Indietail – Void Bastards

What does it take to become a good mercenary? What does it take to outwit your opponents, to survive? What does it take to escape the Sergasso Nebula?

Well, according to today’s game, Void Bastards, it only takes water, prisoners, and a whole lot of sneaking.

In today’s Indietail we’re taking a look at Void Bastards, a rogue-lite Stealth-Shooter that could probably be best described as FTL meets System Shock. You play as one of many prisoners that get sent through the Nebula to eventually just escape its fangs. On your way, you’ve got to manage resources, fight or outwit enemies, chose between different paths to take, and routes to walk through.

Developer: Blue Manchu
Publisher: Humble Games
Genres: Stealth, First-Person, FPS, Action, Rogue-lite
Release Date: May 28, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available for: PC, Switch, Xbox One, PS4

The framework gameplay revolves around you navigating your tiny little escape pod through the nebula by choosing different paths and ships that seem to be procedurally generated. This aspect reminds me heavily of “FTL: Faster Than Light”, which was quite pleasant as it directly contrasts the seemingly action-heavy inner gameplay-loop that revolves around sneaking and shooting. There are a lot of different ships to explore from shopping ships, manned with only gun-point-turrets at max, to medical bay ships or cargo ships. Each of these come with different supplies, loot tables, allies, and enemies.

When you board these ships, you’ve got to find the next exit and loot the ships for items, resources, and materials. Obviously, you can also just move past the ships and skip out on potential dangers at the cost of loot but I usually ended up just going for the looting-experience as I felt that it would be too much of a waste.

The different ships all feel different.

There are different musical pieces as well as different layouts that these ships can have, resulting in a unique experience whenever you board a ship.

In the beginning, you’re only equipped with limited ammo as well as weak(er) guns but over time you’ll upgrade them – and throughout your runs, you’re able to keep all the upgrades as merely your player dies and as there are plenty of other convicts to send out in the Nebula, each equipped with their genetic traits, making the experience rather unique similar to how your genes make you taller or colour blind in Rogue Legacy.

While I used to just run and gun every ship, trying to get as far as possible with my limited ammo, I quite often ended up dying prematurely due to missing ammo and/or drastic actions, but that’s not what Void Bastards is about. In the beginning, I also didn’t see the comparison to Bioshock but over time I came to realize:
It’s a stealth game.

Awww, cute! It’s a tourist!

Just because you have a gun, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to use it.

You don’t have to kill most people and usually, you’ll end up getting killed if you take on too many or the wrong enemies. Essentially, the best way to survive in this game is to sneak past enemies, to lock doors, potentially trap enemies in different rooms while looting ships and making it further and further into the void. Your gun is your friend but more often than not you should just rely on sneaking and immerse yourself into the unique atmosphere that each ship has.

Every sound you make can be the last sound you make. A neat little gimmick that the game has is the fact that it displays sounds made by you or enemies on the screen. Thump, thump, thump… Step, step, step… BAM! BAM! You get the idea! It felt similar to XIII, a game for the original XBOX that used to utilize a similar comic-gimmick with the sound-displays, the cell-shading and generally the vibes that this game has as well.

But despite being able to take a trip down nostalgia-road with all the gimmicks and references to System Shock, XIII, or Bioshock… the game still has flaws that can’t get ignored, in my opinion.

For instance, the game gets rather monotone and repetitive over time.

Monotony-wise…
The soundtrack is monotone and seems to be lacking something as it only features 23 different tracks that all sound way too similar. The game doesn’t shine when it comes to the music, which is – in my opinion – a bummer as it really could have done more there and as it really could have been more fun if the soundtrack accompanied you during stealth- or action-passages.

As far as repetitiveness goes…
Part of the reason why I always wanted to rush through the levels was the fact that I felt rather uncomfortable having to face a game like this with its monotone music and all the stealth going on without any action at all. Once you realise that Stealth is your best friend, you have to get married to the idea of being sneaky. Sneaking through ships, looting caches while not getting seen… it’s the most successful way of playing this game and essentially you’ve got the whole game figured out if you get to that point.

And well, the whole gameplay loop may be flawed at this point…
I know that every run can’t be completely different when it comes to rogue-likes but I personally found that there wasn’t much replay-value there past the first few hours. You already have seen plenty of the game after a few hours of gameplay. Same goes for the campaign… I didn’t find it too entertaining for something that is supposed to take “12 to 15 hours”, resulting in a bit of a negative experience for me personally. The humour and the initial impressions with the comic-like presentation are rather cool and entertaining, I’d say, but they don’t outweigh the other issues in my opinion.

Alas, I don’t think that I really can recommend this title. For a game that costs thirty bucks without any discounts on Steam, I would have expected a bit more. If you aren’t bothered by repetitiveness in stealth-rogue-lite-shooters, I’d say go for this game… at a discount.

Either way, I hope that you enjoyed this post and I wish y’all a wonderful day. I was really excited about playing Void Bastards but in the end, I got a tad disappointed as the game became stale over time, which is a bummer.

Oh well, cheers!

Indietail – RogueJack

RNG was always has been a part of the rogue-like genre, from what I’ve seen. Surely, some games don’t rely on RNG at all, be it in the form of items, levels, enemies or stats. Some games don’t need to have that element of chance and randomness in their code but I wouldn’t call “RNG” itself bad as you always, somehow, have to make it work. “Hate the player, not the game.”

But in today’s Indietail, we’re not looking at a game that doesn’t rely on RNG at all but rather one that takes the best out of a lot of rogue-likes and combines it with gambling, or more precisely Blackjack. Today we’re taking a look at RogueJack!

Developer: Ponywolf
Publisher: Ponywolf, LLC
Genre: Casual, Card Game, RPG, Indie, Dungeoncrawler, Rogue-lite
Release Date: May 27, 2020
Available on: PC
Reviewed on: PC
Copy received for free.

In RogueJack we’ve got to crawl through a dungeon and beat enemies in order to level up and evolve our character, ultimately to find some sort of ancient amulet. In our adventure, we fight enemies, dodge their attacks, and get stronger by looting treasure chests and “trusting the heart of the cards”.

The rules are simple: You get two cards and then get to decide whether or not you draw one card or stay at your current number. Face cards grant 10 points, number cards grant their value. Some cards subtract points while others add. Before 10, an ace grants eleven points, and you win fights by getting as close as possible to 21. If you step over it, you lose the fight and the enemy damages you. If you hit 21 (BlackJack!), if your enemy gets more than 21 points or if your number is higher than the enemy’s number, you damage them.

And well, of course, some enemies have bonus effects and “move-sets” of their own. Some enemies win in case of a tie, others tend to play it safe and only play until 16 while others even poison, freeze or set you on fire when you get damaged.

Your damage depends on the items you collect. A six-shooter-gun, for instance, grants you more damage if you’re a cowboy while the Staff of Divination grants you two damage, more vision and even grants you a higher chance to actually see your cards before drawing. There are also shields that block damage before breaking, potions that heal you or cure status effects, daggers, swords and other weapons that grant you more damage and overall, it all depends on what you find and if you can make it work.

In your journey, you’ll encounter a vast variety of enemies in different colours and with different properties. More often than not you’ll try to fight them, to earn money, which you then may use on vending machines to gain more items. Ultimately you are not relying on item-RNG too much nor on any stats but only on your luck and the way you make the cards work. Get greedy and overstep 21. Play it too safe and the enemy hits BlackJack while you’re staying at 16. Ultimately, it’s a card game, but I did quite enjoy it. When you die, you’ll get a second chance. Die again and you’re out. You then get the chance to retrieve your exp and money and continue from the previous level or start anew from Floor 1, your choice.

When you beat enemies, you level up and unlock new characteristics. The Rogue sees all cards, for instance, but while these effects sound over-powered in a way, they are balanced by the fact that it doesn’t help you to know what’s coming when you’ve got bad cards. After you level up, there is no coming-back either. You can’t change your class. You are who you are until you’re someone else. It’s all a game of sorts, a gamble.

And well,… that’s it. The premise is a gamble, too. It can either work out or it doesn’t. I personally really liked the game and only disliked the slow turn-based movement and the unnecessary “freeze”-effect. Once you get rid of that, you can have quite a bit of fun, unless you lose to the cards, or rather the RNG. BlackJack is combining two interesting concepts: The only card-game I really understand… and dungeon-crawlers. The fact that you can’t change your class unless you reset, is interesting. The variety of weapons, enemies and classes is quite fantastic.

In a way, I’m conflicted on whether or not this really is a rogue-like as it actually resembles more of a dungeoncrawler-character… but I guess the borders from one to another are rather fluid and in the end a game is a game, right?

The presentation features a nice pixelated art-style that I found rather pretty while the soundtrack features… one song… that kind of reminded me of older Zelda games and which was fun at first but once it looped for the 42nd time, you probably will turn it off, too, and turn on some music that you enjoy. I would’ve wished for more variety in that regard.

In the end, the game’s premise and looks, the gameplay and the RNG-dependence of the cards are either hit or miss. You either love it or you hate it. I personally liked it so far but I wonder how much I’ll play it. It’s probably one of those games that I’ll turn on every now and then but for not too long per session.

If you already enjoy card games or more specifically BlackJack, you’re gonna love this iteration of the genre. If you enjoy dungeon-crawlers or rogue-lites, you’re going to find this game interesting. So in the end, I’m recommending it and I hope that you have a nice time with this title.

Cheers!

Indietail – Adore

What happens when we mix rogue-lite mechanics with an isometric perspective, an up-beat and rather colourful world, monster-taming and kiting-mechanics? Well, we would probably end up with a title that would be quite similar to Cadabra Games’ Adore!
Welcome to today’s Indietail where we see what this new Brazilian studio has to offer and if their first project is worth backing!

Developer: Cadabra Games
Publisher: Cadabra Games
Genres: Rogue-lite, Isometric, Action, Indie, RPG
Release Date: February 18, 2020 (Early Access)
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

In Adore, we’re playing as Lukha, a young lad who’s able to tame and summon monsters to fight by his side. We create special bonds with them and train them in fights in rogue-lite fashion.

Well, the God of Creatures, Draknar, is losing his power and is placing all of his hope into the hands of Lukha, the – presumably – last of his tribe of young Adorers (Summoners). Our mission is to venture into different areas and to free the creatures that are getting possessed and harmed by a mysterious curse. On our journey, we not only discover many secrets of the immense and enigmatic world of Gaterdrik but we also unravel a conspiracy to kill Draknar!

But why do we fight? Why are we doing this? What is our purpose?

Hence, we venture into the world and bond with creatures/tame them. Lukha himself can’t fight and is hence relying on summoning the tamed creatures and using their different attacks, abilities and synergies to win the upper hand in battle while also kiting damage and dodging wild monsters whose curse hasn’t been lifted yet. To tame creatures we need essences that we get in most rooms after clearing them. But since we’re only an apprentice, we also need to adore Draknar at his statures to upgrade the creatures’ abilities and to unlock new slots to be able to tame more creatures.

These creatures level up when they slay enough beasts and have all kinds of different characteristics. While Abbu is a squishy arcane-type that shoots out magic projectiles at enemies from a distant range, Zella, for instance, is a balanced Nature-type that is able to charge at enemies for a normal melee-attack and stun them with her special ability!

Thus, there are a lot of different monsters that can be used in different ways but you shouldn’t focus on just the monsters whose attacks you like but also take a look at and strategize with the synergies they have to offer. Every creature has different sets of available synergies to them that they receive when you upgrade them or when they level up. Some already have certain synergies, some others develop better ones later on but overall they are quite random and you can even get the same ones multiple times, which can be quite fun.

But how do Synergies work?

Well, if my Abbu (I love it so much so I will probably use it quite often as an example) has a synergy with other Beast-type creatures then it needs a Beast-type to be in your “team” to get a bonus. This can be a temporary damage buff or energy for its special attack when that other creature hits a target but it can also be just a passive synergy where Abbu itself shoots three extra projectiles when there’s a Beast-type like Meecra on your team. There are currently Mystic, Nature, Arcane and Beast types and every creature usually has at least one set of synergies with each type.

Creatures get summoned using your Stamina, so the more you have, the more Stamina you’ll need. Whenever you pick up an Essence, you’ll receive an upgrade for your stamina or your movement speed or your health. I quite often prioritize Stamina over Movement speed over Health as you don’t need maximum health if you don’t get hit (pro-tip).

Well, overall, I don’t see a point in getting more health, other than the fact that you receive damage when your creatures die or when you get hit and the fact that you lose when your health reaches zero or when your creatures all die. Stamina is needed for dodging, summoning and kiting, so I definitely find that more important, especially when you are fighting with a lot of tamed creatures! And the base movement speed seems to be on the low end, which is why generally that is my second priority.

Also, there are items. These are quite interesting as they work off your monsters and generally, you’re able to always find something that fits your playstyle in the store, if you’ve got enough money to buy anything. One of my favourite items in Adore is, for example, the Dodge Claw (the actual name may be different) that essentially gives the next summoned creature a damage buff whenever you dodge and cast the summon button in the right time-window.

There are also other items that last for your whole run as well as use-items like keys and potions but upon returning to the temple of creation, you’ll start at zero again, which is what makes a rogue-like a rogue-like. You keep the “fragments” you earn and can use those for permanent upgrades, however, which is why Adore is more of a Rogue-lite than a Rogue-like, but then again a lot of people don’t see a difference between the two and generally the whole rogue-like genre doesn’t really have anything to do with the original title, Rogue…

Adore is a rogue-lite at heart and with its interesting mechanics and build-customization.

It really was interesting for me to play and I really enjoyed my journey with this title. You have a lot of ways to play the game and you can go for a more damage-oriented glass cannon build or balance out your comp for fewer weaknesses. I really enjoyed that part!

But as always there are flaws that need to get worked on. These would include the music and presentation being on the rather weak side. While the world is colourful and mysterious in a way, it really is boring to see the same levels over and over again, even with its procedural generation and different creatures – and the soundtrack is too similar from track to track. Even the boss-monster-fights are rather calm when it comes to the musical tempo. I don’t expect the devs to add in-your-face-metal to them but I’m sure they can add new tracks to the game.

And aside from bugs, that, of course, are a thing, there are rather boring synergies in the game right now. Not all synergies are boring but a lot seem rather passive and easy to use, which is not good for an Action game.

I personally would get rid of the passive synergies like “This creature gets more attack speed when you have another Arcane Creature” and add more interactive ones like “If this creature receives damage, empower all other creatures’ attacks for a short period of time”. That way you wouldn’t just stack Abbus for the sake of them being quite strong and having so much range: Instead, you’d have a tank that would trigger certain buffs and you would care more about healing consumables in shops, hence adding risk and a reward to the gameplay.

But then again, this game is in Early Access and there are frequent updates. It only just came out a few weeks ago and the plan right now is for it to exit Early Exit in 2021, so I will revisit this title again in a different post once more stuff got added into the game.

My Conclusion is…

I would say that it definitely is worth considering. The gameplay is a lot of fun and the customization can be quite rewarding even if some synergies aren’t as fun as some of the items and even if the levels right now are quite similar while the music is rather underwhelming. If you’re not sure if it’s worth it, you may always take a look at it further into the future when it got updated a lot more. Cadabra Games is really into this and judging from their discord and the frequency of their updates, I really feel like this game could be one of many good games in a few years that comes from this small and new studio.

Until next time,

Cheers!

This post is part of a challenge called BLAPRIL. The goal is to post as much as possible during the 30 days of April. There are different themes during some of the weeks and a lot of mentors, newbies and participants participating. Feel free to check this hub-post out and check out the other participants!

Indietail – The Swindle

Being a student, I wasn’t able to fund my new PC until I found this job here. It seemed rather easy: Scout for flaws in the security systems, watch out for the guards, break in, take everything valuable and leave without getting noticed! 

Sadly, I’m not Kaito Kid or Lupin III and, hence, not a good thief.

Therefore, my new PC has still to wait but at least you get a review on The Swindle, a steampunk cybercrime rogue-lite about breaking into buildings, hacking their systems, stealing all their cash, and quickly running away again before the police show up. 

Developer: Size Five Games
Publisher: Size Five Games
Genres: Stealth, Jump 'n Run, 2D, Indie, Rogue-lite, Action, Platformer
Release Date: July 28, 2015
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, PSV, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, WiiU
Copy was purchased.

> London, 1849_

> In 100 days, Scotland Yard will activate their breakthrough Artificial Intelligence technology,
> codenamed “The Devil’s Basilisk”_

> Its surveillance capabilities will be total. If the project is completed,
> your career as a master burglar will be untenable_

> Steal it before that can happen_

So, off we go onto some heists into the Slums! The clock is ticking before the Devil’s Basilisk is ready for Launch!

100 days seems like a long time but it only resembles 100 runs, no matter if we fail or if we’re successful. 100 runs to earn money to purchase new upgrades, skills and tools but also 100 runs to increase our affinity to unlock new areas and eventually be able to hack into Scotland Yard itself and win the game.

We’re heading into procedurally-generated houses and mansions in a few different areas, each more packed with security and possible loot than the other!

At first, we only have the Slums available – they offer low rewards at relatively low risk. In the beginning, we only have our jump-n-run-abilities available to us and have to try to be sneaky to get into those mansions. There are security guards, walking their routes, but none are equipped with microphones or dangerous guns and they all usually only pack one hit. More often than not, though, I got caught off-guard by some robot or was spotted due to my greed and stupidity. You are your biggest enemy, it seems. 

After every run, you get to either go back to your airship and upgrade your characters or just go for another heist.

Getting the level 1 hacking skill is of utmost importance, however, as it quadruples your profits whenever you hack a PC. Once you get that skill, you should try to unlock bombs, as the procedural generation sometimes leaves you with unaccessible rooms and dead-ends. There’re also times where the building itself has no visible opening, resulting in frustrating runs with no earnings at all, although that’s happening rather seldom. 

And then, eventually, you’ll be able to go into the Misc-Tree and buy your first upgrade to unlock new areas. Now there’s locked doors, mines, enemies that pack multiple hits, and overall it became a lot harder but your profits are doubled as well, resulting in faster upgrades and, in my case, in bigger greed. 

Yeah, the greed. The most frustrating part of every game, I’d say. When your teammates throw a won game as they wanted to earn some extra kills on their way, or when you just go for the last few hits on the raid boss and get killed thanks to your stupidity (or rather… mine… I should know better, you probably do). 

Greed’s the reason why the doom-day-counter was ticking faster for me than for everyone else (probably). 

Sometimes I died because of me forgetting about fall damage… Sometimes I died because of landmines that I failed to hack… Sometimes I died because of me greeding for another computer-hack instead of just bailing with 3-6k pounds. 

And before I even reached the fifth stage, I already reached Day 0: Gameover. 

I had to start anew from Day 100 on, losing all of my progress and upgrades. But while a few heists were frustrating, the overall game wasn’t. It’s highly challenging, seeing new types of enemies and mechanics is interesting. There is a degree of strategy involved in the selection of upgrades, tools and skills. I liked the game and kept playing for a few more heists – until I stopped due to having to get ready for the Halloween Party I wanted to go to. 

The colour-palette and music are interesting, and whenever your character gets caught, you respawn as a new character with a new look and a new name, both randomly generated! There’s also the world which is looking cool – but then again my view might be clouded due to my love for Steampunk games! 

The presentation is topnotch in my opinion and while the learning curve is rather steep in the beginning, I really wanna become a master thief like Lupin III or Kaito Kid, resulting in me enjoying the game in itself and its challenging aspects. 

But let’s get to some flaws, at last, before rounding up this review: 

There is a certain problem with the generation of the levels that I found rather bothersome, even though I only encountered it once in about 230 heists… being locked out of the mansion. There are cases where the mansion you’re scouting has been generated in a certain way where it doesn’t let you in through any doors, mainly for the sole reason that there are no walls. You either have to bomb your way in or you just leave and start another Heist, which is bothersome for the sole reason of you losing one day.

There’s also the fact that explosions should result in big sounds that the guards should notice – but they usually don’t notice you, unless they are equipped with a microphone – and even then, they hardly notice. I would like it if they A.I. would pick up on stuff like this but the game is already hard enough as it is, so I shouldn’t complain about that stuff! 

Apart from that, I didn’t encounter any problems or flaws in the game design. And while it surely is annoying when you lose a day or two because of bad level-generation, the game takes care of that by giving you the option of hacking Scotland Yard directly, for a price, of course, to give you a few more days until the Devil’s Basilisk is finished. 

Conclusion-time!

I enjoyed my time with The Swindle and, therefore, really recommend this game. I love the aesthetics, the gameplay and the overall idea of heists and the doom-clock-timer! I hope you enjoy it as well.

Anyways, cheers!

I’m taking part in this year’s #IntPiPoMo. If you’d like to participate or get to know the other participants, feel free to check this post out!

Note: I changed the date of this review to November 3rd as it bothered me that I accidentally posted two reviews on the same day. It’s a bit of an OCD-thing, so I can’t really help it. I’m sorry for that post-edit. Also, I put this little IntPiPoMo-section down at the bottom of this review after having already posted it, as I signed up for it after the day I posted it. Doesn’t make too much of a difference, though.

And another note: I did not perform any crimes IRL to fund my new PC parts. That was just a small introduction for the setting, similar to a small exposition. Please don’t call the cops. Thank you.

Indietail – Children of Morta

After a small break from the daily posting, we’re back again with another review! Today we’re taking a look at Children of Morta, a game about family-bonds and monster-slaying! Please enjoy this review!

Developer: Dead Mage
Publisher: 11 Bit Studios
Genres: Rogue-lite, Action, Dungeon Crawler
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC (Windows, Linux, Mac OS), Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Copy received from the 11 Bit Studios

But what is Children of Morta about?

Children of Morta is about the Bergson-family consisting of Grandma Margaret, Uncle Ben, Father John, Mother Mary, and their Linda, Kevin, Mark and Joey. They live at the foot of Mount Morta and have to fight against the spreading Corruption which is endangering their homelands, Rhea. To do that, they venture into different dungeons to find clues about the Corruption and the source of it.

In its core, Children of Morta is a story-driven rogue-lite-dungeon-crawler where you’re playing as six of the Bergsons that can be categorized into different classes, ranging from the brawlers John (Bruiser) and Joey (Juggernaut), the swift Mark (Monk) and Kevin (Rogue), and the ranged Lucy (Mage) and Linda (Archer). While John and Joey are rather tanky and have high durability at the cost of less movement speed, Mark and Kevin focus on high mobility, quick strikes and crits, while Lucy and Linda are great at distance but are not that good in close quarters.

By diving into the dungeon, you’re able to receive not only clues about the world’s lore and the source of the Corruption but also gain cosmetic items for your house – and gold which also can get invested into bonus-stats for your characters. These range from simple stat-buffs like attack damage and movement speed to increased “luck” (more gold), increased experience, and others!

When entering the dungeons, you’re able to not only level up your characters permanently but also gain items that improve your chances of beating the boss of the dungeon.
For instance, there’re usable relics with a cooldown that provide you with a shield, blocking all damage for a short while and then exploding for massive damage around you, or, if you don’t like that, why not place a totem that buffs you, slows enemies or even distracts them from you so that you can snipe them as Linda?

Some one-use-items can give you gems, healthpoints, small buffs, etc. while other charms can grant you passive boni like a poison-DoT-effect on enemies that are hurt by you and your abilities or a small little companion that stuns enemies for you. There’re tons of combinations for items on every run, which is hella rad!

But how does one acquire items?

Well, on every level there’s at least one item-room with a divine relic, which helps you a lot. It can be an active item or a passive charm but usually you don’t want to miss out on those anyways! There’s also crates all around levels that have to be opened with gems that get dropped by enemies or are found at corpses and pots and the like. These crates can contain gold or more gems, runes and items. When you have spare gems, you can also invest them at the shop before the end of the current floor to heal up or receive more items!

There are also special rooms where you’re able to help refugees that fled from the Corruption into the Dungeon or where you do other tasks like defeating hordes, playing a game of “God’s Pong”, escort NPCs to other rooms, and lots more. At the end of all of them you’re rewarded with items, again. However, while some are rather easy to complete, others can cost you some life points or are rather tricky to master. Hence, you should always wager if it’s worth it to risk your precious life points for an item now or if you should rather push for the boss, especially since some items might not synergize with your character, like a damage-aura around your character when you’re playing a ranged one.

And while there are items that may not be that good on your character, there are no bad items.

Items do not synergies in a bad way like in The Binding of Isaac where you can get boomerang tears and ipecac, which is quite bad unless you also have explosion immunity.

So, it’s always great to pick up items in Children of Morta! I once even had an item that sets enemies on fire while I had a rune that poisoned enemies that I hurt, which lead to two DoT-effects proccing on all enemies!

With items you can make up for your character’s flaws or empower your strengths – an aspect that I really enjoyed!

On top of items and the stat-upgrades, you’re also able to level your characters by defeating enemies. When levelling up, you gain skill points which then can be invested into powerful new skills or upgrades for recent ones. By investing points into your skills, you reach new skill-levels, unlocking bonuses for ALL other family members. For instance, John unlocks a passive skill for all characters at level 20 that recovers some HP every few seconds. Usually, you could only get healed by potions and items, so HP-regeneration is a pretty big deal. Other family members also unlock stuff like “more movement speed”, “more crit/dodge chance” or even a free gem on every new run. Runes get unlocked with levels, too, not only for your own character – though – but also other members. Hence, when you level Linda, her runes become available for other members – i.e. Mark uses his magic whipping-ability and also casts Linda’s explosive crescendo when equipped with the that rune! Runes, however, are used up over time making them not as overpowered as one might reckon!

While combat and all the strategies and stuff are quite cool in Children of Morta, the game truly shines in the cutscenes in between runs.

When you end a run, you’re presented with different cutscenes about the daily lives of the different characters, giving you insight over the character relationships, their dreams, wishes, values, worries, flaws and other weaknesses. I love slice-of-life-shows and I definitely am getting those vibes in this game, too. On top of that, when you unlock characters you get some more cutscenes where they interact with their family members.

Relatively early into the game, you can see Kevin training in secret and even receiving his own daggers from his uncle, the family’s smith Ben! He’s excited and wants to help his family in every way but his mother is worried about him. There’s a few cutscenes for this one that are shown after every other run, I think, which changes the pace by quite alot. After all, you’re able to see these lovely scenes after getting back from dangerous runs!

I really enjoyed these little scenes and the interactions between characters. Even when you’re not doing anything and just relaxing in between runs, the characters are talking to each other or training or doing something else – which is quite neat to spectate.

There’s also a few log entries that you can check out once in a while to find out more about the characters’ pasts. I highly recommend reading those entries once you find them! They’re very interesting! My favourite character, by the way, is Ben!

He’s a lovely old fella and his background story is also really cool. I love seeing him interact with everyone and dwell in the past and all that.

Overall this is a lovely game, as one can see in its presentation!

The music is great and very atmospheric, the narrator is awesome, has a warm voice and makes every scene better, and then there’s the art style: It’s pixel art and while you surely feel like you’ve seen pixel art in basically every indie game ever made, you’ll shortly notice that it’s very detailed and quite beautiful. Especially the lighting in some places makes the world feel so lively and the dungeons so enigmatic! It’s truly a beautiful game.

But now onto some flaws. While the soundeffects and the soundtrack are great, there’s moments where a track stopped or where the game isn’t sure about what to do next. It’s just silent. Another thing I noticed was the fact that aiming feels a little bit sluggish here and there, especially when playing a ranged character like Lucy or Linda. But other than that I didn’t really have any issues with the game. The game surely is hard at the beginning but due to the levelling, the upgrades, the unlocked runes, abilities, and items, you get the hang out of it quite fast. When you get stomped once, you often can go to older dungeons, level up and return to the higher dungeons in order to master them. Every run feels refreshing and, as you probably can tell, I am, frankly, in love with this game which is why I highly recommend this game!

I hope you enjoyed today’s review! I tried to use topic sentences and highlight important bits of pieces while not making the review too long. If you’ve played Children of Morta, too, feel free to comment on your experiences with it. I’d love to receive some feedback on this post so feel free to also comment on suggestions or point out mistakes of mine!

Anyways, I wish you a lovely rest-weekend and hope you don’t mind tomorrow’s mondayness too much.
Cya! 🙂

Note: I haven’t touched the Multiplayer at all since right now it only features local multiplayer. There’s Online-Multiplayer planned for the near future, according to the devs’ twitter and steam page, so stay tuned for that when I’m getting to it in another post.

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.