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First Impressions: The Hive (Steam) ~ War With And Of Bugs

thehiveSteam Store page

One of my favorite game genres is RTS games. The satisfaction that you get from building up your empire, setting up an economy, and preparing yourself to defeat the enemy. It can be such a rewarding feeling. Games like Age of Empires II, Rise of Nations, or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War are just three of the amazing games I have played to death when I was a kid. Now, when I got a mail from the fine folks over at Skydome Entertainment with a press code for The Hive and full freedom with my article, I was extremely excited. This game has been under development for several years now. The first development blog posts on the Steam Store page date all the way back to December 2014 and the latest patch has been released on March 9th, 2020, which is version 1.203. This is the version I’ll talk about in this article, so if this game got an update, it’s possible that some things in this article or no longer relevant. So, without further ado, I think it’s high time that we take a look at this game and it’s worth your time or if you should skip this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

War With Bugs

TheHive2Something happened to the world. The story of this game starts off in 2175, where our planet Earth got attacked and destroyed. Humanity was able to build a ship and leave Earth before it was completely destroyed and went off a journey to look for a new planet to life. After a human lifetime of searching, a new planet in a new solar system was found. The humans were taken out of their cryogenic sleep to start-up life anew in the harsh climate. But, something is alive underneath the crust of that planet. Something awakens in the City Of Ancients that might prove a big issue for the humans and the catch is, it’s you that takes control of the new species and try and help to find it’s old glory.

You play as The Hive and you are the leader of bugs living in The City Of Ancients. The story gets more interesting in the further chapters but I’m not going to spoil it. To be honest, I got some Overlord vibes from the story. Maybe because both games are about minions you control and have their own unique abilities. The atmosphere is similar to a certain degree. The plot of this game is quite enjoyable and it didn’t disappoint at all.

One thing I should mention is that this game has no skirmish mode as far as I know. So, that means if you finish the 12-ish hour-long campaign, you basically have beaten the game. You could try to beat it on a higher difficulty to challenge yourself but outside that, the game has no real replay value after defeating the campaign.

Now, this game also has voice acting. The voice acting in this game is quite impressive. The production value is impressive for being an indie title. It feels that the voice actors put their heart and soul into the characters and gave them a nice personality. I especially liked the effects they put on the voice for the Insect Advisor.

While this game takes place in a magical universe, there isn’t a lot of technobabble. For those who don’t know that term, it means that everything has its own name and there are a million exposition dumps. If you have played an RTS game in the past, you will know right what to do and the war of the bugs can begin.

War of Bugs

TheHive1So, the gameplay loop in this game is that you have to explore the caves underneath the planet to find a way up. You learn a lot about the War and the fight against the other species that took place. While most levels use the usual RTS gameplay loop of build city, build the economy, build an army, find enemy, attack the enemy army, destroy enemy base; a few puzzles and unique twists are thrown into the mix.

In terms of gameplay and mechanics, I have a mixed feeling. There are things that I enjoyed quite a lot and there are things that baffled me. Let’s do a round of good thing – bad thing to sum a few things up.

So, while building your empire, you can not only rotate around the camera but the buildings as well. Man, I love features like these. It makes it less awkward when I placed a barracks in a corner and my units spawn out of a wall from the building. Alas, the building of buildings has one thing that I found frustrating. I have gotten so used to the fact that you can cue up buildings to build, but that doesn’t work in this game.

The gathering of resources works in a unique way. Food doesn’t rot away and workers don’t have to walk back and forth to the hive. A special cart rides out from the nearest gathering point to collect the resources. So, your workers put all the gather resources on a pile and these carts come and pick it up. The resources don’t even rot away and you don’t have to do anything for it to collect it. The only “downside” is that you can only use one worker per resource gathering point. Now, what’s the bad thing here?

Well, there is a soft-lock potential. The resources aren’t infinite. Now, imagine this scenario in the Age of Empires II. There is no more wood on the map but you need wood for your archers. What can you do? Well, you can build up a ton of farms and trade that food over for gold to buy wood at the market. This avoids the issue that if everything of one resource is gathered, it’s impossible to get. Now, in The Hive, there is no such thing as a market or a farm. Meaning that every decision counts. Thankfully, you really have to make bad decision after bad decision in order for you to soft-lock yourself but the fact that the potential is there always worried me.

The UI of this game is pretty impressive. The options menu is something that I can only praise. An explanation of what key does what? It’s a feature I’ll miss in other games. If only, a similar explanation appeared for the graphic options, but hey, that would clutter the UI of the graphics options a bit too much. Yet, I have two things that I disliked about the UI. First of all, if I may nitpick, I found the text on the buttons on the pause menu a bit hard to read since the text color and the color of the buttons are somewhat close to each other. And second, the visual design of the menu’s that you open using the pause menu are so different in design… I mean, the pause menu has a sort of cave theming like the UI in-game, and suddenly, a more space / modern UI appears for the options menu.

The fact that your vision cone appears on the mini-map is a great feature and it even rotates with you when you rotate the camera. Yet, I do have a complaint. It doesn’t change size when you zoom and/or out and especially, it always appears a bit underneath the place where you click on the mini-map. I can understand why this happens since the location of the camera isn’t where you click but a bit underneath that spot. But, it gave me a feeling I wasn’t able to click where I wanted on the mini-map.

It’s great that you can skip cutscenes and even have subtitles. But why aren’t both possible in the opening cutscene? A minor nitpick is that there are some minor grammar errors in the game (“Click of the paintings” instead “Click on the paintings” in the second level)

There is this unique mechanic where you can find treasures to upgrade your units to dissolve them for DNA points to unlock special upgrades for your units. It’s a perfect balancing act since you need to decide if you are going to dissolve the treasures and get an upgrade or use them to improve your unit(s). If only that would be explained in some sort of tutorial, which the game somewhat lacks.

Just a bit more

giphyIf you read the previous section, it might look that I’m ripping this game a new one. That there are so many things missing or wrong with this game, that it’s not a great game to play. Well, then I think you got the wrong idea. I loved my time with the game and I found it a bit disappointing that some features I expect weren’t there.

Also, the price for this game is only 15€. So, it would be wrong of me to compare this game to big titles with way bigger budgets behind it. The thing is that I enjoy this game so much, that it frustrated me that the potential that this game has is unused.

Take for example the visual presentation. The artwork, unit design, level design… they all look amazing. You really feel like being in an abandoned cave where an old civilization used to live. The animations really make the world come alive. It’s so adorable that your workers dig into the ground to create a building and that it rises up like a sort of mole hole.

The audiovisual design is outstanding as well. This game has an orchestral soundtrack that reminds me of the reboot Tomb Raider games, Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, and other similar games. It sounds familiar on one hand but new and fresh on the other hand. It’s a blast to listen too. The sound effects only add to the great atmosphere. The audiovisual design is so well done that I can excuse that some things don’t have sound effects or voice lines like when you click on an option where you don’t have enough DNA points for or certain interactions in your inventory are silent.

This game is a blast to play but you have to take into account that there are some things that don’t really work or work in the way you expect them to work. I have given several examples in the previous section, but here is another one. Why does your cursor not change when you hover over a resource or why don’t your worker acknowledge that interaction is going to happen?

This is why I said earlier in the article that I feel quite mixed about the gameplay. I enjoy playing this game but the final touches are just not there in certain cases. Now, I’m not saying that this game is unpolished or anything since there is a lot of attention to detail in most mechanics but not in all of them.

I think that this game could use another major content update or update that just focusses on making the game a bit more accessible. I think if a tutorial is added, something to avoid the soft lock potential and the functions that miss sound effects or voice lines are added; that this game gets even better.

So, I can’t wait to finish the final 5 levels I still have left to play. Since I really enjoyed my time with the game. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys sci-fi games, RTS games, and even to people who enjoy adventure games. This game is quite enjoyable to play and experience. It’s an enjoyable RTS experience that I won’t soon forget. Congrats to the small Finnish team of 6 people who put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this game since I have to say, the end result is something to be proud of and it shows a ton of potential for future games and/or more adventures in the world of The Hive.

And with that, I conclude my first impression. I want to thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Review: Bioshock 2 (PC) ~ Daddy, please!

BioShock2_box.png

Wikipedia pageOfficial website

Back in late 2015, I wrote an article on Bioshock. Then, in middle of 2016, I wrote my review of Bioshock Infinite. Now, today I want to talk about the 2nd game in the series, Bioshock 2. It’s no secret that I love the Bioshock series. It’s one of my favorite game series. Weirdly enough, this game is pretty well received by the press, yet some Bioshock fans and gamers hate this game. Now, in this review, I’ll tell you my honest opinion. Is this game good or is it bad? So, let’s go to Rapture again to try and crack this case. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article. 

Footnote: for this review, I played the original version. I have beaten the original but I haven’t beaten the remaster yet.

Daddy, please!

433309-bioshock-2-windows-screenshot-the-lighting-effects-look-even

8 years after the events of Bioshock, Subject Delta is woken up by little sisters. You thought that all little sisters were saved in the original Bioshock? Well, some things happened and now, you play the role of Subject Delta and you have to save the day. Not only that, you are a Big Daddy without a Little Sister.

This time, the plot is quite different from the original Bioshock. Personally, I think it’s well written. It touches on some subjects that make the story quite interesting. There is also a section where you play through the eyes of a little sister. This was a great idea. It made the setting of Bioshock more real to me.

The voice acting was, to be honest, hit or miss. There were moments that the actors delivered the line perfectly. But some lines could have been directed better. In those moments, the voice acting missed the soul of the character or the game. But, this problem might be because, like many others, I compare it to the original Bioshock. The voice acting in that game was exceptional.

The biggest issue with the story is that it’s bland at some points. I remember the introduction and the ending part of Bioshock 2. But, I don’t remember a lot of the middle section of the game, in terms of the story that is.

A bit more of Rapture

BioShock2

In this game, you discover a bit more of Rapture. You visit locations that you haven’t visited in the first game. Some locations are quite memorable. Yet, like I said before in this review, I don’t always remember what happened in those sections of the story.

One thing I don’t remember is multiplayer. Simply because I haven’t played any match online. But, when I read on the Bioshock Wiki, it sounds interesting. The only thing remember is that there aren’t a lot of players online though.

Visually, this game still looks great. If you find that the game needs a visual upgrade, the remastered edition. But be warned, the remastered version of this game lacks the multiplayer.

The animations in the game look amazing. The animation quality of the original Bioshock has returned and still looks as great as ever in this game. If it works that is. What I mean here is that sometimes, the animation bugged out for me and repeated three or four times before ending. Especially when the Splicers opened a door with a blow torch. In various occasions, the animation kept playing where it ended.

Overall, the visual presentation is pretty great. If you can stand the occasional visual glitch, that is. I especially love the design of the Big Sisters. This is a new type of enemy that you encounter in this game. They are pretty scary enemies to deal with since they are even more powerful than the Big Daddy’s. They can hurt you pretty bad.

If you want to beat this game, you will have to give or take 15 hours of game time. If you rush this game, you get 11 hours. This game has some replay value since you can explore various areas for missed tonics and plasmids.

Gameplay-wise, this game plays very similarly to the first Bioshock.  This game is a shooter as well. You will have various tonics at your disposal to play around with. There is also a new gameplay section in this game. Since you play as a Big Daddy, you can drop off your Little Sister at “an angel”. At this moment, you drop off your Little Sister while she collects ADAM. Then this game turns into a “defend the point” shooter. A lot of enemies come in various locations and attack you. If they reach the girl, she doesn’t continue to gather the ADAM. I think this would have been better if you had the possibility of losing your little sister then. That would make this section tenser.

You are a Big Daddy now

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There is one gameplay change I like but hate at the same time. I’m happy that they changed the hacking mini game into something else. But, I hate what they changed it into. They changed it into a reaction based

You have to press a button while the arrow is in the green section to continue hacking the machine. The issue I have with it is that the landing areas get so small, it gets very hard. I don’t have the best reflexes or rhythm and I tripped more alarms than necessary.

In this game, you also play with a lot of new weapons compared to the original game. Of course, you are a Big Daddy in this title.  The same counts of plasmids and tonics. I loved the “Hypnotize” and “Electro Shock” plasmids a lot. I have used them the most.

The “Decoy” plasmid was pretty handy as well in the sections where you needed to protect your Little Sister. Switching between plasmids and weapons is pretty great. Like the controls of this game. I didn’t have any issues with them.

Something I didn’t need to complain about was the UI of this game. Every option was easy to find and everything that needed to be displayed was displayed. You can also disable parts of the UI if you want a more immersive experience.

The difficulty curve in this game is pretty good. There were some sections that were pretty tense, but I enjoyed the gameplay a lot. While the adventure itself might be short, there are so many different ways to kill your enemies making it a somewhat unique experience each playthrough. You can also research Little Sisters after you killed the accompanying Big Daddy.

Sadly enough, the whole ride isn’t enjoyable. Some moments of the gameplay are quite boring. There are sections where you need to go from point A to B under water. I hated those parts since they felt as filler gameplay. But, I can understand the inclusion for two reasons.

One, the add to the character of a Big Daddy. You saw them repairing broken parts of Rapture in the original game in the ocean.

Two, they can be used as what developers call a “Loading Gate”. These moments give the game time to unload the old part of the game and load in the new part of the game. This is a trick to save resources.

The soundtrack of this game is pretty decent. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the music from the time period that Bioshock takes place in, but the themes played during the combat and exploration sections are lovely.

The sound-effects of this game are pretty well done as well. I played this game with some gaming headphones and I have to say, that they really helped to immerse me into the game. Thanks to the sound design, I jumped out of my skin quite a few times when I didn’t see an enemy coming or when I was battling with a Big Sister.

Also, this game got a DLC with one additional story. It’s called Minerva’s Den. This DLC adds a 5-hour campaign to the main game and it’s pretty decent. I have seen and played worse DLC’s. I haven’t completely beaten it yet, but I’m near the end of the DLC. If you are planning to buy and play this game; I highly recommend that you buy the DLC as well. You will get more out of your game.

That said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s time to get to the conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-Sometimes the game can be pretty buggy. Mostly the animations suffer from this.

-The voice acting is not good.

-The new hacking minigame is just bad.

-Parts of the story aren’t memorable, which is a shame since it’s an interesting story.

-The multiplayer is removed in the remaster.

The good:

+ Addictive gameplay with the new plasmids, weapons, tonics and Little Sisters.

+ The game looks still pretty great visually.

+ Amazing sound design and a great soundtrack.

+ Longer than your typical shooter.

+ …

Final Thoughts:

Is Bioshock 2 a bad game? Not in my opinion. Let me explain it this way, Bioshock 2 isn’t like Half Life 2. The sequel isn’t better than the original game.

Sidenote: let me be clear with calling Half Life 2 better than Half Life 1, I hear more praise for the second game compared to the first. That’s all.

Bioshock 2 has problems, it lacks polish in some areas and you can hear that in the voice acting and see that in the various minor bugs left in the game. On the Wikipedia article, you can read an interesting development history of this game. The developers had quite a big task ahead of them. How are you going to follow up the amazing Bioshock?

I personally think that this game is an amazing sequel that has some flaws. If you enjoyed Bioshock, there is a chance you might enjoy the sequel. Give it a chance, since this game has some amazing moments. And if you want the best visual experience, you can play the remastered version. About the remastered version, Drakulus wrote a pretty interesting article on the remaster of the original. You can read it here.

That’s everything for this review folks! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you for reading and I hope to be able to welcome you in another article. But until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Score: 70/100