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Category Archives: Indie

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~11 hours
Platform: PC (Steam)

So, if you already read my previous Snap Judgement on Torchlight II, things have not changed a whole lot between the beta and the final release of Torchlight II.

The main difference between the beta and the final release is that they changed the skill system from instead being a tree of sorts to being a flat set of 7 active skills and 3 passive skills per tree. They still don’t require points put in earlier skills, instead being gated by level. The only main difference is that active skills how have “tiers” that you unlock every 5 points you put into them that give various extra improvements to the skill, such as adding damage reflection, increasing attack range, or setting hit enemies on fire. However, like I mentioned in the beta, I’m still not sure how I feel any more about this kind of talent system, but in the end it works well enough for the purposes of the game. The addition of the tier structure also makes points more then just tiny improvements.

My strongest impression now that I’m 11 hours into the official release, is that the game REALLY feels like Diablo 2. The story is very similar and the areas you are in for each act (up to 3, at least) are very similar. But also changed enough to fit their own internal narrative. I can’t fault them for this, though; Torchlight was made  by Diablo vets, after all. And they do a great job at realizing their idea of the loot-driven action RPG.

Another major difference between Torchlight 2 and Diablo 3, besides TL2 being based on Diablo 2, is that TL2 doesn’t care about if you want to mod or hack your game and get items easier then you would normally (or super busted items that aren’t even in the game at all). In fact, there’s even achievements for running the game with a bunch of mods installed, and the game will have Steam Workshop support for mods as well. If you really care about the sanctity of your random drop system, you may find this irritating if you go and play online with random people.

All-in-all, I found Torchlight 2 to be well realized game, and still want to put a ton of time into it, even after 11 hours already.

 

(For the record, though, I’m definitely expecting Act 4 to be set in some kind of volcano.)

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~5 hours
Platform: PC (Steam)

At a first glance, FTL is a kind of game that I probably wouldn’t like. Maybe using the term “roguelike” is a bit misleading, but the whole “superhard, random generated adventure” type of thing was not very appealing to me. Something about FTL just really agrees with me, though. Maybe it’s the space? Or maybe it’s the strategy.

But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. In FTL you control a starship as you try to outrun a rebel army and deliver important intelligence to your HQ. Except you’re not controlling the ship, per-say, but you’re instead directing crewmen to various locations to repair damage or manage systems, and directing ship power to various things like shields and weapons.

And it’s really hard. As you progress through the various sectors, enemies hit harder and have more abilities, and you start to encounter random events that are more dangerous. And on top of all this, the forward wave of the rebel army is always advancing, taking over systems as they hunt for you to stop your journey.

All this pushes you forward into more danger, though it’s not fast enough that you can’t take some time to wander around a sector and grind out events and battles for money and gear. All of this you need if you want to make it to the end.

Battles are where the bulk of the strategy comes in. You can’t control your ship’s movement, and it’s seemingly inferring that you and your foe are moving around each other even if it doesn’t look like you are, because weapon fire always comes from random directions. During combat, you need to assign power to your weapons, up to the maximum amount of power your weapon systems can handle (all of this is upgradable). You then direct the weapons to fire at specific rooms on the enemy ship, which allows you to do things like focus on taking out enemy shield systems or life support.

As a result, there’s actually a number of ways you can defeat enemy ships. An easy strategy is to beat on their shield and weapon systems until they die, without dealing much damage to you. But by using various means, you can also do things like destroy the enemy’s life support systems and wait for them to suffocate, or send over an away team to kill the enemy crew. If you defeat an enemy ship without blowing it up, you can get more salvage from them, but many of the means to do so are much higher risk then just blasting it to pieces.

That combined with various crew races with different stats, and a large variety of unlockable ship types with different powers (such as one that starts with an ion gun that’s useful for taking down enemy systems without actually damaging them, or even just taking down shields easily, as well as a drone launcher that costs a resource, but is a very consistent source of damage; or another ship that doesn’t have shields, but instead comes with a stealth system and better sensors, thus having you want to avoid combat more) makes for a wide range of various tactics as you work your way to the end of space and your army’s base, hoping to deliver the intel before you get blown to pieces.

FTL is definitely a game for a patient man, as someone who goes in without thinking will find themselves looking at the game over screen often. But even in death you tend to learn more about the game, though some of it’s random events are TOO random; I would have liked it more if some of the events were more hard-coded, so that something that punished me one playthrough was fairly consistent at being dangerous, while something that rewarded me tended to do the same. I’ve had too many cases where I got burned bad doing something that worked before. But for some people, that’s part of the fun. For the rest of you, it may be the only annoyance in what’s otherwise a very solid game.

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~2 hours
Platform: PC (Steam)

Orcs Must Die! 2 is basically more Orcs Must Die!. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but if you were hankering for more wisecracking tower-defense with the lovable warmage, then this game is right for you. If you DIDN’T like his dumb goofiness… then you probably will continue to not like it.

The big change from OMD! and OMD!2 is the addition of co-op mode, which is a MASSIVE improvement over the original. While Orcs Must Die! was a fun game, it came out against Dungeon Defenders, a similar game that still benefits from constant content infusions, as well as having co-op modes by default.

Co-op in OMD!2 is a two-person affair, hence the addition of a new player character. When starting the game, you are prompted to choose a character, who is then tied to that “account”, so to speak. This is because both characters have different starting traps and equipment, and different unlocks.

Basic gameplay is much the same. Orcs come out of a portal, and are trying to escape out into the open. Or, at least, that’s what the first act is about, since apparently the warmage’s skills were not so much in demand after OMD!, so he’s resorted to being a miner to make ends meet. There’s some new equipment (or, at least, new to me since I never did get around to fully beating the original), though I wasn’t very keen on them starting the warmage off with a shotgun instead of the crossbow from the original game. Unlocking the bow is easy, but I missed it for the first few maps.

The upgrading system was also overhauled in OMD!2. While each stage still gives you up to 5 skulls based on performance, there’s also bonus skulls given for… a variety of reasons. And skulls that can drop from killed orcs. This means that if you just can’t get a better ranking on a map, you can still improve your weapons and traps by just replaying previous maps. However, you don’t reget the skulls from performance on a replay, of course.

Your traps and weapons all have a single upgradable bonus, which ranges from increasing damage to decreasing costs, and your choice of two mutually exclusive bonuses. Once you’ve bought one of the mutually exclusive bonuses, you unlock them both Some also have a special unique bonus that changes the way that trap works, be it allowing it to be placed on a ceiling, or what have you.

For the most part, the sorceress isn’t really any different from the warmage. She starts off with a freeze trap instead of a slow trap, and ACID instead of arrows, and her starting weapon has an alt-fire that mind-controls orcs, but other then some other unique traps in her unlock inventory, she gets a lot of the same things as the warmage. Her dancing isn’t anywhere near as good as the warmage’s, either.

So, as mentioned, if you really enjoyed the original Orcs Must Die!, then this sequel is just about everything that was needed from the original title. If you didn’t check out OMD!, but are not AGAINST tower-defense style games, then OMD!2 is something you might want to check out anyway, as knowledge of the original is unnecessary to enjoy the sequel.

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~1 hour
Platform: PC (Steam)

Krater is an interesting type of action RPG, coming out at a time where the genre seems to be getting a resurgence of sorts. You can think of it as a cross between Diablo and Fallout, but leaning much more towards the Fallout side.

Oh, and it’s Swedish, to boot.

Krater is set around a world that basically destroyed itself in nuclear war. The only real known “safe” haven in this post-apocalyptic Sweden is a massive crater known as… Krater. Well, maybe they had other things on their mind. The bottom of Krater is a lush land of resources, which draws explorers and settlers there to try and make a better life for themselves.

You, the player, act as a sort of commander for a team of freelancers who have come to Krater to make their fortunes through following typical Western RPG style quests. You can command up to 3 characters, which is what makes for the twist here. You have your typical selection of classes; the healer, the tank, the ranged DPS, and the melee DPS. But there’s also another rub here, where your characters are all hires that have their own sets of skills from a pool that each class has.

This is all because characters are pretty expendable. Or, well. They can be. Each time a character is knocked out, they suffer injuries that may or may not affect their stats, but if they’re not treated the character could permanently die. To support this, characters have a range of quality levels (your typical MMO set of grey -> white -> green -> blue -> purple -> ???), each having a different recruitment cost and level cap.

Equipment also follows the same pattern. Each character has only two equipment slots, though, one for their weapon and one for an additional ability. However, they also can unlock slots that you can fit permanent upgrades to stats and their powers as they level up. This also means that lower tier characters can’t get many of these slots, since they can’t increase to the appropriate levels. Crafting is also available to help you make weapons and upgrades if you aren’t getting them from drops.

That said, though, Krater is not without it’s problems. The game likes to crater itself every now and then, but it’s getting better because they are doing frequent updates. It does, though, give the impression that the game is now doing a paid beta, even though it did just come off of an extensive regular beta. In addition, there are some hiccups with the UI. Sometimes I’ve needed to press a command button twice to make it actually activate, which can be trouble in a pitched battle.

A last complaint is just one I have in general with RPGs, and that I just don’t like 3-man parties when you have a range of “classes” available. Especially when the game is built around the Trinity of Tank/Heal/DPS. I just feel that it cuts off too much of what the game offers the player.

All said, though, Fatshark has promised to make regular updates (and in fact have made a few at the time of this writing), which includes fixes and new features (such as new NPCs that can upgrade characters to higher quality levels). I expect that they’ll fix up the problems over time, and expand the game further. They’ve already announced that one of the upcoming patches will activate an online co-op, which I’m looking forward to.

If you don’t mind quirky in your post-apocalyptic RPGs, and can stand a bit of klunkiness from the UI, then Krater is definitely a game to check out.

Full Reviews:

Giant Bomb – Quick Look

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

 

Amount Played for Review: 5 areas (out of 9?); ~2 hours
Platform: PC (Steam)

 

Don’t feel bad if you looked at screens of Q.U.B.E. (Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion) and got confused for a moment. First off, that’s a pretty ridiculous name. But more importantly, screens of sterile white environments and first-person puzzle solving is sure to make anyone harken back to earlier in 2011. And I bet it’s intentional; you just can’t do something like this anymore without expecting it.

Q.U.B.E. starts you off with a scene of a strange glove, and the white cubes making up the area moving around to make walkways. There’s no story, no explanation, no dialog. It’s just you, the cubes, and a pair of magic gloves that can interact with them. And that’s where the puzzle solving comes in!

The world has a number of different types of cubes: from red ones that can be pulled to make a maximum height of 3, to yellow ones that come in groups of three where the one you pull is the furthest, to blue ones that act as spring boards. There’s also cubes that bend light beams, or pale colour cubes that change the colour of objects that pass through them.

And all this time, the game looks and runs amazing. There’s some minor troubles with the “aiming reticle” not registering what you’re aiming at if there’s things around it, but not many of the puzzles I’ve dealt with involved split second reaction times. Some fast reaction times, sure, but not so precise. And they’re always retry-able if you don’t quite get it.

You wouldn’t think that a game which is comprised of nothing but differently coloured cubes could look amazing, but Q.U.B.E. simplicity is what makes it all stand out. And everything moves very fluidly, which is probably helped a lot by the fact that there’s not much else on the screen!

Even if there’s no story directly presented to the player, there is a good amount just from the environment itself. The rooms shift to direct you to different testing chambers, or to bring you to different areas of whatever place you’re in. You go from the bright white area of the first few sectors to a lower level that’s pitch dark and requires you to use power switches to illuminate different block types one at a time, and finally (at least, for me when I stopped played to write this) to a ruined section of the facility, where many cubes are cracked or destroyed, and power needs to be restored to some areas in order for your glove to affect things.

All in all, Q.U.B.E. is an amazing puzzle game. It may not have much behind it once you’re finished all the levels, but it’s also cheap on Steam, and comes with some Steamworks acheivements. As one of the first games of 2012, let’s hope it’s a good sign for things to come!

 

Full Reviews:

Giant Bomb: Quick Look

Joystiq: Review