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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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

Expeditions: Viking - Indie Game Reviews 2017

Genre: RPG / Strategy / Tactics
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

Expeditions: Viking is a Strategy/Tactical RPG game where you take control of a band of Norsemen in 790 AD. The game process is split into three parts: global map (of Denmark and England), questing locations (think Neverwinter Nights) with real-time movement and conversations, and then same locations that switch to turn-based combat when battle starts.

The Good

  • The world is really big and there’s lots of things to do. However, when I was playing, I never felt swamped with quests: it’s like every location balances on what it gives, so you don’t have a 20+ quest log, but receive them gradually instead.
  • The quest themselves offer a good diversity of choice: there are multiple ways you can solve most of them, violent or not. The dialogs between characters remind heavily of Neverwinter Nights, and the actual quest plot quality is close to that level too.
  • Lots of possible character builds and interesting levelling system: there’s no levels per se, but you get the special upgrade points after questing / combat. As you gather more points – you can invest them in specializations for your crew: weapons, skills, utility stuff and some special perks. Overall more than 100 skills that you can level.
  • Deep turn-based combat: the tactical element of positioning your characters and using appropriate skills in the combat makes the game challenging, but not impossible to beat.
  • Solid graphics; the game has its own distinct style that puts you in a dark world of 8th century Europe.
  • Great music and sound effects that make you feel immersed in the game world.

The Bad

  • The biggest thing that breaks the immersion is lots of bugs in the quests: it seems that they often were made with assumption that player is going to take one exact sequence of actions. As an example, there’s a quest about Roman cult that is split into two parts: there are multiple branches, but overall if you descend to the dungeon and kill one branch leader and then pick his banner (without meeting the second one at first) – you’ll be asked to go to the dungeon again, pick the banner. Except there’s nobody there anymore, right? You killed them. Then the combat sequence starts, but there are zero enemies. After that: the combat instantly ends and another copy of the “unique banner” appears. Nothing gamebreaking (well, except for one in the beginning, when you can’t talk to Gunnar after killing him when I had to replay it, but it was fixed) – but that gives an impression that game did not have enough quality control.
  • Quest Locations could really use a minimap (like Diablo style). Pressing “M” all the time to open the map (and then close it) is really troublesome.
  • Loading times for large locations seem to be quite long

 

Overall, if it was not for the multiple minor bugs in quests: Expeditions: Viking would feel like a top quality AAA game. Everything is there: character build possibilities, diverse quests with lots of outcomes, resource and group management, global map with occasional random events. If you think you can look past through occasional bugs in quests – I highly recommend the game to tactical / strategy game fans, as well as people who just enjoy good plot and captivating quest writing.

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Feature Image taken from the Expeditions: Viking store page, here

Sonny - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Not while controls/UI are like that

When you hear about the game “Sonny” some of you probably remember your teens: that was a really popular flash game. The same goes for me: I still have fond memories of playing it. This game on Steam, however, is not exactly a direct sequel of sonny1/2 from flash to PC. It’s a port from the iPhone game, made by the same author, based on the plot of the first game. It’s a turn-based RPG where you clear stages with your party, acquiring new skills and items in the process.

Pros

  • Content is decent. Lots of items, engaging plot (who does not like zombies?)
  • The combat system is well thought out: it’s easy to learn but hard to master, offers a solid challenge
  • Talent tree + possibility to evolve your abilities during battle, adjusting to your playstyle and improving the ways to defeat your enemies
  • Combat feels well polished: there’s really no attack animations for the character sprites, but hitting the enemies feel really good: lots of flashy numbers and colorful effects.
  • Solid and colorful graphics overall.
  • Sounds/music are good

Cons

  • All cons for me are essentially associated with UI/UX. The game might be ported to PC in terms of graphics, but UI/UX is still kept from Mobile. No difference between left / right / middle clicks in battle: if you want to see ability descriptions, you have to hold your CLICKED mouse button on them which screams “touch” from mobile. No skill hotkeys. The first flash game had similar mechanics, but it did not open a new window when you clicked the skill for description. That makes a huge difference. Here, when you want to check your skill out during the battle, you’ll also need to close the window with description (in case you don’t want to use it).
  • By the way, using right click on skill upgrade window teaches your character skill instantly in your talent tree. Learned it the hard way. So yes, there is a way to read about the talent, you just need to LEFT click it. The inconsistency is killing me.
  • Shop: no buy-and-equip at once. You have to buy your item, close the shop window, go to inventory window and equip your item there.
  • Hovering on stats does not explain them. There’s “Stat” info button that explains basic stats.
  • Big one: some debuffs are not visibly displayed on your character (you can find out that he’s debuffed only by clicking on him). Might not seem like a huge deal, but there’s literally a debuff that kills you when you attack.

Summary

Essentially, it feels like a good mobile game that tries to find the way to PC. By itself, there’s nothing bad in the fact, but the laziness in adjusting the UX for decent use on PC really breaks the experience. The game screams “mobile” right now. Honestly, I this is the first time I loved the the setting and gameplay, but was absolutely frustrated by the controls, as playing it on PC felt like playing the game on an oversized mobile. This type of controls work on mobile mostly for one reason: buttons are not too far from another due to smaller screen, you can simply touch them and navigating is much more convenient with your fingers. On pc, you have to scroll your mouse and click more buttons than necessary. The lack of hotkeys also hurts the game that requires you to do lots of clicking on skills. Overall, get it if the control issues are fixed. The gameplay is OK, but the controls are infuriating. If you have an iphone: get it there or wait for fixes on PC, I would not recommend this game in its current state, especially to Sonny fans out there. Better go replay the first game on the publishers website

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Feature Image taken from the Sonny store page, here

Battle Brothers - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

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

Disclaimer: I got the key for free.

Battle Brothers has recently left early access, thus marking a full-featured release of long-developed game. Battle Brothers is a mix of a management game / turn-based strategy game where you lead a band of mercenaries in (somewhat) randomly-generated fantasy world. The campaign sets a defined goals that you need to reach, but it’s up to you how you prioritize them. First and foremost: the game is narrative based, expect to read a lot of background stories about your mercenaries, detailed quest discussions. Despite that, it does not really get annoying: if you want to skip the bios of your soldiers and quest texts while just enjoying combat/management – you can do that too.

Pros

  • Great tactical combat with lots of depth: there are a lot of factors that can influence how the combat goes. Troop morale, wounds / status effects, terrain, all can influence the end result. The positioning matters: you want your units to be placed on higher ground for better chance to win.
  • Lots of content: a lot of places to explore, cities to visit, treasures to find and fights to fight.
  • Captivating narrative: there are stories all around you, each one of your squad members have a story and random generator is really doing a good job in creating a believable narratives.
  • Most importantly, the game is just fun to play. The story telling aspects, combined with spectacular turn-based combat and lots of mercenary customization option makes a great mix of game mechanics, essentially bringing us an amazing game.

Cons

  • The tutorial is not nearly enough. To become somewhat good at the game in combat – you’ll need to watch videos (at least I needed to do it). Not a huge problem, because in this type of games, there’s so much to do that it’s hard to get into how things work at first.
  • No way to compare items: you need to check manually what your mercenary is wearing before equipping the item.
  • As with most of the team-management games, after you get a lot of people – it becomes really hard to manage them. You need to equip your mercenaries, make sure to choose the right stats / perks, which can get tedious after a while (especially if you have close to 20 people in your squad).

 

Summary

Battle Brothers is a perfect example of Early Access game done right: since the time early access started, the game has seen a lot of patches based on user feedback. In the end we get mature, finished product that is very engaging. With the text adventures comparable to Sunless Sea and mercenary management comparable to Mount and Blade – you get a fun mix of both, wrapped in a deeply thought-out turn-based gamplay. If you enjoy playing turn-based / tactical rpg games, this game is not to be missed.

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Feature Image taken from the Battle Brothers store page, here

Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf Steam Screenshot

Genre: Tactical Strategy/RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: if you are into multiplayer – yes, as it is fun; if you are into singleplayer – wait until early access is done to see if the game has improved;

Disclaimer #1: I got the key for free

Disclaimer #2: The game is in early access (the roadmap is described on the store page, http://store.steampowered.com/app/553210/ )

Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf is a card-driven turn-based tactical game with RPG elements. The game enters in early access, and in this point it is fair to say that while the premise sounds really cool, the singleplayer execution so far is somewhat questionable. The graphics and effects are fine, it’s the mission gameplay that I have problem with.

Pros:

  • Fun to play
  • Actions taking time is a good approach: you can make two „long” actions and allow the enemy move before yours, or you can do a short one, take a break and attack again before the enemy gets a chance to move
  • The graphics are well polished
  • Plenty of cards/content to diversify your playing experience
  • Well, it’s warhammer 40k universe. Which is pretty badass by itself
  • Multiplayer is actually good

Cons:

  • Deckbuilding UI is clumsy and unintuitive. (But the early access roadmap promises to tune it)
  • Cannot turn your character without moving (which is essential for the gameplay)
  • Some enemy units can attack you with melee attacks diagonally, but your melee attacks can only go in front
  • Very difficult (not sure if intentional) – in missions, enemies just keep spawning when you step on certain areas (meaning you can’t go around the enemy sometimes without spawning new ones). The difficulty did not bother me much, but this unpredictability is killing it.
  • The game feels too reliant on RNG. 70-80% hitrate makes you feel screwed by the game quite often. If you are lucky to dodge enemy attacks – great. If you shoot 3 times in a row and miss – it stops being cool. Obstacles don’t do much and do not seem to impact the shooting: you can’t hide behind them „x-com style.”

 

Summary

Not surprisingly, I’m going to compare the game battle system to x-com. Let’s talk about single player, because multiplayer do not have most of these issues (well, except for random factor).

Right now, the issue with the game is not the content. Personally, I did not enjoy the game due to unpredictability: the enemies just spawn in too big numbers in pre-scripted manner. X-com avoids it by showing fog of war: that way you can scroll around the map and at least try to take into account that an enemy can be hiding somewhere. In this case: the map is wide open, but the enemies simply appear in front of you as you step forward. Speaking about the missions, if you try to go too far (to flank the enemies) – more ones will spawn just in front of you. In my opinion, the planning aspect is very important for turn-based games, but it is missing here.

Despite its flaws, the game really has potential. I cannot recommend the single player experience right now, but the multiplayer is really engaging. The mission unpredictability (enemy spawning after you reach certain points) and too much random factor in shooting (and no way to affect this effectively) hit the game in a bad way though. Buy if you are really into tactical games, like multiplayer or enjoy wh40k universe. Otherwise wait for the game to leave early access.

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Holy Potatoes! We're in Space?! Game Screenshot

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

Disclaimer #1: I got the key for free
Disclaimer #2: This one won’t be that short
Disclaimer #3: The game is close to release, but it is still work in progress and I had a preview version

„Holy Potatoes! We’re in space?!” offers a new take on a space exploration game. I suppose comparisons to “Faster Than Light” are inevitable, so let’s get this out first: similar to FTL, you control a ship that must traverse galaxies and the time is running out. Similar to FTL, you encounter various events and enemies. Similar to FTL, you recruit your crew, each one of them has their own strengths and weaknesses. Similar to how you loved FTL, you are going to love this game. They are different games though.

The ideas might be the same, but the execution definitely differs. ”Holy Potatoes! We’re in space?!” is west-meets-east kind of game, that mixes the game development styles from both sides of the world and keeps the best parts of them. Although there’s plenty of randomness, it’s not really a roguelike like FTL: the game is more plot / objective driven. You explore the space on your starship, taking turns to move from one galaxy to another. Each galaxy has a hub, something like a shop/upgrade center, where you can buy craftable item blueprints, crafting resources, weapons, upgrade your ship modules and hire more crew.

Indie Game Review 2017 - Holy Potatoes! We're in Space?! Ship Interior

After you visit the hub, you can travel to new planets and explore them, that’s where the main gameplay takes part. Exploration is just a series of events, from simple random quest encounters to enemies. The combat is turn-based (think JRPG turn based): your ship has multiple weapons, each one controlled by a crew member, and you may choose what weapons to use. You can also assign shield to your ship components or use special abilities.

Pros:

  • Unique Style, universe based on humor and lots of game and popular culture references
  • Interesting gameplay with lots of variety, game is really fun to play, the great blend of different mechanics really makes the game stand out
  • Depth of micromanaging, lots of things to do: crafting/ship parts/crew/weapons
  • Lots of items / craftables to customize your ship
  • Plenty of random events and enemy encounters

Cons:

  • The style / humor is not for everyone: I personally like it, but if you’ve played the other game (“Holy Potatoes! A weapon shop?!”) and did not like the style/humor – chances are you won’t like this one too.
  • The battles can get a bit repetitive: after all, you’re just firing the weapons at enemy and he fires back
  • Minor one, but had some issues with tutorial (notified the developers); as the game has lots of gameplay elements, it’s pretty easy to get lost in UI at first. It gets much easier later on though.

 

Overall, while I would not call this game a spiritual successor to FTL, I must say that it scratches that same „FTL itch” we all had after finishing the game. The game offers a unique take to the mechanics and Daylight studios do not disappoint with their execution: everything is well thought out and polished, the game is fun to play. It’s a great mix of genres, offering great depth of micromanagement paired with exciting RPG battles. Because of that, I highly recommend the game.

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QuestRun game review screenshot

Genre: Turn-Based/Casual RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, On 50%+ discount.

Despite having a mobile game feel, the game is actually fun to play and it offers challenging gameplay mechanics. To sum up the gameplay: first, you have a row of units. You do not need to click your units for them to attack. They attack automatically. However, you must swap the units for the best possible strategic position and level them up / use abilities wisely.

Pros

  • Mechanics: the developer tried to make a good unique mechanics. I think this is why we play indie games.
  • Involves lots of planning when it comes to character levelling, have to figure out the best strategy stat-wise if you want to win.
  • Difficulty. It is hard to play, but it is also very rewarding.

Cons

  • No settings, resizing game windows makes game blurry
  • Some stats feel useless (Charisma? Only to get a chance for better look @ one random game event?)
  • … Difficulty. I loved it, but it might be too much for some

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Feature Screenshot Image Taken from the QuestRun store page, here

Full video review:

Overfall Game Review Screenshot

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

Game Mechanics

Overfall is somewhat of a mix between roguelike and tactical rpg. The interesting thing is that the game remains plot driven. With about 15000 copies sold on Steam, I do think this game can be called a hidden gem.

First and foremost, the turn-based combat is challenging and interesting: each unit has 3 turn phases, units must combine their abilities to optimize damage output. Furthermore, the AI does not relent, the difficulty is challenging (well, as challenging as you want it to be) and won’t leave you bored and yawning.

Content

Now, I must honestly say that I suck at this game. After 40 hours of gameplay, I could not unlock most of the spells and alternative weapons, but the game is still fun. Amazing content literally floods the game, every character has multiple weapons, each with its own skills. There are also secondary  skills and trinkets, which are unlocked separately for each character. Overall, I think the game has more than 200 different unlocks, which make it extremely diverse.

I’ve had occasional bugs with some of the game events, like being unable to lose a tournament, but nothing too major that would make me quit. In conclusion, I would definitely recommend the game at its full price.

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Feature Screenshot Image taken from the Ovefall Presskit, here
Here’s the full review: