Invisible Inc (Review)

Source: Early Access backer
Price: base price £14.99 (Sale going on right now)
Where To Get It: Steam Page , Official Site

It's a Title Splash, Whaddya Want?

Start with two, maybe get four. Stun *all* the guards.

Even as a member of the awesome technological rebellion that is Invisible, Incorporated, I feel sorry for the security. One poor soul has been tazed for the third time in a row, and is no doubt thinking he might want to seek out a medical professional for what is obviously narcolepsy. I can’t feel too sorry, however, as the IT department of this particular company seems to want to eat my babies. This is just one of a large set of feelings I have for Invisible Inc, the latest offering from the creators of Mark of the Ninja, Klei Entertainment. Most of these feelings are positive.

The game boasts that it has 2 animated cutscenes, and I must admit, when I first saw that boast, I was leery of the release product (I’ve been following it since it debuted on Early Access), but my fears were put to rest within minutes. You see, the atmosphere in this game doesn’t depend on cutscenes. It depends on emergent stories, and I’m happy to report that what’s under the hood matches the aesthetic and themes of the game really well. So let’s go into that.

Buh Bye Nika

Sometimes, it can go horribly, disastrously wrong. And by god, it’s entertaining!

Invisible, Inc, despite its name, is not about a Syndicate like corporation, smashing all before it with soulless, mind controlled soldiers. It’s cyberpunk as all get out, and II are the little people, fighting back against the corporations that sought to stamp them out… And almost succeeded. The game’s premise is that the few free members of Invisible Inc are on the run, and have 72 hours (3 days) to, if not win their fight against such entities as Sankaku, the droid centric Japanese corporation, or the German arms supremos, [insert], at least kick them where it hurts. And all we have for that is the means to quietly slip into corporate buildings, a friendly, but limited AI, and not very much else. While options open up the more you play the game (characters who are better at killing, characters who can disable machinery, more hacking options), and you will get more powerful if you play your cards right, at the beginning, you’re up against it, and the clock is ticking.

Gameplay wise, it’s turn based, squad level strategy with some RPG elements. Two to four agents infiltrate a building, either beat down, hack, or avoid security measures, and try to both rob the place blind (Your finances and levelling up are dependent on this) and complete their objectives. And it’s pretty intuitive. There is a tutorial that gives you most of the basics, and the rest is quite helpfully shown in tooltips, in one of the three vision modes you can quickly switch between. And here’s where it gets fun.

Guess who forgot that he could hack a camera drone when he took this?

Tactical View, where the necessity of hacking that one camera drone becomes so very clear.

See, Klei thought their design through, and it shows. It’s isometric, but not only can you rotate the view, you can switch to “tactical” view, which reduces the clutter, or “Incognita Mode”, which is where all the hacking takes place. It’s a risk reward game, where rushing will, done well, ensure the steadily creeping Alarm Level of the building won’t screw you over at a critical moment… And, done badly, will quickly and efficiently see you cut down, your cause lost. But there are very few moments where I’ve put down my keyboard and muttered “That was bullshit”, and, on reflection, most of those were definitely my fault. Like the time I went for a safe that I knew would take more to get to than the three turns it would take for the guard to wake up… And neatly trapped myself, with no backup because I split my agents too often. Or the time I hacked a camera drone, and realised afterward that it had nowhere to go.

Stacking the deck either way, allowing you to fine tune your experience, are Rewinds and Expert Mode checkboxes. Rewind modes are your “Oh sod, I didn’t mean to do that” button, allowing you to turn back time… But they’re a limited resource, adding a layer of tactical depth that remains intuitive. Meanwhile, expert mode restricts you in challenging ways, like adding a turn timer (Oops, now you can’t just sit back and think about it, because there’s ten seconds left to do something aaaaaaaaa-nuuuuu!), or making enemies harder. At its base level, though, the game encourages stealth over violence. Killing most guards will not only up the security level, it’ll cost you money, and that cost… Can quickly ramp up. Add to that that ammo is not always a guaranteed find, and… Well, it’s better to be dodgy, or sneaky, than to be violent, is all I’m saying… And I love it.

I was confident, and the gamble was won. Hell yes.

Do not do this unless you are confident each agent can handle things.

You’ll love it too, if you like turn based strategy and cyberpunk, or roguelikes and cyberpunk (As the levels are procedurally generated). If you’re not the patient type, however, or strategically minded… Don’t say I didn’t warn you when I say this game definitely wants you to think really carefully about whether you want to hack that Daemon protected safe open, or try and knock out that guard.

Invisible Inc released on the 12th of May. A camera droid is watching me write this review, and it’s creeping me out a little.

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The Week In Games, 7th May, 2015

Well, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster all around this week… Konami drama came to a head with the removal of PT, Warner Brothers have offered a Season Pass that folks are leery of, The SPJ statement (Which I’ve already talked about, to some extent)… Yep, it’s been a hell of a week. So, let’s get the bad out of the way.


One of the things we talk about a lot is how advertising for video games has always been a targeted thing, and one of the effects of this is… Well, it’s hard not to take things personally. This has been proven in the case of both Konami and Warner Brothers, who’ve both made decisions that have caused a bit of a to-do. In the case of Konami, this has been a slow shift away from video games coming to its most obvious point, with the removal of even the teaser demo of Silent Hill PT (Causing, itself, a justifiably irritable reaction from the archival community, who not only have to advise folks how to keep their copies preserved, but have to go to extra effort now to keep said demo preserved.)

Warner Brothers have not exactly been exemplary either, as their marketing has focused on the Season Pack DLC aspect over, you know, the actual game. Steps have been taken to rectify this, so they’re at least aware it’s been a boo-boo, but questions have been asked about this DLC, such as whether it’s really worth the money, and why this content is gated off behind a six month pass that… May not actually encompass all the promised DLC? The answer to that can basically be summed up as business, but I hope I’m forgiven if I say something that’s been said many times in the industry, with justification: Don’t Preorder. That’s not saying Arkham Knight will be bad, that’s saying “We don’t actually know how it’s going to be until it’s out. So save those shiny coins until you’re sure. It’s less than two months away, I’m sure folks can restrain themselves till then.

Right, badness out of the way, let’s move on to nicer things. Like interesting announcements, releases, and the like!

The Fun Stuff

First off, something with a disclaimer: I’m backing the project I’m about to mention. Not too much (£20, enough for a copy, not the shiny stuff), but there’s a reason. You see, the name of the game is Formula Fusion, and I’m backing it because it’s a spiritual successor to Wipeout, by some of the folks who worked on Wipeout 3 (AKA – The Best Wipeout, as far as I’m concerned). Go take a look if you like future racing games.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater once again appears to be coming to our machines, although I see no mention of a PC release at the present time (XBox 360, XBox One, PS3, PS4). Shame, I quite liked the series, and it looks pretty fun. Ohhhh well!

Also rearing its head is a first teaser trailer for Battlefleet Gothic, the latest game as part of Games Workshop’s push to see quite a few of their licenses in video game format. Considering it’s only a teaser, and shows nothing GW fans wouldn’t already know about Battlefleet Gothic (There are Imperial Battleships that look like flying cathedrals. They have powerful weaponry. Space is pretty, and possibly deadly), I’m just going to link it rather than embed it.

In nicer news, Itch.IO has added a few new features to allow devs to create collaborative bundles. We’ve seen at least one bundle pop up already, and I look forward to seeing more devs working together on good causes.

As far as new game releases goes, Chroma Squad came out on the 30th, and the review will be up next week, Black Mesa finally released on the 5th of May, and the day before showed the release of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, which is apparently a bit of alright. Other potentially interesting releases of the week include Dex, a sidescrolling cyberpunk RPG, and the release of the imaginatively named Project CARS, which, as you can see from the store page, doesn’t involve racing the chopped liver you’d expect it would.

Oh, and Invisible, Inc. officially releases on the 12th, next week. Why is that this week’s news? Because the full build is available to Early Access backers today. Which gives me plenty of time to get my teeth stuck in before its official release.

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Unlike Games, Life Isn’t About Points

Yesterday, the Society of Professional Journalists, or, more accurately, its head, had to make an announcement about the “invasion” of #SPJEthicsWeek by the group known as GamerGate, and its resultant closure. It’s a well crafted piece, although to some, disappointing in its lack of firm commitment, and there are certain things I want to highlight. Specifically, I want to highlight this:

Ethics Aren't Simple, Yo.

Scoring someone on ethics. Quantifying something that is even more situational than scores for computer games. I wrote about scoring computer games, and some of the many, many problems with it back on my older blog, and others have weighed in on the subject as well. If you thought games were complicated, well… Ethics is a hell of a lot more complicated than that.

Ethics isn’t just adherence to laws, because laws, themselves, can be considered unethical. There were howls from the educated unemployed as the British Supreme Court declared that capping or stopping someone’s only means of financial support (IE – Means of paying rent, getting food… You know basic human rights) was deemed “Not a human rights violation” with state benefits, and that the 2013 back to work scheme (Which had similar clout to stop benefits for not accepting unpaid labour), was in the same area. It is technically against Human Rights, as a law, because, as mentioned, with those benefits cut off, rent doesn’t get paid and food can’t be bought without outside help (That doesn’t always exist) for four weeks at minimum (Thus putting at risk Article 25 of the Universal Abbreviated Declaration of Human Rights). It’s complicated because benefit fraud exists, without a doubt, and some form of punishment has to exist. You do have to actively seek work if you’re capable of it, after all. And then it’s complicated some more, because state benefits don’t quite catch up to inflation, and, in 2013, the EU ruled the 2013 state benefits as “grossly inadequate”. And then some more with the inevitable problems in administrating a system like this.

Translation: Don't Be Dicks

That paragraph? Briefly summarises some of the factors involved with some ethical questions to do with reacting to one influence on your life if you’re unemployed in Britain. Just one. The “right thing to do”, in terms of ethics, is constantly changing. In journalism, ethics questions abound. Do you reveal information deemed private for the greater good? Do you mention someone’s tragic situation to raise awareness of a genuine problem, and how does that gel with minimising harm to the person whose story you’re going to shout to the world? Do you, when slapped with an unethical gagging order, print the story anyway, risking your career to say, clearly, that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”? (Shakespeare quote, not a literal example… As far as I’m aware, anyway)

Discussion of ethics in game journalism does need to happen, that’s without doubt. Labour exploitation, sponsorship deals that really shouldn’t have taken place, companies going silent because they’re the only source for information, treatment of e-celebs (Although, to be fair, treatment of celebrities in general is a bloody ethical quagmire), the question of company sponsored showings or parties (Not restricted to just journalism)… All of these have affected games journalism, and at least some still do.

I’ve talked before about how games journalism doesn’t get the same treatment the rest does, about how it’s not “real” journalism. Hell, there’s still snobbery in some corners regarding music, film, and literary criticism, despite those fields being older than our lil’ old video games. Part of the reason I laid my welcome post as I did is because I wanted folks to know how I was dealing with things: No scores, here are the limits on what I consider “significant interest” financially… The reviews are clearly marked as reviews, same with previews (When they come), what news there will be is clearly marked as news. Everything else is effectively op-ed, and about yours truly, and what they think.

Before I finish up, I’d like to put another part of the SPJ post up. And I’d like to add to that.
Not Just The US, Folks

There is a very important basic skill that is taught in humanities classes (Y’know, history, english, modern theology, etc): Consider Your Source. If you know that an outlet has scores, and appears to score on a 6-10 scale when they claim a 1-10 scale, then if you read it, read it with a healthy amount of skepticism. Hell, why limit yourself to one source of information? Compare, contrast, get the whole story from multiple sources. And before you say “But that’s w-w-wooooork!” , remember: You get out what you put in. And always remember: Writers are people. Gamedevs are people. SPJ Board Members are people. We all have different perspectives, different focii, different ways of talking about things.

Discussion does need to happen. But, as has been mentioned before, by others, it just isn’t going to happen when it keeps getting disrupted.

Life isn’t simple. It isn’t based on Ethics Points, or Kindness Coins, or the KDR of a country. It’s a load of people, of lots of different viewpoints, and lots of motivations. Don’t do its variety an injustice by reducing the beautiful (and terrible) spectrum to just black and white, good and bad.

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Convoy (Review)

Source: Bought with my own cashmoneys
Price: £9.99
Where To Get It: Steam PageDesuraCompany Site

The Maria Assumpta

The Mercury… A poor, doomed, possibly sabotaged ship. Let’s roll out…

Log – Discovered near burnt fragments of Convoy #1 by Convoy #2.

Convoy Leader’s Log, Who Damn Knows: I have picked up a new ally on this war torn world. He calls himself Friendly Fire, because he claims he has a bad habit of destroying his allies by accident. I refuse to believe a man can be so unlucky.

Convoy has been described as Mad Max meets FTL, and, in a sense, it’s quite right. It’s a procedural action strategy title where you’re trying to obtain four replacement spaceship parts on a largely inhospitable world. The world is split between three factions (The TORVAK corporation, Raiders, and the Privateers) and all three factions, for various reasons, are likely to try and destroy your convoy along the road. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

The game controls fairly simply, almost entirely with clicks of the mouse, and it looks similar in terms of visual style to FTL (So, it looks spritey, and pretty good overall). The music is interesting, but… It definitely has some minor problems at release. For example, a thing that appears to be happening quite often is items sticking to the shop screen, along with a touch of slowdown every now and again…

I was sure I had a pic of the shop, dammit!

Not pictured: All the DEATH waiting.

But enough about visual bugs, which I’m sure will be fixed, let’s talk about the game itself. Difficulty wise, the main elements are to do with your need for fuel, and the trials and tribulations of combat. Combat is a case of moving your escort vehicles around, targeting enemies as you go, and sometimes (only sometimes), forcing your opponents to ram into one of the obstacles of your running battles, such as pylons, sudden outcroppings, random wreckages, and, in some rare cases, canyons and buildings. Of course, there’s more to it than that, as your MCV, while immobile, has special abilities. The absolute beginning one, for example, is an EMP cannon. Fires once every reload, stuns opponents, destroys shields, and is bloody useful for the aforementioned enemy crashings and burnings.

Your first fights are rarely overly tough, but they do grind your health and armour down, and you’ll need to be pretty savvy. Within the first ten minutes of my second game, I had already spent most of my money on my first gun, and was down to around half the fuel I’d started with. Seeing as fuel can only be replenished by events that reward you with fuel, or by buying it from camps using the game’s scrap currency, it’s always a bit of a worry. No, fights don’t always reward you with fuel. One of the more horrifying events of the game actually comes from fuel loss, where you have a bleak choice. Wait for someone to help… Or render some of your crew down for biofuels. I went for that choice, and I still feel like a monster for doing so.

Buggy not go boom. MCV is sad.

Ooooh, so *close*! I could have saved me a lot of time there!

Still, fuel isn’t an insurmountable problem, and soon enough, you’re riding high, with a full convoy. You beat the somewhat difficult final boss, and… You’ve maybe unlocked a vehicle or two. Orrrr… You’re nearly out of fuel and scrap, your escorts are all destroyed, and all that’s really left is hoping you’re going to luck into enough scrap for a vehicle/fuel, and silently wishing the next combat event, at least, is quick (A criticism is that, sadly, it’s not quick very often. I’m staring at my MCV, slowly getting torn to shreds by a single TORVAK raider I can do nothing about… Not. Good.) . In fact, a single game on normal takes somewhere between half an hour (If you’re unlucky) and three hours (For a safe win).

If you’re playing on Normal difficulty or above, it’s usually the latter, the game is somewhat punishing. This isn’t to say that the game is low on replay value, however. There are quite a few events, and there’s a small selection of different sidequests, some of which are somewhat amusing to find. Case in point, the Insult Fighting event, a fond reference to Monkey Island, or, similarly, the Modern Major General reference (both of which I got at the beginning of my third run, giving me a nice comfortable start of an extra vehicle and some cash)

The party's oooooveeeer

Sure, I had resources, but before I could hit a camp, I lost the escort. It took me ten minutes to die.

There’ve been quite a few runs since then, but my overall opinion is this: If you liked FTL, you’ll be okay with this. It feels a little less balanced, more chance ridden than FTL was, and some of the events are inconsistent in tone (You can shoot pretty much anybody in an event, but it honestly feels like kicking puppies in many of them), whereas the combat is still interesting, and, with a little more polish, it could be good. As is, though, seeing your convoy painfully get disassembled is a frustrating experience. While I would say it’s worth the money, time and enjoyment wise… Play Easy difficulty first, don’t tackle Normal and Hard until you’ve unlocked some better vehicles. And let’s hope they make death a little less lingering.

Convoy, by Convoy Games, released on the 21st of April. The Mercury keeps crashing on Omek Prime, and many men have died due to this temporal horror.

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The Charnel House Trilogy (Review)

Source: Bought with my own cashmoneys
Price: £4.79
Where To Get It: Steam Page, Owl Cave Games Homepage


Most of the shots are from Sepulchre, the middle episode.

The Charnel House trilogy feels unfinished. There, I’ve said it. It feels a little forced, and unfinished. Because, in a sense, it is forced and unfinished. It’s unfinished because it’s not really a trilogy, there’s a fourth episode coming sometime in 2016. There are also reasons for it feeling forced, and, if you’ll forgive the pre-emptive pun, railroady. But that doesn’t mean I’m overly fond of these things.

So let’s briefly summarise what it is, and take a look at why I don’t get on with The Charnel House Trilogy, and why you might or might not like it. Briefly, it’s the stories of two folks, Dr. Harold Lang (Archaeologist, and curator at the Krenwick-on-Thames museum), and Alex, a late twenty-something, slightly gothy librarian who also has an interest in the past. Both are catching a train (and then, although we don’t see it, a boat) to Augur Peak Island, past home of horror author Louis Cassell. Things Are Afoot. Emphasis on Things. It’s a point and click episodic horror adventure, and it takes between 1 and 2 hours to run through once. Now…

Reference, Reference, Everywhere…

You Got That Shiiiining Feeeling...

You’ll have to take care of your wife, Dr. La- Wait, I get this sense of Deja Vu!

The game is chock full of references, and… Although I was entertained by spotting said references, they felt “for the sake of reference”, rather than their own entity. The bar scene from The Shining. The painting that seems to be a nod to The Haunting/The Fog (EDIT: It’s not, but that makes it slightly eerie. ;D ) The jokey puzzle “solution” that references It (The Stephen King novel, not The Haunting or The Fog again)… There’s even a few references to ongoing things, like the 6-10 review scale and the drama that often accompanies it (That last one, to be fair, feels more natural, and, as a reviewer who hates “pretty numbers”, I liked it.)

There is an explanation for it, although it’s not an immensely satisfying one. But it does lead onto the second point.

Flow, and Pacing.

I'll be seeing you... In all the old familiar places...

I love your voice, Don, but we’ve got to keep meeting like this. People will talk!

I get it, the games are short, and there’s a reason for that behind at least two of the episodes (I don’t want to spoil it, in case you try the game for yourself), but the only episode where the flow and pacing felt natural was the first. The second had some very jarring and railroady “Go here, now here, see this thing, go back, see this thing, go back” for the majority of the episode, and the third… I felt hammered by the plot beats, racing one after another toward my gut, and, unfortunately, for me, it wasn’t the “pleasant” bam, revelation, bam, epiphany, bam, ohfuck, but more a discordant BAMSTUFFBAMSTUFFBAMSTUFF!

As much as I hate to say it, because I know (oh dear lord, I know) that this isn’t always possible, it could have done, in my opinion, with being longer, a little more restrained. As it is, even knowing roughly what’s going on, I felt disoriented, and not, I think, in the way the author was intending.

The Good

It’s not all bad, however. The voice acting is mostly interesting, and I do want to know more about the characters put forward so far (Well, the main characters, and “Grub”) Jim Sterling plays his role surprisingly earnestly (Worryingly so, in fact. Don’t worry, Jim, I know it’s a role!), and he put little touches in that… Well, did for me what the pacing didn’t. Peter Willington and Madeline Leroux play their roles well, and their characters (Dr. and Alex, both with interests in archaeology and history of one form or another) take the time they have with both hands, with only a few minor fumbles. Also, visually, it’s very appealing, with a similar style to the later Blackwell games, or late Sierra point and clicks, and the tunes are mostly quite good (The bar theme gets on my nerves though)

In summary, while it has its high points, it’s just not for me so far. However, two things must be noted. Firstly, it’s £5 for the trilogy so far, it’s setting something up, and so it’s really not much of a gamble to try it out for yourself. Secondly, I am notoriously picky when it comes to my horror, and pacing problems irritate me more than pretty much any other aspect of a game. There’s also, as I mentioned, the fact that there is going to be a fourth episode, that, despite my bitching and moaning, there’s definitely interesting unanswered questions (Er, what’s up with the bags, folks?) ,and the pre/post credits teaser sets up what may turn out to be something interesting (Considering Owl Cave also created Richard and Alice, which is an interesting game that’s worth a look-see too.)

In summary, it’s a love it or hate it experience. I didn’t get on with it so well, but if you like short point and click adventures, this might be up your alley. Be warned though, the big reveal might need a trigger warning, although, with horror, I really shouldn’t need to say that…

Bags of fun for all the family!


The Charnel House Trilogy was released on April 16th, 2015. I have been seeing a shadowy figure in my dreams since this review was first written. They are carrying Huge Bags.

…Hold me.

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