The red carpet is set, the people have been groomed, the rebels silenced. All is ready for your speech, El Presidente!
With Anno 1800 on the very near horizon, Tropico 6 has just released.
With its unique serious-but-silly tone, Tropico 6 sets itself apart from other city-building and management games.
Take a vacation from the polluted, traffic-ridden, industrial metropolises in Simcityor the cold and way-too-clean streets of Cities: Skylines.
Come to Tropico. Now!-Or else.
Welcome to Tropico!
If you’re new to Tropico, let me explain why you need to try it out: ‘Dictatorship is just a rude label. You have been divinely appointed to guide your people… but now you need to stay in power. By any means necessary.
Things get trickier over time, as each and every decision you make tips the 8-sided scale of your people’s support towards a certain faction. If you appease the communists with a shiny new school, the capitalists will surely dislike the costs it imposes on your budget and might even rebel. Ah… do not worry Mr. El Presidente, bribery is still an option, and there’s plenty of jail cells available in your island!
The game becomes more and more complex as you play it. It steadily grows the number of actions you’re able to perform, the number of buildings available to build, and the number of factions present. This level-up scalability keeps things fresh and interesting, even for experienced players.
Shiny, sweaty engines & bananas
The landmark game in the city-building genre has a brand new game engine – and it looks amazing. It allows for even prettier graphics, which have always been key to the Tropico series.
One of its major improvements is the new archipelagoes system. El Presidente is now able to expand his godly benevolence to nearby islands. This new iteration also adds true multiplayer features. There might be some concerns over saving 4h-long multiplayer games. However, the prospect of having an archipelago run by several dictators with different ideologies is quite thrilling.
A lot of the game has changed but the essence is still there. You get to run a beautiful Caribbean island whilst struggling with famine, poverty, explosive cigars, religion, rebellions, allegiance to foreign superpowers and rivalry with Caribbean neighbors. You are still able to turn your island into a religious commune or a capitalistic intellectual haven.
The introduction of world landmarks (that actually serve a purpose), raids, and the expanded trade options feel like all previous Tropico DLCs have been added to this new game for free. It also seems like it has plenty of room for new, solid, expansions.
The combat system is still bad, as it has always been in the series, but they’ve added plenty of new buildings, factions, and abilities, which keeps things interesting.
Tropico 6 does not set itself apart from the series. We wouldn’t want that anyway – but it does a few things very well.
The game is really fun to play and explore. New and experienced players will enjoy the type of complexity and progression it provides – and it feels like a substantial upgrade to previous iterations of the Tropico series, without changing its core concepts. Even though it seems like there’s a bit of “soul” missing to the game, it still gets my vote and I can’t wait to play more.
5/5 Pops – a solid score for a solid game that orders you to go play it. Now.
If you enjoy this soviet-era funny-but-not-so-funny approach, you might be interested in checking Papers, Please: The Short Film! Go check it out now!
If instead you would prefer to support this blog and get Tropico 6 at a discount price, buy it through here!
We’re talking about a new successful Kickstarter campaign. It raised almost 38.000$ for the indie game dev studio Isolated Games in Barcelona. It is scheduled to be released in Q1 (maybe Q2) 2019.
This game set in space is actually an RPG hybrid with roguelike, management and shooter aspects.
Following the story of an experienced captain who just lost his/her ship, your objective is to upgrade your ship and crew, make decisions, convince others to join your cause and, obviously, fight the baddies.
The RPG aspects of the game have been reinforced with dialogue choices that actually matter and …dice throwing. -I know. Throwing dice in space is funny.
A space oddity
To be honest, I had a hard time figuring out where to start my analysis for this game. It is so different from other games that it becomes hard to pick a corner to start unveiling it. At the same time, it shares similarities with so many “very” different space games like Star Citizen, Freelancer, X4: Foundations, Fractured Space, Avorion or FTL.
Your path through the stars
Something I love about space games is the inevitability of movement. You’re always going somewhere doing some thing – and the way game devs mimic the movement of a large ship truly enthuses me. I love feeling the (weightless) weight of a large ship moving slowly and sometimes carelessly through an asteroid field.
Oh, by the way check out my post on Sea of Thieves! You’ll understand where my poor space sailing skills come from!
Even though Between the Stars focuses on combat between medium-sized ships, it does that very well. It is not that easy to fight in an asteroid field and you’ll notice that it almost feels like you’re commandeering a real sea ship instead of a space combat fighter.
This somehow adds glimmer to that special Enterprise feel of exploring space and interacting with other crews – which happens often. Combat can be dangerous and …unnecessary.
As expected, they’ve added space stations and planets where you’re able to dock, trade, repair and interact with quest givers. Crew combat is also possible against other ships and it relies strongly on dice throws and crew experience.
To boldly go somewhere
You never really know where the game will lead you to next – you get to interact with other ship crews, explore abandoned shipwrecks or delve into dangerous uncharted territory. Your choices on how to approach these events are critical as they will affect the outcome of the situation.
When exploring an abandoned ship stranded in space I came face to face with a beserk A.I. in critical defense mode. It was trying to protect the ship’s components from intruders.
I felt like my poor choice of words mattered. Even though I knew the final outcome was likely going to be similar since it was still an early mission.
The fact that the game tries to present itself as unique in each playthrough is very refreshing as it does so gracefully.
Procedurally generated space, crews and events work well with the space theme, since you truly feel like an explorer in an unscripted universe.
Here’s a notice to the general public: please stop comparing procedural games to No Man’s Sky. Don’t take one bad marketing example to kill a dev technique that can be incredibly fruitful.
Sound in space
The audio experience is great, except for certain dialogues that seem poorly recorded and an average voice acting.
This is not yet the final release version of the game, but it feels a bit sad that the game lacks characters with a strong… character… and an enticing voice to go along.
The audio graphic representation is incredibly accurate though! It feels like they’ve spent more time coding the audio bars than actually recording the audio!
In the absence of physical characters and advanced facial expressions, the sound is critical to convey strong emotions that will drive the narrative! I know we’re in space but… sound matters!
The color of a black hole
The graphics are incredibly sharp and colorful.
Even though the UI, space stations and asteroids lack some style and sophistication, the ships planets and backdrops look amazing and combat and special effects are a delight to the eye. 5760×1080 resolution is supported, but the UI does not adapt well.
The game also lacks the complexity of trade lanes that Elite Dangerous or X4: Foundations sport, but we must keep in mind that this is not really a trading game.
Trading is somewhat present, but this is more like a shooter action-based game where trade lanes are, for the most part, purely cosmetic.
Overall I did enjoy this fresh new take on Space RPGs. I tend to prefer longer campaign-based games, but it felt fresh and I’m curious to explore the release version which will feature more content, stories and new gameplay mechanics.
It is not a triple-A game, but considering the budget for the game it truly is fantastic.
Development is still unfinished and unpolished. I will refrain from rating it. But I will point out that it looks gorgeous, has great potential for an enticing storyline and I’m looking forward to playing the final version.
I just got my hands on The Division 2! It was okay, as expected. I was happy enough.
There’s a reason why The Division 2 is called “The Division 2”. It is not an army reference as one might think at first glance. It instead reflects on the game’s premise: the United States of America aredivided into two factions (…and a half – I’ll explain later on).
Good on one side, Evil on the other. Classic.
The Division 2 takes place 7 months after Ubisoft’s 2016’s controversial success The Division. Unlike the original title which was set in a very snowy New York, this one is set in Washington D.C.
The reason for this change, according to the developers, is that, besides the political aspects – that the franchise seems to enjoy tackling – the city of Washington allows them to expand the playable map into new types of areas.
Green spaces, wide open regions, open rooftops and suburban zones that are harder to depict in the much more urban New York. Wider roads also allow for much more interesting combat with more room for flanking maneuvres.
What has changed?
Not that much! Is it a better game than its predecessor? Sure is. Here’s why:
Gaming development cycles dictate when you’re getting a sequel and whether it is going to be good or bad, innovative or unsurprising. With a bunch of new releases and solid sequels, 2019 is expected to be a good year for the gaming industry.
When a new franchise pops up, it usually delivers a brand new game engine. That was the case with The Division. It had a rough start – it was riddled with bugs and people were complaining about everything from server instability, bugs, weapons getting stuck all the way down to violence and political concerns.
Technical issues tend to occur more often with new game engines. These obstacles take time to fix, rebalance and adjust. When a developer starts working on a sequel, they don’t design a whole new engine from scratch. Instead, they upgrade the one they’ve got from the previous game, which makes it sturdier and feature-rich. It is also much more cost-effective to build and market.
This is the case with The Division 2. It is a solid, expanded and well-polished game, but …unsurprising.
The biggest changes
The game seems like a meatier, tougher, more solid version of the original rather than a brand new sequel – but it introduces a series of small but rather interesting changes.
Scenery: the most obvious change. It has moved from snowy New York to summer Washington D.C. It is still an American urban region that looks somewhat similar to its predecessor. There’s so much more garbage on the streets now!
Lighting has been improved with more detailed light sources and reflections. It also feels less saturated and dramatic when compared to its predecessor. Water effects and glass reflections look brilliant.
Specializations have been added to the game. Three skill trees are now able to be unlocked once you reach the level cap.
Photo mode is a new feature with which you’re able to take the prettiest selfies – it even includes filters that make your eyes pop!
New gadgets available, namely barricade-standing turrets and rolling seeking mines, among others.
Spongier enemies: They seem to absorb bullets! Low-level enemies seem to require a huge amount of bullets to die. It doesn’t really break the game, but it affects immersion and realism and drives the player into much longer (often slightly boring) fights.
Smarter enemies – with the new wider combat zones, you’ll see them perform flanking and cover maneuvres as a group. This makes combat much more interesting as it forces you to retreat and move to cover more often.
NPC settlements form in newly liberated areas. It is actually pretty cool to see them go out and fetch supplies, food, etc. Adds immersion.
NPC Backup – they seem to request and offer backup in sporadic fights across town.
“Free” DLCsfor a year. No further comments.
GUI is definitely different, but the changes are mostly cosmetic as the core features are all there from the previous game.
New faction. Once you finish the campaign the game will reshuffle and redraw by introducing a whole new faction called the Black Tusk. They will occupy previously liberated areas with their drones and robotic dogs and gadgets. Exciting!
It is worth mentioning that the character creator was awful in the public beta, only allowing you to pick randomly generated characters.
All of them looked like hillbillies… And they’ve occupied the White house… Hmm… …
Sure. There are still problems to be fixed – as expected – but in terms of core gameplay, The Division 2 sure is well-built.
A couple of issues stand out from my (limited) experience in the public beta:
Enemies seem to suddenly spawn right in front of the player, preventing a stealth approach on occasion.
All melee enemies are female – why not add more variety?
The yelling sounds by the enemy faction seem repetitive and very limited
Game crashes every hour – apparently due to desynch between the server and the client
I’m pretty confident that all of these issues will be fixed before the release on March 15th.
Did you not enjoy The Division at all? Then this might not be the game for you as it only feels like an improvement to the first one! Or instead… try playing it with friends… They make everything more fun!
In the end, I have to admit that I had a lot of fun with the private beta and I can’t wait to play with my friends tonight! The game is fun and it is actually pretty cool to see all the little details that set it apart from the 2016 title.
I’m curious about the story behind it, but I’m sure it won’t be the main reason why I’ll be playing this game. Guaranteed buy though.
I look forward to publishing a lengthier and updated review once the game is finally released! Stay tuned (subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter for updates)!
I’m a huge fan of the Guns of Icarus franchise. Flying a steampunk balloon-ship, firing cannons at the enemy ships and repairing damage with a huge hammer and a group of friends is solid-steel fun and the type of fun you’re able to find in Sea of Thieves as well. Even if it was a different concept, I thought Volcanoids could be just as fun – so I decided to try it out.
Volcanoids puts you in control of a mechanical contraption that works pretty much like a submarine… but on land… It digs like a mole rat!
Apparently, some mean mechanical beings have triggered several massive volcanic eruptions to sustain their own energy needs. Those explosions destroyed villages and turned the land into a sad gray wasteland. It is now up to you to survive and explore and eventually find and dismantle the enemy’s mechanical drill.
You need to be careful though as the volcano is still active and spewing rocks and ash from time to time. When the volcano erupts you need to run to your drill and go underground to avoid damage.
…And the mean robots are still out there. …And they don’t like you.
Because these guys will attack you and your drill, you need to craft bullets and turrets to protect your beautiful machinery. To craft, you will need to gather materials from nearby mining sources.
Managing power supply is also very interesting. You need to bring coal to your drill and turn your systems on and off to be able to keep the whole thing running without going out of energy. This adds a welcome new layer of complexity to the game.
Make it do things!
The game really shines when it comes to the feeling of presence and the immersion you get when you enter the drill and make it do things. When you first start your machine all those cogwheels turning and the noise makes you feel like you’ve given life to Frankenstein. IT’S ALIVE!!!
Just like Frankenstein, this game is still missing some bolts.
We have to keep in mind that this is an early access game by a very small indie dev team. They’ve got a great concept to explore but still many things to fix or improve.
In my view, Volcanoids shouldn’t be available on Steam just yet. It lacks polish – especially in terms of gameplay mechanics that were, in my opinion, missing.
This decision to go public this early in the project might unfortunately result in a cascade of bad and undeserved reviews by unaware or unwilling buyers.
I’m hoping that this won’t dishearten the devs into giving up on this project and move on to something else. That would be worse than a volcano covering us all in ash!
For such a small team of devs they’ve accomplished something worthy of note – it is just the many small things here and there that need improvement.
The truth is that besides the obvious bug fixing that is expected from an early access game (I didn’t encounter any bugs whatsoever – and I was playing at 5760×1080 just fine!), it lacks some core gameplay mechanics and graphics improvements.
I really enjoyed building and expanding the drill piece by piece, section by section. I even enjoyed the countdown (the volcano erupts as timely as a geyser!), which, even though it isn’t very realistic, adds an urge and a sense of purpose to the game.
It would be great to have a seismographer that warns you whenever a random eruption is about to happen but, instead, we’ve got a very precise countdown which is very …predictable.
The tutorial is incredibly long as it details all of the complex crafting processes one by one instead of mixing it with quests and letting the player explore the machines by himself.
Tutorials tend to be unpolished in Early Access games and that’s okay given the circumstances. But let’s be honest, at the very beginning, Minecraft didn’t have a tutorial and it succeeded because the gameplay aspect of building something over time was easy and very captivating.
The same happened with Kerbal Space Program where the player is free to build and make mistakes without a guiding hand going through all of the processes – as long as they’re easy enough to figure out.
Making mistakes is part of the fun.
Nuts & Bolts
I felt like the knobs and bobs inside the drill weren’t as interesting as they could be. There’s a very (unnecessarily?) complex crafting system in place but, to my disappointment, it mostly requires that you use GUI crafting menus instead of pulling levers and pressing buttons. Most of the machines inside the drill are very similar to each other and are often times duplicated, which makes it even more confusing and somewhat frustrating to find the right one. You are able to build them wherever you like as long as they’re on the walls of your drill. This will let you organize them somewhat.
The gameplay aspect lacks some depth. You just go around gathering minerals to build new structures in your drill and destroying the enemy’s structures. The game would certainly benefit from posing challenges to the player, like new minions, more complex quests, exploration areas and gameplay challenges. You also get this feeling that the narrative ends when you start playing as there’s not much of a story afterwards.
The control you have over the drill is very limited. Whenever you wish to move it, a cinematic shows what’s happening from the outside. I found out that I preferred skipping the cinematic and instead look at the inside of the drill moving around like a snake as it digs deeper into the earth. I expected the drilling process to be riddled with clanks and bangs and shakes and smokes – it was instead very smooth, unfortunately!
To graphic or not to graphic
The game looks gorgeous in the screenshots – especially the driller. That’s the beauty of steampunk! It always looks great!
But the reality is that everything else seems a bit too simple, low-poly and jagged. Some would call it “dated” – which is a terrible tag for a new game.
This could be improved by using a different text font, a new lighting system, better resolution textures, more detailed terrains and objects or, instead, a minimalistic and innovative graphic style – which is tricky when it comes to steampunk.
As it is, Volcanoids looks above-average-good. Not yet great – but… with room for improvement. The unique theme makes screenshots very interesting at first glance, but in-game everything seems a bit too simple.
One of the features I fear the most in their development plans is adding co-op multiplayer and PvP. From my own experience as a game developer, single and multiplayer games have two very different development cycles. Adding multiplayer to a singleplayer game is VERY tricky and time-consuming. They’ve got a great premise for a single-player game with a lot of work yet to be done. Allocating resources for the development of multiplayer is a risk that I wouldn’t take… although it could be fun to play with minions on your side and attacking someone else… but the game has to shine in areas like gathering and UI interactions first.
Back to the surface
I won’t give a rating to this game just yet. It wouldn’t befair to rate it as it is clearly still missing features. We can’t really judge it on what it currently is or what it could become.
However, as I stated before, the game has some curious and unique aspects to it that make it fun to discover – but the player will lose interest quickly if he finds nothing new to explore. Multiplayer could be interesting but given the amount of polish and content that is still required, I’m hoping to one day see this just as a good singleplayer game.
If you’re unsure whether to get this game or not, my suggestion would be to let it cook for a little longer before trying it out. If instead, you would like to try something new then go ahead – get this one while it’s hot!
Volcanoids has a Trello page where you’re able to keep up-to-date with development and see what they’re up to. It also features a Discord channel where extremely friendly devs are regularly giving away keys.
I’ll be paying attention to Volcanoids as it could turn into something really fun in a year or so. I’ll review it again by that time!
Meanwhile, why not check out my other post about this other innovative game called Dungeon of the Endless? Go try it out!
I’m trying to figure out what it is… Something feels different when playing Battlefield V.
As you might have noticed from my previous post on gender wars in Battlefield V, there’s a bunch of stuff in that game that feels out of place. Slightly strange and even awkward at times!
I know – it all sounds silly – and it is indeed hard to explain. Battlefield V is very similar to its predecessor, Battlefield 1 (again, EA has trouble with numbering systems), but somehow …its gameplay FEELS totally different. It isn’t easy to figure out what has changed – but something definitely did.
When playing on my first map ever someone was crying in chat:
-“This game has way too many animations!”
I thought that was laughable at first. I couldn’t figure out how that could be a bad thing.
The quantity and especially the quality of animations is one of the key factors in driving immersion in a game. Consider the effort that AAA games are putting into animation nowadays!
GTA V, Star Citizen, The Last of Us or L.A. Noire have amazing casts and technology to provide a truly credible cinematic experience.
Competitive multiplayer games have specific needs…
But I think I get it. He might even be right. There are so many things moving, running, burning, falling, firing, exploding… down to the micro animations that each character and weapon has!
Player characters are now even able to run while crouched or lay on their backs while firing and also roll around while waiting for a revive.
It does take some time before we’re able to get used to all of that. For a new player, it may indeed feel a bit overwhelming.
The truth is that maps are indeed ENORMOUS …and too small at the same time! It comes down to what maps are available in each game mode and how player respawns work. Indeed there are gigantic maps but most of the action is focused around one or two objectives and nothing else is going on on the rest of the map. This is not entirely bad. The problem is the map layout.
The way they built most of the maps as a narrow rectangle doesn’t really entice the enemy to flank and capture an objective behind enemy lines in the Conquest game mode. Which is a good thing as it prevents massive waves of enemies from spawning behind the player.
The problem seems to be the fact that it condenses the action around those two choke or capture points. It becomes a slaughterfest for both sides.
Add to that how easier it is now to spawn next to your squadmate in the middle of a thick battle.
Maps are also uncommonly detailed with plenty of open buildings, rocks and hills, where it is easy to hide for a whole match without the enemy ever seeing you. Yesterday I spent the whole match lying down inside a truck capping an objective and forcing the enemy to stay in that area not to lose it. They never found me. Summit1g also did that a few days ago. He just stood there while waves of enemies went by. Interestingly, at the same time, there are groves everywhere yet it is still terribly difficult for a sniper to get a good and clear vantage point. This pleases some and angers many.
Add weather to the mix: wall-thick fog shows up quite often in larger maps.
Thick fog reduces visibility drastically and it forces players to go into close-quarters and melee combat.
Then there’s the fact that there’s so much more to do now. Starting with the new ability to build fortifications. You are now able to build sandbag defenses, barbed wire, and anti-tank barriers. This is a cool new feature, but plenty of players die trying to build these often times ineffective defenses.
Sure, medics are still healing and recons are still sniping. But you are now able to find new perk packs to picking a class that are probably ignored by most players. They certainly affect gameplay and may take some time for a new player to figure out.
As an example, Support is the only class able to build stationary turrets in specific maps but that isn’t clear to most players.
Every player is now also able to revive squad members – but medics do it faster and can even run faster IF they equip the Swift Effort perk AND tag a wounded soldier. We’re not just talking about class-based effects, but combat perk packs that affect how a class performs.
Having so many new perk options makes the game smarter. Not everyone appreciates these changes, however.
Personally, I don’t dislike them, but information is lacking when you first start to learn to play with these classes – there are many of them – and indeed they do feel very different to play with – starting with the weapons.
Weapons feel incredibly differentfrom class to class. Many people complain that medics have water guns and that support isn’t able to use their LMGs to actually kill enemies – instead only able to lay down suppressive fire. I feel like that’s actually a good thing in disguise.
Even though it is frustrating to play as a medic and not be able to kill the enemy in front of you most of the times, it forces players to focus on their class abilities. In this case, healing and reviving players.
Laying down suppressive fire still feels pointless – and you won’t last long until a sniper gets to you. It only works well in choke points or bad weather where there’s too much going on before a sniper scope finds you.
All these factors only add to the complexity of learning the quirks of the game. It overwhelms new players and it justifies the frustration that many complain about.
There’s also something very strange going on with close-quarter combats.
My ping isn’t high, but it seems like I always lose very close quarters 1-on-1 gunfights. I’m not missing any shots – but somehow I never get to kill the enemy. As if their weapon fires more rounds in the same amount of time. Or if they started firing before me, even though their animation didn’t start before I shot.
Other players complained about this as well. I’m convinced that this has to do with packet delay management or lag compensation for large numbers of players. It feels unfair quite often.
Above all else, the game has a very different pace.
I’m pretty sure it comes down to the aiming system. In Battlefield V it seems to be harder to aim properly until you get used to the way it works.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a complex aiming options menu. You can actually go into detail by adjusting the aiming speed according to the zoom value of your weapon!
There are also other options that I’ve never seen before in other FPS franchises like “Soldier Aim Ratio” or “Uniform Soldier Aiming”. They include lengthy descriptions that only make it more cumbersome to understand.
The truth is that this only makes good players better and newbie players worse – as most new players don’t even know how to adjust these settings properly. This leads to newbies calling out good players as cheaters and a lot of bad vibes in chat and frustration to both sides.
Hide. Think. Act.
I REALLY like to have additional complexity in games. I like to feel that my skills and battle sense are progressing over time. But I think that, in the end, Battlefield V is not as newbie-friendly as other previous games.
Last night I had a great run. I was determined to figuring out how to play Battlefield V properly. I decided to take a more relaxed, counterattacking stance. If someone fired at me I would… Hide. Think. Act.
I wasn’t going to run towards the enemy nor would I shoot as many bullets as possible at them. I realized that two shots to the head or three to the body were all it took for my weapon to kill. So I started being more mindful of my presence and taking aim before firing or revealing my position.
Aha! I became the top player in most rounds! I think I may have figured the key to succeeding in Battlefield V.
Something different, something new
In the end, it feels like there’s definitely some balance to do and a learning curvethat most players aren’t used to from previous games.
It is hard to understand exactly what to learn and how to progress… But, there’s light at the end of the tunnel if you manage to relax, learn and enjoy the game for what it is, without expecting it to be something else.
Instead of becoming frustrated, I’m actually enjoying the game now!
Did you know Dungeon of the Endless was free for the weekend? If you didn’t that’s likely because you’re not following my Twitter feed!
How innovative can you be these days?
We live in a world where stamping labels on things and people is, sadly, mandatory. There’s no time to waste! The flow and amount of information to be processed and the need to clarify what something is, or is not, demands that we categorize everything and everyone as quickly as possible.
We have truly entered The Age of Labels.
It is part of who we are as humans. The Universe doesn’t care whether there’s light or shade, day or night, a half-full glass, a dead cat in a box or a tree falling in an unpopulated forest.
But we humans do care.
This is how our brains save disk storage space. We compress info into tiny boxes with labels.
Concepts are easier to access and we can figure them out quickly by simply reading the label on the box.
Unfortunately, this somewhat compromises our ability to think differently. To be innovative. To think out of the box – and to be appreciated and recognized for that.
Music that doesn’t belong to any genre in particular tends to be ignored by most people, as we tend to flock to our tried-and-true favorite genres. The same happens with movies and games.
With so much new content available to us each day, the most productive way for a developer to innovate nowadays is to mix genres. However, like with a nice cocktail, to mix it up properly requires real talent. These guys nailed it.
Missing a label?
Somehow I missed Dungeon of the Endless when it first came out in 2014.
Luckily it isn’t a game that gets old with age! I managed to pick it up recently since it was free-to-play during the weekend and being sold at a discount.
I just tried it out and it really surprised me:
Amplitude delivered Dungeon of the Endless back in 2014 – and it caused an issue for most gaming blogs. Why? Well… there was no easy way to categorize it!
It is NOT a strategy game, not a survival game, not a tower-defense game, not an RPG, not a MOBA, not a dungeon-crawler! It is all of those things at the same time… and yet, very different.
The point of the game is to exit an abandoned sci-fi ship with a team of heroes and a crystal (similar to Dungeon Keeper’s dungeon heart).
Unfortunately, the ship’s architects decided that it would be fun to build elevators that only take you to the next floor… and build them in different rooms on each floor. The type of insanity that GlaDOS would be proud of.
Dungeon of the Endless is a unique game, yet very familiar. It delivers a real-time-turn-based game pace. Does that sound confusing enough? The game presents a real-time game flow, but it grows and expands as you open up doors in an abandoned ship. So, in reality, it only advances when you unlock the next “turn” by opening up doors in real-time.
Over time (aka turns, aka doors opened), you will be gathering supplies and building resource miners or defensive turrets or evolving your heroes.
All these abilities will come in handy when little alien insects start to show up. Apparently, they HATE your beautiful crystal for some reason and will try to destroy it.
Luckily, with all the resources you managed to mine so far, you’ll also be able to unlock new weapons and abilities for your heroes and your temporary “base”.
The game is unlike any other, yet similar to many.
The very pixely graphics and constant smooth animations deliver an intense atmosphere to the game. The very bright colors, somehow akin to fire burning in the background, keep reminding you that you need to escape as quickly as possible from the alien-infested ship. However, some strategy is in order, as resources are limited – but alien attacks are not.
The very pixely graphics and constant smooth animations deliver an intense atmosphere to the game.
The very bright colors, somehow akin to fire burning in the background, keep reminding you that you need to escape as quickly as possible from the alien-infested ship.
However, some strategy is in order, as resources are limited – but alien attacks are not.
An endless dungeon
The gameplay is fast and fun, and the base-building aspect adds a lot of flavor to it. Unlocking new abilities, characters and weapons is definitely the main drive for the player. The superb audio and music also make it a very pleasant experience. I had some trouble with the controls. They’re not complex at all – just very uncommon. Sadly, there’s not much of a storyline to the game, except for a few less-than-funny jokes between heroes. Co-op is a plus, but not necessary since it truly shines as a great singleplayer game.
I truly felt like this innovative game was a breath of fresh air. The freshness that started around 2010 with very popular indie titles like Braid, Minecraft or Spelunky seems to have faded with all the sequels and adaptations of those popular games (just think of how many games mirrored Minecraft’s gameplay mechanics!) and innovation started to take a toll.
Dungeon of the Endless proves that there are many unlikely game genre combos that haven’t yet been explored.
I’m looking forward to trying out Amplitude’s following success Endless Legend.
I truly enjoyed this game. Even though it lacks a good storyline, it balances that with a fast and fun gameplay, beautiful graphics and a great ambiance. If you’re looking for something FRESH, this is the game you want to try.
Have you ever wanted to be a pirate? Not an online pirate you scallywag! A real swashbuckling, wood legged, parrot carrying, hook fingered, golden tooth pirate! Yarr!!!
Well I got good news for you, the aspiring pirate!
Both Sea of Thieves and Warhammer: Vermintide 2were released on the same month of March in 2018. Both compete for the prestigious PopcornGamer title of being the best co-op game of 2018.
Sea of Thieves is a predominantly co-op multiplayer game in a very large map where pirates, AKA players, roam the high water mountains in search for treasures, adventure and plunder.
At first, what will really strike you is the graphic style of the game.
Sea of Thieves is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS.
It features very clean and appealing graphics (unlike Atlas. Ew.). It really conveys a lighthearted, sunny and happy swashbuckling experience …an extreme opposite to the surprisingly gruesome Warhammer: Vermintide 2!
Sea of Thieves feels like a simple game (maybe a wee bit too simple?). The game peppers the seas with tiny curious islands and it gives you a map or a riddle that you need to figure out in order to find a treasure chest.
Oh… and remember: X marks the spot.
A day in the life of a Pirate!
You dig, dig, dig …until you hear a loud *THUMP!*.
YES!!! You found it! That wood casket is sure to bear all sorts of precious metals and gems!
Your grin turns to grimace when you realize that you’ve angered the lost souls protecting that cursed chest! Now there’s a horde of skeletons rushing towards you. You can’t hit them while holding your precious chest… so you run back to your ship!
When you hear the *clikety clack* that the banana-eating skeletons make while trying to catch you shiver slightly, but that doesn’t stop you. Once you are on your ship and you lower the ship’s sails it gently picks up speed and you wave at the skeletons that can’t figure out how to swim to get to you.
Riches onboard. You head towards the nearest outpost.
It must be worth a fortune – you say to yourself!
Still dreaming of the brand new hat that you’ll be able to buy with all that money, you fail to notice the dark sails that approach your ship from the East. Too late.
Trouble on the horizon
*CRUSHCRACKSHHWSHSPSH!!!* – Your ship is being rammed from the side by a massive galleon. PIRATES! PIRAAATES!!!
You rush to the lower deck to fix the geiser-like holes in the hull of your ship. The enemy cannons are roaring outside! You need to hurry the repairs and come back up to divert your ship from their firing lines!
You turn around and a strange wood-legged pirate stands next to you. Sword in hand.
“DUEL ME OR DIE” – he says. The request doesn’t really make much sense… but you rush to your sword and the fight begins.
A dirty fight with a one-eyed pirate
The dirty pirate lunges straight at you with very fast swings. All you can do is evade the massive sword spam. He hits you once… twice! But you still breathe! Putting the sword at an angle blocks his next attack and he is pushed back with a surprised stance!
The enemy clearly has an advantage now that he has hit you but… dang it… you’re a pirate too! Rules mean little to you!
You grab your pistol and BAM! shoot him in the empty eye socket!
He falls to the ground and you rush to the helm and steer away from that despicable pirate’s ship.
Apparently, in the midst of battle, they started being attacked by a mythical giant shark! It’s probably best to grab this opportunity and rush towards the nearest outpost and sell the treasure chest as quickly as possible before they dispatch the giant fish and catch up to you again!
As you move away from the battle you feel a strong sense of relief!
The sails are being raised and the battered ship will soon be safely parked at the dock. Selling the cursed Captain’s Chest earns you just the money you needed to buy that fancy hat that you were dreaming of.
HA! The next time you encounter those pirates you’ll impress them with your brand new hat!
Hats, hats everywhere!
Indeed, a gold hoarder like you needs to spend all of your hard earned money on something. They say that money can buy anything. Well, not in this game.
Unfortunately, in Sea of Hats you are only able to buy cosmetic items!
It is a shame because, if you’re like me, you dress like a very sleazy pirate (in fact, that’s how a proper pirate should dress like!). Once you own your favorite character outfit and ship equipment, there’s not much else to crave for.
There’s no character progression, no skills, no weapon upgrades, no crafting or equipment upgrades for your ship, not even craftable banana sandwiches! This makes the game feel pointless at times. My in-game bank account is filled to the brim but I don’t feel like spending my gold on anything. And, to be honest, I feel like I’ve only been playing it whenever a new regular update comes along, bringing with it brand new content to explore.
One could argue whether or not the lack of upgradable items is an issue if the game succeeds in entertaining you with every other aspect of it.
The truth is that it would turn a great game into an amazing one. To have something to crave for… an objective that pushes the players into exploration and adventure.
Who knows… maybe they’ll add a bit more of that in future updates…
A game to be played… just for fun? We’re not used to that!
It is kind of amazing to think that a great quality game from a large enough developer managed to avoid pay-to-win schemes or major grind systems.
The truth is that it doesn’t feel like you’re grinding when you’re distracted by the fact that you are actually enjoying it. They focused solely on making a game that is fun to play and that brings people together. And they succeeded brilliantly.
Even if the islands look very similar to eachother, the quests obvious, the monsters predictable and the combat too simple, there’s a lot of plain fun to be had with your friends. The emergent gameplay that comes from having PvP in the open world really drives you into incredibly epic battles with other players.
Very seldom did I get angry for losing a fight, since the excitement you get from it is well worth the money lost.
Friends improve every game!
I must underline the need to play with friends. You will feel lonely playing it alone in your tiny sloop in such a large ocean.
However, if you have no friends, you really don’t have to worry.
It is SUPER easy to make new friends by playing this game with an open crew. The Sea of Thieves community is surprisingly friendly and they often ask you to add them to your contacts list.
Almost everyone uses a microphone, which is critical to interact with other players when you’re busy repairing 13 holes in your sinking ship. If for some strange reason you don’t own a microphone, you’re going to want to get one after playing Sea of Thieves.
It is true, the game lacks content and diversity for its steep price, but they seem to keep adding new stuff every now and then which is well worth checking out regularly.
I won’t lie. It is expensive for the content it provides.
They claim that the price tag is worth it since you can use the same copy in Windows as well as Xbox. We both know however that it is uncommon for a gamer to buy the same game twice for different platforms.
But considering the enjoyment you’ll get from playing it – it is still well worth it.
What an amazing game!
Games aren’t perfect. They can’t make everyone happy. Sea of Thieves has got flaws. Every game has got flaws.
But it brings something new to the table. And puts a grin on your face.
If you’re looking for something innovative that features beautiful art, very polished gameplay and that guarantees laughter while meeting new people – this is it.
Go get Sea of Thieves right now!
And no, you do not want to play Atlas just because it is popular on Twitch. Get a better game instead. Any other game will do.
So long 2018!
2018 was a great year for co-op games. Lots of new releases kept us well entertained throughout the whole year. Now we’re all looking forward towards 2019 upcoming releases.
Most companies have released their brand new games prior to the holiday season. This in turn made them drop their prices for previous releases and their competitor’s as well.
This is exactly what brought me to Warhammer: Vermintide 2.
Winter is coming
Prior to release (in March 2018) I told my friends that Vermintide 2 was going to be my next purchase.
I’ve been trying to save some bucks as I’m looking forward to move to a new home. I had also just bought Sea of Thieves. So I decided that I wasn’t going to spend any more money at that time.
Instead I added Vermintide 2 to my wishlist and left it there to rot slightly like a good cheese. The truth is, I kind of forgot I had it there.
Meanwhile, other games showed up. I have to admit that I invested quite some time in playing the great new update for Gwent: The Witcher Card Game (AKA awesome card game!) and Gwent: Thronebreaker. Two great releases for 2018 as well.
Check out my unlisted youtube review for Gwent: The Witcher Card Game:
Winter has come.
…And I got a Steam giftcard for Christmas from my girlfriend! She totally gets me by the way!
Instead of spending the whole giftcard buying Battlefield V to play alone, I decided to do something different this time around since my Battlefield needs were still very much satisfied with Battlefield 1.
I went on to search for a co-op game that I could gift and play with my friends.
I checked my steam homepage – which, nowadays, is actually quite lame. There I found my lost promised love, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 with a 60% discount for just 11€!
Blood & Teeth
Now, this game isn’t as expensive as other AAA games because… well… it really isn’t a very deep and complex game that would deserve “full price” status.
I had previously played Warhammer: Vermintide “1”, so I kind of knew what to expect.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is a rather simple game of head smashing and limb cutting explicit violence. It is gruesome – but fun.
Vermintide features a first-person action (mostly melee) run and gun gameplay with absurdly large waves of enemies and interesting minibosses with unique abilities. It pretty much uses the same mechanics as Valve’s Left 4 Dead. To the point where it feels like a rip-off with a few brand new additions and a very different theme.
It tells a decent enough story (unlike L4D) that has beautiful, although gruesome scenery, great heroes, great villains, and enough depth to keep you entertained for days – yet still very challenging on each playthrough.
They also make you stand on your toes in each run – you never really know what to expect next. Sudden hordes of enemies and sneaky minions with special abilities tend to often show up uninvited.
The game isn’t perfect – but the pace at which you need to run, fight and focus on defending your party from the enemies that are coming from all sides really gets your adrenaline pumping.
Surviving large*MASSIVE* waves of enemies by coordinating effective positioning with your friends is plain and simple fun.
It lacks a bit of the sophistication from some of the maps from its predecessor. It could also feature a slightly more intelligent approach to each map.
Instead, it often drives you into a brainless killing spree with no particular challenge other than positioning and speed. This isn’t all that bad. But requiring the player to think with additional puzzles or more complex bosses wouldn’t hurt either.
Left 4 Dead-Dead
Okay, okay – we’ll forgive Fatshark, Warhammer: Vermintide‘s developer, for copying many of the game mechanics from Left 4 Dead since they were indeed able to deliver a great quality game at a very reasonable price (now at a discount!).
The fact that each player uses a different class with its own progression, set of weapons, abilities and talents increases Vermintide’s replayability value and sets it apart from Left 4 Dead.
Even if the games are set apart by a small number of small changes, the truth is that they do matter. When you consider that the last L4D iteration was released 8 years ago, you realize it created a void in a very specific game style.
Don’t get me wrong here: I’ve enjoyed Left 4 Dead 1 & 2 quite a lot. But I had major issues with some of its gameplay choices. One of them relates to Source, the game engine that Valve created and uses for most of their games.
Portal, Team Fortress and Left 4 Dead are some of the best cleverly built games I have ever played – yet their character movement precision, speed, and hitbox leaves much to be desired.
It all comes down to the game engine Valve uses and how they set it to have character movement feel pretty much the same in every game.
Considering Fatshark’s success with both Vermintide 1 and Vermintide 2, I really think Valve will have to think twice on their own gameplay mechanics before deciding to go ahead and make Left 4 Dead 3 (if that ever happens!). Valve would still sell more copies due to franchise value – but Vermintide (and Dead Island!) has raised the bar and players will now expect more from any upcoming Left 4 Dead iteration.
The final tide
The truth is that I’ve been enjoying this game quite a lot with my online friends and I hope to keep playing with them over the next few months.
A great (and cheap) co-op game with an astounding fun factor, amazing graphics, character progression and great replayability grant Warhammer: Vermintide 2 a solid 5/5 pops.
But… was this the best Co-op game of 2018? PC Gamer thinks so – what do YOU think?
If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 8 years and would instead like to try out Left 4 Dead 2 for the first time, make sure you grab it quickly as it is on sale for just 1.63€ on Steam for a limited time.
If I managed to spark your interest in Gwent: The Witcher Card Game or Gwent: Thronebreaker, grab them here!
As I mentioned in my previous post, Steam has let me down in the past few years, as I used to scroll its shop homepage on a regular basis… Steam then started showing very targeted results and my Steam shop started looking less and less interesting to me. It was showing the same results over and over again! Somehow this led me to Papers, Please: the short film.
I was bored yesterday.
So I decided to go see what’s new on Steam. But since my Steam shop homepage is kind lame nowadays I went on to figure out what were the best-rated games of all time on Steam.
I was surprised! The top result didn’t belong to a game… It was a movie! -A short film to be precise. But not just any film… Papers, Please: the short film!
I have to admit that my jaw dropped a bit and my finger trembled with excitement when I hovered my mouse over it. Was this possible? What kind of black magic is this?!
Glory to Arstotzka!
Papers, Please is one of my greatest heroes when it comes to games. As I understand it was mostly built by one guy (Lucas Pope) with the help of a small team of Arstotzkan loyal subjects.
The game is set in 1982 at the national border of a very closed soviet-like regime. You were one of the lucky picks of the October labour lottery as your name was pulled for immediate placement as a border admissions control officer. What an honour!
Your job is to allow or deny entry of people into the country – for the Glory of Arstotzka! to feed your family.
To me, games are about making choices.
…Making the right decisions that bring you the most benefit in order to “win” the game (even though winning something isn’t always required for a player to be entertained or to feel connected to a story).
However, the best games are the ones that make you think twice.
Papers, Please excels at this.
It presents you with tough choices over and over. To the point where you feel the misery of these immigrants and you still have to deny their entry into your country, knowing that they will die otherwise.
What an incredibly contemporary theme.
Corruption, bribery and even secret societies are also on the table as some people will try to do anything to get into Arstotzka …and you still have to feed your family.
The reason why I love this game is due to its gameplay simplicity in a cutthroat environment where each decision is critical to the migrant, the State and to your family. A bureaucracy simulator that is actually memorable. As usual, Lucas Pope turned what at first would appear to be a technical graphics limitation into a graphic style on its own. One that not only simplifies interactions and leverages the narrative, but also that glorifies that great retro ambiance that drives the player back in time to a period of cold walls and warm tensions.
How does this translate into a film?!
I don’t know. But they did it really well.
The film focuses on the usual role that the player performs. The Inspector sifts through all the data in the documents that he is provided by the migrants to look for info that’s missing or incorrect.
I won’t go into any further details as I don’t think it is necessary to spoil anything in a 10-minute long film.
However, I will say that I was impressed at how carefully well executed the scenario and the attention to detail was in this film. It really captures the essence of the game. The actors also do a great job at conveying that this is a life/death situation… and yet… just a job.
Summing-up, I would like to congratulate Lucas Pope and his team on being brave enough to make this great short film.
Art isn’t perfect, but this is a great 10-minute piece of art. It isn’t priceless either – but it is FREE on Steam and Youtube.
Check it out in 4K glory right now:
Regarding the film I will rate it 4/5 Pops – it is great, but it lacks a little bit more depth and desperation that the game is better at conveying …but hey, it is free…
I will rate the must-have-played game 5/5 Pops. No questions asked.
This is my first review post on this blog. If you guys would like to know more about how I started this epic journey check out PLANTING A SEED.
A mighty Kingdom
Kingdom: Two Crowns has just been released earlier this month and I decided to give it a go.
Kingdom: Two Crowns is a 2D side-scrolling “kingdom-builder” game. The kind of satisfaction you get from playing a tower-defense game, mixed with the satisfaction you get from playing an exploration game like Terraria.
Being insanely addictive, this game uses very smart and staggeringly simple game mechanics which I am able to describe in three sentences:
You’ve got a bag of gold coins.
You buy improvements to your fort.
You survive waves of enemies.
Ah. But things are never this simple.
Building and growing your fort means expanding your borders further into wild,unexplored territory. This not only means that trees will have to be mercilessly cut down, but also that other, harder decisions must be made:
-Will you destroy a homeless person’s shelter to expand your fort into fertile lands? -What about the trader’s hut that regularly supplies you with a huge influx of coins? -Will you spend all your money building new walls or instead hiring more archers to protect your current walls?
Know thy land
The game is a great exploration adventure game however… even though you can’t deny that there is a huge amount of geographic exploration to do… Let’s be honest and recognize that most islands in the game all look very similar and that the game mechanics never really change much throughout the map.
Nevertheless, what really drives the player to keep “exploring” the game is the huge amount of “interactibles” – mysterious statues, strange meteorites, portals and a never-ending list of upgrades to your fort that grant you game-changing special abilities.
Line of succession
Having bought the previous Kingdom: Classic and the sequel Kingdom: New Lands I must say I was a bit skeptical about buying this new version. The reason for that was that when I first bought Kingdom: New Lands I had two reasons to buy it: First, I’d like to support the developers who had previously created such a simple and cool game. Secondly, I was also looking for new content and new interactions that would expand my experience of ruling a very 2D kingdom.
However, I must say I was a wee bit disappointed with Kingdom: New Lands since it was being promoted almost as if it was a standalone DLC. -Does that make sense? Nope.
It is basically the same game as Kingdom: Classic being resold full-price with an added expansion.
The problem wasn’t really that the expansion was bad. The problem was how it was being sold as something truly new – which it wasn’t since the new mechanics that were introduced weren’t really that different from the base game and many of the changes were merely cosmetic.
Don’t get me wrong: any expansion to this great base game is welcome – but paying a full bag of gold for a new DLC is …bittersweet.
Just one more crown…
Along comes November and the video announcement for Kingdom: Two Crowns and I couldn’t be more curious. A developer starts by explaining that he was watching a player stream (not me, unfortunately!) with his girlfriend and that at one point one of them said “I wish we could play together”… the developer’s heart melted and so he decided to make that wish come true in Kingdom: Two Crowns.
This was huge news for me! I love coop games.
…And I couldn’t miss the opportunity to play one of my favorite games with my usual test subject (A.K.A. my girlfriend).
What a great idea. Then I saw the 20€ price tag.
Here we go again?
I’m not a cheapskate – but I don’t like paying for the same game three times either! If they had added new cosmetic content I’m sure I wouldn’t have bought it… but coop… My only weakness… How could I resist? How could I?!
Yeah, I bought Kingdom: Two Crowns. After an insane amount of time spent tackling screen-resolution, UI and gamepad issues I proudly decided to demonstrate to my girlfriend that I had finally managed to remove all blockers and smash all bugs and went to Mordor and back to get the game ready and working!
“It’s ugly.” – she said. She does that. She has a way with words.
After convincing her that pixel art is actually an art form and not a technical limitation of the game, she conceded that she would allow me to play with her. I often get the feeling that I’m dating my cat.
One crown. Two crowns.
The King and Queen of Choulândia were now crowned and ready to cleanse this Kingdom of all evil minions roaming the land.
Until I died in the first 3 minutes of gameplay. Then we got desperately poor. Then we decided to restart the game.
BUT THEN the Mighty Kingdom of Choulândia arose from the ashes, prospered and grew in size! We had thick stone walls, fertile farms, an army of archers!
Then my Queen bluntly said: “I’m bored.” She does that. She has a way with words.
…Usually that tends to happen within the first 5-10 minutes of playing a game. So the fact that we were playing for almost two hours before she said that really struck me as being a great compliment to Kingdom: Two Crowns. I was truly having fun playing with her!
We got to explore a new island, got some diamond-like gems and started building a new ship to come back home with our bounty.
We had to stop there. But I can honestly say that I had great fun playing Kingdom: Two Crowns with myself and with my Queen and we had some good laughs with very poor fort-building decisions about building walls at the exact time that the enemy is attacking.
Locking the gates
Overall Kingdom: Two Crowns is an amazing game for playing as co-op or single-player – especially if you’ve never had the chance to play one of the previous versions. It is extremely addicting, fun, with a lot of content to explore and a great Christmas Gift for your soulmate (as long as you get to play with him/her).
However, the slightly steeper price for the content that has been added might not be entirely adequate if you’ve played the previous iterations since it feels like a small DLC rather than an entirely brand new game. I’d value this at 15€ for returning players, instead of the standard 20€, and despite the price point and the lack of apparent new gameplay mechanics at the start of the game, I would still rate it 4/5 pops due to its replayability and blunt fun factor.
This is my first review post on this blog. If you guys would like to know more about how I started this epic journey check out PLANTING A SEED.