Destiny or Fate (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99
Where To Get It:Steam
Other Reviews: Early Access

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?

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Siberian Dawn

Source: Review Copy
Price: Free (£2.99 for Mission Pack 1. And yes, it is apparently possible to get F2P review codes.)
Where To Get It: Steam

Siberian Dawn is, sad to say, a frustrating experience. It has a tutorial, it’s true. A long, multifaceted tutorial that takes the steps in isolation. But when it comes to putting it all together? There’s no helping, beyond a brief help screen that… Isn’t actually that helpful. No tooltips. And… Look, let’s talk about the basics, then we can get into problems, and possible solutions.

The, er… Help overlay. It does, to be fair, contain a lot of information.

Siberian Dawn is a turn-based tactical card game set in an alternate universe where a russian empire is being assaulted by… Its own robots, seemingly. It has several missions in the base game, and some more in a DLC pack. The unit art is somewhat interesting, even if the UI is… Well, it shifts in and out of visibility on the menu and some of the screens, and, while I’m sure it’s meant to be reminiscent of technology that doesn’t quite work, all it really does is annoy. Finally in the aesthetic end, the music is an ambient loop, which, on the one hand, is suitably threatening. But, by association, it quickly becomes tiresome. Association with what?

Well, with the frustration of playing. As has already been mentioned, the help screen isn’t terribly useful, and the tutorials remove context, while also setting up ideal conditions that… Just don’t exist in the actual missions. A really basic example: Tactics cost command points. Units cost either command points or money to buy, but they also cost Command Points to deploy. And the hand size is based on your rank, while resources “dropped” do not stay outside of their turn. And, since a unit is put into the resource hand, it’s not actually guaranteed you have the resources to play it even if it’s in the hand.

Since the slot unlocked for your first soldier is set before the first turn… Well, this was effecitvely pre-ordained…

Meanwhile, these robots? No such limitations. They turn up, once a turn, in the first mission, and… Well, the screenshot above says it all, really. Except it doesn’t, because you’d need to correlate the screenshot with the “help” screen to know what the hell is what. There is a mechanic to somewhat help with this, but it’s a painful one: Glory (that’s the G) can be spent to buy command points. But once it goes down to 0, your Command Rank (The R) goes down by 1, which may bar you from getting units. So, generally speaking, robots attack with impunity, while your own units… Not so much. It’s a pretty severe balance issue, and a multifaceted one that doesn’t fully make sense at that. You’ve hired a unit, why… Why do you need extra resources to both deploy the card, and make it attack?

There’s other elements that lack clarity (Well, the majority lacks clarity), so… Honestly, I can’t really recommend this one, even with the base game being free to play, and the Mission DLC being cheap. The mechanics are not taught well, and rely on memorising a long tutorial, the balance is decidedly toward the enemies (You may notice, in this screenshot, Mk 4 robots. They have a defence equal to their rank, as far as I’m aware. So, er, good luck with that!) It just isn’t fun to play from the get go.

The Mad Welshman has excellent bala-WHOOP!

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Nowhere Prophet (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.49 (£27.79 for all gubbins, £11.39 for soundtrack, artbook, and other gubbins)
Where To Get It: Steam, Itch.IO
Other Reviews: Early Access 1, Early Access 2

Nowhere Prophet has, over the course of its Early Access, been a promising, but sometimes frustrating ride. And with release? Well, there’s some improvement, including rejigging what the difficulty settings tell you, introducing and then toning down bosses for each checkpoint along the way to The Crypt, supposedly the salvation of this post-apocalyptic, Indian themed landscape, and rejigging items to create a more manageable version of the Leader decks, along with special abilities that can be used once a battle.

Aaaaaa, I got here, I got here! (and then never since. Oh Boo.)

In short, Nowhere Prophet has changed quite a bit from when I last reviewed it, and, on reflection, these changes are good, especially after some of the bosses have been toned down.

Because, hot damn, they were frustrating a day or so ago. To recap, Nowhere Prophet is a turn based game in which you balance food and hope versus progress and better gear, and the life of your followers versus your own life, because, in the fights, it’s a Hearthstone style of “Play units, play leader cards, get one more energy than the last turn, and your goal is to kill the leader.” There, a nice executive summary.

What complaints I have essentially still remain: Some decks are damn good, especially in the enemy’s hands, and the AI plays its deck well, grinding you down quite efficiently. Which is why the difficulty setting restatement is welcome: The AI does not play any better or worse on any difficulty, but does have less synergy in their own decks, and less powerful cards. On “Burdened” difficulty (Previously described as “Normal”), some of those decks can be, for want of a better word, bloody evil. But I’ve talked about things like Taunt and Armour boys before, so we’ll instead move on to bosses.

Oh no. Oh no. I am not ready for taunt/armourboi funtimes!

As mentioned, each checkpoint now has a boss fight, against one of 10 bosses (One for each of the factions), and the toning down has been good, because previously, some were intriguing, but many were downright frustrating, like the Union Bulwark essentially being the ultimate Taunt-Armour Boy, or the Blue Devil Tormented’s ability to level up all of his hand if you murder one of his folks. Now, those abilities are toned down, and, in some cases, limited to once a turn, for a limited number of turns, or both. Which means I can actually be excited about King Lizard’s clever trick without looking like a masochist.

King Lizard, on release, essentially straight up wounded/killed whoever attacked him when he didn’t have armour (Your Leader cards don’t count.) But now, it’s only the first unit a turn, and that is still tactical (Who do I sacrifice for the most gain?) without, for example, waiting to buff up some of your units so they really count toward that goal. Each has their own schtick, and it’s relatively easy to understand from the tooltips and what you’ve encountered of a faction.

Okay, so maybe I was. But I wasn’t in shape for what came next, and died.

I will say that, while there’s definitely a lot of replay value (even having beaten the game, there’s more I want to find), the final unlockable ability of convoys is brought about by beating… 25 bosses. And that, honestly, is expecting a bit much, considering there’s nine tribes to unlock this for, and four leaders, some of which you can only unlock through certain circumstances.

Still, overall, it’s visually impressive, its music is good, and even with that brief day one hiccup, it shows promise, with its daily challenges adding a little spice to the game. I would recommend this, because it does have some clever ideas, and playing it on the easier settings is not a guilt trip.

The Mad Welshman says Rusters are People too. This is in no way due to the nanocontrollers in his head.

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Deck of Ashes (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39 (£5.19 each for OST and Print-Ready Posters)
Where To Get It: Steam

At first, I was honestly a little unconvinced by Deck of Ashes. Grimdark world, of grimness and darkness and fire? Hrm. Relatively small deck you have to build up, and if you run out of cards, you lose health to regain some? Hrrrrrm. A limited amount of time in each area before you have to fight the boss? Hrrrrm? Health and cards burned stick with you, and you can only regain a limited amount of them, balancing cards regained versus healing? Aaargh.

Oh dear, out of cards. Time to… Take the pact. Again. The early game is the roughest part.

But then I gave it a serious chance after some unfortunate runs early on, and… While it looks intimidating, only the boss or elite fights take a fair chunk of time, and it’s not nearly as bad as how it seems at first glance (Although yes, the difficulty does ramp up fairly quickly areawise, as you’d somewhat expect from these procgen card fighting titles.) And some of its ideas really play into its idea of a world fighting against you, and that the bosses are powerful, corrupted entities that, given a choice, you’d probably run from.

For example, bosses can, in the later stages of each area, just… Blow up an area, and if it’s somewhere you wanted to go, well… Sorry. The resting is also more reasonable than it sounds, as quick fights rarely req uire more than 5 cards, which leaves you with 20 percent health to recover. Harder fights, obviously, require more than that, and it’s that grind that leaves you worried, but health cards have been pretty good, and a per-turn limit of cards, obviously, helps a little too. Although it would be nice to fry an enemy in a single turn, it honestly works better this way.

I should mention, at this point, that some of the enemies like succubi are nude in some fashion. Just so’s you know.

Aesthetically, well… It’s grim, but not necessarily all that dark, saturated colours really making the enemy designs pop, with at least some impact when cards hit. Status symbols could maybe do with being a bit more clear, though. The maps are fine, the cards are clear, and the controls are all mouse based. Finally, the soundtrack is, as you’d expect, grim horns, violins… You know what you’re in for with grimdark games, I’ll definitely give them that.

While it does need some polish and balance, right now, Deck of Ashes is, as noted, less intimidating than it looks, and isn’t a bad card battler, all told.

The Mad Welshman doesn’t really like pacts. He doesn’t like a devilish deal he can’t wriggle out of villainously, you see.

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Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £22.49 (£7.49 for soundtrack, game available as part of Steamworld bundle)
Where To Get It: Steam

I knew I’d done the wrong thing when the lovely mage Copernica fell. I won the boss battle, somehow, but I knew… I’d done the wrong thing. And the fact that I very quickly caught on exactly what I’d done wrong… Says nice things about Steamworld Quest, the latest in the growing Steamworld franchise, and this time… It’s a turn-based, card battling RPG with some real time elements.

A pair of robot ladies, strolling through the woods to kick ass and take shrooms.

The general idea is this: Some unlikely heroes (More setting wise than anything else, because they very quickly become quite badass) have, after a short adventure picking mushrooms (Which, yes, results in a boss battle, because it turns out a large mushroom doesn’t appreciate this), they return to town to find it on fire, with the heroes kidnapped by an evil army, of the kind that hasn’t been seen in the land for a long time. And then things get interesting.

So, there’s a fair amount to like about Steamworld Dig, starting with its somewhat unique approach to the card-based combat system of the type we’ve seen often lately. For a start, each character has their own deck, but all of these are shuffled into a single deck, from which you get 6 cards. You can play 3 cards a turn, but it’s heavily to your advantage if you play all three cards from the same character. Okay, that’s one interesting thing, but the other is where I made my mistake. You see, each character’s deck is limited (8 cards at the beginning), which come in two forms: Those that build power… And those that use power. Guess which fule put too many of the latter in their deck before Chapter 2’s boss fight? This fule.

“Omae wa mou shindeiru…”

Aesthetically, the game works pretty well: Smooth paperdoll animations for the characters, clear and friendly UX, good and fitting music, and some solid sounds and splashes make up for the fact that the attacks, being of the JRPG style, don’t always connect with as much impact as I’d like.

And then, of course, there’s the humour. The Steamworld games, even when they get dark, have a sense of playfulness about them, and Quest is no exception. In Chapter 3, in particular, we get the distinct impression that the Adventurer’s Guild had been living on easy street up until now (They have their own golf course, the bougie gits), and that the large world… Well, it carries on, even with an evil army on the march… Look for the two robots playing chess in the background. A subtle touch, but an amusing one.

One or both of these frontline mages can completely heal from this single attack. Good thing I’m chaining…

I do have one criticism of the game, but it’s an odd one, because it does tutorialise well: If you do not engage with its core systems (such as, for example, using the redraws you have to maybe make that “Three from the same character” chain), you’re going to have a much harder time. Even early Void Mages can heal each other, or themselves, for definitely more damage per turn than Copernica’s basic attacks, and a little less than what Galeo (the punchy healer) can put out with his… And since they rarely turn up alone, it can make a fight really drag on. Which, considering that the longer a fight drags on, the more you get hurt, and that healing items are not the most plentiful?

Well, please listen to the tutorials. Overall, though, I appreciate Steamworld Quest going for tight play, focusing on managing a small deck with more potential tools as you go on, and even something of an ambush system (Okay, second crit: Since ambushing an enemy means clicking directly on them when you’re close enough, it’s a hassle to get ambushes, and those are that little extra edge that can help a fight a fair bit.) It has style, it has humour, and, as always, I do like a good experiment. Especially when, as with Steamworld Quest, it seems to work.

The Mad Welshman has yet to meet a robot he hasn’t liked. Admittedly, some have been murderous mixes of skeletons, T-Rexes, and lawnmowers, but they were his kind of skeletal murderous lawnmower t-rex robots.

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