Archive for the ‘Game Reviews’ Category:

Noita (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £13.99 (£3.99 soundtrack, £17.98 game and soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Even at this relatively early stage, there’s a fair amount to say about Noita. It simulates every pixel (Although this mostly applies to fluids, fire, and particulates like spurting blood, smoke, steam, and even flammable gas), has an interesting core weapon mechanic, is, at the current stage (and probably later too) hard as balls… And, for some reason, it quits and restarts after every run. Don’t take that as a criticism as in “This thing is bad.” The game still works just fine. It’s just odd.

In the beginning…

So, right now, this is a somewhat plot light game (who knows, maybe it’ll get more, maybe not.) It’s implied, the first time you play it (and never again afterwards, because it’s a first play cutscene) that the universe came from a great phoenix’s three eggs. One created the land and sky, one the stars and sea, and the other… Life, both the usual kinds, and the inimical kinds. You are a wizard, entering a mine which appears to be some sort of trial, or at least having temples between levels that conveniently give you useful things… Like filling your health back up, because there is no health regen.

Funnily enough, I don’t particularly see that as a bad thing, because, while the economy gets annoyingly sparse later on (requiring enemy murder to get gold), if you’ve played your cards right, or simply gotten lucky, you’ll have something powerful enough to deal, even if the enemies, unless you’re tactical, can most definitely do unto you as you do to them. The nastier foes in the early levels, for example, are acidic spitting eyeballs and your fellow wizards, corrupted into elemental forms (I’ve only ever seen fire and lightning wizards, but these three alone are an immediate “nope!” on low health, and a pause for thought as to whether you really want to do this otherwise.)

Ahhh, it burns so prettily. Of course, I had gold down there, gold I can’t get before it disappears.

So, how do you get better? Well, sometimes, you can use your environment. Kicking things that can be kicked. Destroying convenient explosives, gas canisters, toxic goo canisters and the like. Setting off oil pools. Firing lightning into steel beams to murderize anything standing on them (Caution, this includes you!) Perks got between levels, like the ones that allow you to ignore elements, the ones that cause you to bleed poison, or slime, or be able to survive a single hit if you had more than 1 hitpoint (Does not apply to fire or acid, for obvious reasons.) Potions, like Beserkium (gives you Beserk status), Blood (Useful for folks with the Vampire perk), and Invisibilium (Guess.) Protip: And empty bottle can be used to store other liquids. And, finally, wands, and the spells contained therein.

You start with just two of these: A weak magic missile wand that fires two (capacity of three spell effects) before needing to recharge (relatively quickly), and a bomb wand, that, obviously, makes a bomb. Of which you have three. But you can find wands, and spell effects, or you can buy them between levels, with the gold you’ve earned… And, once you have those spell effects (You can even take them out of a wand completely before levels, to store for later), you can swap them between any wands that can cast them. And some effects, obviously, combine. So, if you wanted, and found the right elements, you could have a flaming projectile… That leaves a trail of gunpowder behind it. Or two at once. Or three. Some wands even have a spell built into the wand itself.

You’d think this is powerful. And it is. But it is less powerful than about twelve enemies at once. So I died a little bit later.

Aesthetically, it pretty much works. The environments themselves aren’t amazing, but it’s a whole thing to see pixellated clouds of flammable gas wisping its way upwards from where, below, the acidic gribbley you’ve just murdered is spewing it’s blood all over the ground, eating into it. Or how pretty a massive oil fire looks in game, licking over and through the wood… Before you realise “Wait, shit, I’m too clo- AAAAA HOT HOT HOT!” Remember what I said about potion bottles being filled with liquids? This is but one good reason why. Soundwise, the enemies themselves make few sounds, but the music is good, the sound effects for the various wands work.

But, honestly, the biggest draw here is how it works mechanically, the interactions of the world. And I find this very interesting, and pretty cool, so… Yeah, promising, as mentioned, hard, although it’s still, as far as I’m aware, relatively early days… I like it!

The Mad Welshman points out that drinking and wanding is not recommended. Especially if one of your spells is Fire Breath.

Neo Cab (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £11.39 (£7.19 soundtrack, £13.93 both)
Where To Get It: Steam

The Gig Economy is toxic as hell. Living from job to job, trying to draw in custom, and, all the while, expending your health and resources for uncertain gains. It doesn’t help when your field is muscled on by larger folks, who either think you’re replacable, or are actively working to replace you. And so it is with NeoCab, where you, Lina, are the last human cab driver. An autocab company has pressured the rest of the cabbies out, and you… You aren’t doing so hot.

Allie gave me 5 stars. “Us Gig folk gotta stay together!” Yup, you are 100% right, sister.

So, naturally, I was down for the concept of the story from the get go. And found other, interesting things. A mood system. Some weird and interesting characters. And the fact that I would be really bad as a cab driver. So let’s get into that.

The general story you’ve heard, with the exception of activists against cars (in general, not just Capra’s automated cabs that aren’t actually as safe as they claim to be. Big shock about that last point, I know), Capra’s cops having a “donation” scheme (Yes, they shake you down. Bastards), and… Despite the main story being somewhat predictable, and the game taking about 3-4 hours, one way or the other, I never really felt like the main story was a focus, so much as a frame to hang… Everyone else on. And yes, that can be a point against it, but stay awhile, and listen.

This guy… Is such an asshole.

Here’s a fellow gig worker, who, on the one hand, is asking stupidly invasive questionnaires for Capra. On the other, she’s just trying to make her way too, and she gets you. Solidarity, sister. Here’s a pair of tourists in their own city, who think you’re a robot. Their rating goes down when they find out you’re actually a human, not the Capra product they’d heard about and were excited for, but they fit into this overall theme, and they are… Characters, for sure, and there’s cracks in their relationship. The strange quantum accountant, the woman who thinks, from her work, that the timelines have become unstable, and that something is seriously wrong with the universe. She’s obsessed with entropy, and… I can relate.

But there’s something that unites a lot of them: You have to remind them you’re not just a service, a product. You’re a person. Some get that right off, and they’re usually the good ones. Some, like the two Capra fanboys (well, one and a half), are actually disappointed when they can’t just… Consume. And some… They just hate your profession, what they feel you symbolise. Maybe, if I’d taken different paths, like some of those 1.5 star customers that it’s generally recommended to avoid, I’d have more, but… You’re a gig worker, in a hostile, capitalist world. And that is well written. It helps that some of the characters are very quirky, in a good way.

I mean, I wouldn’t mind winning the lotto, if only so I don’t have to worry about my bills, but, overall, sure, lady.

But your mood plays into it too. For example, you can’t convince those two Capra groupies you’re a human unless you get emotional in some manner (Mine was happiness.) But it shuts you off just as much as it can help. Lucky for you Savy gives you a mood bracelet that actually works early on, huh?

Aesthetically, the game works, and works well… The music is this futurist style, fitting the mood, the characters are characterful and well animated, and the cityscape is well constructed. It’s one of the few paperdoll style animations I really got behind.

So, in conclusion, I like NeoCab. Partly for its politics. Partly for its interesting characters. Partly for its aesthetic and writing. Would I recommend it? Yeah, overall, although if you’re a big capitalism fanboy (yes, those exist) then it definitely isn’t something that’ll sit well with you (I’d still say play it, but that’s because I like to get up on a soapbox once in a while.) As to being a bad cab driver? Fair warning, your rating drops below 4, game over, you’re screwed.

I’m a bad cab driver.

The Mad Welshman isn’t actually seeking more proof he shouldn’t drive. But this month just seems to be the month for it.

My Magical Demon Lover (NSFW Going Back)

Content Warning: This game is M/M gay pairings, and has BDSM themes and subjects, including bondage, masochism, rough sex. The bad ending for Karn’s route involves murder of the protagonist.

(more…)

Last Days of Tascaria (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam

This has been a week for odd decisions with games. Like Noita, Last Days of Tascaria seems to be unloading and loading different windows, and… Doesn’t have a windowed mode. Which would just be a niggle, a wagging of the finger and “Come on, you can add that), if it weren’t for the game… Not being very fun to play.

On the one hand, wizardess’ hair is goals. On the other, these two… Eesh.

The general idea is one of a warrior and a wizardess, recruiting others, exploring a map in a turn-based fashion, skilling up, and engaging in pausable real time battles against groups of enemies, occasionally fighting a boss, on their path to… Destroy a heroine who’d turned evil, raised an army of the undead, because it was a relic, and now she’s resurrecting a lich king for some reason… Look, maybe she thinks being almost invincible due to her relics, while having an army that grows stronger with every victory isn’t enough or something. Any which way, that’s what you do.

And the combat is, in a word, tedious. There’s a rock-paper-scissors style thing going on with the combat (axes are best against armoured enemies, while dodge has to be countered with swords, so… Hit dodgy and armoured enemies once with sword, switch to axe, start over when they regain dodge) The wizardess, meanwhile, also has a rock-paper scissors thing with elements, but is pretty good ranged support. Them’s your basics.

Yes, never turn your back on an enemy. But guess what, wizardess lady has to get relatively close to cast her beefiest spell, shield doesn’t last forever, and… Suffice to say, this didn’t go well.

But the heroes don’t so much fling themselves into combat as stroll, swinging weapons with little impact behind their blows, flinching often from ranged enemies… And oh boy do they like their ranged enemies. The warrior (look, I don’t even care about learning their names) has a shield, but it’s directional, doesn’t last long, and enemy groups are, best case, double your size early in the game. You have to kill half of them to win the battle, and healing opportunities are… Not common.

What results is a slog. When I wasn’t looking on with a sigh, I was hitting that quit button with an irritated grumble. So… What about events? Well, those aren’t terribly interesting either. The problem with a game with turn-based walking around, and turn-based events, is that you somewhat have to care about the rest of it, and even then, dull writing can still be a turn-off. And this is… This is almost as generic as high fantasy can get. Aesthetically, it’s okay, but the animations don’t have much impact, or character, the music is about as generic as the world…

Honestly, I prefer orcs when they’re hot. And these ones… So generic.

I’m not ashamed to say I checked out pretty early. If the combat later was anything like the combat earlier, then no, it doesn’t really get better later. It feels generic, tedious, and its tactical options are, on the face of things, pretty limited, a time your cooldowns and use items well style affair that I wasn’t the biggest fan of in the first place.

The Mad Welshman repeats: More hot orcs.

GRID 2019 (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £44.99 (Ultimate Edition £64.99, Upgrade to Ultimate Edition £29.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, Codemasters. Purveyors of racing games since… Well, as long as I can remember. No, that’s a lie, I grew up with them publishing Dizzy games. But for a while, at least. Sometimes a little simulation-like, mostly arcadey, with fairly good music, a fair few licensed vehicles/teams/racers, and this time…

Rolliiiiing START!

Three races before you even hit the main menu for the first time. Three races, and something like five interminable cutscenes. Oh, GRID 2019 is off to a rolling start, and… Wait, what are the keybindings again? Oh… Oh… Suffice to say, even though I understood part of why, I was less than impressed with how my experience started.

Was I impressed with the game itself? Weeeelll… It honestly isn’t bad. The cars are somewhat tunable, and there’s a moderate variety of them, with the most in the Invitational category (presently, at least, as the game has a Season Pass and some car DLCs already… hissssss…) Aesthetically, it looks good. The menu music is solid Racing Game music, of the kind you hear in racing recap segments, or, indeed, earlier Codemasters games (in mood and motif. Not exactly the same music) But when it comes to the races themselves, it’s the cars you concentrate on, and they, also, sound good. A Camaro sounds different to a Mini Metro, and when you’re pushing them to their limit, they sound like they should… Straining and buzzing angrily at the treatment you’re giving them.

When in doubt, I trade paint. Epilepsy aside, this is probably why I shouldn’t be allowed to drive.

The tracks, the racers, the cars… They are, for the most part, the popular ones. Oh, there’s Silverstone. There’s San Francisco. But there aren’t that many of them (although, as with many racing games, extra variation is added with track weather and driving the course in reverse), and… Well, even though I’m sure there will be some free tracks, the purpose of that Season Pass becomes clear.

But this, also, I could somewhat forgive, because what there are are some interesting and technical tracks. And, if you’re not a great racer, one who makes some pretty nasty mistakes, the flashback feature from past Codemasters games is alive and well, on a rechargable basis rather than “You have this many.” These are nice. It even allows you to unlock races without actually winning them. And, of the race styles, there’s a fair few, which, overall, is the most varied part of it for me (With Invitational taking up the most room in terms of both cars and events)

The customisation system is also alright. A limited pattern set, but I wasn’t expecting Picasso, and I managed to make something I’m happy with easily enough.

Hell, the AI is at least alright, reacting to you, playing aggressively if you’re anywhere except in first and speeding the hell ahead, although if you qualify, then get first, you’re going to have a much easier time of it, and some racers… Well, here we get to what’s not so great. Specifically, the nemesis system, and the team system.

The nemesis system, on the face of it, is a clear one: If, like me, you race dirty, and trade paint, or even bits of your frame, to gain advantage, you’re going to piss other racers off. And you have a team member, who can be ordered to attack (try and move up), and defend (try and help you forward.) There’s even purchasable team members, but, to be honest… Neither feature seems to play much of a role. Nemeses (for lo, I often have multiple on any given lap) don’t seem to be more willing than usual to trade paint with you, or screw you over, and team-mate orders don’t really help all that much with your position over, say… Having a good line, and being aggressive.

Okay, okay, so maybe that’s trading more than paint. I got a decent position, alright?

As such, buying team members isn’t really a purchase I’ve bothered with, to, basically, no effect on how I’ve enjoyed the game (which is “Somewhat”) The UX is that understated style you often see in racing games nowadays, and, in and of itself, it’s not bad (although damn, do the visuals on cars seem to take an Ice Age to load in those menus!)

And this leaves me uncertain where I stand, precisely, with GRID 2019. It’s alright, for sure, but it’s made some odd decisions, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of Ultimate Editions, Season Passes, and whatnots, and some of its features seem under implemented, despite being seemingly flagship features. I also can’t deny that it feels like less than its predecessors. And, as such… I’m erring on the side of “Not really.”

The Mad Welshman is not, after experimentation, as bad at arcade racers of this style as he feared. Turns out he’s just aggressive.