Gaming

Everything related to gaming – both the video game and board game stuff.

Indie Essentials 5: Dead Cells!

Indie Essentials 5: Dead Cells!

It’s Thursday, and that means it’s time for another Indie Essentials!

Dead Cells is an Early Access metroidvania game with Souls-lite combat, created and published by the French studio, Motion Twin. I can already tell that this is a game that’s going to devour my time, and I couldn’t be happier! It’s got a beautiful pixel-graphics style with modern graphics effects on top. The soundtrack is neat, but that and the graphics both take a back seat to the combat – it’s absolutely spot on, and super satisfying! The game advocates playing with a controller (as you can see in the screenshot that is this post’s featured image), and I absolutely agree with that.

The game is $/€ 16.99, and can be bought either through Steam or Humble.

Posted by Barl0we in Gaming, 0 comments
Indie Essentials 4: Capsized!

Indie Essentials 4: Capsized!

I had an involuntary break from creating videos last week, due to a malign case of man-flu, but I’m back now! This week’s Indie Essentials video is about the 2011 Alientrap Games’ game, Capsized!

The game has gorgeous environments and overall design, even if the lurking monsters are sometimes annoyingly hard to spot until you’re right up close and personal with them. As I mentioned in the video, this is the first indie game that opened my eyes & ears to electronic music, eventually leading me down the path of loving chiptunes & synthwave!

Do you have suggestions for indie games I should cover? Hit me up @NerdEssentials or @Barl0we on Twitter, or leave a comment on the post on Instagram!

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Indie Essentials 3: Spectra!

Indie Essentials 3: Spectra!

My third Indie Essentials video is out – this week’s featured indie game is Spectra!

Spectra was developed by Gateway Interactive, released in 2015 and with the eponymous soundtrack by Chipzel (which came out in 2013).

I sort of forgot to gush about the soundtrack as much as it deserves in the video – it’s one of my all-time favorite chiptunes album. The soundtrack is no longer available as DLC on Steam, but you can still buy it on Chipzel’s website.

I reviewed this game for IGN Denmark back in the mists of time (July, 2015). Back then, I gave the game a 9/10 score – and I’d still give it that today. The last point is docked for a lack of variation in the space backgrounds & the procedural generation.

Since IGN Denmark has gone the way of the dodo, I might post an English translation of the review some day – but for now, just enjoy the video :)

-Barl0we

P.S.: I completely forgot to celebrate that this was my 200th post on Instagram. Oh well! My #IndieEssentials videos have been doing pretty ok for  themselves on Instagram – when I have 5-10 of  them, I might combine them into a listicle on YouTube or something!

 

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Indie Essentials 2: Stardew Valley is out!

Indie Essentials 2: Stardew Valley is out!

My latest Indie Essentials video is out, and you can watch it on my Instagram page!

It features the 2016 indie darling, Stardew Valley! It’s one of my new favorite feel-good games, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how multiplayer for it turns out!

Big ups to ConcernedApe for continuing to support the game with awesome free updates post-launch!

Video is up here: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bb2D-AHgP_p/

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Review: Darkest Dungeon

Review: Darkest Dungeon

Review copy of this game provided by its developer, Red Hook Studios.

Darkest Dungeon is a rare breed of game – it was successfully Kickstarted, entered Early Access a year after its campaign was succesful, and exited the Early Access stage a year after that. In my opinion, this is one of the best examples of a game developer using crowdfunding to complete its game – and without the game in question being stuck in Early Access forever, to boot!

On September 27, the game then transitioned to Playstation 4 and Vita as well.

Darkest Dungeon is described by Red Hook Studios as a Gothic RPG, which is a pretty good way of describing it. The game has a killer art style, and H.P. Lovecraft’s influence all over it. The general atmosphere of the game is complemented by the soundtrack as well, with both the music and sound effects being really satisfying.

The game is a turn-based RPG where your party of adventurers delve into the depths of human endurance while exploring their way towards the darkest dungeon. Story-wise,  you take the role of someone returning to the Hamlet at the behest of his or her Ancestor, to right the wrongs that they have performed. To put it another way, if you were to mix a drink of the Darkest Dungeon story,  you’d mix one part Hell House by Richard Matheson with three parts H.P. Lovecraft, served chilled in a high glass…You’d have Darkest Dungeon.

Gameplaywise, there are two distinct aspects – managing your Hamlet (or town, if you’re not into old-timey words) and the actual adventuring bit. Both parts are informed by the other, and if you’re not using the loot you collect while adventuring to upgrade  your Hamlet, you will soon find yourself woefully unprepared to face the horrors that the game throws at you. The Hamlet consists of a handful of buildings you need to upgrade – from the Stagecoach where  you’ll recruit new adventurers to the Guild or Blacksmith where you upgrade your adventurers or their kit. Of particular importance is the ways for your  adventurers to recuperate from adventuring – like the Abbey, or the Inn.

The reason you’ll want to upgrade the latter buildings is simple – while adventuring, your adventurers will build up Stress. Build up enough, and you risk them getting negative Quirks. Your tank may decide that it’s better for him to bleed than to receive healing, or your healer may panic at the sight of  the undead. Stress is not only a bad thing, however – your  adventurers may prove to excel under pressure and gain a positive Quirk. These Quirks can be anything from being better at dodging to dealing or withstanding more damage, which becomes essential to manage as  the game goes on.

wallpaper_plaguedoc

Additionally, you’ll need to keep your adventurers stocked up on items such as torches, food and shovels – because the darkness increases stress, starving increases stress, and trying to clear obstacles without a shovel may get your heroes hurt.

As a fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s thematic universe, this is one of my favorite games set in that theme, ever. The game itself is not scary as such – but you will feel the stress and anxiety that your adventurers are submitted to, as well. The game can both be uncompromisingly punishing as well as super rewarding. The feeling of joy when a stressed character copes with Stress by getting a positive Quirk can be amazing, especially at the lower levels where you don’t have a lot of options with regards  to gear and skills.

I mostly played the game on my Playstation Vita – and I’m thoroughly impressed with its performance on this platform. The game plays without a hitch on the platform, basically. My only two gripes with the Vita version is the fact that the game does not utilize the touch screen, as the controls can be kind of clunky, and that the UI is not scaled up just a little bit. I was still able to play the game just fine, but having the UI and text in general being just a bit bigger on the small screen would have been great.

As it stands, though, I’m keeping Darkest Dungeon on my Vita – the gameplay is, as mentioned, top notch and the performance of the Vita port (along with cross-buy and cross-save) makes Darkest Dungeon a must-have for Vita owners.

Darkest Dungeon is available on PC, Mac, Linux as well as Playstation 4 and Vita.

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Review: Wheels of Aurelia

Review: Wheels of Aurelia

Review copy of this game provided by its developer, Santa Ragione.

Wheels of Aurelia is described by its developer, Santa Ragione, as a narrative road trip game. It is probably the most accurate way to describe the game overall.

In Wheels of Aurelia, you take control of Lella, a woman on a road trip towards France in 1970’s Italy. Initially, she will have one companion with whom she can talk, but the narrative can lead to Lella picking up hitchhikers or otherwise switching (or adding) passengers on her way. Each playthrough takes around 15-20 minutes, with 16 different endings to achieve.

The gameplay consists of two distinct parts: driving whichever of the game’s cars  you choose at the start of the game, and making conversation (or not) with whomever you happen to be driving with. The choices you make – both in terms of conversation as well as where to drive – shape the story around you. Most of the time, the driving takes a back seat to the conversations, which require you to make your choice on a timer. Much like in a TellTale game, your options depend on a certain speed to choose your words – albeit with a much more forgiving time frame to choose than in a TellTale game.

The setting for the game feels new as well, while at the same time still managing to feel relevant to a current audience. Lella can have many interactions, ranging from the banal with hitchhikers, to deeper  (well, relatively) discussions about women’s rights, or even the topic of political unrest. The fact that the game draws from the actual political and societal climate of 1970s Italy makes the game a really interesting experience.

The graphics are divided into a neat, mostly sunny, isometric view of the Via Aurelia on which Lella and her companion(s) are travelling. The  graphics are simple, while still managing to be nice to look at. Added to that are more detailed character models which really adds a lot of, well…Character to the characters. In fact, the design is so nice that I had not even noticed that the character models lack arms before someone pointed it out to me.

Wheels of Aurelia screenshot

The game’s soundtrack fits well with the aesthetic, and really shows a vision for how the game and its stories should be presented.

That is not to say that the game is without its flaws. I generally appreciate when games take a more narrative approach to the experience, but your mileage may vary. I am a proponent of games as art, and Wheels of Aurelia definitely feels like the indie arthouse project it is.

The actual gameplay part of the game is simple, with only small frustrations such almost-too-perfect-to-beat enemy drivers in a few races. The stories are neat, but I would sometimes hit conversation parts that felt abrupt, with some of my choices (which are at most times limited to two choices to speak, and being silent) referring back to things a character had said to Lella a while back. It would also in hindsight have been nice to see the character models not have their  arms cut off, and perhaps even with a bit of animation to really drive out the character they add to the game.

When all that is said and done, there are only a few roadbumps in the way for Wheels of Aurelia. It is a neat set of experiences, with an original setting. If you’re not a fan of games where narrative takes the wheel in favor of gameplay, this might not be for you. If you’re interested in good storytelling, and a setting that hasn’t been covered much in games in the past – get in.

We’re going on a road trip.

Wheels of Aurelia is currently available through Humble, Itch.io and Steam for $9.99 / 9,99€. It will be available on PS4 and XB1 on October 5.

Posted by Barl0we in Gaming, 0 comments
The problem with Overwatch

The problem with Overwatch

By now, Blizzard’s latest game is out and deservedly receiving a lot of praise.

I was unsure of whether I wanted to even play Overwatch though, because I’ve already done the whole “team objective based combat” thing for literally hundreds of hours in Team Fortress 2. I ended up trying out the game when it hit an open beta, and I could see that I would end up playing Overwatch anyway.

Yes, it’s an amazing game – the only gameplay problem I have is that the game doesn’t properly recognize when a support or tank character does something that ought to be considered a Play of the Game. That’s not my problem with Overwatch, though – just a minor gripe.

No, my problem with Overwatch is the story. Of which  there is next to none in the actual game.

Like so many others, I was enamored with the world created in Overwatch from the first time I saw the cinematic  trailer that came out last year. I’ve watched it – and some of the character-specific trailers released since – over and over again.

I’ve downloaded the comics and read, and spent quite a bit of time thinking about the over-arcing story in the world of Overwatch, as well as how the characters fit into said world. There’s obviously been a lot of care and thought put into creating a cohesive world, and relationships between the characters that inhabit the world.

The problem with all of this character and world building is that in any practical sense, it is boiled down to a few one-liners, quips fired between characters when waiting for game sessions to start.

The trailers paint the picture of a world on the brink of some kind of civil war between Omnics and Organics, and background lore information tells of an Omnic Crisis where powerful Skynet-esque  AI tried turning Omnics with free will against organic life.

None of that is really reflected in the game. Instead, we get to blow each other up defending or attacking checkpoints or payloads.

Mind you, I’m finding it all very enjoyable even if I’m critical of the game…I’m just disappointed. I understand not necessarily wanting to ape games like TF2 more than necessary, but a horde mode a la Mann vs. Machine would’ve done wonders for this game. Another game mode could be a Last Stand type deal with teams restricted to actual members of Overwatch (or characters marked “good”) versus the actual bad guys.

The only other thing than better integration with the story and world I really want out of Overwatch is Overwatch action figures. Blizzard made action figures out of World of Warcraft characters, so I know the potential is there – and I’d love to have the cast of Overwatch standing, fully poseable, on a shelf.

Posted by Barl0we in Gaming, 0 comments
The Nerd Essentials Awards

The Nerd Essentials Awards

I’m not really one for  traditional GOTY awards, especially seeing as I’ve missed a few titles that I would’ve liked to play this year. That’s why I’ve taken a page from classic era Penny Arcade, and chosen a bunch of games that I really liked this year, and given them a We’re Right™ twist.

Without further ado, here are the winners of  the first Nerd Essentials Awards:

 

Best Game of Just One More Level, I Can Do This:

Spectra features arcadey gameplay with the eponymous chiptunes album by Chipzel. The music is great, the visuals are appealing…And it’s one of those games where I suddenly found myself a few hours after I should’ve gone to bed. But seriously, I’ll just try to nail this level ONE MORE TIME, okay? Okay.

 

Best Game I Ragequit, But I Swear I’ll Finish It, Some Day:

Bloodborne is my first serious foray into FROM Software games. I’d tried out the first Souls game a few years ago, but it never really got me. The aesthetic of Bloodborne is just so damn awesome that I had to try it out. After some time, I’v only managed to take down 3 bosses. At the moment, I’m stuck on either the Blood Starved Beast, or Vicar Amelia. The worst part is, I can see that I keep dying to them because I’m impatient. I might contain myself for a while, but then I’ll rush in and get myself killed because I don’t have the patience. I’ll get back there and complete the game someday, though.

 

Best Non-David Cage, David Cage Game:

Until Dawn is perhaps one of my favorite game experiences this year. Great writing  as a schlocky horror movie, great performances by the actors. I managed to save everyone but two in my first playthrough, and I still need to get a run where I save everyone as well as one where I do everything that horror tropes tells me I shouldn’t do. I could see this being a fun game to play with other people, too!

 

Best Game That Tricked Me Into Playing a Sports Game:

Rocket League came out this year, and being a PS+ subscriber, I got it for free. I checked it out, even though the concept seemed kind of dumb at first. Cue me suddenly finding out that it was the middle of the night, and wanting JUST ONE MORE MATCH. The game is on PC as well, and I fully intend to get it there some day (and hopefully convince some of my buddies to play it with me). This is also my pick for best quick-fix game of this year.

Best Early Access Game That I Use To Relax:

I’ve posted about Starbound before. There’s just something about it that gets me – the music is awesome, and the atmosphere is amazing. Starbound has been getting some significant updates this year, making it even more fun to play. I’ve put around 120 hours into Starbound since I bought it,  and I haven’t even seen all that the Colony and the Combat updates have brought to the game.

 

What were your favorite games of this year?

 

 

 

Posted by Barl0we in Blog, Gaming, 0 comments
Guitar Hero Live VS Rock Band 4

Guitar Hero Live VS Rock Band 4

This year sees the return of both Guitar Hero and Rock Band with new installments in each series. I am excited for both of them, but one more so than the other.

To begin with, let me tell you how I came into the music gaming genre in the first place.

 

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Posted by Barl0we in Gaming, 0 comments