruins. What has happened? What is this sickness? Is there a way to cure it? Questions among questions enter my head but luckily, the little drawings and journal pieces seem to help me out to understand the situation better.

What’s that place over there?

Since our brother lies sick in the little base we built, we need to find these rations. To do so, we map out the city, search for shiny objects on rooftops and other places and we set out on our fishing boat to take care of our brother. The premise is straightforward but it seems to work quite well. 

As we map out areas and look through our telescope, we find entrances to the ruined areas. While the movement on the ship is very horizontal and limited to the waterways, we get to climb these high places and ruins of hotels, libraries and hospitals. The game picks up pace as we climb higher and higher, explore different paths to find collectables, and eventually reach these red chests with the rations we need. The sudden verticalness of the game was much to my liking as you suddenly gain access to points that allow you to spy farther. Once you’re up at some of the high areas, you’re able to search for more rations and collectables. It works quite well together.

Gotta climb up this place!

These collectables range from drawings (lore) to boat-upgrades that increase the duration of your boost. As you go on, you get to see landmarks and fauna, eventually filling out your journal, which gives you a nice sense of accomplishment. The exploration aspects of the game seem more than satisfactory, which was surprising since I felt a bit overwhelmed with those sixty lore-entries and the landmarks, creatures and other collectables. Eventually, I noticed that it’s actually quite doable. 

In the beginning, I felt more than overwhelmed with how the game did things. I was just thrown into it and had to figure out stuff on my own. Luckily, the game’s premise and the gameplay that doesn’t rely on combat at all is rather simple and straight-forward: You start at one point and try to explore the world and when your eye catches something of interest, you go there and see if you can dock somewhere and enter the building’s ruins. Then you climb up and find stuff to progress the story. 

Very lovely landmark!

Personally, I feel like this game does that quite well. Thatgamecompany’s “Journey” also had this premise of exploring the world and just going to points of interest, also known as “eyecatchers”. In Submerged, you see a Ferris wheel for instance or the outlines of a bridge or a very high building at the horizon, so you’re naturally drawn to those and see the entry point where you dock your boat and explore the building. By climbing up ledges, ivies, boards and other structures, you end up finding what you need before seeing another cutscene. Exploration feels rewarding which is really important in games like these that rely so heavily on it. 

Meanwhile, we find and see the wildlife of this world over time. Whales, dolphins and birds accompany our boat as we travel alongside them. Are there no humans left, though? What happened to everyone? 

Oooh, pretty and foggy!

Again, these questions pop up and as you progress through the story, you get ominous clues as to what happened or what is happening. You slowly piece it together as the language is obscure and as you only get drawings for the lore pieces. 

While this game is already five years old, I’d like to mention that it’s beautiful. There is a day-night cycle in the game with its own weather and all of that but even when it’s raining, the game manages to look spectacular. Being a rather vertical game, the perspective tends to get switched up now and then, showing you climb up a ladder or balance yourself to the other side of a building from a different point of view, which really showcases the beautiful scenery. Despite being somewhat old, Submerged is a pretty game. Sure, you have some graphical glitches here and there and the graphics settings are somewhat limited but overall, I feel like it certainly aged well.

Slowly… Slowly…

But despite all of that praise, I’ll have to say that the game is not too accessible. While you’re able to remap keys on both the keyboard and the controller, I would have liked to see other options supported in the game, like audio subtitles for waves, animal sounds or other options for people that don’t hear that well. On top of that, the game is way too loud in the beginning and it’s really hard to adjust to a “normal” volume level without nearly turning off the beautiful music directed by Jeff van Dyck. 

On top of that, I was a bit bothered by the fact that there is no jump or sprint button. A game with this much platforming and freedom seems a bit limited by not being able to choose freely where you go. I would have liked it a bit more if I was able to go and climb wherever I want to, maybe with a stamina bar as a limiter or some gadgets or whatever. You certainly are free… and yet you’re quite bound to ledges that are rather conveniently placed on the buildings.

There is a photo-mode for your postcard-needs!

And while I get that the red chests are your main goal, I would have liked it if you were prompted something along the lines of “return to base?” instead of just getting teleported home. It’s just a small thing that annoyed me as I’d have to climb all the way up again and remember the other paths if I wanted to explore more.

Regardless of that, however, I enjoyed this game. The world is beautiful, the exploration is highly enjoyable, and while the story seems melancholic, it is also very lovely, despite not using a single word. I hence recommend this experience to all fans of combat-free and chill exploration-based games. 

A ship part!

You can find the game on Steam over here – but if you want to support me (and the Trevor Project), you may want to use this affiliate link of mine to grab the game over at the Humble Store where it’s currently 92% off for the next week or so. You can also use my link to make other purchases and I’ll get some revenue as well unless of course, you use the honey-browser extension as that one overrides affiliate-links.  

Oooh, Birds!

Either way, I hope you enjoyed this post. I had a lot of fun playing Submerged and was happy to cross off another game of my big plan-to-play list on Steam! I haven’t posted reviews in a while since the university has been keeping me busy but if you want to get notified immediately whenever I post something on this blog, consider joining my discord server and grabbing the Scholars role over there! 

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Summerland

Are you a good person? I guess most people would answer that with an immediate “yes”. After all, you wouldn’t want others to think otherwise, usually. But if you had a chance to relieve your past, take a look at cases where you weren’t at your best and see how you exactly acted in those moments, would you still stick to your answer? Would you still think that you’re a good person?

In today’s review, we’re taking a look at FYRE Games’ Summerland. This short narrative experience explores the question of morality and the afterlife. What comes after you die? Where do you go? Are you a good person? Summerland is aiming to make you think about these questions, and more.

Developer: FYRE Games
Publisher: FYRE Games
Genres: Adventure, First-Person, Narrative Experience
Release Date: December 2nd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Key was provided by the developer.

But first things first: In Summerland, we take the role of the widower and single-dad, Mathew, who’s hardly scraping by with his detective job alone and is hence desperately in need for money to be able to raise his son properly and afford the pills he needs to treat his own sickness.

And apparently, we died. At least we’re in some sort of waiting area with a corridor and several doors. In the room that we wake up in, we can only find a rotary phone on the table that suddenly starts ringing. On the other side of the phone line is a man who’s telling us to go through several trials to relieve our recent past. This is important as that man needs to judge us to determine where we have to go.

It’s all rather mysterious and ominous at the beginning but eventually, it gets cleared up.

The trials that we have to go through basically are cases from our job or days at home or side jobs. We need to find certain clues or items, bring them somewhere else or get other tasks done. Most of the time, you’ll see a counter up at the top left count upwards but more often than not, you’ll miss that and be confused. I spend a rather long time in the first level until I noticed that I needed to click on a specific item on the ground, which was a pain in the butt. Once I had the eight clues needed for the first trial, I was back at the room and ready to go into the next trial.

As you go on and complete these trials, you’ll always find yourself back in the waiting room or purgatory or whatever you wanna call it. Yes, the room with the rotary phone. The phone rings, we get it, talk to the guy on the other side, and then we answer a philosophical question.

At one point, we’re being asked about our stance on the trolley problem. Do we kill one person to let five people live or do we do nothing to not become a murderer and let those five people die? Do we follow Kant’s philosophy or rather Bentham’s utilitarianism? It’s an interesting concept to add questions like these and as someone who does study philosophy, it was interesting to see that in this game… but I think it felt somewhat pretentious. The question didn’t add anything to the thought process behind the story. The question may help some people understand the meaning of the game or whatever… but it really is unnecessary in a way, especially as I’m not sure if it actually does influence the story in any way. Similarly, we are asked a few other questions, and I just personally don’t think that it adds to the experience at all.

The story, on the other hand, starts off a bit slow but eventually picks up, only to deliver a somewhat interesting plot. Sadly, we don’t get any choices or anything to influence the game. The puzzle-like trials break the story up too much. The characters don’t really have any development to them. It’s a bit of a tragedy. The choices that we take don’t end up reflecting in later trials. There is also just one ending, it seems. Make of it whatever you want to.

But if we let that slide since it’s a free and short game, we can still talk about the alright soundtrack and the graphics that are being powered by Unity and feel quite stunning. I found them quite pretty at first… although I had to turn off bloom and a lot of other settings since the game was making me feel sick, which is something that has never happened to me before.

And speaking of things that I didn’t like: There are a lot of things like that.

For instance, I found it incredibly hard to get into the mood to play the game after I saw that I wasn’t able to change the settings IN the game. Whenever I started the game and wanted to change something to feel less dizzy but still enjoy the graphics, I’d have to go to the main menu, change the settings, head into the game and “continue”… but since the game only saves AFTER the trials, I’d have to listen to that monologue at the beginning again… and again… and again… until I found the right settings. It was annoying. On top of that, there were a lot of settings amiss like accessibility settings, keymapping and different sound/graphics settings that I would have liked to see. It’s 2020 after all – and this is a new game, so I don’t know why I can’t customize the sound settings more, etc.

In the game, the “puzzles” felt interesting but slow. They were refreshing at the beginning but as time went on, I just didn’t really want to bother with them anymore. They slowed down the story unnecessarily and ended up ruining my experience for me, a little bit. I’d rather have a walking simulator than a narrative experience that is also trying to be smart and philosophical on top of being a game with “choices” without choices – that also has puzzles for whatever reason.

The game is coming out on the 2nd of December, 2020. It’s going to be a free-to-play game. While I’d imagine that it’s an interesting title for people that want to think about morality without getting too deep into philosophy, I’m not sure if I’d recommend it. I just didn’t enjoy it too much, personally speaking, and am hence not sure if it’s worth the time spent. Especialyl when you consider that its main selling point was the questions about morality and afterlife, with the latter falling somewhat short.

I think, I would have liked it more if you had actual meaningful choices. It would have been great if there was a dialogue in the waiting area with the man on the other line. It would have been great if I had had the opportunity to think more about these aforementioned questions but at one point they just fell short. The plot was already in progress and while the story is telling you that it’s not a clear black and white thing, I just think that when it comes to morality it really is just that. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so maybe you should check it out yourself if you want to. I just personally feel didn’t like a lot of the things in the game and hence am not recommending it.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Behind Every Great One

Behind every great man, stands a great woman – but who stands behind that woman? 

From the makers of The Red Strings Club and Gods Will Be Watching comes a game that explores the life of Gabriel and Victorine, a couple in their 30s that live a comfortable life. Gabriel’s a famous artist who’s currently working on his next grand piece. Victorine, his loving wife and muse, is supporting him in every way possible but as time goes on, it all becomes a burden for Vic and we start to run out of space.

Developer: Deconstructeam
Publisher: Deconstructeam
Genre: Interactive Fiction, Adventure, 2D, Drama
Release Date: August 23rd, 2018 (updated: February 18th, 2019)
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC (itch.io)
Copy is available for free.

Originally made for the Ludum Dare 42 with the concept of “running out of space” in mind, Behind Every Great One explores serious topics like gaslighting, guilt-tripping and toxic relationships by putting you into the role of one of those great women. Time passes slowly and you only have so much time to get done with your chores. 

Clean the house, water the plants, do the laundry, wash the dishes, prepare dinner,… there is way too much to do for just two people, especially when Gabriel is obsessed with his magnum opus and hence doesn’t bother helping at all. Slowly, the small rooms of the flat feel bigger and bigger. I felt so small when I tried to get done with my tasks. 

And there’s more to it. The conversations we have with our husband change over time. From him putting us on a pedestal at the beginning to eventually him blaming us indirectly for his problems.

Stuff happens and eventually, Gaby’s parents stop by and stay for a few days. Needing a place to sleep in, they take up the small library, which results in us losing our refuge and one of our hobbies. When we’re feeling down, we don’t have anyone to turn to. Gabriel’s mother is a viper and his father is often not the most tactful person. 

It’s hard to breathe air when these people quite literally take space away from you. When you feel like crying, you need to find a place to be alone. With more people joining, that’s not quite possible. Eventually, it all is too much to handle for us and only time will tell what we’ll do about it.

Though relatively short, Deconstructeam managed to create an interesting and deep experience that really captures the feel of toxic relationships well. Abusive relationships don’t need domestic violence. It can be a few simple words, sentences, and demands to ruin someone’s day, week or life. 

The game utilizes a minimalistic style and bright colours to show us the world we live in. It doesn’t matter who these people are or what they look like. They could be anyone and everyone. The bright colours contrast the dark feelings quite well and the changes in camera-movements and perspectives really add a lot to the experience.

A rather atmospheric soundtrack accompanies the experience that is fitting. For a game made in a day, I’m impressed at how well this all fits together.

Sadly, I’m not able to talk about anything else really since the risk of spoiling something is rather high with a game like this. It’s a short experience that still has a lot of surprises to offer that I haven’t touched upon in this review.

Personally, I really enjoyed the experience, although I hated the oppressive feeling that goes with it. I hated more toxic relationships that I had in the past and this game really reminded me all too well about those. It’s saddening that Victorine’s experience is so relatable. 

Hence, I’d recommend this title. It’s a really well-made narrative experience by Deconstructeam. You can find Behind Every Great One over here on itch.io.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Looking forward to Lamentum

Lamentum is a pixel-art survival horror game set in New England in the mid-nineteenth century. I played the demo of it and honestly, I really liked the vibes that I got from it. Here’s why I enjoyed it so much!

Developer: Obscure Tales
Publisher: Another Indie
Release Date: 2021
Genres: 2D, Indie, Survival, Horror, Action Adventure, Lovecraftian

After no conventional method was able to cure Alissa’s deadly disease, the young aristocrat Victor Hartwell turns to unconventional methods and Grau Hill Mansion’s Earl, Edmond Steinrot, to find a treatment for his beloved wife. In Lamentum, we guide Hartwell in his desperate journey but nobody could have fathomed what unimaginable horrors were waiting for us over there. This is a story of love, sacrifice, and sacred otherworldy entities.

Lamentum takes inspiration from classic survival horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill along with cosmic horror masterpieces, like the Cthulhu mythos and other works by Lovecraft.

Obscure Tales is very much able to capture what makes the Lovecraftian horror stories so great: The fear of the unknown and the fear of the things that mankind shouldn’t have known. 

Terrible, terrifying creatures are lurking in the shadows while the Mansion has changed over one night. The paintings and statues have transformed into a terrible and grotesque state… and worst of all, there is just no trace left of Alissa!

That’s where the story really picks up. A note in the room that we wake up in reveals that Alissa made her way into the Earl’s office but the door’s locked from the inside and we don’t have any other way in. Hence, we have to go deeper and search other rooms for clues and useful items. In one room, we find a small box. In another, we find some mysterious runes. Alas, there’s a room with a sword but there is something off about it as well. It all feels like one big puzzle where you have to figure out how different pieces fit together and how you’re able to combine different items or use certain items.

The controls feel quite good, although I prefer the controller over the keyboard controls. When I found a gun, I had to get used to the aiming and the fact that you need to reload after every single shot, despite enemies moving towards you, which makes sense since mid-nineteenth century weapons weren’t automated or anything like that. Combat usually consists of figuring out the enemy patterns and kiting them while landing a hit or two in between their attack phases. With only one enemy or two, in the beginning, this can be rather easily done but over time, more and more enemies show up, so you really have to wage whether or not it’s worth it to risk damage or if you want to move past them. Generally, I’ve been trying to sneak past enemies as healing items and ink (to save the game) are rare in the game and as I wanted to try a more cautious approach, but if you’re good at kiting enemies, then you certainly can go for a more action-heavy approach!

The game allows you to assign three items to slots so that you can use them at any given time with just one button-press. Otherwise, you’ll have to move into the inventory and equip items manually, which can be a bit annoying at first as you’re still figuring out what you exactly need, but you’ll get used to it eventually. Generally, I kept my weapons in those slots as well as the lamp that I found somewhere but you can use them however you like. The inventory is limited to nine spaces but there are storage crates that share their inventory where you can put in a lot more items. Alas, you’ll have to manage your inventory space and be careful as to what you can bring with you and what you cannot. If you come across an item that you want to take but your inventory is full, you’ll obviously have to go back to a storage trunk and remove some of your items and go back to said room, if you can find it. I found that mechanic quite intriguing as a lot of the games I played tend to give you tons of inventory space or even inventory upgrades at the beginning, making the game a bit easier. 

Taking multiple trips back and forth is something that I tried to avoid as much as possible but due to the inventory situation, I sometimes had to do exactly that. The mansion is huge and despite having a map, it is actually quite easy to get lost in it, especially with all the doors that aren’t all accessible. And with enemies spawning in some rooms as you travel through them, multiple trips bear a lot of risks. This added a bit of difficulty to the game as I needed certain items for puzzles, such as keys and shards, but also didn’t know if I’ll need the runes and teeth in upcoming rooms. 

When you figure stuff out, you get that short moment of satisfaction that I really enjoyed in this game. When you’re stuck, however, it can be a bit frustrating but the game never really leaves you clueless. Certain doors are closed, so you have to search for something to do in the accessible rooms and hallways.

At last, I’d like to say that the art style is wonderfully dark and detailed. The Top-Down-ish view highlights the art style as you get to see a lot of the big rooms and small details that they feature. The animations are fluid and unique for all of the different enemy types and I love to see the different cut scenes in the game that depicted the horrors of the nightmare that we’ve found ourselves in. The dark and gory beauty of the game gets complimented by the beautiful and ominous music that switches from enigmatic and sad sounds to darker and creepier tunes. 

The full game will feature an array of 19th Century Melee and Ranged weaponry that isn’t just limited to the pistol, the knive and the sword found in the demo. Apart from that it will also include branching paths and multiple endings on top of “a terrifying plot for a mature audience”.

If you’re looking for a Horror Game to play, then I’d definitely recommend checking out Lamentum’s Demo over here. The game fully releases in 2021 but I really enjoyed the demo that is actually rather long for a demo. In case you want to get notified when it launches or in case you want to support Obscure Tales already, you should definitely wishlist the game on Steam. Personally, I’m really excited about this title, despite being more of a scaredy-cat. 

Either way, that’s it for the post. I meant to write this post for a long time already but ended up not really being able to do so, due to university stuff, exams, paperwork, family stuff, and all of the things that stop you from doing what you really want. When I got to write it, I really enjoyed the process. The beginning part of this post was a bit hard to work out without spoiling anything but I think I did a pretty good job at it (feedback appreciated!).

This post wasn’t meant to be a review, especially as this is a demo but in the end, it offered a lot of entertainment, so the post turned out a lot longer than originally planned. Generally, I try to just go with my first impressions and thoughts on games and their systems in these types of posts and since I didn’t play the full game just yet, there’s obviously no telling what the endgame looks like or future bosses or how the story unravels, and I can’t quite judge the whole of the game solely based on the beginning. Alas, take this post with a grain of salt until I’m able to write an actual review on the game. I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on the demo and I hope that you’re checking out the game yourself.

Again, I highly recommend it!

Cheers!

Indietail – Drake Hollow

After my post about Drake Hollow and why I’m so excited and after the interview we did with TMF’s Forrest Dowling,… It finally is time for my review on Drake Hollow. Welcome to yet another Indietail! And I’m excited about this one!

Developer: The Molasses Flood
Publisher: The Molasses Flood
Genre: Colony Sim, Base Building, Exploration, Co-Op, Open World
Release Date: October 1st, 2020
Reviewed on: PC (solo)
Available on: PC, Xbox One
Copy was purchased.

Drake Hollow is an action village-building game that you can play solo or with your friends. After a breakup, the protagonist is seen dwelling on a rock before a speaking crow approaches them and invites them into a new world where they are needed. Welcome to the Hollow where the Drakes are threatened by various creatures and where familiars roam the lands searching for people like you that can help the Drakes. The Drakes are small little creatures that need food, water and entertainment. They can literally die of boredom as the game emphasizes on multiple occasions. You build your small little village, go out on explorations and defend against the various enemies found in the game.

This gameplay loop of exploring, building and looting is the main aspect of the game. It keeps the game fresh and prevents it from becoming stale. As you find loot, you’re able to craft items, build defence and utility structures, take care of the Drakes and eventually, you’ll get a ten-minute countdown to the next raid that is coming in and needs defending. The Drakes help the player by being absolutely adorable and bringing in some life into the world… and they also gift you items and provide you with various buffs that help you survive, improve your combat capabilities, or influence your efficiency in various regards.

Speaking of combat, it is all relatively simple. You have a melee and a ranged attack on the mouse buttons. You’re able to find weapons and ammunition by looting old buildings and other islands. The fun thing is that anything can and will be a weapon: From a coat rack to a tennis bat to a rake or a weed whacker. I enjoyed finding fun and interesting weapons that could be categorized into heavy and light weapons. The aiming with the ranged weapons felt quite nice and while melee combat isn’t the most complicated, I noticed that you can cancel some of the animations and get more DPS in than usual if you put in some practice. Overall, I enjoyed the combat experience a ton! Especially stuff like jump attacks, combos and the right dodge timing can be more than satisfying – and then different enemy types feature different move sets and counters of sorts.

Where the game really shines though is the exploration part. A purple-ish mist known as the Aether envelops the world of Drake Hollow that damages the player. The world consists of mostly islands that aren’t connected at all. Hence, you’ll have to use craftable crystals to make yourself immune to the mist for a bit to get to the next islands. 

As time goes on, you’ll need other means of travelling where my highlight comes in: Waypoints. You place them down and connect them to supply trucks (with resources that you cannot access in any other way). Once two or more are linked up, you have a rail system of sorts where you grind your way rather speedily from one island to the next. I really enjoyed this part as I always wanted to explore more but then got disrupted by incoming raids, full inventories or dying drakes. 

Drakes tend to “die” of a lot of things. As you progress, you’ll have to take care of the various needs and pay attention to how much water, food and entertainment you produce. Resources around you deplete eventually, so you need to move on to the next set of islands, which is similar to The Flame In The Flood where you move your base/boat from one island to the next with a point-of-no-return mechanic. 

As you move on to the next set of islands, you get to explore and loot more without having to fear about your old buildings getting lost. The Drakes just pack up your base and take it with you to the next set of islands. The next set of islands plays in a different season with different mechanics. In summer, your water production may suffer a lot due to droughts. In Winter you have to build radiators and other buildings to thaw out your Drakes and production facilities. I found these mechanics quite neat but mostly, I loved how the islands change. The usually lush trees turn pink and red and white and lose leaves and the world is covered in a layer of snow when you encounter winter. The way you have to change your playstyle based on the seasons is a very interesting mechanic and I really enjoyed that.

Stronger enemies mean more damage and more danger. What happens when you die? Do you lose any progress when you die? No, not at all. You can revive at your camp and lose some weapon durability but you do not lose any progress. Your drakes don’t really “die”. You can revive them on the neighbouring island, although you will have to nurture them again. You can spirit walk to your dead body and resurrect it there as well. 

It comes to no surprise that I’m loving the overall presentation. I was the most hyped about the Drakes and was not disappointed at all when I saw their animations and behaviours. Follow the Drakes as they roam your small village, eat food, dance on the disco floor, go to sleep or burrow themselves when they get stuck somewhere. The world itself feels lively and features this vibrant style that changes with the seasons and is always stunning to look at. The Drakes have some great interactions with enemies and the player. The soundtrack is at times enigmatic and mysterious, at times adventurous! Overall, I’m loving the presentation, the soundtrack and the art style and I was quite satisfied with how the game turned out in the end.

And yes, of course, there are some issues here and there. When I started playing, the end-game was somewhat frustrating with resources running out, Drakes dying and enemies getting stronger while you felt a bit too weak… but that was mostly my fault as I moved on too fast or as I didn’t level my camp and didn’t unlock enough new facilities or I didn’t manage my camp properly. There are certain issues in the late game that can feel a bit overwhelming in solo, but I’m sure that you’ll do just fine if you play with up to four friends – with someone exploring and people defending and someone tending to the Drakes. For people that didn’t want to end their journey, the “The Molasses Flood” team added an endless mode (Sandbox) without a story but with a raised max camp level, new cosmetics and higher camp levels. The game will get more updates. They just added in filters for the depot to allow to view items by type as well as some other QOL changes.

In the end, the only thing that could be criticised would be the end-game that feels a tad frustrating or rather overwhelming as a solo player. The gameplay loop is satisfying, the combat feels nice, the Drakes are absolutely adorable, and overall, I’m loving this game so far and can’t wait to meddle with sandbox mode and to play it with friends eventually!

You can currently get the game on Xbox Game Pass and Steam. Cross-Saving between Win10 and XboxOne is available and there is Cross-Play available for the Windows Store, the Xbox One and the Game Pass versions of the game… but it doesn’t work for the Steam version as there is no native support for invites or hosting across these networks. The game keeps getting updated and I can highly recommend it! Check it out over here or on Game Pass, the Windows Store or wherever! 

As a side note:
You’re able to grab Drake Hollow on Steam with a 10% launch discount until the 8th of October! If you already own TMF’s “The Flame In The Flood” you also get an additional 15% off, resulting in a 25% discount on the game!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Outer Wilds

Exploration is one of those key features used by a lot of video games these days. Usually, you end up exploring an area for secrets, collectables and shortcuts, which – when done right – can be very satisfying and essentially encourage you to do it more. In today’s review, we’re talking about a game that is all about exploration and that doesn’t rely on any of those features but rather makes the player piece together all the different clues and information in order create a bigger picture of sorts. Today, we’re taking a look at Outer Wilds.

Developer: Mobius Digital
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Release Date: Jun 18th, 2020
Genre: Space, Exploration, Puzzle, Mystery, Adventure
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, XBOX 1, PS4
Copy was purchased.

In a distant Solar System, we are tasked with finding out clues about an ancient civilisation only to find ourselves in a time loop similar to Majora’s Mask and Minit. After 21 real-time minutes, the sun is bound to explode, leaving us with the mission of finding out why this is happening.

Why does this universe end?
What do the ancient Nomai have to do with this?
How can we stop it?

To do this, we set out to different planets, solve a variety of puzzles, translate scrolls and ancient scriptures, so that we can get closer to the truth, one step at a time.

The Reveal Trailer is probably one of my all-time favourite trailers!

This is where the game shines. You retain all of your information whenever you die or whenever you reset. Hence, at the start of every loop, you get to lift off from the launch pad on Timberhearth, after having seemingly just dozed off at the campfire.

By scanning and translating different scriptures on walls and ancient ruins, you find out more about this ancient civilisation of the Nomai, who at first seem quite noble and distant but later become rather relatable and “normal”. You end up learning more about different tribes of Nomai that all worked together for Science and that all lived on different planets after they crashlanded in this universe.

While the leads and clues may, at first, seem daunting and overwhelming, your ship log usually tends to help you out by telling you if there’s more to explore in certain areas. It also displays the clues, all linked together, hence giving you some sort of lead to explore, if you ever find yourself in trouble.

There are two “modes” of movement in this game. You either travel from planet to planet and manoeuvre around the planets’ surfaces with your small little ship. Or you explore by foot, relying on your jetpack to reach high places if the gravity allows, and scanning things using your transcriptor. When you have a rough landing, you have to repair certain parts of your ship, like its oxygen tanks, electrical systems, the landing gear and other ones that are essential for safe travels. When you travel on foot, on the other hand, you have to watch your health and oxygen but also be sure to not get stuck somewhere without fuel. This makes for some interesting mechanics as different planets come with different hazards and gravity levels. On top of that, you, at times, have to reach certain places before your oxygen supplies run out, hence adding a little bit of pressure to you.

The different planets all shine in their own way. While Brittle Hollow has a black hole at its centre and while Dark Bramble is an enigma of its own, Giantsdeep features high gravity and a very harsh climate that allows vortexes on its surface to lift your ship and even islands into the air. I could assure you that every single planet and planetary body features a unique experience and that every journey to different sites and locations feels unprecedented and adventurous! At least, that’s something I fancied in my playthrough. Since there is no set starting point for every planet, though, you have to figure every planet out yourself and understand its systems, although you should have plenty of times for that – being trapped in a time-loop gives you a lot of time to think, eh?

Making use of a time-loop mechanic gives every 21-minute long adventure a unique vibe, that I really dig. At first, I felt a certain rush to find out as much as possible in every single loop, but then I noticed that it’s alright to take a breather at times and to enjoy the views. After all, Outer Wilds is a charming and gorgeous game, featuring a great score, some lovely dialogues, and a lot of clues, secrets and easter eggs to find in the ruins of the “old world”.

The soundtrack, composed by Andrew Prahlow, gives this title a certain adventure-vibe that helped me enjoy the ride a lot better. Different places feature different tracks while some other tracks get played when you’re getting close to your inevitable death, creating a rather fluid and non-linear experience every time you venture out into the Outer Wilds.

I love the soundtrack. I love the graphics. I love the gameplay. I love the story.

In summary, I love Outer Wilds.

Outer Wilds created a novel experience for myself, even when it has some shortcomings here and there:

Your experience at the beginning can be somewhat slow, for instance, as you try to figure out how certain planets work, where you have to go, what you’re supposed to do. I enjoyed that, myself, but I’d be able to see how this would influence other people’s experiences and how it could bother others.

You don’t have a lot of directions given to you, although there are other astronauts on every planet that you can visit to ask them for “interesting places”. Based on where you land on a planet, you get to see different places to find out other clues. At times, this can mislead you into thinking that you found out everything about a planet, resulting in you seemingly “getting stuck”. At other times, you may just be wondering how an end-game location like the Hourglass Twins tie into the whole story and what you’re supposed to do with these “timed locations”.

Overall, I wouldn’t deem this too much of an issue though. By revisiting places and by making use of your ship log, you should be able to get “unstuck” in no time and figure out new leads whenever you try out a different location or find out a new piece of the puzzle.

Another issue that I found with the game is the fact that there are some issues in the PC version of it. Your ship can seemingly take way too much damage when bumping into certain objects and at other times, you may just die from a fall that you usually would make, which I found a bit frustrating at times. Bugs are, however, very few and very rare, so usually, this just left me in confusion and didn’t make me suffer too much.

Alas, my verdict is that Outer Wilds is an exceptional game that is worth checking out if you’re interested in a “true” exploration experience with a non-linear time-loop-based story. The presentation is just magnificent and charming, the story and the end of it are just more than grand, and I’m really glad about having played through it after 24.4 hours. That whole day that I spend in there was 100% worth it!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Looking forward to “Grounded”

If you’ve seen “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, “The Ant Bully”, or “Antz”, you might like the following title. In Obsidian Entertainment’s “Grounded” you’re playing as one of four kids, shrunk to the size of insects and other small critters. You get to roam a lawn, exploring vast grass-steam forests while scavenging and foraging for resources to survive the dangers that come with not being normal-sized.

The world is beautiful if you look close enough – and well, with your size, you can get close to everything. Ants are as big as you while stink beetles and ladybugs are terrifyingly big! Of course, there are also small critters like mites that you can hunt down for food and… well… as the game tells you in the title screen, there are also spiders. But fear not, fellow arachnophobes, for there is an arachnophobia mode in this game that lets you turn those horrific and vile creatures into weird bobbly balls floating in the air. This also affects their creepy sounds, resulting in a pleasant experience even when you encounter them.

I constantly caught myself staring into the beautiful areas around you – I mean, when if not now do we get to see the world from this perspective?

Houses and benches are huge! We even get to explore “landmarks” such as some weird shrinking machine and soda cans. Resources seem to be rather lush and alas, we gather pebbles and sprigs, mushrooms and clover, so that we can get started with some simple tools for the beginning.

While you chop down trees in other games, you’ve got to chop down the grass, using an actual axe. Quite bizarre in a way but it does make sense. And well, despite stink beetles, spiders and mites wanting to kill you, there are also a bunch of friendly fellows around like ladybugs and ants.

I love ants. The ants in this game look incredibly cute, constantly scavenging for food, just like us, or carrying around sticks and pebbles. “In theory”, I thought… “In theory, I could attack them. I’ve got the spear and all of that already, after all!” – But I didn’t dare to attack such cute little fellows, mostly since I’m afraid that they might gang up on me after sending out their threat pheromones.

There seems to be a full-fledged story available to the game once it comes out but inside of the demo I was able to play for more than half an hour – and the story-part reached until we fixed the (presumably) shrink-reversal-machine that Spoilers blew up on us shortly after we “fixed” it.

Materials can be analyzed for recipes inside of the analyzer that is set near our research globe. Food can be cooked at a roasting spit and, in theory, we can even build a base of sorts with walls, doors and floors!

Honestly, I’m really excited about this game, especially since it does tickle that one itch that I have for base-building survival games! Especially as it also features unconventional aspects to survival. You’ve got to find water drops on grass stems to not dehydrate, for instance, which is a nice touch!

Multiplayer is also something that is going to be included in the full game, so this might get really cool really soon. Grounded gets released in Early Access on July 28th, 2020. It’s by Obsidian Entertainment, so it’s bound to be good, and well, the game so far has been looking great already, especially as this is only a demo!

The only thing that I’d wish for would be an option to turn the spiders into some cute beetles or something, as even the bobbly heads are a little bit triggering to me. I’d also love it if you could turn their sounds into something else that is less creepy. But maybe that’s just my arachnophobia speaking…

Cheers!

Indietail – Stories: The Path of Destinies

Not too long ago, we’ve taken a look at Omensight, a game made by Spearhead. Omensight combined a beautiful world and a lot of different characters with some cool mystery-solving mechanics and some insanely fun combat! This time around, we’re taking a look at its spiritual predecessor, Stories: The Path of Destinies! Strap on for another Indietail!

Developer: Spearhead Games
Publisher: Spearhead Games
Release Date: April 12th, 2016
Genres: Adventure, Action, RPG, Indie, Mystery
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Copy was purchased.

What is Stories: The Path of Destinies about?

In a world with anthropomorphic animal characters and floating islands, we’re taking control of the fox Reynardo, who retired from his brave adventures when his mother took her last breath. One day, the Empire is attacking our hometown in search of a book in our possession. We, the sole survivor of the royal assault, are escaping on our airship, we join the Rebellion and try to take on Isengrim III, the vicious toad emperor who is trying to use forgotten magic, ancient artefacts, and the elder gods who once destroyed the world to rise to power! And, well, it’s our duty to stop that from happening!

In its core, Stories is an isometric action-RPG with mystery elements. We have to solve different loose ends of the game’s story to find out how to stop Isengrim’s plan, who to trust and what exactly is going on. Just like Omensightm, Stories is based on replayability. As Reynardo reads the magical book, he finds out that it allows him to travel back to the same day upon death. With newly attained knowledge, we get to chose different options and make other choices to influence the outcome of the story.

But not always do different choices lead to different outcomes. Often, we need to find out information beforehand to actually influence the outcome of a different route, and alas we have a total of 24 different endings to discover, a whole bunch of levelling and fighting to do, and a whole bunch of characters to investigate.

Do we save our old friend Lapino, a goofy and sly rabbit who is currently being held hostage by the Empire, or do we ditch him in order to find the old artefacts that are capable of potentially sealing away the banished evil gods and defeat the emperor? The choice is yours!

A lot of the times, the story branches into different paths, resulting in a bunch of new areas to discover, information on lore as well as new dialogue options!

And not everything is as it seems. Who can we trust? Who is a traitor? Are the leaders of the Rebellion as trustworthy as we think they are? What about our old love, Zenobia, the Emperor’s daughter? Is there a way to reach out to her? And is Lapino really who we think he is? The story allows us to form our own fate and managed to surprise me over and over again with complex characters that actually change their minds or show their true colours when we go the right way.

There are about four choices in each path to make, all featuring two or three options that split the path into different branches. The branches usually end with either the world getting destroyed or you getting captured or killed, which then results in the book bringing you back in time where you can start all over again. There are four branches that reveal four truths, required to reach the final ending and the end of the game. These four truths are linked to Isengrim, Zenobia, Lapino and the ancient evil gods. When travelling back in time, your book leaves you with guidance, telling you how the choices are reflecting themselves in your future… though no future is set in stone yet as you get to play them yourselves and make a different choice at any point.

As far as combat goes, it is best describes as a simpler version of Omensight’s combat. You get to slash enemies with your sword, using a vast variety of swings and attacks, as well as abilities that you unlock through skills, counters and blocks. Using different materials, you get to upgrade your sword, adding bonus effects to it like fire damage or more attack speed. On top of that, you get to customize your character with different gems that grant you resistances or other passive effects. Overall, I felt like the combat is rather solid and a lot of fun to play. Spearhead Games learned a lot from Stories: The Path of Destinies and implemented it into Omensight which turned out to be a bit more difficult but also a lot more fun. So, I was quite satisfied with both games’ combat systems.

And then there is the world and the soundtrack: It’s beautiful… but that’s no surprise as Spearhead Games have proven themselves as a lovely studio that is very talented in world-building and game-making. The narration really adds more to the game, too! You could say that I’m a huge fan of Spearhead Games, especially as I just adore Omensight’s world and soundtrack. So it should be no surprise that I enjoyed Stories, though I’ve got to say that there is a weak point to Stories as well…

And that’s its cast of enemies:

Over time, as you go back and re-visit old areas, you’re presented with the same enemies over and over again. Of course, you find new enemy types over the course of the game and you get to fight stronger versions when you get stronger, but I never truly felt as if the game was challenging me a lot… as time went on, I struggled a bit more, but it usually was rather doable and never truly hard, so that was a bit of a downer. The combat is a lot of fun but I would have loved to see more variety in the cast of enemies that you’re facing.

But other than that, I couldn’t really find any issues with the game. It runs smoothly, the game’s plot, characters and the soundtrack are awesome, the combat is fun (though it could have been more challenging) and the exploration is quite neat as well. I highly recommend this game to any fan of well-made action-RPG games and for players who are interested in solving a mystery that involves the end of the world!

I hope you enjoyed this review! It’s been a while and I thought I’d publish it today, especially as this game is really good on top of being different from the other titles that I’ve reviewed so far.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day over there!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Before I Forget

In today’s Indietail, we’re talking about „Before I Forget“ by 3-Fold Games, a one-hour-long narrative experience, that shows us the story of Suni and Dylan Appleby.

Developer: 3-Fold Games
Publisher: 3-Fold Games
Release Date: July 16th, 2020
Genres: Indie, Exploration, Walking Simulator, Narrative, Adventure
Reviewed on: PC
Available for: PC
Copy received from Humble Choice.

In the beginning, we’re just thrown into this apartment, blurry sighted and left with little to no instructions. The only thing we know: We need to find Dylan. Who is Dylan? Where is he? Why is he so important to us? All these questions were going through my head while some beautiful piano music was luring me from one room into the other.

From the get-go, I was astonished by the vibrant colours and the art style that slowly pieced itself together. We can’t go anywhere. There are locked doors and other pieces that are missing, so we need to explore. Find postcards, letters and other objects to trigger certain memories and piece the story together, slowly completing the world like a puzzle of sorts.

You don’t see the bigger picture until you’re fully immersed in the game.

And being immersed isn’t too hard in this case. The story is wonderful and lovely at the beginning but slowly changes pace as the small world we live in gets completed and as more options unlock themselves before us. We can’t proceed through some hallways and cannot open some other doors. I quite literally got lost in the world and the apartment or did I? Did I move through this door already? Why is this one closed again? I could swear that I was here before? I’m confused.

Time and space seem to be mere concepts, rather abstract ones at that. The protagonist’s movement resembles that quite well. Throughout the game, the mouse and player controls feel sluggish or slow down at least, which resembles our confusion quite well. Then everything seems fine again and everything is back to normal…

We forget ourselves. We end up questioning who we are and what we have done. We know nothing about the character that we’re playing… and apparently, the protagonist doesn’t know much more either… at least yet.

The experience reminded me a lot of Answer Knot, where a relationship gets established through notes, photographs and different memories that we remember.

It’s a neat concept that is well executed.

Throughout the game, we’re accompanied by a very interesting soundtrack (by Dave Tucker) and some interesting design choices. Partly, we’re left in the silent, only hearing our footsteps while slowly moving around… partly, we’re accompanied by some nice little piano tunes that become more frequent as the game goes on… and partly, we hear this ominous humming that seems to threaten us while a black hole of sorts stops us from proceeding further into the apartment.

As time goes on, we remember more. Time doesn’t stand still. We find out about the couple and their wishes and careers. Snippets of different conversations. We read about Dylan’s tour and Suni’s research. Here and there we travel back in time to where Suni’s aunt is showing her the stars and explaining the stories and meanings of the different stars and constellations, not all of them were happy but overall it was beautiful.

And well, I’m not sure how to tackle everything else about the game. Being an immersive experience, I can’t talk about the plot too much. I’m afraid that I might have already taken a lot away from the game by only talking about less than the first half.

I guess what I could say is that I loved it. The end was beautiful, the soundtrack was superb, the art style and the shift from the vibrant colours to a darker palette was fluid and just lovely. I loved how the „world“ (aka the apartment) slowly completed itself. And speaking of the apartment, I loved how the two cultures that collided in this relationship are resembled in the flat itself, with British/Western objects and furniture on top of Indian (I think? Correct me if I’m wrong!) paintings and influences scattered throughout the flat. I loved exploring all the rooms and I loved how turning the lights on and off, changed so much about the atmosphere! I also loved how objects and furniture shifted and changed as we remembered more. Oh, and don’t get me started on the voice acting! Just lovely!

Near the end of the game, I had goosebumps from all the metaphors and symbols found in the last sections of the game (can’t talk about that as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone) – and when it was over… I was in awe.

It’s a great game. I highly recommend it.

The only thing that I could criticize would be that I would have loved to put different pieces together by myself. I would have loved it if certain things wouldn’t have been explicitly mentioned by the game. I feel like making the player think is a much stronger way of telling a story instead of actually spelling it out. It didn’t bother me too much. This way of storytelling is obviously more direct and allows more players to reach the same experience, so I guess it’s not bad… I just would have liked to find secrets or maybe even create theories about the characters, by myself, instead of finding everything out in the end… and despite most of the game being rather direct, the ending still leaves a lot of things open. If you enjoy theory-crafting, the ending is going to be lovely for you.

The game’s coming out soon, so you may want to wishlist it on Steam.

So, that’s it for the review. I guess I somehow managed to create a spoiler-free review of this short but beautiful experience. I hope that you will enjoy this experience as much as I did.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.