WINNER: Vignettes of a Dying World

ELGuardiansTitle

Ahhh, it’s so nice to announce a winner to a competition. The pleasure of saying “Yes, this person… Nay, this victor did scratch their head many a time, and erase words, and mumble, and moan… But through the sweat of their brow, they have-”

Too over the top? Probably. But nonetheless, it’s always nice to announce that passion, and it’s my pleasure to say that the individual known as Rap Three Times has won themselves a copy of Endless Legend. And here, for both your pleasure and mine, is their winning entry (A little over word count, but forgivably so):

Notes On The Mad Fairies

Scanning the merchant’s wares, your eyes pick out a leather-bound book. The spine reads “Notes on the Mad Fairies”. Opening it midway, you begin to thumb through the book.

…that thrice blessed day I heard the singing. Oh how sweet that sound, how to ever describe it? Should I compare it to birdsong, or music, or the rhythm of droplets on a flowing stream? Should I speak of my tears or the blush on my cheeks? Maybe I should babble like a madman hoping for something coherent to come out? Neither my hand nor my mouth could ever satisfy my heart!

You skip ahead.

Despite those years at the College, I could never fully explain what happened that day when I first heard the elven-song as it sifted through the trees. In truth, those minutes/ hours passed as a dream from which I wished never to wake, and the harsh ache of the silence when indeed I did eventually awaken shook me so grossly to my core that I shivered and trembled for I don’t know how long. In all my like, it was the emptiness I felt afterwards that hurt and stung the most. The life I had treasured and clung to happily was now shown to be dreary as mud, colourless as spittle and weary as death. Nowhere could I rest, never could I be content until I could again hear that wondrous and magical music that sprung from their mouths.

You thumb further ahead.

… I know that the music I heard was their song of the hunt! They say that one who hears it is forever marked, and indeed I would believe these rumours. It has been many years since that night and not one day has passed that I haven’t thought about it. My life has been changed irrevocably.

More pages are passed over.

There are beasts prowling outside my tower and once I heard one scratch at my door. The heavy oak will withstand a great deal, but I find myself wondering what is drawing them to my lintel.

Today, my last servant finally deserted me. He says I am cursed but if only they knew! I am not cursed! I am blessed! Can’t they see that? Damn those fools, their noise only cluttered my ears. I give them all leave to go, begone and never bother me with your petty things.

You skip to the last page, the writing here is sloppy and almost illegible.

I haven’t slept for days. I think, no, I’m sure I heard the song again. Just outside, in the forest. Yes, I’m sure. They came back for me, they called to me. I was at the door but then they stopped. Ahaha! They are clever ones, they know how to tease me. I have been humming what little I can remember but my heart can never make that music. The animals, they leave me gifts in the way animals do. I recognised one of the bodies, it was a servant I once had, a stable-hand. I must go to them, whatever the outcome…

The book ends abruptly here.

You throw a few coins onto the table and put the book into your satchel, your path to the Wild Walkers becoming clearer still.

 

Endless Legend: Guardians DLC (Review)

Source: Review Code
Price: £6.99
Where to Get ItSteam

ELGuardiansTitle

Auriga: A sentient world, doomed to a slow death by an ice age it cannot escape. Many folks live on Auriga, and now, with the Guardians expansion, there’s a fair bit more to do. One of the difficulties with reviewing expansions to games is that, many times, you have to ask “But what’s it actually adding to the game?”, as quite a bit of DLC is cosmetic by nature, and so… Can be summed up by the phrase “Wellll… If you want to look like this, then yeah, sure, go for it, otherwise… Don’t really bother?”

Guardians lets you know, from the very beginning, that this isn’t the case. Global Events. Legendary beings. Co-operative and competitive quests… This DLC adds a whole new dimension to the game, and it’s been my pleasure to see how it changes the gameplay.

At least it wasn't the Drakken.

Awwwh crap, who’s building that before me… WHOOOOO?!?

And, from the very beginning, a new goal presents itself: The Museum of Auriga. A whopping 20% approval for each level of the building (Which is based on the city’s expansion), and +20% Research and Dust (the game’s nano-magical currency) across my entire empire if I build it first and keep people happy? That’s… One hell of a first prize, and I can see very few factions, AI or human, not wanting to go for that as soon as humanly possible. And already, I’m wary. Research and Dust are pretty much the core of at least two factions’ playstyles, and 20% at the first tier of the game is not to be sniffed at. The second tier, equally, is pretty powerful… 25% extra industry, over my entire empire, per level? These are game changers, and I’m not entirely sure I like that. I like it even less when I look at my research indicator and see that someone else is building it. That’s pressure, because firstly, I’m playing Broken Lords on this particular review playthrough, and both of those boosts could help my play, and secondly, because I have random factions as enemies, and I’m guessing, judging by the early score boost, that either the Drakken or the Ardent Mages are sharing my version of Auriga, and the empire building could just as equally help them. It’s not insurmountable (After all, I could, after a point, steal the improvement by conquering one of their cities)… But it adss tension I’m not sure I need so early. Helping, however, are Unique buildings, that help shore up weaknesses in strategy, and, later in the game, unique Legendary Units (1 in Tier 3, 2 in Tiers IV and V) with useful abilities like Mind Control and the like, armies unto themselves (No, really… They can’t join armies, they’re that big.)

Papa Nurgle loves you all.

It’s pretty rare this infected village doesn’t belong to somebody else. It’s even more rare they’ll deal with it themselves. Have fun!

Empire goals, on the other hand, are a little more welcome. They unlock technologies (Much like certain story missions do for each faction) or resources (The one I got in Tier 1, Wealth Harvester, gave me enough Dye to use its special bonus for much of the early to mid game), and, like Legendary Buildings, their bonus only applies on a first come, first served basis. Co-operative quests also fall into this category, as they require dealing with a common threat. The one I got early on in the game (Pictured), added tension in more than one respect, because the plagued villages in question, which were making all non-pacified villages more aggressive and lethal? Were firmly in the territory of the Necrophages, who were unwilling to relinquish their favoured sons for the good of Auriga. Again, it adds tension, it adds stories, and that’s the true value of the DLC.

Overall, this DLC is a game changer, adding tension to an already tense 4X game, and whether you want to purchase it or not genuinely depends on whether you want to add more swing to the game, more moments of crying “Oh shit, now they’ve got that thing” or “HAH, Now I am the better builder, and I worry about you no longer!”. Multiplayer is also a consideration here: I’m mainly a single player kind of guy, but in Multiplayer, global events and the competitive and co-operative quests add a new dimension that’s honestly welcomed as a shakeup, variation in what can often be a competition of adaptation and optimal building. The difference shows almost from the beginning, adding impetus to certain goals, and so, if this is what you’re after, then it’s definitely worth the £6.99 Amplitude are asking for. Just be aware that it can seriously change the dynamic of your game, and you won’t be disappointed.

I wish the one for food came earlier... :C

Either extra research, or shoring up a weak research town? YES PLEASE.

Endless Legend: Guardians was released on the 29th April 2015. It was the Ardent Mages who got the first Legendary Building before me, and they cleaned my clock in the mid-game. I was sweating the whole time.

ENDLESS LEGEND COMPETITION: Vignettes of a Dying World.

ELGuardiansTitleIt’s always a joyous occasion to get a new game, don’t you think? Endless Legend’s Guardian expansion released last week, and, along with a copy to review, this slightly crazed welshman also received a code for Endless Legend. Fortunately for one lucky reader, I’ve already got the game, and have permission to give the code away…

…Ah, wait, I may have misled with that last sentence. Give the game away? Not quite that simple. After all, first come first served is boring, and I do want to see some passion. So I want to hear a story. Not a long story, 300-500 words. But a story, and stories of Auriga, the dying world of Endless Legend are definitely going to be preferable. Don’t worry too much about accuracy to a world you may not have heard of: The faction summaries give some useful information, as do Amplitude’s forums, and for the rest, know that Auriga is a sentient world, and slowly… It is dying, entering an Ice Age from which it will not recover.

So maybe you’ll write a brief segment of life on this world, of the Broken Lords, condemned to eternal life at a terrible price they may not be able to pay. Maybe you’ll write how Auriga’s sentience, or its impending doom, was discovered.

Obviously, no friends or family of myself need apply, as they’d be disqualified. Sorry, I know a couple of you love writing fiction, but that’s only fair.

For the rest? Entry is very simple. Subject line is “Vignettes of a Dying World Entry”, email is, as always, themadpembsman@gmail.com , the winner will be announced at the end of the month, and they’ll have their steam key the same day.

Best of luck to all of you, and mentions shall definitely be made of top-tier entries!

 

The Week (and a bit) In Games: 19/05/2015

So, as you might have noticed, this one, and all the other articles, have been a little late. The downside of being the sole writer, really… You think you have a schedule, and then all sorts of things come up to play. Nonetheless, it’s been both interesting and harrowing, so I want to concentrate on certain things that have been going on. Shitty things, that go on behind our backs all the damn time, and we have yet to come up with a coherent response. Although that’s slowly beginning to change. Beginning to.

Kickstarter Fraud

You may not have heard of 2Awesome Studios. Lord knows I hadn’t, before the news hit. They’ve been making a game called Dimension Drive , and their Kickstarter failed. Now, normally, this wouldn’t be news, and you may be confused at the fact the link is to a Kickstarter that’s not even a day old. This is one of those “Good News, Bad News” things, and the Good News is just that… Dimension Drive, and 2Awesome by extension, have been given a second chance. The Bad News? How they failed the first time was, as you might have guessed from the title, due to shitlordery. Yes, I’m sticking to that wording. Essentially, someone promised 7000 euros, and… It was fraudulent. This is by no means the first time this has even happened this month, as Kiva Bay’s Feminist Deck project came very close to falling for a similar scam earlier in the month.

Yes, We’re Still Problematic

Another article of note in the week-and-a-bit’s news is by Zoe Quinn, one of many voices speaking up about industry “standards” that are toxic and shameful. It’s called Risky Business , and for the hard of reading among you, that’s part of the joke… A joke that, sadly, is all too real. As she says, there are hefty NDAs in a lot of AAA companies, crunch all over the place, imbalanced hiring practices, and yes, harassment is still a thing, and these things will continue to be Things That Happen until we say they shouldn’t. Until we educate smarter, not quicker. Until we realise, en masse, that It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way, and actively hunt for ways to improve, even if it means admitting Mistakes Were Made.

Guess what? That works for a lot of things. I’ve been writing this, for example, for almost a god-damn hour at the time of writing. Forty minutes of that has been the last paragraph, and deleting everything that comes after it because I’m not happy with what I’ve written. I could give up, throw my hands up, and move onto noteworthy releases and news. I’m not going to, because we need to see the Elephants in the Room. Plural.

We, the gamers and journos and industry figures, from top to bottom, have to look within ourselves, and deal with the things we don’t like about ourselves, the industry we’re in, and why we’re thinking what we’re thinking. That last bit is important, because we try to justify our bullshit all the time. Crunch Is Just Fine, Because We Can Fix The Bugs (Haha, I don’t see that all too often, and there’s other dimensions to the damage Crunch does.) I Can’t See It Myself, So It Can’t Be Happening (There’s a lot of things you can’t and won’t see. With luck, for example, I will never personally know the horrors of war, or being made homeless, and I hope you’ve managed to avoid these things too.) This Person Is Solely Responsible For This Game Being Bad (In most cases, it’s much more complicated than that. Your parents can’t really take sole responsibility for you being born… Think about how they met, what led to that, and you’ll quickly realise “Oh, hey, there was that person who hosted the party where they met, and the friend(s) that convinced them to go… Funnily enough, there’s a game that talks about how this happens in the game industry too. Rather tellingly, it’s called “The Writer Will Do Something“.)

It’s not an easy fight, and it’s one that has to be fought while still staying as healthy as possible… But even you, the reader who’s reading this right now and thinking “BUT THIS PERSON ON THE INTERNET IS WRONG“, can do your part. Take a little time each day to think why these issues crop up, time and time again. Crunch isn’t new. Sexism and Racism in games alone definitely isn’t new. And getting angry at people who turned out to have seen the problems early… Well, that ain’t new either, folks…

…Okay, now for interesting releases and news of the past week.

Things Wot Came Out (Of Note)

First of note is The Witcher 3. Much discussion is going on over the game already, from the writing (for good or ill) to how amazing the hair is. It released yesterday, it’s £50, and it’s apparently long enough to justify that price tag. Axiom Verge, coming in at £15, is a metroidvania that’s definitely attained some notice, so take a look, see if you like it. Quantum Rush Champions, another contender for the Wipeout Spiritual Successor throne, released a demo last week, and Invisible Inc also came out (Which I’ve reviewed today. QRC Demo’s free, Invisible Inc is currently £12, rising to the base price of £15 soonish.) Finally, a couple of note that I missed were Boss Monster (£5, a dungeon building and looting game based on the card game of the same name) and the release of Star Trek 25th Anniversary on Steam and GOG (A classic series, and a classic game… Can you do better than Kirk used to, and keep the redshirts safe all the way through? Also a fiver.)

Hanako’s released Black Closet, a procedurally generated game of school intrigue, and, of course, relationships at an all girl school, Bethesda/Id have given us the first teaser of Doom 4 (All… Er… 12 seconds of it, with an announcement we’ll know more at… sigh… E3), and Twitch are at least trying to reduce their stream lag.

And that’s a brief summary of the week!

…Okay, and a bit.

Chroma Squad (Review)

Source : Early Access backer
Price: £10.99
Where To Get It: Steam , Official Site

Kamen Rider ring a bell?

INSPIRED BY… More than just Power Rangers, Saban, come the hell on…

“IF IT ISN’T STARFORCE! CEREBRO SHALL BE MINE, TO SHINE MY RED LIGHT ALL OVER THE WORLD, AND STOP THE WORLD IN ITS TRACKS!”

“TRANSITMANCER, YOUR TRAFFICKING IN EVIL ENDS NOW! WE, STARFORCE, SHALL -” Oh, sorry, didn’t see you there. I was adding my own mental soundtrack to Behold Studios’ Chroma Squad, a turn based strategy game about being the cast and studio of a Sentai studio.

For all that I outgrew some sentai shows (like Saban’s Power Rangers, who unfortunately didn’t like Chroma Squad, judging by the “Inspired by” that Behold had to slap on their title splash…), I don’t think I’ll ever really outgrow the Sentai genre, where bright, colour coded heroes fight rubber monsters and hammy villains with acrobatics, cheap pyrotechnics, and occasionally, forming a giant robot to SAAAAAVE THE WURRRRLD. Just writing that last sentence makes me grin, so you can imagine that I bought an early access copy of Chroma Squad as soon as I could humanly manage. The game is now released, and… It’s already a somewhat different beast to how it was earlier in production. Not completely different, but… Somewhat. I’ll occasionally mention some of these differences for contrast.

Also Transitmancer is revealed in episode 1.

This is not a spoiler. They promised giant robots, you *get* giant robots.

One of the first things I’m going to mention, however, is that, as a game, it nails the broad feel of Sentai studios and their works. You start with extremely cheap costumes, and, if you’ve done well, by the end of Season 1, you’ll have upgraded to… Just really cheap costumes. Each “episode” is basically a simple, objective based fight, usually involving three kinds of enemies: Mooks, Mooks Who Can Shoot, and the episode’s Big Bad (In the case of Season 1, this includes the Fat Alien, the Cardboard Boxer, and the Transitmancer, the mysterious and enigmatic wizard of traffic!), and this also fits the feel of a Sentai show. Your well being depends on being popular, and so a lot of the challenge comes from pleasing your audience, whether through being cool with the fans (Signed photos, for example), or fulfilling audience challenges in a mission. Heck, there’s even a few “live episodes”, where the power of your fans literally powers you up (And yes, this is a thing actual Sentai shows do, it’s pretty awesome.)

Writing wise, it definitely has its strong points. There’s one episode which, if you hadn’t played in Early Access, you’d never know was a reference to the fact that, originally, the hostage really was a lady who’d not been paid enough for a speaking role (Bravo, Behold, for not only changing that up, but referencing it!), and the good natured moment where a fan bursts into the show to take a guest role (And the cast are won over by their passion) is really sweet. It also says a lot that among the first upgrades you can get is an SD Camera. Not HD… SD. I dread to think what they were using before I bought that.

Unironically love this guy.

Wait, where the hell did you come fro- Oooooh, *neat line*!!!

This isn’t to say that I don’t have some criticisms. I kinda liked being able to get hold of individual ingredients, but, presumably based on feedback, that’s been replaced with item lottery boxes. I’m also not a big fan of only having one skill upgrade to my team members per season, because the combination of these factors makes the first season… Well, drag on a bit. The special abilities don’t really need to be used until the finale of Season 1, and it makes the first season, despite its good writing, feel a litte slow. Only a little, though, and it picks up again once you get a Giant Robot, more costumes, and the first possibilities of the promised branching storyline.

Still, I can’t deny that I’m having fun. I’m enmeshed in fulfilling the fan challenges, finding ways to make my limited toolbox of abilities work best for me, and I like the fact that there are two parallel stories going on (The actual Sentai show, which is suitably silly, and the drama surrounding the studio, which I won’t spoil). For £11, it’s definitely got enough content (5 seasons, extra game features that unlock as it goes on, upgrading), and it claims multiple endings, so… If you like light strategy titles with some management thrown in, or Sentai shows, I don’t think this is a bad purchase. It’s not, as it stands, an amazing purchase… But it’s got charm, it’s got a sense of humour, and it does have surprising levels of challenge, even if that’s mostly been on the studio end.

Only one of these exist in Season 1 too. ;n;

It’s not *all* great though… LOOTBOX, WHY DO YOU TORMENT ME SO?

Chroma Squad released April 30th. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to fighting evil. Oh, and playing Chroma Squad.