Swag and Sorcery

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £9.99
Where to Get It: Steam

It is an oft-spoken truth that adventurers are in the biz to look fly. Well, secondary to the concern of being as murderous as humanly possible in the pursuit of loot and monsters, but yes, looking good while doing so is definitely a priority.

WHAT DOES HE HAVE THAT WE DON’T?!? IS IT THE WOLF HAT?

And Swag and Sorcery aptly demonstrates what hard, thankless grind this can be with its fashion obsessed kingdom, out to find a long-lost magical, kingly costume, and look swag as heck while doing so.

Oh, and there’s some dork trying to tear the kingdom down. I guess he’s kind of in the way, along with his summons. Something about thinking that the King relying on a magic suit his grandfather had to solve the Kingdom’s woes…

Swag and Sorcery, overall, is an idle RPG with crafting elements. Send your adventurers out into the wild (occasionally returning them to town so you get some loot, instead of no loot at all and an annoyed adventurer waiting to heal), get ingredients and money, and then throw those ingredients and money into the adventure supplying industries, so you can do that first bit all over again. And again. And again. Until you beat a boss, at which point, you get more areas to look at, unlock more ingredients for more recipes and…

The ladies are, honestly, cleaning up by this point…

…Look, it’s enjoyable with a certain mindset. Wanting to discover what new thing you encounter, what new costumes you get, and whether this time, this time, that damn priest judge won’t vote a 9 on that awful pumpkin number. I mean, it’s summer, pumpkin is fall, you ecclesiastical blunderer! There is, to be fair, a lot of this adventuring industry: Alchemy to make some rare ingredients and get mana for spells (used to help adventuring parties in trouble), smiths and carpenters to sort equipment, clothiers to help the wizarding types… All manned by… The same adventurers you’re hiring to clean out the dungeons. Heck, even sending multiple adventuring groups out at once is a thing you can quickly do.

Aesthetically, Swag and Sorcery is not bad at all. Good, clear pixel art, you know what things are, the music’s nice, and the roles that are voice acted are amusingly hammy. Which fits with the game’s silliness, so… Appreciated. Sure, some monsters are a little generic, but the majority are something interesting. Ghouls in this game, for example, are armoured murderbeasts, and the Infected are dead, weeping eyed humans who have been melded to what appears to be giant spikey crab legs.

I will say, though, nice nod to needing a work-life balance. Ahhhh…

But yes, Swag and Sorcery is all about, as with most idle type deals, getting bigger numbers, so you can hit bigger numbers, which gets you bigger numbers. Sometimes those numbers aren’t quite big enough, so you have to grind on the smaller numbers until you can get bigger numbers (or grind on the bigger numbers hoping to get something out of it while other numbers get lower.) And… It’s not unenjoyable, it definitely has its high points, but… Sadly, I’m not really of the mindset to properly enjoy it.

The Mad Welshman already ground out his reviewing stat this month. More grinding is… Inadvisable for him.

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Forager (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £14.99
Where to Get It: Steam

Forager is one of those games which blurs the line a little bit. Specifically, between a survival RPG… And an idle game. I’ve actually had some arguments, over the past month, as to whether this label really applies. “But Jamie, you do things. You walk around.”

I’m pretty much getting the obvious screenshot out of the way here. And it’s not hard to see why it’s an obvious choice.

Yes. And a lot of that walking around is so you can find the thing that popped up. To hit the thing. To get more of a thing. So you can make more of the other thing to get more things overall. Everything in Forager is in service to opening up more Forager. And a lot of that time is either clicking on things (To mine them, to kill them, or to solve the odd puzzle), or waiting for things.

Like I said, it blurs the line, because while other survival games and RPGs have precisely this… Even the skill tree is basically “Unlock more things to do.” Ah, now you can mine this metal. Now you can make better mining things. Now you can get more gold when you make gold.

NEED MORE GOLD. AND WHEAT. AND COAL. (But not really food. I’m good there, that’s just to kill time.)

Does that make Forager unenjoyable? Not precisely, it definitely does interesting things. But it really does seem to be enjoyed more if you approach it from an idle-game viewpoint than an RPG viewpoint. Exploration? Well, occasionally you get that, but more often, it’s bam, one puzzle or NPC fetch quest chain, and what’s left is farming, mining, and harvesting. Story? Again, somewhat, but it’s relatively minimal, and in service to… Opening up more mining, farming, and harvesting. It has a hunger meter, it’s true, and a health meter, but rarely are either threatened. The real threat, honestly, is that you hit a progression lull.

See, there’s never a lack of things to do, or things to watch. In fact, quite the opposite, as, quickly, you have inventory management, and meters to watch, and things to make, and things to harvest, and now, because you want to make this special thing, you have more things to harvest, and make, and… It can get overwhelming, with the feeling that you’re running in place while not doing very much (Much like a lull in… An idle game.)

This, by the way, is about the point I gave up on my completionist dreams. NOPE. NOPE NOPE NOPE.

Still, the rate of progression, to an extent, depends on how you want it to progress. I’ve seen folks try single island challenges, and others (like me) try desperately to see everything there is in the game, buying islands as soon as they can, levelling as best they can (Levelling is done by just doing things, but, as you might expect, it gets slower the further you go), and that self goal setting is a nice way to approach this.

Anyway, as noted, Forager seems to be most enjoyable when played from an idle, as opposed to RPG perspective, and that’s just fine. I am a little annoyed that the option to quit is hidden in options, but other reviewers have noted this, and it hasn’t changed, so I guess it stays.

This review took one reviewer, two word processors, five computers, and a sharp stick to make. Only the sharp stick was a base component.

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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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Thea 2: The Shattering (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.99
Where To Get It: Steam

I appreciate modular difficulty sliders. I appreciate the ability to customise one’s experience somewhat. I appreciate survival, and I appreciate 4Xs. What I am not, strictly speaking, so fond about, however, is when the percentage of your “Normal” difficulty is 150% difficulty. That, and needing to survive 100 turns on “Normal” difficulty, are a fair portion of my irritation with Thea 2: The Shattering, a survival 4X that I had taken a look at in Early Access.

This, for example, has a better chance of happening. Which, considering how few folks you start with…

And, just to make this clear, the game has improved from last time, in several important senses. But in terms of feeling whether the devs actually want me, someone who isn’t dealing amazingly well with Thea’s particular brand of conflicting desires, to see more of its content? Thaaat’s not so hot still.

So, let’s back up a second, quick recap: World’s Nordic in flavour, pantheistic, got a bit of a problem with the world maybe ending sometime in the near-ish future. And your deity has chosen you to lead a small group of folks to grow, to expand, and hopefully to survive long enough to find out what the Darkness is, and, best case scenario, how to defeat it. And, being fair to the developers, they have introduced more to help deal with that. An extra modular difficulty setting, allowing you to autoresolve conflicts more easily (or with more difficulty.) A lumber building that gives wood, even if there’s no wood nearby. That sort of thing.

A new deity is useful, it’s true. But it takes about 400 odd turns of good play per deity to get one…

But, in the end, here’s the thing. As I mentioned right at the top, unlocking more things is a royal pain in the ass. I need 9 God Points to get a new Deity to try out. I need at least 5 to get new potential starting bonuses (At least some of which are locked behind their respective Deities.) I will, if I do well on “Normal” difficulty (Surviving at least 100 turns, completing various events) gain… Maybe 3. For about an hour and a half worth of play, maybe more. And “Normal” difficulty is tough, not least because of conflicting desires.

It wants you to move from Island to Island. It wants you to do events. But it also wants you to hunker down, because this adds its own benefits. It wants you to spread, but gives a pittance of children and growth, slowly depleting the resources, and increasing the hostility. And, in essence, the games feel the same, because they tread along the exact same path. Here, the Witch’s hut, and gathering food, and finding a settlement. There, the Cmuch prince, the Wisps, the Demon Games. That very sameyness means that, to unlock more Gods, more things that maybe help you get further, you have to tread the same path over, and over, and over again, and…

It’s well written. But it’s also something like the 20th time I’ve seen it.

…Thea 2 has some interesting ideas. It has an interesting world. But I’ve never really felt like the game wants me to explore that world, to look down its path. And, even with the narrative conceit that yes, the world is hostile, it is not a game that resists being played in a fun way. It merely resists, struggling against being enjoyed, and that saddens me.

The Mad Welshman wants games to be enjoyed. Sometimes, the games themselves don’t help.

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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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