Sometimes, a game changes in Early Access. Quite dramatically, at times. Others… Not so much. Case in point: Abyss Manager, a game where, last time I looked at it, I effectively said that the game didn’t want to be played, what with poor tutorialisation, lots and lots of grind, and, due to a big part of that grind being trying to balance beefy bastards of various species trying to kick down your door as a dungeon keeper, tournaments between other dungeon keepers, exploration, research, building up your funds… And beefy bastards takes up the majority of that time. And this, as I’ve mentioned before, is a crying shame, because there’s a cool research tree. Exploration is an interesting idea, even if its implementation is pretty basic: Send X of your employees to a site, hopefully pass a skill check, get loot.
…Come to think of it, most of the systems in the game are like that. It’s a very dry game. It’s colourful, aesthetically, with some good lo-fi spritework, but battling is the majority of what you do, and everything else… Well, it’s just kind of there, and some of it (exploration and matches) will take some of your most powerful creatures away from either employment or the battlefield for several turns (As in, easily 7-10, sometimes more.)
As such, there really… Isn’t much to say. The grind still exists, as bad as before, the systems are ho-hum, the aesthetic can’t really save it from that, and, even turn based as it is, it’s somewhat stressful to play. I find myself struggling to write more, and so… I guess I’ll finish up by saying that, alas, things didn’t improve, and I can’t recommend this unless you’re really a fan of grind. It’s no doubt added some things, but… I can’t see them, precisely because the overall experience is dry and unappealing.
The Mad Welshman sighs. Sometimes he hates his job.
Where To Get It: Steam
Catgirls have served many purposes in fiction. As horrific huntresses. As comedy characters. And yes, sometimes, like real cats, they’re horny. And so we come to this game, where the setup is that a retail saleswoman is gifted a catgirl by her auntie. Yes, catgirls are intelligent. Yes, they are pets. No, it doesn’t engage with that, except to note that there’s basically catgirl breeds, care information, communities… Oh, and catgirls in porn. I’m reasonably sure that was referenced. So that, and the fact it’s a kinetic visual novel (No branching points, just sit back and enjoy the story), and that it’s short (Depends on reading speed, but I clock it at sub 2 hours) are the major points out of the way.(more…)
Tower Hunter, the somewhat procgen action platformer, has hit release. And how do I feel about this game, after Early Access?
Well… Okay. Some improvement was made. Let’s recap, before we get into that. Tower Hunter is a procgen action platformer, in which you, the titular Erza, must clear a magical tower, defeating its inhabitants, for… Nope, still haven’t remembered. In any case, there are five main weapon types, with you randomly getting a possibly different weapon before each run (and being able to find other, better versions of weapons, if not the one you started with sometimes, in the dungeon), and, should you die, you start over again, losing some of your powerup “chips” and money (gems) in the process. Which… Usually isn’t that bad, to be honest, because you’re usually spending gems on upgrades for much of the game, and the chips are in plentiful supply, so it’s only if you’ve lost some seriously good ones that it’s a setback, and it’s very much a temporary one.
Last time I looked at this, the mechanical aspects were somewhat interesting, such as a large bevy of upgrades, multiple unlockable special attacks, the powerup chips being replaceable in play if you find others, recycling of items you don’t want or need into gems, and an improvement of your abilities should you beat the increasingly difficult requirements (Bronze, Silver, Gold for each of the five or six stages, themselves broken into two levels, and, another relatively recent upgrade, an actual boss of a stage. We’ll get to that shortly.)
But the visual flair was somewhat lacking, the seams of the level blocks very clear, and the animations… Well, so so, for the enemies. Oh, and the poor translation into English, which, while I could deal with it in general (It’s not the most plot heavy of deals), is, admittedly, a turn off. Sound alright, music alright…
Well, the animations have gotten a little better. And the bosses do have some visual flair to them, more attention having been lavished on them than, perhaps, the bread and butter of the basic enemies (Who, nonetheless, feel a little more organic in their movement. Not consistently, alas.)
So, mechanically, it remains interesting, rewarding speed and exploration. And it has, to be fair, improved visually somewhat (The levels themselves remain… Well, a bit blah. You have to work harder to make procgen 3D areas fit nicely, and harder still to make them look… Well, not like it’s a collection of single assets.) And now… Actual bosses. I haven’t faced many so far (two of the five or six), but so far, they have been both unique, somewhat of an improvement over the basic enemies (Admittedly, uniqueness is a part of that, I feel), and… Somewhat frustrating.
The game, as is, has a battle of attrition in the levels before a boss. Most enemies can be stunlocked to oblivion, or murdered quite quickly, but ranged enemies are introduced early, and some enemies are frustrating to hit because their preferred attack vector is… Well, out of reach unless you hop. Add in traps, status effects like blinding (thankfully, only a restriction of your vision, rather than total blindness), and the occasional time your character just doesn’t seem to respond properly (uncommon, but it does happen), and… Those health potions you have to help cope go relatively quickly, even with resting areas between each of the two levels and before a boss. And then you get to the boss…
…The first is not so bad: The Cockroach King is clear, you can dodge all of his attacks just fine, and, apart from the boss thing of breaking stunlock (and being immune to it after 50% health, with desperation moves being added), he’s a decent fight. Also one I was glad to beat, because he was a braggart asshole, and possibly skeevy to boot. The Centaur Knight, on the other hand… Is mean. Jump the dash, don’t try to dash dodge it, because it plain doesn’t work. Shields often, doesn’t always telegraph too well, and while your attacks don’t seem to do anything to an offscreen enemy, his definitely can affect from offscreen. He is, to put it bluntly, a big ol’ pile of dicks. I’ll beat him, eventually, I’m sure. But he is definitely quite the spike, compared to the first boss.
So… Do I recommend it? Its core ideas remain interesting. It has shown some improvement on the aesthetic front, although not as much as I’d like. And, apart from those odd glitches (Which I’m sure are being worked on), it’s a solid, if still not-so-visually appealing procgen action platformer. So… A tentative yes.
The Mad Welshman, alas, is a Vaudevillain, and so the very definition of a Pattern Based Enemy.
Price: £13.99 (£18.78 Digital Deluxe, £4.79 Digital Deluxe upgrade)
Where To Get It: Steam
“Argh, why did the Eldritch Horror bite my face off?!” asked the primary worshipper of the “Eldritch Horrors Biting People’s Faces Off” cult. That’s a good way to sum up the general story of Sea Salt, in which a town’s archbishop, of the Church of Dagon, the fish god, refuses to go quietly when he is ordered not only to sacrifice others (which he’s alright with), but himself.
You are Dagon, who summons your horde from afar, controls them from afar, and slaughters the chosen townsfolk and anyone who gets in the way. And, while the game is alright, and aesthetically works quite well, I do have some problems with it. So let’s talk gribbleys.
The basic idea is just fine: You start a level with some kind of creature, you surround townsfolk and murder them by leading them with your cursor to an enemy, then holding SPACE once you’re reasonably sure they’re surrounded. Nearly every enemy in the early game will panic once you’re close enough, so, even with ranged enemies becoming a thing very early on, this, and the idea that not holding space allows your gribbleys to navigate hazards like fire are the basics (but not bullets, or the impending fire of a molotov cocktail: Those, you just have to deal with, one way or another.) When you find a summoning circle, or simply collect enough gold from townsfolk, you can summon more, of any type that you’ve unlocked in the playthrough so far (yes, this includes restarting entirely.)
And that, plus the narrative of a church leader deceiving his people into thinking this horde is a test of faith, rather than a punishment for the leader of the church refusing to be faithful, is pretty interesting. Hell, even the bosses are interesting, although they may frustrate the first time you meet them. But it’s okay, you’re not expected to win in one go. Play an arena. Try again with different folks. You’re still progressing toward unlocking new cult leaders with which to try something different.
Aesthetically, it looks pretty good. Good, gothic music, the UX is well presented, the sprites for the various townsfolk, monsters, etc, are evocative with a low pixel count, and the world is suitably grimy.
It is perhaps a shame then, that it’s been an utter bastard to screenshot due to problem number one: Yes, there is a windowed mode, via alt+enter. No, it isn’t in the options. Yes, it’s tiny, and you have to manually resize. And if that were all, I wouldn’t mind so much, and this wouldn’t be getting the thumb being waved back and fore uncertainly. But it isn’t. The game being somewhat slow, I understand. It gives you room to think, even if it doesn’t particularly feel great.
But the fires causing this godawful blur effect that makes my eyes hurt is bloody terrible, and it only gets worse the more fire there is. No, there isn’t an option to turn that off, although there is for “Ye Olde School Graine Filtre” Similarly, while the UX is alright, what isn’t alright is the lack of clarity in the menu organisation: When it says “Start” , it means “Continue”, and, when leaving an arena, it asks “Retry” when, in fact, it means “Back to menu.” And the difficulty starts spiking pretty early also.
If you like playing the monsters or villains, as I do, and want something a little different, this one’s a moderately good pick. But I know I’m going to be waiting until the eyestrain inducing post-effects can be turned off, because that’s the kind of Eldritch Horror I’m not into. Where I’m going, I will need eyes.
The Mad Welshman is more of a Labour voter than the Eldritch Horror Party, but he does support the “Great Cthulhu Eats The Rich” platform.