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!

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!

I’m excited about “Drake Hollow” by The Molasses Flood

It’s sadly not part of the Steam Game Festival but Drake Hollow is definitely something to look out for. I’m really excited about the game – and not only due it being made by the dev behind The Flame In The Flood! The Molasses Flood’s second game can best be described as a Base-Building Action-Survival-Game. 

What is Drake Hollow about?

Well, in the blighted world of The Hollow, you’ve got to defend the small vegetable folk known as the Drake from the deadly feral beasts that are threatening to attack them! The Drake can’t really take care of themselves, so you’ve got to provide them with gardens, wells, and entertainment as well as defences against the previously mentioned terrors. The Drake can literally die of boredom, so they need your attention and help in order to survive – in return, they provide you with buffs that are helpful in your quest of Survival!

Take back The Hollow as you strive for the perfect village! Build solar panels and other important machines to progress! Play with friends and hold your ground together against the imminent danger, craft weapons and gear, pack your things and migrate from place to place, from season to season. Do what it takes to live on!

I really have been excited about this game for ages now. We’ve reviewed The Flame In The Flood about a year ago, so everyone should know what The Molasses Flood is capable of (the studio, not the event). 

What do I expect from this game?

  • First up, the soundtrack is probably going to be amazing.
    The Flame In The Flood featured a lovely, adventurous soundtrack made by Chuck Ragan, and I can’t imagine what they are going to come up with for the soundtrack of this game. I’d expect maybe some more mysterious and enigmatic tunes, similar to the Dungeon of the Endless soundtrack, as well as some road trip vibes with other tracks for when you’re exploring, similar to Amarante Music. 
  • Secondly, the peaceful aspects are going to be super wholesome.
    Taking care of these little fellows is going to be great. Just imagine all the cute little noises and dances they might make. I’m in love with Dufflur, the Drake that can be seen in the Steam Store Page. It’s just adorable, featuring a very lovely colour and some insanely pretty eyes!
  • Thirdly, Co-Op is going to be great when I find the right people to play this with – and I already have some in mind!
    I’d imagine that the resource gathering and base-building get infinite times better with friends, probably, just like it’s so much better to play games like Satisfactory or Ark with friends. 
  • Fourth, the combat is going to be intense and exciting!
    A change of pace is always good, so the resource scavenging, base building, and Drake-caretaking are going to be rather relaxed and fun to play around while combatting the “raids” will result in your heart rate spiking, in a good way of course. I wanna feel that thrill and excitement when facing off against these eldritch-looking monsters!
  • And at last, exploration:
    There are going to be a lot of different regions and seasons with each region being over a square mile big! From what I’ve gathered, there are landmarks to explore and, well, with every passing season there is going to be dynamically generated and populated areas, so you’ll always have places to go and spaces to loot, I’d imagine. 

So, in essence, I’m hyped. I’ve been hyped for ages but with the game coming out on July 17th, 2020, I’m getting excited again. I probably won’t be able to play it until after the 22nd, though, as I’ve got some exams on that day, but regardless of that, this is going to be great.

So, yeah, this is my post on Drake Hollow. We’re going to write a review on this game after the release so that you can see if my hype was justified, and we soon will publish an interview with one of the lead devs on the game, so stay tuned for that!

Be sure to wishlist and follow it on Steam, if you’re interested! You may also be interested in checking out the website! Cheers!

Late to the Party #3 – Assassin’s Creed

There are some games out there that probably everyone has already played or that people would deem “Classics”. It’s games that get spoiled constantly since everyone already played them… Games that are the milestones that started entire franchises and genres. Games that are so great that it’s a miracle that I haven’t played them yet!

And that’s what this format is about. Welcome to Late to the Party #3 where I talk about my first impressions of Assassin’s Creed 1.

In the past, we already took a look at The Witcher 1 and Asheron’s Call, so check those games and posts out. Some people abbreviate Animal Crossing “AC”… some do the same for Assassin’s Creed… but Asheron’s Call… that’s the true AC, with Animal Crossing being AnCr/Anchor and with Assassin’s Creed obviously being AssCreed/AssCreek. Anyone who says something else is obviously wrong. So shut up. (That’s a joke.)

AssCreed is a game where this barkeeper called Desmond Miles gets kidnapped by Abstergo Industries. These guys want to use the so-called “Animus” to deep dive into Desmond’s ancestor’s memories that are saved in his DNA in order to find out where the “Pieces of Eden” are.

Aaaand that brings us to the Third Crusade where we play as Altaïr ibn-La’Ahad, an assassin that gets demoted to a “Novice of the Assassin Brotherhood” by their leader Al Mualim, after essentially messing up a lot of things in the first few cut scenes. There’s this creed, the Assassin’s Creed, and he broke it so now he’s got to restore his former rank by getting rid of the nine Knight Templars.

So, uh, yeah, we’re climbing houses, throwing knives, stabbing people, eavesdropping strangers and try to attain intel before eventually killing someone and colouring a feather with their blood as proof of their death. There are a lot of side quests, though you’ve got to do only a few of them before every main assassination, and on top of that you can run around and explore a few different areas like Masyaf, Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus. There are a lot of historical figures in the story which is rather interesting… and the parkour and climbing and free running, as well as the assassinations, the stealth and the combat in general, are super cool!

So we played this on a few different Fridays over here on my Twitch channel and I really enjoyed the game… but then it somehow came to an end when I just didn’t feel like playing the game all that much. (Spoilers from here on, so skip to the end if you’re interested in the story.)

I stopped playing the game for a lot of reasons. After eighteen hours of total playtime, I ended up quitting Assassin’s Creed due to its gameplay-formula. The story outside of the Animus was super interesting but we got way too less of that… meanwhile, the actual game is rather repetitive!

You get a target to kill. Do three side missions. Go there. Kill the guy. Come back to HQ. Get some ability. Get another target. Do three side missions. Go there. Kill the guy. Come back to HQ. Get another ability. Rinse and Repeat.

It’s just boring at some point. It never changes. There are barely any new mission types in the game and the collectables and the watchtowers are rather boring. There is no “unlock” for the collectables. You find all 100 flags in an area but you don’t learn anything new from it. Meanwhile, the towers unlock more parts of the map, so you get to see the different missions and stuff… but none of the towers is particularly hard to get on top of.

And then there are parts of the story that just feel generic and boring. “There is a traitor in the Brotherhood. Find him to restore your former rank.”
I mentioned on stream that it’s probably going to be the leader himself. He’s a templar of sorts and we will have to turn on him to become the leader ourselves.

But since I don’t want to play more of it, I just read up on it and… I was right. Nothing too drastic. Nothing too new. Oh wow, the teacher is your end boss? The student beats the teacher? So innovative! Wowsers! I can’t contain my excitement about this glorious twist that I haven’t seen anywhere else before yet, at all! I’m so mad at myself for spoiling the “good” part of the story!

Alas, Assassin’s Creed feels like more of a disappointment than anything else. The free walking and parkour and everything else I mentioned is a lot of fun and seem to stay in the whole franchise, so I’m looking forward to actually playing the second game and the rest of them… but I’m not going to play more of the first. We’ve killed like three or four of the templars already and there are way too many hints that Al Mualim is the traitor… so, in the end, it was just a disappointment.

I didn’t get to see the Pieces of Eden yet but according to Wikipedia, the game ends with us having access to a map showing the remaining pieces on a world globe of sorts. Those pieces will allow Abstergo to control the thoughts of all living creatures. So, uh… the franchise consists of Abstergo finding the location of the pieces by using the memories of the different assassin all over the world… I guess?

Assassin’s Creed is a franchise that can be fun, probably, but I don’t like the first game. The first game seems to be like a setup for the rest of the franchise. A test of sorts. In the end, it worked out. I own all the games. I don’t know why I own them all. I’ll play through a bunch of them and I hope that it gets better with the gameplay-variety. I think I still enjoyed AssCreed more than the first Witcher game but whatever.

Starting next week we’ll fill in the Friday-Slot with a different game. Possibly with Portal 1 since I haven’t played that game in ages… We’ll see.

Either way, I hope that you liked this quick little trip into the world of the famous AssCreek. Have a wonderful day!

Cheers!