Rain World - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Survival/Platformer/Adventure
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: No

Disclaimer: I got the key for free

In Rain World, you play as a small animal, slugcat, which got separated from his family (pack?). Wander through post-apocalyptic world, where you are both a hunter and a prey. Avoid larger animals that try to hurt you and try to gather fruit / smaller animals for you to sustain yourself. I really had high hopes for the game and tried to like it. Admittedly, it gave a lot of reasons to do that.

Pros

  • Great post-apocalyptic styled graphics, amazing backgrounds
  • Amazingly, responsive controls
  • Immersive ambient sounds that create a unique atmosphere
  • Cool innovative style, which tries to mimic a real eco-system. To add to that, it is somewhat supplemented with a physics mode, where bodies behave according to the in-game laws of physics
  • Vast world to explore

Cons

But after 3 hours of playing, I had to throw in the towel. What went wrong? Obviously a game like this must be a no-brainer to pick? For me, what spoiled the fun is terrible punishment for death with no way to cancel it. Here’s how the game “levelling” system works: the level is not written explicitly, but every time you rest, there’s a symbol that “bumps” upward. To enter some areas, they require that symbol to be at the certain height (that’s why I call it level). You gain levels by catching lesser animals (sometimes spread through different rooms). To gain one level, you need to get 4 types of food and then find the resting place. Sounds reasonable and fair so far. The catch is: whenever you die, you lose one level.

Difficulty

Bear in mind, I don’t mind the unforgiving combat / hunting difficulty, because it fits the harsh world perfectly. The hunt and hide mechanics are nothing short of excellent and they throw you in a world where the tides can change in a second: at first you hunt, then you become the prey. There’s just this anti-pattern of game design that grinded my gears: heavily punishing the player for death in a game that requires player to explore, meet lots of dangers and actually die quite a lot (from developer’s press release: “Rain World is truly a brutal place, and it is important to accept that death is an inevitable part of life.”). Well, I could accept it if it did not have this way of punishing me with repetitive grind for food in order to get to where I was (and probably lose it again). That’s where frustrations began and fun ended.

It could be easily fixed: add an “easy” mode option that does not take the level upon death and I’m sure I’d enjoy the game more. But since there’s no such thing – the game really became a repetitive experience with focus on mostly hunting the same stuff instead of exploring the world (due to the risk of losing everything). If you like incredibly punishing games – get it, you won’t be disappointed, because the gameplay execution is actually great. If you hate the feeling of losing your hard-earning level progress once you die (and then repetitively grinding to get it back) – this game is not for you.

Summary

Again, I loved the rest of the game, but I have no idea how this change came through and what was intended with it (if there’s a comment from developer: I’ll gladly publish it beneath the review; I don’t mind being wrong – I actually want to be wrong this time, because I want to like this game). For now though – I can not recommend it to anyone due to frustrating death mechanics.

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Feature Image taken from the Rain World store page, here

Hollow Knight - Steam Indie Game Reviews 2017

Genre: Metroidvania
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, go grab it right away unless you get frustrated easily (read below)

I’m going to describe my gaming process of Hollow Knight with Kubler-Ross model.

Denial

“The game seemed really great at first, surely there can be some directions somewhere where I can understand what the plot is about and why am I going where I’m going?”

Anger

“I bought all the items from map vendor, I even have ink, why do I have to find a bloody npc to buy a map for this specific location? This is terrible, my character can’t even create a map and I need to equip a special item for my location to be shown. Why do I have to move a huge distance to get to the boss after dying? If only I could find a bench nearby. That’s right, I can’t, because there’s no clear map.”

Bargaining

“Maybe if I look the map online – it won’t be that bad? It might get better, right? What if I try looking it up no more than once in an hour, the process won’t be spoiled, right?”

Depression

“What? I’ve missed the mantis boss at the beginning of the game and still progressed further? It’s all meaningless, I can’t operate with so much data missing and obscure directions. Screw it, let me just write something on the review and then go on to the next game.”

Acceptance

“Alright, the community is really helpful and the game is actually enjoyable once you know what you need to do. There’s lots of content, so I’m not bored. As I play more, the game starts to be fun. The content is great and the art style is really immersive.”

Review

Seriously though,

I’ve played the game for about 16 hours and that’s a brief description of my experience so far. The community is split into two parts: those, who like the lack of direction and those who don’t. I can understand both sides: there are not many metroidvanias with such obscure sense of purpose but also heightened sense of exploration. The lack of directions when you traverse the game map (with lots of mazes) can build an excitement but it can also take it away when you are going through the dungeon for the twentieth time (I wish I was exaggerating – maybe I suck at this game, but I’ve honestly tried to play without googling stuff for the first 10 hours) because you don’t know where you should be.

Rock Paper Shotgun (https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2017/03/02/hollow-knight-review/) calls this a worse version of “Ori and the Blind forest.” I cannot agree to that: while Ori offered a great steamlined experience (let’s be honest, you always knew where you had to go) with mostly ups and some downs (water flooding level, anyone?), Hollow Knight offers a mix of emotions, from deep frustrations to overwhelming joy. The difficulty level of hollow knight is also considerably higher, but the game is totally skill-based. There’s no random factor: if you win – it’s because you did great. If you lost – that’s your fault entirely.

Pros

  • Challenging, skill-based gameplay
  • Lots of content: levels, enemies, items
  • Amazing art style, really immersive surroundings: the feeling of the abandoned world that changes as you change.
  • Responsive controls (except for the “ground slam” move, it’s really hard to pull that one off because the timeframe when you have to press jump button is so small).
  • Awesome sounds and music
  • Boss fights are amazing – really hard, but really rewarding once you complete them

Cons

  • The map system is horrible: even if you buy the items necessary to update your map, you still need to find the npc that sells you the map of the current location. A lot of times, you cannot do this easily.
  • ^ Because you have no map, it’s hard to find resting places. Since you cannot find resting place, you have to restart at your last resting place (which is usually very far). If you die the second time when you move towards your death – you lose your coins. Sure, you can put coins in the bank, but then you’d have to return to the bank every time you want to put something else there.
  • Lack of direction: if you like tightly knitted plots and someone telling you what needs to be done – this game is not for you. You really have to explore that underground city, return to the locations you’ve previously been to in case you missed something. You won’t even understand that you missed something until there’s nowhere else to go and you’re out of options.

Summary

The game does not lead you by the hand (which is great), but it sometime feels that it gives too much freedom, which might be a disappointment if you are looking for something with a straightforward plot and at least some vague directions where you need to be.

Overall, the Hollow Knight to me was a bittersweet experience. I could not play it for more than 1-2 hours a day, because it can easily get frustrating. Still, don’t let that discourage you: that’s the game that actually gives you a bouquet of different emotions. Because you feel frustrations, the emotional reward of completing something here also feels greater than great. And because you experience so much, the game begins to feel great. Due to that, the game captivates you. This magical feeling of wanting to overcome the difficulties will drive you forward once you pass the initial resistance.

The lack of decent mapping might hurt, but overall it adds the sense of unknown when you are trying to explore new location. If you lose patience easily – this game is not for you. 100%. Otherwise – highly recommended, a great _experience_ that will take you from frustration to the joy of solving problems and overcoming challenging foes. Definitely grab this one right away if you are a fan of metroidvanias. Go grab it right away. Seriously.

Have something to add? Make sure to join our Steam group, http://steamcommunity.com/groups/coldwild

Feature Image taken from the Hollow Knight store page, here

Hollow Knight Steam Screenshot

Store Page: http://store.steampowered.com/app/367520

 

Disclaimer: that’s a preview, game is work in progress and lots of things may change.

If you are subscribed to Humble Monthly in February, you’ve received a sneak peak version of Hollow Knight. It’s not yet finished, but it gives a good feel what the game is going to be and so I wanted to explore it in a small article.

Hollow Knight is a metroidvania where you get to explore an underground kingdom located beneath a small town of Dirtmouth. It’s a dark underground world, long forgotten civilization, that keeps attracting adventurers and treasure seekers. Apparently, you’re one of them.

Explore the tunnels, fight monsters, gather in-game money to get new equipment and unlocks. The concept is not new, but the .execution is definitely unique. The aura of desperation fills the air, where you traverse the vast network of different locations underneath the ground. The experience is very immersive and the game presents just about right amount of hardships to be challenging and entertaining at the same time. You look forward towards every new room you enter. Two bosses in the preview version are tough, but the encounters are not very long. So you need skill, but the fight won’t drag down if you do everything correctly.

Pros:

  • Awe inspiring, unique style that immerses you in the game’s world
  • Responsive controls
  • The effects are well-polished
  • Challenging boss and enemy fights
  • Great music and soundtrack

Cons:

  • A few of cliff edge bounding boxes are not very well defined – you start falling when you have not approached the edge yet. Encountered this exactly in two situations.

Overall, I’d say we’re getting a great metroidvania. With unique style and captivating gameplay, get this one as soon as it becomes available.

Feature image taken from Game Page on Steam, http://store.steampowered.com/app/367520