Deep Sixed (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £10.29
Where To Get It: Steam

I was only talking about cheery dystopias a few weeks back, and yet, here we are with Deep Sixed, a game that has all the fun hallmarks. Remember, if your reactor is critically leaking, you may wish to repair it. If you cannot repair it, you may wish to send an emergency beacon. If the emergency beacon is not working, you may wish to send an emergency beacon.

Okay, I got *part* of it right.

Okay, so that’s not exactly what’s said, but the general sentiment, among others, is there, carefully and cheerily enunciated by the voice actress for URSA, the AI companion on your indefinite corrective period of exploration and adventure.

Which, translated, means: You’re indentured to explore a nebula on behalf of a corporation, because you fucked up, and your ship is a hunk of junk that will probably kill you if the local life forms don’t. This works both for and against the game. Let’s start with that good ol’ “For” column.

Deep Sixed does one thing quite well, and that’s setting its mood. You’re isolated, so your only contact with… Well, anyone is either email, mission descriptions, or your handy dandy (until it breaks) AI companion, URSA. You’re clearly not valued as anything more than an expendable resource, because your ship’s a hunk of junk, and only by doing jobs for the company can you make it anything but, or repair massive damage… And it will still break down with distressing regularity. Oh, and you’re not a trained worker, why would you be? So you get a manual of iffy usefulness, to help you with the repairs you’re inevitably going to be doing… Alone.

Ugh. Of *course* nobody told me the job would involve getting slimed. Of *course* they didn’t…

And, on a quiet mission, with only a few problems, this is fine. It adds atmosphere, and the fact that some of the missions are themselves an exercise in tedium is, itself, part of the allure. But when things go drastically wrong, as they inevitably will?

ARGH. One early example was after I’d discovered the existence (through a plot mission) of Zephyrlings. Zephyrlings run in packs. Zephyrlings can quickly short the power of your modules, forcing you to waste valuable time flipping to the power room to repower the viewing stations, and combat with multiple opponents is best described as “An exercise in slow, painful, and frustrating death.” There are thing to make it somewhat easier, like shields, a deceleration field that can slow some enemies, and a hotkey for switching laser types… But combat is definitely one of the weaker parts of the game, and, interestingly enough, creates the more difficult to solve problems (recalibrating lasers, repairing hull damage mid fight, combatting fires mid fight.) There is an “Easy” mode, but, beyond actually telling you what problems exist, allowing pre-mission saves, and disabling achievements, it’s not… All that much easier.

As such, despite its charm, the woman of colour protagonist, some pretty good voice acting and writing, and some interesting ideas, overall, Deep Sixed turns me off. It’s not that these difficulties are insurmountable. It’s not that you can’t learn how to be a good captain of a shitty ship. It’s not that the game isn’t working well… Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s simply that this kind of experience, while interesting in small bursts, isn’t great for me overall. If you like a game that is tough, but with the toughness coming more from stimulus overload than lack of clarity, then perhaps Deep Sixed is for you.

As it turns out, reading the manual for fixing oxygen leaks while oxygen leaks are happening is… A bad idea.

The Mad Welshman would like to note the devs appear receptive to constructive criticism, as noted by the addition of continuing from saves to Easy Mode just prior to this review being written.

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Wartile (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £14.99 (w/soundtrack, £18.98 , soundtrack £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Wartile is, on paper, a great idea. Aesthetically, it is, at the very least, interesting. It takes clear direction, and some good planning, to so accurately replicate the feel of a tabletop diorama. And very pretty ones at that. But I’m going to let you in on a little tabletop secret: Beyond the cost and craftsmanship required to make said pretty dioramas, the main reason they aren’t used a whole bunch is because it’s a pain in the ass to move models around them. The prettier they are, the harder this is to do.

Similarly to trees, counting the rings reveals the experience of an enemy.

That this, also, is faithfully recreated is the first of Wartile’s problems. In fact… A lot of what feels unfun about Wartile is that very faithfulness to its inspiration. Let’s unpack that a little. Anyone remember Hero Quest? Or Space Crusade? Ahh, the heady days of proto-GMing, having a nice, dramatic blurb to read out, and then… Moving figures around the board to obtain simple objectives, like “Kill the Genestealer” or “Find Room X in Y turns.” Ahh, the grand stories that te- Ah. Yes. Was a bit basic, wasn’t it? And without the enemy cards to let you know precisely what bad news those Androids were, they were basically plastic white skullmen.

And so it is, to an extent, with Wartile. It’s taking from a rich tapestry of norse myth and creatures, but it can be a little hard to appreciate because, apart from some card abilities, they’re basically “Enemy, whack automatically [preferably from higher ground] until dead.” It tries to spice it up, even early on. AMBUSH! Yup. Yup. Two more enemies. Cool. Here, it’s not so much the individual animations (Which are fine), or any lack of impact (The enemies do react, although not always consistently) , but the fact that, beyond placement, and some card abilities (The less of which you use, the better your tactical score, and thus your money at the end of each mission), combat is very much a case of watching animations and timers go by. Turns are, you see, automatic, so enemies will move every X seconds, you’re allowed to move every X seconds. Picking a thing up? Be close enough, click. Destroying an object? Place near enough, wait.

“If I can just… HNGH… Reach under this tree, I can take my turn!”

Objectives, meanwhile, are nearly all some variation of “Collect X [sometimes plural], bring to Y”, “Kill D”, “Destroy Z”, or “Get to P” … Just like those older board games. It does get more tactical, at times, but… Yeah. The interface varies between being reminiscent of a tabletop game in progress (If, you know, you had rich tabletop friends with big-ass tables), and pictures from a tabletop magazine, complete with workmanlike, functional text paragraphs.

So, on the whole, Wartile does exactly what it sets out to do: Recreate a tabletop experience, albeit with some computer unique touches. Oddly, that’s exactly the problem… That, if anything, it does too good a job.

Ah… Fond memories of being told about a campaign’s Visrep rule. Strangely, I wasn’t allowed the twelve heavy guns my character owned…

Which is a hell of a thing to have to say.

The Mad Welshman is a nine ring creature, medium sized, with dual enchanted handaxes. Just so you know.

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Delver (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39 (or thereabouts)
Where To Get It: Steam, Official Site

Well, it’s been a wee while since I last looked at Delver, and now it’s hit release. And you know what? The game’s pretty solid, for what it is: A first person, moddable dungeon crawler building levels out of pre-built rooms, with random potions and kit, and fixed enemy types per area.

G’bye, broken dagger, you were an ok dagger while you lasted, but now you’re crap and gone!

A lot of what I’d previously said about Delver remains true: Weapons degrade over time, so you’re deeply encouraged to change things up (Unless you want to be walloping things for a grand total of 1 damage over and over again), inventory management is something you generally try not to do in the middle of combat, and you’ll want ranged options, and a fair amount of them, by the time you hit the second area. But it’s the little things, sometimes, that help.

What little things? Well, bigger room variety, for a start. The game really uses the vertical element now, and so rooms feel more fleshed out, more interesting. A few extra enemy types, a bit of rebalancing, and the addition of bombs (and bomb vases… Be wary of darker coloured vases, they go boom) all go a little way toward adding a little more flesh to what was already a fairly accessible, chunky dungeon crawler with a bit of charm to it. Potions can be exploded, if you use them right, and all of this goes toward giving a little more depth to a moderately simple game.

As such, yeah, Delver still charms me. Sure, there’s no incremental play (beyond gold carrying between runs), but it’s not designed around that, more about getting right in there and delving. No one combat option is superior to another, it’s simple to understand and get into, and deaths are simply a pause, a learning experience. Oh. Yeah. I maaaaybe shouldn’t stab the dark red vases, huh. Oh. Yeah… Wands and bows are actually useful. So that’s what that Skeleton does.

With the addition of bombs, things can get a little chaotic. The Fire Bomb is both the most rare and best example of this.

Another addition is that there are more… Sssseecretssss. Doors that don’t seem to be openable, locked areas, little branching paths. While I haven’t found the key to unlocking them yet, it is there, and the rewards, from what little I’ve been able to see, are pretty juicy. The sound really helps to create a living dungeon, and some monster noises echoing from further away really helps hit home that no, you are never safe.

The price has gone up since I last reviewed it, but I still feel, so long as you’re aware this is a pick up and play game, rather than The Big Roguelike of Complexity And Nuance (or something) , then I would still recommend this as a fun experience with a consistent, well put together aesthetic. And, of course, it’s got a mod scene. Not a big one yet, but the game is moddable.

A room? Just devoted to this elaborate patterned spike trap? Oh, you *shouldn’t* have! <3

The Mad Welshman gives this game the Sheev Palpatine Award for Health and Safety. Can confirm that handrails are mostly lacking over bottomless pits, and explosives are placed wherever the heck. Keep it up, villainy’s proud of you!

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Crest (Early Access Review 1)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £7.99 (£10.99 Supporter Edition, £1.59 each for Art book and Soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Crest is a god game, and one that intrigues me. How can it not, when rather than direct control, doing quests, or building buildings for my worshippers, I’m giving commandments, telling folks things like “Peoples of the Savannah, explore your new home!” (With the caveat, added later of “Peoples of the Savannah, please don’t go near my lions, I haven’t ironed out that whole ‘Killing you’ thing yet… Soz.”)

TFW you want to say “YES, DO THAT!” , but don’t have the energy.

Alas, right now, I’m having to remind them, every now and again, to make food to eat. And considering my power is limited, moreso if I haven’t given them commandments they liked, replenishing every half year, it’s a little bit of Goddery that I can do without.

Well, still plenty of time for rejigging, and I can wait for that, as, beyond this niggle, the game is quite cool, both aesthetically and in terms of ideas. A low-poly, Sub-Saharan world, the lions and hippos and antelope (Oh my!) breed, wander, eat each other, while my stylised tribesfolk breed, wander, and… don’t eat each other. Unless commanded. Maybe. The UI, while a little confusing at first, is helped along by a tutorial that plays with each new game, teaching you about giving commandments in the form of [Worshipper type] – [(Do/Do Not) Verb] – [Target] .

It’s quite clever, really. There’s not a lot of ways you can outright order the destruction of resource based items, you can check what a commandment actually says before you send it, and, as noted, you have the twin considerations of limited, worshipper based power, not only to give commandments, but also to approve or deny when followers… Get creative with them. Silly me, not writing these things in sto- What, those got futzed around with too? Bloody humans.

I’m somewhat proud of myself for establishing trade among my chosen people. Even if, a few months later, most of them starved from being too busy to fish or farm.

Yes, commandments are, over time, either forgotten or changed (or both), and, as it turns out, followers are averse to three things: Commandments that don’t fit their (shifting) philosophy, being told “No, when I said build farms here, I didn’t mean turn everything nearby to a different terrain type”, or silence on whether their hot new idea for a commandment impresses the boss that gave it to them. On the one hand, it’s an interesting idea, and has some interesting balancing acts. On the other, that balancing can, with too many commandments, quickly turn into micromanagement, and oh boy, do I want to give commandments, because without things like exploring, I and my followers don’t get new words to play with quickly. Words like “Lion” (Important for “Don’t go near the lions, they’re bad for you”) , Metal (“You can make shit with this.”), or “Socialise” and “Trade” (Important once they’ve got more than one settlement.)

So, in essence, Crest is a God game trying something different, something potentially very interesting, but also has bits of micromanagement that, honestly, it could do without. Everything breeds on its own, can they maybe, once they have the idea, realise that farms and fishing are kind of important to their lives? I don’t know, maybe my commandments are interfering with each other. Maybe I’m just a Bad God. But I’m certainly waiting to see what comes closer to relea- PUT THAT DOWN, ABDU! NO, ROCKS ARE NOT FOR EATING, THEY’RE FOR MINING OR – ZOYA, HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU NOT TO PLAY WITH LIONS, LOOK AT THE STATE OF Y-

If it’s dancing or has hearts over it, odds are it’s something going forth and multiplying. That constitutes a *lot* of this screenshot.

Eesh. Kids.

The Mad Welshman proooobably wouldn’t make a good parent. “Your Father Commands You To Lay Waste To The Sweet Shop!” probably wouldn’t go down well.

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Sunless Skies (Early Access Review)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £18.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Forever Live The Queen! The Empire, In Its Infinite Wisdom, Has Replaced The Traitor Sun With A Clockwork Marvel. More Inside, Along With The Scandalous Dealings (And Deals) At Magdalene’s!

Although this screenshot is from an earlier version, how could I not include the talented melding of Terry Thomas and David Suchet as a dastardly bureaucrat? So good!

So… Here we are again. Failbetter, from browser game Fallen London, to Sunless Sea, to today, have created an interesting world, a dark, funhouse mirror world of the Victorian, Lovecraftian Empire. Cosmic Horror, Dunsanian Phantasy and Afternoon Tea, if you will. And now? We’re in the railways of space. Yes, you heard me right. Flying trains. Through space. But, as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

For example, resource management remains important, as you have limited cargo space (Even with improvements), and the very fact that running a space train is kind of expensive immediately throws you into the politics and mysteries of the area. The Company will keep you in fuel and money, so long as you regularly supply them with Port Reports, and don’t deal overmuch with those violent blackleggers and revolutionaries, the Tacketies. Which is amusing, when you consider that in the Station of New Winchester (The capital of the first area of the game, and currently the only available one), Victory Hall (One of the homes of the Tackety Movement) is quite near, in fact, to Company House. But such is life here.

Each area, each floating township and station has their own feel. Their own mysteries…

Right now, while there may not seem like a whole lot (And the developers, ever cognisant that you might have trouble paying the bills, give a generous starting payment to get you going), the stars of Sunless Skies are still intriguing. It’s a living, breathing Space, with the fungal remains of vast creatures, singing bees, and, of course, various Fallen Londoners in space. The most recent update, accessible by beta branch, is something well known to Sunless Sea players: The world having segments that are, themselves, static, but placed procedurally. So, sometimes, Port Prosper is, as the main branch would tell you, far to the Northeast. Sometimes, it’s to the Southwest. Sometimes, it’s to the NNW. But it will always be a tough prospect to reach without having some supply stops in that middle ring to help ensure you don’t die in what is, despite the Queen’s meddling, the cold of space. You’re rewarded with experience for finding places, filling out that map, doing tasks, but, in the end, the Sunless Skies will swallow your character whole.

Of course, if you die, at least some of your knowledge gets passed on to the next Captain, some of your goods, some of your wealth. Perhaps all of it, if you reach what’s currently the first goal of the game’s lineage based RPG fun: Having a home that isn’t the Cab of your (admittedly glorious) space train. The controls are simple, explained well by the game, and from there? Well, the choices are out there, ripe for exploration. I quite enjoyed Sunless Sea, Sunless Skies is looking to be an improvement on that formula, and I look forward to seeing where this looking glass leads.

Those who are impressionable may feel that this is an eldritch sigil, rather than a path of exploration along common trade routes. Please ignore the howling winds from the ground itself and tentacled beastie behind me, thanks in advance.

The Mad Welshman would, for obvious reasons, prefer to be referred to by his proper title: Captain D’Urbin of Her Majesty’s Windward Company, 4th Merchant Fleet. Thankew.

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