On Games Journalism – What A Presskit Actually *Is*

So, quite recently, thanks to the “Games journos are all bribed” crowd and some games journos who drew attention to the arguments (Which are by no means new), I was reminded there was a hole in my “On Games Journalism” series (I mean, there’s a few holes, but I plug them as I go along.) Specifically, talking about Press Kits, what forms they take, and how a respectable games writer deals with them.

PRMail

Speaks for itself, really.

So, let’s begin with the absolute basic form: The PR mail. Almost invariably, any mail trying to get you interested in a PR key is going to have basic info on what’s going on, sometimes with florid language, sometimes not. This one, for Endless Space 2 (already on my docket) is an about average example. Hey, this thing is going on, here’s a youtube link, interested in a key to review it?

If the answer is yes, and you are on the list of “Folks who’re approved for keys”, then you get a steam key. Y’know, a thing you’d need to review the game. So far, so very not bribe, because you are now pretty much committed to reviewing that product, regardless of its quality (or lack thereof), and not doing so will result in an unseen black mark against you. Enough of those, and you are, at best, greylisted (Your emails are not answered, leaving the question open as to whether you’re blacklisted, which is outright told “Nope, if you want to review our products, do it out of your own pocket.”) Yeah, sure, the game could be good, but if you knew it was good beforehand, then you’re a psychic. Many’s the time I thought something looked interesting and cool, and then… NOPE.

But anyway, that’s your most basic level. Then, you have the most common form of Press Kit: The information pack. Sometimes, these physically get mailed to you, with a page of A4, maybe a steelbox, or one of those many ubiquitous “USB keys shaped to look like a thing.” More often, they’re a ZIP file with some screenshots, an info PDF, and it’s usually filled with advertising blurb.

This is what an actual press kit looks like, 60% of the time. Another 20-25% of the time, it'll be the screenshots folder and logo.

This is what an actual press kit looks like, 60% of the time. Another 20-25% of the time, it’ll be the screenshots folder and logo.

If you think a USB Dongle shaped like a car key is a bribe, I really can’t help you. For an idea of what a PR fact sheet looks like, here’s the fact sheet for Colt Express, a game that isn’t on my docket, but I got a PR mail for.

Yes, I can see myself being bribed by this. No, re- Of course not really, it's info for convenience of access. :P

Yes, I can see myself being bribed by this. No, re- Of course not really, it’s info for convenience of access. 😛

This is the unromantic, very un-bribe like reality of 95% of press kits. This, ladies, gentlefolk, and folk of nonbinary genders, is all that most reviewers will ever see. So how do reviewers deal with them? Well, it depends how informative they are. A presskit like this will most often be ignored in favour of actually playing the game. Y’know, how a good reviewer will ignore the trailers, except as a point of reference, and instead write their review based on playing the game.

At this level, which is the level most people will encounter when games writing, there’s really not a lot of reaction or thought needed. So let’s talk about bigger press packages. Let’s try the Bloodborne press kit (Youtube link), shall w-

Oh. It’s basically a shinier factsheet with a silly CD case, a notebook, and a small artbook. Yay. These are decidedly uncommon, with only the bigger companies even bothering to send them out. And I’ll let you in on a little secret…

Most games writers who’ve been in the biz for more than six months are slightly embarassed by these things. I mean, that satchel thing’s vaguely useful, the artbook’s kinda nice, but that book CD case? Worse than useless. That notebook? Yeah, I [eyes A4 notepad and, y’know, his computer, which he is writing this from] don’t really see it seeing much use. Of course, there’s bigger tat out there, but, as much as I hate to piss on the poor sods who worked very hard to put on a show? It’s tat. Most of this gets thrown out, and you can tell a reputable games outlet by the fact that they don’t let you sell this stuff either.

So… Let’s kick it up a notch. Let’s talk about the kind of swag you will see handed out if you get a press pass to an expo or con. No, really, this shit’s handed out like god-damn candy. The reality of it is… Somewhat disappointing.

Actual "swag" I have received. T-Shirts. Postcards. Candy (Not pictured because candy, it's eaten already!) ...Guess how many of these things I even covered, let alone was nice about? (Answer: Not a fucking one)

Actual “swag” I have received. T-Shirts. Postcards. Candy (Not pictured because candy, it’s eaten already!)
…Guess how many of these things I even covered, let alone was nice about? (Answer: Not a fucking one)

This is the reality of it. You will get handed postcards. Small to medium, easily ripped bags. If they’re really splashing out, you will get T-Shirts. And nearly everything except the T-Shirts… Just look pretty. The T-Shirts are the most expensive part of this “Con swag”, and a T-Shirt… Comes to around £15. Which, you’ll notice, is below the absolute low end of what I consider “significant enough to declare.” It should also be worth noting that I got an Id T-shirt at the same expo, and you can already see how that came out (The bit about Rage.)

Y’know what I consider more important? These…

...THESE actually have a POINT.

…THESE actually have a POINT.

These are contact cards. Some of these people aren’t in the biz anymore. Some I’d have to rehunt the address for. But these are the real swag. Because the more of these you have, these small contact cards, the more your options open up for who to talk to. Not just developers, but lawyers who work with games stuff, reps for engine developers like Unity. Heck, somewhere in here is the card of the director of BAFTA Wales (Although I highly doubt they’d appreciate me mailing them out of the blue without a good reason.) That’s what’s important at these cons and expos.

But still, sometimes, once in a blue moon, you get big stuff. Being but a humble independent, I’ve never even seen one of these up close. Little statues. Sometimes not so little things. And the weird thing is, most of us are embarassed by this stuff too. Any reputable outlet doesn’t allow resale of such things… They are, again, of no practical use, and a lot of the time? They’re not as hot as people like to think they are. And again, they have no real effect on whether the game’s any good. A good writer is laser focused on the product, and honestly, most of us really wish big developers would save their money and spend it on, Oh, I don’t know, maybe paying the coders better and better coding conditions so we don’t have any of the frankly disastrous Day Ones we’ve had this past two years alone? Because I can say, from experience, that the smaller studios tend not to have those.

In the vast majority of cases, how to deal with Press Kits is, er… To focus on the game rather than the shinies. The vast majority of press kits aren’t useful for anything except quick reference and a lazy source of screenshots (Most games writers prefer to take their own), and the minority with swag are, quite honestly, embarassing, impractical, and our ethical options for them are 1) Throw them in the bin or 2) have them clutter up the bloody place. I can’t show you any of those “USB keys shaped like other things” because they’ve either gotten lost, or been thrown in the bin, or both. I definitely can’t show you any statues, or serious swag beyond T-Shirts (and damn few of them at that), because most folks don’t actually get that shit.

I leave you with a simple comment that spells out my opinion on “swag” , from my twitter feed.

shinytweet

EDIT: Another, calmer perspective comes from fellow games journalist Nick Cappozzoli, who points out that another, better way of looking at the situation would be to consider the “Tchotckes” (another nickname for this kind of thing) as inherently tainted… Since he’s worded it better than I, I’ll just let this speak for itself also.

nickcomment

Clockwork Empires (Review)

Source: Early Access Purchase
Price: £22.99
Where To Get It: Steam, Official Page

Clockwork Empires is meant to be a survival management game (Like Dwarf Fortress, Rimworld, or the like, where orders are indirect and resource/building management is important) set in a lovecraftian, jingoistic steampunk world based on a satire of Victorian Britain. Unfortunately, not all of that satire on drudgery and misery is intentional. So… Let’s talk about housing. And cabinets.

Pictured: A sensible decision - Harder biomes need you to succeed in less hard biomes.

Pictured: A sensible decision – Harder biomes need you to succeed in less hard biomes.

Mood is an important factor of Clockwork Empires, as happy labourers and overseers will work an extra shift, whereas despairing ones will slack off, and fearful or angry ones will be actively counterproductive. Obviously, this at least partly means housing them, and making that housing appealing. The workplace must also be prettified, or production will suffer.

There’s just one small problem with this, and the game doesn’t bother to inform you of it: Cabinet Tax. Let us assume, for a moment, that you have 2 labourers, and give them a 3×3 house with 2 windows, a door, and a bed. They aren’t happy with it, they aren’t unhappy with it… But you may have noticed the population count go up by 6. Because each of those houses can add population. So, when those labourers inevitably turn up, you build 6 more of these houses. And now you have many more labourers than you know what to do with, eating your food. Each building has a Quality Level, and this is, effectively, based on cabinets (and shrines for houses) in the early game. So, building individual housing? That’s… 12 cabinets to build to make them happy. The situation then becomes more clear when you turn to the workplace. Let’s use the carpenter as an example. You need a workstation (for cutting wood, making paper, etc), an assembly station (To build other workstations), and a décor station to build wood decorations. Y’know, like cabinets. But each of those workstations beyond the first reduces the Quality of a building, making workers unhappy. And when you try and build your first labourer housing more efficiently (7 beds, for the two workers you have, and the 5 you’ll eventually get.) you realise that this applies to houses too (For lo, the bed is a workstation as far as quality goes. I can understand why, few folks enjoy bunking long-term.) So your efficient solution still requires 12 cabinets for maximum happiness (6 for the extra beds, 6 for max Quality)

Not only have we a rare example of a nasty thing happening, you may note I don't have enough cabinets.

Not only have we a rare example of a nasty thing happening, you may note I don’t have enough cabinets.

So, for a good, efficient first labourer house, you’re looking at at least a 14 x 10 building (Space for beds, and space for at least two windows, and 12 cabinets/shrines. After that, it’s a little easier, as you’re only catering for 4 or 5 labourers at a time, but as it is, you have a minimum “happiness tax” on all your buildings of 1.5 logs x (Number of Workstations/Beds -1) , and, obviously, the extra time and labour to make them. And no, you can’t just make more work buildings of the same type to get around this, due to the Overseer system, limiting both your number of workshops, and the number of job types you can do at any one time. Labourers just allow for more of the same job type once assigned, or, in the case of single jobs like mining or farming, doing it quicker. And yes, individual farms count as a job.

The in-game help hints at some of this. Specifically, the overseer job limitation, the fact that mood is affected by decorations, and that houses have conditions (That you won’t know until you build them) on extra population counts. Gee, I hope you found some sand, or can trade for it, because otherwise you’re in big trouble later on!

…Or, of course, you could not know this, and play for several hours, and an in-game month, and watch as your labourers and overseers become less efficient, before you realise what’s going on. It’s not very intuitive, and it may take quite a while for you to realise how badly you’ve made mistakes. Considering that a month of in-game time took me something like 3 or 4 hours to play out, it’s the kind of unfriendliness that turns me off playing for the long periods of time the game obviously wants me to play.

This is what happens when you don't have enough cabi- No, not the communism, the *Despair* ... Can't blame communism on the means of production, friend!

This is what happens when you don’t have enough cabi- No, not the communism, the *Despair* … Can’t blame communism on the means of production, friend!

And this is a damn shame, because the game is visually kind of nice, the music fits the mood very well, changing with events. Unfortunately, the game is best described as “plodding”, “unintuitive”, and “frustrating.” I can’t select things behind buildings, even with the walls visually turned off. If I want to know what kind of mine I can build on a survey point, and there’s anything in the way, well… Good fucking luck without clearing the obstruction, mate!

And eldritch things and events. Oh, how those make me sad. Just before release, I had played a full month, and, while some eldritch things did happen, such as an invasion of moon-balls, another of eldritch cuboids and polyhedrons, and at least seven or eight obviously occult things dug up, the one death was from… Bandits. And that was because I hadn’t switched to my better weaponry because I hadn’t properly understood that 1 set of stone pellets equalled about 100 rounds. Meanwhile, the entire time, said eldritch gewgaws, such as a canopic urn that was actually a klein bottle, sat happily vibrating or lurching awkwardly in spacetime in between the maize chowder, some planks, and some coal that had eventually been put there by my heavily depressed people.

It's such a shame that their normal reaction isn't "Try and break it" or "Try and worship it", but "Put it next to the paperwork." On the one hand, very British. On the other, very little drama until *much* later on...

It’s such a shame that their normal reaction isn’t “Try and break it” or “Try and worship it”, but “Put it next to the paperwork.” On the one hand, very British. On the other, very little drama until *much* later on…

When the game goes well, it goes really well, and you can build up some serious cities in the limited space allotted to you, researching cool things, arming your soldiery with lightning guns (Leyden Weaponry) and clockwork armour, oppressing the fishy natives, and generally being the colonial asshole you may have dreamed you are. But to get there, you have to struggle with odd limitations, an AI that isn’t entirely sure if it’s coming or going, and a UI that makes the increased busywork from more colonists more and more a matter of hitting pause and checking things, slowing the game’s pace even when things begin to get interesting. And I’m really not certain I’m up to that.

The Mad Welshman liked his new Shining Trapezohedron. It set off the Crystal Egg, the Green Soapstone bookends of unknown providence, and the Eldritch Tomes he’d been collecting from the book club. Just another day…

Vagante (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.99
Where To Get It: Steam , Humble Store

Vagante, it seems, is a game that’s rubbing me the wrong way. The title translates as either Rambling, Stray, or Vagrant, and I suspect, considering it involves adventurers travelling in a wagon, the last one. As to what it is? Well, it’s a procedurally generated action platformer with RPG elements. Specifically, Dark Souls. And therein, for me at least, lies the problem.

I can almost guarantee you, this is the brightest you'll ever see the game.

I can almost guarantee you, this is the brightest you’ll ever see the game.

Visually, it reminds me of a darker, harder to navigate Spelunky, a game that, even now, I still go back to every now and again, because it’s quick to play, and easy to get the hang of. Similarly, the music, the squeak of bats, remind me somewhat of that genre classic, and the tile based generation is quite obviously similar… And I forgive what generation imperfections there are right now because it’s in early access, and I’m sure they know about things like some chests being inaccessible unless you have Floor Phasing on floors where an item with that quality hasn’t dropped.

Unfortunately, from there, it feels like it’s hard for the sake of being hard, and the Dark Souls influence is extremely obvious, from the unlockable Deprived option (Where you have no items, weapons, etc…) to the combat depending on understanding patterns and working with weapon speeds, to a boss in every level, to mimic the bosses of areas. Oh, and bats, levelling up, and a “stability” stat that governs how often you get stunned/knocked back.

A lot of which doesn’t matter when you can all too easily bounce off an enemy into instant death spikes just before you realise what’s happened, instantly and prematurely ending a run. Or take enough damage from enemies that you pretty much know you can’t beat the boss of the level… Whether due to being too rash, to the inconsistency of whether dagger strikes will properly murderise a goblin before it can get its weapon animation off, due to falling off things due to sometimes fiddly ledge grabbing, or simply because you’ve misjudged whether that bat really is in line with your weapon, among other things.

This is before we even factor in class elements, like how the fighter’s sword skill adds control complexity and makes it more likely I’m going to be stuck facing the same direction on my next attack when I just want to turn around and smack that sodding Goblin that’s behind m-oh, I’m dead.

Pictured: Facing the wrong way, in a canned animation, about to get nommed.

Pictured: Facing the wrong way, in a canned animation, about to get nommed.

Speaking of classes, no class is, thankfully, completely useless, but mileage will definitely vary, even between runs, on the four classes (Warrior, Rogue, Wizard, and the unlockable Wildling, a barbarian type who likes to punch things.) I’ve had the easiest time so far with the Rogue, because I know the hitbox of the dagger, it attacks quickly (Quickly enough that, most of the time, I can kill a goblin before it gets a swing off, unlike the other three), and I have the backup option of the bow (Which does tat for damage, and is slow to fire… But, of course, is ranged, which means you’re not being smacked about.) However, how well I do depends on a number of factors. For example, one of the bosses of the first three levels (And you will encounter all three bosses before moving onto the forest, presumably encountering another three bosses over three levels… I wouldn’t know, I’ve never finished the Forest area.) is a dragon. He does 5 damage, plus burning, every time he hits me with one of the three fireballs he spews as part of his pattern (The most common pattern, by the way.) If he’s in cramped corners, and I’m playing a rogue, I can generally stab him and not die. If I’m the Wizard, I can generally pull an Emperor Palpatine on his arse while dodging fireballs in almost the same time regardless of whether he’s got room to move.

…If I’m the Warrior, I am extremely dependent on either a) Having found a lot of arrows/offensive magic before I meet him, or b) him being nice enough to stay close enough to a platform I can hit him quickly enough that he won’t melt me before I stab him.

I’ve only ever killed the Wood Golem (A Forest boss) with ranged options. And let me tell you, ranged option fights are fucking tedious. Stabbing with a quick weapon? Pli-pli-pli-plink, maybe add another “pli-”, and your average enemy is dead. Takes a second or two. Using a normal weapon? Stab, maybe a second if you’re comfortable, retreat a bit to not get hit, stab, Bob’s yer uncle. A ranged weapon? Draaaaaaaw, fire. Less damage than a dagger swipe. Draaaaaaw fire. Oh wait, now I have to run away so I can do that some more. Heavy weapons, such as hammers, or especially battle axes, have their own little fillip, in that not only is their animation slow and tedious, the hitbox for the attack has a minimum range as well as a maximum. So it’s of fuck all use for fighting enemies next to you. Considering that, in the first three levels, the natural urge of every single enemy is to get right up in your face? Have fun properly judging the timing! The Forest is somewhat more forgiving. There, they’re mostly either trying to eat you or shoot you, and both are more dodgeable.

Pictured: Some wooden asshole with more hitpoints and damage than he perhaps deserves.

Pictured: Some wooden asshole with more hitpoints and damage than he perhaps deserves.

Meanwhile, I just don’t know how some of these mechanics work. Spells have levels. What raises those levels? Beyond a perk, that is…? Why is it that some goblins seem to have a better ability to get off their attack animation despite me frantically punching/stabbing them like I’m Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star? Is there actually a point to the stat skill trees beyond extra damage with X or slightly more hit points, over, say, the ability to mix unwanted potions into maybe the much more needed Potions of Regeneration (Not a guaranteed thing, but hey, better than maybe an extra point of damage or two) , or one of the many other skills of varying usefulness and added complexity?

I don’t know for sure, but I do know this game frustrates the hell out of me, from its FUCKING BATS (I will nearly always capitalise that, because game developers really need to learn that bats aren’t good. Their only functions in this game, just as in nearly any other I’ve seen them in, is to annoy the hell out of you, make you wait for them to come to an ideal position before you can kill them, and to occasionally knock you into spikes because you were paying attention to something else that might have knocked you into spikes and kill you), to bosses with way more hit points than is sensible (Forest Golem and your almost insta-death slam, almost insta-death rock throw, and fight that mostly consists of praying I don’t run out of ranged options while taking ten times as long to kill as any other boss, I’m looking at you) and inconsistent difficulty based on where they are (Most of the cave bosses qualify here, from “I can’t hit this f-ing dragon” to “I got thrown into spikes I didn’t even know existed by the Boss Goblin.”)

While we’re on the subject, and in summary, I’m sick and tired of “Roguelike” being a byword for “We will kill you with factors outside your control such as boss arenas”, and I’m sick and tired of “Inspired by Dark Souls” inspiring tedious combat that somehow inspires people to respond to genuine complaints about gameplay flow, fuck-you traps and enemies (HELLO, LURKER ON A SINGLE TILE I NEED TO PASS THROUGH), and FUCKING BATS (Themselves with issues when it comes to murdering the stupid squeaky bastards) with “GIT GUD, SCRUB.”

The already dark environment gets even darker when you're dead, so unfortunately, you'll have to take my word that a bat knocked my into an instadeath spike out of nowhere.

The already dark environment gets even darker when you’re dead, so unfortunately, you’ll have to take my word that a bat knocked my into an instadeath spike because I couldn’t *precisely* hit the squeaking little shit.

Each “run” doesn’t tend to take long (About 10 minutes, on average, to the Forest), but even so, without improvement, I’ve seen the Dark Caves enough that I’m most likely going to be heartily sick of them when I eventually come back for the release review.

The Mad Welshman is dead. Game Over. Oh wait, he respawned as a Console Critic. And then died and is a PC critic again, and then…

Slayaway Camp (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.99
Where To Get It: Steam

I’ve always had an odd relationship with slasher movies. On the one hand, they sometimes do interesting things with horror, and I enjoy some of them for interesting ideas, but on the other, they tend to suffer really badly from sequelitis (How many times has “Jason” died again? Or Freddy Krueger?), unnecessary remakes/reboots, and their formula is often, in some ways, still stuck in the early days of the subgenre (OH NOOOO, THOSE TEENS ARE HAVING SEX, THEY’RE GOING TO DIE BECAUSE SLASHER MOVIES!)

Slayaway Camp, on the other hand, I’m fairly unambiguous about, as it’s a sliding puzzle using slasher movies as a theme, and not a bad one at that. Warning: There is voxellated gore and murder.

Pictured: Voxellated Gore and Murder.

Pictured: Voxellated Gore and Murder.

Anyway, mechanically, what can I say? It’s a puzzle about murdering unwary teens in a series of slasher movies, all loosely linked, and each with a theme and added mechanic, such as SWAT cops , who are unkillable unless either you drop something on them or you flank them in the dark, or cats… A common ruiner of murderous plans in movies, and not to be killed because… Well, for the same reason a lot of the puzzle elements are the way they are – Because it at least used to be a thing in slasher movies. Due to the fact that you can only move in one of the four cardinal directions, and keep moving until you hit something (Be it an obstacle, a usable thing, an unfortunate teen, or something that’s going to kill you or make you Break The Rules), there’s only a limited number of possible solutions, so the puzzles can be brute forced, but most of the time, the gimmicks are visible enough, and the rules clear enough that you don’t need to, and successfully completing levels or the murder minigame gives you the opportunity to buy a hint and a solution, in that order.

Everything here has a clear function: Pits to fall into (or scare folks into), cupboards to be pushed, walls to bump into on your way to murderous victory.

Everything here has a clear function: Pits to fall into (or scare folks into), cupboards to be pushed, walls to bump into on your way to murderous victory.

Okay, so mechanically, it’s clear, it’s intuitive, and fuckups are definitely your fault. So far, so good. It becomes a little bit grindy if you want to unlock all the skins and murders, but I’m willing to give it a pass on that because a) It’s cosmetic stuff , b) Finishing each level unlocks “Deleted Scenes” (Some of the same levels, but with added features… Not always more difficult, but definitely more of them) and finishing all the movies earns even more puzzles, and c) The grinding minigame is effectively the murder scene minigame, and this becomes a little more visually varied with the aforementioned cosmetic stuff. There’s some nice cutscenes with parodies of slasher movie trailers and some amusing murders (A thing you rarely hear outside of the context of slasher movies, which sometimes go for creative and/or ironic deaths), it’s visually quite clear, and I had no colourblindness issues (Some issues with gore covering pits, but that goes away with something like 30 seconds of waiting, which again, gets it a pass), and my only real issues with the game are that it starts immediately the first time you play it, rather than do the video store menu thing, which was a tadge confusing, and that some of the humour’s a little forced (Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it… BIG LETTERED. Ho de ho ho.)

Confirmed: This game is TOO COOL FOR CANADA (Nah, actually it's a running gag.)

Confirmed: This game is TOO COOL FOR CANADA (Nah, actually it’s a running gag.)

Nonetheless, I like Slayaway Camp. It’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, and it doesn’t need to. It’s not a big game, but it’s got charm. If you like puzzle games, this isn’t MENSA level stuff, but it’ll make you scratch your head for at least a bit, and I can respect that.

The Mad Welshman cowered in the bathroom… Shower? No, too dangerous. Brushing teeth? Not while the cat was nearby to fake scare him before he gets murdered. Living in Slasherworld is tough.

Planet Explorers (Review)

Source: Regretted Cashmoneys
Price: £18.99
Where (Not) To Get It: Steam

I’ve never seen a first person survival game where doing beginning quests in the wrong order can kill you before. Now that I have, with Planet Explorers, I can say that I find it an unpleasant experience. Not to mention the rest of the experience, which, for me, is equally unpleasant.

Yep, it eventually killed me. After following me for *miles* and mostly whiffing. Oh, should I mention the next village is about forty minutes walk, realtime, from the first?

Yep, it eventually killed me. After following me for *miles* and mostly whiffing. Oh, should I mention the next village is about forty minutes walk, realtime, from the first?

So, let’s begin with the difference between “Story” and “Adventure” mode, where the first has quests (Some of which are stupidly lethal, with no real indication this is the case), a story mode, and cutscenes, and the second… Has quests, a story attached to each village that doesn’t seem to change, and no cutscenes. Adventure mode’s first village nearly always has one asshole whose only function is to lead you to a slaver ambush, which provides an easy segue for me into combat.

There is, of a sort, combat AI in this game. For humans, this nearly always involve rushing you as soon as they spot you with their melee weapons if they’re hostile, and shooting from a distance if they have a gun. And y’know what? That works. Shame it works because your starting weapons are incredibly shit, and so combat with even one enemy is a case of having more medical tools and attempting to dodge. Or, y’know, doing quests in the first area in such an order that you have a handgun before taking on six slavers… Because otherwise, respawning where you are will just rapidly get you killed, while respawning back in the village will… Get everyone killed, including you. Or, you can do quests in the arbitrary “Right” order, and get a nice shiny handgun, which does the job better than your melee weapons. It even nets you a set of sentry guns, if you want a nice easy sta-

Pictured: What happens if you do Adventure Mode quests in the wrong order, then respawn in the village.

Pictured: What happens if you do Adventure Mode quests in the wrong order, then respawn in the village.

-Oh, did I forget to mention that Adventure mode has a means of randomising your procgen world, but doesn’t seem to account for the fact that you might have a different biome which doesn’t have “Tulips” , or, in at least one case, places a quest marker for putting down turrets to hunt a beast… In the middle of the ocean. Good. Fucking. Job. Because hey, while there are procedurally generated quests, usually of the MMO style variety of “Collect X shit for me”, “Oh noes, protect me from Y Angry Space Ogres” or “Please go into this conspicuously out of place dungeon and kill everything in it”, the village quests will always remain the same. Which is pretty damn awkward when you have an island in the middle of nowhere.

I could go on, and on, and on, about various things going on with this game, from the cutscenes with odd audio desync, to the fact that it was apparently decided to be a good idea to have a Cliff Racer equivalent in this open world game (A griffin-mouse combination, oddly), to how mining is somehow more of a slog than Runescape (Ten minutes to even get to an Iron Ore seam somewhat close to the surface… I gave up on getting more iron a few minutes later, not least because design schematics are linked to… Drumroll please… Quest Completion. That’s right, the ones which don’t seem to have much difficulty balancing, or sense of placement, or… holds head .)

Pictured: Both the pop in (egregious) and a quest I can't complete because I can't put turrets in open water...

Pictured: Both the pop in (egregious) and a quest I can’t complete because I can’t put turrets in open water…

But instead I’m going to say that it looks kind of okay visually (We’re talking late PS2 level here, but mostly consistent in this), and it has a kind of sweet-sounding (In the saccharine sense) theme tune. Both of which you would probably be better off appreciating from screenshots and a youtube video of the opening, respectively. I have no idea why this was approved as a release candidate, to be perfectly and brutally honest.

Oh, it’s moddable. There, that’s maybe another nice thing.

The Mad Welshman sighed as his pick struck once more. You do sixteen minutes, and whaddya get… Painful blisters and hungry and wet…