SteamWorld Dig 2 Steam Review Screenshot

Genre: Adventure / Metroidvania
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

About The Game

SteamWorld Dig 2 is a sequel to adventure-platformer that involved going underground and mining precious ores. In this game, the niece of the hero from the first part is trying to find him. The game expands the ideas from the first part: you still need to dig through the caverns, seek valuable resources, sell them and upgrade your gear while trying to uncover some plot mystery. But it’s all done in a way bigger scale.

I’m not talking about the size of the map (it has also increased), but the functionality as well: the arcade elements are there, but the game feels more like metroidvania now: apart from simple digging deep below, you get new locations like cultist temple, windy plains, human town. This all add flavor to the game and enhance the story.

Speaking about the story: it still feels pretty straightforward, but my impression was that it is not the main focus of the game. What the game succeeds at is aesthetics and progression, coupled with engaging gameplay. First, let’s talk about the aesthetics: the style is cartoonish and colorful, but that gives a very strong charm to the characters of the game. The backgrounds differ much more than they did in the first part, making locations distinguishable and much more memorable.

The gameplay

The main gameplay loop is at its height: gathering metals, ores, valuables deep down below is done in a very formidable way. The player is gradually introduces to new game features, be it grappling hook, drill or remote bombs. Those mechanic introductions are followed by new tasks that player needs to solve. It indicates that SteamWorld Dig 2 has a great game design. In the end, the game presents challenges, gives you the tools to solve them but does not throw a correct solution straight at your face, giving you time to think and fulfillment from solving riddles. The digging itself is very pleasant, the pickaxe sound + the rock crumbling are really well-done. It’s addictingly fun to go back to town and see the numbers grow.

Speaking about the riddles, there are special challenge rooms located around the map. If you finish them – you get cogs to upgrade your gear with various adjustments. Those rooms are well thought out, you won’t need to dig much there, but focus on solving situations that often require the use of newly-gained mechanic. On a negative side, this dilutes the digging experience (if you are more into that). To counter that argument, those challenge rooms are not exactly mandatory.

Also, the game is going to be as difficult as you want it to be. Apart from normal difficulty settings, there are special equipment addons that can make enemy battles much more challenging.

Honestly, I usually list the cons at this point but I could not find them here. Some mention the game is too short, but the completionists will find things to do nonetheless (challenge rooms + getting all secret objects that give special blueprints, there are 42 of them).

Summary

Overall, the game is a highly polished and pleasing experience and I can confidently recommend it to fans of the genre, especially to the people who loved the first part.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Tooth and Tail

Genre: RTS
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

About The game

To get your attention right away: Tooth and Tail is a competitive indie RTS. The backstory of the game is revolution in an animal world: animals revolt against other animals.

The game essentially addresses the issue with most rts games, where high skill level is necessary to even start thinking about competitive play. The most radical change is that you can’t scroll the map freely. You control a commander unit that you can move directly (keyboard/mouse or gamepad), this unit scouts the map, orders the other units and places buildings. Here’s how it is handled: your initial building, gristmill, has spot for 8 farms. You have 3 farms in the beginning of the game. Each farm costs 60 food to build and produces 1 food per second. As game progresses, new gristmills on the map can be captured.

You can build defensive buildings, new farms or “lairs” for the animals. The lairs automatically produce soldiers (while your supplies last), and you can then order those units around either by commanding them all or by selecting a specific unit type. The unit commands are pretty much straightforward: button click can mean attack, holding the mouse button while highlighting the enemy makes everyone focus it, or running away and keeping the mouse button pressed means your army retreats with you.

In total, there are 15 unit types and 5 defensive buildings. You pick 6 of these in any variation before the multiplayer battle, thus adjusting your strategy for every battle separately.

Pros and Cons

At the state of the previous patch (1.0.3) – on my ranks it felt that the game has the “rush meta” – I could win most games by building small units, but I’ve checked out the tournament videos and they showed much more elaborate plays.
Overall, the game matches are extremely short and intense. I personally never had a game longer than 8 minutes.

The aesthetics are the strong point of the game. The pixel art is cartoonish, but once you think about this, it gets pretty brutal. It is implied that the animals eat meat of others, which adds a cannibalistic feel to the game. Some might tell you: Vladimir, wait a second, in the animal world it’s called “carnivorous”. To that, I can answer: “The animals in the game have anthropomorphic features, so you can’t distance yourself from looking at them from the human angle.” So in the end, the game that is light on the art implies heavier subjects, making a unique dark atmosphere.

The drawback to this is that it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between walkable and unwalkable tiles. You’ll be getting stuck with your hero, simply because some places that seem to be passable turn out not (mostly in bushy tilesets, gets quite extreme in singleplayer, especially the mission where you have to free multiple squads of your soldiers).

All maps (even in single-player campaign) are generated randomly. That means that a lot of matches in single-player will be made easier if you get lucky. In competitive you can get screwed because of that, but it surprisingly does not bother you much: first, it teaches you how to adapt better. Second, if you are placed at a worse position than your opponent and lose: no big deal, it only took 5 minutes.

Summary

The strongest point of the game is the entry threshold: if you enjoy watching RTS games, but can’t get into competitive scene because those games require lots of concentration / time to get good, Tooth And Tail might be a good alternative. Since you control one commander, it takes the pressure off micromanaging tons of units / controlling the minimap / bases like crazy. You can start the games quickly, quickly win or quickly lose. The amount of strategies and possible plays still big due to unit variety and strategical decisionmaking (expansion vs offense). Overall, I can safely recommend Tooth and Tail to both RTS fans and people who are willing to get into the genre.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Vaporum Steam Screenshot

Genre: Dungeon Crawler / RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: If you like Steampunk and/or enjoy Legend of Grimrock

About The Game

Vaporum is a grid-based dungeon crawler RPG in an original steampunk setting. It has this old-school dungeon crawling in first-person perspective. This is something you would encounter when playing the old Might and Magic games or the newer Legend of Grimrock series.
Your hero wakes up on an island in front of a mystic tower without any memory of who he is, what happened here and how he got here. Obviously, he decides to enter. That’s how the game begins.

Now, personally, the first thing I usually think about when I hear “dungeon-crawling” is turn-based, randomly generated level exploration. The game has neither: the levels are pre-defined and the combat happens in real time. The only thing that resembles turn-based gameplay is movement: you don’t get to move freely. Instead, the dungeon is split into tiles and you can move from tile to tile only. This constraint is done pretty seamlessly, so the movement limit won’t bother you.

The Gameplay

As I mentioned, the fights are in real-time: monsters have attack patterns and abilities, which you can remember and use to your advantage. When fighting the simplest ones – you can simply “dance” by moving forward one tile to attack and back one tile when they attack you, avoiding damage this way. The harder ones tend to move less predictably or have ranged attacks – so dodging will require considerably higher game expertise. This is where the game actually shines: you have a classical RPG-like inventory and levelling system, but those stats (depending on your chosen difficulty) are only an addition to your mechanical play skills. On higher difficulties, you can’t simply stand on one place, hit enemies and then use healing items. You’ll simply run out of repair kits and die.

The strong part of the game is immersion: the sounds fit the dark tower atmosphere well. The lightning is just about right: darker tones that allow you to see where are you going, but still make you feel like you are in the tower of evil. The level design supplements that: in this case you see how pre-defined levels have a clear advantage over randomly-generated content. You’ll be getting notes, “diaries,” that drive the plot forward. You’ll be hearing creepy noises while trying to figure out what happened. Levers, switches, keys – those are essential parts of your crawling experience. The puzzles that tower presents you are not complicated, but will still dilute the combat and give you some rest.

The game was marketed as “Legend of Grimrock” in Steampunk universe and it’s pretty much correct. Unfortunately, that also includes the flaws with camera controls. Turning happens by pressing the Q/E keys or holding middle mouse key and then dragging the mouse towards new direction. This is OK for exploration and puzzle solving. But in the midst of battle, this adds another set of buttons that delay your actions. One obvious solution would be to allow turning during the battles without keyholding, but alas, it’s not there.

Summary

Despite the high production quality, Vaporum definitely won’t be for everyone. Personally I find the mix between tile mechanics and real-time combat a bit awkward, but that should not deter you from the experience. If you enjoyed Legend of Grimrock – you are going to enjoy this game too. And because of the great immersion and skill-based, difficult combat, I highly recommend the game to legend of grimrock fans and those of you who look for more games in steampunk setting.

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Vostok Inc. - Steam Screenshot

Genre: SHMUP / Incremental Game
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, if you have a gamepad

About The Game

Vostok Inc. is a peculiar mix between an incremental game (think realm grinder) and shoot-em-up. In this game, you fly your ship and try to establish an intergalactic corporation. You go from planet to planet, build buildings and fight enemies while in space.

The freshness of the idea contributes to an engaging gameplay: you can spend your money on making your ship stronger or build your colonies. You get money by killing enemies, but the planetary bases give much more resources, and you can’t both at the beginning. This creates an interesting balancing/optimization choices for the player. Go for the first, and have a strong ship, but not enough passive income. Go for the second, and be richer, but have harder time surviving enemy encounters.

Battles

Speaking of enemy encounters: they are pretty straightforward. If you go through the space, you meet various enemies (depending on the galaxy you are in). They will chase you and shoot at you, and if you die: you must get to your base in an escape pod or you end up losing money / middle managers that improve your production output by a percentage. The battle controls are similar to other twin-stick shooter games: one stick to move, another to shoot. The player can have up to four weapons that can be switched between each other. The weapon system is different from the other games of shoot-em-up genre: your ships has three weapon slots. There are three possible weapons: beam, bullet, rocket. By combining those weapons, you get a new weapon type.

The shooting actually feels great: the bullet collisions are clearly visible and understandable, the enemies explode in a spectacular way and your bullets make nice sounds. On the down side, most weapons feel redundant or unnecessary: I’ve progressed in the game by mostly using bullet weapons. Other ones just did not feel powerful or did not help to solve any specific problems with the enemies: you don’t need homing rockets if you can turn around at any point and shoot shotgun/minigun at upcoming enemies with much faster rate and damage per second. The most basic beam weapon also felt like the best one to fight the slowest bosses: one projectile hits the large bosses’ bounding box multiple times, accumulating your combo meter VERY quickly and allowing you to do huge damage, ensuring quick boss kills. Actually, it feels like a problem with most large projectiles / large enemies: your hits get counted multiple times, and so it’s really easy to get max combo on slower bosses or enemies, dealing tremendous amounts of damage.

Business

The incremental part is well balanced and allows for the smooth progression: you won’t be a billionaire straight away, instead you’ll have to gradually work for it, meticulously building your bases and purchasing upgrades. This base building part provides a good relaxation from the space fighting. There are also minigames like racing and collecting managers in space. Managers enhance your production percentage and offer some more minigames that imitate retro-gaming systems. Overall, this salad of features is what keeps Vostok Incorporated interesting.

Cons

However, when you get 20+ planets, a problem appears which I love to call “Fallout 4” problem. If you remember Fallout 4 base building, you got your homebase first, then you could go and help bases all through the commonwealth and get more villages under your protection. However, once you got too many of them, it quickly started to become a chore going from one place to another, fixing and improving things. The same thing can be observed here: going between 4+ system and visiting multiple planets becomes a chore. It would help to have an ability to build bases on planets remotly, but alas, there’s no such thing.

Speaking about the cons, I must mention that the settings are very weak: no mouse support in the menus. No resolution / display selection. The game was clearly designed with consoles in mind. The gamepad controls are very convenient, but even keyboard key rebindings can’t save the UI from the lack of mouse support and awkward menu switching.

Summary

While it’s not perfect – it is an engaging attempt to make a fusion of two game genres that succeeded. Vostok Inc. brings the new mechanics to the table, combining it with nice aesthetics and polish. Get it if you have a gamepad.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Space Tyrant Steam Screenshot

Genre: Turn-Based Strategy / X4
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Absolutely Yes

Disclaimer: Game is in early access, so lots of things are going to change.

About the game

Space Tyrant is an interesting mix of 4x strategy game and roguelite. Your aim is to conquer the galaxy: you move your ships through the universe to capture the planets, combat enemies and encounter all sorts of random events as you keep capturing new bases.

The game process is the following: right now, you get to choose a side, then you have the “universe” map shown: you can assault one of three galaxies, while the fourth one is being locked away. Then, you are moved towards the galaxy where you have to complete a specific objective: capturing planets, acquiring wealth, researching new technologies. You choose a commander which determines what kind of a special ability your ship is going to have. It also gives you some mini-objectives for the mission that can influence your play style: completing them makes you stronger, you can get a special powerful cards that can be used on the galaxy map. You direct your fleets through “paths” between planets, and if they encounter another fleet – the battle starts.

The Battles

The battle itself is pretty simple: two fleets stay opposite to each other and exchange fire. The targets are chosen randomly. Each of your ships has a special ability that they can use on the click. . (each side has only 4 purchasable ships (+ a few bonus stronger ones), but those 4 get upgraded as you play, adding stats / improving their abilities). The chosen hero also has a special ability like meteor strike or thorn wall that influences the battle. In addition to that, you get an active special effect of your choice at the start of the battle (think of it as a random mutator, like small ships deal 2x damage, destroy all fighters, and so on). So yes, while this sounds simple, there’s plenty of space for decision making.

If you got confused by that – that’s totally cool. In fact, this is what makes the game interesting. The mix of different things that you can do. What makes it even more impressive is the fact how tutorials are made: those are the sequences of small videos that gradually introduce you into the game as you play. Instead of reading walls of text, you’ll be watching small videos that introduce you to the game.

Some Cons

Only a few things hurt my experience: At the moment of writing this review, there’s no difference between clicking with left / right button. So when you pick an ability (i.e. death ray) and want to cancel using it – right click will actually trigger it the same way as left click.

Another thing is lack of battle targeting: sure, you influence the way the abilities are being used, but it’s frustrating not to be able to pick targets. I’ve lost one game 6v2 when 2 enemies didn’t do much damage, but kept regenerating shields and my fighters picked targets in worst possible way: 3 were firing at one ship, 3 – at another. The shield regeneration outlived my fighters so I had nothing else to do but slowly watch their demise knowing full well that I could win this had I been given a chance to rearrange targeting.

Summary

Every mission playthrough takes from somewhere around half an hour for smaller maps to an hour and a half for bigger scenarios. Overall, Space Tyrant is one of those “I’ll play 5 more minutes” games that eats your time at tremendous rate because it’s so engaging. Plenty of unlockable content and events even in the current early access state, I can confidently recommend the game for its gameplay to those of you who want to experience cosmic strategies but don’t have days to waste on a single battle scenario.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Galaxy of Pen And Paper Steam Screenshot

Genre: RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Wait for the bugs to get fixed (but after that: 100% yes)

About The Game

Galaxy Of Pen & Paper is a spiritual successor of Knights of Pen & Paper, by Behold Studios. It’s a turn-based rpg game that features questing and battles. The setting is what makes it different from hundreds of similar games: the game takes you into the role of a DND player, seamlessly shifting you between the “real” world and the “space” world. At one moment, you see the game master and players actively discussing game mechanics at the table, and at the next – their alter-egos, questing through space, picking fights.

Pros and Cons

The game is packed with not-so-subtle references to other space series and puns. Writing and wordplay are the strongest moments of the game. That also means you’d need to read a lot: between battles, there are a plenty of dialogues and character interactions.

Combat is pretty straightforward: you have two battle lines on each side (3 characters on every one of them MAX). Characters take turns hitting each other. If you want to succeed in combat, you’ll have to take advantage between skill synergies. For example, you could learn a poison skill on one character, and a skill that gives attacks healing effect on the other one. Or the skill that burns poisoned enemies. There are quite a lot of combinations and that make the combat fun.

The good thing is that since you are playing as a GM and a party at the same time, you can often pick the amount of opponents that you are facing. If you get a task to defeat 4 enemies, you can split them into batches of two and fight them two times separately. The difficulty decreases, but the amount of rewards also goes down.

One new thing that has been added is space battle element. It’s a minigame that essentially involves ships throwing dice, accumulating action points that can be spent on healing/attacking. One thing that I could not find out is the way to upgrade the ship health: right as you get your ship, you get sent into optional quests that involve destroying other spaceships. There’s a catch though. You can not see the strength of the ships that you are going to fight. So when I encountered a starship with 400 hp, it quickly annihilated my 140 hp ship. This happened quite a few times. There was also no way to escape from the combat like this.

One thing that could be improved is the character progression UI. All of the skills are mixed in one box, available to see from the start, sorted by price. In my opinion, this is not a right approach, as it can get quite confusing. It’s also not so easy to distinguish between learned and not learned skills, since they all seem to be bundled together. It would have been easier to group the skills in some ways (passive / active? Class/generic? Group by effect?)

The other thing is bugs: the game have quite a good number of them. I could occasionally open the character window in inconvenient game moments and then never close it. Once I’ve started a class questline (and failed it), the savage stayed with my party and when I got another party member – it has been placed in the same position and essentially I had two characters in one slot during the combat.

Summary

Overall, $14.99 might seem like a steep price – but I say the writing and the immersive atmosphere are worth it. However, there are quite a lot of bugs, so I’m a bit hesitant. I genuinely had fun while playing it, but be prepared to encounter quite some bugs as you play. The different reviews of the game mention bugs of different severity and one of the encounered ones was quite severe, but not absolutely gamebreaking. If you don’t mind the bugs – I can recommend the game to all of the RPG fans.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

XenoRaptor Steam Game Screenshot

Genre: Action / Bullet Hell
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, but wait for 50%+ discount

Disclaimer: the game is in early access so some things might change (although it has been in EA since 2014)

About The Game

XenoRaptor is a bullet hell game where you actually control a mechanical dragon and fight flying chainsaws in space. The game offers a pretty straightforward bullet-hell / shmup gameplay. If you play the campaign mode, it throws you into different levels. The levels differ not only in background pictures, but in actual amounts and types of obstacles. This really adds a good variety to the gameplay. The first levels don’t offer much resistance from environment, but it gets tougher as the game progresses. There are meteors and explosive barrels to make your life much harder. Ouch.

The Gameplay

Your ship has 3 weapons. Two of them are main weapons that produce “heat.” If you gain too much of it – the ship overheats and can’t fire. It feels like a good solution. On one hand, the player is forced to decide when to press the fire button. On the other hand, it opens up space for different strategies: if some users like heavy weapons that shoot once in a while, they can go for it. The others can go for the ones that can fire rapidly, aren’t as deadly, but generate less heat and can be used much more often. The third weapon requires special pickups, ammo, as it generally tends to be a bit stronger than the other two. I have to admit that I’ve rarely used the third weapon, as you can generally fulfill all your destructive needs with the other two.

One of the features of the game is the ability to customize your ship and your weapons: adding special effects, firing patters, reducing the heat generated or increasing the ship durability. There are lots of options for customization. Most of them are locked from the start, so you get to unlock them by defeating bosses and minibosses during campaign.

The gameplay itself feels very fair: although there’s plenty of random in enemy / obstacle placement and health drops, you always have the feeling that you’re in control. After enemies kill you, you can backtrace to the exact moment where you messed up or maneuvered poorly. Pretty straightforward. You get rewarded for skill, and punished for mistakes. The difficulty itself is pleasantly challenging: enemies swarm around you, leaving you no time to rest. One downside is that the waves take lots of time to clear before you meet the miniboss. If you fight for more than 5 minutes and then die, you’ll have to restart everything from scratch without any actual gains.

The game is well polished: explosions look pretty, the guns feel heavy. The enemy models look a bit bland and due to fast pace of the game it often gets hard to distinguish the roles of enemies.

The biggest issue for me was the weak camera controls: your ships stays in the middle of the screen all the time, which feels very lackluster compared to other action games. Usually, in action games like these, the camera leans forward, towards your aim reticle or ship flight direction. This serves two purposes: it adds ‘action’ feeling to the game, making player feel in the middle constant movement and maneuvering, but also improves the gameplay quality: when you are going forward with your ship, it’s much more important to know what’s going on in your movement direction than what stays behind your ship.

XenoRaptor

Overall, the game is well done, but personally I would wait for 50%+ discount due to other games on the market and not-so-great camera controls. So yes, I suggest grabbing it, but on discount

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Kingdom of Loot Steam Game Screenshot

Genre: MMORPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Wait for early access to end

Today, I wanted to take a look at the game called “Kingdom of Loot:” I did not stumble upon it randomly, its ad has been displayed to me on Facebook. The game is in early access, so lots of work is planned ahead.

About The Game

The game is a massive multiplayer rpg game, made fully in pixel art. The game’s aesthetic is definitely well-thought out: the palette is colorful, the pixel art is well done and shows lots of care put into it.

Pros and cons

The ui is well-drawn, but clumsy. To equip a new item, you need to unequip the previous one. You can’t quick sell items (at least I did not find the way). You need to drag every one of your items towards “sell” button, which can become tedious if you take into account how much loot the game actually drops. There are no quick way to compare the item that you are going to equip with the item that you already have equiped. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

You’ll have to pick up lots of loot. Luckily, this mechanic is well-done. The hitting animations and reward collections is polished fine, which is important. Every time enemy drops coins / weapons – there are visible effects and pleasant sounds on pickup. One thing that I would change is the loot attraction distance. Right now, you have to be almost on the coins in order to loot them. This brings some unnecessary walking around. Ideally, it would be much more entertaining if the coins were pulled towards you from 2-3 tile distance.

However, when it comes to gameplay, the game faces a serious challenge: right now, after level 5, the game throws you into the dungeon. Unfortunately, this is the only dungeon you can go to. I’ve tried playing with two melee classes and an archer, and did not see any active skills upon reaching level 5. All I got was passive attack enhancements, which essentially reduced the gameplay towards hitting the space button and drinking potion occasionally.

At this point, there is not much variety: one location to get to level 5, then dungeon to get to progress further. It’s better to group up for that one, since monsters are getting tougher and much harder to kill.

Summary

From the development perspective, the game is in peculiar state: if the game is being actively marketed, there’s not much content to keep player’s playing. The thing that can definitely be improved is an early game: players gather most of impressions from it, and if they just need to roam around and simply grind right from the start (except for one quest) – a lot of people are going to be lured by awesome graphics and polish, but not many are going to stay.

If it was up to me – I’d add more early game content specifically and work on basic UI improvements: that way the players will be able to better see the promise the game shows and follow it closer. A few things that could definitely make it much more entertaining would be early early game location alternatives, active skills for all classes, UI that would allow selling loot quickly (after all, the game is about loot, right?). Essentially, focusing all effort on the early game, to improve retention (more active players means that new players will be able to find the party easier and form friendships, thus forming additional bond with the game world).

Kingdom of Loot is the game that shows a lot of potential, but feels like it went into early access too soon. Overall, keep your eyes open for this one, but wait before it actually leaves early access.

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Strike Tactics Classical RTS screenshot

Genre: Classical RTS / Multiplayer
Game Page: Game Page
Should You Buy It: If you are a fan of classical RTS games

About The Game

Strike Tactics is a multiplayer rts. What makes it different and original is that it can be played from your browser. Yes, you’ve heard correctly. Full-featured RTS game, playable in Chrome (recommended by developer) or Firefox (tested by me and it ran fine).

My Take on the game

First of all, I love RTS games. But ultimately, I pretty much suck at them because I’m not really a multitasking person. In this regard, I’m looking at them like a daydreaming office clerk looks at racing cars: imagining how awesome would it be to drive one and be behind the wheel, and ultimately messing things up when he actually gets a chance to do it. So if I am being frank with you, I don’t think I’m qualified to review the game because I’m just not good enough, but I’ve played about three hours, a few versus AI games and three 1v1 games against actual players and just wanted to share my casual feedback, first impressions and simply inform you about its existence.

Gameplay loop

Strike Tactics starts like a usual rts game: you have workers that mine the basic mineral, carbon. The mining robots can get it from the trees that are often placed in most parts of the map. There’s an advanced mineral, ore, that is much rarer and is used for later game resources. You usually get 1-2 fields near your starting point, but will have to expand later on. The units take supply slots, so you need to build “silos,” special buildings that can shorten drop-off points for your drones.

What makes this game different is greater focus on macro rather than micro. The graphics also follow this doctrine: it’s a 2d game with clearly distinguishable units, so you can easily understand what’s going on at any point of the game, even when lots of stuff is happening on the screen.

The combat is done well: units shoot projectiles that can miss the target, so micro is rewarded (if you control your troops well – you can dodge a lot of stuff). One significant difference is abundance of air units with different functions: in this game, air units play major role. Instead of simply supporting ground attacks, they should often compose about 50% of your army because they can counter some ground units effectively and easily take out the workers-gatherers (who are also flying). There are about 20 units now, each has its own purpose. Anti-air, tanks, damage soakers, long range artillery, bombers, super-weapons, flying gunships, everything has a distinguished role, its own strengths and weaknesses. This makes an interesting mix and opens a lot of strategy space. I’ve played against a player who focused on ground units at first, quickly dodging my attacks with his great micro and then fighting the battle of attrition. I’ve also played a game where my base got rushed by air units: lots of my workers got destroyed because I did not have decent anti-air defenses, and from then on it became really hard to stabilize, which eventually led to my defeat.

Strike Tactics - Classical RTS screenshot

Impressions

Overall, the game has a thought-out gameplay loop that requires you to gather resources effectively and build smart. The unit choice adds to the depth: there’s just plenty of combinations and you have to effectively plan your combat approach and quickly adapt to enemy tactics. A lot of effort went into music: most of it is hard-rock’ish, which contributes to immersion of the game.

One minor thing that caught my attention was inability to move the map with WASD. ForgeableSum, the developer of the game mentioned that arrows are there for that, but for me this is a crucial feature, simply because arrow keys are far off from other shortcuts and it takes away precious moments when speed matters. So having it configurable would be really nice.

One thing that is important for RTS games is “uniqueness”. What do I mean by it? The units should not be feeling generic. In Strike Tactics, the unit ideas and art seem pretty new and you can distinguish most units from one another (except for artillery and the normal tank in my case), but other than that – they are not very memorable and don’t have this “wow” factor, apart from the flying battleship. Since units don’t have unique audio tracks (voice commands?), they feel quite generic, lacking the “soul.” If you remember red alert 2: in my opinion, what made it so exceptional is the unit voices and unit types. There were not simply “soldiers,” but characters. Tanya, Crazy Ivan, Chrono Commando, Yuri. Because the game created those personalities, it helped player to get immersed into the game world and made it recognizable and memorable. At this point, Strike Tactics lacks this. The gameplay is good, but if you will ask me in 5 years – I’m sure as hell going to remember Red Alert 2 (even though it was far from being as deep as this game when it came to gameplay decisions), but I can’t be sure that I’ll say the same about Strike Tactics.

There is an observer mode, but no replays yet. And yes, this is the type of game where I’d actually be happy to look at replays in order to learn.

Summary

It all depends now whethere the game is going to get its critical mass of players. The components for success are there, but theres still a good way to go.

The game’s planned release is on July 31 or early August. There’s going to be a free deathmatch mode, and I actually urge you to try it (link below) since you don’t have to install anything and can just run it in your browser. From the information I have, the core game is going to cost about $20. For me personally, this seems a bit too expensive. But on the other hand, it’s a niche game that offers a well-thought out and deep gameplay. The skill ceiling is also incredibly high, so if you are into classical RTS games – this might just be something that you were looking for.

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Feature Image taken from the game page, Game Page

Switchcars - Indie Game Reviews 2017 - Steam Screenshot

Genre: Action / Roguelite
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Absolutely Yes

In Switchcars, you take a journey. However, in this case, the journey by the road also symbolizes the journey through time: by driving forward, you literally travel through the years. You have to go from year 1950 to 2055.

It’s a curious action / roguelite game that asks you to switch cars to pass different kinds of terrain to outrun the time (and the cross-dimensional monsters that go after you). You have three car slots that you can fill with any passing car. If you press a button near a car, the car is added to your car inventory and is usable at any time by pressing that same button again. Each level consists of multiple road lanes. Those road lanes have different terrain types like air, water, railroad, forest, etc. So in the end, you have to match the car type with the lane type and do it in the most efficient way possible.

This is done in a really good way: a lot of vehicles are too fast, so unless you have godlike reaction you ought to get in lots of trouble and will be forced to switch and replace cars due to encountering tons of obstacles. However, since lane terrain types don’t change that often, there’s a good strategy element which makes path optimization much more important than avoiding obstacles. So even if you are as bad at action games as I am, there’s still possibility for completing the game if you pick the route correctly. There are also pickups, aka consumable items that can improve your car or help your character.

Switchcars Steam Screenshot

Some cars have special abilities like nitro boost, electrical engine, tank tracks, sled, etc. There are more than 1000 cars available, some are recolrs, but most of them feel very different indeed. Another interesting thing is that cars and landscapes depend on the in-game year. The cars do change with time, from retro-ish to futuristic, which adds a great twist to the game process and makes it much less linear. The pixel art is very polished and the cars are well drawn.

Another thing is your character’s grappling hook: you can attach it to most passing cars or static obstacles, ensuring faster travel through the level and allowing you to get the cars that pass you by. One thing that I did not like was the controls when trying to grab the flying vehicles, like planes or helicopters, because whenever I held the “up” button on d-pad, the game often ignored me and went in horizontal directions towards other cars or obstacles. So it was pretty much impossible for me to grab aerial vehicles that are in the sky already.

Another thing that left a bitter aftertaste was the impossibility to effectively control your car at higher speeds, despite the game having very responsive controls. The speed was just too much to understand what was going on the screen. Before you start shouting “git gud,” I have to say that maneuvering through the lanes happen almost instantly, but you still need a godly reaction to notice all the small details. So in the game, despite having big speeds, there are very few moments when you get to enjoy these. Perhaps the game could use some sort of a slow-mo bonus that would allow the player to slow the time down without loosing a feeling of speed. Another solution would be making cars a bit more durable, since a lot of the fast ones can’t survive a head-on crash with another one.

But to sum it up, all of this seemed like a very minor drawbacks to otherwise a great game. SwitchCars is an amazing example of an indie roguelite game that creates a spectacular product on top of an original idea. I can highly recommend the game to those of you who like action/fast-paced indie games.

Have something to add? Make sure to join our Steam group, discord chat https://discordapp.com/invite/013oJVAEt1l3JM1wC or join our facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ColdwildGames/

Feature Image taken from the game store page, here