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First Impression: Dungeon Kingdom – Sign of the Moon (PC) ~ Moon Time

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Steam store page

Official site

A few weeks ago, I got a press key for a game sent to me. I’m so glad that the developer reached out to me since this game looks amazing. This game is being created by a small team based in France. It’s still in early access so a lot of things can change between what you read here and what is in the final game. I have played the June 2017 build in order to write this review.  While I got this game for free, the developer wanted that this article is 100% my opinion. I hope you are ready to dive into a new fantasy world since we have the sign of the moon and have to save the land. As usual in my articles, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the article and/or the game. 

The sign of the Moon

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So far, I haven’t gotten too far into the game. I have only been through the first few areas of the game and been exploring and testing out different set-ups and just learning the ins and outs of this game. I could write a whole paragraph to talk about the story, but the press kit sums it up quite nicely.

At the dawn of the Fourth Age… You, a poor young man struggling to make ends meet, have been summoned by a strange man claiming to be a member of the prestigious Mages’ Guild, to join him on a great quest. In the hope for a better future, you accept his request, for who could refuse to follow such a seemingly eminent member of the Mages’ Guild?

A feeling in the back of your mind tells you that this is related to the strange symbol of a moon on you hand… Your quest will require you to explore the Dungeon Kingdom world, to uncover hidden treasures, solve puzzles and battle dangerous creatures in many areas, from dark dungeons to snowy mountains.

The story sounds quite interesting, so I can’t wait to see where the developer takes it. So far, I haven’t experienced the story too much. The writing is good. There isn’t a lot of world building at the start. You are thrown into a fantasy world and you expect to understand everything. While this could be seen as annoying to some people, I like it. Since you learn about the world in various scrolls and books scattered around in the world. I highly recommend that you read them since they might be useful to solve some puzzles.

The good exploring

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Let’s talk about the things I think were really good in this game. The visual presentation of this game is really well done. The game looks amazing.

I loved to walk around in the dungeon and towns since they just look amazing. I really love the fact that you can hold the left mouse button down to look around at the position you are standing. The only minor complaint I have is that there is no button to quickly snap the camera back into place. Apart from taking one step. This snaps the camera back in the right place.

The music and sound effects are really quite well done. While there isn’t a lot of music in the game, the sound effects and sound design more than make up for it. You really feel that you are in a dungeon or palace and it helps to add to the atmosphere. There is one sound effect I didn’t like, and that is the sleeping sound effect. It didn’t click with me. I think something that would add to it is a sort of “waking up” sound where you hear a tent zipper go open or something along those lines.

Something that adds to the immersion is as well the voice acting. It’s really well done. The dialogue also changed depending on your course of action.

The only nitpick I have when it comes to the presentation is that the game doesn’t use its own custom cursor. It would be amazing if the game uses some sort of custom glove/hand icon instead of the white arrow that Windows uses. It would fit a bit more into the visual presentation of the game.

Something I found really impressive is the dynamic light system. You can pick up candles to light up your way. And they do, in a very pleasing visual manner. Something I didn’t like here is that when a candle runs out, it looks like you can still light it. I didn’t find a way to do that. Also, it would be amazing if you can light candles in the environment that have gone out.

The tutorial does an excellent job of teaching you the basic mechanics of the game. I highly recommend that you play through this at least once. The tutorial is really short and sweet. Also, it doesn’t hold your hand too much, it lets you explore at your own pace. And if you want to read the last explanation again, you click a button and it’s explained again.

The dungeons themselves aren’t randomly generated. They are all handcrafted and all the loot is placed everywhere. If you look around enough, you can equip yourself with all the weapons and armor you will need. The game also allows you to tweak the stats to each character in your party to your liking. When you have enough stat points to do so that is.

The gameplay itself is amazing. You explore and fighting through various locations. There are also various secrets to discover in each area. Those secrets will be really beneficial to you on your journey. It’s also wise to keep some items that at first serve no purpose since you can use them to leave them on pressure switches. You can throw items to anywhere you want.

While this game has permadeath, you can save and load anytime you want. There is also an autosave.

Something personal and minor I really like in this game is the fact that there is a feature to change the controls to an AZERTY layout. 🙂

The automap system is amazing. The only thing I miss is to be able to put notes on the map. Maybe I’m too much spoiled by games like the Zelda DS games and Etrain Odyssey.

The RPG elements in this game are great. There is realism in this game thanks to the hunger and stamina system. You need to give your characters a rest and a meal or otherwise they won’t be able to survive.

Things that need improving

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Something that I didn’t like was how slow you were able to attack and how quick your enemies were. I died various times when I discovered the first secret to some enemies. There is a cool down time before you can attack again.

At first, I hated the controls of the combat. I had to use the right mouse click on the hand to attack. I thought this was the only way to attack. But then, I looked at the “Help & Shortcuts” menu and learned that there are buttons to attack. I think this would be really handy to mention in the tutorial.

I also think that the early game enemies are too strong. It just takes too long for you to be able to either counter-attack or use a spell against enemies. I lost two characters before I was able to slay one enemy. The combat system needs some polishing up in my opinion.

Speaking of shortcuts and controls, I think it would be lovely if you can rebind them. While the current control scheme does work for some people, some controls don’t work for me.

This game could use some polish here and there. This game could benefit from a lot of tweaks that seem minor but would go a long way. Like a bit more sound effects, like when you open a door. The game is good, but with these minor improvements, it would be great. But, I think that this is something they are working on since it’s still in early access.

While it’s challenging that you need to find your weapons in the wild, I find it very odd that when you hire an adventurer, he or she doesn’t have a weapon at their disposal. I think it would be an improvement if they have a basic knife or a basic weapon at the start.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, this game is amazing. I fell in love with the amazing visuals and the gameplay that this game has. I’ll follow the development of this game for sure. I also think that this game is worth your money. The asking price is perfect in my opinion.

The game is still in early access and the developer listens to the feedback that it gets. If you have ideas and suggestions on how to improve the game, open a topic on the Steam forums or write them an email.

I can’t wait to see where this game goes. I can’t say it enough, but I have to say that this game is worth your time if you enjoy dungeon crawlers. I do have to warn you that it’s still in early access, but report each bug or oddity since I think this game will become better because of it.

When this game leaves early access, I’ll surely take another look at the game and write a full review here on my blog. But for now, I enjoyed my time in the early access and will continue to play it. Before I repeat what I said too many times, it’s time to wrap up this article. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

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Review: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon – Explorers Of Time / Darkness & Sky (DS) ~ Expansion Dungeon?

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Wikipedia entry

So, remember when Nintendo released an enhanced version of each generation? Games like Pokémon Yellow, Crystal, Emerald and Platinum come to mind. Well, they also did that once for their Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series. When Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness released, a year later Nintendo released Explorers of the Sky. I have beaten Explorers of Time but I haven’t beaten this updated version yet. Why did I decide to write a review then? Well, the core mechanics haven’t changed in this version. In any case, it’s time to take a look at this game, what do I think about this entry in one of my favorite game series? As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on this article and/or the game. 

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Note: In this review, I will focus mostly on the Sky version of the game. But my thoughts in this review apply to all versions of this game except the exclusive stuff in the Sky version.

Note 2: To avoid mentioning the full title of the game every time, I refer to the games by only using the last word in the title.

Let’s form a guild

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So, you start up a new game and you get a personality quiz. This will decide which Pokémon you will be during the whole adventure. For some reason, I love doing this quiz. I have played it various times and I always end up with the same Pokémon.

So, the story of this game. You play as a human that got turned into a Pokémon. You meet your partner on the beach. After your partner gets his special artifact stolen from some rival gang, you and your partner go and reclaim the stolen artifact. After you have helped your partner, both of you team up and go join the local guild.

When you join the local guild, you learn that somebody is stealing the time gears and which controls time in that given area. So, you set out on an adventure to stop this madness and restore peace to the land.

And that’s just the basic part of the story. This story goes much deeper. You go on various quests and adventures, it’s great. The writing in this game is great, but some jokes are more aimed at the younger audience. In the Sky version, there is additional backstory added to the game. There is also a longer epilog added to the game. I still have to finish the epilog, but I love the added stories so far.

The visual presentation of this game is, as you would expect from a Nintendo game, excellent. I can understand that the visuals might turn some people off since they aren’t upgraded too much from the original GBA title. Still, the detail in the artwork is well done. Also, the gorgeous full-screen pictures are an amazing touch. A common criticism of this game is that

A common criticism of this game is that the dialogues go on and on for too long. I honestly didn’t mind this too much, but I do understand why people complain. This game could have benefitted from some cutscenes, even when it’s just a big picture that goes over the two DS screens.

Was this needed?

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The expanded Sky version has a very mixed reception. While some reviewers hated this version, some reviewers loved it. The biggest issue is that the things that were added in this version were somewhat minor at first. Why do I say minor at first? Well, this version has much more polish than the original versions.

Why do I say minor at first? Well, this version has much more polish than the original versions. Also, there are some many things added like: new dungeons, new story, more starters, new places and shops… But most of them appear after a bit of playtime or is post game content.

I think that this could have been handled better. I think that the Sky version should have been the only one that got released. It’s the superior version of Time and Darkness. So, if you haven’t played these games yet, don’t bother with Time and Darkness, play the Sky version.

Another interesting idea would be a sort of “save file transfer” feature. So, that you transfer your save file from either Time or Darkness to Sky and you get direct access to the new features without having to replay the whole game.

If you have played Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Blue or Red Rescue Team, you know what you can expect in this game. You go through randomized dungeons while fighting various other rogue Pokémon. Your goal is to reach the end of the dungeon so you can continue to the story.

Sometimes you have sentry duty over at the guild. Then you have to guess which 250px-MD_Darkness_EN_boxartPokémon wants to enter the guild. I think this mini game would be pretty tricky if you aren’t familiar with Pokémon. But, if you are familiar with Pokémon, this shouldn’t give you too much trouble.

When you aren’t exploring a dungeon, you can go and visit the local town to buy items and upgrade your Pokémon. You can also go on various side quests and/or hunt after wanted criminals.

The core gameplay can be repetitive, yet enjoyable. If you play this game more an extended amount of time, it might get boring. But, if you spice things up with some side quests and trying to progress the story, the game stays enjoyable.

In Sky, there is a new Spinda Café added, which adds some new mechanics into the game. But, I’ll leave that for you to find out. One of them is a recycling mechanic and another is the lottery mechanic. That’s all I’m going to say about that. Check it out since it will help you in your journey.

When you die in a dungeon, you get kicked back to the start of the dungeon or the mid-way checkpoint. The catch is that you lose some items and almost all your cash. So be careful what you take with you since you can loose it when you aren’t careful.

The music for this game is excellent. There is one song that almost every time hits a cord with me. That song’s name is “Don’t Ever Forget – I don’t want to say goodbye…” and it plays near the climax of the whole game. To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to say too much about it, but it still gives me goosebumps while writing this part of the review. And I’m not the only one. Just go on YouTube and read the comments. Yeah, you will understand what I mean.

The music adds so much to this game. There are so many memorable moments that are made so much more powerful with the soundtrack. So, I highly recommend playing this game with a good pair of headphones. Thank me later.

A quick note about the sound design, it’s great. But honestly, due to the amazing soundtrack, it didn’t pay too much attention to the sound design to comment too much about it.

Snatch that jewel

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This game can be pretty difficult in some places. But, most of those moments can be defeated with some grinding. Yet, sometimes you have or can get lucky and finish a difficult dungeon by finding the stairs on each floor.

In Sky, there are various tweaks at the difficulty. But the random monster houses can be so cheap. I died more than once because of this.

The controls for this game are great. I didn’t have any problems with them. The only annoying thing is that you attacking diagonally is a nightmare. I had to struggle with the controls more than once to do that. Also, attacking at a corner doesn’t work. Your attack always misses. This is fixed in later entries in the series.

Due to the randomized nature of the dungeons you enter, there is a lot of replay value in this game. But, you will miss a skip button for skipping the story bits.

Speaking about that, something that annoyed me was the end of the day after you finished your missions. You go through dinner with your guild and it takes a bit too long. I honestly think that a skip button for this would help. But, that would be tricky since sometimes at night time, you get important story bits. So, I can understand why it isn’t added.

This game’s length is great. If you play through the game to just beat the main story, you will have 30-ish hours of gameplay ahead of you. But, I have read that when you want to complete this game, you have over 150 hours of game time ahead of you.

So, that’s everything I wanted to talk about in this game. I didn’t talk about some parts, but hey, that means there are still surprises for you to find when you decide to give this game a try. So, it’s time to wrap up this whole review in the conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-Some minor issues like not being able to attack at corners aren’t fixed from the previous entry in the series.

-The bad reception for the Sky version is understandable. Due to the release of Sky, the Darkness and Time versions look unpolished.

-This game could have benefitted from some cutscenes.

-A skip button for the story isn’t here. This would benefit 2nd playthroughs so much.

The good:

+ Great story and writing.

+ Great visuals.

+ Amazing music.

+ Fun, yet sometimes repetitive, gameplay.

+ …

Final thoughts:

If you want to give this game a shot, I highly recommend playing the Sky version. If you think the games are worth a replay, you might give the Time & Darkness a chance. But remember, like I said in the review, the Sky version is better since it has much more polish than the originals.

This game is excellent. This game is one of my favorite games in the series and I can’t wait to finish the additional content. I have beaten this game at least 4 times, so that’s why I wrote a review instead of a first impression.

I can understand people who are let down by the Sky version since they played Darkness and/or Time first. But, don’t let it discourage you to not play this game. You would miss out on a great Pokémon spin-off that is slowly growing into an amazing series.

This game doesn’t have too many flaws, but the flaws it has aren’t too big of a deal in my eyes. They didn’t stop me from enjoying the game and having a great time.

In any case, thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing this. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 95/100

First Impression: Venture Forth (PC) ~ Alpha Peek

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First of all, this is an impressive project. This game is made by a small indie developer and has been in development for over two years. They mailed me because they wanted me to take a look at this game after I wrote about Delver. Since this game is in the same style, they thought I might be interested in it. Indeed, I am. While it took me a while to take a look at this game since I was extremely busy, I finally found the time recently. So, let’s dive right into Venture Forth. This article is written on an unfinished build of the game, this is also mostly meant to hype the game a bit and give some feedback to the developers. Ready, let’s go! Alpha build of the 4th July, here we come!  (And as usual, feel free to give me a comment with your opinion of this game and/or the content of the game.)

Warning: This game is in one of my favourite genres. Also, I wasn’t able to make time to write this article, so I had to push it back for almost two months. And also, when I’m asked to write an article, I try to give the best feedback possible. So, prepare yourself for a longer article then you are used of me.

What needs more work?

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The developer said to me that some of the visuals are place holders. So, I’m not going to talk too much about that. While I honestly think that some items and 3D textures look mighty fine already, others like a potion is just an arrow in this current build.

Most likely, the fact that we are missing a menu for options like key-bindings, starting a new game and all that is something that is still in development. If it’s not, please would it be possible to give the player the option to change how they want to control the game? I live in one of those weird keyboard countries where the lay-out of my keyboard is not qwerty, but azerty.

An annoying bug I found in the game is that when you want to switch from full screen to windowed mode, it kept running in full screen. This game uses the usual enter+alt method, which is no big deal. But they might want to look into this bug. Hopefully it’s not because of my own made pc.

This is just a feature suggestion of mine. The map is set up quite interestingly, but what if you give each area a different colour on the map. Makes it easier to see which area ends where. Just a minor thing.

Something that’s not that minor is the lack of lighting in some areas. Don’t read me wrong, I think it’s nice that they went for the realistic approach and make the areas where natural light can’t come through, it’s extremely dark. But when you use a torch, it gives off barely enough light to even properly navigate the dungeon. The area “The Nest” was a perfect example of this.

Labyrinth 2014-10-22 02-49-56-15I could complain about the lack of a tutorial yet, the game controls and plays like any other typical dungeon game. One thing I think they should really change and that is the starting area. You start out having to jump down a ravine. Not once, but if I recall correctly, about three times, you loose some health and this will set off a handful of players to not play the game. It’s not really inviting and it gives the game the first impression of using cheap tricks. At least in my opinion.

Same with some puzzles. This game uses a few puzzles where you barely get any hints. Without spoiling too much, let me tell you. When you are stuck and have nowhere to go, try a staff. It took me way too long to figure this out. I’m not saying it wasn’t rewarding to find this out, but a subtle hint when you enter the area would be nice. But really subtle. In the current version of the game, it was a nearly see-through wall. Hinting that there is something at the other side. But before you got there, it was a long hallway. Maybe put in the rocks an image that looks like the staff somewhere in that hallway? That’s what I mean with subtle, something you wouldn’t notice or easily miss.

Before I move on to the more positive parts of the game, I want to talk about something that won’t help with the first impression as well. The first enemies you encounter are a bit too strong in my taste. Actually, that’s just a nitpick, since if you know what you are doing, the enemies can be quite the pushovers.

What is already good?

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I’m not going to give criticism on the music. Well, honestly, the ambient music that’s playing in the background. The reason is that it helps building the atmosphere quite well. That there is only one melody/track that plays, I can understand. It’s an Alpha after all. If they weren’t planning to add some more music, then a problem could arrive. Some players would get annoyed by the repetitive music and this would turn up as a negative in various reviews.

Earlier I talked about the map system. As a fan of these style of games, I could start complaining about the difficulty to see rooms and all that… Honestly, I think the map is one of the best features in this game. It’s a fully 3D view of the world you play in. It also shows some hidden things in the map, most likely put there from the developer to control the game. (read: spawning enemies or helping with the lighting of an area.) Which is a really cool touch.

That the enemies aren’t shown on the map is something I’m on the fence about. On one hand, you could say it’s annoying since you can’t plan your strategy. On the other hand, it really helps build fear into the game. You never know if an area is safe to cross or not.

The game runs quite smooth already. I got a steady 60fps, which is quite nice. The sound effects are actually perfect for this game. There weren’t many sound effects I would change. I would add a few here and there like for when an enemy switches equipment.

Yes, that’s a thing. Later in the game, the enemies will switch weapons. Long range combat, they will use a bow. Short range? Well, prepare for a sword fight. In this game, you can also prepare a few load-outs. Choose carefully though, since this game doesn’t offer an inventory system. So, that means, when you want to use your potions, you will have to use a load-out. You can also equip two items and armour. Logical, since we only have two hands. This is the reason why you need to plan out your strategy quite well.

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So, the actual controls are mighty smooth. While I think they should add a run button in the full release, the aiming and such is extremely nice for an alpha. Also, this game would benefit from a crouch move where you can’t fall off ledges, like in Minecraft.

I think I talked about everything I wanted to talk about so it’s time to wrap up this article.

Conclusion

I really love where the game is going. I understand that this game is still in alpha and needs some polishing. But truth to be told, the base game is there. The core idea is present and it puts a new spin on exploration. It’s not simply a clone or just an explorer game. It tries to do something new with the different load-outs you can easily switch between and the amazing map.

It can become a great game, if they worked on expanding the first impressions that the game gives you. If I would give it a score in it’s current state, while keeping in mind that it’s an alpha build, it would be around a 7/10.

Thanks for letting me play this game, I actually enjoyed myself. Don’t be afraid to send me a review copy when it’s fully released guys, I will for sure write a full review about it then.

Anyway, I think I will leave it at that for this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed preparing and writing it. And please, give their official site a look, they deserve it.