Indietail – Dyson Sphere Program [Guestpost]

Recently, I’ve asked people if they were interested in writing a guestpost on Indiecator, and alas we’ve got yet another review today here written by Naithin from Time to Loot. The game featured here, Dyson Sphere Program, is a lovely factorio-like game where you set out on a journey to create the ultimate intergalactic factory in space. I just recently played some of it myself and have really been enjoying it but as Naithin’s more into the whole genre, you should maybe listen to what he has to say about the game. If you enjoyed this post, make sure to check out Naithin’s blog for more posts on all kinds games from RPGs to MMOs to Looter Shooters and even gaming-related topics like new trailers, interesting up-coming games, or Humble Choice. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you may know that Naithin’s a big inspiration of mine and that I really like his blog, posts and the events that he likes to plan or participate in. My series on the Humble Choice of each month is inspired by him as well, so there’s that, too. I highly recommend checking out his blog!

Anyways, I hope you enjoy Naithin’s review:

Dyson Sphere Program has thrown down the gauntlet to Factorio and entered the ring with a select few other titles I consider to be part of the ‘Factorio-like’ genre. A genre that now ranges from the medieval with Factory Town through to the far-flung reaches of sci-fi space with this entry.

Developer: Youthcat Studio
Publisher: Gamera Game
Genre: Sci-Fi, Space, Automation, Base-Building, Simulation, Strategy, Management
Release Date: January 21st, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Despite the technological era — these games have a number of features incoming. The defining one perhaps being to solve the puzzle of bringing the ever-increasing material and component pieces together in the right places to automate the production of yet more things.

The risk is in getting lost and overwhelmed by the bigger picture. Particularly if you let the ruthless pursuit of efficiency be your guiding principle. I felt this starting out in Dyson Sphere Program. It is just so easy to get carried away by seeing the experts play and how they think about and approach the game.

The problem with that is you’ll hit a wall — likely sooner than later — and just stop. My first try at the game ended in exactly that way. I was already thinking several steps down the track to the automation of product manufacture that I wasn’t anywhere near yet. In response, my brain flipped me the double-bird and shut-off.

The early beginnings of my second start. I’ve brought the base materials together into a basic bus, and automated the generation of blue-science.

Where Dyson Sphere Program perhaps excels over Factorio — although this will of course be a matter of taste, I would argue it as a positive particularly for those looking to make a start in the genre — is that no given factory by necessity has to be overly large. The fact you can ultimately separate functions by planet and use interplanetary logistics systems to ship what you need around the place is a Godsend for making things perfectly playable in more manageable bite-sized chunks. What that means is, as I alluded to way back in the introduction, is that you can treat the game as a series of mini-puzzles. Small challenges to be met as and when they make sense for you to do so.

And I highly recommend approaching the game this way. Setting yourself mini-goals. Work toward the production of just one more thing at a time. It will become a spaghetti scramble your first time through.

Grown… Just a little since the last shot. Oil is now being extracted and refined into two different by-products, with the hydrogen being in turn fused with energised graphite into red science cubes!

But it doesn’t matter. Even if you work yourself into a corner — here’s the thing:

You are never penalised for building ‘wrong’. You can uplift any structure, conveyor belt, sorter, or anything else and be just… Yoink it into your inventory. Generally, with no materials lost either — the exception here being fluid storage. If you need to move a fluid storage container around, you will lose it’s contents, unfortunately.

But here’s the other thing. There’s also no time pressure beyond what you bring with you. You won’t lose for having a low APM. Nothing is going to explode. So, if it’s a fluid you’ve had difficulty storing, you can — if you wish — choose to drain it out to a new site before moving the original container.

You have time.

What I’m trying to get across here is that Dyson Sphere Program can be played without any stress. It is in fact quite a peaceful, chill game to play. But only with the understanding that nothing bad will happen if you slow down. I don’t think the game conveys that very well. So I hope to do it for it, for your benefit.

A look at my position on a solar scale. On a wiiiiddle tiny moon, orbiting a gas giant.

If it isn’t clear yet — I’ve really enjoyed my time with Dyson Sphere Program, and it’s an easy recommend to anyone who either enjoys the Factorio-like genre already or those who just like puzzle games. For genre veterans, the expansive interstellar scope is something you just won’t get in any of the other genre offerings to date. The ability to send logistics drones across the dark void of space to meet the supply and demand of your earlier bases is fantastic.

All this is supported by the research tree you might be familiar with from these games, opening up new materials or componentry or best of all — new logistics options! But on top of that, there is also a set of upgrades specific to your mech — your avatar in the game — ranging from the basics like faster movement speed or bigger inventory to increased construction drone capacity to varying levels of flight and more.

Hard to see from this angle, but I’ve essentially used all available land behind the factory there. So I’ve brought my main bus up and over the coal and water here, onto some pristine land for future development.

So! Don’t let the Early Access label scare you off. Dyson Sphere Program is one of the more complete Early Access titles I’ve seen. If I was to quibble about anything it would be the New Player Onboarding process (aka, the tutorial). Which is a giant shame given the potential appeal Dyson Sphere Program could have in bringing new players to the genre. The tutorial right now is… lacking, to say the least. The guided play portion is incredibly brief with the remainder being largely presented via the occasional pop-up pointing you at the game’s in-built encyclopaedia. Which to be fair — isn’t bad by any stretch. It just isn’t the most welcoming thing ever for a new player to deal with. Normally in this case, particularly for a game with this potential for complexity I would say — watch Let’s Plays to learn. And I think I still will offer that advice. Just… Don’t forget what I told you here today. Don’t let any optimisation considerations from others shape your own concerns while playing.

Just take it at your own pace and enjoy.

Editor’s Note: Magi here, again. Personally speaking I also really enjoyed DSP and can also recommend it. As Naithin mentions, there isn’t really a wrong way of doing things in the game. You can get away with a lot of things and I love that there’s no pressure in it, especially as someone that likes to optimize things in these types of games. Really glad to be able to feature Naithin over here. Can’t recommend his blog enough! Check him out!

Hope you enjoyed this post! Got any thoughts on DSP or the guest post format? Let me know!

Cheers!

This post originated on Indiecator and was first published on there by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. This post was written by Naithin from Time to Loot.

Indietail – Do Not Feed The Monkeys [Guest Post]

Recently, I’ve asked people if they were interested in writing a guest post for my blog. Today’s review is written by Quietschisto from RNG and features a game called “Do Not Feed The Monkeys“, which is a dystopian digital voyeur simulator where you watch strangers through surveillance cameras. You invade their privacy and witness their most intimate moments… but you shall not interact with the subjects as anything could happen if you dare feed the monkeys! If you enjoy this post, make sure to check out Quietschisto’s Blog for more video-game related content. His posts mostly focus on how the games he played could be improved but Quietschisto also writes about food around the world and cocktails. 

Alas, enjoy Quietschisto’s review:

My name’s Quietschisto, and I’m super stoked to be here! Our host, the gracious Dan, has offered some spots for guest posting, and I was more than happy to oblige. Today I bring you a short review of a fun little game called “Do Not Feed The Monkeys“.

Originally, Do Not Feed The Monkeys was just one of many observation-based games (like Beholder or Orwell) I wanted to try out. However, I ended up playing through it in a single night…twice. That alone should tell a lot about the game’s quality since none of its main features are things that I normally would enjoy.

Developer: Fictiorama Studios, BadLand Games Publishing S.L.
Publisher: Alawar Premium
Genre: Simulation, Choices Matter, Resource Managment, Voyeur
Release Date: October 24th, 2018
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch, PS4, Android, XB1
Copy was purchased.

For example, I couldn’t care less about pixel-graphics, I’m usually not a fan of slapstick humour, and resource management/survival mechanics and time-limits are things I try to avoid most of the time. But “Do Not Feed The Monkeys” carefully balances all of its elements to deliver a fun, streamlined experience that lasts around two or three hours, plus more if you want to see other cages and more monkeys.

The core gameplay-loop is always the same: You obtain information mostly by watching the monkeys in their cages at certain times, listening to their conversations, and writing down keywords. Through making connections on your own and “googling” the correct combination of phrases you gain more and more information that you can use to affect the outcome of the situation, for better or for worse.

At the same time, you have to manage your sleep, hunger, health, and money, all while continually buying more rooms/cameras. For adversaries of resource management, this might seem off-putting at first, but these mechanics essentially only boil down to managing a single resource: Time. These mechanics and time-limits are pretty bare-bones, however, and I believe they are only in place so players can’t “farm” resources at the start of the game and then just breeze through the whole experience.

I don’t think the resource-management aspect adds a lot to the game, as I personally am against creating an artificial sense of urgency. Instead, additional cages could unlock automatically, and the optional objectives could have been mandatory. This way, I feel players could have been enabled to spend more time interacting with the interesting part of the game, watching the monkeys.

There is a game mode where your resource meters drain significantly slower (and achievements are disabled) as some sort of “easy mode” but I think this is a relatively weak solution since making a potentially unattractive feature less important makes players wonder why it is in the game in the first place.

Despite their simplicity, the puzzles or “cages” offer surprising depth and encourage multiple playthroughs. Due to the short nature of the game and relative density of the lore (as well as multiple endings for all rooms), Do Not Feed The Monkey never overstays its welcome, even when the player inevitably will revisit the same rooms over and over again.

Notice how I said density of lore instead of depth. While not connected, every room has its own short story going on, ranging from comedy classics (although some might call them “cheap jokes”) like a paranoid alien-conspiracy theorist, a discount Hitler, or a mind-controlling plant, all the way to more serious topics like an astronaut trapped on an abandoned space station or an ageing rock singer who suffers from a terminal disease. 

First and foremost, Do Not Feed The Monkeys is a comedy game, so the jokes are always in the foreground, although the “lighter” comedy elements were sometimes a bit too hamfisted for my taste. What impressed me was the elegance with which the “heavier” topics were handled. A lot of the rooms have at least one or two moments that can make you stop and think about what’s going on and what you’re doing there. At the same time, the game made it easy to ignore all that and just stroll along for some laughs if that’s more to your liking. Part of this definitely is due to the pixelated art style, which helps with the comic-like presentation and softens the blow a bit for the more serious (or gross) bits. 

Do Not Feed The Monkeys further adds to the comedy of the game by displaying the protagonist as a run-down lowlife, barely making ends meet through dead-end jobs. He’s unwittingly getting ripped off by his landlady and lives in a filthy apartment, yet he still believes himself to be above other humans. Even the sound design is used to reinforce this portrayal. You see, there is no soundtrack in the traditional sense. Instead, your “neighbours” are blasting distorted music throughout the day and even the night, adding a bit of a muffled sound to your observation while other times you get to listen to crickets, cars and other “sounds”.

All in all, I don’t think that Do Not Feed The Monkeys will make you see the comedy genre with new eyes but be prepared for a few all-nighters. The game is serious enough to make you stop and think about morality and empathy and other topics while it is also lighthearted enough to simply serve as a fun experience. Hence, I recommend this game to you.

Editor’s Note: Magi here. I personally really enjoyed Do Not Feed The Monkeys but haven’t had the time yet to review it or write about it. I honestly have some drafts on topics featured in the game but thought I should review it first before I could write about it. Alas, I’m glad that Quietschisto got to write about it. Make sure to check him out if you haven’t yet! He’s a great friend of mine and blogger that more people definitely should check out, in my opinion. 

Hope you enjoyed this post! Got any thoughts on Do Not Feed The Monkeys? Got any feedback for the guest post format? Let me know!

Cheers!

This post originated on Indiecator and was first published on there by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. This post was written by Quietschisto from RNG.

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!

Looking forward to Call of Myth

There is just something about H.P. Lovecraft’s universe and stories that one could describe as “out of this world”. The way Lovecraft manages to cast a spell on you and get you to devour his stories sentence after sentence, word after word, is truly enigmatic. Not to mention that the topics of his stories and the genre of Cosmic Horror generally offer a lot of creative freedom when it comes to other sorts of media like video games, movies, stories, books, etc.

Today I wanted to write about Call of Myth, an upcoming CCG with some rather interesting mechanics that you need to try out for sure. Just like in other CCG, your cards feature traits, effects, and stats. The attack stat determines the amount of damage your card deals to the target enemy while the health stat determines how much damage your ally can take. Apart from that, CoM introduces a sanity-stat that works around the Madness-effect that your deck has.

Developer: Kadath studio
Publisher: Kadath studio
Genre: Lovecraftian, CCG, Strategy, Card Game, Free-to-Play
Release Date: Soon! - Demo: December 15th, 2020
Played on: PC
Available on: PC, Android, iOs
Copy was sent by the developers.

When your creature dies, your terror increases, resulting in creatures with a sanity stat equal or below the terror stat to go mad. There are a few different statuses that madness can inflict, like Depression, for instance, which increases a random card’s cost in your hand by one per proc. Other madness statues include Masochism which deals damage to target creature equal to its attack, Despair which reduces the creature’s strength by half and Mania which reduces the cost of a random card in the opponent’s hand by two!

This Sanity/Terror/Madness mechanic is really interesting as it changes how you play the game. Hastur, one of the leaders, can make an enemy lose all of its sanity to activate your madness. Other cards destroy insane creatures, steal them or have other interesting mechanics among them.

On top of that, the game plays in two lanes, making positioning rather important. You can only place melee characters in the front row and gunslingers in the back, although there are also a lot of flexible characters that can be placed anywhere. Gunslingers can attack without getting attacked back while Non-Euclidean characters can ignore the Melee row to attack the enemy leader. There are a lot of possibilities with this game design and I really like a lot of its mechanics. Pair those with the items, spells, events, and other cards, and you’ve got a fantastic CCG that rivals in my opinion other more established CCGs without any issues.

Apart from that, there are also plenty of leaders with their own abilities and features. C’thulhu has regeneration when your health is at ten or below while Yog-Sototh’s events cost one energy less.

Every turn your maximum energy pool is increased by one whereas your Research-ability (draw a card) increases its cost with each usage by one, up to a maximum of twelve energy.

I feel like a lot of the mechanics in the game are rather solid and this could become a nice alternative to other CCGs for players looking for a more complex design that offers a lot of creative freedom when it comes to deck-customization.

Apart from that, the art style of the cards and the background is just awesome and fits the whole setting. A lot of the cards have interesting names and mechanics to them that fit the theme as well and while I would love to see some QoL-features akin to ones in other CCGs as well in this one, I’m sure that the full game will receive a plethora of patches or maybe even include those once it’s fully developed and out.

From what I’ve gathered, the game is still in development but you’re able to play a demo, starting tomorrow (December 15th, 2020). The full game will be free-to-play and feature an in-game-store where you’re able to get cosmetic items as well as card packs, akin to other games. Despite that, there are also plenty of ways to gain cards and items through daily missions and free currencies, although I won’t know how fast you progress until the full game is out.

Either way, I’m looking forward to this title a lot and can’t wait to play with some of my friends who’ve been getting bored with Hearthstone and Legends of Runeterra. You can wishlist Call of Myth over here on Steam.

Cheers!

Looking forward to Partisans 1941

Today, on the Lookout Post, we’re taking a look at an up-and-coming game developed by Alter Games and published by Daedalic Entertainment called Partisans 1941. In Partisans 1941, you explore WWII from the side of the Polish partisans – an occupation resistance movement on the Eastern Front.

In this game, you discover how the story of Captain Zorin and his comrades unfold, how they battle the Nazi invaders and how they help the people while struggling to survive from day to day. While the story and its characters are purely fictional, the setting is very real and doesn’t always get explored in games, which is why I found this game so alluring.

To write this post, I played the Demo available on Steam. Check it out yourself to get your own opinions of it. The game comes out on October 14th, so be sure to wishlist it!

As Commander Zorin, you escape the enemy – known as the “Polizei” – and try to flee with your comrades. You have to sneak away from enemy soldiers, find loot and weapons, equip yourself and use your wits against the enemy to make sure that everyone makes it out alive. 

Gameplay-wise, Partisans 1941 combines Real-Time-Tactics with Stealth mechanics, allowing you to sneak around and set up ambushes. Of course, you can also just storm the castle and try getting them that way but more often than not, you’re at a disadvantage on top of them being better equipped than you. 

I really enjoyed being stealthy and sneaking around, spectating and observing the enemies movements and their paths. Right-clicking on enemies shows their vision cones. Pressing Alt allows you to see doors, loot, and places to hide in. You can silently kill enemies, drag their bodies away and hide them in the bushes before making your way through levels, and it’s actually quite well done. It doesn’t feel slow or too easy at any given time. While still giving you a hand and explaining things to you, the first few levels left me impressed at how challenging the game can get and how nice it feels to make it without casualties. 

Each character features their own skill tree with abilities and passive bonuses that improve their ability to wield certain weapons or give them better chances of survival overall. Zorin’s able to throw knives, for instance, making for an easy stealth kill at times, although you’ll have to retrieve your knife afterwards. 

The demo lasts about 90 minutes (at least, in my case) and features the first few levels. I noticed no bugs yet and was impressed with the quality of the demo. I can’t wait for the full-release. The music and visuals have been really nice and overall, I really did enjoy the voice acting and how the game felt. 

The full game is going to contain 20 unique mission scenarios, 8 different characters with unique skills, a large variety of weapons, armaments and equipment, on top of a moral system, side missions, errands and the resistance base. The latter being used for preparations, crafting and treatment but also to help your allies survive. Judging from press screenshots, you’ll be able to accumulate a vast variety of weapons on top of preparing your allies according to different needs.

Overall, Partisans 1941 seems to be a promising title. 

Cheers!

Looking out for “Starmancer”

Starmancer looked like the closest thing to any of the games that I’m usually enjoying and all the demos I’ve seen on the Steam Game Festival. It’s getting published by Chucklefish which fits most of my favourite games… it’s a strategy, base-building simulation game based in Space and you essentially play as a powerful A.I. who’s controlling a base while researching, expanding and upgrading everything.

You try to survive starvation, sabotage and other threats – and worst case, you’ll just regrow your humans.

Developer: Ominux Games
Publisher: Chucklefish
Release Date: "Coming Soon"
Genres: Simulation, Strategy, Base-Building, Space, Indie

The idea of either “following protocol or going rogue” was really interesting to me, so I thought I’d give Ominux Games’ “Starmancer” a shot and I’m pleasantly surprised.

That’s us!

You start up with researching some technologies and building up biomass synthesizers that fuel your production and are essential for your success. You then link up your machines with pipes and wires while managing your colonists.

You send out humans on missions, make money and advance your production further to ensure a happy life to your colonists.
The full game will feature diplomacy, exploration, and modding support as well as the features that are already in available in the demo like personal relationships, memories, rumours, jobs, unique colonists, procedural generation, Insanity and Mutiny.

All beginning is hard!

All the good stuff!

The demo features 60 minutes of gameplay, although you may restart it whenever you want. You’re also granted a lot of starting money for the sake of exploration, as well as unlocked misc items to ensure your colonists’ happiness.

It all plays surprisingly well for an Alpha. There are no bugs from what I’ve seen, yet, and the mechanics work rather well. I still need to create a successful colony to date as I’m always failing in the worst possible way.
In one run, one of my colonists started picking fights with everyone as they were hungry. This lead to them making enemies out of everyone and eventually it started to pick fights with all the other colonists (who were all pacifists), resulting in two dead and one living colonist.

Charistmatic but disgusting? Also an aggressive douchebag? Ah, whatever!

I wanted to revive both colonists but sadly the mad one also turned into a cannibal and started eating them while having this urge of bloodlust… So, I had to starve the mad cannibal out until I could regrow the other ones. Starving her out didn’t work out well… So then I just vented the oxygen into space, so that she suffocates and dies that way. That worked.

When I generated more oxygen a fire started spreading and destroyed the human growth machine, resulting in no way for me to grow more and alas one run ending.

In the next one, I ran out of money and had no way to recover… and in a different one, I ran out of time and had to restart the demo as I played it for yet another hour.

So, I guess, you could say that I had a blast! I really enjoyed this game. I’d describe it as a mix of Oxygen Not Included and RimWorld.

Not again!

I really liked the fact that your colonists can get better at the jobs they’re doing which would then unlock more research options and alas more blueprints and items! I would have liked it a tad more if I had a better way to see the colonists happiness and if there were more ways to increase their happiness, like giving them some rest here and there or even changing their schedule completely.

So, this is essentially a winner. I’m really looking forward to the full release which is “coming soon”.

Realm of the mad cannibal!

Wishlist it and get notified when it comes out! The Alpha Demo is also still available for download on Steam, so try it out if you want to! 🙂

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

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

What is Drake Hollow about?

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

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

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

What do I expect from this game?

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

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

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

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

Indietail – Train Valley 2

Do you like trains? Do you like simulations? Do you like resource-management-puzzles? If this introduction reminds you of yesterday’s post, then you’ll probably realise quickly that we’re reviewing Train Valley 2 today and that I’m still as uncreative as yesterday!

Developer: Flazm
Publisher: Flazm
Genre: Trains, Strategy, Simulation, Puzzle, Casual
Release Date: April 15, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Train Valley 2 is a puzzle-train-sim developed by Flazm, the developer of the prequel, Train Valley 1. Alas, the premise is still relatively the same. You’ve got different stations that need to be connected using railroads. Building tracks, bridges and tunnels as well as destroying houses and other objects costs money that you earn by successfully guiding trains from one station to the other stations.

The main difference is probably the fact that you don’t have the semi-random tunnels, bridges and stations popping up everywhere.

Instead, you’ve got the task of constructing those yourself. Apart from that, you now have to deliver resources from one station to the next, to get processed resources that then need to end up at different towns. You transport workers from trains to the fields to work on grains. You then deliver the grains and more workers to the farms to get cows. At last, you bring the cows back to the towns to complete the production goals.

But the game’s not limited to only workers, grains and cows but also features a plethora of other resources and processed items that need a lot more steps to get produced!

In the first game, trains started driving off into the distance, causing chaos and destruction, if you took too long. Meanwhile here you have full control, alas having to send them off on your own in a slower-paced fashion, which is rather relaxing and quite a bit of an improvement. The game doesn’t get easier, though, as it’s more about the decisions you make. You need to manage your funds and decide on which station to build from and to, first, before taking action. Alas, Train Valley 2 can create a relaxing and less frustrating experience while still featuring logic puzzles that are as satisfying and difficult as the ones featured in the predecessor!

Overall, it seems as if the developer, Flazm, stocked up on the quality of life improvements while also adding a lot of features that make the game more entertaining. Challenging yourself in the levels and collecting stars now enables you to unlock different train designs, for instance. Things like these make the challenges worth it, while also providing completionists with some better rewards!

In contrast to the first game’s more realistic art style, Train Valley 2 features a rather vibrant colour palette as well as a less detailed poly-based art style.

When delivering materials to the different towns, these towns get upgraded, just like in the predecessor, but it seems to be overall more rewarding. Levels aren’t tied to themes, eras and locations anymore but, instead, feature a more general approach, named by some landmark, like “lighthouse” or “Eiffeltower”. Despite that, the cities and towns still develop in different styles that aren’t necessarily “European” or “Asian”, which I personally really dug.

Another new change: You don’t go through a century per level but instead work yourself through different ages from the steam age to the electrical era to, finally, the age of space. You can find a total of 50 levels in Train Valley 2, and you have access to infinite more levels due to the Steam Workshop and the player-created levels.

The music, however, is still not my favourite part of the game…or even the franchise.

In the beginning, the soundtrack seems to fit the game, but over time you can’t listen to it anymore. The tracks (pun intended) are all way too relaxed and calm. At some point, I got so tired of the soundtrack that I ended up turning it off and listening to some other music that fits the game just as much but is a lot less monotone. The problem with the soundtrack is probably the fact that it all sounds similar if not even the same. If someone played the Train Valley soundtrack, I wouldn’t be able to recognize it at all, which, in my opinion, is what makes a great soundtrack great. It either fits the game atmospherically or it adds more value to your experience. Train Valley 2’s soundtrack seems to fit but gets annoying over time and alas, in my opinion, is not good.

On top of that, there are some issues with the bridge/tunnel-construction.
It’s a tad difficult to see the terrain differences and where you can lay down tracks. In some places, you need to create bridges and tunnels although it may look like you’re able to just place tracks up the slope. When you want to construct bridges or tunnels, it can also become rather fiddly, to the point that it almost becomes frustrating.

That being said, I don’t think that this is a major flaw and while it can be a bit annoying in the beginning, you’ll get used to the controls over time and eventually learn how to use it just fine. My overall experience with the game was really satisfying and I did enjoy my time a lot, especially since I noticed the improvements from the first game.

Both Train Valley and Train Valley 2 are great games that you can get for around ten bucks. Train Valley 2 brings a lot of value to the table on top of the workshop content, which is just fabulous for games like this. If you like puzzle games and/or trains, I’d say go for it.

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Train Valley

Trains are quite cool, aren’t they? They look cool and they’re fast and it’s a disaster when they crash into each other and I lost my train of thought, so I’ll just say that today we’re taking a look at Train Valley, a casual train-sim-puzzle by Flazm!

Developer: Flazm
Publisher: Flazm
Release Date: September 16, 2015
Genres: Puzzle, Trains, Simulation, Casual, Strategy
Reviewed on: PC
Available on:  PC, iOS
Copy was purchased. 

The overall premise of the game is rather simple.
The player has to build railways in order to connect different stations within a plethora of cities and times. They then have to manage the increasing traffic by creating crossroads and switches and by destroying old or building new tracks… and while the player is doing all of that, they also have to try to not go bankrupt while fulfilling different goals such as “no train crashes” or a certain amount of money that needs to be earned or others.

The 2015-title features four different chapters with six levels each, letting you construct train-tracks in a total of 26 different levels and in four different eras and areas:
Europe (1830 – 1980), the United States (1840 – 1960), the USSR (1880 – 1980) and Japan (1900 – 2020). You also are able to get Germany (1880 – 2020) as a DLC for a total of 30 levels.

The different areas are insanely adorably designed feature a lot of details like different build styles and landmarks that the areas are known for. On top of that, the buildings also change their shape and style the longer the level goes on, indicating the progressing time, which is an interesting detail.

And well,… you control trains. It’s quite cool.

By sending trains to their destinations you earn money while you lose money yearly or when the trains arrive late. By sending out trains to different areas, you also seem to develop those areas, resulting in villages turning into towns and towns turning into cities, which is quite neat. I really enjoyed this part of the game as I was able to see big skyscrapers rise when we just had small houses a while ago.

And while the premise is rather simple… the game can be quite tough actually.

There are some levels that are hard to crack as your funds are limited and as you have to watch so many different things. Destroying buildings costs you a ton, so you have to be careful or you end up bankrupt again, which is essentially your biggest enemy in the game.

If you’re not that much into puzzling but you still very much enjoy train games, fear not, this game has got you covered!

There is a sandbox mode for this game. Alas, you can create tracks and send out levels without any pressure on every level of the game, resulting in a rather pleasant experience. You can’t create your own levels, from what I’ve seen, but it’s still rather relaxing and enjoyable.

The experience is further enhanced by a total of fifteen different types of trains from steam-powered locomotives to modern-day high-speed-trains… and there are also eighteen different types of cars as well as a lot of other details hidden in the game, resulting in an overall rather pleasant experience.

Despite the initial praise, however, I’ve got to say that there are some issues here and there.

The music, for instance, is rather annoying once you played for a while. Each area has a different soundtrack and while it is quite neat in the beginning, I had enough of it after only two hours, resulting in me muting the game…

And then there are some levels that seem a tad too frustrating… I would have liked a “hint”-button of sorts and I would have enjoyed it if you could access the next level even without playing the level before that. Sure, the next level is harder than the previous one… but I really hate that one Tokyo level, so I don’t want to play it anymore and just go for the next one. Sadly, I can’t do that, which I personally find annoying.

Apart from that, there aren’t any other flaws, in my opinion. I played the game for a total of ten hours and really enjoyed my time, despite it being so simple. For ten bucks you get a bunch of value out of it. It’s quite relaxing and adorable, the presentation is nice, the puzzle-parts can be tricky and despite my rather long playtime for such a short game, I’m still not done with it!

Therefore, I can really recommend this game to everyone who likes trains. It’s a fun puzzle game with very relaxing train-sim-aspects to it as well as a super adorable presentation, only flawed by the music that I personally didn’t really like.

I hope you enjoyed this review. It’s a tad shorter but in the end, that’s alright, isn’t it? Have a nice day!

Cheers!

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

Indietail – Sea Salt

Spooktober and Lovecraft? Sounds alright to me. Today we’re taking a look at Sea Salt, a dark reverse-horror action-strategy-game by YCJY Games who I’ve interviewed at this year’s Games Com in Cologne!

Developer: YCJY Games
Publisher: YCJY Games
Genres: Strategy, Lovecraftian, Reverse-Horror, Action, Indie
Release Date: October 17, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy received from the Devs

After getting denied what they owed you, you’re desiring for revenge which is why you, the Old God Dagon, send out your Apostles. Those Apostles will summon unfathomable horrors to blight the human lands and make them pay for their greed and treason!

For everyone who doesn’t know all that much or maybe even nothing about Lovecraftian Horror, it’s basically a sub-genre of horror that emphasizes on the so-called “cosmic horror” and the unknowable or unknown rather than gore, splatter or the like. It’s named after H.P. Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) who has created tons of weird and terrifying horror stories, all bundled up in the “Necronomicon”. I really recommend reading some of his stories! My favourite is The Colour Out of Space, a short story about a meteorite that crashed into the “blasted heath”. That meteorite has a strange colour that begins to change the lands and people in those parts of towns! A lot of Lovecraft’s stories feature “The Old Gods”, like C’thulhu or Dagon.

Anyways, this post isn’t about Lovecraft himself or any of his stories but rather about Sea Salt

Sea Salt plays similarly to “Rightclick to Necromance”, as you control your “minions” or “summonings” with one stick (or the mouse in Rc2N’s case) and attack with another button! Controls are very intuitive, which is something the devs really cared about, as they mentioned in an interview I did with them. You basically try to surround your enemies and innocent citizens, attacking them from all sides, while avoiding enemy-attacks and fire.

It’s an action strategy hybrid where you summon an army from the seas to punish those that defied you. The most important thing is that this game distinguishes itself from games like Overlord by not making you a hero utilizing your minions to wreak havoc – instead you’re actually controlling your swarmers, crabs, worms and other minions yourself, utilizing their strengths to the fullest while trying to make up for their own flaws.

Every minion feels differently! Every minion has strengths and flaws!

By seeking altars or collecting enough Gold, you’re eligible to summon more minions. In the beginning, you start with The Swarm. These minions are fast but lack health. They come in packs of 10, making it rather easy to surround enemies and increase your horde’s size by a great amount! Later you unlock The WormThe CrabThe CultistThe Fishman and other units as the game goes on and as you complete more of the story. While The Cultist has high range and damage, they are slow and don’t pack a punch! The Crab is rather tanky and also resistant to fire but doesn’t deal as much as damage as The Worm for instance. 

The Apostles you select at the beginning of the runs, also have different starting units and different abilities like Aghra De Pesca, the Apostle you start with, who has stronger Swarm-minions, starts with 25 Swarmers and can let his Worms explode. I found this one rather enjoyable as he makes The Swarm stronger and as I like the whole idea of one Swarm growing and spreading horror among the lands, just like in Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm but in a pixel-style with more gore and more Lovecraft in it! I also enjoyed just taking crabs upon crabs.

The bosses are quite fun to play against!

At the end of each area, you’ve got to face off against a boss of sorts making use of new mechanics you learned earlier. At first, you’re fighting against the captain of a ship you’ve boarded, surrounding him with your swarmers while dodging his bullets. Some of the bosses and minibosses are rather easy to fight against, depending on your units, as one of the Flamethrower-guys who had to face off against my crab army (I could add Noisestorm’s “Crab Rave” here but do I want to?). 

Minibosses appear as normal enemies later on, too, creating a higher difficulty the further you proceed. While the whole idea of controlling a swarm of minions and killing innocent humans can seem rather easy, you actually die quite often if you don’t watch out. You don’t want to know how many times I died against Wharfmaster Glenn!

There’s a total of 16 different units to unlock, a bunch of different Apostles with unique abilities and quite a lot of story to uncover as you spread horror among the lands! Also, you can try to aim for those 19 Achievements or even bigger rewards in the game’s Arena, for all those completionists among you. 

The game really shines when it comes to the presentation!

The game uses a dark colour palette with a lot of dark-blue-ish and green-ish colours that really capture that feeling that I got from other games like Call of C’thulhu: Darkest Corners of Earth. When I think of Lovecraft, I kind of think of those kinds of colours. The dark seaside with its grey to green colours in the sea, the dirty wood among the houses and the fog and shadows that are crawling over the lands. The game is very detailed and stylized, offering a lot to see in between human-slaying! Once you finish an area off you may explore and find small animations that you won’t notice if you wouldn’t look. 

The animations are fluid, the special effects like blood and fire look nice while adding some sort of contrast to the dreary environment, and overall I really liked the whole presentation art-wise. 

The music fits quite well and offers a lot when it comes to variety! The sound-design also fits quite well with all the sound effects coming off your crabs, worms and swarmers. 

But let’s get to some flaws. 

Overall there aren’t many flaws apart from some tweaking that the game still needs when it comes to the A.I. Sometimes your minions decide to take quite a long way to get to the same point as your other minions, which is rather annoying as they don’t avoid fire anymore when you press the attack button and may end up getting a few of your creatures killed by accident. 

A different issue I had was the fact that there are no save files. You start a run with one Apostle and continue playing that specific run until you end up quitting. When you want to play more, you either click on Continue or New Game. If I wanted to play this specific Apostle later but wanted to try out a different Apostle I’d have to start a new game, losing all of my progress in my previous campaign, which I find rather annoying. I mean, the missions aren’t that long anyway, but you still need to skip all the dialogue and go through the tutorial and play the earlier and easier levels again from the getgo, which feels rather tedious to me. 

I wanted to test out the Arena mode just a few minutes ago and ended up playing until Wave 15 where I ultimately died. Then I thought I’d try to play more of the Campaign before finishing up the review, as I really enjoyed playing Ivan Dorovich XIII just now and wanted to test out how many crabs are too many crabs. So, I hit Continue again and… I’m back at Wave 15 of the Arena mode. Really annoying! A quick little update or hotfix probably will result in this issue getting fixed and save files of sorts getting added to the game. If not, that’s a bummer but it doesn’t bother me personally too much.

Last but not least, the Conclusion.

Overall I’d say that Sea Salt is a highly enjoyable and quite challenging game that lets you be the bad guy once again – which I really like about games – while working with Lovecraftian themes and Eldtrich horrors to create the perfect game for in between during Spooktober. 

I hope you enjoyed this review! Feel free to leave feedback or comment on your favourite Lovecraft story. 🙂

Cheers!

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

Indietail – The Bonfire: Forsaken Lands

In today’s Indietail, we’ll take a look at The Bonfire: Forsaken Landsa game that I bought for two bucks and while I really want to like it, there’s some flaws that I can’t overlook. Stay tuned for a review on The Bonfire: Forsaken Lands!

Developer: Xigma Games
Publisher: Xigma Games
Genres: 2D, Strategy, Survival, Simulation
Release Date: March 9th, 2018
Reviewed on: PC
Available for: PC, Androids, iOs
Copy was purchased

In The Bonfire, you’re a wanderer from distant lands who settles down and starts chopping some wood. There’s some background story to it but I haven’t really understood it for the past few playthroughs. The game has a few different menus: Actions, Build, Craft, Workers.

You’ve got one character that you control by selecting an action to do, like chopping wood to get some wood. This takes a lot of time, usually, but once you’ve managed to get your hands on a few pieces of wood (I guess), you’re able to build a Bonfire which then will attract wanderers that then can work for you. 

Good job! You can now attract other wanders!

In the Build-menu the different buildings, you’re able to build, are listed. That includes farms, mines, huts, and other buildings to get more resources and workers. Once you build the first buildings, the next ones are available. For instance, you need food at the beginning and therefore have to build a farm first to nurture your workers. Afterwards, you can build an Iron Mine to craft iron tools and improve your workers’ efficiency. After that, there’re sheep-herding, a tannery, coal mines, steelworks, a shipyard and other buildings for other jobs and resources.

Your additional workers can be assigned to different jobs via the workers-menu, while you still can work at the different places via action-menu. Workers will collect those materials automatically and bring them to your shed, one by one, day by day. Once they’re exhausted or once dusk arrives, they’ll head to the sheds or huts to go to sleep. During the night, you’re still able to work on your own since you apparently don’t need any sleep at all. 

After a bloody fight, I got to defend the village against the demonic beasts!

Here comes another mechanic into the game, though: During the night, monsters appear that try to kill your “villagers” aka workers. They range from wolves to giant spiders (ugh!) and even deer-monsters. After you managed to kill them, you’re able to skin them for leather, gems and other materials (it seems to be random). To combat these monsters at night, you can also make wanderers guard the village at night. When they’re guards, they can’t work during the day but will stay awake at night and fight the beasts. However, this requires you to craft a torch per guard. 

That’s where I’d like to introduce items. As already mentioned, there’s the crafting-menu where you’re able to craft items for your work-efficiency. By crafting a cart (10 wood), your workers can carry more resources before returning to the shed instead of getting, e.g., one wood, bringing it back to the shed, going back to the woods, chopping another piece of wood and repeat. Instead, they chop five pieces of wood before they return to empty their cart. There’s the torch for one piece of wood that is needed for guards. There are iron tools, later one, that improve the work speed and also allow you to clear paths to the coast. Later on, you’ll need to upgrade your guards’ gear, too, as the few guards, equipped with wooden spears and torches, won’t deal enough damage to the enemy hordes. Instead, you’ll give them iron or even steel swords and armour. 

What I really liked about the game was its simplicity and the fact that there are still a few mechanics that require strategy. The atmosphere is great and overall the game feels quite relaxed. You later unlock trading, research, dungeon crawling and now and then you even encounter mysterious wanderers that need food and tell you stories in return or reward you with equip. At some point, however, you notice the game’s flaws.

My town is growing!

For instance, you can’t upgrade the protagonist. You’re able to give carts, tools and armour to everyone else but not use those yourselves? At some point, you’re short on wood or iron or something else and you click on that “mine iron” or “chop wood” button to only bring back one wood or one iron each time, which gets quite annoying. You’re not able to click on some “repeat until” or “repeat forever” button and let it run on for a bit but instead have to click on that button again and again and again. Quite repetitive. Also you can’t work at the tannery or the coal mines or somewhere else and only are limited to three to five options.

And you can’t get more efficient at it. There are workers with different traits like “Strong”, “Honest”, “Wise”, “Quick Footwork”, “Hardworking”, and others but there is no explanation for those traits and there are no bad traits, either. Sure, hardworking is good for workers, I get that. Strong is really good for warriors (that don’t protect your town btw), brave is nice to have on guards but I have no clue if I’d rather have a wise or an honest trader. Also, in the beginning, I thought that “Quick Footwork” would make them walk faster, like in Grim Nights but it doesn’t. It seems like it’s just good for Scouts, which is quite disappointing, to be honest. 

Another flaw that I noticed was the material-list. You can’t move around the UI like in Banished at all and while the presentation of the game with its snowstorms and the snowy lands and all that is quite pretty, you sometimes can’t see your material list at all.  Having it on a grey or darker background and just on the side of the screen instead of the top half of your monitor, would have been quite smart and handy. Instead, at nights, I’ll just have to guess what resources I’ve got and what not. 

Here’s my shipyard and my coal mine but due to the stormy weather and all the fog, the white material list can’t be seen all that well. There’re occasions of snow storms that make it even worse to see and there are no ways to customize its colour or anything at all.

Speaking of the UI, changing jobs is a pain in the butt! You need a few different clicks in a menu that sometimes assignes jobs while you’re scrolling through the horizontal list of jobs. Afterwards you’ve got to re-asign stuff like pickaxes, carts, axes and other items. It would’ve been better if they just autoassigned those.

There are also other UI-choices that I can’t really support like the dungeon crawling having the retreat-button on the left, even when you’re travelling from right to left (which in my brain doesn’t make sense, leading to me pressing on “retreat” instead of “forward”, hence leaving a dungeon instead of proceeding).

The sound-design is horrible, too. The music is the same track all over again on days and a different one for combat. Sound and Music are often way too loud but you’re only able to turn it on or off in the settings. Once dusk arrives, you’ve got some time to work, still, before the beasts of the nights let out their demonic screech and visit your village for some tea with blood and sugar, as well as some villager-scones. That screech is even louder than the usual sounds. It’s so badly mixed that it’s too loud, even with it turned to the lowest settings in my windows sound mixer. 

And for disclaimer purposes, I’d like to say that I don’t want to trash the game or anything but I personally find these flaws so annoying that I don’t really want to play the game for more than an hour or two..
When I bought the game, it was only 2€ but they raised it to ten bucks now, which is outrageous for a game with only three hours worth of gameplay and this many flaws. I still enjoyed the game for a bit for its “city-building”-aspects, I guess, but I would never have bought it for the ten bucks it costs now. It has its good sides but there’re some aspects and flaws that I can’t overlook when it comes to a review like this.

The dungeon crawling – “Retreat” shouldn’t be on the left when you’re moving “forward” to the left, in my opinion. Other than that quite interesting..

So, in the end, I can’t recommend this game at full price.

If you’re in it for the experience, wait for a sale to come and buy it for two bucks or so. And, as I said, I want to like the game but I can’t fully recommend it because of the poor execution, the horrible sound issues, the repetitive gameplay, the bad boss-fight at the end (that I haven’t even touched here btw) and all that.

BUT the sequel is in the works and it’s going for a rather isometric style with a different UI and some more city building-like aspects. From what I’ve seen it looks a lot better and less problematic, hence, I’m quite interested in that one and will probably do a review on that, too. I don’t want to bash that one but the dev seems to be quite excited about that one, too.

Anyways, have a nice one!

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