Angels Fall First (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £13.37 (No, really. Soundtrack £4)
Where To Get It: Steam
Version: Update 18

Flying through space in a giant brick with guns, with fighters swarming around me is, perhaps, one of the more powerful moments I have. Yes, the giant space brick (A Heimdall Lineship) steers like a cow, and it’s somewhat hard to see exactly what I’m aiming at, but that’s not really mattering too much, because all of my guns are firing, enemy ships are dying, and, in my own small, confused way, I’m contributing to the capture of the Ixion space station.

On the one hand, this thing steers like a brick with strings. On the other, goodness me, it makes things explode!

This is just one moment of Angels Fall First’s gameplay… In a 64 player botmatch. Well, 63, minus me. And it feels good.

A quick catch-up: Angels Fall First is a science fiction multiplayer team shooter, along the lines of a Battlefront, Battlefield, or COD, with space and ground based missions, a bewildering variety of builds, weapons, and vehicles, and locales, that essentially boil down to either taking an objective, destroying an objective, or defending an objective, supporting both multiplayer and solo, bot driven play.

Aesthetic wise, it looks good. Chaotic, but good. Everything has a chunky style that gives at least some idea of what people are using (I can tell, for example, a sniper by the long barrel as they run, or a heavy by the fact that their armour is bigger and chunkier), and the music is properly pounding and theatrical, changing as the battle comes to triumph… or disaster. Elements of the UI are somewhat confusing (The radar in the lower left, for example), and, sadly, the game’s loadout function isn’t as helpful or informative as it maybe could be, but being able to save your own custom loadouts for later use, working them out in botplay, then using them in multiplayer does help somewhat.

Yup, that sure is a thing I’m seeing… an LAV and a Mech fighting side by side, while infantry like me scream and hide.

So, it looks pretty good. It feels pretty good. It’s got its flaws, mostly to do with informing the player what their loadout does and what it’s good for. How’s the AI play?

Well, the AI is very objective focused. What this means in practical terms is that, on the one hand, defending in Incursion mode (where the attacking party has dropships that can be destroyed, but the defending party can’t regain any objectives they lose) is a tough proposition… But on the other hand, the AI is so mission focused that a player can, if they survive long enough to get to the dropships, do some serious, unregenerated damage, perhaps destroying a dropship in a single life. That’s highly chancy early on, when the enemy is pretty much streaming from a single LZ (so your chances of getting to the dropships are low), but once I got to the dropships… Well, the ship defends itself, but the AI infantry tended to only take potshots before heading off to their designated objective from the dropship. So that needs a little bit of work.

I don’t mind this *so* much… After all, I still feel like a badass for doing it. I just probably wouldn’t be able to against human players. XP

Still, for a small team, this is a big game, with customisation options out the wazoo, a variety of weaponry (and the weight of your loadout does matter), and a bunch of ships and maps. Even in Early Access, even with things it needs to iron out, this gets a thumbs up from one of the more multiplayer averse reviewers out there.

The Mad Welshman hasn’t really favoured multiplayer since Bad Company 2. That should give some idea…

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One Deck Dungeon (Early Access Review)

Source: Supporter Donation
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Adaptations of board games, for better or for ill, generally have to be faithful to the original. And so it is with One Deck Dungeon, a game that toes the line between “Yeah, that’s fair” and some good, old fashioned table flipping. You might be unsurprised to learn that dice are heavily involved. But let’s get into that.

If I’m clever, and my Black Die of General Usefulness roll well… I can still take it. Let’s do this.

One Deck Dungeon is a game where the majority of the deck remains roughly the same. Here, a beetle, armoured up the wazoo, and able to run away with its loot rather than die (as it should) if its armour remains unbreached, regardless of how much it hurt. There, a Wraith, avoided by many an adventurer, not for the traditional reason of life drain, but because it converts items (Which give you dice) into XP (Which, while useful in a fair few contexts, doesn’t give you dice, and gives you nothing if you haven’t levelled up yet.) So, it’s a game where, like a traditional RPG, knowing what something is on first glance (even without things helpfully being labelled and clearly explained on encountering them) means you can answer that age old question: Kill, Flee, Disarm. Every dungeon has the same timer, ticking down by a base 2 per turn, ticking further down if time is spent murdering an enemy (IE – boxes with an hourglass in them aren’t fitted with a corresponding die), and, once time has been used up, staying in that level of the dungeon hurts the adventurers (Presumably they have a bad case of loot itch, a horrid affliction that means not-looking for loot somewhere more powerful than where you were causes physical pain.)

Where does the change come in, the challenge from trying different things? Well, mainly two sources right now: The Adventurers (each with different values of stats-as-dice, in five flavours, and different skills if you play single player or two player) and the Dungeons (Each of which has a different boss, and different, stacking “Bad Things” per level.) My Warrior has, generally speaking, had a good time in the beginner dungeon (even getting me my sole win so far), but, due to a variety of factors, from 2s magically disappearing because of a Weakness Curse to magic based armour and damage, hasn’t done so well in, for example, The Lich’s Tomb, or against the Yeti. So… Everything is understandable, at a glance, and this is good.

So… Close, dammit! [dies]

You would think, at this point, that I’d then point to the dice and cry “BULLLL!” But no. Mainly because, while victory against a boss is only assured if you’re both good and a little lucky (and, in cases like the Yeti, heavily weighted toward hitting things while also having some dice to take care of, say, Magic and Agility), getting to the boss is, generally speaking, okay. The majority of the dungeon deck doesn’t change, as noted, so there’s a careful balance between taking damage to Get Cool Stuff (XP so you can hold more stuff, potions so you can live long enough to get stuff, or use special abilities in your quest to get stuff, stuff adds to your dice, skills to more easily turn crap dice into good dice, so on so forth) and knowing when it’s good to Just Run (The Wraith, for example, I generally avoid or potion out of if I can. No stuff for you, mister Wraith, only meeeee.) The feeling of being fair is important, and, for all that it is, at its core, a game about rolling dice and hoping for high numbers, One Deck Dungeon mostly feels fair.

Could it be more fair? Quite possibly. As implied, without a bit of luck, some good stats, and preferably a potion stashed away, the bosses of each of the five dungeons will mercilessly muller you. But then again, I’ve come so close… So close… So I know that these bosses can be killed, they can be beaten. Is it fair enough to keep me coming in without a friend to play with? Maybe. It does have a two player local mode at the moment, with each player’s stats and Heroic Abilities halved in effectiveness, but a good mix (Warrior/Rogue, for example, has served me well so far in Yeti’s Cavern) goes a long way, and that “X skills/items per character” wears thin slower (normally, in a single player run, I don’t bother going for items on higher floors.) I can even build synergy, so it helps.

5 Classes, 5 dungeons, and the only one I’ve not felt cool with so far was the Paladin. I more put this down to being a vaudevillain than any mechanical demerit with their play, though…

Overall, One Deck Dungeon explains itself and its rules quite well, seems mostly balanced and fair (for a given value of fair), and, if there were anything I’d maybe get tired of, it’s the main dungeon deck. Oh, right, another Goblin. Two flame traps in a row? Yaaawn. Still, it’s an alright pick if you like two player local play, or a single player game where you’re relatively free to expand your tactics in interesting directions. We’ll see how that progresses as time goes on.

The Mad Welshman appreciates well how the appearance of fairness is just as important as actually being fair. The game, thankfully, is both.

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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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Puyo Puyo Tetris (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £14.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Puyo Puyo, a game about matching pairs of blobs into groups of four or more, preferably in chains to Mean Bean your opponent into submission with drops of blobs from above that can only be broken with a match (and often, block matches.)

Crap. I am, it seems, Tetrising awfuls today!

Tetris, a game about matching tetrominoes into neat, tidy lines, preferably of four, in order to slam your opponent from below with dead lines, each having a gap that may or may not be easy to clear.

It was sort of inevitable, really, that the two would clash. And so they have, in the aptly named Puyo Puyo Tetris, which, yes, has been out awhile on consoles and handhelds, but hit PC a short while ago, and you know what? It Does What It Says On The Tin. And then a bit.

That “bit” would be the extremely silly Adventure Mode, the story of two (Well, technically three, but mainly two) universes colliding, with both of those worlds seeing a ‘Mino or a Puyo battle as means to… Well, let’s see here… Calm someone down, rile someone up, think clearly, stop a spaceship from crashing, forge eternal bonds of friendship… And these are all examples from the first chapter and a bit. Let’s not forget a clear menu system (Loud… But clear), a lovely soundtrack, unlockables out the wazoo, puzzle modes, challenge modes, and a decent tutorial set if you’ve never popped Puyos or lined up a Tetris.

“I shall also be engaging in Tetris-Puyo battles to clean my dishes later on!”

But it should also be noted that the game seems to expect you to have checked those tutorials. Some of the timed levels I had trouble finishing before remembering the insta-drop of Tetris, and Fusion mode, which you will encounter sooner or later, is somewhat devilish because of the way Tetrominoes and Puyos mix… Which is to say, one sinks to the bottom, pushing the other to the top.

So the rules don’t really change. You’re still making Tetris lines, you’re still popping Puyos… But you’re effectively playing two, linked games in the same small playfield, with tetrominoes affecting your Puyo play, in the same space. I’m not ashamed to admit the first time I tried it, I was a confused, demoralised mess. The second time? Yeaaaah, I’d consider 12 wins Endurance a fair comeback.

With each character having small changes and specials that add extra variety to play, I’d say that yes, Puyo Puyo Tetris is worth a go if you’re either a Tetris or Puyo Puyo fan… With, of course, the best experience coming from getting to know your quirky friend.

Ahahahaaaa, AHAHAHAAAAAAA!!!
I enjoy winning.

The Mad Welshman doesn’t hand out the Does What It Says On The Tin award as often as you’d think.

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Mount Your Friends 3D (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Mount Your Friends 3D, also titled “A Hard Man Is Good To Climb” , is many things. A party game. A work of sculpture, different with every play, but following roughly the same design ideals. Homoerotic testament to extremely buff men with tight posing pouches…

The goal, so simply and plainly expressed. Beautiful.

…Okay, so that last one’s stretching things a bit, about as much as the posing pouches on the mounting friends of Mount Your Friends 3D, perhaps… But the party game bit is definitely true, for lo, Mount Your Friends 3D is a competition in which you and some friends both form a mountain made of buff men, all trying to strain higher from the base that is… A goat on a hill, on a pole.

No, don’t ask me, I don’t know either. In fact, beyond the facts that firstly, the game is indeed fun to play with friends, and challenging too, the basic rules of play, and that it has a lot of grunting and groaning as your buff, sometimes sweaty, sometimes sparkly avatars attempt, in a set time, to reach the pinnacle of Man Mountain, setting a new bar for the next one, and the next, and the next… Hold the pose, and the height, for three seconds, and a new record is set, and the next player’s turn is taken.

I call this performance piece “Mounting Equality.”

…It’s a very silly game. But tight controls, a similarly tight control scheme (Hold left or right mouse to release your grip and control said limb, release to hopefully grab onto whatever you were wanting to grab onto), make the title so very true… A hard man is good to climb. It helps that there’s added variety, both from unlocks by playing the game (Customisation options and chat stickers, the means of communication between players), and in its game modes, at least some of which are deceptively simple looking.

Take, for example, Spiral mode. At set heights, the men are replaced by a long 3d block, at an angle to the one before it (hence, Spiral.) At first, the blocks make things easier, but, as it gets higher, the spirals get harder to climb, with less room for error, until… Oh no, you fell down, and spent all your reserve time on the way back up. Oh well, keep watching, friend, this is how… Oh no, I fell down, and spent all my reserve time on the way back up… Good game, folks, good game!

And this collaborative piece, entitlted “We will hit the Minions memes with large blocks and buff men.”

There are others, of course. Standard, classic, low gravity, ones with and without blocks, but through it all, there are three constants. Firstly, that it’s fun with friends. Secondly, that buff men and a goat are always involved. And thirdly, that it costs less than £6 , for something with a fair amount of replay value, a lot of silliness, and pretty accessible play.

The Mad Welshman is, you may have noticed, pro buff men in tight posing pouches.

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