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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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: