Minoria (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Minoria is cute. Minoria is melancholy. Minoria has an interesting world, that gets better the further you play into it. And Minoria… Has some brutally unforgiving boss fights, where single mistakes will cost you about three rooms worth of running and a cutscene to rejoin them. And, in the early game at least, there’s a big difference in challenge between the enemies… And the bosses.

Sister Devoir. She’s nasty, but… Maybe she has a point… About the church, silly, not the point of her sword.

Which, let’s face it, seems a very odd thing to say, doesn’t it? But the difference between the earliest enemies and the second boss, or even the second tier of enemies compared to the first, is clear. And everything that can hit you… Hits like a bloody truck. You start to get used to it, but… I have to admit, I bounced off hard, and bounced off early. Second boss, in fact.

And, honestly, there’s no shame in that. Single mistakes, especially in boss fights, cost dear, and, since the combat is akin to… Sigh… Dark Souls, in that fights with bosses are long, tense affairs in which, as noted, mistakes can quite easily cost your life, it’s merely beyond my own ability, rather than a condemnation of the game. More… A caution to those who, in turn, bounced off games of the Soulslike persuasion.

Wait, this woman looks… Familiar, for some reason…

The thing is, Minoria is also very lovely, aesthetically. Contemplative pianos give way to dramatic violins, beautiful princesses (Who… Remind me of someone. Hrm) and cute, but deadly small witches fit well in the well drawn corridors and steps of the cathedral, and everything is clear. It’s somewhat minimalistic in approach, but this works, and I do love it.

But, alas, I don’t really get on with its style of play, and, if we’re being honest, its keybinds. It’s most likely recommended that you play with controller, or rebind the keys, because it’s all too easy, with the default, to fatfinger the “Use Incense” key when what you meant to do was attack, or, less commonly, to switch your insenses when you meant to parry or dodge.

LET. US. PRAY!

Obviously, take this review with a grain of salt, because, as mentioned, I was not able to get too far due to the high damage you take for pretty much any mistake, but it’s a beautiful game that is recommended for soulslike fans, while not, generally speaking, recommended for beginners to its metroidvania styled exploration/combat. Specifically the combat.

The Mad Welshman is legitimately sad he couldn’t get as far as he wanted here.

Become a Patron!

Children of Morta (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £18.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Children of Morta isn’t a game you progress in easily (unless you are good at ARPGs), but, even with not progressing as far as I’d like, there is… A lot to like about this one.

I’ve been there. Sometimes, y’just gotta bite the bullet.

The general story is one you’ve heard before: Yada yada corruption, yada yada pilgrimage to holy sites to clean said corruption, yada yada monsters and bosses along the way. What makes this interesting, however, is that it’s also the ongoing story of The Bergsons, guardians of the land, who, despite having trained for generations, find themselves struggling, not only with their path to find and defeat the source of the corruption (hopefully for real this time), but also in bringing the family together in a time of crisis… A family that had, like many families, had its fair share of drama. Uncle Ben finds himself struggling with his own bitterness between him and Sheila. Kevin struggles with finding acceptance among his own family, because he wants to help, being a good Bergson.

They’re lives that make sense, even in this topsy turvy, high fantasy world of ancient evil, goblins, trolls… And while the gameplay is interesting indeed, I find myself just as impressed at how the narrative of the family tugs at the heartstrings. It helps that the narrator has a solid voice for fantasy narration, and that the soundtrack is… Melancholic, in its way. Peaceful when at home, tense when in the dungeon, but, at home, there is this sense of sadness hiding in the music.

That statue looks relatively innocent in this screenshot, but it pulses with gravity waves, and yes, those are spike traps.

Visually, the game is also solid. Although you only realise what certain dungeon features are once you’ve unlocked them, or encountered them for the first time, they’re easily identifiable, especially the ones that show up on the mini-map. Enemies, similarly, are interesting, and the pixel stylings are good.

And finally, we have the mechanics. As you might have guessed, this is the incremental sort of RPG, where upgrades and treasure gained are carried over, but in-dungeon items, for the most part, are not. Upgrades are unlocked as the game progresses, as are characters to play, and while everyone has some sort of dodge move, and quickly unlocks a damaging effect or upgrade to their abilities, each character has their own feel.

And when the family is united… Oh, that would be a terrible day for evil…

Kevin, for example, is an assassin, striking faster and faster the more his blows hit, but losing steam if there’s no-one nearby to kill, encouraging a rushdown style in which you’re looking for someone to fight. Kevin, after all, is not only trained, he has something to prove, as much to himself as his family. Meanwhile, Linda, the bard, is an archer, who can fire while moving, but does more damage, faster shots, if she’s still, raining death on her foes while needing to move away with the nastier enemies. In general terms, it feels somewhat like a twin-stick Diablo, complete with that “Ohshit, Runrunrun!” when an Elite or an ambush appears. But nobody dies, being saved on the brink of death to try, try again.

Children of Morta is definitely one I feel like coming back to, as individual runs are short, the story is charming and soulful, the aesthetic is good… It has a lot of character, and I would definitely recommend it to ARPG fans.

The Mad Welshman doesn’t root for nonspecific forces of evil. If you aren’t cackling wildly while giving away your secret plan, I’m not bothered.

Become a Patron!

Undermine (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Sometimes, even games within a genre get hybridised, to interesting results. And so we come to Undermine, which mixes the room-based dungeons, secret rooms, keys, bombs, top down forced perspective, and bosses every X levels (3, in this case) of games like The Binding of Isaac, and the throwing weapon, jumping, and iterative play (including “Don’t lose as much gold next time” purchases) through a panoply of characters you really shouldn’t get attached to, of Rogue Legacy.

Oh dear. Never tell anyone that when it’s about time, that’s asking for trouble! And by trouble, I mean death at the hands of a villain.

In Undermine, I am a peasant. I know my place. And my place is to go into a vast mine on the orders of my landowner, a wizard, and find what’s causing the earthquakes below his residence, or die trying. And then…

I am a peasant. I know my place. And my place is to go into a… You get the picture. But this peasant is slightly better equipped. Thankfully, my loyalty card with the local merchant carries over between runs, because it unlocks a character. Phew, thank goodness for Family Loyalty Programs.

The basic gameplay is pretty simple: In each run, you walk into a room, murder whatever’s in there by either hucking your pickaxe like a boomerang, smacking things with your pickaxe, or, if you’re feeling ballsy, dropping a bomb and hoping they blow up. Then you can leave the room, after smashing everything you can smash in it, collecting gold as you go. Occasionally, you’ll find a locked room, a chest, a powerup, or something behind rocks of some description, and you decide whether you want to spend the resources to open said obstacle.

I somehow survived this fight. There was a lot of hucking my pickaxe and jumping in terror.

Oh, and there are Mimics (with small signs that they are Mimics), and Cursed Chests (Which are incredibly obvious, so your main decision is “Do I want to risk curses like ‘The torches start tossing fireballs my way’ to get whatever’s in here?”) Such are the basics, not counting bosses, which are big long fights with gimmicks and patterns you will probably die to a lot of times before you get the hang of them.

Cool, that’s the basics… Except, there’s little touches to a lot of these that I quite like. Combat, for example, on top of pits and traps and whatnots, makes your jump super useful, overall. It’s a dodge. It allows you to leap over pits, either to lure enemies toward them to save effort, or to reach something you sort of need now rather than later. Fast travel is unlocked as soon as you find the map of the next area, and it’s honestly a charming presentation (A mysterious being puts you to sleep, then deposits you, safe and sound, in the area you choose. Said being must be a badass to do this.) And smashing gold?

Anyone else getting Zelda flashbacks?

Well, that lures the adorable, but also frustrating Pilfers, who deserve their own paragraph. Their weakness, in the monster tome, is “Gold.” They love it, and, as soon as you break open an ore chunk of some description, the gold comes flying out in various directions, and the pilfers ooze out randomly, looking to steal your rightful spoils. It has the potential to be really frustrating, except for two facts: Firstly, they take only one hit to reclaim your gold, and secondly, no other pilfer will touch it, because they are assigned to one piece of gold only, and if you take that gold, or bop the Pilfer? That piece of gold is safe, and the Pilfer runs off in disappointment.

Seriously though, they’re cute as heck, even if you bop them.

So, overall, Undermine is pretty fun. Its pixel art is good, its music is pleasant, and the game? Well, while not all areas of the game are done yet, and I’m certain fine tuning is being done as the devs go, it’s already quite playable, and enjoyable to boot. I would, as a sidenote, recommend mouse and keyboard with this game, as it gives you somewhat firmer control over where your pickaxe goes.

The Mad Welshman is against peasant labour practices. Peasants should have a basic minimum (livable) wage!

Become a Patron!

Re: Legend (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam

As soon as I saw the farm, messy and strewn with rocks and trees, I knew. Or thought I did. “Ohhh boy”, I thought “I’m going to get halfway through this, and my energy will be pretty low.” Nope. I thought “Fishing is going to be my main source of income, because it’s easy.” Not… Quite true.

“aaaaaaaaa…” [later] “Oh, wait, that was easy. Nice!”

Essentially, I went in with expectations of a farm-life/adventurer sim in the style of Rune Factory, or Stardew Valley, and, while it is that… It’s also got its own flavour. Some good, some not so good, but averaging out, I feel, to “A’ight.” Which, considering it’s in Early Access (and parts of the review may be out of date by tomorrow, since the devs are updating at a steady clip), still gives it a fair bit of wiggle room.

So, let’s begin with the general idea, for those new to the genre: You, an amnesiac hero(ine), are welcomed into a small, rural community (In this case, on an island, so beaches and palm trees are common), given a farm, and, very quickly, you realise there’s adventure to be had in them thar hills. Or, y’know, you could do a lot of avoiding enemies (running doesn’t take stamina? Don’t you dare change that, devs, it’s wonderful!) to mine stuff you can’t get at home, farming, doing quests for folks, festivals, minigames… And, of course, romancing folks.

I haven’t gotten to that part yet, so I can’t tell if there’s some Good Gay options in there, but it’s all there, it’s mostly enjoyable, and those who’ve played this genre before not only know what to expect, they have some pleasant surprises. Like underwater plants (Trust me, if you’re new to this genre: Folks love more things to farm) and a pet system (And pets can have utility both inside and outside of combat, such as the Draconewt you start with, whose watery breath isn’t just useful in combat… It’s a nice, easy way of watering your crops, too!)

Immediately after character creation, you’re shoved off a cliff by some asshole. I hate it when that happens!

Aesthetically, it’s pleasing, with good, lowish poly character designs, a bright and cheery world, and a mostly clear UX (It took a friend pointing it out during multiplayer that I could add to my pet’s stats, for example.) I didn’t really find the tunes memorable, but that’s more because they fit just fine, and things that fit just fine… Well, you only tend to notice what doesn’t fit so well, generally speaking. Speaking of not fitting so well… Complaints and niggles.

Starting with the base stuff, tutorialising for things like fishing is a bit sparse (It took me a few tries to get the hang of fishing, for example, not helped by… ohboy, a bigger fish just ate the smaller one on my hook, and now I’ve got a bigger fight ahead of me), and not all of the minigames are enjoyable. Smithing immediately comes to mind, a “Hit the coloured bits on the bar” game where said coloured bits are… Rather small. Melee is, honestly, not as useful as the ranged options, especially when it comes to, for example, the first boss, who electrifies himself. And it can be fiddly to pick things up, water, or plant things, since you aren’t fixed to the tiles it uses (Also, if a pet is nearby, you can easily end up leaping on to ride them rather than pick up the thing your pet is standing over, necessitating leading said pet away. Every time.)

Yessssssss!

Finally on the crit, there’s multiplayer. It’s a relatively recent addition, so I certainly don’t mind the bugs, knowing that the community is pretty good at reporting them, and the devs, as I’ve noted, update pretty rapidly at the present time. I don’t even mind the lack of any sort of pausing, because synced pausing is unfun for the other player, and any other method would be a bloody nightmare. But the method of starting a co-op session is poorly explained, requiring you to copy the host’s Steam ID (the numerical one the game gives you, not your profile name or account name), and then pasting that in to connect (3 players can join a host, sharing a farm, and… The sales bin. Which, considering myself and my multiplayer partner have yet to find a means of expanding this, isn’t the best of times.)

But this is still relatively early days, the game is pretty solid overall, and, even now, I would recommend this to fans of this genre wot Harvest Moon, Rune Factory, and Stardew Valley belong to, the… Farmer-Adventurer RPG Lifesim? Not quite sure. Anyway, it’s reasonable right now, and certainly shows promise.

The Mad Welshman actually quite likes the humble farmer-adventurer. Sure, they can be massive jerks, but they’re massive jerks who put food on his table.

Become a Patron!

Destiny or Fate (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99
Where To Get It:Steam

It just doesn’t seem to be my month for games coming out of Early Access. It seems it’s… Fated to be a grim one. Because yes, Destiny or Fate is another one which… Hasn’t really done much to correct the issues I talked about last time.

Oh gee, I love all party attacks on a regular basis! [said through gritted teeth]

When it goes well, it goes well. When it doesn’t, it’s a bloody mess, and a tedious slog. Because there’s not much return on your 3 energy, a lot of the time, special abilities vary wildly in utility, levelling up and buying cards is a grindy affair when you don’t actually have room to grind… And bosses… Ohhhh, bosses…

As defence stacks, some bosses have absolutely ridiculous defence that, sometimes, can’t even be broken through with every special used, and focusing on attack (A dangerous strategy at best.) Some curse the hell out of you, so you have to win the fight quickly, but… Whoop, this particular guy is showing that he’s going to lay down two counter attacks, sod! Enemies do show you what they’re going to do, and this can definitely help in not-boss fights… But bosses are just bastards, and it’s not often at all I reach the second area… Not least because even normal enemies can, if fights go even halfway badly, result in a total party wipe. Because a surprising amount of things have “Attack all” to some degree or another.

While we’re on the subject of enemies… Two of these look awfully familiar.

There remains, as far as I know, one JRPGish battle tune, which becomes wearing incredibly quickly, as does going through the first area several times. The first area… Of five.

Honestly, the most trouble I’ve had with this review is that, because nearly everything I’ve said in the last one, a year ago, remains true (That it’s humdrum in presentation, poorly balanced, wears quickly, and seemingly doesn’t seem to want me to explore its systems), and… What can I say to add to that? Not a whole lot.

This is, in short, a game I can’t even really recommend to experience procgen, card battler players. The few things you unlock mid game don’t stay unlocked, except for hero(in)es, and it’s not worth the grind to try and keep them both alive and levelled. I don’t often say a game is outright bad, but… This is definitely one of those times.

The Mad Welshman’s lot in life is mostly set. He thinks it was because he stole Fate’s lunch money in school. Look, sorry Fate, can I get a leg-up?

Become a Patron!