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

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

Rush Rover - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

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

Disclaimer: game is still in early access, some things are ought to change.

Rush Rover is a top-down 2d action/roguelite game. In the game, you control a robot that fights the other, “converted” AI bots. Each playthrough consists of multiple randomly generated rooms, and you must defeat 5 bosses to win the game. As you kill enemies, you level up and get to upgrade various abilities.

The Good

  • Content: enemies are very different, their movement paths and attacks require different type of maneuvering and dodging from you. Some rush towards you and you have to dodge, others shoot in circular patterns so you have to keep moving in-between bullets. In any case: standing in one place means certain death. The guns are also really interesting: some charge up before firing, the homing missiles lock on targets before flying towards them, the “wave” gun tries to fry the enemies in a cone pattern.
  • Skill-Based Gameplay: the drops are random, but damage is not. You have to dodge lots of bullets and fire accurately, otherwise you get obliterated. If you die – it totally feels like your fault, which is a great game design.
  • The game handles roguelite randomness really well: your initial weapon does not suck. It’s not terribly powerful, but you can upgrade it as you level up, so even if you don’t find a new one, you can still complete the game. In fact, I’ve completed my first run without actually changing the weapon.

The Bad

  • One playthrough is extremely short: it took me about 40 minutes to finish one game. It’s not easy so you won’t be able to do it on the first playthrough (probably), but it took me a bit more than 2 hours to finish the game for the first time.
  • The graphics are not that great: the animations are well-detailed, but the backgrounds do get repetitive after some time. The UI is also a bit clumsy, i.e. you can’t pause the game by pressing ESC, you have to open inventory and click “menu” there before the actual game menu opens.

Summary

Rush Rover seriously made me think about what makes the top-down shooter games good. Frankly, I have not felt this excited about top-down games since Enter The Gungeon. However, the game does some things much better than the former: namely, the room balancing. First, you can teleport from every room after you kill all enemies. Second, the room is always equally full of enemies. They won’t rush towards you. You need to start approach them, and then they attack you. This contributes to a feeling that every room is literally filled with enemies, but still leaves you space to maneuver.

At the time of this review, the game costs 5.99 EUR (or your regional equivalent) and I definitely recommended it, as it’s a great price for the entertainment that you are getting.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

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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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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Furious Angels - Indie Game Reviews 2017

Genre: Shoot’Em’Up
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, but wait for 50% discount

Disclaimer #1: I got the key for free

Furious Angels is a sci-fi arcade shooter focused on score attack mechanics. You try to kill enemy aircraft as it attacks you and your carrier. The concept might be simple enough, but the it’s the execution that gets the prize.

Even if you are not a competitive person – you’ll feel that way because game shows leaderboard and your position in it before every launch. That’s a great design that tries to push “competitive” philosophy to every player. “Go ahead, look how far you can go if you try to survive just a little bit longer!”

Pros:

  • Great graphics, the game has its own style: not high-poly, but not minimalistic either. The landscape does not have a lot of detail, but the enemies and your own ships do.
  • Good, minimalistic UI
  • Challenging, skill based gameplay, the more you play – the better you get
  • Fun, action-packed gameplay. I mean it.

Cons:

  • After a while, the game will get repetitive: you always get the same plane and same equipment at the start
  • The controls could be better: the game requires good precision, but it’s really hard to have precise angles on controller. The mouse is OK (I had 35% accuracy with mouse compared to usual 17-18% with controller). Forget about playing with keyboard. Maybe I’m unskilled, but turning the plane on keyboard has really been painful.
  • Music does not fit the game. It’s not bad, it’s just somewhat relaxing and does not put you in “go get em, instant action!” mood.
  • The price is a bit steep for the content offered: if you think about it, the game has less than 10 types of enemies and 3 player upgrades in total.

Summary

I am a bit hesitant to recommend the game at the current point (01.03.2017): on one hand, I liked the game; the graphics and style are well polished and it’s really engaging. On the other hand: there’s not much content (<10 enemies I think and only 2 player upgrades).

I think definitely buy it once it’s on 50% discount, but for the current price it seems a bit too expensive to me.

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Feature Image taken from the Furious Angels store page, here

Badass Hero - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

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

Badass Hero is a roguelite platformer where the action hero under your control goes through the comic book universe. The game is well styled: each level is shaped like comics which you traverse, „picture by picture”. There’s a lot of action going on and the game rewards you being fast: as you kill enemies, your combo meter goes up. The death is inevitable, but as you die, you get a chance to improve your character, making further walkthroughs much easier. During each playthrough, you have a chance to find armor / weapons. You lose them when you die, but they greatly affect how far can you go.

Pros:

  • Action packed gameplay
  • Plenty of items like armor / potions
  • Very-well polished/juiced: even basic weapons feel awesome to shoot, lots of effects on hits, gore, explosions
  • Responsive character controls, which is very important for the genre
  • World is generated randomly, but there are good room variety so the room layouts do not feel boring

Cons:

  • Not much weapon variety so far (yes, stats are generated randomly (I think), but shooting patterns do not differ much: gun, smg, shotgun, bazooka, grenades)
  • Only 3 worlds planned, with 2 first ones available (they have plenty of enemies, but backgrounds get repetitive pretty quickly)

Summary

One of the biggest achievements of the game, in my opinion, is the way that authors dealt with random element. In roguelites, you often feel cheated when the random is against you. Since initial weapon is not bad and killing enemies is pretty much skill based, there’s no feeling that you are getting dealt a bad hand, which is really commendable.

I think that’s a great game for anyone who’s into Roguelite Platformers. Definitely grab it if you liked Rogue Legacy. At its current state, the game gave me ~3.5hours of fun gameplay (I completed the first world a few times, and since the second world is not really complete – I’m putting it in a box until it is done).

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Feature Image taken from the Badass Hero store page, here

Dimension Drive Indie Game Reviews 2017 Screenshot Steam

EDIT: Developer’s Reply Below

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: with the current feature set, wait for 50%+ discount; otherwise wait for early access to end and see what’s introduced.

Disclaimer #1: I got the key for free
Disclaimer #2: The game is in early access, some things are ought to change

Dimension drive is a shoot-em-up that introduces a double battlefield mechanic. Your screen is split into two parts, “Dimensions” and the fighter under your control can swap between them (avoiding damage and replenishing energy). You fly through the level, collect the data pickups and bonuses, and if things get rough on one part of the screen, or you need to reload your weapon, you switch to another part.

Pros:

  • Innovative game mechanics
  • Well-polished graphics
  • Due to double-screen mechanics, level design is pretty creative
  • Challenging and difficult
  • Nice music and sounds

Cons:

  • The first bosses on the both sides of the screen. Have separate health pool. In theory – it’s a good idea, but in practice it makes fight extremely easy if you kill the boss on one side of the screen (you can just shift to the other side to dodge projectiles at any time without danger whatsoever).
  • Not much weapon variety, the first world only has one different weapon (the developers promise more later)
  • Co-Op: You have the same health pool between both players (but it seems that enemy hp is doubled). The damage one player takes automatically affects both of the players. No separate health pools. This makes the game tricky to play with your guests. If they are not as good as you are – you are simply going to go down with them.
  • Ramming into obstacle instantly kills you even on normal difficulty. I personally found the game too difficult to play because of that.

 

Summary

My main frustration with the game were the obstacles: if you switch from screen 1 to screen 2 (into the obstacle) – you are instantly destroyed, even if you have full shields. I don’t mind the extra difficulty, but I think this is not a good user experience: you focus on one part of the screen, then jump to other to dodge the bullets. But wait, there’s an obstacle there. You die. Instantly. I think the best course of action would be disallowing the player to switch if there’s an obstacle on the other side of the screen: more often than not it will result in player taking damage (which is fair since he could not dodge well) instead of being instantly-destroyed (which seems unfair because well, try focusing on two points on screen simultaneously: changing you eye focus takes some time). At the same time, if you switch your focus on to the next screen, there’s a great probability that you’re going to ram into the obstacle on the first one.

At this point, if I am honest with you, I cannot recommend the game to my friends due to how screen switching mechanics work and not much weapons. Having said that, I think effective focus switch is a skill that can be trained, so if you don’t mind that – definitely give the game a try. The game is definitely not bad and I’d say this is a niche game for you shoot-em-up lovers, but if you are more on a casual side of things (like I am) – I’d skip this one for now or see how early access will end. The developers are definitely trying their best and if they deliver their promises – I’ll be more than glad to take another look at the game. At the current point though, I find the game too expensive for what it offers.

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Feature Image taken from the Dimension Drive store page, here

Developer’s Reply

Hi Vladimir,

Thanks for the feedback. We fully agree with your points regarding lack of weapons and the issue with the lasers (which is a bug that we have identified on our issue tracker). And yes, the game needs more levels and more work as you have fairly said it is Early Access and we intend to add more.

However, I have to say that there are some things that are like that by design choice. Dimension Drive is a hardcore challenging game in the vein of the classics like Gradius, R-Type, or more recently Ikaruga where obstacles instakill you. Obviously that’s going to be an issue for casual players who don’t want this challenge and for those players I fully agree with your statement that the game is maybe not for them. Also, the extra challenge of playing and focusing on two sides is part of the design, again I’m sorry it wasn’t for you but removing the danger of teleporting into obstacles would remove part of the challenge we wanted to make.

Finally, I want to say that we are planning to add an Easy mode as you can see in our public Early Access roadmap (https://trello.com/b/1OpgMDJ3/dimension-drive-early-access-development-roadmap). In that mode we plan to have a visual warning when you are in a situation that if you teleport you die but you would still be able to do it if you are careless teleporting. That may help more casual players but in any case the game will still continue to be a hard and challenging game.

Thanks a lot for take the time to play Dimension Drive.

David

== End of Developer’s Reply ==
Hope it gives somewhat a full picture 🙂 Overall, I totally agree with the letter; Not for the casual players, but if you are a hardcore shumup fan – this game might be for you.

Western 1849 Steam Game Screenshot Indie Game Reviews 2017

Genre: Gallery Shooter/Roguelike
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

Disclaimer: I got the game key for free

Western 1849: Reloaded is a blessing in disguise: the screenshots do not impress you much, but the gameplay makes the game really shine. In my opinion, there’s a simple reason why gallery shooters lost their popularity. They started at the time of limitations, when no 3d was available, limiting the movement and shooting capabilities. Making a pathway to the other shooters as a genre, eventually fell into obscurity. 1849 though takes on the challenge, implementing the gallery shooting gameplay with roguelike mechanics. It works out really great: apart from action, you get to strategize and pick perks / upgrades / equipment (the latter two stay with you between the sessions).

As you clear the waves of the bad guys, you get to pick new perks which affect how the game is played. It can be extra damage, healing on hitting targets, poisoned bullets, more gold, etc. As the game progresses, you gain gold which you can spend on upgrading your existing weapons or buying items that give you benefits on every round. This makes for an engaging gameplay that will entertain you for a few hours.

Pros:

  • Engaging Gameplay, the game really is fun to play
  • Plenty of content: perks, upgrades, special items
  • Roguelike progression is well done: there are multiple unlock dimensions, you continue unlocking stuff as you get more score, finish special tasks or levels

Cons:

  • The graphics are not great and are somewhat edgy
  • If you have controller connected when you first launch the game, the hints/tips show controller controls (assuming you play with controller), even if you continue pressing the keyboard keys
  • Not much level/background variety

 

Overall, I’d say for that price, the game is really worth it. Despite not much variety in levels, the game has good entertainment value for all of every shooter fan.

GIVEAWAY: developers gave me 3 extra keys, so I think it’s fair if I share them with you. If you want to participate – go to the video linked below and leave a comment (Subscribtions are appreciated too, but it’s up to you). I’m going to pick a winner by February 23.

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Feature Image taken from the Western 1849 store page, here