Author Archives: J.C

Aground

Mining the internet for a decent survival/crafter game these days is much like the process of mining in the games themselves: an increasingly tedious grind of repetition that requires ridiculous amounts of resources to cobble together even the simplest of shelters before you die of dehydration, starvation and, possibly, boredom.

Thank the pixel gods that Aground chose not to choose life; it chose something else. It brings out that obsessive pleasure from mining an entire island into a gaping hole in the ocean, without taking so long about getting around to letting you do it at ridiculous speeds with power tools.

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Draiva

Draiva’s chunky low poly cars are pretty retro, but since that wasn’t quite retro enough, it also features cars from your favourite 80s shows. Racing against Ferraris and the Delorean with your feet in that car from The Flintstones? Sure, why not. Speaking of that, I never quite understood how Fred could turn corners, by the way. I mean, have you seen those “wheels”?

Draiva is a strictly arcade fare, with more in common to Micro Machines than Gran Turismo, and even though it’s a pretty simple little alpha, it’s endless random generated tracks are fun to play with.

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Playthrough: Helherron #4 – Goblin Cave

Welcome back to my playthrough of old school tactics RPG Helherron, where I slowly make my way through this unforgiving forgotten tactics RPG.

Previously I took my first steps through the starting village after having undertaken the painstaking process of creating eight characters who hopefully won’t die painfully. Today, that last bit might change as I set foot into the first dungeon. Right outside of the town we find the cave, and enter. Before we can blink, wouldn’t you know it, we are assaulted by a pack of goblins.

At the beginning of a battle in Helherron, you get a chance to position  your characters freely within a tight starting zone. Naturally I move my melee fighters: Grogg the dwarven fighter, Zitz the troll barbarian, Bender the golem barbarian and Chops the lizardman monk, to the frontlines. Freeman, a hobbit thief, hangs back with a bow, while the magic users: Friday, a fairy mage and Alisia, an elven priestess, stand at the back. It’s on!

Speed plays an importnt role in this game, and as you’d expect, the Thief proves to be the fastest, going first and critically hitting a goblin archer. Nice. Next up is the priestess Alisia who successfully manages to cast “weakness” on a nearby goblin warrior, which will apparently cause him to cause less damage for the next 2-3 turns. The Fairy mage goes next, shooting a magic dart at the goblin warrior for minor damage. Interestingly, she can shoot right through friendly characters without hitting them, so friendly fire isn’t an issue in this game (aoe damage might be a different matter).

Next it’s time to move the slow frontliners. “Guard” is Helherron‘s equivalent of X-COM’s “overwatch” – meaning the fighter will attack anyone who comes near, and its a very importnat feature indeed. Once enemies get close, the melee troup step up to bat, sending goblins staggering backwards before collapsing in bloody heaps (the game actually describes is as this). First blood, and amazingly, it wasn’t mine.

My Shaman is an interesting character, being an average spell caster but with the ability to summon creatures. Except that at level 1, with only a 50% chance of success, my spell doesn’t just fail it critically fails, and the caster becomes stunned, probably shocked by his own incompetence. Spell-casting is thus a slight bit more nuanced than the fire-and-forget system of most games.

From here, the battle goes pretty smoothly, especially thanks to the theif’s tendancy to score critical hits, the goblins generally go down in one or two hits.

Of ourse, this was merely the game’s very first battle, so it isn’t too demanding. Still, it is entirely possible to characters to die, so you need to get the gang working as a team pretty much from the outset.

The next battle occurs just a few yards down the tunnel, and ups the ante already – more goblins, and they are accompanied by dogs.

My Shaman conjours up a… killer chicken? Well, it’s something, and surprisingly, the killer chicken even pecks a goblin to death. This summon won’t be useful for long into the game, but for the first dungeon it’s handy to thin the herd a little. Summoned animals at this level are generally weak, but a handy tactic is to summon them in front of ranged attackers and spell-casters as this tends to tie them up on melee for a turn.

A few arrows and a “strange herb” that needs to be identified in town are the only interesting drops from this battle, but overall we’ve gotten off to a good start.

Just north, we find our first side quest in three hobbits looking for their brother who went missing in the caves. If we find him, they promise to reward us with a ring. My hobbit theif rolls his eyes. We accept the quest for the precious.

Venturing further into the depths, we stumbled across a small cave with more goblins, but lure them back into the corridor, which turns out good for us strategically. In Helherron, it’s often essential to kite enemies on the map until you have a more advantegous geographic location.

They dropped an unidentified amulet which I picked up for later.

Finally, in the north-western corner was a spider’s nest. Fearing the worst, I ventured in and engaged the giant spiders waiting within. Our melee fighters, backed up by ranged and magic attacks, made relatively short work of the spiders, even with their annoying webs.

We’ve cleared out the first floor, and are ready to descend into the second level.

Random thoughts:

  • So far, combat is easier than I remember. I remember struggling even with the very first battle, many years ago. Perhaps I’ve just gotten much better at tactical RPGs (I replayed all the gold box games last year), or maybe the newer versions of the game rebalanced things a bit to make the starting areas more easy. It’s probably a bit of both.
  • My hobbit thief is making for a surprisingly excellent archer, only missing one shot in four battles, and often scoring critical hits.
  • For now, melee fighters are the MVPs of battle, rarely missing and often doing heavy damage with knockback effects. Spell casters are less useful as they have barely any spells, and hybrid casters (the shaman and monk) have very low casting success rates, around 50-60%.
  • Melee fighters being the MVPs, that is, with the notable exception of Bender the golem, who can only move 2 steps and rarely reaches anything to be of use. I’m not sure what stats affect movement, if any, so levelling up may never improve movement. Later we should get movement-improving equipment.
  • Characters seem to gain experience per action, rather than a fixed amount per battle. This means I need to make sure to all characters have some input into battles. My magic users are “feeling the bern”, as they tend to skip a lot of turns to conserve mana. This will hopefully change after a few level ups.
  • Magic users can “boost” their spells, up to 20x the power, at a higher MP cost and lower casting chance, making even low level spells potentially useful throughout the game. I’ll go into more detail on battle mechanics and spell lists in a future post.
  • Spells and ranged attacks don’t seem to have range limitations, as far as I can tell. Presumably, though, they are less effective beyond a certain distance.

I won’t be going into this level of detail for the whole game, in future summarising things, particularly battles, more and only covering important battles in detail, or explaining new mechanics, etc. in more depth.

Helherron | download

City Clickers

A minimalistic effort befitting the jam it spawned from, City Clicker is a clicker-style take on the classic Sim City formula. It some ways it works, and it some it doesn’t, but as an experimental gameplay concept it’s worth spin for those interested in innovation.

I found this article sitting in my draft box for an onscenely long time, so in the spirit of modern city management sims, let us reduce, reuse and recycle by publishing this historical post.

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Aggelos (full release)

We took a look at Wonderboy in Monsterworld-a-like Aggelos way back in early 2016. Now the full game is out. My how the time flies… Coincidentally, it flies just like you will fly, double jump and air dash your way through Aggelos.

I’ve spent a few hours meditating in an elemental chamber after playing the game, and now I’m ready to put cosmic thoughts to the mediocrity of the digital page.

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MicroAces

Remember Micro Machines? They were these somewhat forgettable tiny cars that took off in the mid 90s or so, followed up by some much less forgettable arcade racing games on systems like the Sega Megadrive and PSX. They were chaotic fun.

MicroAces remembers, and has faithfully replicated the PSX-era game, racing a variety of super tiny cars across everyday objects like kitchen tables. Oh wait: any similarities to objects in the game “are purely coincidental,” an opening screen disclaimer tells us. Right, so, this isn’t related to Micro Machines at all, sorry. Instead it’s a completely different game about racing super tiny cars across everyday objects like kitchen tables. Glad we cleared that up.

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Nogalious

Nogalious is yet another game that promises to bring back the golden era of 8-bit gaming. Hear, hear, I say. Unfortunately, they were referring less to something like The Legend of Zelda and more something akin to Elf. I enjoyed playing around with it, but in its current state, it felt as confusing to play as it is to spell.

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Bronze Age

I fully expected an alpha or short demo when opening up Bronze Age. A good 4-5 hours later, when I should have been sleeping, yet another horde of rat riders was gnawing at my gate while my citizens decided to rebel against me and destroy that essential happiness-giving brewery. I knew I was in this for the long-haul.

Bronze Age is a work-in-progress civ style game, but there’s already a lengthy, challenging game here (admittedly helped in part by the steep learning curve).

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Mortal Manor

Mortal Manor bids itself as a Metroidvania, but also wants to stand out with a different approach to gameplay. Fortunately, this includes a vast sprawling world and tons of weapons to collect. Unfortunately, the approach also includes instadeaths and enemies that are as annoying as %*#&.

Any indie gem has rough edges and I’m not going to sugarcoat it – Mortal Manor‘s edges are about as smooth as rock golem’s butt. For those with the same sort of patience as an eternal being, though, there’s a massive game here, crammed with varied areas and bursting with weapons, relics and secrets to find.

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Chasm (demo)

We cover a lot of demos and alphas and the like here, and while the demos provide decent entertainment, pretty much none of them over the last three years have since seen the light of day as a full release. So here’s a demo for a metroidvania that is due for release in just one month. Oh, but it’s been in development for six years.

Chasm promises the usual metroidvania fare, and while it certainly is polished with all the right founding ingredients in place, the demo, which turns out to be from the dark ages of 2013, left me feeling a little uninspired.

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