Super Stone Legacy - Indie Game Reviews 2017

Genre: Action / RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Wait for 50%+ discount

EDIT: 30-second victory screen has been made significantly shorter, removed that point by request of developer since it was fixed.

Super Stone Legacy is an action game. You go through randomly-generated dungeon rooms and kill all enemies that you encounter. One thing that makes it distinguishable is amount of boss fights: you encounter the boss after clearing two or three rooms. That means one boss fight approximately every 5 minutes. I must say right away that I’m on the fence about this game. Here are the reasons why, starting from the good ones:

The Good

  • The gameplay loop is really well done. The room battles are very dynamic and it is where the game shines.
  • Six characters with different attack patterns (that can be switched during game time) add enough variety to make fights exciting.
  • Skill-Based gameplay. Not much of a random factor: rooms are randomly generated, but nothing else. It’s up to you to dodge enemy attacks / move properly.

The Bad

  • Shooting/attacking mechanics: you have to click every time to perform normal attack. Why not make it possible to hold the left button for continuous attacks? There are two more attack types, but it would be much nicer to see them bound to right clicking / holding right mouse.
  • No difficulty settings. Once you level up your character to 7+ level, get plenty of hp and study enemy attack patterns, the game becomes a grind, you just go through enemies and simply click lots of times to defeat them without fear of being killed.
  • One walkthrough takes about 1.5 hours. You don’t have much incentives to start another one. There are no unlocks or anything like that.
  • There is no save feature, meaning you have to complete the game in one run. 1.5 hours might not be too crazy, but the feature would help.
  • UI: You can not alt-tab and minimize the window. It stays on top of the display all the time. For those of you with two+ displays: you can not choose the display in Unity launcher, which seems weird, because other games made in Unity normally allow that.

 

Summary

The game battles are fun and you can’t take that away. On the other hand, there are terrible UI / UX issues and not that much replayability. You completed the game – now what? You can try again with the different characters, but chances are you’ve seen most of the bosses and the enemies will be the same, even if they will be appearing in the same sequence. Taking the bad sides into account, I suggest waiting for 66% discount or more before grabbing the game.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

MidBoss - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Dungeon Crawler / RPG / Roguelike
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Wait for 66% discount

MidBoss is a dungeon crawler where you get to possess the bodies of your defeated enemies. By defeating more enemies and playing those characters, you unlock new skills and are able to use their skillsets even when you repossess some other monster. That opens a room for many different skill and build combinations.

The Good

  • The main idea: there are lots of monsters with unlockable abilities (you have to unlock them on every new run) that you combine into your own character builds. Each monster can have up to 3 active abilities chosen at the time. Some of the monsters don’t have 3, others have much more, which makes you choose. Those 3 abilities can be transferred to the next monster upon death, which opens space for LOTS of combinations.
  • The way how new runs are handled: the beginning gets repetitive, but “grave goods” system that allows you to transfer one item from your previous characters really helps the random factor and introduces the missing “roguelike” element: no matter what decisions you take, you will be stronger on the next walkthroughs if you are using the grave goods system properly.
  • Challenging difficulty done just right: the game is easy to get into, but hard to master. You’ll have to experiment a lot in order to find valid builds.
  • The art is not bad and is done in a consistent style. It’s a bit generic for a dungeon crawler, but not low quality.

The Bad

  • Random generation: the rooms often feel empty and not decorated enough. Additionally, the random generation also strongly affects the loot, so there will be games that you lose simply due to randomly generated items not being strong enough.
  • Not many stats compared to other roguelikes. When you level up, you can choose one of four stats only. Those affect your other attributes like dmg / block chance. So in that regard – levelling up your main character is pretty limited.
  • The UI: Menus are a bit clumsy. You cannot bind items on hotkeys (yes, even activated items). You cannot equip items at once when you pick them (even if you right click on them), you always have to open inventory and choose them.
  • The fonts are blurry and hard to read. The whole game graphics are blurred out (probably by intention), but I’m assuming that the blur shader is applied for the whole scene on rendering. This should not be done this way: the good idea is to render UI / Text after the relevant gameplay scene has been rendered. My eyes were not getting tired, but that overall impacts the UX and decreases the perceived quality of the game.

Summary

Compared to other roguelikes, this game is remarkably easy to get into, but that does not make it easy to play. The main possession mechanic is deep and well thought-out, but other aspects don’t feel very developed compared to other dungeon crawlers. I can recommend the game to those who are looking for a way to get into the genre or just don’t enjoy crawlers where you have to read tons of text. However, MidBoss seems quite overpriced right now and I’d personally wait for 66% discount and grab it close to $5 (or your regional equivalent), simply because there are other alternatives on the market.

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Skylar & Plux - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: 3D Platformer / Action / Adventure
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, under 33%+ discount, since the game is pretty short

Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is a homage to early 3d platformers. You control your feline hero and help her gather three relic parts to restore something that brings her memory back.

The Good

  • Game World and Graphics are top-notch: seriously, the character models / animations / level design is something you would expect from the AAA game.
  • Controls are very responsive (maybe except for jetpack jump) and controlling your character feels great. The jumping, which has often been an issue in the old 3d platformers is done surprisingly smoothly here. It presents a challenge, but you are fighting with the obstacles, and not controls.
  • Beautiful Sounds and Music: the Music fits the colorful game mood and enhances it.
  • More than anything, the game is fun to play. It gives a good mix of puzzles, jumping and destroying enemies, which makes the gameplay exciting, since you never get bored while playing.

The Bad

  • It often feels that together with early 3d platformer feeling the developers decided to bring in the clumsy camera controls which was often an issue back then. If you want to look up – the camera often shifts right to your characters butt. Turning during jumping can also be a bit painful experience (although it’s somewhat mitigated because the gamepad has the button that centers the camera behind your character).
  • The plot is somewhat cheesy (which honestly is understandable), but the initial premise was that the cat character had memory removed and was trying to restore it. By the end of the game, this completely shifts and it seems like nobody cares about restoring the memory anymore. After completing the game, you still don’t know what happened to the character and how she ended up being where she is.
  • Not much Content / Low Difficulty: there are about 5 different enemies and one boss. The game itself can take about 3 hours to complete if you just want to run through it (to counter that: there are multiple optional health unlocks that can greatly prolong the experience; 100% completion will take much more time; the lack of enemies is also compensated by puzzles and good level design that requires lots of non-repetitive jumping with different approaches to getting past the obstacles).

Summary

Despite the flaws, the game is still fun, but not for typical hardcore gamers who are nostalgic about 3d platformers. The length of the game might be questionable, but the experience quality justifies it. It’s the game that I’d buy for my kid, because it is very colorful, well-polished and reasonably challenging. For veteran gamers with 3d nostalgia though – I hesitate recommend it and I leave this up to your discretion.

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Gridd - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Action / SHMUP
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Wait for 50% discount

GRIDD is a neon-cyberpunk game, where you control your craft and try to “hack the system,” while avoiding and destroying enemies. Behind simple concept there’s a good execution with well-detailed and thought out neon 80’s-like style. Think of Tron, a 1982 movie. The style of the game world vaguely reminds of a famous lightbike scene that the movie portrayed to us.

The Good

  • Simple, but action packed gameplay. You can move in 4 directions (up/down/left/right) and shoot. There are different obstacles and enemies that makes it interesting and engaging.
  • Difficult, skill-based gameplay with two modes: the arcade mode offers one same gameplay sequence again and again so you have a chance to study / adapt to it. Endless mode offers randomly-generated levels, so you’ll have to rapidly react to what’s happening on the screen since you can’t actually prepare for it.
  • Neon-Cyberpunk Style: glowing neon futuristic levels, with amazing particle effects, stylized enemy models and well-thought out obstacles. This gives a great vibe of “system hacking” like you would imagine it in 1980’s movies.
  • Music is repetitive, but not annoying: the music loop fits the game fine.

The Bad

  • There’s not much in the game content-wise. Sure, different enemies and obstacles are there, but your ship remains the same and there are only 3 bonuses: health / shield / weapon upgrades. It gets repetitive after a while: Arcade mode throws the same level at you again and again. Endless mode adds variety, but somewhat diminishes the skills: since obstacles and enemies are random, you can’t learn the positioning and predict them in a timely manner.
  • Dying sequence deserves an extra mention: after you die, you are shown the final screen with score (acceptable). Then, after you have to press the button to close the screen, you get thrown to the main screen of the game (press start to continue), where you have to navigate to the game mode you want and pick it (more button presses). For a skill-based game that requires lots of retry attempts – that quickly gets annoying. Simple restart/retry button would make it so much better.

Summary

The game offers an engaging gameplay with exceptional style, but does get repetitive after a while since there’s not that much content present. I say grab it during 50% discount.

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Rocking Pilot - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Bullet Hell / SHMUP
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, if you have a good twin-stick gamepad

About the Game

Rocking Pilot is a bullet hell game where you fight the enemy waves on your helicopter. It is inspired by the classic arcade games, but tries to introduce new features to the genre. Without spoiling the ending, the setting of the game itself takes place in “reality show” that shows wars and armed conflicts across the world. During every mission, your helicopter stays on screen and tries to perform the task given.

The Good:

  • Each game zone brings its own interaction: hostages to be rescued, gas that blocks enemy and your bullets, mutant growth that can be killed only by rotors, etc. It feels like developers really spent a lot of time developing the enemies.
  • The graphics are bright and very polished: player’s action receive a good visual feedback. Picking up hostages, dealing damage and picking power-ups – all of this is clear and pretty.
  • Challenging and difficult. You can turn invulnerability/bullet deflection for some time, but not for long. It’s up to you when to turn this one, which direction to face, where to go and what enemies to shoot. Overall, the gameplay feels very skill-based.
  • The game by itself is not that long (probably the base storyline can be completed within 2 hours), but there’s a lot more stuff to do if you want to perfect it. There are also bonus levels with much higher difficulties. As it often is with shmup games, each stage offers extra milestones that can be completed for additional rewards / pickable bonus unlocks.

The Bad:

  • Collisions: bounding boxes are utterly confusing. You often have to kill the enemies using your helicopters rotors, that means you have to approach them, and it is not always clear how far you can go into the enemies without exploding. To sum it up, the death from collisions in this particular game felt like it was hurting the gameplay instead of helping it.
  • The mouse controls are awkward at the very least. When playing using controller, the helicopter turns towards the direction of the second stick. When playing with mouse, however, your helicopter seems to be turning right/left depending on where you move your mouse, and since there’s no cursor being shown – it’s just hard to navigate using the mouse. It just gives an impression that there was no effort to make the game use devices that PC can offer. This type of game on PC often uses cursor for targeting and easier rotation, but not in this case, and that makes mouse controls so much worse without a particular reason.
  • The UI is obviously meant for consoles: you can’t navigate the menus with the mouse, you have to pick language every time you launch the game. The game keeps launching on your display #1 no matter which one you set as a main one. No way to tune that in the settings. My monitors have different resolution and so I could not set it to run on the one I wanted to. You can turn on the windowed mode, but you don’t seem to be able to resize the window.

Summary

Overall, it’s a really decent bullet-hell game when it comes to the gameplay itself, but poor mouse controls make it an unsuitable pick for those of you who prefer gaming with keyboard and mouse. If you have a twin-stick controller and enjoy bullet hell games though – the game will be a good addition to your library.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Rogue Islands Steam Screenshot

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

In Rogue Islands you take control of a dwarf on a journey to save his tribe. It’s an FPS-meets-minecraft kind of game, with voxel graphics and heavy use of roguelite principles. You travel from island to island on your boat and complete simple missions: simply gathering enough fuel to move forward, visiting the “spirit tree” to meditate on top of it or fighting the boss. The gameplay on every island can be split into three parts: exploration, resource gathering, fighting. As for the gathering part: at the very least, you need to gather enough fuel to move to the next island, but there’s much more resources (food / magic gems) at each location. The monster hunting part is pretty straight forward: use your spells to kill monsters, they drop “souls” that can be used for upgrades later on.

The Good:

  • The islands are huge. The random terrain generation is also very well done, generating caves / mountains / ponds and placing random resources. I don’t know how they did it, but most of the time you get the feeling that no way the current map you’re playing on could have been randomly generated. I’m very impressed.
  • The graphics are well done: very colorful, lots of effects and due to the right sound choice you get the feeling like you are in 8-bit world. The monster death effects deserve extra mention: killing stuff is just cool.
  • The FPS mechanics are alright. It’s not impossible to dodge the enemy projectiles, but you need to make an effort to do this. The projectile impacts are well done, but the weapon shooting does not always feel powerful. Don’t get me wrong, the weapons are in fact quite powerful, it’s just your first weapon, wand, which you are going to use most of the time, does not give impression of power. Projectiles just sort of fly away from it. It’s just an aesthetic feeling: impacts done right, shots – not so much.
  • The difficulty seems just right. If you make mistakes: you die and reset, if you play / dodge correctly – you progress further. There’s not much random involved in the combat itself, which makes it deterministic and not luck-based.

The Bad:

  • As of now, not big enough variety of monsters: first two boss models are the same. At the first ¾ islands, you are going to encounter 3-4 types of enemies at most. Again, this is OK for the early access title, but I think it’s fair that I warn you.
  • If you are playing with keyboard/mouse, but have controller connected, it’s still going to vibrate (which essentially means that you’ll have to disconnect it from your pc when playing).
  • No hotkeys to switch between weapons (spells). You have to press right mouse key, then the circular menu opens and you need to navigate to the one you need.
  • As of the current moment, the game crashed about 4 times upon my death within ~6h of playing. Not a huge deal (since you died anyway), but still gets on your nerves occasionally. After patch today I played for ~3 hours and did not encounter any crashes.
  • After alt-tabbing, the mouse pointer is not captured inside the game window (meaning it can go over the game window bounds if you have 2 monitors like I do – meaning you’ll probably die since the game is not pausing on alt-tab).

Summary

I don’t think it’s bad, but I have to warn you that it’s a roguelite after all, so all who like hoard resources are going to be disappointed as there’s really no easy mode 🙂 Despite the lack of content in Early Access version on launch and some inconveniences, the main gameplay loop is really well-done and I had fun playing for about ~9 hours at the current point. The terrain generation is really original and all the randomly generated landscapes/islands never felt repetitive, as I was eager to explore them and find the resources every single time. The game is really fun even at this point and I can confidently recommend it: there’s not much content yet, but the developers mentioned that it’s going to cost $9.99 during early access. For this price – it’s a steal and if you like the idea of it – there’s no reason not to buy it.

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Shio - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Platformer
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, if you are a fan of difficult platformers

About The Game

Shio is a platformer where your character jumps between lanterns to reach the unknown destination (which is gradually revealed to you by plot). If you have played “Ori and the Blind Forest” – remember the waterfall level? The one that did not have much checkpoints and was insanely hard to jump through? Yup, this game essentially evokes this same feeling, only gives different obstacles in much greater variety. You’ll often have to remember position/timing of every platform before you can succeed.

The Good

  • Great level design: each new mechanic is gradually introduced into the game. At first the jumping is trivial, but then it gives you much harder challenges that you have to complete using things that you’ve learned
  • Creative approach to obstacles: lots of variety that requires player to adjust his play style. Some notorious examples are lanterns that reveal obstacles for a small while, the ray that kills you if you stay in one place for too long, the platforms that you need to jump away from right before they disappear
  • The game is difficult, but because of that it is rewarding: you might want to smash your controller sometimes, but after 20 minutes of attempting the same challenge and completing it you’ll feel gratification. Completing the challenges is insanely rewarding
  • The graphics and style are captivating: the backgrounds are colorful and character animations are also well done.
  • Great ambient music that enhances level traversing experience

The Bad

  • If you are playing with controller: left stick is used for movement (the usual way), but for some reason if you press up or down – your character keeps moving left or right (depending on your previous direction I think). It might not seem like a big deal, but you’re probably going to instinctively press “up-right” when you are jumping right for example. This is when it will get tricky, as the system somewhat gets confused if you’ve been going left before. Worse news if you are used to pressing “up” when jumping, since the character will simply divert to previous direction. I had to switch to d-pad, which was ok, because it’s easier to avoid up/down buttons.
  • The door-opening lanterns are often unresponsive: they just don’t activate the same way as the ones that help you jump. You’ll often miss them at first because they seem to require different timing when you jump towards them (which will mess up your mechanical memory / control expectations).

Summary

Apart from controls (which are troubling but not unbearable), the game offers a great jumping/platforming experience. It’s not for everyone, but if you enjoy high difficulty games which require perfect performance from the player– this one might just be for you.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

MegaSphere - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

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

Disclaimer: the game is in early access, so a lot of things are probably going to change/improve. The review is actual for the 4th of May 2017.

In MegaSphere, your character is investigating why are the stars of Solar System are going dark. It is an action-platformer, where you explore massive randomly-generated levels with well-defined objectives and progression.

The Good:

  • Challenging difficulty. The game feels really skill based. When you die from the enemy attack – you know exactly how you messed up.
  • Plenty of weapons with different shooting patterns and tactical uses. Weapons can also be upgraded by putting special modules in the slots. I.e. reflection that makes bullets bounce from walls. Shooting also feels nice: the weapons you get at the start are by no means powerful, but it’s a great feeling when you hit something successfully and then finally destroy it.
  • Great lightning and particle effects: the backgrounds are dark, and they make a great contrast with explosions / other game effects, which are masterfully made. These are hands down some of the best effects I’ve seen in a 2d game.
  • The music and sounds are OK. Not exceptional, but not bad: music does not feel repetitive and gives a good background for playthrough.
  • Environment with destructive elements: some parts of the levels can be destroyed, there are also explosive crates which you can use strategically to damage enemies.

The Bad:

  • The beginning is a bit slow and somewhat boring. There’s a good idea about gradually introducing game features by continuously unlocking them to the player (dash -> gun -> upgrade menu -> codex -> map, etc), but right at the start you need to traverse large spaces without much stuff going on. It gets much better when you enter the second location though.
  • No pausing the game when you open codex / equipment window. It’s probably by intention, but it often prevented me from reading codex / equipping stuff when I felt like it.
  • Maybe a bit more explanation about how saving works? I.e. codex record about this: right now even if I reached the checkpoint before boss, died, then respawned at the same checkpoint a few times, then exited the game – I still get thrown one level back to the checkpoint there.
  • Navigation tab could really use a legend somewhere, because icons of the map are not really obvious (i.e. at least in codex, where weapons are described; the game could do the same with navigation icons: icon – description).
  • AI is sometimes easily fooled (especially with destructive environment) – but in all honesty it does not make the game any less challenging

Summary

I think the game got my attention by its difficulty. The no hand-holding approach definitely works here, making fights and exploration entertaining and victories rewarding. Due to this, I can strongly recommend the game.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Riptale - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Action
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Wait for 50% discount

About The Game

In Riptale you take the role of the swordsman, a dragon hunter of sorts. You go through randomly generated levels and hack/slash through the enemies. Literally. There’s lots of blood and when you strike an enemy, you really go through him. Non-boss enemies die from one hit, but you must plan your attacks carefully, because it’s pretty easy for them to hit you too.

The Good

  • Hitting enemies feels great. The blood, the slow-down of time at the moment of impact that allows you to start another combo.
  • Challenging Difficulty: the game is really hard
  • Good selection of music and sounds. The music can get repetitive after a while, but it never felt annoying. The hit sounds are very satisfying: it’s exactly as you would imagine when you think about something alive that got hit by a sword.
  • Customizable attack combos: you don’t have a traditional attack cooldown. Instead, you have three attacks (gems). Each attack costs one gem, so you can do three rapid attacks at once. Gems replenish over time though, so you can’t combo immediately. The interesting thing is you encounter shops as you progress in the game, and those sell special gems that can alter your attack pattern and make you stronger. This is the main way to change your strategy and playstyle. For example, as you play, you discover that placing some gems in first position makes charging harder, so you put them in second attack position (i.e. your first attack remains normal, but second attack becomes homing, allowing to kill the enemy quickly if he dodged).

 

The Bad

  • Collisions could be better. Occasionally you go through flying enemies without damaging them.
  • Gems are not recharged when you enter new room. If the game expects to have a fast gameplay, it’s a bit counter-intuitive to have player stand in one place and wait till the gems are refilled.
  • Aiming controls felt subpar quite a while: the 45-degree directions are fine, but enemies that are located at a different angle from you are frustrating to hit.
  • Slow-mo during falls could be useful. From time to time you get into situation when you jump down a platform and collide with a monster below (but there was no way to see it).
  • The levels are randomly generated. Traversing some rooms is not very pleasant due to a huge number of obstacles or maybe randomly placed stuff. The level compositions seems to be a bit broken and the gameplay speed gets hindered because of that.

 

Summary

What game excels at is the feel when you kill something: once your character cuts an enemy, you know this was for real. The time slows down for a split second and you just know that you’ve delivered a crushing blow of unstoppable force to something. That feeling of speed, action and being in the center of the events is something. Due to the other flaws and pretty simple graphics – I suggest waiting for 50% discount before grabbing the game; It gave me ~2 hours of good gameplay, but I doubt I’d return to it later.

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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