Indietail – Necrobarista

At last year’s GamesCom I interviewed Ngoc Vu, the lead artist from Route 59, who at the time worked on Necrobarista. Now that the game is out I got a key for review purposes and, well,…

TLDR: I love it. It’s a great game. Why? Find out here!

Developer: Route 59
Publisher: Route 59, Coconut Island Games
Genres: Supernatural, 3D, Story Rich, Visual Novel
Release Date: July 22nd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC - but PS4 and Switch are planned soon as well!
Copy was provided by the Devs.

Necrobarista is about time. Time to move on – or time to stay. Somewhere in a backstreet of Melbourne, there’s a Café where both the alive and the healthy come to. When you pass away, you have 24 hours to stay in that Café, have a drink and then move on… and Necrobarista tells a story about the owners of that Café and the people that come there. It’s a story about the ethics of Necromancy, hipster coffee, and letting go.

Strap on for a haunting and innovative experience and a haunting, yet cosy, time!

Meet Maddy, Chay, Ashley, and Ned – as well as a bunch of other characters! Get to know them! Listen to them and have a cosy time. I really liked the characters as all of them had a certain depth to them (without spoiling too much here). There’re all kinds of characters in all kinds of shapes and colours, so there’s some degree of inclusiveness here with representation for all kinds of people, which is something that I really fancy.

Necrobarista has a certain cosy slice-of-life-ness to it that I really enjoyed while playing. On top of that, though, it also has some intense moments here and there as well as some rather emotional moments. Think about it: It’s your last day on earth. I’ll just leave that there and you can think about it all you want, get emotional or shrug it off. Whatever you feel like. The story leaves a lot of room for interpretation and analysis, which is something that I personally really enjoyed doing. At some plot points, it made me feel down a bit but other plot points felt really nice and wholesome in a way. And while overall cosy, it gets intense later on as well.

What’s interesting is that you don’t spectate the story from the lens of one character that looks at all the characters interacting with only them, like in a lot of other visual novels, but rather you get different perspectives and points of view. You get to see the characters from the POV of one character or from above or the camera moves around a bit, panning while you read the text. There are no text boxes on the bottom side of the screen. Instead, you see them floating near the characters. You always know who’s talking but they are always somewhere else, making the game feel more whole and organic. It’s lovely.

A lot of these feelings are conveyed through the colours and the soundtrack. Necrobarista’s soundtrack has been composed by Kevin Penkin who’s known for making the soundtrack of Under The Dog, Made in Abyss, and The Rising of the Shield Hero. I’d put Necrobarista’s soundtrack on the same level as Made in Abyss. I love it to bits. It’s cosy and joyful, endearing and amusing but it also can be intense and mystic, enigmatic and threatening. That – combined with the lo-fi style that uses not only gorgeous images and colours but also some slight animations here and there – makes this just a wonderful experience.

And while I would have loved this game to branch out into choices and a story with different kinds of stories that you can explore over time, it really is not that kind of game.

It’s linear but still quite rich. I love the story and the aesthetic. The characters are great. The soundtrack underlines the plot points and brings the best out of everything. Again, I can’t praise Kevin Penkin enough but after what he did in Made in Abyss, it’s no surprise that the soundtrack for this game turned out so great. It sticks to your head and you notice a “sound” that you ultimately recognize as “Necrobarista-like” – or at least that’s what I feel like when I hear those tunes somewhere else now.

The story is linear but doesn’t need the branches. Of course, there is still some degree regarding choices.

For instance, you get to pick words that you’ve heard from different people at the end of every chapter. These words get associated with different meanings and subjects or people depending on the context and the character that said them. When you pick them, you then gain memory fragments from different categories. You then can use these fragments in the Café while walking around before continuing the story. You use them to unlock side stories or “memories” (essentially extra lore) that you can read on to learn more about the characters.

You click on “Blood” and get a fragment for “Magic” as it was mentioned in that context. You click on “Weather” and get a fragment for “Melbourne” as they were talking about a storm brewing. You click on “Minor Demon” and get a fragment for “Lore” as it’s part of the world that those exist… and “bowl of peas” belongs to “Food” as Ned loves them. Use these different fragments up for some nice and short stories in between chapters and collect more to unlock more stories. At some point, you’ll get through the main story but you can always load previous chapters and load previous save states, so it shouldn’t be a problem to unlock all of them, especially as you can view what you need and what you have already in the “memories” section of the pause menu.

I liked this feature. It creates a bit of replayability which is quite nice overall.

And you also get to explore the space a bit to unlock more short stories. Visit the basement or the bar, the Café’s upper area or the outside area. Look at different objects.

Enjoy the view. Take some pretty screenshots! I did, too! A lot of them!

But seriously. It’s a great game. I guess this is not a game for you if you’re not into reading or if you don’t like Visual Novels or anime or stories revolving around life and death… or if you feel like there’s not enough action in this game… but that’s your loss then. I highly recommend this game. I didn’t find any issues with it. The story, presentation, the characters, the gameplay, and the score were just great if not even superb and I loved it.

Necrobarista just came out on Steam! Check it out or wishlist it! Highly recommend it!

I’m glad that I saw it at last year’s GamesCom. I’m glad that I did that interview. I’m glad that I started this blog. Next week, the blog turns a year old and if it wasn’t for the blog I wouldn’t have been able to write about all kinds of topics and about these kinds of games. I love it. I hope you’re enjoying the blog posts, too. Until then.

Cheers!

Looking out for “Automaton”

Another interesting title that caught my eye during the Steam Game Festival (Summer Edition) was Cicle Interactive’s “Automaton”, which is planned to be released on August 3rd 2020! It’s a Puzzle-Adventure set in a post-apocalyptic desert world where a small little robot ventures out in search for fuel. You explore abandoned bunkers, stations and other facilities, solving puzzles, in a quest to find out what that thing was that fell from the sky. 

When I started this game up, I saw a lot of potential in it!

Similar to NieR: Automata, Automaton features mixed third-person mechanics and 2D perspectives on top of vast open areas, which I find rather cool. You go from one landmark to another, only limited by the fuel reserves that shut you down when you run empty. There is little to no introduction into the game and little to no hand-holding. The game leaves you be, similar to thatgamecompany’s Journey where you also only orient yourself through different eyecatchers and landmarks that you see in the distance. 

The world is really pretty, the protagonist is insanely adorable (a common theme at this point) and the soundtrack is just astonishing so far! 

The only issues I have with the game are the fuel-mechanic itself. While limiting your access to the World with that mechanic is rather interesting and quite innovative, I find it a bit harsh on the player and flat-out frustrating to have the player die and start anew. A checkpoint here or there would have been really appreciated – but maybe that’s something that’s a thing in the full release. 

Automaton will come out on August 3rd, 2020. Check it out yourself or wishlist/follow it on Steam if you’re intrigued by this little piece. 🙂

Cheers!

Indietail – Westerado: Double Barreled

Howdy, fellow cowboys and cowgirls! Today we’re taking a look at Westerado: Double Barreled, a game where we chase a buffalo on the loose before finding out that someone not only burned down our ranch, but also gravely injured our bigger brother, and killed our mother! Our mission is to find the killer and take revenge! To do so, we’re equipped with a revolver and some other tools! Yeeha! 

Developer: Ostrich Banditos
Publisher: Adult Swim
Genres: Indie, Action, Adventure, Shoot 'Em Up, Western
Release Date: April 16, 2015
Reviewed on: PC
Available for: PC, Xbox One, Mac OS
Copy was purchased.

Let’s get to the plot:

After these incidences happened, we’ve got to “take care” about our brother and head to our uncle’s place where we learn that the killer is most likely in Clintville. Once we arrive there, we’ve got to earn Clintville’s citizens’ trust by completing quests and errands for them, including escort-missions, bounty-hunts and lots more! 

One of our first quests brings us to a graveyard.. Is that a premonition?

Gameplay-wise, it’s relatively simple:

Since we’re in the Wild West, we’ve got to solve everything with guns. There are multiple guns, ranging from shotguns, revolvers, bolas, to dual-revolvers, and even a sniper rifle. You can switch between weapons without any issues but have to load them up and unlock the gun while dodging bullet shots in the meantime. While the Bola doesn’t deal damage and holds only one shot, it instead captures enemies rendering them unable to shoot, which I found quite interesting. Meanwhile, the shotguns are able to hit multiple enemies, though only having two shots and being short-ranged, while the rifle is more precise, is able to pierce enemies and has five shots. 

One of two factions! Help them free the buffalos or fight them to the death! Your choice!

To kill enemies, you need to shoot off their hats before landing the killing blow. In the same manner, they’re able to shoot off your hat, before being able to kill you, too. Luckily, you own two reserve-hats that you automatically get used once you lose a hat, hence blessing you with basically four lives (three hats and your head). When killing enemies, you can pick up their hats to restock on lives. When you die, though, you are saved by someone who carries you to a nearby bed, refilling your hats and magazines but also helping himself to some of your riches. Hence, you lose money whenever you die which is why you need to go to banks relatively often, although they also help themselves to your bank account now and then – still, the bank is a lot safer than carrying your money around and risking to lose everything else, although not dying is probably the safest! 

Our Journal is helping us with keeping track of the Killer!

Speaking of the bank, there’re a lot more buildings in the towns that help you: 

The Sheriff’s and the bank often need help with killing bandits, while you may as well play some cards, have a drink or talk to other people at the Saloon, sometimes granting you hints on what the killer looks like. To find the killer, you need to find a few different hints in a “Who is it?” manner. As “clothes make people”, you only gain hints on what the killer looks like. The killer, though, could be nearby at any time, which is why you probably could kill him at any time in the game, if you wanted to. In fact, you’re able to solve all problems in the Wild West, using your guns. 

A quest by the bankers: Bring money to safety while killing those darn bandits!

See a saloon door? Shoot it open!
See someone funky? Shoot them dead!
Don’t like where the conversation is going? Pull out your gun, threaten them or even shoot them dead again! 

It’s hilarious. At all conversations, you’re able to pull out your gun, resulting in some funny moments where you randomly threaten people. 

We’re protecting buffalos from bandits – an escort mission from one ranch to the other!

Humour is a big part of this game, too, as well as references. Being a game published by AdultSwim, I had a great time throughout the game with random moments and references to tons of things, e.g. the founder of Clintville being “East Clintwood” or the fact that killing every NPC in one area results in you unlocking a horde mode for that area. Hillarious.

When you kill enough people, you also gain the reputation of a killer, leading to bandits randomly surrendering and stopping the fighting because they fear you so much.

Conversations are shown in this film-esque style! You always have the option of just leaving in the middle of the sentence or even drawing your gun, although those choices might not benefit you!

At some point, you might question whether or not you’re worse than the Killer you’re searching for BUT honestly, I don’t even know. It’s quite fun to just go all out on your revenge and the few casualties that it might take are the Killer’s fault, obviously. If he hadn’t messed with you, those people wouldn’t have died. (just kidding) 

Presentation-wise,

it’s got a lovely pixel-art style going that is enhanced by the liveliness of each area, with dogs, coyotes, scorpions, snakes, birds and all kinds of other animals being featured in the scenery. The music is also quite great and there haven’t been any issues with the sound just stopping or not fitting the area, in my opinion. Overall a great art style and great music.

On top of that, there are no restrictions to where you can go and where you can’t. A true open-world game, I guess! There are also factions in the game: Support the buffalo-friends or the militia, you’ve got the choice when it comes to alternate plots. 

The Map is huge but empty at the beginning. Over the course of time, you’re discovering more and more of this Western World, both over- and underground!

But let’s get to flaws. Overall, I really enjoyed the game, but the map sometimes seemed quite frustrating. There are tons of quests and all of them get marked on the map. When you’re unlucky, you just don’t know what you’re actually doing right now or you’re going to areas to do one thing and end up doing something else. Having the option to actually follow only one quest at a time, like in other games (i.e. Borderlands or MMOs in general), would’ve been nice, although this is an Indie Game and all that.

Another thing is the fact that there are no checkpoints that you can set yourself: 

When you respawn, you actually spawn in a “nearby bed” – which is at your Uncle’s. Before facing off against the Killer, you also get a checkpoint there, and although there are fast-travel-points here and there, scattered through the world, it gets quite annoying to always have to teleport somewhere or walk a while and it kind of feels lazy in some way. I would’ve liked it if there were rooms in the Saloon that you could pay for, to set a spawn point nearby. It’s not a big deal, I guess, but I personally got quite annoyed by it. 

But overall I had a blast during my playthrough. There is a learning curve at the beginning but once you get used to the aiming and all that, it’s actually quite enjoyable. My first playthrough was four hours long but there’s a lot of replay value, too, as you’re also able to go with higher difficulties, unlock new characters with new abilities and other properties and there are a ton of easter eggs to be found in the game. I definitely recommend this game!

Have a nice one! 

Indietail – Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to)

Today we’re taking a look at Kind Words! We literally take a look at kind words, too. Hope that made you groan! Let’s get right into it!

Developer: Popcannibal
Publisher: Popcannibal
Genres: Casual, Indie, Experimental
Release Date: September 13, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased

What is Kind Words?

Kind Words is a social experiment, I guess. You are sending anonymous paper planes to people all over the world for them to read, though you gotta stay positive! You’re also able to receive paper planes and make or receive requests. On top of that, you’re able to collect, receive and send stickers to people, decorate your room with them, listen to chill lo-fi-music in the background, and receive new music for your virtual playlist by playing daily. 

I was kind of proud of this one.

It’s a lovely game and I only just stumbled across two blog posts about it, so I thought it’d be nice to write about my experiences with it after playing a bit for a bit. I don’t usually buy games right away but having Aywren and Belghast talk about them in such high notes really got me excited about it and it’s only four euros, so it doesn’t tear down a black hole into your wallet. 

I already covered all the gameplay there is, to be honest. I feel like it’s more of a social experiment than an actual game. There’s not much to do apart from being nice to people who need some kindness. I’m sending virtual hugs here and there, talking about my experiences with similar situations and overall try to comfort people. I feel quite nice and I also received some heartwarming answers to my requests even though I didn’t even feel down at all. 

In the beginning, you’re talking to Ella the post-deer who’s quite shocked about you not knowing post-deers. She’s quite cute and delivers your paper planes, requests and answers to everyone in the world or the people who need them right now while also explaining features to you and notifying you when there’s a new answer in your inbox or when people thank you for your answers. She only just started this job, so you first need to send her a letter, which I immediately began with “Deer Ella,…”. I just couldn’t resist but she didn’t feel upset about it at all, I guess. She may have groaned, who knows. I just got her standard-NPC answer after that quick tutorial.

But when you speak to real people, you get overwhelmed with warm messages, real problems and a bit of negativity here and there where people are worried about their futures or don’t know what to do with their problems. I like helping people but when you help too much, you might need some kind words yourself! Hence, don’t hesitate to send out some requests as well! 

When you read requests, you can just browse through them, answer them or even report them when they feature major negativity, innapropriate language, toxicity or even trolling. I don’t know what happens to the people behind those messages but I’m quite sure that a message with too many reports gets deleted. I so far received about 20 paper planes and answered even more requests. I only encountered one negative comment where someone was cursing and flaming their boss and just being overall negative and toxic. I could’ve answered that person, I guess, but I didn’t know what to do and instead decided to report the message for being toxic and inappropriate. 

After that, I needed some cheering up, too, so I went ahead and asked for some puns and received a good one here. 

Overall, this is a lovely game. It’s cheap but the music is good, the community has been nice so far and the decorations are insanely cute, too! 

The only concerns I have is the fact that it may be a platform for trolls to engage on but I’m sure that the report system will take care of that. As for flaws, I guess one could mention that apart from writing there’s not much gameplay. Also, some paper planes fly past and you’re not able to catch them quick enough whilst reading another one. This is quite annoying and I would have liked it if the paper planes would take a few rounds around your room before shooting off into the distance of the screen. Also, they sometimes fly through walls and the floor which can be patched, I guess. These are just minor flaws, so I’ll definitely recommend this game to everyone who may have a tough time once in a while. 

Sending love to everyone out there! – Cheers!

Indietail – Omensight

In today’s review, I’m talking about Omensight – a stylish third-person murder mystery action-adventure game with platforming elements and RPG aspects like “leveling, an interactive story, and character upgrades”. Dive into a story about intrigue, murder and treason as the Harbinger, a mythological creature that appears when the end of worlds is nigh!

Developer: Spearhead Games
Publisher: Spearhead Games
Genres: Action, RPG
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Copy was purchased

But let’s talk about the story first. Omensight is the spiritual successor of Spearhead GamesStories: The Path of Destinies and tells you the story of the murder of the Godless-Priestess Vera and the destruction of the world Urallia by the hands of the dark god Voden. In the beginning, you witness the destruction of the world and are then teleported to the Tree of Life where you encounter the Witch. The Witch then explains to you that you need to relive this final day of Urallia and accompany four key-characters to find the culprit behind the summoning of Voden and the murder of Vera.

Ratika, my favourite character

This leads to a lot of time travelling as you’re about to solve this murder by reliving the same day over and over again. By experiencing the story from different angles, you’re able to find out about the murder and get hints at possible motives, alibis and suspects. This kind of reminded me of Ghost Trick – Phantom Detective where you hinder a group of killers from killing further victims after you already ended up as a ghost. Lovely!

The Harbinger

As for combat, a controller is recommended as you’re using a combination of heavy, slow attacks that can’t be blocked and light, fast attacks, as well as abilities and dashes. There’re a few combos that can be used as well as counter-attacks that empower your next attack when you’re successful in blocking enemy attacks and/or breaking through their lines. Every attack can be cancelled with your dodge-roll so that you’re not locked in any sort of attack-animation, which is a great feature. After not getting hit for a while, you’re gaining energy that can be used for special abilities. On top of that, you’re able to use enemies and objects in the area around you to destroy enemy hordes, which I found insanely fun.

It’s wicked fun to just combo your way through hordes of enemies, reaping through them with fast attacks, switching targets when they’re blocking, dashing around, dodging projectiles and other incoming attacks before you use some heavy attacks to finish off enemies or just grab and throw explodable barrels into enemies or into pillars that then fall onto enemies!

It all feels very fluid and intuitive combat-wise, although there’s still a learning curve as you need to time your attacks well and as you can get attacked from outside of your semi-locked camera-view. This often feels unfair but after a little bit of practice, you feel god-like which is quite fitting for your role as the Harbinger, the eyes and sword of Urallia. Sometimes enemies also use blocks or focus you instead of your companion but usually, you get the hang of it after a few tries, and you usually are able to find health potions in destructible objects scattered around the map.

While I didn’t really like Indrik all that much in the beginning, he at some point showed some interesting traits, leading to me actually kind of liking him. Just kind of.

The story is intense since you’re always getting new clues on the mystery of Vera‘s murder. Not every hint leads you into the right direction and since there’s a wide cast of characters from the emperor Indrik to the leader of the rebellion, Ratika, who’s receiving her powers from the might of music, you never know who it really could be! You have suspicions as the story proceeds but those get debunked eventually, leaving you clue-less from time to time so that you need to try out the same day from a different perspective, try out other dialogue-options and then find out more about the case. Sometimes the game feels like a TellTale game since you’re left with choices that have consequences, but since you’re able to start every day again from a different point of time, this feeling is kind of faint. The cast of characters is very interesting, as not even Indrik’s most loyal general, Draga, seems to be that loyal, as she wants to end the war with as few losses as possible, on both sides.

The Crimson Forest

What I didn’t like about the game, was mostly the fact that you’re not able to save a mission, leave the game, and continue from that point in time when returning. Some missions took me ten to fifteen minutes while others took me a lot longer due to unknown enemy-patterns and the fact that I sometimes just struggled with the game. I often died and then had to start anew from the checkpoints that are spread through the mission but when something comes up IRL, I had to quit, only to find out that you can’t continue a mission from the last checkpoint you reached. This kind of feels weird since you’re the mighty Harbinger who’s able to travel through time, but you’re not allowed to return to a checkpoint…

Another thing that I noticed is the fact that the camera-movement feels odd every now and then. You can move it a little on your own (hence it’s semi-locked) but sometimes pillars and other objects might get in your way. This is kind of solved in some areas where walls turn invisible but often it also happens that your view is blocked by some objects.

Other than that, I didn’t notice any other major flaws. The devs focused on the elegant presentation, a fabulous soundtrack, fluid and entertaining combat, and a great story with interesting characters. Hence, I recommend this game.

Anyways, cheers!

Note: This review is actually part of a series of shorter reviews at about half the size of my usual reviews. I’m trying out this style and compare its stats to another long review that comes out soon, to test out whether or not I should stick to longer more detailed reviews or shorter ones that are not only faster to produce but also faster to read.

Another Note: On Frostilyte‘s blog, I saw that little section with the infos about the dev studio, the publisher, the platforms, etc. and I found it quite neat, so I’m going to do that from now on as well. Check him out since he also publishes Indie Game Reviews, as well as other content! 🙂

This post is part of a contest/challenge called Blaugust! The goal is to post as much as possible and participants are awarded with different prizes depending on the goal they achieved. My aim is to post on all 31 days of August and if you’d like to know more about this “event”, you should check this post out.

Indietail – Risk of Rain

Dizzle, Rain and Monsoon? What sounds like the weather forecast of London is actually something that has to do with an awesome game by Hopoo Games. Stay tuned for a review on my favourite game featuring a great soundtrack, some cool combat and a small risk of rain.


In today’s review, we’re taking a look at Risk of Rain (Trailer/Shop), a game developed by Hopoo Games, in which we crash on a mysterious planet where we have to fight through waves of monsters to get to the teleporter and…more about that later. I actually heard about this game about four years ago while following a blog called petebackwelcome with reviews on movies, games and all kinds of other stuff which I found really interesting. Later I bought this game since it got recommended by one of my favourite bloggers. And it didn’t take me all that long to find out about this game is one of my favourite games of all time!

So, let’s get started with the menu: Here we’ve got the option to choose between singleplayer and local or online co-op. The online-multiplayer is a pain in the arse to set up, so we won’t bother with it all that much for now. In the singleplayer “Campagne” of this rogue-like-title, you’re then able to choose between different characters that were on board of the ship that just crashed. Once you’ve chosen one out of those twelve characters that all have different playstyles and skills, you’re basically set to choose the difficulty and artefacts.

These difficulties are Drizzle, Monsoon and Rainstorm. These are basically designed for newbies (Drizzle – it’s really easy but achievements and the like are disabled), casuals (Rainstorm – the normal experience) and hardcore-gamers/pros (Monsoon – quite hard at the beginning but once you get used to the game you’ll basically want to play this mode!). Artefacts are also available to make your game harder but I’ll explain those later as well.

Here’s the commando and his abilities, feature damage, stun+damage, a dodge-roll and more stuns + more damage. Quite decent. Quite basic.

At the start of the game, you only have one character available to unlock the other characters: The Commando. He’s basically an allrounder who’s not only able to deal good amounts of damage but also has two stuns in his kit and a dodge roll to mitigate damage that may have been taken. Once you start your run you’ll spawn in one of many procedurally generated biomes. Those biomes have similar layouts to each other but still work with a small number of tilesets, meaning that there’s chests, shrines, and shops at different points of the level. You’ll start at level 1 and have to kill enemies to gain experience (to level up) and gold (to gear up). So, just like in most games, you’ll be looting and levelling to become stronger and beat more enemies and bosses. Items can get through those shrines, chests and shop but you always have to pay a price of gold for them. To get to the next level, you’ll need to find the teleporter and activate it so that the last few enemies and the boss of that level can spawn. Once you defeated the boss, you’ll be able to collect a new item, get rid of the last few enemies of the level and once you cleared those out, you’re free to either open the last few chests or just proceed to the next level. Proceeding to the next level however converts your gold to experience, leaving you with no gold in the next level.

Relatively early you’ll find out about a timer that can be found in the upper right corner. It shows you how long you’ve taken so far and increases the game’s experience based on the time taken. The longer you take, the stronger the enemies get. You’ll have to fight through more enemies and have to deal with elites that have different properties and more health. In the ideal scenario, you’d of course want to proceed even faster and get to the highest level possible asap, right? But that’s where you’re wrong as well since you’ll still have to level or else you’ll deal little to no damage to future bosses. So, naturally, you’ll have to find the right balance between farming mobs and speedrunning the levels.

The best way to get stronger is by getting items. These have a few different grades from uncommon to epic and can be found in chests and the like. There are active and passive items. Active items have to be used in order to deal damage, heal you or do other things like opening all chests nearby (there’s an achievement for that btw!). Passive items, on the other hand, are able to increase your stats, give you bonuses or other boosts which can be really helpful. Most of them also stack, so that you can get the same stats over and over again, like three syringes for three times the attack speed of a normal syringe. Opening a more expensive chest means having a higher chance of getting a higher grade item. While chests give you a random item from their loot table, bosses always grant you better items while shrines grant you a random item as well. To activate shrines, you’ll either have to donate gold or health in order to get a chance of getting an item. While this might sound like a huge gamble, there are actually strategies where you try to fail them a few times in a row to get increased crit chance with a certain item. On top of that, there are also shops that either already show you the items you can purchase or question marks with a random item.

Once you start the teleporter, one out of ten bosses spawns. These range from the magma worm that jumps out of the ground and ignites the ground around its impact to the Colossus who’s quite tanky and able to spawn golems around him to the Imp Lord who also spawns enemies and shoots rays at you to the wandering vagrant, a flying creature that roams the map and attacks you freely while doing so. On higher difficulties, these bosses can also spawn as normal enemies or come in pairs or even in elite-versions with different properties to them than the normal version. Even if you slay the boss, you still have to wait for the teleporter to charge up which takes different time from a minute to 90 seconds depending on your difficulty (Dizzle, Rainstorm or Monsoon). In that period of time enemies are still able to spawn until the timer runs out. After that you have to clear out all remaning enemies before getting to the next level via teleporter.

The magma worm. One of the first bosses and probably the boss I died most to.

The best thing about Risk of Rain, however, is apart from its soundtrack the combat-system. Each character has a normal attack, two normal abilities and an ultimate ability. While there are characters like the commando who are focused round shooting fast and dealing tons of damage while moving around a lot, there’s also melee-classes like the Enforcer who has a stun grenade and a shield that blocks enemy-attacks that come from one side of him. There’s also a sniper and an engineer which also play differently. Over all every class feels unique and is insanely fun to play. Once you understand how to use your character, you’re getting better in the game quite easily and may as well try out higher difficulties and artefacts. What I really like about the system is that no matter how you die, it never feels unfair. You always know what kills you and how you should have positioned yourself. With enough items, you get overpowered quite fast but you’re still able to die quite easily.

Combat feels fluid since every character/class has some sort of gap-closing ability with invulnerablity-frames and the ability to dodge attacks and fall damage and the like. You can play the game with the controller and the keyboard and while the controller feels more intuitive, I must say that the keyboard isn’t that unhandy. It still works.

Overall the experience is very space-y and positive. The soundtrack by Chris Christodoulou (Bandcamp/Steamshop) who’s also responsible for other games by Hopoo Games like Deadbolt and Risk of Rain 2 is absolutely awesome and even Total Biscuit (rest in piece at this point) paused his commentary for a while in his WTF is… Risk of Rain video to listen to this incredible soundtrack. My favourite track from the OST is Coalescense, a song found in the final level “Risk of Rain”, right before you encounter the final boss.


The soundtrack uses everything from drums and electric guitars to electronic elements and that’s why it’s able to create the perfect atmosphere for every level since every level is different. There’s quite a lot of different biomes from a hive to highlands, from cold tundras to hot volcanos, from dry sandy areas to wet and overgrown jungles. The artstyle is using pixels but seems to have quite a lot of detail for every enemy, class and biom which adds to the overall atmospheric feel of this game as well.

But let’s quit the fanboying for now. What I really didn’t like about Risk of Rain was the fact that the multiplayer is a pain in the butt to set up. While the local multiplayer is easy to handle, I would have loved to play with friends that aren’t closeby, but I couldn’t since the multiplayer uses an ip-port-thingy that doesn’t seem to work – or at least you need to use third-party-programs to get it to run which I find quite bothersome since so many other games on steam use the steam-friendlist to make it work. Luckily this isn’t the case in the sequel Risk of Rain 2 which only came out this year and makes use of your steam-friendlist. It would have been a great feature to have in the first game as well though.

The second run on one of my last runs.

But apart from the online-co-op there’s another problem with the multiplayer. Whenever I tried out the local one, items and experience didn’t get shared at all. This means that one player kills a mob and gets the experience and gold for that enemy-kill while the other one doesn’t. Same goes for items from chests and shrines: One player can get them while the other one doesn’t, meaning that one player ultimately might end up underleveled or underpowered and struggles with enemies that are just stronger than him. When one player dies, the other player has to deal with more enemies on his own but then again gets the experience for himself only. In the next level, the second player respawns, though, so he may get some new items but is still underleveled, leading to the same problem. This problem has been solved in the sequel, too, where all experience is shared. Items still are only for one player but that isn’t a problem with the right coordination.

Even though I played this game so much, I still haven’t unlocked most of these items here. But quite a lot.

The problem could have been easily solved with an option of item/exp/gold-sharing that could just have been ticked on or off for the sake of more difficulty. But the two-headed team of Hopoo Games said themselves that they won’t work on that since the singleplayer shouldn’t be the shadow of the multiplayer, which I can understand.

Apart from that there’s not many other points that could be criticized, in my opinion. The game is fair, every character feels unique and strong on its own and I haven’t encountered any games in the game at all in all of my many hours that I put into the game. The game has quite a lot of replay-value with fifteen steam achievements and a lot of other unlockables in the game such as new items, characters, artefacts and monster logs.

For those under you that want the extra-challenge, you can opt in for those artefacts that need to be unlocked in the game and that add extra difficulty to the game. There’s artefacts for basically anything. One for example makes corpses explode into bits, dealing huge chunks of damage to everything, another makes enemies (and you) run faster when on low health. My favorite artefacts are Glass and Command. Command allows you to chose the items, you’d get from the chests, while Glass gives you 500% damage but only 10% health – “glass-cannon-mode”, eh?

The Monster Log for the Rock Golem. He’s quite cute, isn’t he?

 To sum it all up, I’d say that Risk of Rain not only has a lot of content but also a lot of fun prepared for every lover of the rogue-like-genre. The presentation is great, the music is absolutely awesome and I’d really recommend it to everyone who likes games like Dead Cells and Gonner

Anyways, cheers!

This post is part of a contest/challenge called Blaugust! The goal is to post as much as possible and participants are awarded with different prizes depending on the goal they achieved. My aim is to post on all 31 days of August and if you’d like to know more about this “event”, you should check this post out.

Indietail – Moonlighter

In every RPG, merchants are selling you all kinds of goods. But have you ever asked yourself where those goods come from or those merchants got so far? Well, in today’s review, we’re talking about a game that lets you experience both sides of the same coin: Merchants and Heroes!

Moonlighter is an Action-RPG developed by Digital Sun Games and published by 11 bit studios.

The Plot

Moonlighter is about a set of gates that have been found after an archaeological excavation. Those gates are referred to as the Dungeon and consist of four doors to four realms, each full of different artefacts and enemies. There’s also a fifth door that hasn’t been opened yet since nobody knows how to do so.
Once word of the dungeon has spread, a small town of merchants has been found near the excavation site, Rynoka.

Back to the present, the game presents us with Will, a young merchant who’s the heir of one of the oldest shop in Rynoka, the Moonlighter. After his grandfather “Crazy Ol’ Pete” has been lost in the dungeons, the protagonist Will has to take care of the shop while secretly dreaming of becoming a hero.

That’s where the game sets in. We accompany Will on one of his expeditions into the Golem Dungeon where he fights off enemies with a Broom and collects their dropped artefacts.
After being swarmed by them, however, we pass out and are set back at the entrance of the dungeon where Zenon finds us and brings us back to our room in the Moonlighter. He then explains to us how to sell items and even gives us a sword and shield that he once used.

Fun little joke by Zenon who gives us our first and his old sword in a zelda-esque fashion.

Gameplay

After this little tutorial, we’re beginning our adventure of capitalism and monster-slaying! At nighttime, we’re going into the dungeon to slay monsters and collect the artefacts dropped by them. At daytime, we then sell these artefacts in the store to get richer. Of course, you can always go into the dungeon during daytime but while it’s safer during that time the possible loot is also less valuable. Another reason why we’re only venturing into the dungeon at night is the fact that we can only sell items during the day.

This is the point where you might ask yourself:

What do I need the money for?

maybe you

That’s a good question, I’d say.
Basically, you’re able to upgrade your shop with the money you earn which then leads to you being able to earn even more money. You can also use the money to bring new NPCs into the town who then open their own shops, bringing the town of Rynoka to its former glory.
The bigger the town, the more customers you get!

Now, this is the point where you might ask yourself:

Why do I want other shop-keepers in my town?

maybe you, again

Well, while this question is justified – after all, we’re capitalists – it’s also not. The new shops that open in the town are rather useful to you and do not steal your customers.

Andrei’s introducing himself.

For instance, there’s Andrei, Forge Master Extraordinaire, who’s running Vulcan’s Forge and is able to grant you new equipment and upgrade yours.

For that, you need to bring him the needed materials and pay him a fee that is needed to craft those items. At Vulcan’s Forge, you’re able to craft five weapon types that each has two different paths to be upgraded to. There’re “swords with shields” or rather short swords (you get one from Zenon, btw), bows, big swords (or rather buster swords?), spears, and gloves that each have a normal and an empowered attack.

Each weapon has its own range and attack-set, so everyone might find a weapon that suits his playstyle. As previously mentioned, weapons are upgradeable and there’re two paths to take for those upgrades. You either go for the bonus stat which grants you an on-hit-chance to poison, burn, stun, etc. the enemy (it also deals more damage!) or you go for just more damage (which is more than the elemental variant).

As for armour, there’re helmets, chest plates and boots that all come with three different versions: Fabric, Steel and Iron. While Fabric is lighter and grants you a bit of movement speed, Steel is heavier and slows you down but also grants you more health (or rather resistance). Iron is the hybrid, I guess, as it doesn’t give you a movement speed bonus, nor does it slow you down, and as for armour, it’s in the middle between those two. These material-properties go hand in hand for all of the equipment which is quite handy since you might want to get a fabric bandana, some steel chest plate and some iron boots, for example, to not get slowed down at all but still get more armour, or you go for full plating to be slow but beefy like a true tank.. or you go for the ninja-playstyle with no resistances but some antelope-speed.

Crazy Ol’ Pete’s drawing of the dungeons and his theory on the guardians with their keys and the fifth door being opened with those.

There’s also Eris the Weaver and Potion Master who runs The Wooden Hat. She’s selling potions and enchantments at her store, allowing you to further upgrade your equipment or to craft or just buy potions for your adventures in the dungeon. While you can just buy potions with your gold, you can also bring her items dropped by slimes in the dungeon to craft the potions as well, meaning that you save half the price but have to collect some of those not-so valuable slimes.

There’s also Julien who owns the rival store “Le Retailer” and sells items, just like Will, but at a much higher price (speaking of gold, not your soul or anything), as well as Alan and Edward. Alan runs the Hawker Stand where you can get decorations for your store that give you benefits for your shop like extra-tip and Edward is the town banker who helps you with investments which is a high risk/high reward kinda thing that you may do if you’d like to risk losing some money but get a chance of cashing out big. It’s the bitcoin of gaming!

But let’s get busy. Once you open your store, citizens come in and want to buy stuff. To do so, you’ll need to place them on pedestals in your store and set a price. The game has a nice mechanic here where it shows you the expression of people looking at an item. If you set the price too high, people will be mad about it and won’t buy that item. If you set it too low, they’ll be really happy about it but you will make less profit (although you always make a profit since you get the items for free from the dungeon…but you could get more money is what I’m trying to say).

A fully upgraded store with some decent items in stock!

There’s the right price for every item that you have to find out about which sometimes can be a little tedious. Your merchant’s log helps you with that. In your merchant’s log, you can find all kinds of information regarding the items you’re selling as well as the prices you’ve set before. But I guess now’s the time where you’d be pulling out the only guides with the right prices, right?
Well, that’s where you’re wrong since there’re always variables in the market that make it hard to determine such a price:

If you sell too much of a specific item, the market gets flooded which is why the demand for that specific item is low and you won’t sell that item for the “normal” price anymore. If the demand is high, however, you can set the price even higher to earn even more money! To work around flooding the market, you need to put variation into your shop, even if it means selling less valuable items!

In the beginning, this “more” means a few hundreds maybe but as your game goes on, you’ll unlock new dungeons with new dangers but also new items – which means even more money! We’re living the capitalist dream!

Level Design/Variety

Speaking of dungeons, there’re four types of them (and the fifth one but I won’t talk about that one because of spoilers! duh.):
The Golem Dungeon, the Forest Dungeon, the Desert Dungeon and the Tech Dungeon.

The fountain, the safe spot of every dungeon-floor where you can rest up and heal your wounds before continuing your exploration. The longer you’re in there, the darker the water gets. A nice detail, reminding us that even adventurers have to take a bath!

Each of these feature different enemies that all have different attack-patterns and may also apply effects on you like poison, fire and electric damage. What I really liked about this game is that the different enemies aren’t just recoloured previously met enemies. There’s an actual variety of monsters. In the Golem Dungeon you’re facing off against flying golems, rolling golems, mage golems, fighting golems, golems with shields, bush monsters, mimics, slimes and all kinds of other enemies and while most of these early monsters have “golem” in their name, they still all look unique!

What surprised me when first facing off against these was that some of them needed to be kited first, like the rolling ones that charge at you and get stunned when they hit a wall making them vulnerable. Some other enemies can only be hit when from behind while others are flying and have to be taken out when they’re low enough – while they’re attacking. There are also ranged enemies that you’ve got to get close to and slimy ones that trap you in their bodies where you need to wiggle out of.

And while these attack-patterns were unique, the next dungeon also had other enemies that all worked differently! The forest dungeon featured enemies that were mostly ranged with some applying poison to you while others were constantly moving around.
Sometimes you encounter weird doors where the dungeon gets deformed so that a room from the previous or the next dungeon appears there instead of the actual one. That way you sometimes come into a dungeon, prepared to fight against enemies with poison, but then encounter enemies from the desert dungeon that you’ve never seen before since the Desert Dungeon is still locked up when you’re only getting used to the Forest Dungeon.

Even the back of the shop is full of small details like this mirror! Lovely!

More features!

An interesting feature in the game is also the time spent in the dungeon. To combat the player sleeping in the dungeon (that’s a joke, you may laugh. You can’t sleep in the dungeon, duh.) after a while the “watcher” as I call him spawns, an invulnerable monster that chases you around the dungeon and kills you if you don’t kite around it. You either have to return to town early or get to the next floor. Just don’t spend too much time on one floor and you’re safe. This kind of reminded me of that little gimmick of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon where a mysterious force would come near you if you’d take too long to find your way to the next floor. If you’d wait long enough, it would instantly kill you while you’re not even getting a glimpse of it. I once tried to fight the watcher in Moonlighter and, well,… I died. It just doesn’t work. So, don’t take your sweet time.

Every dungeon is procedurally generated, meaning that there’re the same tilesets for each “run” available but the combination of those is “random”. There’re all kinds of rooms featuring monsters, chests and even timed chests that are sinking into the ground until you defeat all monsters in the room, meaning that you may lose the items that chest contained if you’re not fast enough.

On top of that, there’re also rooms with secrets like a wave-mode where you can unlock better loot at the risk of losing it all while fighting against those waves. There’s also boring secret rooms with loot laying around at the ground or rather useful ones with an open chest that sends your items to town once.

A successful haul! A full inventory of items, 4 chests looted and 71 enemies slayn! Nice!

The latter is my favourite secret since inventory management is key in Moonlighter. Your haul determines how much money you earn so you can’t just take everything, especially since your inventory space is limited to only 20 spaces, divided into four rows with five spaces each. If you die in the dungeon, the first row is kept while the last three rows are lost. Some items stack to up to 10 items while others only stack once or up to five.

There’re also curses that do all kinds of things like breaking the curses item if you take too many hits or destroying the item to the upper left corner once you return home. This means that you need to move items around in your inventory so that some items are in certain spots where they don’t hurt your profit.

Some other curses transform other items into the cursed item on return while others cause the item to be only placed at the vertical or horizontal edge of your inventory. Mechanics like these make the inventory management here unique and special, which I really like! The problem, however, is that while there is a sort-function it doesn’t automatically stack stackables items. Sometimes I encounter items that can be stacked up to five that are split into two slots which I manually have to stack together which is kind of annoying, especially since you may as well overlook those and, in the end, make less profit.

In your inventory, you also have three other options of dealing with full inventories that are unlocked over time. The first you unlock is your merchant’s Pendle that teleports you back to the hometown for a small price. The second you unlock is a portal that eats items in your inventory (either drag items into it or drag the portal to the items you want to destroy), giving you some money for those items. However, you always would make more money when selling those items in the store, but this is kind of like a safety net in case you do not have enough money to teleport back home.

After a little fight at this dead-end, I ended up quite low and nearly lost quite a lot of items! So, I better quit for now but since I’m on my way to the boss, I’ll use the pricey portal instead of the pendant, so that I can come back after restocking on potions and healing up!

And then there’s the last option to open a portal to home that you can re-enter to gain access to the dungeon at the last point you entered. This is especially useful for when you found the final boss door but you’re low on potions and have used up your inventory space and shields and stuff. This option is quite pricey, so I only used it when I was at the entrance of the guardian since everything else would mean losing income for some loot that is probably less valuable.

While in the dungeon, you have to face different “normal” enemies while exploring the rooms until you find the door that leads to the next floor. The door to the next floor, however, is protected by the “guard” who’s basically a mini-boss. Once you defeat him, you get to go to the next floor which yields better items but also has more dangerous enemies and another guard who’s “corrupted” and therefore stronger with a slightly different attack pattern. On the third floor, there’s the “guardian” at the end of it – it’s basically the boss. Each guardian can only be defeated once and has a key for the fifth door, meaning that you need to kill all four to unlock that one and proceed with the story. After defeating the guardian of the Golem Dungeon, you’re free to go to the Forest Dungeon. After that one comes the Desert Dungeon and after that one there’s the Tech Dungeon. It’s a known concept that you see in all kinds of games like Pokémon or Zelda – before you can go to the next temple/gym, you’ve got to defeat the one before that. It’s simple, but works.

The Golem King! The first guardian that you’ll have to defeat!

Combat

The combat feels fluid for the most part. The devs of Moonlighter recommend playing with the controller but apparently the keyboard also works. I actually only tested the keyboard just a few minutes ago and while it certainly works, I didn’t really like it. In combat, you use your X-button for the heavy attack, the A-button for the normal attack. Holding B teleports you back to town while pressing Y opens your inventory. With the right trigger, you’re able to chug potions that you’ve equipped prior the fight, while you role with the left trigger, making you able to jump over cliffs, dodging projectiles and attacks while also travelling a small distance.

With the left shoulder button, you’re able to swap between weapons, as you can equip two sets of weapons. My favourite weapon so far was the bow and the gloves. The gloves have a three-attack-combo which is quite cool to use, while the bow is able to hit enemies from across the room. I really liked that combo but also enjoyed playing with the great sword and the spear. While the shortswords are handy they didn’t really appeal to me since the blocking doesn’t really work against AoE-attacks and since you also need to time the block quite well which I just couldn’t be arsed to practice. Meanwhile, the gloves have fast attacks and a three-attack-combo while with the spear you’re able to pierce and charge through enemies. The greatsword is slow but has a big horizontal range which is quite fun to play with.
Sometimes I got frustrated because of enemies’ hitboxes being unclear to me, e.g. when they were flying or when they were standing in front of me but only a pixel or something to the side which resulted in them being able to hit me but me missing, but, after some practice, I also got the hang out of those hitboxes.

You can’t let your guard down – even in the shop! Sometimes there’s thiefs trying to run off with some of your merchandise. Hop onto them and get your artefacts back!

Another way to make your explorations easy is by upgrading your shop since you’re getting a better bed that gives you some bonus-health (or rather a shield) as well as three free hits on every dungeon-run. On top of that, you can also get a familiar that comes with you on your runs and either collects items or attacks enemies for you. Currently, there are nine familiars to acquire that all come with different perks like boosting your damage, converting enemies into potions or even a mimic that attacks enemies and is able to carry some items as well!

Presentation

As for the art, this game is absolutely lovely. The animations and the pixel art style are really cute and overall nice to look at. The music that was composed by David Fenn creates the perfect atmosphere for the game.

While in the dungeon, it sets up a great mood for the Dungeoncrawling-aspects. Every dungeon track is unique and tailored to that dungeon’s theme. Some of the game’s music is a variation of the game’s title screen song, like “Naja” which can be heard in the Desert Dungeon, which I found quite neat as a detail.
While in the town and in the shop, the music is really relaxed and nice to listen to it’s not elevator-music-ish. The town music also reminds me of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Soundtrack which I found quite cool, but that may be the nostalgia speaking.

Replay-Value?

While the combat feels fluid and while the boss fights are unique, the shop system is really cool and sets you up with hours upon hours of fun. I guess there’s not much replay value to the game right now but there may be some added quite soon. After around 20 hours I’ve been through quite a lot of stuff but haven’t finished everything, yet.
Later on, for example, you’ll have to grind some items and some gold for some of your weapons, especially if you’re out for all 67 of Moonlighter’s steam achievements! And if you don’t like grinding all that much, you can just stick to your weapon of choice and just get that one. The game doesn’t require you to enchant and upgrade every weapon and armour-piece and you can generally finish the game with every weapon – even the broom!

I wonder what kind of monstrosity hides under this blanket!

Once you’re done with those achievements, you can try out the game in the “very hard”-difficulty if you’re up for a challenge and still in need for something else, although the game’s recommended difficulty is “Hard” while the “Normal difficulty” could be considered easy.
I don’t really understand why they went for normal, hard and very hard instead of some other names there, but it works for me since you always (apart from when you’re in the dungeon) have the chance to change the difficulty to something higher or lower.

Once you’ve beaten the game, you unlock the New Game+ mode where costs and prices are about five times higher and where you can get new weapons and amulets that are exclusive to that mode. On top of that, nothing else really changes which seems like a bummer to me since some sort of boss-rush-mode or something like that might have been quite cool.
Another thing I would have loved would be to be able to play more afterwards with new content in the same campaign but while you certainly can play more, there’s not really much to do afterwards.

Ready for an adventure?

Conclusion

All in all, I’d say that this is a great game and I’d really recommend it to fans of Dungeon Crawlers, RPGs and games like Recettear where you own a shop and go on adventures and stuff. Moonlighter is a lovely game with quite a lot of content and while the new game+ mode doesn’t really seem to add anything to the game apart from new equipment, the new DLC “Between Dimensions” adds all kinds of new content, which I’m really excited for and which I’ll be covering in another post soon! The game is available for PC, Nintendo Switch, XBO One, Play Station 4 and other major platforms — as well as in retail with both standard edition and limited Signature Edition

Anyways, cheers!

Note: At this point in time (July, 19th), I’ve played the game for 26 hours, not including offline-playtime. I played through the main story, checked out New Game+ for a bit and also tried to play as much of every aspect of the game.
I bought this game myself and didn’t receive any compensation by the devs or publishers.

Indietail – The Flame In The Flood

For my first review on this Indie Game Blog, I’m presenting you The Flame In The Flood (Trailer/Shop) – one of my favourite games – where the protagonist Scout goes on an adventure with her dog Aesop/Daisy to find the whereabouts of the humans that escaped after the Great Flooding. To do that, they travel on a great river with their tiny raft and scavenge, forage, craft and survive on little islands full of dangers that nature has prepared for them. It was developed by The Molasses Flood whose developers previously worked on titles like Bioshock and Halo 2.

Before you can set out for an adventure, you’ll have to choose one of two modes to play: The campaign and the endless-mode. While the campaign consists of you playing through ten procedurally generated areas to reveal the mystery of the missing humans, you’ll have to try to survive on an endless river in the endless-mode (duh.) while the difficulty is raised the farther you travel. When you die in the campaign, you’re able to either restart your journey or revive at the last checkpoint you reached – in the endless-mode however death is permanent which adds the rogue-like-ish feel to the game and has a certain thrill to it since all your boat-upgrades, collected and crafted items will be lost forever then! 

The menu shows the skeleton of the previousplayer and the dog that has been left behind.

After choosing the mode, you’re able to set the difficulty. There’s the “Traveler” difficulty that is recommended to newer players with checkpoints and a normal abundance of resources and the “Survivalist” difficulty that is recommended for experienced players with permadeath, fewer supplies, and stats that diminish at an increased rate. On top of that, you can tick an option that allows your pet dog’s inventory to persist through runs that decide whether or not you wanna go for a rogue-like or a rogue-lite experience. In the end, you can choose between Daisy and Aesop, your canine followers that will accompany you through your run.


Now that your journey begins, you’re playing through a small tutorial that shows you the most important information needed to survive via signs that can be found across a camping ground. Those signs show you information regarding your inventory, crafting, stats, and dangers. After that, you’re pretty much left alone and although it’s the tutorial, you’re not safe yet since your stats diminish per second. Those stats include hunger, thirst, temperature, and fatigue. If any of them reach zero, Scout will die. To prevent that from happening you’ll have to collect materials in the starting area and the little islands that you encounter on your adventure. The game consists of two types of levels: The river and the islands. While you’re able to walk on the islands, search for loot and hunt for food, you’ll have to manoeuvre your raft across the river and head for different islands that contain different loot. This, however, is easier said than done since the currents are often so strong that there’s no returning after you’re going into one direction. Most often the game isn’t forgiving you for ignoring one island or choosing one over the other. You’re usually left with little to no time to think before your raft steers into one direction, so you have to make quick decisions:

Do you visit the church to have a higher chance to find clothing, alcohol (for the medical purposes of course!) and some decent housing or do you maybe go to the docking station to upgrade your raft or repair the damage done to it by previous mistakes? Sometimes you’ll have to even think about steering near cars and other objects that may damage your raft but contain loot that may be needed later.

The river is a one-way road and there are many objects that you have to manoeuvre around to not risk sinking! The wild river is accompanied by a great soundtrack that not only makes it fun to steer through the river but also calms you down in times of quick decisionmaking and storms. 


The island levels aren’t a lot safer though since you’re often awaited by wild animals and since death seemingly has his hots for you. In the early levels, you’ll encounter wild boars that are defending their territory, later you’ll also encounter even more vicious creatures like poisonous snakes, fierce wolves, and even threatening bears! Even when you don’t encounter wild enemies, death seems to be omnipresent: You may walk into fire ants, get sick or walk into poison ivy. Bites can end up in threatening sicknesses, catching a cold may result in death and having a broken leg hinders you from running away. All these debuffs have to be treated with craftable ailments, medicines, and bandages. However, resources are scarce in this post-apocalyptic world. While the learning curve is certainly steep, it isn’t insurmountable! After quite a few runs you’re able to understand priorities and improve your decisionmaking quite a lot.

The river at dawn is beautiful, even when wild currents are awaiting you!

As previously mentioned The Flame in the Flood is a game of choices. These choices are a part of the survival-experience and contribute to the feeling of never feeling safe. You’re not able to settle down on an island or build a base with farms and such like other games like Don’t Starve or The Forest. The only thing that comes anywhere near the word “base” is your raft that you can upgrade for more storage room, a stove or other things that help you survive. Without any upgrades your raft only has a limited storage room, the same goes for your dog’s and your own backpack. You sometimes have to abandon useful resources only because of the missing storage. 

What do I leave behind? May I need these resources later? May I find these on some island along the way? Will I come across another camping ground or even another church? 

me, while struggling with leaving behind recources

You may ask yourself these questions but since no run is like the other, you’ll always have to count on your own instinct and the luck that you may get a fruitful scavenge later on. Since you can’t sort your inventory with a sort function, you may as well not see that some of your items could’ve been stacked. There are also items that may expire like food and herbs. Sometimes you may not even find the needed materials for the next upgrade. These things and features can be frustrating but after quite a lot of trial and error, you’re able to survive for quite some time. Using your acquired loot you’re able to build traps and weapons to catch rabbits or trap boars to receive meat and hyde. Crafting new tools allows you to craft even more items.

Some of the features like expired food or certain other mechanics may also be used in other ways. Meat can be crafted into a poisoned bait to kill some of the predators that lurk in the shadows and sometimes you can also simply eat it, get sick but then immediately treat the sickness (although that’s more of a last resort). Interactions and mechanics like these make the game quite a lot of fun! It may be described as a true survival game where you’re holding onto the last bit of hope and fight your way to the goal of the game!

Your canine companion is also a great help since he not only carries his own inventory but also is able to point at collectable resources and nearby dangers. If you don’t deactivate it, you can also plan out your next run and make it easier for you to survive early on by putting materials, tools and other items into its pouch, which would make it a rogue-lite-game.

Not only has the player to fight with inventory-management but also with the previously mentioned stats. Every stat has a different way to tend to it. You need food, clean water, warmth and rest – and the latter also influences the rest of the stats since by sleeping you’re not only passing time but also getting hungrier and thirstier, the longer you sleep. This mechanic is nice when you want to wait out a storm but sometimes puts you into a dilemma: Do you pass time until the storm is over but get hungrier or do you risk a cold and continue your journey? Again, there are choices!

The fireplace not only restores your warmth but also acts as a safe-zone against the creatures of the night.

As for the presentation, the game’s overwhelmingly beautiful. The art style is astonishing and the river is able to convince you of the beauty of nature. Between biomes, there’s a fluid transition, just like with the different times of the day. Dusk and dawn are probably my favourite times to be on the river while the night shows you the dangers of nature with red eyes and approaching storms. It sometimes seems like a double-edged sword that you can enjoy these small moments of peace on the river at daytime and feel scared at night or when it’s getting stormy. The environment is truly enigmatic and influences your experience positively. On the islands you sometimes alarm crows when walking near them which then alarms boars and other dangers, so you always have to watch out for those. There’s also red eyes at night staring at you from the dark, proving that the abyss stares back when you look into the abyss. However, I feel like the main focus of the presentation laid on the river since that is also the main part of your adventure. The Molasses Flood could have tuned up the island-environment a bit more to make even those levels a bit more atmospheric in my opinion but it doesn’t bug you all that much while playing – it certainly didn’t bug me.

Another strength of the game is the soundtrack that is brought to you by songwriter and singer Chuck Ragan and further strengthens the game’s adventure-feel. It’s fun to hear his voice while manoeuvring through currents and steering forward into the unknown, although it sometimes changes abruptly and even may leave you alone with nature and the sound of the river. It sometimes also occurs that the soundtrack switches to another song when changing biomes which I didn’t like all that much but for the most part the soundtrack transitioned fluently.

While playing the game I tested out both the controller and the mouse and keyboard configurations and I must say that I prefer the controller. The controller makes this game a lot easier since you’re able to use the D-Pad to use your most important items on the spot without having to open your inventory, select the item and then use it after a few steps. By you using the left trigger you can switch between useables, meds and placeables which improves the pace of the game by quite a lot.

Two wild kids that have been left behind.

Another thing that I noticed was the fact that the camera sometimes gets in the way of you which leads to you sometimes running into fire ants without noticing at all. While you are able to tilt the camera a bit with the right joystick, it still could have been improved a bit here with a free camera.

Summary

I’d say The Flame in the Flood is a great game that presents you not only a beautiful presentation and a great soundtrack but also quite a few mechanics that make your journey(s) enjoyable for at least 15 hours or even more if you’re a completionist and want to meet all the NPCs or if you’re a hardcore gamer and want to challenge the odds even more by competing for the longest journey in the leaderboards. Once you get over the steep learning curve you’re able to enjoy the game even more even with small bugs that you may encounter every now and then or the fact that you can’t sort through your inventory unlike in other games. There’s also the fact that the endless-mode and the campaign don’t really differ all that much except for the finality of the latter. Most of the information that you need to proceed is available only through signs that can be found every now and then but you can also miss useful information by just steering to another island which is another minus-point for the game. But to counter that you also have a quest-system that rewards you for crafting certain necessary items which act as some sort of mini-goal to work on, even in endless-mode. There’s also bits and pieces of side-stories that can be found sporadically through quilts and NPCs which also may be missed, although it adds a bit of replay value to the game. For the completionists, there are 36 achievements but other than that you’re probably going to run out of stuff to do once you’ve seen everything at least once.

Scout and Daisy at night

At last, I’d say that the game is an interesting survival-experience with a steep learning curve, a great presentation and a lot of fun for fans of the genre and newcomers. While it has a few flaws, the good points that speak for the game are clearly overwhelming, which is why I’m recommending this game to you. If this game sparked your interest, you can get yourself The Flame In The Flood for PC, PS4, Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch.

Anyways, cheerio!