Crest (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £6.99 (£9.99 Supporter Edition, £1.59 each for Art book and Soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Last time I looked at Crest, the indirect god game in which you set commandments for your tribes (and they try to weasel out of them as soon as they humanly can, using their faith as a bargaining chip) , food was a bit of a problem. I am, on the one hand, happy to report that this is no longer the case for the majority of your early to mid game.

At times, priests of cities will travel to others, to spread their version of The Word. In this particular case, I suspect the villagers were confused about this mention of berry bushes, although “Nookie” was understood.

Sustainability, on the other hand, is a bit of an issue, and, as you might have guessed… I mainly think it’s because my followers are a bunch of gits. My own fault, I suppose, because keeping your followers happy, and keeping them sustainable is, as it turns out, a bit of a struggle.

“Feed thyself!” , I cried. “Go forth, and plant many berries!” And lo, they did, and, for a while, it was good.

“Go forth, those of you with children!”, I declared. “Go forth, multiply further, and be fruitful!” And lo, they sort of did, grumbling a bit because they were currently into gathering as many resources as possible, not all this babymaking business. But eventually, and for a while, it was good.

“My children, now that you know about these Antelope things I have created, go forth, and eat well (But sustainably!)” I called. And lo, they went to that one with gusto, and, for a little while, it was good.

“Spread further, and learn more of this world!” I proclaimed. And funnily enough, not everybody was happy with that one. Or the one where I asked the folks near metal to mine it so they could grow strong (and maybe defend themselves against what I knew, in my omniscience, to be Lions, but they hadn’t quite gotten the picture yet.) At various points, these turned into things like “Let us make more children if we already have them!” , “Let us hunt ostriches if we’re near antelopes, because we’ve suddenly decided we like ostriches more!” , and, most odd of all, “Let’s expand this whole Desert thing until everybody can share in our bounty!”

And yea, did WelshGod look down upon what he had wrought, and mightily he did facepalm.

I hate to break it to you, my (sometimes, conditionally) loyal ones, but that doesn’t spread metal, gems, or even ostriches. So, er… I did nix these commandments, as far as I could with the faith I was given, and lo, faith in me did drop, so they did what the hell they wanted for a short while, until I had another bright idea.

“Young of the world, socialise with thy brethren, learn more of thy neighbour!” And lo, that one went down rather well. Of course, by this time, the antelope were looking a little thin, and the lions (they’d finally learned what they were… Painfully, in at least some cases) not very thin at all. Hummm…

“Go forth, those of you near lions, go forth with all that metal you have, and bang it loudly near the lion, to scare it from you unto the territory of those people you dislike!” I spoke. Well, more generally than that, working in Noun Verb Noun isn’t exactly a science, but they at least looked like they had the idea.

But, apart from, like, *one* war, everyone was talking, so most people were at *worst* apathetic! <3

And lo, that wasn’t very good at all. In fact, that’s the story of how a deity managed to kill the second city its followers had ever built, in under 10 minutes. Of course, by this time, I’d also taught my followers all but the final tier of words, which would have included useful things like “Ocean” (for sending my followers far, far away, to new lands), and firmly reached the point where, beyond keeping my followers alive and (relatively) faithful, there wasn’t really much of a goal.

Still, it was a fun time, being a deity, even if I was well on the way to cocking it up royally by the time I started writing this review. A shortish time (It takes only a few hours of judicious commandmenting to get the majority of words), but one I enjoyed a fair bit, due to a fair tutorial, an improved word discovery system, the fact that followers now fed themselves (and procreated, once they got the idea), and the lovely, low poly aesthetic of a sub-saharan world where survival very much meant living in balance with nature.

I didn’t get the hang of that bit (or rather, was heading toward the point where it was clear I hadn’t got the hang of that bit, not the point of no return), but for all my mistakes (and the aforementioned weaselling of my followers) , I can tell you this: Unhappy was a word they never learned. Also, annoyingly, Gems. But I’ll take the fact nobody knew they were unhappy as a win.

Mere days (minutes, in DeityTime) before the final follower of the village realised a single villager is not, in fact, scary to a lion that’s already eaten so many delicious humans.

The Mad Welshman is gonna be a god, he’s gonna be a naughty god…

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City of Brass (Early Access Review 2)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £18.99
Where To Get It: Steam
Version Reviewed: 0.5

City of Brass, last time I looked at it, showed promise. A game of quickly executing your plans in order to progress further into a city cursed with greed and everlasting life (of a sort) , it was already drawing me in, luring me with its traps, its enemies making for interesting, emergent challenges, and its middle eastern setting.

Mmm, the sweet smell of incense on the – oh, that’s burning undead? Huh, learn a new thing every day!

With blessings to match the burdens, further customising difficulty, I’m somewhat happy to say that the game has, overall, improved on its original promise. Even if some things remain roughly the same. Specifically, the Gatekeepers, bosses of each of the game’s five areas.

Before we get into that, though, let’s recap what remains good. Aesthetically, the game is on point, from its lush setting that subtly changes as you get further into the city, its musical and sound cues, and the clarity of everything. This is a treasure, I can tell by the noise, and the sight. This is a windtrap, clearly identifiable from even a fair way away, which is important if I want to know what not to randomly back into for instant death funtimes. That noise signifies I’ve been spotted by a sorceress. Not an archer, a sorceress. Maybe I can use that. I can, with the knowledge I’ve built up over three areas of the game so far, use a lot of this, if I play my cards right. And this is definitely a strength of the game.

Keeping the core gameplay simple, and challenging, is also of note. While items may affect, for example, the strength of your throws, or lure treasure to you, or change something about your basic weaponry and armour, you still know, roughly, what to expect: Here is your whip, for pulling and shoving enemies and items, triggering traps, and swinging off things. Here’s your sword, for walloping things. Here is your armour, and, normally, it will sort of protect you. Sort of. Three levels per area, three wishes you may or may not wish to spend (Including using all three at the beginning of the game to shortcut to the third area), it’s all simple to understand, and explains itself well. Similarly, blessings make things easier, but deny you a place on the leaderboard, burdens make things harder, and give you extra gold or XP.

Wishes, if not used on skipping areas, can sometimes change the tactical landscape greatly. A good case in point are the trap genies, who now serve… ME.

The only wrinkle to this is that, once you get used to enemies and traps, you’re inevitably going to reach that third level, and find yourself facing off against something rare, that’s simultaneously harder to learn, and less likely to give you lots of chances to learn it: The Gatekeepers. Based on enemies previously encountered, the Gatekeepers are a leap in difficulty, and I’m thankful I have the option to skip three of the five with my wishes. Because oh boy, they’re hard. Take the first, the Sorceress analogue. Okay, so sorceresses are a pain. They don’t let you get close for long, take about as many hits as a guardsman (three) , and fire ranged attacks that, if they hit, hurt. They’re still something you can work with. The Sorceress, on the other hand, is, like her Gatekeeper Brethren, a gimmick enemy of a sort. No hitting her until her shield’s down, and how do you knock that shield down? Whipping homing projectiles back at her.

On the upside, you don’t have to hit them directly back at her. On the downside, you will, every few seconds, have to whip, block, or run the hell away from those projectiles, and you never have many hits with which to do it. It’s not insurmountable. It is a leap in difficulty, so these Gatekeepers are aptly named, skillgates of sorts, where, while they don’t take many more hits (not counting shields and the like), the difficulty is in getting those hits in.

These shutters, thankfully, block some of the projectiles, and give you a temporary chance. Make the most of it.

Despite this, I still feel City of Brass definitely comes out more positive than negative. The developers have been very thoughtful in providing means of skipping some of these once they’re beaten for the first time, and the addition of blessings, in order to provide an easier experience, are a godsend. The game is clear, lush, and, for the most part, teaches its world and rules very well, and I continue… To look forward to what’s coming next.

After writing this review, The Mad Welshman had a run where he got to level 10, using the Extra Health and Damage blessings. They make a Big difference!

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Where The Water Tastes Like Wine (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £14.99 (£19.96 w/soundtrack, Soundtrack £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam

History often ignores the smaller stories. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t tell some of them, but they can often get missed, in the grand tides of nations, governments, and movements. And yet, stories are one of the main ways in which we shape our lives, and those of others. Here’s the Engine that was Naughty. Here’s the story of how tragedy turned to comedy with old Uncle Jimmy. Here’s the story of how This Person Is Weird, Stay Away. Not that all stories are trustworthy, of course, it’s as much the teller as the tale. And stories, passed around, grow in the telling.

Hoo boy… This hand has a story attached to it, y’know… Which is why I got a baaaad feelin’ , son…

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is, in one sense, the story of the Skeletal Hobo, and his Service to the Devil-As-Wolf. In another, it’s a collection of vignettes, short stories that paint a picture of life in America’s Great Depression. In a third, it’s a story… About stories, and how much we want to hear them.

To describe it mechanically, amusingly, strips some of the mystique away: You walk, often slowly, sometimes quicker if you whistle, across America. Travelling from place to place, collecting and telling stories. Sometimes, you influence them a little, by taking part in them, and along the way, you hear the bigger stories, hunting down characters to tell them the stories you’ve heard, to share enough of a connection that they open up to you, and finish their own stories. Hear all the stories, spread enough of them around, and you’re done.

The pace of the game is sometimes slow between stories, although recent patches have improved this somewhat with better rail and bus travel the further you get, and the mementoes from completed stories allow you to fast travel. Some have said this slow pace is a detraction from the game, but honestly? I like it somewhat slow. It fits the mood of the character, where whistling a merry tune quite literally speeds your travel somewhat. Nonetheless, the option is there, and it adds a little extra choice for those who want to play through quickly, rather than savouring, remembering, and thinking over the stories as you walk.

Some of the stories may seem tall tales, it’s true… But hey, you lived ’em, so you know best, right?

…What was the deal with that white deer? Was there anything I could have done? Ohhh, that poor vet, come home with no reward save the cold road, and what reward is that? The kids these days, and that woman, I do hope she’s alright, and not dead like the tales suggest… Maybe I should swing back that way, see what’s up with that, when I have a spare moment from this grave and onerous task? Ah well, the road lies ahead, and it isn’t gonna get any shorter from me thinking about it.

Time to hunt down the next tale, be it tall or short…

As y’can see, friend, got a ways to go for the next tale to gather. Hand me that flask, and let’s sing a lil’ tune as we go, eh?

The Mad Welshman would like to note that the game’s editor, Laura Michet, has written a detailed post-mortem of the game, available here. It’s an interesting read.

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Heroes of Hammerwatch (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £9.29
Where To Get It: Steam

Sometimes, it seems, more is less. So it is with Heroes of Hammerwatch, sequel, to, funnily enough, Hammerwatch, a Gauntlet inspired action roguelite with co-op, secrets, bosses…

I deliberately ran into danger to show off how dangerous the game can get if you’re not cautious with that grinding…

…And grind. So much grind. Bless, the devs have tried to make the early game more interesting, with monoliths, and portals, and gubbins that unlock as you go, but Heroes of Hammerwatch is both a game that takes a while (and many, many deaths) to get going, it’s also a game where the further you get, the more it puts in your way, from more taxes, to more deaths.

I am, it must be said, getting rather sick of the first area. Even the knowledge that beating a boss unlocks a portal to the next is small consolation, because, either way, there’s an endurance match. On the one hand, three levels an area, plus a boss (Who, your first time fighting it, with no upgrades to speak of, can best be described as the sound of a keyboard hitting a wall at great speed.) On the other, one level, plus several waves of enemies from the next area. Either way is painful, and death without first having sent money and ore up to town via a lift (not always available) means you’ve earned 75% of the experience, no money, and no ore. So, what’s it like to try a new character, seeing as there are three unlockables and four base classes?

This guy, his ever increasing bat horde, and his stalactite rush can all do anatomically improbable things to each other… Grumpety grump grump grump.

Well, money, ore, and town unlocks stay the same. That’s the good news. The bad news is that each new character is a several thousand coin investment to get them to anywhere near the same level of survivability as the rest of them. 2,250, for example, for three potion charges. Another 1500 for level 3 weaponry, same again for armour. The good news is that each of the classes are different, from the Knight, who can block some projectiles in an arc, and relies on melee, to the Priest, with an area effect clickathon attack, some healing abilities, and a murderbeam that takes a little bit to get going. The bad news? Each one has to fight that boss, and then make that same boss/enemy rush choice, and I’ve not been able to do that before several runs in the first area, and achieving at least level 4 in experience. A fairly good early run will probably net you… Maybe 3K. Minus taxes.

As such, you might be able to see why I’m sick of the first area, and the music of everything before the second. There is, it must be said, a multiplayer option. Which adds more enemies, more hitpoints, and the like, so… No, you’re not, generally speaking, going to have an easier time with friends.

While others decry the Ranger as weak, his piercing definitely helps in the enemy-rush you have to go through instead of a boss…

If the progression were somewhat quicker, and I hadn’t spent so much of my time in that first area, seeing the same traps, the same enemies, the same music, the same grind, I would perhaps be more charitable to Heroes of Hammerwatch. As it is, though, it can very easily be described as a slog, and a somewhat painful one at that.

The Mad Welshman really wants grind to be left in his childhood, where it belonged. Nuff said.

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Bytepath (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £1.69
Where To Get It: Steam

Okay, I was not expecting this. An asteroids inspired shooter, with RPG elements, completable in less than 2 hours, but pretty replayable due to lots of variety, and some extremely chill synthwave, for less than £2.

From relatively humble beginnings…

Bytepath even has a minimalist story: You are a program, told you can escape whatever system this is with the tools you’re given, and four hash keys, gained by surviving for 40 waves of asteroids, enemies, and power ups. Up starts and boosts, left and right turns, down brakes, and firing is automatic. Easy as pie, right?

You don’t even have to do it in one go, and the more you play, the more powerful you become. So, your first time, you build yourself up, build yourself up, collecting skill points in play until you buy the classes, device, and passive skills that net you level 40, and…

…Well, I won’t spoil that for you, but I’ll tell you two things: It took me about an hour and a half (and I could, apparently, have very possibly cut a good 40 minutes off that), and, on beating the game, I noticed… Ahahaha, there’s more to do. Will it change the ending? Unlikely. Is it something I can just try for, for replayability’s sake, and because the game’s low pressure? Yes.

…To the Cheeswheel of Death.

It’s mildly strange, actually, to see a confusing mess of pixels that largely only makes sense while you’re playing, and that statement that it’s relaxing, because the sound and music really do help. Relaxing synthwave steadies the nerves, reminding you “Hey… You’ve got all the time in the world. It’s okay if all the vectors want you dead, really it is”, and the ballet of death is almost rhythmical.

So, colour me pleasantly surprised by Bytepath.

A small part of Bytepath’s rather large passive skillweb.

The Mad Welshman hasn’t much else to say. I mean, after unlocking Wisp, what CAN be said?

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