Looking forward to Pawnbarian

One of the titles that I’ve been eyeing for a while now has been Pawnbarian! It’s supposed to come out in Q1 of 2021 and I’d be happy to review it once it’s out… but for now, I’ll have to make do with the first few impressions I got from the demo that is available here

Developer: j4nw
Publisher: j4nw
Genre: Minimalistic, Roguelike, Chess, Puzzle, Card Game
Release Date: Q1, 2021
Played on: PC
Available on: PC

Pawnbarian is a roguelike based on Chess. Play as a brave fighter of the Northern Chesslands, always on the lookout for a new challenge. Fight your way through the dungeon, one turn at a time! There are more characters planned for the full version as well and while the Pawnbarian may sound like more of a “more brawn than brain” type of character, he actually offers a lot of versatility. By moving to the top row, having three pawns in hand or by starting the turn at the top row, you get to promote a pawn into a queen. Other classes/characters will have other rulesets.

Combat is turn-based, leaving you plenty of time to plan out your next few moves. When it’s your turn, you have limited moves, indicated by the yellow pieces below the chessboard. Some of your pieces (indicated at the top left by a lightning symbol) refresh these moves, allowing you to move another time. 

The enemies also move in different patterns and all feature their own mechanics. Some of them are nimble, meaning that they’ll dodge away when you attack them unless they’re against a wall. Others spread blight, have more range or split into multiple enemies upon death. 

By hovering over enemies, you get to see these rules yourself and hence learn about them. At the same time, you can see how much damage you receive when you hover on different tiles. 

If you’re familiar with chess, you’ll know how the pawns, rooks, knights, and so on move. If you’re not, then the game will help you out by showing you the moves that you’re allowed to do with the selected piece. 

When you get hit, you lose hearts, indicated by the (anatomically correct) heart symbols below the chessboard. Hearts can be guarded via shields that you get for moving pieces with a shield symbol. At the same time, you can reacquire hearts in the shop that you encounter after every floor. At the top of the chessboard, you can see your current gold as well as a bunch of gold chunks and gems. Every turn one of those gold chunks vanishes but if you manage to finish the current floor with any of them left, you’ll be able to spend that gold in the next shop. This is a somewhat interesting mechanic as you have to try to solve these floors in the least turns possible… but at the same time, you’ve got to be careful and not get too far ahead of yourself as every floor can be deadly!

In the shop, you’re able to upgrade your deck by adding more effects to your pieces. At first, I thought that the pieces there would get replaced by other pieces… This was an oversight of mine as it actually says that you get permanent upgrades for your cards… in the tutorial… that I skipped. The tutorial itself is quite beginner-friendly. It tells you the basics of the game within seconds and lets you experience two floors before heading into the actual tutorial dungeon. I somehow completely missed the fact that there is a tutorial, although I’m blaming that on my headache.

What I love about this game (or the demo of the game, to be more precise) is the fact that the art style is super minimalistic. It shows you what you need to see without overwhelming you with all kinds of gimmicks, UI shenanigans or complicated tooltips. Instead, you see what you want to see immediately – and if you need to know more, you hover over tiles and pieces.

At the same time, the game is able to communicate rather well where the damage comes from, how much damage is dealt and where/how you died. After about 90 minutes, I actually was able to defeat the demo dungeon, which I was quite surprised about. The Blight mechanic, as well as the Nimble mechanic, were somewhat hard to deal with but I’d imagine that without those, the game would be rather plain and easy to beat. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of other enemies the full game will have to offer.

Apart from the interesting and challenging mechanics, as well as the minimalistic art style, the game also features a lovely soundtrack so far that doesn’t get on your nerves after you’ve listened to it for an hour and a half. I mean, a lot of demos feature the same track over and over again, which can be quite annoying. In this demo, the gentle sounds convey this feeling of adventure quite well while at the same time allowing you to relax while playing.

Pawnbarian is a lovely chess-roguelike hybrid that adds its own twist to the Rogue-formula while sticking to the core premise of permadeath and turn-based combat. Personally speaking, I’m really looking forward to seeing the other enemies as well as the other characters that will be introduced into the full version. 

If you want to, you can check out Pawnbarian over here. It is also available on itch.io if you want to play it over there! Make sure to wishlist it if you haven’t yet – and if you want to, you can always try out the demo over there as well!

I hope you enjoyed this post! Feel free to leave feedback or any suggestions for other demos to check out!
Take care!

Cheers!

Indietail – Hades

I’ve always been a sucker for mythology. From Norse to Egyptian to Greek mythology, I’d take everything in and read up on all sorts of articles and myths and thoughts. I honestly loved it to bits. In the same manner, I love it when games incorporate mythology into their lore and build a universe around it that brings life to these old legends and stories. A game that does that really well is Hades!

Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Supergiant Games
Genres: Action, Roguelite, RPG, Indie
Release Date: December 6th, 2018 (Early Access) - Left Early Access on September 17th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
Copy was purchased.

Dive into the underworld where the god of the dead and the king of the underworld, Hades, is reigning with an iron fist and where his son, Zagreus, is trying to escape hell. Meet a bunch of different characters, interact with them, romance some of them, gift nectar and ambrosia to your favourite people and the Gods of the Olymp themselves, and experience the story of Hades, one run at a time. Hades is an Action-Roguelite by Supergiant Games and in this review, I’ll tell ya why it’s such a great game!

Well, in this game, we play as Zagreus, who very much has a reason to leave Hell and to be angry at his father, which I won’t get into. Zagreus uses one of six different weapons in each of his escape attempts powered by Boons of the Gods of the Olymp. These weapons were used to slay the titans and are, alas, strong on their own already but as you progress further into the depths of Hell, you have to face stronger foes and more challenges, which is why the Gods help you. A variety of gods are there to assist you in your dangerous endeavour, most likely since they’re bored. From your uncles, Zeus and Poseidon, to your grandmother, Demeter, there are a plethora of interesting characters ready to provide you with their assist.

Your weapon tends to have a normal attack and a special attack which both are quite unique. Each weapon has four different aspects that each play differently and make use of different mechanics. On top of that, some weapons (like the shield) have other move sets that make use of holding buttons down or timing attacks properly. On top of that, you have dashes and the ability to perform dash strikes.

The various boons you encounter offer bonus effects to your character, making you stronger or more sturdy, or they change how your weapons work. Demeter is the goddess of the seasons, fertility, and death. Her boons help you afflict enemies with the “Chill” status effect, making them slower or dealing damage at certain conditions. Aphrodite helps you weaken enemies while Ares, Zeus and Artemis are all about that damage. There are a plethora of status boons, passive boons, and raw damage boons in the game and they all synergies quite well with each other, to the point where there’s also duo boons that combine the boons of two gods into one stronger perk. If you have high DPS, you may consider stacking Dionysus’ “hangover” status effect on enemies, while you may consider going for raw damage with Ares if your weapon is slower.

These boons can be acquired by getting through rooms. Gods tend to give you a selection of three boons and you don’t know what you’ll get beforehand. Rooms also can feature other rewards such as Gold to purchase boons and other items in the shop, gems and darkness to use after the run has ended, maximum health, hammers or other rewards. Each run can feature up to two Daedalus Hammer boons which basically change how your weapon is working, making each build stand out even more.

What I love about Hades is that a lot of it feels rather intuitive. You see enemies, you strike them. You see boons, so you go for ones that sound nice. You don’t really have too many “noob traps” in the game and generally, you can progress quite well, especially once you invest your Darkness into that mirror of yours – aka permanent character progression that helps you get stronger after your runs.

But apart from combat being very fast-paced and fun to play with and apart from the plethora of possible builds with each of the four aspects of the six weapons available to you, the game also has another component: The Story.

The Story of Hades evolves whenever you talk to characters. From Achilles to Nyx to Thanatos (I love him), there are a plethora of characters ready to assist you by guiding you or helping you out with trinkets. By giving nectar to the different characters in the game, you receive trinkets that grant you benefits in the run. On top of that, each of the characters in the game has a ton of voice lines and a quest of sorts where you try to help them get through some of their problems which ends up benefitting you as well. Simply speak to characters after your run whenever you see an exclamation mark on their heads and enjoy the fully-voiced and witty lines that both refer to mythology but also have a lot of character. Each of the figures that you encounter has its own problems, traits and personality, which is awesome as it brings life to the mythology that people often refer to as “boring”.

And the game isn’t over yet once you’ve completed a run successfully and escaped Hell as there are various things to do like renovating hell, helping the characters out, fulfilling prophecies, fishing, achievements, and completing the runs with higher difficulties that you can assign yourself to the run. Once you manage to leave Hell once, Hades puts up a pact of punishment onto the gate, resulting in you being able to complete runs again with rising heat levels and more challenges such as more challenging bosses and special enemies. But if you’re actually struggling with beating runs, I can also recommend activating God Mode with grants you a 2% damage reduction bonus whenever you die. You start at 20% already which is A LOT but you can gain up to 80% damage reduction to help you experience the story without getting frustrated with the runs.

And I haven’t even gotten into the amazing art style or the fantastic soundtrack or the wonderful voice acting. I haven’t even gotten into the romance options and the further challenges as well as all of the different secrets in the game and the different areas that each have their mini-bosses and mechanics and traps. There is a ton to talk about in Hades and while I once thought that it was a bit “grindy” at times when it comes to gems, that thought simply vanished after unlocking a few of the house contractor projects. So, I don’t have anything bad to say about Hades and I can understand why it was nominated as Game of the Year, among other titles, and why it won “Best Indie” and “Best Action”. I really can understand that as I haven’t seen a game as polished and as wonderfully crafted as this one in ages.

And more updates are coming out here and there, as well, adding a ton of things, which shows the love and care that Supergiant Games puts into their titles, to the point where I had to rewrite this review about nine times so far. I hope that you enjoyed reading about this game and that you’re checking it out yourself eventually.

For me personally, Hades might very much be my Game of the Year 2020.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Headbangers in Holiday Hell

It’s Christmas time… so it’s time for Christmas games with annoying elves, vomiting reindeer, lots of candy, and explosions! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, I’m talking about Headbangers in Holiday Hell, of course, the new Action Roguelite by Vikerlane that brings you the good ol’ festive goodness paired with blood, explosives, guns, and metal.

Developer: Vikerlane
Publisher: Hammer&Ravens
Genre: Action, Roguelite, Hack and Slash, Twin-Stick-Shooter, Arcade, 2.5D
Release Date: December 7th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent to me by the developers.

So, why do we shoot elves? Well, mostly because Christmas never changes. People get obsessed over it and turn into little elf-freaks lead by some bearded maniacs, so of course, someone has to stand up against them… and that’s us!

Inspired by Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Beavis & Butthead’s heavy metal comedy, Headbangers in Holiday Hell combines some absurd themes with Arcade-Twin-Stick-Shooter mechanics – granting you a rather entertaining experience.

When you start a run, you’ve got to rescue the Headbangers that are being held hostage by those bloody elves. Simply stand by them to untie them, similar to how you free hostages in the Metal Slug games. The catch is that those bloody elves shoot back and a lot of them are rather scary if you think about it.

Ammunition is limited, creating a sense of emergency when you run out and have to melee your way through missions. You can spend credits to buy ammunition or weapons but the same credits are also used for permanent upgrades that you can buy at the end of your run. Alas, you’ll have to measure if it’s worth it to buy ammunition or just try to melee and risk your life to get some drops from enemies.

Headbangers has a bit of stealth mechanics as well. You can use gas tanks and batteries to blow enemies up or electrocute them when there’s water around. At the same time, you can trick elves into watching the TV or you just “Rambo” your way through the game… but you’ll have to balance it to a degree as your hitpoints are important and as the game gets harder and harder as you proceed…

And well, there’re bosses and stuff as well. Fight your way through Malls and houses to end the Christmas tyrany imposed by that big fat bearded man. Honestly, I haven’t been able to finish the game just yet but it feels somewhat addictive, especially when you get so close to finishing off bosses or making it to new levels.

Runs can be short and painless or long and stealthy. I feel like that’s great for the current times when you have a lot going on and cannot spare too much time to play games. Alas, an Arcade title like this kinda fills in the gaps quite nicely, which is why I like it quite a lot to be honest.

And the whole premise is absurd and stupid – I just love it! Especially as the game is littered with small gags and easter eggs. On top of that, the game’s soundtrack is amazingly brutal. “In-Your-Face” Metal has to be done well and this game really nailed it. So far I haven’t gotten sick of it or anything like that… I feel like it fits the theme and premise of the game quite well and it’s certainly fun to have those hard tracks hit you while you blast through little elves in slo-mo. Check out the artist behind the soundtrack over here.

But not everything is perfect when it comes to Headbangers. When it comes to accessibility, I wasn’t able to find any settings to turn on a tutorial of sorts. There is a button for it that basically removes or turns on the tutorial-hints… but it left me confused at first, as I thought that I had multiple weapons and as I had no idea what the controls are like.

At the same time, the volume settings are rather limited, as well as the other settings, and I wasn’t too sure as to what to do when the game was too loud in-game. There are no settings in-game once you start the run, resulting in a frustrating experience of either bearing with it or ending the run and starting again. I would have loved for this to be different. Why can’t the settings just be in the game?

Apart from that, the art style sometimes makes it hard to see where bullets are on the screen while the controls feel somewhat sluggish at times, especially when you’re rolling around and dodging stuff. For a cheap game like this, however, I feel like the positives outshine the negatives by far, which is why I’m recommending this game to you.

You can find Headbangers on Steam over here. I feel like it’s a good game that certainly scratches that certain itch for Twin-Stick-Shooter Action and festive goodness. I hope you enjoy it as well!

Cheers!

I’m excited about Endless Dungeon

From time to time, I’ve mentioned in several blog posts how one of my absolute favourite games is Dungeon of the Endless by AMPLITUDE Studios. It has a nice gameplay loop of exploring, defending, and eventually bailing out with the Crystal, on top of having a phenomenal soundtrack, adorable pixel art, and a nice difficulty curve. 

On December 11th, however, I found an announcement in my Steam client on the Dungeon of the Endless tab! AMPLITUDE Studios announced their new title, Endless Dungeon, and with it a whole new trailer.

Endless Dungeon is set in the Endless universe, similar to all of Amplitude’s games, and will feature similar gameplay to Dungeon of the Endless. As its spiritual successor, Endless Dungeon will be a mix of Tower Defense systems and Roguelike-Action but more polished and more refined. A whole new art style will give it more vibrant and spacey vibes.

Overall, I’m more than excited or hyped about this new game. I loved the old game to bits and am really looking forward to the same old game but in an isometric perspective, with updated character models, new characters, new items and monsters, as well as a plethora of potential new gameplay systems.

Bunker!

Another great title that I count towards my favourites was Risk of Rain which got a successor in a new perspective as well last year: Risk of Rain 2. I love it when franchises take a new direction with their games and explore new dimensions, sometimes literally. 

I just hope that Endless Dungeon will be as punishing as the first game and that it features an equally enigmatic and wonderfully crafted soundtrack, as well as some fun lore to see how it ties into the rest of the Endless universe.

The trailer itself looks a bit more action-packed but the announcement they posted clearly states that it’s turn-based “take a breather before opening another door only to get swarmed by monsters” goodness, much to my liking… because I loved that about Dungeon of the Endless in the first place. 

Alas, I’m super excited to write about it in the future and potentially even review the full game once it releases. I’m already hyped about the music potentially taking a new direction. I really hope that the Beastmaster is in that game, too, as it’s by far my favourite character in the first game. Apart from that, I hope that characters from other games make it into Endless Dungeon as well, since I loved seeing the Team Fortress 2 characters come to live and interact with other characters from a different universe… all inside of an elevator. 

As far as characters go, there are a total of twelve planned for release with three already having been made public: Zed, Shroom, and Bunker. For Bunker, there is currently a vote going on over at the game’s website for an exclusive skin coming out on release (please vote for Braverheart, thank you). The characters so far look quite interesting with Bunker having some sort of Shielding-ability and Shroom being a special character working around research and using plants for combat, while Zed has some engineering capabilities. The weapon classes for these aren’t shown yet but Bunker and Shroom look like they’re using pistols/guns while Zed could potentially use some of the bigger guns. I wonder if they’ll change the weapon system or if it’s still going to be fixed weapons for your characters with a unique skill-system for all of the characters.

An improvement that I would like to see would be different build-paths for the characters with things you could specialise in or enhancements to make before the run, akin to how Hades is handling things. In a similar way, research and the skills/levels could be handled in a skill-tree fashion, potentially, which could look quite nice. Either way, I’m already loving the bits and pieces of lore that can be found on the website and the foreshadowing towards NPCs found in the Saloon of the station that you’re trapped on that could provide you more of a story than the first game.

You can wishlist and follow Endless™ Dungeon over here and if you wanna, check out Dungeon of the Endless™ as well… and let’s play some time together! 🙂 The game will be out on PC, the Switch, the PS4, the PS5, the Xbox One, and the Xbox Series X/S and I hope there are new news available soon.

Cheers!

Indietail – Ring of Pain

"Roguelike flavour, card game pacing, 
dungeon crawl, chaos embracing. 
Shadows cast a truth to see. 
In the darkness, you can visit me." 
Join me as I venture deep, 
fear not you don't have to take a leap. 
Since if you're looking for something to play that's new, 
I've got you covered with my Ring of Pain review.

Honestly, Simon Boxer and Twice Different did such a great job with the rhymes, so I shouldn’t really bother with it and just leave it to them. Oh jeez, that sucked. Anyways, welcome to yet another Indietail!

Ring of Pain, a title that I’ve been excited for quite some time, has come out just a few days ago and honestly, I love it. It’s dark, mysterious, and creepy. It leaves you in the shadows so that you learn on your own and essentially, it really gives me that “one more run” feeling whenever I die, which is glorious and something that I’ve been missing from other titles that I’ve played lately. 

Developer: Simon Boxer, Twice Different
Publisher: Humble Games
Genre: Dungeon Crawler, Roguelike, Card Game, Difficult
Release Date: October 15th, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
I received the copy by the devs but the opinions are my own.

But what is Ring of Pain about? After awakening, an owl greets us from our slumber, handing us a candle to light at the depths of this ominous place that we find ourselves in. Hence, we venture deeper and deeper, facing more and more challenges, getting stronger and eventually, we reach the depth of this place and have the choice of engulfing the world in shadows or enlightening it to change it forever. Apart from that, we also get to meet a dark entity of sorts that advices us to do the opposite of what owl says and to not trust owl at all… although the owl says the same about that dark fellow, so there are a lot of rhymes, lore snippets and other information to be gathered in the game as you go on but after a few hours, I know basically nothing about the game, to be honest.

The superior choice!

When you start off, you’re essentially only equipped with a candle that grants you some clarity and improved stealth chance. You venture deeper into the dungeon, fighting foes by clicking onto them, finding items to get stronger and essentially improving your stats to fare better against your foes. The better your stats and your build, the better your chances of survival – but mostly, you need your wits.

Enemies come in all kinds of forms with their own patterns and stats. Some of them explode on death, dealing damage to you and foes alike. Some other enemies attack you relentlessly, some attack you only when they pass you, while others don’t allow you to pass at all, essentially blocking the road. There are all kinds of enemies and once you discover them and learn how to deal with them, the gameplay becomes very tactical and strategic, which is something that I really enjoyed. 

Sam got a gift for us!

Do you move to the right to prevent that exploding fellow from blowing up in your face but risking that that right fellow hits you, or do you take the hit but kill the right fellow in the process? Do you take the risk of reducing your defensive stats by taking the Glass Shield, only for better dodge chance and more attack damage? Honestly, at times it feels like a huge gamble when you go through the dungeon and pick up items and later come to regret them. Sometimes you have to calculate and take risks but more often than not, these risks paid out for me, which is why the game is so much fun to me. Personally, I’m more of a careful and tactical player in other games but Ring of Pain makes it easy for me to take risks at times as it never fails to project the consequences for my actions. Enemies show their intentions for the next turn while damage numbers are reflected on my health bar when I hover over the options available to me. This damage projection in the game feels really good as it lets you plan out your next, if not “your next few”, moves.

Deeper and deeper!

And while I could mention how the stats work, I don’t really have to because it’s as simple as it gets. You strike harder when you’ve got a high attack stat, for instance, and the other stats are quite self-explanatory as well. The game systems make sense and the game teaches you those systems quite well. If you hover over the stats and card-keywords, you learn about them, too, which really helps beginners get into the game while helping veterans freshen up their memory. On top of your “standard” stats, Ring of Pain also features a chance to perform critical strikes, dodge damage or potentially sneak away, all influenced by either your items, your speed stat or your clarity stat, which I found quite neat. 

The game is easy to get into but hard to master. The UI being very intuitive is essentially necessary for a game like this that punishes you for every wrong choice you make. 

Where to go? What to do? Oh wait, it’s a gg!

So, I really enjoyed the gameplay side of things and the countless runs that I had so far and could go on and on about builds that I tried out and about why the spoon is so overpowered… but there’s more Ring of Pain. The whole aesthetic of the game, the enemy design, the writing and the art of the game, created by Simon Boxer, on top of the phenomenal soundtrack created by Belinda Coomes, and the spine-chilling and terrifying sounds made and implemented by Damion Sheppard really give this game this certain dark and creepy vibe that I just love. I love Ring of Pain for the specific reason that it’s fun and creepy. It’s dark, it’s gritty. At times, it’s horrifying. I love it. 

But despite loving it so much, there are some flaws here and there. For instance, there are the monument rooms that just never really seem to pay out? The fountain of life, as an example, reduces your maximum health but heals you fully, which is something that works but the game never tells you that it does that. You have to figure it out yourself. Another monument room seems to destroy your gems and give you a stat payout but the game – that is otherwise really good at projecting the consequences of your choices – doesn’t really tell you what happened after it happened, which made me just avoid those rooms. 

…was a good run!

Another flaw in the game is the difficulty curve after the candle-room where you make your choice. One of the choices leaves you with a boss-fight that I found rather hard to deal with… the other choice brings you into a new area with stronger enemies and it’s also a bit hard to get through, compared to what came before, so essentially I didn’t enjoy how steep the difficulty curve turned out to be near the end of the game, resulting in me having to yet finish a run all the way through. But the time will come when the stars align, and eventually, I’ll be able to beat the Ring of Pain…

…and when that time comes, I’ll play another run. And another one. Because I like this game a lot. While the flaws are there, they probably will get balanced eventually and there are updates to come, from what I’ve gathered, so there is still a lot to do. On top of normal runs, you also can unlock items for your future runs or play daily challenges that are seeded and feature over 25 modifiers. You can essentially compete with other players in those for the leaderboard, which I found interesting, although not exactly my cup of tea. Being a roguelike, Ring of Pain offers a lot of replayability with its 150+ items and 50+ creatures to discover, a story to unravel, 25+ special rooms to find, a branching ending, hard mode, 50+ achievements, and a bunch of other features that make the game more fun as you go on. 

Another unlock for the future runs!

Hence, I’m recommending this game to everyone who’s in search of another roguelike to play in Spooktober or afterwards. It’s creepy, it’s ominous, it’s glorious. The gameplay is fun, I haven’t encountered any bugs and overall, it’s great.

Cheers!

Indietail – Try To Survive!

I don’t usually play Horror games… and I don’t usually play all that many FPS games either… but some games combine these genres quite well or have something special about them. Some games out there are able to provide a lot of fun and a big challenge with little to no effort and a rather simple premise… and then there’s Try To Survive.

I’m honestly not too sure about how to approach this title. The game can be summed up quite easily: Shoot waves until you die.

Developer: INGO
Publisher: INGO
Release Date: August 3rd, 2020
Genre: Action, FPS, Horror, Rogue-like
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was provided by the devs.

You’re in a forest and have to fight off waves that get increasingly stronger. After every wave, you’re able to upgrade certain aspects of your character like the range or damage of your weapon, for instance. You may also end up with equipment, like a flashlight or mines and grenades.

Try to Survive doesn’t seem revolutionary.

It’s fast-paced and dark but more than anything else it was disappointing. After half an hour, I’ve seen everything already. After a while I got a hang of it and just ended up kiting enemies while strafing away before grabbing health kits and damage upgrades to just continue like that… and that got boring quite quickly, to the point that I ended up losing on purpose to finally quit the game. There are games that are frustrating and that make you ragequit… and then there’s this title that isn’t too challenging, not all that frustrating, and for a Horror-title not exactly scary either… Is there a word for when you quit because you got bored?

And while this review may sound like a rant so far, I’m actually trying to be at least somewhat nice here since the devs sent me a key for this game and asked me to review it. There are just a lot of issues with the game – and the devs…

First of all, you don’t have enough options and the ones available to you don’t really seem like they change a lot. On top of that, the game looks kind of unfinished, no matter the options you choose. The enemies that you fight each wave don’t really have a cohesive theme either… some are more eldritch while others are just flies or they look like Psychos from Borderlands. It just feels like an attempt to create something “new” out of a lot of different styles and games and whatever… but it’s not new at all.

Secondly, the promotion that the studio is going for seems super sketchy. The devs noted in their mail that they’ll distribute $15,000 to the top three players of the leaderboard once they have a playerbase of over 30,000 players. Every 10.000 players, they will pay $1,000 to three random players, and they are planning to have “tournaments” with bigger price pools in the future as well with budgets of potentially $25,000 and more money… And I don’t think that’s a good way of handling promotion.

I’m not a fan of this “practice” since it just seems super dodgy. They are luring in potential players by offering a prize to them. It’s not about their game anymore. And let’s say they’re really reaching those numbers, there is no guarantee that they’re actually giving money to anyone. It’s a studio with no games so far, with no actual social media pages or any websites or any other info about them. When I asked about a press kit, they were not able to provide me with anything.

Regarding my question why this game was special, unique or worth playing, the devs told me that they’ll give money to the players.
That’s not what makes a game good or unique or special… it just turns it into some sort of weird scheme. And it makes it sound even more as if the devs didn’t care about the game at all and as if they were just trying to rip off players by luring them in, taking their money and leaving them with nothing.

And I don’t think I’m reaching too much here when I say that it looks like a scam to make money with a bad game… that is being sold for 10 bucks.

Originally, I was going to compare this game to a very similar Indie Game that costs less than half of this game’s price… but I don’t think I should compare games in a review. I don’t want to recommend a game in a review about a different game. I’ll post a separate review on that title later this month, instead.

To sum everything up: I cannot recommend this game and I tried my best to be nice about it, but in the end this game is boring and doesn’t bring anything new to the table… and it doesn’t justify the 10€ price tag at all.

Hence, no recommendation here. Cheers.

An early look at Ring of Pain

April’s Humble Choice offered you the option of downloading a DRM-free demo of Ring of Pain (v0.8.21) if you signed up for the choice, so I not only got some nice games this month but also got to see how much the game changed ever since the demo I played last year in August!

But first things first: What exactly is Ring of Pain?

Ring of Pain is a card-based Rogue-like-title by Twice Different, an Indie Studio responsible for Satan’s Workshop and Bounce House. Ring of Pain features a labyrinth of darkness and small shimmers of light that you get lead through in hope of finding out who you are, why you’re there and what exactly that place is.

Owl is as charming as ever!

The game features turn-based combat where you either try to sneak past enemies or battle them, always planning ahead of time to make use of the game’s mechanics and essentially survive. You get stronger through stat upgrades and by obtaining items, though some items not only increase but also reduce certain stats. The game also features some roll-mechanics similar to DnD as well as other mechanics where you block the damage completely if you have more armour than the attacker or where you outspeed enemies.

At last year’s GamesCom, I actually also did an interview with Simon Boxer (who’s the lead artist at Twice Different, responsible for all the amazingly creepy and dark but also colourful art in the game), so check that post out if you’re interested in some more info about the game or some “weird and quirky questions”.

The story is still rather enigmatic..

Naturally, I just hopped into the game and started clicking myself through it. You get to play through a small tutorial where you also meet our guide through the labyrinth, Owl, who acts as our mother of sorts, always taking care of and helping us while also quickly killing us if we were to defy it (Don’t do it. Owl is love, Owl is life).

The tutorial brings you to the end of the first floor where you essentially meet a boss monster that tells you that you’re not ready to proceed yet, hence killing you, which is a bit of a forced ending but better than an abrupt “demo ends here, screw you”-screen!

At this sacrificial well I was able to offer maximum health to receive items… but I didn’t… guess I’m not that lucky or not brave enough!

I’ve noticed that there’s plenty of new areas in the game right now and potentially a whole bunch of areas, similar to how you can access different biomes/areas from the different levels in Dead Cells.

Some of the items work only under certain conditions. I’ve seen one that had some nice stats but would have given me more stats/value if I had less than five items equipped, which I personally found quite interesting. One of my favourite items was the Mace of Banishing that gave me quite a bit of extra damage and other stats on top of the effect of teleporting enemies to a random area whenever you attack them. I found that quite neat in situations where enemies would attack you after you attack them as they can’t get their hit off unless they are ranged. Enemies that explode on death explode after the teleport, too, damaging other foes.

There are also plenty of effects like Poison, Freeze, On-hit-heal, reflecting damage and other boni that allow a bunch of customization for you build, similar to how there’s a lot of synergies in Slay the Spire.

And yeah, I’m comparing the game to a whole bunch of games here, but mostly to Slay the Spire as both RoP and StS are card-based Rogue-likes that can be played rather fast and that feature a lot of strategizing and customization. In fact, I would even say that Ring of Pain might become “the new Slay the Spire”.

I really enjoy the darker art and the themes of it. The music and animations were really cool and I had a lot of fun with all kinds of different builds. Sometimes I’d go for a whole bunch of speed and damage, like a Rogue that outspeeds enemies and hits them hard before they can damage you… some other times I’d rather go for a whole bunch of defence and poison to parry enemies and whittle them down eventually.

And yeah, I’m hyped for this game and I’m looking forward to playing more of it when it comes out in Mid 2020. Next week there is going to be another demo with an improved build, so I’ll probably post about that one, too. If you’d like to, check out the Ring of Pain discord, the twitter account or wishlist the game on steam. 🙂

For now, though, I hope that you are doing alright over there. Hang in there!

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 – Gutwhale

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be inside of a giant whale? Or what it’s like to manage your inventory properly if you only have one spot? Or have you ever thought about the possibility that a van is currently chasing you… from ABOVE?!

Well, if you didn’t really know what I want from you with any of these questions, then you’ve come to the right place! After all, we’re looking at the newly released arcade-ish rogue-lite-title “Gutwhale”!

Developer: Stuffed Wombat, Franrekkk (Art), Britt Brady (OST)
Publisher: Stuffed Wombat
Genre: 2D, Action, Indie, Roguelike
Release Date: April 6, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
I got a review-key for this game by the dev.

At the beginning of March, Josh from Stuffed Wombat was fired from his job due to the Corona-Virus-outbreak, so he started developing this game. In the game, you essentially engage in a gameplay-loop where you dive into the whale’s gut and have to shoot enemies with your gun and die when you run out of lives. Your gun only holds one bullet at the time, so when it hits a wall or enemy, it bounces off and you’ll have to pick it up again before you’re able to shoot again. The enemies either move, jump or shoot at you as well, resulting in a little bit of a bullet-hell-feel that I overall found rather enjoyable.

Patience is key

If you die and your bullet is still on the ground, you may use it in the next life as well, which leads to strategy-opportunities. Each area or biome is divided into different levels where you need to clear all the enemies. Using arrows, the enemies of the next level below you are indicated to you so that you can position yourself in a good position.

Despite the in-your-face-techno kind of music that is blasting your ears in a rather fast manner that was created by Britt Brady (known for the Gato Roboto soundtrack), the game actually requires a lot of patience. I guess you can rush into the fights without any strategy at all but in my case, it never worked out and I got a bit frustrated. Not at the game but at myself for not doing what I wanted to do: Not Die.

You have to patiently wait for enemies to move a certain way and you have to position yourself accordingly, aim steadily and know when to move fast and when to wait for a second and reconsider your next move. Sure, the game may be a tiny bit fast-paced when you’re getting swarmed by four frogs at once or when it suddenly turned into a bullet hell game with all the mushrooms shooting at you… but it still punishes you for being overaggressive, which I found rather enjoyable.

The artstyle is…. gutsy?

Frankrekkk did a great job to portray the inside of a whale. It’s very red and it almost feels as moist as I’d imagine a gut to be… The enemies also come in a bit of variety with new enemies for each area and new patterns for their movement. There are small jellyfish that chase you around in the first level alongside mushrooms that are shooting bullets at you and small whales eating away at the blocks that stand before you. Down below, in the next bigger area, you’ll find a lot of skeleton foes that move based on your movement while there’s tankier enemies further below that hit hard and are able to take more than just one or two hits.

Overall, I didn’t get too far into the game yet. It’s mostly just this one frame away and I always get a bit too tilted when I play Gutwhale as I just am not really good at it. Regardless of that, I made it to the third area and nearly have beaten it… and I’ve unlocked new hats that unlock new modifiers for your gameplay like getting more points (that then can be spent on extra lives or extra bullets) but also only having one life or like replacing all enemies with frogs… or like having a high jump… and all of these hats and modifiers make the game not necessarily easier… they just change it up a bit keeping the difficulty and bringing something new to the table so that you can enjoy this finite rogue-like-experience for a ton of time.

Overall, I’d say that Gutwhale is a great game. The art style, music and gameplay are completely satisfactory but there are some issues that may get fixed in the future (the game just came out after all):

In the settings, the game gives you “options” but not really options. You’re able to play in “Fullscreen”, “Smollscreen” and “Bigscreen”, which is amusing at first but it gets rather annoying when you don’t have the option of turning on Borderless Windowed or change the resolution at all. Similar problem with the sound: Sure, the soundtrack is nice… but being able to either turn it on, off or have someone whistle, isn’t really helpful. The game is really blasting the music into your ears and generally, I find it rather annoying when I cannot turn down some of the volume settings or the brightness or anything like that.

I get it. These settings are supposed to be for entertainment only and stuff but “serious settings ON/OFF” would be a nice setting to have as well where you have these joke-settings on “on” and normal %-volume-settings for sound and music and brightness and everything else, too, on “off”. At first, I found them fun and even chuckled at them but over time it just got annoying, though I guess that you can either turn everything off or you use the computer’s audio mixer for it.

Apart from these issues with the settings, I didn’t encounter any other flaws or bugs or whatever and really enjoyed the game. Sure, it can be frustrating sometimes but I never felt like the game killed me. It always was my over-eagerness or my impatience or a false input.

Hence, I do recommend the game. For four bucks on Steam it’s a grab that is absolutely worth it, so check it out if you enjoyed this review.

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 – Original Journey

In today’s Indietail review, we’re talking about Original Journey: A hand-drawn, sci-fi action-adventure where we join the Ato as they embark on a mission to a distant planet, known as the Shadow Planet, to find a certain crystal that can save our own species and even our dying planet.

Developer: Bonfire Entertainment
Publisher: Another Indie
Genres: Roguelike, Action, Indie, Adventure, 2D, Sci-Fi
Release Date: Aug 16, 2017
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
The copy was purchased.

After a bit of an epilogue, we get thrown into the world of the Ato whose last hope, their battle-ship, has finally landed upon one of the floating islands of the Shadow Planet. The main character of the vegetable-like species of the Ato oversleeps, of course, and therefore ends up being used by the Commander as a meat shield. After beating the tutorial where we learn about movement, aiming, weapons and turret-placement, the Commander is astonished at how well we survived and did, which is why he lets us take part in actual missions that revolve around exploring the planet and beating enemies to receive resources and crystals, which are needed for new weapons and new suits, each with their own unique characteristics.

Essentially, you can fly out and explore the planet, landing on one level after another, each with randomly placed enemies and special events. On some islands, we get ambushed while on other islands we prepare and ambush the ambushers, one some islands we help out other people while on others we get healed and we receive free loot and ammo. There is a lot of variety between special events and normal islands and a variety of enemies as well, each with different strength levels and different attack/move sets. We can use two weapons at a time and place down two turrets per island, although we need to recycle turrets upon leaving an island to receive some Ammo back. Ammo and resources are limited, which is why you’ve got to either take a risk or frequently go back to base again to restock on Ammo and Health, store your loot and possibly upgrade or unlock new suits and weapons.

Levels get increasingly difficult and the farther you go, the more of the story you’ll be able to unlock.

At some point, you really need to take risks. There is a fast-travel option but it requires a lot of Crystals (the currency farmed from enemies) which is also important for weapons and suits. Therefore every hit has to land on every previous island to not waste too much ammo. Sometimes you need to do base-stops and sometimes you just risk going for another island in hope that you get a supply drop on the next one to refill on ammo. At some point, levels get too difficult with way too much going on, which is why you also need to level up your character and upgrade your stuff to proceed.

The game very much relies on „rinse and repeat“, which is standard for a bunch of games, I’d say, but it also needs to be done well.

While the game seems easy at first, it gets harder and harder over time, especially when you still need to grind certain rather rare materials to get your next weapon. And the worst thing: You don’t know what weapon you get. You can test it out after you’ve unlocked it but there’s no name to it before you unlock, resulting in a bit of a frustrating experience where you get something for the sake of unlocking it and don’t know if you like it. While I enjoyed the Saber, for instance, the other weapons so far have been difficult to use and are absolutely not my playstyle. Thus, I’m only using the grenade launcher and the sword, mainly as the sword doesn’t require ammo and alas can’t run out of ammo, despite having the drawback of having to get close to the enemy.

There are also other annoying elements to the game. For example, your health gets completely refilled when you level up, which can make some levels extremely close and very fun to do… but there are no enemies in some of the boss levels to give you the necessary experience to level up again and save yourself or save a run. When you die, you lose your stuff and need to retrieve it… but in boss levels, that mechanic is missing completely… and I haven’t even touched upon the art style…

The art style is hand-drawn and I’d describe it as either hit or miss. You either really like it or you hate it. In my case, I liked it in the beginning and really enjoyed the interesting mix between a sepia-esque colour-scheme and the green colour as the only thing that is different (apart from the red health bar of course). BUT over time I noticed a few major flaws with the design. Sometimes you have other characters/NPCs in your levels that help you out and look fairly similar to you, making it rather hard to distinguish who your character or who the NPC is… there is a bit of a green dot above your character but it isn’t really helping all that much and can be easily overlooked with a ton of enemies on the screen and all of that.

Another problem with the art style is that I couldn’t really distinguish where damage was coming from in some of the (mainly boss fight type) levels. Sometimes there’d be elements to the level that were in the background and sometimes there’d be elements in the foreground, resulting in the levels being rather messy. You don’t know where you can hide behind, you don’t know where you can stand on. You don’t know what’s destroyable and you don’t know what’s hurting you. Especially when one of the bosses can summon stones and roots that hurt you, it’s unnecessarily hard for you to dodge stuff when you don’t know what’s happening.

A nice and easy fix for that would have been a green (toggle-able?) outline for your character and a red (toggle-able?) outline for enemies, projectiles, traps, falling objects, etc. It would have been that easy but there’s nothing like that and therefore I at some point ragequit after having seen most of the things there are to this game.

It’s frustrating to lose your stuff because of dying in the boss fight without the option of retrieving it. It’s frustrating to die because of not seeing your character or the damage source. And it’s frustrating to not be able to distinguish between your character and NPCs or to not be able to see a trap in the foreground and some item in the background.

The game is quite repetitive and after getting used to the fiddly controls or rather after getting used to the two weapons that I wanted to use instead of the other even more fiddle weapons, I ended up being frustrated for the sole reason of the game being badly designed in a way.
I guess this might be the right game for you if you like an unnecessary challenge game that (according to steam users) can be finished in anything between six and twenty hours, depending on your skill-level and play-style… but I personally can’t recommend a game that has so many flaws and isn’t able to outweigh the flaws with the good sides.

I hope that you liked this post. I was excited to play Original Journey as it has been sitting in my library for nearly two years now but sadly it kind of disappointed me, which is quite a bit of a bummer.

Until the 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 – 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 – Risk of Rain 2

A while ago I reviewed Hopoo Games’ Risk of Rain 1 and it’s to-date one of my favourite games. It’s a lovely Indie-Action-Roguelike-title with a very nice combat system, a wonderful soundtrack and a timer that is increasing the difficulty the longer you take to complete the game. Hopoo Games released Risk of Rain 1 in 2013 and then announced that I wanted to develop a second game that would take place in the third dimension! A whole new game that would play like a third-person-shooter but still remain true to its core-values that made RoR1 a RoR-game. And well…. since March 2019 it’s Hopoo’s time to shine as Risk of Rain 2 released in Early Access and as tons of people discovered it for themselves, gave feedback on the discord-server, streamed it, made videos on it and wrote about it.

The Warbanner is, still, one of my favourite items! Here it provides us with a buff in this globe around it, upon level up!

But how do I like Risk of Rain 2 and do I recommend it? Let’s find out!

Note: In this review, I will be comparing the second game to the first game quite often, so I recommend checking it out over here. Of course I’ll review the game as usual in different aspects, so there’s going to be a lot of reviewing on parts that are new or that make RoR2 unique, so enjoy this review. 🙂

Developer: Hopoo Games
Publisher: Gearbox Publishing
Genres: Action, Adventure, Rogue-like, Indie, Third Person Shooter,
Release Date: March 28, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, XBOX One, PS4, Switch
Copy was purchased.

For anyone who doesn’t know about the Risk of Rain games (I suppose, it’s a franchise now), you essentially spawn on a foreign planet and fight off monsters while searching for a teleporter to get to the next area. Fighting enemies grants you experience (that levels you up, increasing your stats) and gold. Gold can then be used to open up chests and receive items that grant you all kinds of special perks from stat-increases (like attack speed or move speed up) to game-changing elements (like poison damage or exploding enemies).

When you find the teleporter, you activate it to spawn the last waves of enemies and to spawn the boss who you then have to defeat to get rewarded with yet another item and to proceed to the next level. Dying never felt unfair and there were a ton of possibilities of item-combinations to make you super overpowered and it’s really great!

While Risk of Rain 1 better when using the gamepad/controller, due to its platforming-nature, Risk of Rain 2 plays better using the mouse and keyboard since it requires a lot of aiming. Don’t get me wrong, gamepad-controls still work quite well, but I’m better at aiming, using a mouse. Controls are rather smooth, you’ve still got your shooting ability, second ability and ultimate, as well as some sort of mobility-ability. You can remap the keybindings but I found the standard ones to work out just fine. There’s also a whole new sprint-button and as I’m not used to that being a thing, I forget about that button more often than not.

The aforementioned sprint-button is very convenient since the new levels are massive!

Being procedurally generated, they offer a lot to see with different biomes and different enemies depending on what level you are at. The chests and the teleporter are also located on different spots, so you always have to find them. I really enjoyed the wide areas and the feeling you have when you’re standing up close to the bosses. You’re just tiny compared to it all!

INTO THE ABYSS

Speaking of bosses, we can find a lot of RoR1’s enemies and bosses in the game as well.

From the Whisps to the Lemurians and Stone Golems (on the enemy-front) to the Magma Worm, the Wandering Vagrant, the Imp Overlord, the Scavenger, and the Stone Titan (on the boss front). These still have similar patterns to Risk of Rain 1 but since we’re playing in the third-person-view a lot of their attacks are wide ones with great areas of attacks and different moves. There are also new bosses like the Clay Dunestrider, the Beetle Queen, the Alloy Warship Unit and, one of my favourites, the Grovetender.

These new bosses either spawn enemies or pull you in, some have chain attacks while others have special conditions that need to be met before they can spawn. It surely is really interesting to see these new bosses in the game while still keeping some old fan-favourites in the game.

A blue portal brings us to a whole new merchant that is able to provide us with new items… for a price!

Hopoo Games changed the boss-mechanic in a way, though. In Risk of Rain 1, once you’ve activated the teleporter, you’d have to defeat the boss and all enemies that have spawned in the next [time based on difficulty] seconds. This “clean up” of sorts was rather annoying but manageable in the first game.

Now, in the second game there’s no such thing as a “clean up”. Once you activate the teleporter, a globe around it is displayed with a red circle in which you need to stand to charge the teleporter up. In that time, enemies keep spawning while the boss (still) is attacking you. Of course, you can leave the area around the teleporter, but it won’t charge in that time and the boss will follow you around. Once it’s charged up completely, you can use the teleporter right away after defeating the boss, resulting in your excess money getting converted into experience points.

I really liked this change as it meant that you’d have to tackle bosses differently and as you couldn’t just wait the event out and then clean up slowly.

Into the next area!

The old enemies along the side of new enemies like the Brass Contraption and the Beetle Guards really make the world feel lively although dangerous.

There’re a lot of new attacks to look out for, coming at you from all sides. Lesser Whisps are rather weak but since they spawn a lot and since they are flying, you need to take care of them rather quickly as they do hurt a lot. And then there are the slow but sturdy Stone Golems who attack with a laser beam but need to charge up slowly after every attack. I really enjoyed this variety and new enemies are being added in every new update.

And then there are new items, too, along side old classics like the Soldier’s Syringe that increases the attackspeed-stat or Paul’s Goathoof that increases movement speed. I really enjoyed seeing these items again while also having new items like Little Discipline (which shoots out whisps from a container) or the Queen’s Gland (which spawns a Beetle Guard on your side that attacks enemies and can block shots for you).

Facing off against the Clay Dunestrider!

Just like in the first game the soundtrack, made by Chris Christodolou again, is awesome!

It’s very Risk-of-Rain-ish and fits the game like a metaphorical glove. It’s very space-y and futuristic while also atmospheric and, although it fits the game, it’s still all new and doesn’t rely too much on the first game’s soundtrack. I really enjoyed it. Along with the all new soundtrack, there is also a new style present in the game. Hopoo Games teamed up with Gearbox Publishing (whose dev studio is behind the Borderlands Games) and created an all-new style for this game. It now uses some sort of cell-shading-style that uses the same colour palette as Risk of Rain 1 and therefore remains true to its original colours but still has a new sort of freshness to it that looks quite rad, to say the least. I really like this new style and while I loved the pixel-artstyle of the first game, I can see how it doesn’t fit the new Third-Person-view and that this style is still fitting it quite well.

My favourite biome, the Scorched Acres! It’s so pretty and warped!

But while I love the Risk of Rain franchise, there certainly are some issues with it.

While Multiplayer has been fixed and is easy to set up, the devs’ fear of the MP overshadowing the SP came true and because of that I kind of feel like it’s not worth playing the game if you can’t play it with friends. Sure, it certainly is challenging and fun while alone… but it’s a lot more fun with friends as you can strategize a lot about who takes what items and how you build your characters.

And the other issue I had with the game was the fact that dying in MP means that you need to wait and spectate while your friends clear the level and venture into the next one. Once you’re there, you have less items than everyone else and therefore may be struggling more, resulting in a bad experience. I would have liked it if you’d spawn in as a “pet whisp” or some sort of enemy and play as that one for the time-being to either screw with your friends or help them beat the level. The current system really hurts the fun that I had with the game. And then there are the characters.

The Imp Overlord is back at it again! Scary!

Also, I found some of the unlock-criterias in the first game better than the new ones. But I guess that’s just a preference-thing. While I’ve unlocked a lot of items and new areas of the game, I think it’s worth mentioning that I have yet to unlock all of the characters, but since Multiplayer is a lot more fun than playing alone, I’ve experienced this weird feeling of not being as motivated to play alone as I was with Risk of Rain 1. I still start up occasionally and play a few runs, sure, but it’s not as frequent as I would have with RoR1, due to the fact that a lot of my friends don’t play it as often anymore. (If you want to play it with me, hit me up!)

And since the maps are so huge, I found it rather hard to keep track of the teleporter. Every biome has a few variants to it and the teleporter can be found in a lot of different locations. Quite often, however, I would have found the teleporter early on but would decide on actually getting more items first and then I’d get lost, resulting in having to find the teleporter again. I’d like it a lot if you could pull out a map (while the game’s not paused) to mark stuff on it or if the waypoints set with the middle-mouse-button were permanent, so that you can permanently mark chests and/or the teleporter. That’d be great.

Dio’s Little Friend (JoJo-Refernece much?) revived us here when the Imp Overlord let us experience his rage! Lucky!

Overall the game has a few flaws but since it’s in Early Access it constantly gets updated with a very dedicated dev team and a community that tries to give as much feedback as possible. The community for this game is great, the new additions to the game have been interesting and didn’t hurt the game’s spirit at all but rather helped it reach new heights! And it’s not finished yet. The journey keeps on going, so there’s more to be expected in the future!

So, I’d give it a recommendation.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this review!

Cheers!

Note: Screenshots were taken from one run. As I didn’t want to spoil too much, I only featured these three areas and the blue portal but I can assure you that there’s a lot more to see!

Indietail – Book of Demons

Book of Demons is the first part of Thing Trunk’s “Return2Games”-series and is currently in the Early Access Phase on Steam.

The genre of Hack and Slay games is known for its combat, its looting and levelling, and its big and dark areas? Well, yeah, mostly, but there are also games that don’t follow that same pattern out there! Today’s game is a card-based ARPG called Book of Demons that dares to change up the formula of hack and slay games a little bit and mix it with a well- “crafted” world and some interesting mechanics.

After a long journey, you’re returning to your hometown where seemingly everything has changed. Everything seems darker and you’re recognizing feer in your old friends. That’s because the old priest of the local church has been kidnapped by a dark force into the depths of the catacombs and even bigger dangers seem to be awaiting you! That’s why you have to embark onto an adventure into those depths to save the world from fear and loathing!

What seems to be the most generic story of all time, is the story of the first part of Thing Trunk’s Return2Games-series. Thing Trunk is planning on releasing six more parts to this big project although those haven’t been announced yet. In Book of Demons (Trailer/Shop) you’re playing an adventurer who has to save the local priest and defeat all evils that are lurking in the shadows. For that, you’re embarking on instance-based adventures and can decide on your own how long you want to explore and what abilities you’re using, but I’ll tell you about that later.

The warrior class with three of his skills.

Before starting your dungeon-crawling-experience, you’ll have to choose from one out of three classes: The warrior, the rogue and the mage.

To unlock the mage you and the rogue though, you’ll have to play the warrior to level 5 first which may seem tedious but is done quite fastly. This has the advantage that you’re able to play as a rather sturdy class before playing one of the more fragile characters. Every class has its own skills and cards and is played differently although it all is different compared to other hack and slay games anyways.

For instance, you’re not using normal attacks and abilities but have to click and use cards. Instead of roaming big areas, you’re chained to paths and have to kill enemies that can roam freely. In the beginning, you may feel very restricted because of that. Sometimes enemies are in the way, so you have to slay those first before you’re able to proceed which on the one hand seems unlogical since you could walk past them  but on the other hand also is kind of nostalgic and reminded me of old JRPGs where you could either fight or run but never just walk past enemies.

The rogue on one of the paths

When enemies are approaching you’ll have to click on them to deal damage. You can also hold down the left mouse button to more damage if you don’t feel like spamming your mouse button. If you don’t do anything, your character also attacks by itself but at a slower rate as when you’d click. While the warrior might be a melee unit in most RPGs you’re still able to slay enemies that aren’t directly near. I guess that’s due to some insanely long limbs or weapons or just a quality of life change. The rogue, on the other hand, is fighting with a bow and has more range and more attack speed. I had some trouble seeing the advantage of the rogue over the warrior since both seem to be ranged and since the rogue’s arrows have to travel a distance first before they hit a target while the warrior’s attacks are instant. This is where the right click comes into play: Every character has a special ability that can be used via right-clicking.

The rogue is able to shoot a long-range arrow that is able to hit enemies and objects that aren’t in sight yet. This makes it rather easy to thing out waves of enemies that can’t be targeted at this point so that you don’t get overwhelmed by them. The mage, however, also has ranged attacks but is able to shoot magic homing missiles that can’t be blocked by enemies that stand in front of the target that you’re aiming at you, which is an advantage that the mage has over the rogue. So while the rogue has a higher distance and can attack more frequently, the mage is a tactician that is able to precisely shut down enemies and isn’t hindered by enemies that stand right in front of him. The warrior, on the other hand, is rather beefy and a hybrid between those two with instant attacks that are slower than the rogue’s and with less damage than the magician.

Artwork of the Rogue

While the combat system is something rather unique, the skill-system is rather similar to other games’: Slain enemies drop experience points and once you have enough of those, you gain a level. On top of the experience-resource, you also have mana, health and gold. Gold is dropped by enemies but also can be acquired by looting alongside items and even permanent health- or mana-points. Health and Mana can be increased at every level-up. While the warrior with his beefy nature has a lot of health but less mana, the mage, for instance, has a lot more mana than health. The rogue, on the other hand, is rather balanced on those fronts.

But let’s talk about the cards. I already mentioned that this is a card-based hack and slay/dungeon crawling title, so I’m now going to talk about those. Each class has different available skills to them which are unique to their class. On top of that, you can also acquire runes, artefacts and items through looting.

Runes are needed to upgrade your cards. For example, you can get a sun-rune to upgrade the fire-spell of the mage. With that rune and some gold that spell card’s damage increases and it has a higher chance to ignite the floor and enemies hit by it. To upgrade your abilities you’re in need for different runes and quite some gold, so eventually, you’ll have to grind it if you want to proceed into the late game. I for my part enjoyed that part of the game quite a lot but it may seem tedious for some people since the grinding takes up quite a lot of time in this game.

Artefacts are useful things that give you passive Boni. There are all kinds of artefacts from shields that have a chance to block attacks to amulets that recover your health and mana over time. The latter is basically a must for most builds since both health and mana have to be recovered using either potions or mana/health-pools like in other games such as Torchlight or Diablo or by levelling up. When you use artefacts, they not only take up a card slot in your card bar but also lock a part of your mana, turning it from blue to green and making it unusable until you unequip the artefact.

Items can be used to do all kinds of things like healing and buffing yourself or escaping out of the dungeon. For example there’s the health- or the mana-potion that fill the respecting bars in times of need but get used up permanently. Although that sounds not that useful you will agree that these are quite handy, especially since the drop rate for them on explorations doesn’t seem to be that low. Surely, you won’t find them every now and then but you can always use your gold to recharge them in town!

While every class has all runes, artefacts and items available to them, skills are exclusive to every class, as previously mentioned! Skills are equipped in the card slot and activated by right-clicking onto them. The warrior, for instance, has abilities to either deal damage to enemies, to disarm them, to protect himself or to throw poison bombs and the like into hordes of enemies. For example, there’s the ability “Mighty Blow” that costs only one mana point but deals quite a lot of damage. Meanwhile, there’s another artefact-like skill called “Shadow Sword” which blocks a bit of Mana but gives you an extra hit on every click passively.


The rogue, on the other hand, is the DPS-class and therefore has abilities to buff her arrows or escape via invisibility. I really liked how you could create poison arrows and split them into many enemies.
But my absolute favourite class was the mage who’s using elementary spells. He’s able to create frost-novas, fireballs, ice walls and create golems. While he’s really fragile, he’s still able to position himself somewhere safer via teleport-spell and overall he’s got quite a lot of utility and burst-damage which I really liked about him.

Book of Demons uses a new approach for the same system. The classes seem to be the same as every ability-wise but are played differently from other games but in its core, this is still the typical ARPG-adventure – just with some cards instead of everything else.

In town, NPCs will tend to your wounds and help you out whenever they can.

When you want to rest from your expeditions in the dungeon, you’re returning to the city where you’re able to identify cards at the sage’s or where you can unlock more card slots. The other NPCs all have their own useful sides to them: You’re able to read about rumours, inform your self about enemies that you’ve spotted, upgrade your cards, charge some other cards with gold or visit the Barmaid:


The barmaid has a cauldron where you can “store items”. Whenever you put a skill point into your mana, you gain a skill point for your health in the cauldron, and vice versa. Also when you loot items, you’re able to gain runes, experience, experience boosts, gold, artefacts, cards, more skill points and other items in the cauldron, but the price for buying them rises the longer you wait and all items except for skill points are lost when you die. So, it’s kind of a risk-reward-minigame if you may call it like that but it really helps out to balance your character and make the mage a bit less fragile, for instance.

Mini-Boss Jelly-belly Bomb with different stages and minions.

While the game is set in a Paperverse with its pop-up-book-like style and is able to draw you in with its atmospheric soundtrack, it truly sticks out with its session-based exploration system:


I really liked this feature since you sometimes may not have all that much time to go on a quest that lasts for an hour or more. When I play games like League of Legends, for example, I need to plan in the time it takes to find a game, hover your champion, ban a champion, pick those champions, set up your runes and then there’s also the loading screen that may be faster or slower depending on people’s wifi connection and rig, and then you’re in the game and it may last for 20 to maybe even 60 minutes depending on how long people drag it out or how much of a stomp it is. You don’t always have time for that. In Book of Demons, on the other hand, you’ve got the Flexiscope-Tool that allows you to match the size of the dungeon to the time you have. You can choose between “very small”, “small”, “medium”, “big” and “very big” that each takes a different time to explore and to clear. On top of that, the game analyses your playstyle and give you an approximate time it will take you to clear those dungeons – since some people try to play it safer while others are going full-Rambo when it comes to ARPGs.

Next to the approximate time that it will take it also displays you possible loot-possibilities. It shows you an average between the lowest and highest gold you may get, possible items and the progress towards your quest to save the priest. For example, in my newest session, it showed me 25+ rewards (including cards or new cauldron-items) for “big” on top of 22,353 Gold and 10% towards the next boss-enemy. As for the time, this would take me about 41 minutes, based on my playstyle as the mage. While this seems to be a very rewarding session for me, it would also take quite a lot of time, so I get to plan it out more precisely if I still have something to do afterwards. And you’re always able to just quit and come back later if you have something urgent coming up.

The deckbuilder is available in the Dungeon as well but the game doesn’t get paused while you’re in this menu. Time only slows down for enemies that may approach and attack you.

On top of the procedurally generated levels, the session-system and the different classes, Book of Demons presents you with 70 different enemy times (at this point of time) that all have different abilities, attack patterns and loottables. With that you’ve got quite a lot of re-play value. Later you can also go for the Freeplay-Mode to play your favorite quests with higher difficulties and you may as well consider using one of the different modes, such as the Rogue-like-mode where you can’t buy Health-, Mana- or Rejuvenation-potions and have to pay gold to revive in the city. Eventually you’ll run out of recources which makes the game really hard and if you can’t buy the increasing price for revival, your character gets deleted instead. There’s also the daredevil-mode with permanent death for those of you that like the extra thrill in games.Usually you’re revived in town for free and just have to collect your items in the dungeon again which makes it less frustrating, but if you don’t want to go for that easy-going playstyle, the daredevil-mode might be just for you!

To summorize I’d like to say that this game has a lot to offer especially due to its concept and its overall presentation, although it surely has some negatives to it. Usually you’ll have to grind in ARPGs which may seem tedious to most people, especially when you don’t get the drops you needed. This is also the case in Book of Demons where you eventually have to grind gold for card upgrades, card slots, card charges and the cauldron while also farming runes and the like to be able to upgrade your build to the fullest. For that you’ll have to enter the dungeon over and over again which seems repetetive but is actually not that bad since you’re able to use the session-system to manage your time used at the game.

Due to its Early-Access-status there’s always some little bugs that you can find but those get patched so often that you might encounter it today and forget about it tomorrow. With the ranger for example, I had an issue where an enemy was stuck behind a pillar and I couldn’t reach it due to the fact that I’ve got projectiles to shoot, which was quite frustrating, but going back into town and coming back fixed it for me quite easily. Also you’re able to report every bug to the devs at every point of the game via a small tool at the side of your screen which is a nice addition that every Early-Access-Game should have, in my opinion.

I’d recommend this game to every fan of ARPGs and Dungeon-Crawlers since it has a lovely artstyle but still captures the dark nature of games like Grim Dawn and Diablo. It is available on Steam and for the XBOX One!

Anyways, cheers!

Note: While I’ve (or have I?) posted shorter reviews until now, this post has been scheduled for quite some time now and is therefore not going to get changed as I need to compare this one’s reception to the short reviews’ to decide if I’m going for shorter or longer ones in the future. I hope you don’t mind this and if so, it’s too late anyways. Future posts will be fresher (or rather have been? I’m writing from the past!)!

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!