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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Into The Breach (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £11.39 (£16.18 w/Soundtrack, £4.79 for Soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Minor paraphrasing aside, Into the Breach sums up, in its own title, how I’ve felt while reviewing it. Once more, unto the breach, dear friends! ONCE! MORE! I’m less enthused about the part where I close up the walls with the English dead, but that’s mainly because I don’t have all that many to close the walls with, and I’m pretty sure most of my mech pilots aren’t English to begin with…

OOPS. Welp, back to the time machine, folks!

…Still, Into the Breach is Subset games’ latest foray into their particular brand of tight, replay dependent strategy, in which three mech pilots (One of which, at any given time, is a traveller from a future where things went horribly wrong) try to hold back an insectile menace, mostly without backup. It’s turn based, and with the clever gimmick that, due to time travelling shenanigans, you already know what your enemy is going to do. Well, to a certain extent. You know what they’re shooting at (and are capable of), and you can take advantage of this to, for example, shove one of them with artillery or a punch in such a way that they actually hit their bugfriends this time around.

As such, it’s a highly tactical game with a lot of depth, which you might not realise looking at screenshots, as every mission is an 8×8 map. On its most basic level, there’s always at least as many of them as you (unless you’re super good), so simply doing damage isn’t enough. In fact, at least some of the time, you’re merely going to be concentrating on avoiding housing damage, as, with enough loss of life, that’s it, the Vek have reached critical mass, time to bug out and maybe find a timeline where you did better (taking one pilot with you.) But then, it adds layers. Pushing and pulling enemies as well as hitting them. Status effects. Synergies. Environmental considerations.

Ahhh, nothing like saving the day by setting things on fire, and then shoving things *into* fire. Or acid. Hell, just plain water does well sometimes too!

Since explaining everything would most likely be rather dull, let me focus on a team that I never thought I’d like… And yet, they consistently get closer to victory than any of my other mech groups. Heck, even their name (The Rusting Hulks) and their price to unlock (a measly 2 coins) doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. The fact that one of their units doesn’t even hurt enemies seems, at very first glance, like the waste of a unit. But this is where it gets fun. Because, you see, the other two units drop smoke. Smoke which, to them and them alone, also electrocutes enemies at the beginning of their turn, on top of what smoke normally does in this game: Stop you being able to attack if you’re in it.

This may not seem useful, but consider this: An enemy not attacking, and taking damage, is a net plus. An enemy that can’t fly shoved into water, or two enemies with 1 HP being shoved into each other with violent gravitic force is not only a plus, it’s being classy as hell. I don’t need powerful beam weaponry, giant fists, or superscience shenanigans. I have smoke and mirrors. What with the different teams each having an interesting style of play, the ability to play with random mechs, and the ability to pick and choose teams, with achievements (and thus further team unlocks) for experimenting? Now that’s what I call encouraging replay and diversity of play, friends…

It hasn’t taken me terribly long to get to the point where things have slowed down a little (A straight night of play has earned me all of the islands, most of the pilots, and some of the teams, with two almost wins) , but, even with everything unlocked, I see the potential here for me coming back. What if I have an all-shoving team? Or having to watch my collateral with highly damaging beam weaponry? Hrm. Hrrrrrrrm!

Smoke and mirrors. Okay, and riding the lightning too, but let’s not go overboard here!
…Okay, let’s go overboard.

It helps that the music is tense, fitting, and atmospheric, the sound solid, the visual aesthetic similarly tight and consistent, and, best of all, it tutorialises fairly well, and is pretty clear. I would consider this a pretty strong purchase for strategy fans, and another fine example to add to my collection of designing clearly and tightly to goals. Props.

Burninate the towns… Burninate… Oh, wait, no, that’s the opposite of what The Mad Welshman is meant to be doing! Sorrrreeeee!

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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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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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Oriental Empires (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £22.99
Where To Get It: Steam

A key to good 4X design, I’ve often found, is understanding. That seems like a simple thing, but sadly, we’ve seen it proven time and time again over the years that it’s not. Oriental Empires is a strategy game set in ancient China, and its UI is… Not the friendliest.

The latest heir of my empire, being annoying and blocking my authority/culture meter.

In fact, the game as a whole isn’t very friendly. Considering that games don’t exist in a vacuum, this… Is kind of a big deal. Small text, smaller tooltips, and further information behind easy to miss subtabs left a bad taste in my mouth.

A bad taste that, sadly, only worsened when I found out about Local Factors. Hidden behind about three layers of interaction (Click banner, click unrest icons for general unrest details, click Dissatisfaction) is a number, contributing to your chance of revolt… That cannot be directly affected, and changes over time because… Well, to all practical intents and purposes, because reasons.

There’s not so much a tutorial as “A 40+ page in-game manual and an advisor that will tell you about things after you’ve worked out how to do them.” The actual effect of buildings and research (Outside of combat related improvements, it generally boils down to “Gives Happiness”, “Gives Authority”, “Unlocks a resource exploiter”, and “Makes some bad events less bad.” ) are hidden under popups (The wee texty bars lookin’ icon shows or hides that.) Occasionally, those popups will obscure information that you need, such as when an Heir comes along, randomly, and covers up the Authority and Culture meters you need to, for example, judge how many settlements you can build without added resentment (A brief irritation, but one of, as noted, quite a few.) Does it play well?

Okay, so I want you and you to flank so as to cut off retr- Which part of “Cut off Retreat” did you not understand, soldiers?

Honestly, not really. Outside of combat largely seems like an afterthought, especially in the early game, where resources are rare, and you are both encouraged to land grab and, er… Not exceed your Authority (which controls how many cities you can own without dissatisfaction) for fear of rebellions. Buildings have a high upkeep, so you’re rarely dealing with that, conquering things is a bad idea, due to that aforementioned Authority issue…

It makes the early game painful, in more senses than one. It doesn’t really help that combat, also, doesn’t feel like you have all that much control over it. Simultaneous turns means that you may well have trouble pinning down your opponent for a fight, and when you do get in a fight? Well, enemies will escape, so you have to start the whole palaver again, having multiple battles in a single round with a single force if you’ve preset your movement right, or fighting over multiple turns if you don’t (The correct method, generally, seems to be “Into the enemy and past them in the direction you think they’re most likely to run for as many movement points as you feel you can manage.) It doesn’t particularly feel engaging, especially as multiple fights are likely to break out in a single turn, and combat tactics are limited. Why did my units mill about aimlessly for most of a combat with a charge, but efficiently (if extremely widely) flank when I asked them to? No idea. I’m not told. Oh, and no, cutting off retreat with just the units you have is not an option. The enemy will retreat. Multiple times.

Really, these problems, these lack of clarity, kill the game for me, and it doesn’t particularly help that, visually, it doesn’t feel all that interesting either. The music is fitting, at least, but it doesn’t really redeem a game that will sometimes tell you useful things after you need them, sometimes just not tell you, and has many a turn passing with… Well, nothing of note happening. Kind of saddening, really.

This rain turned red as blood, and almost caused a rebellion. Funnily, most bad things seem to be “Causes unrest.”

The Mad Welshman finds no happiness here. 

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