Review: Blood: Fresh Supply (PC – Steam) ~ He lives AGAIN.

Blood_logoWikipedia entry – Steam linkSteam link
The Build Engine. One of the biggest game engines ever created in 3D shooter history. Three landmark titles have been created in that engine called Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior and today’s topic: Blood. Back in the day, I used to download a lot of old archived shareware or demo versions of old DOS games. In one of these adventures, I downloaded the demo for the legendary Blood, and I was hooked. At the time, things like Steam weren’t what they are today and I still was in secondary school (high school for you Americans) and too young to start a holiday job. Then, on one summer Steam sale, I found this game for a rather cheap price and I thought: “Why not.”. So, I bought the game for €1 and moved on with my day. Then, COVID-19 happened last year, and I was looking through my game library to play after work. I booted up Blood, and it got my top 10 games of 2020 list. Why did I give this game a spot on my top 10 games list? What did I like so much about this game to place it on that list? Let’s find out together while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts/opinions on the content of the article and/or the game.

He lives AGAIN

Blood 1In this game, you take on the role of Caleb. Caleb has a reputation for being a merciless gunfighter from the Midwest. Caleb is a servant of the god Tchernobog and his minions called ‘The Cabal’. Now, for some reason, our “friendly” god kills Caleb and his fellow chosen for whatever reason and dumps Caleb in a grave. Caleb rises up from his grave several years later, and he is looking for vengeance of course.

Like your typical old school 3D shooters, the story isn’t the main focus of this game. Most of the story in this game is told through cutscenes at the start and end of a chapter and the environment that you are going through. Speaking about which, there is are  a lot of moments like: you start on the train you that you crashed in the previous level. The whole game feels interconnected due to small details like that.

There are a few cutscenes in the game that enhance the story by a little. The reason I’m saying only a little is that the total runtime of these cutscenes is give or take only 5 minutes. Which is a shame, since the cutscenes really added to the atmosphere of the game. On the other hand, I think that if this game had more cutscenes, it would overpower the gameplay and the environmental story telling.

There is voice acting in this game. Of course, you have your typical enemy shouting that is as immersive as the cowboy shouting from Outlaws. You also have your wise-cracking main character Caleb voiced by Stephan Weyte. Stephan also did voice work for one of my favorite edutainment companies Humongous Entertainment. He voiced several side characters in the Pajama Sam and Freddi Fish games. Before I start rambling about unrelated things for this review, I have to say that Stephan killed it with his performance in this game. His delivery is extremely memorable, and I love his voice work for this game. A fun fact is that the voice acting for our evil god has been done by the executive producer Jace Hall.

Should you play Blood for the story? Oh, heavens no. Don’t misunderstand me here, the story of this game is fine, but it is far from the best story you can experience in a shooter. The story is there to set the mood and set up the atmosphere of this game and to help you immerse yourself in the game. But, nothing more nothing less.

Now, if we check on the Blood Wiki on the amount of different versions and ports that this game got we learn that there are two versions of this game on Steam. You have Blood – Fresh Supply and Blood – One Unit Whole Blood. At the moment of writing, the “One Unit Whole Blood” version has been removed from Steam and the “Fresh Supply” version is still up for sale. I found a nice forum post about the biggest differences on the GOG.com forums between the two versions. As the title suggests, I played Fresh Supply for this review.

Crazy cultists

Blood 3I don’t think I have to explain what you have to do in old school 3D shooter games. You have to fight various enemies, find keys to open doors, do some platforming and solve some puzzles. Personally, I compare this game in a way to games like Heretic and Duke Nukem 3D. It’s an old school 3D shooter with amazing weapons and power ups to aid you in your battle against your enemies. There are a lot of different enemies with their own attack sound, strengths, and weaknesses.

Most of the weapons in this game has a secondary fire mode. For example, the double barred shotgun secondary fire shoots both bullets at once or the Tommy gun’s second fire let out a burst of bullets where you swing the weapon back and forth. You can even use one weapon as a turret and another weapon is a voodoo doll.

But the most iconic weapon in Blood is the dynamite. There are big differences in terms of the dynamite you can use. You have your normal dynamite, proximity, and dynamite you can remotely detonate. Depending on the chosen difficulty, the skill to use your weapons and especially dynamite is essential to your survival. I can’t count how many times I had to resort to dynamite to “thin out the herd”.

Speaking about the difficulty, if you aren’t too familiar with all Blood’s mechanics and secrets and different routes, I don’t advise the higher difficulty settings. I have to admit that I’m not the most skilled player when it comes to shooters and I had an extremely hard time with the medium setting. Get used to the mechanics of this game before you play on the highest difficulty settings and thank me later. The game is otherwise too frustrating for newcomers.

Earlier, I said that this game feels quite interconnected due to the level design. That start of the level represents the previous level. Most of the levels have a sort of linear design. You have to backtrack quite rarely. Yet, I found myself stuck in a few levels and the map system, while impressive, was far from helpful. Now, in terms of map systems, I think I might be spoiled by the more modern design methods where the key door locations are marked on your map.

Sadly enough, there are some moments that the level design wasn’t the best. For example, I found one or two spots where you can get soft locked. But more annoyingly, I found some monster rooms quite annoying since the exit gets locked, and you have to go switch hunt. I think these moments could have benefitted from Caleb saying: “Where is the switch” when interacting with the door.

This game is controlled through mouse and keyboard. While this game has controller support, I only played this game through mouse and keyboard. I didn’t have any problems with the controls and felt they worked amazingly. After a minor bit of tweaking to fit the AZERTY lay-out better that we use here in Belgium, I was able to master the responsive controls.

Visually, this game still looks fine. The visual improvements you can choose to either enable or disable are a great way to choose between the vanilla textures and the newer “more modern” visuals. Of course, this game really shows its age in the visual department but, that isn’t a bad thing for this game. I still find that the visual atmosphere is created amazingly, and I feel that the world still feels somewhat real and alive.

Something that truly impressed me are the animations. The animations in this game are a masterclass in how animations should look in shooter games. Enemies that get shot in the legs crawl towards you and keep shooting, enemies set on fire with a flare run around crazily… And that are just two examples.

Very rarely, I found some visual glitches. In one level there was some Z-fighting with a pillar switch. (Z-Fighting is when two textures overlap and the game can’t decide which one to show, so it flickers in between them.) In some spots, the shells of the Tommy gun vanished. These moments were thankfully rare and didn’t impact gameplay too much.

Dynamite

Blood 2The sound design in this game is extremely important. If you don’t pay attention to the well crafted sound effects, you might miss some important enemy cues especially from the zombies. Since those don’t die right away from the weaker weapons. So, yeah, heard of hearing and deaf people are disavantaged when it comes to this game.

Sadly enough, the soundtrack could have been better. I feel that it’s too short and for some reason, it bugged out during my playthrough and it didn’t always play. While I was writing this section of the review, I was listening to the soundtrack on YouTube and I heard some tracks I haven’t heard in the game. While the music in itself is quite good and adds a lot to the atmosphere but it being only around 30 minutes, I felt that the soundtrack is too short for the game’s length.

This game has the perfect length for a shooter game like this. This game packs all the expansion packs so that means that a casual playthrough might take you around 10-ish hours. If you want to go for 100% you might be able to double that. But, this game gets so much more challenging and rewarding when you play it on higher difficulty settings so you might be able to get a lot more hours out of it than that.

Now, there is one thing in terms of the UI I really didn’t like. That’s the weapon wheel / ammo system. Let me explain. In the bottom center, you can see how much ammo you have for your weapons. Just like in other shooters from that time period, you have no idea which number corresponds with which weapon. It still shows “0″ even when you don’t have that weapon. The weapon wheel also doesn’t really show well to which weapon it’s going to switch since, it’s a wheel. When you pass the last weapon, it goes back to the first.

There is one thing I feel that the game totally dropped the ball on. And that’s the saving system. It’s not that the saving system doesn’t work, but it’s extremely bare bones. This game uses manual saving. There is no checkpoint saves when you enter a new level, but that isn’t such a big problem. I don’t mind manually saving once in a while I enter a new level or passed a difficult section. What I do mind is that the load system doesn’t give you ANY information in which level the save is. On top of that, you only have a limited amount of save slots and no visual information when you successfully saved the game. I worked around it by naming my saves with the level name like: “E1M3” (Episode 1 Map 3) and some additional info, but it shouldn’t be such a pain. Thankfully, we have a way better system now-a-days.

A minor thing that I really didn’t like in this game is the respawn mechanic. Of course, when you die, you are going to respawn at the start of the level with only your pitchfork. No problem there. But, the issue is in my opinion that the reloading just take a bit too long for my liking. It’s always faster to load your save from the pause menu then waiting on the game to respawn you. It might also save you some frustration since “pitchfork starting” isn’t always the most enjoyable way to play some levels.

This game also has Steam Achievements. These were a whole lot of fun to try and get. After I had beaten the game, I got 6 out of the 20 achievements. I could have gotten more but for some reason, my game glitched out and some achievements are still locked. Oh well, all the more reason for me to play through the game again at a later date.

There is quite a long list of references in this game. While I was 5 years old at the time of the original release, I had to admit I was able to pick up on several references. Maybe my love for retro games and retro media might have helped me out quite a lot there.

Oh, before I forget, there is a multiplayer mode in this game. I’m sorry but I haven’t played it at all so I’m not going to comment on it. But, from what I have read and seen, you both have your typical death match gameplay and a way to play through the campaign in a co-op fashion. That is sounding quite interesting for when I can let friends come over again.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for me to wrap up this review. I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game and before I ramble on and on, I’m going to wrap up this article in a neat conclusion like I usually do for my review articles.

Conclusion time

The good:

+ Amazing shooter with replay value.

+ Easy to learn but oh so difficult to master.

+ Still good looking after all these years.

+ Amazing audio design.

+ …

The bad:

-The save and load system isn’t the best.

-The weapon wheel is a bit broken.

-Some softlocks / switch hunting moments.

Final thoughts:

Blood is a game that came out in 1997. This game is almost 25 years old and I have to say that this game still holds up amazingly well. The visual improvements that the Fresh Supply remake brings to the table are amazing. It gives a breath of fresh air in an already amazing game.

While I was researching this game, I found several video’s by one of my favorite YouTubers Civvie11. The release of this remake wasn’t the best. Thankfully, through the years, the game got various patches and updates that improved the game quite a lot to the point that I barely noticed the points that Civvie gave in his original “Blood: Fresh Supply is broken” video.

Apart from some flaws, this game holds up amazingly well. I knew that Blood had a high reputation when I started playing it and I was so happy when the game didn’t dissapoint me at all. Of course, I encountered some jank because this game isn’t the newest but that’s to be expected.

Would I recommend this game to people who enjoy shooters? Absolutely. This game gets an easy recommendation from me. The game costs only 8,2€ here and let me tell you, you can play a lot worse games for that price. The few issues this game have can be taken care off and they won’t hinder your playthrough too much. Is Blood one of the best retro game shooters? Easy answer, yes. Yes, it is. It’s as good as the original Doom, Heretic, Hexen, Duke Nukem and if you enjoy retro games and especially shooters it should be a crime to not at least give this game a try.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to 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 and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 95 / 100

First Impression: Blue Dragon (XBOX360) ~ Helpful Shadows

BlueDragonWikipedia entry

It has been quite some time since I have written an article about a game on the XBOX360. Which is quite surprising to me, since I bought my XBOX360 from an old classmate of mine three-ish years ago. Anyways, I’m glad that I bought the system since when I moved in September of last year, I had a lot of issues with getting my internet up and running, so it was my DVD player. Besides that, I kept playing games on it since it was on anyways. Anyways, earlier this month I felt like browsing the XBOX360 Online store and I wanted to play an RPG. When I found Blue Dragon, a game I thought released only on Nintendo DS, was actually a series that started on the XBOX. I didn’t hesitate and bought the game for 20€. And, because you guys and girls voted for it on my Twitter, here we are. I’m going to talk about my first impressions of this game after playing this game for about 2-ish hours. Let’s dive right into this while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Helpful shadows

Blue-Dragon-XBOX-360In this game, you take on the role of Shu, Jiro and Kiuke. These three young kids live in a village that gets attacked yearly by a mysterious landshark. This landshark not only destroys almost the whole village but also caused several victims. During one attack, these three children want revenge on the landshark and try to trap and fight it. This doesn’t turn out so well and they get dragged away by the landshark. 

After a small exploration of the resting place of the landshark, they discover that the landshark is being controlled by somebody else who is taking great pleasure in seeing the destruction and panic. Our three heroes are able to escape this evil person but they also eat a special light orb which transforms their shadows into beats that make them not only stronger but also give them magic abilities. 

Now, allow me to be blunt and direct for a moment. If you expect a deep and rich story from this RPG, I’m afraid to say that you are barking up the wrong tree. The writing and the pacing is perfect for an children anime series. But, to be honest, I think it fits the game well. If the writers would have written a more grim plot with the whole “your shadow gives you special powers” plot you would either go more in the lines of a Persona game or risking that the story becomes too silly to be taken seriously. 

Yet, on the other hand, this does put the game in a weird position for me. When I play RPG games, I expect more from the story then a simple story for the young kids. Granted, I can enjoy the stories in a Pokémon game and those aren’t too special, but the story in this game is just a bit mediocre. If I have to pin point why I feel that the story in this game isn’t the best, I think I have to say that the story in this game is like a small rain puddle. 

A small rain puddle that is quite enjoyable to jump into and kick the water around but it’s just that. A puddle. It has no depth and it doesn’t provide you with more enjoyment than the surface layer. A perfect example is that the resolution of some missions can be skipped completely. In one of the first missions, you have to save the “bravest warrior” from a sheep village. After you have done so, the exit to the next section of the game is right there and you never see the “bravest sheep” return home and lie about him defeating the monster that was trapping him. 

There is just not enough reaction on the situation by either the NPC’s or even the playable characters. When they get trapped in a big machine with no way out, there is no panic, no plan meeting… Nothing. Anything would be nice to provide more depth. 

The voice acting of this game is decent. I have heard better voice acting but I have also heard a lot worse. But the voice acting has the same problem compared to the shallow story. I feel that some scenes should have been voice acted or at least have some more sound effects to draw you in more but alas, we get silent textboxes. 

Missing: Depth

538221-blue-dragon-xbox-360-screenshot-marumaro-dashing-through-the

So, the story isn’t the strong suit of this game. Granted, I have only experienced a small part of the story and maybe the story improves quite a lot when I continue playing this game. Since, I’m seeing a lot of amazing mechanics and idea’s in this game that show the potential of this game. 

I really like how you can choose which character is the character you explore this game with. There are no real difference in terms of gameplay doing that, apart from one minor visual one. 

But then there are things that are quite flawed. A great example is the map system. Explain me why it’s possible to see the locations on the map in the teleport system but not on the world map? The world map in this game is the most useless map I have seen in a RPG. Apart from a location pointer and an icon where all teleport places are, you have no further information. You can’t even see area maps apart from the small compass in the bottom right corner. 

Thankfully, not everything is as broken as the global map. There are minor flaws in the game as well. They can be distracting but they didn’t ruin the game (too much) for me. For example, I think it’s hardcoded in the game that after cutscenes, every character joins Shu to continue the adventure… even when you selected another character to explore the world with. And after a small second, you transform into the correct character. 

Now, let’s talk about something good about this game for a change. I really enjoy the battle system. While I would have loved a better animation for the start of a battle, that nitpick doesn’t take away that the battle system has some unique and fun mechanics. Every enemy can be seen during exploration. So, there are no random battles in sight in this game. You can also bring up a circle in which you can choose which enemies to group together to attack in one battle. And while you’re exploring, weaker enemies will flee from you while stronger enemies try and chase you down for a while.

So, you can assign classes to your shadow. These classes dictate which spells and attacks you can use. This adds a layer of complexity to the game that I enjoy quite a lot. In addition to that, the battle system also has a timing mechanic. Unlike the Paper Mario games where you have to time a button press with the attack landing, in this game you have to hold the “A” button and if you land in the “critical” red zone, your spell or attack is more powerful BUT it might need a turn to charge up. The risk/reward system is excellent. 

Let’s power through

538217-blue-dragon-xbox-360-screenshot-activating-warp-devices-willFrom the previous section of the article, you might get the idea that this game is mediocre or isn’t worth your time. Now, that’s something I personally disagree with. I think this game is worth at least a try if you enjoy playing RPG or adventure games and you want to play something more lighthearted. 

Maybe the amazing visual presentation of this game might pull you in like it does with me. While some animations aren’t the best and a bit silly, like some walk cycles. The game looks well crafted and apart from some minor animation hiccups during cutscenes with the mouths not moving during talking, I don’t see too many major issues. The biggest issue is that some unskipable attack animations have some minor slowdown or tearing in them. But, that might be because I’m playing this game on a very new TV and maybe the high refresh rate and the big size might be overloading my poor XBOX360’s GPU buffer. 

The other big part of the presentation of this game is the audio. Apart from the game needing a bit more sound effects during cutscenes, I think the audio does a decent job of giving this game more character. Yet, I do have some complaints. I noticed that in some spots, the audio mixing wasn’t the greatest and the sound effects sounded too loud compared to the music that was playing. Speaking about the soundtrack, I enjoy most of it but there are some tracks with vocals. And these miss their mark completely in my opinion. Not only is it hard to understand what is actually being sung but combined with the sound effects of the battle, it gets even worse. Also, these songs don’t fit at all as a boss battle theme. 

Something I feel on the edge about is the fact that this game doesn’t have an autosave system. All the saving happens manually. So, don’t forget to save when you get the chance since a “Game Over” sends you back to the main menu where you have to load your save. Thankfully, this game isn’t too difficult but loosing progress is never fun.

And I’m not saying that this game is too easy. If you aren’t careful, you will loose and “Press A” to win doesn’t apply in this game. You will have to use some strategy or else you will be defeated. 

So, if you would ask me if I would recommend this game… I would say “Yes, but know that this game is not for everybody.”. While this game is quite enjoyable, I don’t think that this game aged quite well. While I heavily disagree with the 90+/100 scores that some reviewers gave this game, I don’t think this game is a bad game. 

While I haven’t gotten too far into the game and according to a small peak at the walkthrough, I currently finished 10% of the main story, I’m quite curious to see what this game is going to throw at me. So far, this game is quite enjoyable in my eyes despite it’s childish nature and the various flaws this game has. But, it puts a great battle system, enjoyable worlds and various other things to balance the flaws out. 

Normally, I wouldn’t score a game in a first impressions article but I’m going to do it because earlier I said that I disagree with the 90+ scores that this game is getting. I would give this game 70/100. This game has a lot of good elements but the lack of depth and polish in this game is something I would love to see improved in the sequels when I get around in playing them. 

And with that said, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article before I find another way to talk about the same point again in another way. There are a few things I’m leaving for the review when I have beaten this game but I have mentioned the most important things. 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, have a great rest of your day and take care. 

Game Quicky: The Touryst (Switch) ~ Vacation With Adventure

H2x1_NSwitchDS_TheTouryst.jpg

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entryOfficial website

In the world we live in today, it’s not too advised to travel. To protect the risk groups from COVID-19 that is. So, that’s why I’m going to talk about a small indie game on the Nintendo Switch called The Touryst, where we can have a virtual vacation. But hold on, is this a holiday worth going on? Since, the holiday picture you see as cover art spells doom. It might go wrong pretty quickly. But, is that wrong as in, story-wise or wrong as in… a bad game? Let’s find out together in this game quicky article! And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. 

The good memories

NSwitchDS_TheTouryst_01

Just like in a vacation, the story of this game takes somewhat of a backseat. The story is there to explain certain things that the people of the island do. But what is the story of this game? Well, in this game you play as a guy going on a holiday. He discovers a way to enter a strange alien looking temple and when exploring that temple, his adventure is afoot.

While there is no voice acting in this game, the writing in the dialogue boxes is pretty good. Especially since there certain effects to some dialogue parts to put more character inside the dialogue boxes and on top of that, the characters of the game.

Something I really love about this game is the variety. There are so many things to do and puzzles to solve. While the main quest takes you on a journey through various temples and you solve various platforming challenges, the other puzzles and side quests take you on a journey through a beach party, jazz club, art museum and many other places.

It’s quite impressive that in a game that’s only 6-ish hours long, that there is so many different things to do. I have even seen speedruns of people completing this game in under one hour. So, this game is quite speedrun friendly.

The controls of this game are quite close to perfect. The are easy to understand and extremely responsive. I was able to understand all my abilities even after a month or so of not playing the game.

The UI and “TO DO list” is one of the best I have seen in a while. It logs almost everything and it’s easy to navigate and find. Per island you get a list of the tasks you still can do to progress either the main story or a side quest. The only minor complaint I have is that the load game feature is under the options menu. I just wish that this was it’s own menu with a sort of “save and quit” feature as the first save file or something.

The performance of this game is mind blowing. The game runs smoothly at 60FPS and I can’t tell you one spot where it dropped lower than 60FPS. Together with the impressive visual design, this game is a technical master class for other developers. The visual presentation of this game is something I really enjoyed. It reminds me of a sort of smooth Lego-ish vibe with the stunning voxel graphics.

The animations are wonderful to look at as well with the steady and high frame rate. To me, it was extremely immersive. I really loved going onto the islands and exploring around to see what the game had to offer. I loved how the footprints stayed in the sand or how the lighting of the sun changed when you moved the camera around.

Couple this with an amazing soundtrack and sound design together with the rather relaxing and sometimes tense atmosphere of this game and you have another reason why I feel that this game deserves a lot of praise. But, there is something… something dark lurking while I’m praising this game.

The bad memories

TheTouryst-IL1Sadly enough, this adventure isn’t perfect. There are some mistakes in this adventure that I think could have been better. The first thing that I found a big bummer is the fact that there can be only one save file in the game.

Speaking about saving, something I found a bit disappointing was the fact that when you choose save and quit in a monument, that you have to restart the whole monument. So, better put the Switch in sleep mode than choosing save and quit.

Now, something I talked about in this article earlier were the controls. Some of the controls still need some fine tuning like the aiming controls. I had to wrestle with the aiming controls more often then not. This is such a big shame in my opinion. Also, this might be just me but the ledge grabbing mechanic didn’t always work for me.

There were some mini games and platforming sections that were a tad bit too difficult in my opinion. Especially when some tricky jumps were involved. It was so annoying when I fell into a pit just because I jumped a bit too early. Thankfully, you do respawn quickly, but the whole room resets. So, yeah, if it’s a puzzle involving a lot of steps… Let’s just say it’s extremely irritating.

The fact that there is no real hint system is a bit frustrating. In some boss battles I had to find the solution by complete accident. There is some trail and error in this game. While I didn’t find this too big of an issue, I can see that this might be a turn off for some people.

With that said, I think it’s time we reached a conclusion. Don’t you think as well? Should you go to your nearest Nintendo eShop Travel Agent and book this holiday or should you avoid it?

Travel verdict

This game is a hidden gem. While it’s quite short, it’s a blast to play and explore the worlds that were created for this adventure. But, there are some cracks in this gem that might turn people off from playing it.

It feel like some parts weren’t polished enough and that made some sections a bit too frustrating. Thankfully, those moments aren’t too frequent and spread out quite a bit.

This game is a joy to beat but a nightmare to complete. I can only agree from what I have read from other reviewers, there are some (optional) sections like the surfing and soccer game that make this game almost a rage quitting affair.

Well, I think that this game is highly worth your time and money if you enjoy exploration games, puzzle games, platformers, indie games… There is a huge audience for this game I think. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if this game didn’t click with everybody. Since, this game can be frustrating but also a bit repetitive.

Thankfully, there is a demo. So, you can try before you buy. My advise is that you first give the demo of this game a try and if you feel that it’s your cup of tea (or coffee, or beer or …) then you buy this game. Since, it’s a joyful adventure with some weaker spots that’s a blast to experience.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you so much 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!

Score: 80/100

First Impression: Rise of Nations: Extended Edition (PC) ~ Apes With Tanks

21462-rise-of-nations-windows-front-cover.jpgOfficial website

Since my childhood I have been playing a lot of RTS games. From Rise & Fall Civilizations At War to Age Of Empires, I have played a lot of them. And I have to admit, I’m not great at them. Whenever I would play online against other players, I get easily defeated. Yet, I enjoyed my time with these games quite a lot. I love to play skirmishes or various matches against the computer. Now, one of the favorite RTS games is Rise of Nations. And that’s the game we are going to take a look at today. A game where you take your civilization from give or take the stone age to the modern times of today. So, let’s not wait longer and let’s dive right into my first impressions of this game. The reason the first impression is simply because I never finished the campaigns, so yeah. I haven’t seen all the content of the game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Apes with tanks

Rise of Nations has been developed by Big Game Studios, the studio that also worked on the second expansion of Age of Empires III. While this game has a “Conquer the world” campaign mode where you play as for example Napoleon conquering Europe, I haven’t played a lot of that mode. And that has a simple explanation, I already talked about in the introduction of this article. Now, for this article I have played parts of the first campaign of Alexander The Great.

Now, for this article I have played the extended edition of the game that is on Steam at the moment. The core gameplay of this game is extremely similar to games like Age of Mythology and Age Of Empires. If you have played a RTS game in the past, you will feel right at home in this game.

Some mechanics do work differently in this game. First of all, the way to claim land. When you start the game, a certain part of the map is colored in your color. You can expand this area by building more cities or defensive buildings. You are unable to build any other buildings outside of that area. It’s quite important that you plan out your city structure well, since it’s a factor in how much wealth you will earn from your trade route or the ability to build even better wood cutting or mining camps.

To increase the population limit or the efficiency of certain buildings, you will need to upgrade at the library. There are 4 trees you can update. The military level which allows you to create even better military units, the science level to have even better buffs to your economic output and military, the economics level to have your resource gathering be even more efficient and stockpile better and the civic level which allows you to build even more units and cities. On top of that, you have to worry about advancing through the ages. You go from the early stone age to the middle ages to finish in the modern ages.

The way you gather resources in this game is also quite different. In this game you don’t have to worry about re-seeding farms or finding now ore veins for your villagers. All the resources are infinite. Now, there are certain restrictions. You can only build up to 5 farms per city. The placement of the building is also quite important. For example, if you place a woodcutter camp in the middle of a forest, more villagers will be able to cut wood for you. If you place it at the edge, less villagers will be able to cut wood for you.

Now, with all of this, you need to keep in mind that if you enter enemy territory, your units automatically get attrition. So, if one of your camps or buildings falls into enemy territory, you will loose slots or loose that building entirely.

Another mechanic in this game are the merchants. Spread over the whole map are certain bonus items. Sometimes they can be presents like the relics you can find in Age of Empires III but without the guardians. And sometimes they can be rare resources that can give certain buffs. On this Wiki page, you have a list of all the different buffs you can get.

One of the mechanics I really love and miss in a lot of other RTS games is the automatic exploring. Seriously, I can let any unit automatically explore the map without me having to worry about it or me always giving it a path. The times I forgot to explore the map in other RTS games… Man, I’m unable to count that anymore.

As you can see, there are many layers on top of the gameplay. The game is very complex and expansive. And I haven’t talked about how you can conquer and take over cities, set the unit production to loop, the fact you can take out your enemies in many different ways, the ability to rename your cities, the unique wonders and their bonuses… The features that set this game apart from other RTS games are just amazing and make for a very unique experience.

Visual fluff

This game can be very challenging. Depending on the difficulty of the AI, this game can be quite easy or quite difficult. While I’m able to beat the computer on Normal, I always have trouble when the computer is on hard mode. Yet, the issue I have with this game is that the normal mode provides just a bit too little challenge for me and the hard mode provides a bit too much challenge for me. Whoops.

Something I really like about this game is the fact that the visuals change when you change through the ages. You see the building style change when you advance through the ages. And not only that, the sound design changes as well. For example, when you get to the industrial ages, you start to hear chainsaws in the lumber camps instead of saws.

Up close, the visuals can look a bit dated. But, that’s completely normal. Since near the end of the game, there are so many units on the screen, I’m glad that they aren’t too detailed. The ending of a game can be so extremely hectic, I can barely keep track of what’s going on. I remember a multiplayer session with my best friend. In the end of that session we neglected our economy and idle villagers because the warfare required most of our attention. At the end of a match, you are able to make 4 big upgrades. One of them is instant creation of units. With this upgrade, the warfare gets so crazy, you have to focus on it.

Some elements of the UI in this game can be expanded and collapsed. For example, when you expand the resource menu, you have quick access to the market where you can trade resources. You don’t need to click on a market to do that. You can also see if there are open spots for mining, farming, wood cutting… And when these get in your way, one simple button click and they are hidden.

Not only the visual presentation and sound design changes through the ages, the animation does as well. When you reach the industrial ages, the miners you jackhammers instead of pickaxes to mine.

The sound design is amazing, it really captures the enjoyable chaos that happens on screen perfectly well. On top of that, the sound effects for male and female units are different. Yes, when a female unit dies, you hear a woman scream. And guess what, you hear a male scream when a male unit dies. This attention to detail is just amazing.

Couple this sound design and amazing visual design with an amazing orchestral soundtrack and you have an amazing visual presentation. In the original version, I had issues with the soundtrack. It never played during gameplay. While playing the Extended Edition, I haven’t encountered that issue once.

Perfection?

Now, is this game perfect? No, there are some things I would change in this game. One complaint I have is that there aren’t too many differences between the nations you can choose to play as.

Due to the various amounts of game mechanics, this game can be extremely overwhelming. If you aren’t into RTS games, just don’t play this game as your first RTS game. This game isn’t easy to get into because the various amount of layers upon layers of complexity in this game.

Due to the length of some rounds, I honestly got a bit bored at the end. This game is a lot of fun to play but near the end, I found that the game became a bit too repetitive to my liking.

Also, compared the to original game and the extended edition, there hasn’t been a lot of additions. Thankfully, the community picks up the slack from the developers in the Steam Workshop.

Some achievements are rather grindy in nature. I have close to 60 hours of playtime in this game and I’m not even halfway to the achievement of killing 50K units. Yes, I have killed 8K units during my 60 hour playthrough.

And to be honest, that are all the negatives I can talk about. Maybe I discover a few more negatives when I’m trying out the campaign mode again soon, but I highly doubt that. This game is quite a lot of fun if you are into RTS games. Once this game has a hook on you, it barely lets go. This game is one of my favorite RTS games and I’m so glad that it’s available on Steam. And after writing this review (well, first impression) I can’t wait to boot the game back up again and start up a new round.

With that, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you so much 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!

Publishing: Hissatsu Studios presents Space Outlaw Alice!

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Description

Space Outlaw Alice follows Alice, the main character, as she gets targeted by the corrupt government of the Earth Union and must also deal with mysterious extra-dimensional monsters that appeared out of nowhere. As she runs through the stages, the player will experience a classic platform action with jumping and shooting. However, each stage also contains segments where she will pilot Seraph, her giant robot, and the game will shift to a horizontal scroller shooter. Space Outlaw Alice is highly inspired by the classic games of the NES/Famicom console as well as the mecha anime genre. Its plot and characters are carefully presented through 8-bit cutscenes between the stages.

History

The year is 2378 A.D. Humanity is expanding into space, but its progress is being held back by the corrupt regulation of Earth Union. In addition to the inability to rely on its own government, both Earth and space are plagued by criminal activities and terrorist attacks. Alice, a fearless outlaw, and captain of the spaceship Valiant Gear accept the job to raid a military facility and gets caught up in a situation that will determine the fate of the world. Targeted by the Earth Union army and facing the coming of extra-dimensional creatures that threatens to exterminate all forms of life, she and her crew will need to make a decision. Run and mind their own business or join the battle and help everyone?

Features

  • Retro platformer action
  • Retro shoot’em up action
  • NES inspired pixel art graphics
  • Upbeat 8-bit inspired music
  • Six two-part stages
  • Hidden weapons and upgrades
  • Flashy special attacks
  • 8-bit cutscenes presenting an engaging plot
  • Fights against trained soldiers, monsters and robots

Space Outlaw Alice | Indiegogo Campaign
The crowdfunding campaign for Space Outlaw Alice. igg.me.

Space Outlaw Alice at Game Jolt
Space Outlaw Alice’s page on Game Jolt. The playable demo is available. gamejolt.com.

Space Outlaw Alice at itch.io
Space Outlaw Alice’s page on itch.io. The playable demo is available. hissatsu-studios.itch.io.


About Hissatsu Studios

Boilerplate
Hissatsu Studios is a Brazilian indie game studio founded by Lucio de Godoy in April 2017. Its main inspirations are the 8-bit and 16-bit era videogames. Hissatsu Studios is currently working on its first project, Space Outlaw Alice, a pixel art game with distinct platformer and horizontal shoot’em up segments alternating in a single adventure. It is inspired by the NES/Famicom classics and some of their technical limitations.

More information
More information on Hissatsu Studios, our logo & relevant media is available here.


Space Outlaw Alice Credits

Lucio de Godoy
Game Designer, Artist, Programmer

Rafael Giordanno
Composer

Review: Adera (PC) ~ Let’s Rescue Grandfather!

AderaSteam store page – Microsoft Store

During a spring cleaning, my mom found her old Windows Surface RT tablet back. She didn’t need it anymore but I saw some use in it. After I reset the tablet to its factory settings, I set the whole thing up. It would be a tablet I used to start writing articles while I was on the go and also to take notes during gameplay. I have an Asus Zenpad 8.0 S for that as well, but this tablet was bigger and had Word built-in. Now, this tablet can also play games. And that’s a second reason why I saw a use for this tablet. And a 3rd reason is that I just enjoy toying around with old hardware and tech. Now, one of the first games I started playing on this tablet was Adera. I recently finished this game and today I want to talk about it. Let’s go and have that adventure in the Adera. 

Let’s rescue Grandfather!

Adera - 1In this adventure hidden object game, you take on the role of Jane. Jane’s grandfather got himself into trouble and sent a distress letter to Jane. When Jane goes to try and find him together with her partner Hawk, their helicopter crashes in the middle of a desert. It’s there that Jane’s adventure starts. Together with the mysterious orb that she received from the package of her grandfather.

The story of this game is decent. The writing is well done and the pacing as well, but if you have played fantasy adventure games, the story won’t bring a lot new to the table. Now, I did still enjoy the story in this game. My biggest complaint is that it could have been so much more. The world and the setting have so much more potential to be explored.

Now, if you decide to play this game, I highly recommend that you play this game with the original voice acting. The English voice acting is quite well done in my opinion. But, most likely because of the region settings of my Microsoft Account, when I play this game on my desktop instead of my Surface, the voice acting is in Dutch. Now, I have nothing against the Dutch voice actors in this game but after I had experienced the English voices, I found the English voice over a lot better.

The following issue with the game is most likely because of the aging Windows RT hardware, but I had moments where the game’s text was sometimes in English and sometimes in Dutch. But, when the menu appeared in Dutch, some text was repeated several times. Take a look at this screenshot for example:

Adera-4.png

At the bottom left, it says “Rate Adera!Rate Adera!Rate Adera!”. And there are a few other sections in the game that have the same issue. So, to avoid visual messes like that, I highly recommend that if you are interested in this game, that you buy it on Steam. You won’t have the issue where the game tries to display in another language and you have the best voice overwork. I even bought the Steam version of this game for this review to do some further research.

But this review will mostly focus on the Windows Store version because that’s the one I played and finished. Now, something I can’t hold against the game was the fact that I played it on aging hardware. I played this game on the Windows Surface RT running Windows 8.1. Due to a bug in one of the updates, the Windows Store doesn’t work, so I had to reset the tablet multiple times. Each time, I had to download each and every episode. Now, the downloading and installing of these episodes took a long time. Maybe because the WiFi card and the hard disk inside the tablet are quite slow.

Thankfully, this game has an autosave in the cloud when you connect this game with your XBOX account. So, even when I had to reset my tablet to factory settings, download and install the game and the episodes all over again, I didn’t lose any progress. This is quite surprising to me and a very nice feature.

Now, I want to talk about something but I’m going to spoil something of the ending. If you are alright with that or if you have finished the game, feel free to highlight the following part. Otherwise, just scroll a bit down so you can skip the spoiler. So, here comes the spoiler: Something that really annoys me is the fact that there is a “season 1”. This implies that the game is going to get a season 2 or even 3. Because of the cliffhanger at the end and multiple unanswered questions, the game feels incomplete. Now, the game is released in 2015 and the social media accounts have gone silent. So, I don’t think we will ever know what happened to grandfather after he got kidnapped… again. Now, the game got a re-release on Steam in 2018, so there is hope that we get a continuation of the story in the future… Who knows.

Windows Surface RT

Adera - 2Now yes, I might have played this game on aging hardware, but I actually enjoyed the fact that I was able to make use of the unique feature of this game. I think this feature is also in the Android and iOS versions of the game but the fact that the game supports touch controls is just amazing. Also, the fact that there are gyro controls for this game is amazing. When I moved the tablet around, the in-game camera moved around as well. It was almost like I was controlling where Jane was looking by physically moving the tablet. The Steam version does not support this. Well, I might support it, but I don’t have a laptop has supported this kind of feature.

Anyways, because this game focuses on touch controls, the controls are a bit awkward when you decide to play this game with a mouse. Because you either swipe or physically move your device to look around in several areas in order to find items and solve puzzles. That’s something that isn’t easily done with a mouse. Now, you can simulate a swipe with the mouse, but it feels different. Yet, I was able to get used to it while playing around with the Steam version after a while.

Now, let’s focus on the gameplay of Adera for a moment. If you have ever played those adventure games with hidden object scenes, you will feel right at home in this game. There are a few types of puzzles in this game. The first type of puzzle is hidden-object puzzles. In these puzzles, you are tasked with finding a handful of items in the picture. There is a punishment when you spam click on the picture. The screen will “break” and you are unable to click for a certain amount of time.

The second type of puzzles has to do with the mysterious orb that Jane received from her grandfather. This orb can do some strange things but in order for it to do that, you have to solve different puzzles. Speaking of the orb puzzles, there was one style of puzzles I truly hated with a passion. There is a puzzle where you have to tap the symbols at the correct time. When you tapped them at the correct time, you were able to progress one space in the puzzle. But, if you tapped them too early or too late, that means one space back for you. Thankfully, you are able to skip these puzzles. This means that I’m unable to complete some achievements, but rather that then being frustrated at a puzzle. Now, why did I hate this puzzle? Because for this puzzle you need to have a certain sense of rhythm and that’s something I don’t really have. The puzzle itself works just fine.

The third type of puzzle in this game is the fact that there are a lot and I really mean, a lot of hidden items in the game. There are close to 180 optional items hidden all over the game.  From masks, pieces of clothing, coins, artifacts, butterflies to special items. There are even more items to collect. You can always see the items you have collected in the collection section of the main menu. These are separated in different sections giving you a hint in which episode you missed an object. And these items are truly hidden. After I had finished the game, I only found a bit over 80% of all the items. And I thought I was very good at finding these objects. To be honest, this is an interesting way to add a little bit of replay value to this really linear game.

The fourth and final type of puzzle is the fact that certain obstacles block your way. In order to progress you will have to find items. Some of these items are hidden in the hidden object puzzles and some can be found by exploring the area. The best way to compare these puzzles is with the gameplay of games like Broken Sword.

The game might be more on the casual side of things, but that doesn’t take away that the game is rather enjoyable. I really liked exploring the areas the game threw me in and finding the items to solve the puzzles. All the while I was looking around for hidden collectibles. I have played a lot of hidden object adventure games and this game is one of the better I have played. The fact that there are additional things to do like the hidden collectibles and the various achievements you can get is refreshing and great fun.

Something I really liked about the Windows Store version is the fact that I bought the collectors edition of this game. In this collectors edition of the game, there are various wallpapers and pieces of concept art. The whole soundtrack of the game is also included for your listing pleasure. In addition to that, there is a very short but quite humorous gag reel. There is also an ad for the eBook variant of the game.

These bonus additions are nowhere to be found in the Steam version. In addition to that, something that I found quite helpful was the fact that I was able to zoom in during the hidden-object puzzles. There is no way to do that in the Steam version.

Now, something that the Steam game does better is the fact that the game is really full screen. This is only an issue when you play this game on a Windows 10 computer or laptop instead of on a Microsoft tablet. If you play the game on a computer, blue bars will fill the top and bottom of the screen like in the screenshot here:

Adera 4.png

This is a shame since there is so much unused space and the game can run in full screen since this is something that the Steam version shows.

So close, yet so far

Adera - 3

It always pains me when I have to write in a review that a game is so close to being a good game. Adera has a ton of amazing elements but it also makes a few mistakes.

Now, this game will take you roughly 7 hours to finish. It’ll take you a few more hours in order for you to complete it. Yes, this game is somewhat short but when you compare it to other games in this genre, this game is actually rather lengthy. It also has replay value and for the price of 10€, you can’t complain in my opinion.

This game isn’t for everybody. When you dislike puzzle games or casual games, I don’t think you will enjoy this game. Which is a darn shame, since you will miss out on the lush environments and the amazing artwork. This game looks amazing. The animation is also pretty well done. You can skip most cutscenes, but you will miss out on the plot and the great animation. Now, the only thing that could have been improved as there was a bit more animation on the characters during gameplay. The characters are quite static outside of cutscenes.

The controls of this game do something unique. Usually, when you click or tap just above the middle of the inventory bar, you go to the previous location. This isn’t the case in this game. Because this game has a back arrow. This has its advantages. For example, now I don’t return to my previous location when I tap a bit too high by accident. But, this arrow works a bit inconsistent. In some cases, you are able to move to that location without the aid of that arrow and in some cases, you can only go to that location with the down arrow. It’s tricky to explain by text, but it will make more sense once you play the game. While I got used to the mechanic after an episode, it was annoying that the down arrow to move backwards wasn’t consistently used for the same thing and in the same way.

In terms of the UI of this game, it took me a while to get used to the Windows Apps interface style. Because I rarely used Windows 8(.1), I wasn’t used to the fact that you had to do certain swiping actions to bring up the menu system. This is something that the Steam version does a lot better. It was also confusing that the settings of the game were somewhat outside of the menu system of the game.

Now, in terms of the UI. Something I really disliked was when I replayed parts of the game on my PC to write this review, I noticed that the swiping doesn’t work in the menus. I had to use my scroll wheel. Another annoying “feature” of this game is that when you go to any menu during gameplay; to for example the collection menu, the back button in the menu system brings you back to the main menu. It would have been so much easier if this back button brought you back to the game to continue your playthrough.

While the game saves automatically and quite frequently, I found the load feature a bit lacking. Now, it works perfectly but when you continue an episode, you don’t know where your save file is at. When you finish an episode, the game saves right before the cutscene that plays as the cliffhanger for the next episode. Now, the thing is, the game uses cloud saves when you sign in with your XBOX account. So, when I clicked continue on the first episode on my PC, the end cut scene of the first episode started playing. It would be lovely if the load feature told you where the game saved. In addition to that, when you click on the “play now” buttons in the main menu with the episodes, the game directly loads your save file. So, if you want to start from the beginning because you think you skipped some collectibles, you need to go to the “episode” section of the main menu and start it from there.

It’s a shame really, the UI could be so much better. There are just bad design decisions. Thankfully, most of them are fixed in the Steam version where you don’t have the Microsoft App UI on top of the game. But, that version misses quite a lot of features of the collector’s edition.

Something I haven’t mentioned or talked about is the music and sound design. The soundtrack of this game is quite well done. The only complaint I have is that some tracks are a bit too short and because they are played quite often, the loop started to annoy me in some puzzles. Yet, the soundtrack is one that I’m going to add to my music library so I can listen to it while I’m writing or relaxing. It’s that good. It’s a relaxing but mysterious soundtrack that’s fully orchestrated. Together with amazing sound effects and sound design, this game really shines in its audiovisual presentation. Now, one nitpick is that I feel that the music for the main menu is a bit too quiet, a bit too mysterious. Sometimes I felt there wasn’t any music in the main menu.

Now, is this game difficult? Not really, this game can be extremely easy and quite challenging depending on the difficulty setting you to pick. There are three settings. Depending on how difficult you make the game, the more supporting features are disabled. On the “EASY” setting, active hidden object or puzzle locations are revealed with sparkles and the hint and skip buttons recharge quite quickly. On the “NORMAL” difficulty setting, the sparkles appear less frequently and the hint and skip buttons recharge slower. And finally, on the highest difficulty, also known as “EXPERT”, no sparkles and the hint and skip buttons are disabled. You can change the difficulty setting at any time while you are playing an episode.

Speaking about the hint button, I really liked the way this game gives you hints. When you click on the hint button the first time, you get a clue to what is the next step you could take. There is an additional button on the hint pop-up and if you click on that button, you get the exact solution you are looking for.

During this review, I have talked about various things that this game does better compared to other hidden object adventure games like for example the length, the back button, and the replay value. But, there is one thing that this game doesn’t have compared to newer games that would have been a great addition in this title. The custom difficulty setting. With these settings, you can adjust which supporting options you want to enable and disable or how long you want to the hint and/or skip buttons to recharge for. But, this might have been too tricky to program with the ability to change the difficulty settings on the fly. The other thing that this game doesn’t have is a map screen. Usually, in these map screens, you can see the locations you have visited and where actions can be done. This would have been helpful with some of the longer episodes.

With that said, I think it’s high time to close off this review. It’s time for the closing thoughts on this game!

Conclusion

Note: While I talked a lot in this review about the Steam version of this game. The conclusion applies to the Windows App Store version of the game that I played on the Windows Surface RT tablet.

The bad: 

  • The UI could use some more polish.
  • The Dutch translation has some text bugs.
  • There was no way to choose the language of the game.

The good:

+ Amazing audiovisual presentation.

+ Replay value in a hidden object game!

+ The collector’s edition has a lot of amazing bonus content.

+ Amazing artwork.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Man, this has been a tricky game to review. I have played parts of the Steam version and the Windows App store version. I’m certain that the versions for Android and iOS have some differences but will most likely play similar to the Windows Surface RT version.

While the Steam version has a better UI, it lacks all the additional neat features of the collector’s edition that can be found on the Microsoft Store. But, the version of the Microsoft Store has a lacking UI.

Now, this game isn’t perfect and isn’t for everybody. But what it does, it does very well. I highly recommend this game to fans of the hidden object genre or fans of the point-and-click genre. This game is quite underrated and should deserve more recognition. It was the first game I started playing on the Windows Surface RT and it was the first game I had beaten. Sometimes I replay a bit of the game in the hope I find the collectibles I missed.

The game gives you the impression that there are going to be more seasons, that the story of Adera will continue. With the game getting a Steam port last year, I have hopes that we will see another season in the (near) future. But, I highly doubt it will happen since there is no mention of seasons in the Steam version. Then again, it could be possible that the second season will start with episode 6 or something.

So, if you want to give this game a chance and you don’t mind a bit of messy menu UI, I highly recommend the Windows Store version. If you want a better menu UI, play the Steam version but know that you will miss out on the collector’s edition content.

Personally, I really enjoyed playing this game and I’m happy that I discovered it. Now, I’m quite curious to see if somebody who reads this article is going to pick up this game. If you do, please let me know in the comments which version you bought and what you thought of it.

And with that said, I said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you 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 the next article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 70/100

Review: Age of Mythology Extended Edition (PC) ~ And on the 7th day he gamed.

ageofmythologyextendededitionSteam store page

Ah, Age of Mythology. I got introduced to this game when I wasn’t able to understand English. It was at a co-worker of my mom’s house. I was playing the games on the PC I didn’t own. The first time, I played with the Egyptian culture, since I have quite a fondness for the old Egyptian culture. A few years later, I found Age of Mythology in a garage sale. It was a French version, but I didn’t mind. I was finally able to play that one game I played for myself. Back then, my French was better than it is now. It didn’t take long before I found a copy of the Gold Edition with the Titans expansion pack. I played the game quite a lot back then. I even dabbled in online play. Fast forward to 2014 and Age Of Mythology Extended Edition releases. Overjoyed, I start it up and have a nostalgic wave. But, is the game any good and does it still hold up. Let’s find out. 

Tale of the Dragon

To my surprise, in 2016, the game received new content. This new content isn’t too well received if you read the Steam reviews. But, I’m running ahead of myself here. First, let’s take a look at the story of this game. In this game, you play as Arkantos, an admiral from Atlantis. Something strange I have to point out is that the Atlanteans were added with the expansion pack “Rise of the Titans”. 

Anyways, Arkantos gets a mission where he has to help Agamemnon in the Trojan War. Things go south right away and Arkantos’s fierce enemy Kamos tries to boycott him. The story of this game is quite long. It has over 30 missions and it will take you 30 hours to finish the main campaign. If you decide to play the additional campaign the DLC brings, you get a 10 hours additional playtime.

694637-age-of-mythology-extended-edition-windows-screenshot-ordering.png

During the story, you come across various allies and go on a big adventure. The writing in the game is good. Personally, I prefer the stories in this game more than the stories that were told in Age of Empires I & II. The way how they used the mythologies and stories to create one huge story is just amazing.

Something that still holds up from the original is the voice acting. During the story, you come across Greek, Egyptian & Norse missions and each character feels and sounds unique. My favorite missions were Egyptian missions. The reason for that might be because I’m really fond of Egyptian mythology.

But, would I say that the voice acting is actually good? Oh, no. The voice acting is cheesy and over-the-top. And to be honest, I love it. It adds to the craziness of the story and atmosphere. I get the impression that the voice actors had an amazing time in the recording booth. The voice acting just clicked with me and actually made me laugh out loud sometimes.

The two base campaigns of the game are a blast to play through. I’m also glad that the downloadable short campaign “The Golden Gift” is also added in the Extended Edition. This was a 4-mission long campaign you were able to download from the official website as a sort of update/free expansion.

So, I also played a bit through Tale of the Dragon for this review. While I can understand the negative reception of this DLC, I would still recommend it. Now, there are some balancing issues and the multiplayer with the new Chinese civilization is sometimes quite unstable. But, it provides some new and fresh challenges in the game. I have to admit that I haven’t experimented with them too much since I love playing with the Egyptians the most, but from what I have played; the Chinese look like a lot of fun to play with. If you want a more in-depth review of the DLC, I would recommend that you read Moshfish’s review on it. It’s an amazing summary of what’s good and what’s bad with the DLC and I agree with a lot of it.

I want to add one thing to the Tale of the Dragons review. I don’t know if it’s just me or if other people experienced it as well, but in some missions, I didn’t have background music. Also, I found it a missed opportunity to add additional Asian tracks to the soundtrack.

Something minor that I experienced as well is that when you use a God power, usually a name is display who uses it. In the main campaigns, that’s Arkantos. In Tale of the Dragon, it’s nobody… No name is displayed.

God powers and such

age-of-mythology-extended-edition-windows-screenshot-arkantos

This game plays like your typical RTS game. If you have played games like Age of Empires II or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, you will feel right at home. Your main goal is to build your civilization. You do this by assigning villagers various tasks to collect resources or create buildings. With these resources, you can create more units to improve your economy or create an army to defend from enemies or attack them.

There are, including the DLC, 5 different civilizations to play with. The Norse, Greek, Atlanteans, Egyptian and Chinese. Each civilization has it’s unique units and quirks. For example, the Norse has a special cart, the Oxcart, that is a sort of movable drop off point for resources. The Greeks need to have villagers praying to great favors while the Egyptians need to build statues of their gods to create favors. 

The best way to learn how to play with these civilizations is to play through the campaign. By the end, you will know the basics and some advanced mechanics with each civilization. But, if you are totally new to RTS games, there is a “Learn To Play” map where you get the basics of RTS gameplay. You learn how to play with the Greek civilization. The unique elements for each civilization are explained in a cinematic. Now, there is no Greek one and in the Chinese one, some bits take a bit too long.

If you ever want to know more about a unit or a building, you can just click on the portrait. You get a very detailed screen with a lot of information. This information contains the unit’s or building’s things like strengths, weaknesses, and uses. You can also click on “contents” to read a full in-game Wiki. Too bad it doesn’t have a search feature or a better menu system. If this was expanded upon, this would have been an even better tool.

You can play through the campaign on 4 difficulties. I mostly played through the campaign on the normal (moderate) difficulty. I would recommend that you play the game on the Normal difficulty first and decide if the game is too easy to too hard for you and switch if needed. Overall, the game is quite balanced and I rarely had moments where I found the AI was quite unfair.

There are a few unique mechanics in this game. First, let’s talk about a new unit class. Besides your typical triangle of sword, bow, and horse; there is a 4th unit class. Myth Units. These units can be trained in temples and are effective against human units. Each civilization has unique to the mythology of that civilization. For example, centaurs for the Greeks and sphinxes for the Egyptians.

The second unique mechanic is the Titans. When you reach the last age, you can start building a Titan Gate. When this gate is completed, a titan unique to that civilization is summoned. These are huge and powerful units that can be used as tank units to attack the enemy. Now, you can only place this Titan gate once, so if it’s destroyed, though luck. Also, the Titan is quite weak to Hero Units and siege units. So, be careful if you use the Titan.

Now, if you have played Age of Empires III, this mechanic might be sort of familiar. When you advance to the next age, you can choose between various advisors who give you a certain reward when you advance. This isn’t different in this game. When you advance to the next age, you can choose between two minor gods. The god you choose decides which myth unit you can create at your temple and which god powers you can use.

Yes, the final unique mechanic is the god powers you can use. Each civilization has it’s own unique god powers which range from offensive to defensive powers. You can summon earthquakes, spy on the enemy for a limited time, summon a healing spring, have a moment where nobody can attack… There are a lot of them. Most of them can only be used once during gameplay. Some can be used more than once, but they all have a limit.

If you want to read more in-depth about how this game works, I recommend that you take a look at this website: http://aom.heavengames.com. It’s a huge website containing very detailed information and strategies on how to play this game.

Most of my time has been spending in this game playing random matches versus the AI of this game. In the past, I was quite skilled in this game. I knew most of the keys to quickly and efficiently create my base and build up my army. While I love the economic play in this game, I’m horrible when it comes to balancing my army. Since I played a lot with the Egyptian civilization, I don’t know a lot about the other civilizations.

If it’s not clear by now, I think that the gameplay in this game is excellent. The campaign has quite a lot of challenges but just playing on a random map versus the AI is quite a lot of fun as well. There are some things I would love to change about this game but there is a very active modding community providing a ton of mods in the workshop fixing bugs and fixing most of the issues I have with this game.

Let’s dance

694638-age-of-mythology-extended-edition-windows-screenshot-civilization.png

The soundtrack of this game is amazing. The soundtrack is orchestrated and uses an amazing mix of various instruments.

Each civilization has it’s own unique theme and unique tracks. Also, the developers enjoyed themselves way too much with naming these tracks. The main theme of this game is called “A Cat Named Mittens” and one of the most relaxed and most chill tracks is called: “Eat Your Potatoes”.

Together with very good sound effects, the audio of this game is a hit. To this day, when I listen to the soundtrack casually, I remember how the villagers sound and other sound effects. Something I really like is how the sound effects are played in stereo. So, if you move a unit from the left to the right, you will hear your unit in your left speaker.

Now, the rest of the presentation of this game isn’t that great. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks great and the theming is very well done but some character models look out-dated. While I personally don’t mind that much, I feel like this extended edition could have done a lot more than just simple widescreen support. The additional visual polish isn’t much to write home about. Just look at this Imgur library created by NecessaryDerp from 2014 where the graphics from the original are compared to the Extended Edition: https://imgur.com/gallery/L8WEE

Am I saying that the game looks ugly? No, I’m not. Like I said before, the game still looks great. The improved visuals for the liquids like water and lava are quite pleasing to the eye. And to be honest, the only moment I find the graphics dated is when you are extremely zoomed into the map. Also, thanks to the magic of Steam Workshop ingratiation, you can use a lot of mods to improve the visuals to your liking.

In the past, the online community of this game was quite alive. There were a lot of people playing this game. I remember that were at least 100 different lobbies. Nowadays, the online community of this game is dying. The day I publish this review, there were only 5 lobbies. It’s a shame since I played some great game mods online. From King of the Hill to a sort of Dota clone.

There is one thing I really dislike in this game and that’s the save and load menu. Now, it works fine but I wish it displayed more information. For example, if you were playing a random match or if it’s a save in a mission/scenario. I haven’t found a mod that’s able to solve the issues I have with it.

A nitpick I have with this game is with the map. I love how you can rotate the map holding the CTRL-key down, but there is no identification on what position it was originally in. It’s a minor thing.

Something that frustrates me the most is that this game doesn’t receive additional patches. The updates stopped in 2016. Yet, the developers keep updating Age of Empires II HD. This game could use a lot of minor polishing updates but the focus of the developers is on their other products.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s time for a conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-The visuals are just okay.

-The Tale of the Dragon DLC misses some polish.

-The in-game wiki could have been so much better.

-The save menu should display more information.

-Dying online multiplayer community.

The good:

+ A lot of unique mechanics like Titans and God Powers.

+ You can use mods.

+ Amazing and addictive RTS gameplay.

+ Amazing soundtrack & sound design.

+ Cheesy and over-the-top fun voice acting.

+ Good story.

+ …

Final thoughts:

I might be blinded by nostalgia and quite biased while reviewing this game. But, I think this game still holds up well. Yet, I fell in love with this game the first time I played it. I have a lot of fond memories with this game and reviewing the game just makes me want to replay the game some more.

This game isn’t perfect and could use some polish to fix those last bugs and improve some models, especially the human units. Yet, the charm of this game is something else. The over-the-top voice acting and endless replay value make this game a must-play for every strategy and RTS fan.

The original reception of this game was poor, but thanks to the patches, this game has improved quite a lot already. If only Skybox Labs kept updating the game, then I would give this game a higher score.

Now, that’s everything for this review. Thank you so much for reading 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.

Score: 70/100

Preview: Repentant (PC) ~ Has the Little Kite flown?

repentant_title.pngOfficial website

For those who remember Little Kite, I have talked about last year in December, I have some interesting news for you. The developer Anate Studio contacted me to announce the sequel called Repentant! Or is it a sequel? Let’s look at what’s released so far. As usual, feel free to give your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

Information for the developer

It’s a dramatic point & click adventure about a man who is trying to atone for the sins of the past.

The story in this game shows the events that took place seven years after the events of the game Little Kite. The main character, Oliver, survived but suffers from pangs of conscience because of his behavior in the past. This led to the fact that his family left him and because he is obliged to continue criminal activities. But soon, he gets a chance to atone for his sins by helping another person.

Everything will occur in a small store with three characters. Oliver is a man who has a dark past. A shopkeeper decides to rob his own store, together with the help of a girl. This decision was made thanks to severe life circumstances.

Despite the characters and references to the previous game, this game can be played and enjoyed even if you haven’t played Little Kite.

The game will be available for Windows and Mac.

Video with gameplay demo:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ2xPO78kx4&t=5s

Stay tuned for news of developing progress

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anatestudio/?ref=bookmarks

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/anatestudio

Developers site: www.anatestudio.net

Personal thoughts

I really enjoyed playing Little Kite. Because some parts of the story stuck with me personally. So, when a mail arrived from the developer in my inbox talking about a new game and a possible sequel to that game, you can say that a hype train left the station for me.

Looking at the screenshots and gameplay demo, a few things can be concluded. In terms of art-style, atmosphere and gameplay, nothing much is going to be changed. And that’s a good thing! Visually, this game looks amazing and I’m a big fan of the style. It reminds me of games like Hotel Dusk and older Broken Sword games.

Gameplay-wise, it looks like this is going to be a point-and-click game. Why change a working formula? The previous game in the series was also a point-and-click adventure game and a highly enjoyable at that.

While you might notice some typo’s here and there in the preview video, I’m not too worried about that. Since the developer said that the video only has a draft version of the text and the proofreading will happen later in development.

In terms of the story, I’m quite interested. I’m honestly expecting a story where betrayal and a mystery will be the central focus of the game. While the game will take place in one place, I’m curious to see how this place is used. There is a lot that can be done with only a few rooms, that fact is proven by all the “escape the room” games that exist.

Watching the preview video, I am even more hyped to play this game. I really like details like the names of the places showing up when you go from screen to screen. This makes it a lot easier to navigate in a point-and-click game.

The only thing I didn’t really like in the preview video was one minor thing. The looping of the sound-effects inside the store with not smooth enough. If you pay attention, you can hear when the sound effect starts and when it stops. That’s all.

Real talk now for a moment, the developer is planning to possibly release this game upcoming spring. If you can create an adventure game in a year with at this quality, I have a lot of respect for the developers. Creating games isn’t easy and I really hope this game succeeded. I can’t wait to see more from this game and I can’t wait either to play it. So, if you are as interested as I’m in this game, I urge you to follow the developer on Twitter and Facebook for more updates.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. Thank you so much 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, take care and have a great rest of your day!

First Impression: Questr (PC) ~ Smartphone Game

Questr Logo Official homepage

Earlier this year, I played a game on my phone that’s a sort of back and forth texting adventure. In this adventure, you guided a character to the end of the story. But, it didn’t take long before I uninstalled that app on my phone since the mini-games were rigged in my opinion to encourage microtransactions. I still believe that the concept might work really well. So, when I came across the Questr, I was happy to see the concept return in a bit of a different light. Full disclosure, in order to review this game, I got a review code for free from the developers. Don’t worry, you will only find my opinion on this article! So, let’s go questing! And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Choosing your party – Tinder Style

20171218224722_1Your goal is to complete quests with a party you put together. Putting together a party is simple, you either swipe left or right. Just like on Tinder. Be careful though, each party member has his/her likes and dislikes. When you pair a house lion up with somebody who hates house lions, your party morale will go down. The lower your party morale, the more difficult completing your quest will be. There is one thing I would like to mention. The button to get new party people for 150 goal is broken. If you click on the card, nothing happens. Thankfully, clicking the heart button does the trick. Maybe something for the next patch?

Before I continue talking about the gameplay, I want to talk about the writing of this game. The writing in this game is pretty well done. It really captures the atmosphere of a group of adventures going on a quest. Expect, that all adventures have the attitude of the youth of today. The writing is full of charm, character and humor, it’s a joy to read and I always wonder how certain characters will react to certain situations.

During your quests, random events will happen. It’s up to you to choose who’s response is the best and will give you the best outcome. In most cases, you are unable to tell and it’s a guessing game. Sometimes this can be really frustrating since you know that another character had the right answer.

You lose party morale when you take the wrong decision and you gain party morale when you take the right decision. Party morale is extremely important since without it, your chances of survival and thereby the completion of the quest will get slim to nonexistent.

Tickets and contracts

20171218231008_1If you think that, that is the only gameplay in this game, you are wrong. At certain spots, the game will give you the option to start with a ticket or a contract. The ticket will only be valid for the current quest and the contract will be effective for the whole path. With these, you can challenge yourself even more and tempt faith even more.

So, when you put your party together and you didn’t get cat fished or rejected, you can start your quest. Together with great visuals. The game has a pretty clean and colorful look. Everything has this nice polished polygon look to it. Something that I didn’t like about the visuals are some events cards. Like the card for a monster and a person doesn’t show at all a person or a monster. This is a real shame since I really like the artwork of the characters.

The other problem I have with the visuals is that sometimes a tutorial bubble can go over some important information. This very rarely happens but when it does, it’s annoying.

The quests you embark on are rather short and sweet. Whenever you have to quit the game in the middle of a quest, beware. You will lose your progress of that quest. But, this brings me to a point the developers could improve about this game.

I think a more clear “continue” option would be nice. To continue you have to start a “new” (notice the bunny ears) game and select the quest you left off to load your game. Now, it’s clear which path you are playing, since it’s right above the path. But, a continue option would be nice.

A nice feature is that you can spend your gold you earn during your quests to upgrades. These upgrades range from better matches during the party gathering process to better bonuses. They are all worth to invest in.

Early Access

20171218234814_1Something pretty surprising is that there is a feature you can stream your game directly to Twitch from the options menu. While I haven’t tested this, I think this is very helpful for people who want to stream this game.

In the same options menu, you have a bug report button and a feedback form. This is a great feature to have in game, since this game is in early access. Now, don’t be alarmed, the developers are working on more content for this game and they are aiming to release it in the near future.

They are trying to release a new content patch in December, but the developers told me this might be pushed back a bit. I hope they are able to succeed and finish the new content patch without a lot of delays.

Now something I wish they updated as well in the new content patch is the addition of more music. So far, I  have heard only one music track in the game. While it not bad, I would love to hear more music in the game.

Speaking about the music, this brings me to the sound design. There aren’t many sound effects in the game, but the once which are, are pretty good and add to the atmosphere of the game. I think it would be more fun if some events have special sound effects. Like when the explosive scroll gets read, you actually hear an explosion. It would add just that bit of additional atmosphere.

Something I think the game lacks too is a back button. What I mean with this is, that when you are on a path and you want to continue a different path, it takes a click too many if you need to go to the options menu and then have a button “main menu” and then click on “Play Game”. It’s a bit too much clicking for a simple task.

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. While I haven’t talked about everything, I have left a few things for you to discover like how the gold system works, how the quests are chosen, steam achievements and other things. I really recommend this game to casual players who are looking for something different.

I’m so happy that this game exists. It really fills the hole left by that game that was ruined in my opinion by micro transactions I talked about in the introduction. Currently, this game is 15€ on Steam. I highly recommend that you give this game a try. I enjoyed my time with it. Also, the developers are really open and listen to your feedback. So, if you find a bug, typo or something… Report it. Have a suggestion, go to the Steam forums and suggest it.

I thank you so much for reading this article 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.

Publishing: Egyptian Adventure Game Mirrors Recent Great Pyramid Discovery

MOSELLE (SAINT LOUIS), Missouri, Dec 4, 2017 — The recent Great Pyramid discovery mirrors hidden chambers already explorable in the historical fiction epic adventure game Riddle of the Sphinx, currently funding on Kickstarter (http://kck.st/2A7QUbY). 

National Geographic (http://on.natgeo.com/2z7CjiL) magazine stated that the mysterious void just discovered will not be explorable, since there are no known corridors connecting the Grand Gallery to this “void.” Coincidentally, the Riddle of the Sphinx adventure game has mirrored these staggering developments and allows players to freely explore these new chambers.

Old World Studios (http://oldworld.studio), the developers of Riddle of the Sphinx: The Awakening (http://riddleofthesphinx.com), conducted a tremendous amount of research, to make an adventure game that modeled all of the existing monuments and chambers to exact specifications. But they went even further by building access to the many speculated hidden chambers and corridors thought to be within the Great Pyramid.

Charlie Tobler, co-developer and lead programmer, said: “We took some artistic license, of course, but much of what you explore is true to life as if you were to explore the Great Pyramid and Sphinx in person. Now people can experience one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, without all the red tape and expense involved in an expedition of that magnitude.”

“Riddle of the Sphinx came about because Karen and I wanted to explore what lay beyond the existing tombs and chambers in the Great Pyramid. We started with actual archaeological discoveries and scientific speculation and turned those into virtual-reality in Riddle of the Sphinx,” said Jeff Tobler, original co-designer/developer.

A recent Facebook comment reads, “Thank you for Riddle of the Sphinx. As a kid playing this game was pure magic.”

Another player emailed with this father-son recollection, “I have played many adventure games over the years… but [Riddle of the Sphinx] is one of the best (maybe the best) ‘adventure’ I have ever played. The best part for me was… to have my five year-old son… eagerly waiting in anticipation what was going to happen next in the pyramid… I was also amazed at the accuracy of the Great Pyramid.”

The new version is currently funding on Kickstarter (http://kck.st/2A7QUbY) and is slated to be released in September 2018. But the development team is offering a limited release Ancient Egypt’s Mysteries Revealed eBook and the official game soundtrack before Christmas for those who pledge to support the project at the Graffiti level and above!

Kickstarter

If you are interested in virtually exploring the mysterious void found in the Great Pyramid, head over to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jefftobler/riddle-of-the-sphinx-awakening-discover-lost-tombs to get your hands Riddle of the Sphinx or more information.

Jeff and Karen Tobler founded Old World Studios (http://oldworld.studio) with the vision of allowing the exploration of real and fictional “old worlds” virtually through realistic and captivating adventure games. Now, with Charlie and Marta Tobler, their son and daughter-in-law joining the team, they have decided to take their epic adventures to the next level, allowing both new and veteran explorers to experience the wonders that have mesmerized players worldwide. Old World Studios is a subsidiary of LifeTree Games, a company with the purpose of providing exciting, yet wholesome, entertainment.