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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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

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.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

3..2..1..Grenades! - Indie Game Reviews 2017

Genre: Action / FPS
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: No

About The Game

3..2..1.. Grenades! Is the game where you get to throw grenades like snowballs. Run around, pick the right trajectory and fight 3 other people in tons of different maps and gamemodes.

First, the good sides:

Lots of contents, maps, gamemodes – the creator of the game was very creative when he planned those things. Tiny mode, where characters are much smaller, paint the walls, throw the pug into basked, throwing the grenades to hit the targets faster than your opponents, etc. This really shows the dedication to creating new stuff.

The quest mode is done pretty well. How can deathmatch game implement it? The developer put the doors, locked by special “golden grenades.” Each door hides the passage to a room with new deathmatch mode. You get golden grenades by beating deathmatch challenges and gain golden grenades from that. That way you gradually get introduced to game modes while playing against bots.

The explosions are done well. In the game which is focused on throwing grenades, this is important. The slight screenshake, the explosion particle that turns into smoke – all of this really gives a good feel after blowing stuff up.

The Bad

Since there is no online multiplayer, you’ll be forced to play against bots most of the game. The bots are not terrible, but most of the time you can just corner them and spam left click and this will work. Because of that, the game gets boring fast, despite the abundance of game modes.

Also, one of the big problems with the game is the Menu UI: Why can I pick the blank profile (and then not start anything with it)? Then, when you pick a good one, you can’t actually start the game by clicking on buttons. You have to press enter after clicking on it. Video proof: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6t_kKjLZvA&feature=youtu.be . Also, if you are playing on keyboard and using WASD + Mouse, you’ll have to press Enter a lot for cutscene / intro skipping. This is not very convenient (your hands are on WASD and Mouse, right? So you have to take one off to press the Return key. It would be much better to allow pressing space / lmb to skip the cutscenes).

The graphics are meh. I understand that the game aims towards the retro feel, but the art style did not cut it for me. The weapons are OK, but I did not like the character models / textures.

Summary

Overall, I think the developer of the game just lacked experience. It’s his first game on Steam, it has some good points and was clearly done with care, but the lack of experience just brings it down. The clumsy UI brings down the enjoyment and the lack of online multiplayer quickly makes the games against bots pretty boring. I’m definitely looking forward to more games from Banyango, but I can’t recommend this one. It might be fun with local co-op, but for those of you who don’t get with friends often – I can’t recommend the game.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Drifting Lands - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Shoot’Em’Up / Action / RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: If you enjoy Shoot’em’ups and don’t mind the grind

About The Game

 

Drifting Lands is an interesting take on a SHMUP genre that involves adding random item generation and levelling, think of a mix between Diablo and Raptor: Call of the Shadows.

The game starts by revealing that the world as you know it has been destroyed due to some disaster. The pieces of earth float together, so most of the life happens to take place on those shards. (Hence the name, Drifting Lands).

The process is pretty straightforward: you have to fly through the levels, destroy enemies, pick randomly generated loot most of the time. There are some alternatives like smuggling, you need to drop some cargo on a specific area of the level, which brings some variety to a traditional gameplay.

After the level ends – you can upgrade your ship, sell the items you won’t be using or purchase a new ones.

The Good

 

Shoot-Em-Ups are very reliant on the core gameplay loop: destroying enemies and dodging bullets, and I’m happy to say that Drifting Lands delivers on that. A good addition to the gameplay are usable player skills: you can select and take 4 out of 30+ skills into battle. Skills like flame burst that damages everything before you, special shield that absorbs bullets for 2 seconds, all sorts of dashes, various weapon boosts, mines, passive abilities that affect the loot and money earned. Needless to say, this introduces a great variety and makes player adapt to the style. The loot system also helps with that: there are lots of stats and weapons / items can contribute greatly to boosting the ones you want.

I remember that I thought that it’s impossible to make a beautiful 3d SHMUP, and I’m glad that I was wrong. Drifting Land introduces amazing graphics and colorful effects, the game feels very alive because of that. Shining bullets, colorful explosions, great player ship animations – all this adds to the immersion of the game.

The Bad

Having said that, the game has negative sides. First, it’s the backgrounds. Don’t get me wrong, they are drawn very well, but they still remain somewhat unremarkable and unnoticed. One thing that is often seen in good shoot-em-ups is a varying landscape on every level. After you play the level a few times, you remember how it was, what obstacles and enemies can be encountered. Background plays a big role in that: if the level has enemies after mountains, those mountains help you understand and improve on next playthrough, because you know where to anticipate such enemies. No such thing here: I understand that the game relies on random generation a lot, but most of the levels I’ve played were simply floating rocks in the background. Sometimes there were tornadoes. The colors and gamma change occasionally, but there are rarely any remarkable landmarks that can be seen. Because of that, there is the repetitive feeling, like when you are moving in the same place.

Second, the levels often offer randomly-generated enemy sequence, but there are too many levels and too few enemies. In the end, it starts to feel like a grind. I’ve played the game for about 5 hours and I still enjoy it, but I think this is one of the few times when I wanted a good game to be a bit shorter and more focused on its objective / plot instead of asking to do similar missions with similar enemies multiple times.

Summary

Overall, while having a few noticeable flaws, Drifting Lands does a lot of things right. The gameplay is action packed and challenging. The management layer that comes from items, ship upgrades and abilities makes the gameplay much more engaging. If you enjoy shoot-em-ups and are not afraid of replaying similar levels multiple times – I can recommend the game to you.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Caveblazers - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Roguelite / Action / Platformer
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: If you enjoy difficult games

About The Game

In caveblazers, you venture down the cavern to explore it. It’s a roguelite platformer, where you’ll have to jump from wall to wall, fight different enemies and descend deep down into the cave. The game is aimed at hardcore roguelite/action/platformer audiences due to high difficulty.

The Good

The combat system is pretty simple, but really well done. You have a melee weapon, a bow with unlimited ammo and a slot for special item. You just need to attack the enemy either from a distance or swing at him after he swings at you (and hopefully misses). If you swing at enemy at the same time he does – the swing is parried. Enemies do not have bounding boxes, so you can often go through them, thus flanking them and making them miss an attack against you.

As you progress, you find new weapons and magic items that can give you one special ability like super speed, high jump or some passive perks. The variety is good and it leaves a lot of space to decision making: do I want to equip a boots that will allow me to run faster once in a while or do I want a demon that duplicates ranged attacks?

You’ll spend lots of game time jumping, and this aspect is done really well too. Your character can jump from the walls, meaning that you can climb up this way. The jump controls are really well done, they are intuitive; you can change your direction mid-air, ensuring that you can easily navigate wherever you want to.

AI deserves extra mention: monsters know how to jump from walls to walls and can find how to get to you. You also encounter friendly adventurers on your travel, and friendly ai really gives a great impression: it can maneuver carefully and traverse complicated levels while following you.

The graphics are also nicely done and well-polished. The pixel art is done with love and fits the style of the game.

The Bad

  • The game often feels like it is relying on random too much. Some runs will be successful simply because your rooms spawned perfectly.
  • I’ve also noticed that sometimes enemy-containing rooms are generated without open passages to them. You’d need to blow up the ground if you want to get to the enemies. There were no problems with the exit.
  • At the rate the new perks are unlocked – the game gets a bit monotonous. Unless you unlock relevant perks – you always start with the same weapons. I’ve played for about 3 hours and I still only have one perk that gives me different ranged weapon.

Summary

Caveblazers is the game that leaves a somewhat bad impression at first. During the first hour of playing, I seriously disliked how things went. The gameplay was really repetitive: spawn, die, repeat. After that time, I’ve unlocked a few perks that altered the gameplay process and the game began to feel different and more varying. I’m glad I’ve persevered past the first 1.5 hours, because after that the game really became fun. To sum it up, Caveblazers is very focused on its mechanics, so I’m pretty sure that you are new to the genre – it won’t motivate you to carry on. For those hardcore fans that enjoy this type of games and have some sort of idea about what they are getting into – I recommend the game.

Have something to add? Make sure to join our Steam group, http://steamcommunity.com/groups/coldwild or join our facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ColdwildGames/

Feature Image taken from the game store page, here