Nowhere Prophet (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: To Be Released soon. (Was $19.99)
Where To Wishlist It: Itch.IO , Steam

Nowhere Prophet continues to impress. And frustrate. Its world is intriguing, its difficulty mostly solid at this point, even if those rare exceptions… Frustrate the hell out of me. Still, that’s something to get to, so let’s backtrack a second and remind ourselves about Nowhere Prophet overall.

Each area of the route is predominantly of a single faction, although events are common to all areas.

Nowhere Prophet is an Indian themed post-apocalypse (Untouchables stand side by side with cybernetic horrors, and Rajs with mutated beasts), in which you, a Prophet, hear the last, garbled words of a fallen “star” (Satellite), and set out for the Crypt, the Promised Land which may or may not have the power to heal this ruined world. You set out with disciples, facing the world, and trying to balance your own health, and the efficacy, health, and morale of your followers. It’s a battle of attrition, as only perfection will allow you to escape the fights and trials unscathed… And these are many, while you and your followers are… Not so many.

Since I last took a look at Nowhere Prophet, it’s actually mostly done, with a closed beta until release. Areas are in, the intro and map have been spruced up, and there is, generally speaking, the more I had been curious about last time. It still hasn’t got an amazing amount of variety music wise, but the music that’s there is good, the visuals are both clear and striking, and the events mostly interesting and adding a little to the world, with extra possibilities unlocked by certain types of followers, number of followers or batteries (the currency of the world), or your level in the three philosophies (Believers, Scholars, or Altruists.)

This is bad. This is very bad. Yup.

Combat, meanwhile, is a Hearthstone like affair where, each turn, you have a limited pool of energy from which to summon followers and effects, which grows each turn (or with certain abilities), a limited battlefield in which (mainly) only frontliners can attack, and interesting obstacles and items on the field, such as Soft Cover, which gives health to those summoned nearby, or Acid Plants, which, if destroyed, also damage the entire column they’re on. Killling the enemy leader wins you the battle, while if your Prophet is killed… Well, game over. And, over time, you grow more familiar with what lies where, and what factions have which sorts of decks.

And this, funnily enough, is where the frustration sometimes happens. You see, some Elite and Boss decks are nasty, and, regardless of how far I’ve come, meeting these particular ones can be a slow, demoralising death. The Barrier Swarm (Rusters, the Cyborg/Robot faction.) The ArmourBoi (Union of the Five Fingers.) The Endless Taunt (Feral Wanderers, the bandit/beast faction.) These three decks in particular are annoying, because… Well, there’s seemingly not that much that consistently counters them, and their entire focus is “No, you can’t, in fact, hit me, you got more to worry about.” And, since they’re on Bosses and Elites, well… You’d have to do a lot of damage to take them out before they get going.

YOU’RE NOT WRONG, TOOTHY ONE!

But this, essentially, is more of a gripe than anything else, and I can relatively consistently get to at least the third map, with still more to explore, such as Daily Challenges, and, of course, working out how to unlock various tribes and leaders, for more deck exploration. Nowhere Prophet remains pretty interesting, and I’m happy to report that.

Normally, I would wait until release. But I noticed that I hadn’t reviewed in a while, and it has changed… Quite a bit!

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Talisman: Origins (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Talisman is one of those games that, honestly, shouldn’t really have been made as much as it has. It’s not at Blood Bowl levels of “Oh, that’s just milking it now”, but… When the main thing I can say about Talisman: Origins is that it’s “Talisman: Digital Edition, but single player, and with story”, or “It’s Talisman: Prologue, but more expensive and with story/quests” , I kind of have to throw my hands up a bit.

This is now something like the third time I have seen this exact board. And, on reflection… I ask myself Why?

So, for those who don’t know Talisman, it’s an old Games Workshop board game, with elements reminiscent of Warhammer Fantasy (Eagle Lords, grim cities, dark magical artefacts), but its own, High fantasy world. You travel around the board, looking to reach the Crown of Power, the tile in the middle of the board, strengthening yourself, weakening others, occasionally running into trouble, and, because it’s not a game that really does progression (normally), every so often running into a string of unwinnable situations, swearing, and mentally flipping a table. It had a number of expansions, each one alone with interesting twists and scenarios, but, all together? A recipe for minutiae, and backstabbing, and many, many dice rolls.

I tried Talisman: Digital once with all the expansions. That was… An experience. See, the digital editions of the game have, with even one AI player, a certain amount of waiting for them to decide what to do. Even without, there’s dice rolling, waiting for animations, noise cues… It wants to be as clear as possible, but no, you do not get any option to skip said animations and cues and things that slow it down. It is, generally speaking, a game you play with friends, understanding friends who won’t get angry at you when its old school, adversarial play gets the better of them, and where conversation definitely helps it go smoother.

“An Epic tale, as told by dice rolls that can just as easily harm the narrative as help it!”

As such, you can maybe imagine my confusion. And this is as someone who likes hotseat 4X games and board game adaptations where yes, you can play by yourself. Talisman’s lore is… Not particularly deep (It is, essentially, a “chase’n’race” board-game with fantasy trappings and a lot of randomness), and adding lore doesn’t really make any of its shenanigans make more sense. And this, essentially, is where I find myself: Trying to work out where the audience lies here.

Does it really appeal to the folks who already have Talisman: Digital Edition? There’s nothing new animation wise, I’m pretty sure there’s not much new card-wise, and, as I’ve alluded to, Talisman’s expansions are… A lot. Does it, then, appeal to somebody new to Talisman? I’d argue no, because the lore is mostly unreferenced outside of this game (Apart, obviously, from the Crown of Power), and its first tutorial alone took me about half an hour (And not, it must be said, a terribly exciting half an hour.) It does, somewhat, prepare players for the PvP core of the game with AI characters, but… The same experience could be had hotseat. What it adds are lore, quests, and challenges, and… Honestly, that’s not the biggest of niches.

As it turns out, this Great Wizard has Weakness to Ghost types.

So, overall, Talisman: Origins just… Leaves me confused. With other games, I can clearly point and go “Ah, here’s this interesting core” or “Ah, I can see where this is appealing to X”, and, with this… If there were no DLC for the thing planned, I’d say “This is a cheaper alternative to the main Talisman, as the DLC for that comes to around ninety quid”, but I’m not certain about that, considering how even Talisman: The Horus Heresy (It’s 40K themed, less visually readable cousin) has about 9 DLC. The biggest draw of Talisman has always been the social aspect to it, and so… All the “for” arguments I can think of are rather weak.

The Mad Welshman doesn’t enjoy being confused. It is his least favourite status effect outside of “Hangry-Thirsty.”

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Invisible Fist (Review)

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

The Invisible Fist of Capitalism. It stands ready, waiting to grind you down under its knuckles, to pummel you with sudden charges and unexpected disasters. It feels nothing, being an idea, and yet, it’s an idea that hates you, yes, you, personally. You cannot bring enough to its gaping, central maw to satisfy it, so it will destroy you, singly or in groups. Welcome to Late Stage Capitalism.

That’s… a $15 film ticket. The film could at least not be shit for that price.

So yes, this is another one of those games that has the content warning “Too Fuckin’ Real”, even with deliberate parody. Joy of joys. I needed that in my life right now. And this, funnily enough, is Invisible Fist’s biggest obstacle to success: It does what it sets out to do a little too well.

Okay, let’s unpack that: Invisible Fist is a turn-based, resource management game where your opponent is the Invisible Fist of Capitalism. As one of three characters (In fact, for a while, it will only be one of three characters, more on that in a moment), you attempt to survive, as long as you can, and maybe, just maybe, fight the fucking thing off you.

Suffice to say, what with that “Too fuckin’ real” comment, the odds are not in your favour. Even as your starting character, a douchebag startup techbro who is trying to create and market MONA, Mother of the New Age, an AI claimed to be for “Millennials who need new mommies” (Yes, he’s a sickening shitlord, ignorant of the fact that yes, he’s a Millennial too), while meeting the demands of both capitalism… And his own, clinging mother (Do you, perhaps, see where he might be projecting a bit?)

Funnily enough, the Announcer works best when the excesses are, in and of themselves, ridiculous.

So… Starting as a rich kid exploiting his workforce, blind to the ills of capitalism could easily be described as “Oooh, aren’t they bold?”, but… No matter who they would have started as, the tone of the game itself would have made this one emotionally draining. Considering the other two are “Self made college student selling weed to get by” and “Indian Factory Worker far from their family and lover”? Yeah, this wasn’t going to be easy. And it could all too easily emotionally backfire, considering… The Announcer.

The Announcer is the fucknugget who enjoys watching the world burn. He’s the shitheel gatekeeper, the Trololol asshole… And his insufferable, hateful spin on things very often veers into “Okay, the writers need to take a fuckin’ step back and seriously consider this guy.” Put it like this… Techbro’s techy startup is emblematic of the worst excesses, just like seemingly everything in this game, and so… Oh look, let’s add a content warning here for a random chance of “Mentions of Non-consensual Sex”, shall we?

There’s a lotta layers to this asshole, and they’re all made of dog turd.

Of course, unlocking a new character means new challenges. For example, Rena, the student, has limited funds, and her work options… Well, they don’t always make the bucks that are worth your time. And relaxing costs money. It nearly always costs money. Or health in terms of her pet cat sometimes deciding that no, it wants to roughhouse (nastily) instead of be scratched behind the ears delightfully.

Individual games of Invisible Fist go by quickly, but only by doing well, by meeting its (sometimes deliberately bullshit) challenges, and by defeating the Fist with good work-play balance, can you earn… Two, more difficult challenges. Interesting ones, and with the same level of social commentary (Spun by the Announcer in as shitty a way as possible, sometimes even if you nail it), but… Yeah, this game gets too damn real sometimes, in uncomfortable ways. So… Well designed, in that sense.

The Mad Welshman isn’t sure what to add. The shittiness of Capitalism kinda speaks for itself.

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Faerie Solitaire: Harvest (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £7.19
Where To Get It: Steam

You can’t please everyone all the time. This is the main thought running through my head as I look at Faerie Solitaire: Harvest, a sequel which has, at release at least, cut the story, cut the purchasing of building aspects, and made pets a little more accesible, but confusingly.

The thing is, its core is still solid, and its soundtrack is really bloody good. So these things shouldn’t matter so much. But it does, nonetheless, feel odd.

The meanest kind of layout… The one-card (or multiple one-card, in this case) blockage…

Okay, so, last time on Faerie Solitaire, faeries got trapped by an evil wizard (That you were apprenticed to) with layered cards in patterns you got rid of by going up and down the ranks of the cards (With help from powerups and the bottom deck, which could only be shuffled a certain amount of times.) Big combos were good, individual levels had tasks, there was a lot going on, but, at its core, was one particular solitaire variant.

Now, the faeries are again trapped, but somewhere else and by ??? , with the plucky young ??? to save them by matching pairs of the same rank, and, preferably for combos, the same colour, with the aid of the bottom deck, an ability (Wild Cards earned with combos), and, as before, there’s only a limited amount of reshuffles (One, either free, or due to paying 1000 of the ingame currency.) As noted, the core is solid, with exactly the benefits and problems you would expect from a solitaire game. For example, Oh look, the two cards you need to match are directly under each other, and you did not know this. Sod. Well, that happens sometimes, fine.

Pets! You can evolve them, and then… You can, er… Well, you can toggle whether they’re evolved or not.

On the one hand, I can definitely say it doesn’t stint on that Solitaire part. 40 areas, each with 9 levels, and increasingly devilish layouts. That’s the good stuff for someone who likes Solitaire, right there. But, alas, this isn’t just about this Faerie Solitaire, as, as noted, Harvest feels somewhat stripped down compared to its predecessor. A fair bit of that, to be honest, was bloat, trying to add more interest, and not always succeeding. But since some things have changed and others haven’t as much, it ends up feeling a little hollower than its predecessor.

Let’s take the currency of the game, pets, and resources, for example. It’s nice that, if you liked baby pets more, you can switch between baby pet and adult pet forms at will. That’s nice. But, beyond this and a little urge to completionism, with 32 pets to grow from eggs (By playing) and evolve (By playing and gaining resources), there’s… No real reason for them, or the resources. The main currency of the game also buys two of the abilities, an extra card slot, and a reshuffle if you hadn’t managed to land a BIG COMBO to get a free reshuffle. That’s… Er… It. And it is needed when layouts get meaner…

Ah, I got wood… Look, I’ve gotta wring some humour out of this, dammit!

…But, with these cuts, what you have is a pretty solitaire game with some knobs on, and a soundtrack that feels like it comes from an epic JRPG. If this is what you expect coming in, then you’re good. Having played the predecessor, I felt, as noted… A little odd.

The Mad Welshman always feels a little forlorn when a sequel strips things. Even if it makes sense. And he’s aware this isn’t a great feel.

…Doesn’t stop him feeling it, though.

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Destiny or Fate (Early Access Review)

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

Sometimes, Destiny is kind. Other times, I seem fated to look at unenjoyable things. At the present time, at least, Destiny or Fate, unfortunately, is the latter. Not that there isn’t a chance, as the basic idea, that of a turn based card battler, has been proven to work several times.

Kyle, Strider Hiryu’s lesser known, angstier brother.

The thing is, DoF is swingy as heck. When it goes well, it goes well. And when it doesn’t, it’s a tiresome, unenjoyable slog. And there’s a few potential reasons for this.

The basic idea is fine: Move between areas clearly labelled as normal fights, elite fights, shops, events, and bosses. If it’s a fight of some description, you get 3 mana a turn to play cards, and playing cards of the same type as currently unlit orbs on your character’s status gives energy for a special ability, which triggers when it’s full. Win a fight, you get rewarded with a couple of different types of currency, a new card for your deck, and a monster to add to your party from the ones you fought. At the shop, you can buy and upgrade cards, unlock heroes after you’ve met them in events, and upgrade both your hero and your captive monsters. Beat the boss to go to the next area, and no, you don’t get to buy the boss.

Skellington McSpikeyArmour here pretty much emblemises the problems. That 70 defence is going to take a while to get through, and he’s going to be doing X% of Max HP attacks in the meantime…

All this would be fine, if each individual step didn’t have problems with it. 3 mana a turn means a max of 3 cards (This is assuming you’re not inflicted with a card cost status effect) a turn, which makes fights go on. This, in and of itself, wouldn’t be so bad if the rewards were better, but, often, they aren’t that great. Special abilities, theoretically, encourage you to mix and match defence and offence, but a fair few special abilities are, basically, extra attacks. The ones that aren’t vary wildly in effectiveness, from poison being pretty weak, to powerful frailty effects that double damage. Speaking of rewards, the shops are expensive, and multiple battles are needed to be able to afford a single card or upgrade. This, again, wouldn’t be a problem, except that bosses are mean, and going into a boss fight without a good deck, a full, preferably half health or above party, and some nasty special abilities is basically a losing proposition… But going round the map to collect things is not only grindy, the success of that plan depends on the fights going well. Of the boss abilities, the “X% of Max HP all attacks” definitely seem to be the most common run-killers, because without good defensive cards, that one’s pretty much “Someone or multiple someones just die. Thanks for playing!”

That’s a lot of words, but basically, they can be summed up as “There’s a whole bunch of balance issues fighting each other over which is the worst, while the game feel suffers.”

Events do regenerate, but, as you can see, I’m in no shape to fight the boss…

Visually, it isn’t bad. It’s consistent, it’s clear, there’s some good designs here (and some very silly fantasy stereotypes, but hey), and it doesn’t take a whole lot of non-tutorial poking to understand what’s what. Soundwise, though… Well, there it falls again, not just because of a strange bug which resets the main sound volume (without affecting the option slider), but because it’s ho-hum. There is a battle tune (An awkward mix of chiptune and strings), some generic sound effects, and… Well, while it’s clear, none of it grabs, and the battle tune very quickly wears on you, as you’re going to hear it a lot. It doesn’t help that the dramatic, JRPG style it’s going for contrasts with “Play some cards, hit end turn, watch effects and numbers pop up.”

At the end of a run, what you preserve is… The heroes unlocked. Some stuff is early access problems (Such as some quests claiming you don’t have money when you do), and relatively forgivable, but, overall, while the game visually does well, it wears on the sound front, and feels, in turns, arbitrary, tedious, and humdrum mechanically. I wouldn’t mind quite so much if I’d unlocked much in single runs, but, as noted, even basic unit upgrades take a while, and since the survivability of the lower-tier units is “A few fights at most”, it just doesn’t feel worth it.

Moments before the last screenshot… Yup, Elite battled, and… Can’t afford the sonuvagun…

So, that’s Destiny or Fate: A game which has a solid core idea, but whose execution is currently lacking on the balance front.

The Mad Welshman genuinely does hope things improve, but… Has been around long enough to know that’s no sure thing…

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