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Author: Kevin McLennan

Kevin is old, 30 years old to be exact. With old age comes an appreciation for the finer things in life. By finer he means faster, better, more efficient, he means a PC. Where once there used to be Sega Mega Drives, Playstations and N64s, now there is only the PC. But that's quite alright, cause he always hated that he could never order a Pizza Hut on his SNES. is a part time worker full time gamer who loves indie and retro games as much as AAA titles and MMO's. When not playing on his Xbox or PC he often makes way for his N64, SNES and Gameboy. Likes to think of his play style/attitude to life as tactical but this often turns out to be gung-ho and spur of the moment.
Distance Early Access First Impressions Gameplay

Distance Early Access First Impressions Gameplay

Distance is a game that frustrates me, not because I don’t like it or because it’s not a good game, but because I’m just not skilled enough to play it and therein lies the biggest problem I have with what should be a really enjoyable and fast paced arcade style racer. If it wasn’t for the fact that the rest of the game was so good I probably wouldn’t even mention it and off paper I’d put it down to bad design or lack of effort on my part. But the truth is that it’s well designed, fun to play, smooth running, has a great soundtrack and an increasing fan base that have already created thousands of custom maps to play on. It’s just a shame that this one mechanic slows all that down for me in such a way that I simply cannot compete with other racers in multiplayer and sometimes not even complete full race tracks at all.

If you want to see what Distance is all about for yourself, click on the video below.

With no solid release date set as yet, developers Refract hope to release some time in the first quarter of 2016. Distance can be purchased on Steam or via the official website for PC with other platforms to follow.

Deliver Us The Moon Early Access Demo Impressions

Deliver Us The Moon Early Access Demo Impressions

Deliver Us The Moon is fresh out of a successful Kickstarter funding campaign and after having seen a trailer or two I decided this sci-fi survival/adventure game was due a deeper look. Upon first booting up the game I noticed that for a small indie team based out of Holland, developers Keoken Interactive have done a brilliant job with the visuals. Sure there are the odd optimisation needed here or there but for a demo this rates up there with the standard of many AAA demo’s I have played in the past. Solid mechanically, responsive and easy to control, not glitchy, interesting level design and probably the stand out thing for me in this demo is the lack of hand holding. There are a few pointers here and there but in most cases it’s up to you to figure out how to use equipment and decide what direction you should be heading in.

The demo is a short one lasting about 15-25 minutes and you can find my gameplay/commentary of the demo below.

The Kickstarter campaign might well be over but Deliver Us The Moon is still available to back on the official website and the first episode (of five) is due for release August 2016.

Tormentum: Dark Sorrow – The Verdict

Tormentum: Dark Sorrow – The Verdict

There’s no denying it, the stand out attribute of Tormentum: Dark Sorrow is the brilliantly twisted artwork that fills this dark fantasy world with it’s unusual beings, scarred landscapes and hauntingly attractive design. In fact if it wasn’t for the incredible amounts of artwork, Tormentum would lose a lot of its character, however disturbing that character really is! At first glance Tormentum’s shadowy figure doesn’t seem like the kind that would be well suited to the point and click/adventure genre. But the game mechanics are implemented well and I never found myself scratching my head at an impossible combination of items or an unworkable puzzle as I have done with so many others. In fact I found Tormentum‘s puzzles to be a little on the easy side and I was able to enjoyably fly through the game in little over three hours.

Another thing I wasn’t entirely sure about to begin with was the silent protagonist and the games way of not really telling you much about him and how he came to be. Developers OhNoo studio explain this by means of the good old cliché of memory loss and I feel that there is a missed opportunity here to add lore and detail to the wonderfully designed world. I should point out that by the end of the game this sticking point had more than ironed itself out however and I was enjoying the freedom of imagination surrounding his past life. In fact much of what the character becomes is made through moral choices you encounter on your travels. There are a number of these choices throughout the game that directly effect the story and how you proceed in minor ways. There are also multiple endings in Tormentum that depend on your decision making and mean another playthough of the game is entirely viable if you want to discover all the outcomes for youself.

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I find it hard to write a full review about a game that only lasts three hours and doesn’t have all that much of a journey in terms of written dialogue and back story. Instead Tormrntum’s strong points come from allowing you to have the imagination of what it would be like in the amazingly drawn world and to create the protagonists characteristics through the choices and decisions you make and it does this very well. It doesn’t focus too much on bogging you down with tough puzzles or forcing you to remember hundreds of plot points, but instead has a brilliant and very polished world filled to the brim with imagination, creativity, strange and interesting characters and a new approach (at least for me) to the point and click genre and that is something that should be applauded. The dialogue that is present in the game is not voiced but is well written and again adds to the feeling of the world and its characters and having played through the game twice already this is a world I would quite happily visit again in the future.

The Verdict – Headshot

Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC

Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.

Clandestine – Early Access Preview

Clandestine – Early Access Preview

Clandestine is a stealth action game currently in the Early Access program on Steam. It’s developers Logic Artists aim to bring the genre back to it’s routes by doing away with the all too common feeling that your character is some kind of all powerful hero with every possible resource at their disposal to get the job done. Instead Clandestine is best played in co-op with one player taking on the roll of the spy and one the hacker.

The spy is the operative on the field doing the dirty work. Dispatching guards, picking up intel and traversing the maps like a stealthy ninja with a gun. While the hacker has no on field activities and instead has the job of supporting the spy using their various different cyber skill for things like unlocking security doors and disabling cameras.

I’ve put together a short video below that better explains the overall gameplay in Clandestine and what I feel are the good and bad points about the game.

So as you can see from the above footage, while Clandestine looks promising there are still a few changes that need to be implemented before the games full release. Remember this game is currently in Steam’s Early Access program that means many changes could be made before the official release.

Clandestine‘s release date hasn’t been set yet but if you like what you see and want to buy into the early access version on Steam, you can do so here.

Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today – Hands On Preview

Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today – Hands On Preview

If there’s only one thing that an adventure game begs for it’s a right decent story. To certain extents the puzzles, the aesthetic, the characters and the audio can all be held up by a story that excels and draws the player in at every moment. I don’t mention this because I believe Fictiorama Studios have created a one trick pony, far from it. I mention it instead to emphasise how far you can get with just a good storyline, something that Dead Synchronicity certainly seems to have during my first few hours of gameplay. Let me explain…

Michael, the main protagonist in this post apocalyptic adventure has awoken in a strange place, surrounded by strange people and what’s even stranger still is that he has no memory of who he is. No memory of his family, his life before the event that caused him to be lying on this dirty old mattress in what looks like a rusty caravan. It takes some explanation from a good Samaritan to make him understand that an event called ‘The Great Wave’ swept across the globe, destroying the modern world and bringing a new disease so horrible that it’s become a crime to hide the people who have it.

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Most people would take this ending of everything they once knew and loved as a sign to give up hope on ever having a life worth living again, but not Michael. He is the type of character who demands to know what caused this atrocity to happen and the type of character that would never give up on finding out his true identity at any cost. It’s from here that the story really kicks off, letting you loose amongst a refugee camp controlled by the army who have seized power since everything fell apart. According to them it’s either their way or the end of a gun. The rest of the camp have given up hope of ever leaving this pile of junk and have instead resorted to surviving on their own wit and strength and whether you like it or not you now have to do the same.

Aside from the intriguing storyline Dead Synchronicity has a number of other high points. Let’s start with the soundtrack which is entirely created by the Spanish band Kovalski. The music sets the tone of the game really well and while it’s never overpowering I always noticed when a new tune popped up. The line up of Kovalski actually contains two members of the development team proving already that they are prepared to go further than most would to make sure their game is a good as possible.

Another high point is the games ability to deal well with mature subjects. In this post apocalyptic world some people are prepared to do what ever it takes to survive and Dead Synchronicity, whilst never being overly crude or graphic fittingly deals with subjects like murder, prostitution and death.

In the few hours that I’ve played this game I’ve been impressed with how much it has drawn me into its story and made me believe the world and characters it presents. Let’s just hope that continues to the end.

Dead Synchronicity is due for release on April the 10th.

Blackguards 2 Gameplay Preview

Blackguards 2 Gameplay Preview

Blackguards 2 is a turn-based, tactical RPG based on the rule book of The Dark Eye, the increasingly popular German role-playing game that challenges even Dungeons and Dragons for it’s fantasy crown. Made by Daedalic Entertainment, Blackguards 2 is a follow up to 2014’s original and is due for release almost exactly one year later in January of 2015. Various additions and improvements have been made since the first game was released making Blackguards 2 a more accessible and understandable game than its predecessor. As a newcomer to the series I was glad to see there is an in depth tutorial that explains the basic mechanics of the game including any changes and while I did feel there were portions missing that could really have been of use, this really helped me settle into the game with a basic understanding of how to move forward once I was set free on the world map.

For those unaccustomed to Blackguards 2‘s gameplay style the main portion of the game takes place in two places; your campsite and the battlefield. The battlefield is of course where you test your skills on a tiled map using a turn-based system. Your characters can be strategically placed before the first turn is taken and the map can also be fully viewed before you start. One stumbling block I ran into early on was that I would quite often find myself taking a couple of turns on a new map then restarting once I had a better gist of what my overall goal was. Blackguards 2 does allow you highlight interactive items on the map, but only once characters have been placed and turns are in play. There is also occasionally a bit of dialogue before the first turn, but in many cases neither of these fully explain the maps end goal and on the hardest difficulties this can be a death sentence if you make a tactical error early on.

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Once clear on your map goals the combat becomes really enjoyable and the twists and turns of the story elements don’t seem so harsh. In a way it’s both a good and a bad thing that maps need to be scouted before you fully commit to them. On one hand this of course means that the overall goal is not well explained enough to begin with, but also means that maps and not just straightforward affairs and vary in approach, difficulty and layout to the point that after six hours of gameplay I don’t think I approached a single battle in exactly the same way.

The campsite is the second area where you will spend a lot of your time learning about your characters history and getting to grips with the very detailed and open ability system. As with the action based portion of the game this area holds a lot of positives and a few negatives. For starters the aforementioned ability system is great once you get to grips with it. You are basically open to build your characters as you wish, without having to stick to strict class restrictions. Of course this doesn’t mean that you can just spend your ability points without thought, as this will most likely cripple your effectiveness later on when the game takes a difficulty hike. Carefully reading over abilities and choosing a path for each character is your best bet and this is where one of the negatives comes into play. The specification options and statistics are just not explained well enough. For example what is the difference between offence and damage and how do they effect each other if at all? Do main-hand and off-hand attacks have the same stat values? How many points of endurance do I need to gain in order to raise my health? These and more are all the types of questions I wanted to ask in order to improve the way I levelled my characters and so improve the way I played the game. Blackguards 2 certainly seems like it’s pushing itself toward the hardcore tactical RPG crowd, but in order to please that crowd you have to be overly informative and highly detailed in every aspect of character building.

Blackguards 2 also allows for moral choices when dealing with certain aspects of the games storyline. As the leader of a group of growing power within the kingdom Cassia often has tough choices to make than can effect the story later down the line. The game is also not as straightforward as choosing which point you want to advance to after every successful battle, occasionally the kingdoms forces will try to take back one of your controlled points on the map and then it’s your turn to be on the back foot and defend what you have fought so hard for.

Blackguards 2 is currently in development and I have no doubt that come release day there will be advancements and improvements from what I have seen in the preview. For me if they are to get things just right it would be nice for there to be a bit more detail in the statistics side of things and continuation of the varying map styles and encounters. Blackguards 2 is clearly confident in what it wants to achieve, that being a solid tactical game set in a fantasy world with a rich backstory. Characters are likeable, combat is enjoyable and the game is generally well designed and I can’t wait to try out the finished product next year.

Six Steps For First-Time PC Builders

Six Steps For First-Time PC Builders

There comes a time in everyone’s gaming life when their machine of choice decides to call it a day and ascends to the heavens. For some this could be 20 years after buying your first Gameboy or in my case 8 years after buying my HP laptop. It had served me well in that time, but I now desperately needed an upgrade.

Now, I like to think of myself as somewhat of a tech savvy and money wise individual and after a couple of quotes for custom PC builds had come in, it just didn’t feel like I was getting the value for money that I really wanted. After a short period of despair I decided to undertake the task of building the new PC myself and I learnt a lot of useful information in the process.

I’ve since finished my build and am glad that I took up the challenge, but at the same time it took a lot more time and effort than I had originally anticipated. In this article I aim to layout my plan of action for anyone who’s thinking of building their first PC, in the hope that I can save you some time and maybe even some money.

Step 1: Budget

Budget

Budgeting is the single most important thing you should consider. It’s easy to say I want A, B and C, but what can you actually afford to spend. Before you even browse for components you should sit down and work out how much of your hard earned money you can dedicate to the new build. Once you have a good idea of how much you can spend, then start looking at the market and getting an idea of what specifications your new PC will consist of.

There’s nothing worse than getting ahead of yourself in this situation as costs can easily begin to spiral out of control, especially once you factor in all the different components. If like me you want to build a gaming PC I would recommend that as a very minimum to build a decent rig you are going to need to spend at least £450 on main components only. That’s Processor, Motherboard, Graphics Card, RAM, Storage, Monitor, Case and Power supply. If you can get something good put together for cheaper than this then you are in luck, but at this minimum level you would be expecting to upgrade parts within a year.

Step 2: Research

This was the longest part of the process for me as it took a while to decide exactly what it was that I wanted in my PC. In the end I decided to push the budget more towards the graphics card and processor as these would be taking most of the strain. Below I’ve listed the full specifications of the main components that I eventually chose.

Spec

Getting to this final specification list took a couple of steps. First of all I used Logical Increments to get an idea of what I could afford for the amount I was willing to spend. I then took the information from there and input that to PC Part Picker and adjusted various components to more suit my needs. A little less on a case and monitor and a little more on graphics and processor and I was almost there.

These two website were invaluable for me as without them I wouldn’t have even known where to start. They gave me a base idea and allowed me to adjust it to suit my needs while keeping a tab on price and compatibility. PC Part Picker was the most helpful, giving you a final summary of your specification, listing any incompatible parts or issues that you may have using certain components. For example if there was a case that was too small for the components you had chosen, or the monitor didn’t have HDMI input, it would let you know.

When putting your spec together, don’t forget to factor in costs such as Windows OS, mouse and keyboard, anti-virus, Microsoft office, external hard drive, headphones and anything else you might need or want for your particular set up. It’s easy to miss out the smaller things in your budget and they can often add unexpected cost to your overall build.

Step 3: Advice

Advice from friends was an important part of the procedure for me as a first time builder. That outside view from someone who had completed their own PC build can be invaluable in helping you choose the right components and spending money in the right places. If you don’t know anyone who has built their own machine, try using social media or searching for tips and answers on the internet. Beware though, people don’t always know what they’re talking about and might give you bad advice. It’s always best to double check everything.

If you have a bit of money to spare it might be worth popping into your local PC store and asking for advice there. I find independent shops to be much more honest and helpful than the large chain stores that try to push sales on you.

Step 4: Bargain Hunt

While PC Part Pickers is a great way to gauge what prices you will be paying for components, there are only a select few websites to choose between. It’s always a good idea to bargain hunt and if you’re lucky enough to find somewhere that does what your looking for a bit cheaper, that saved money could go towards improving other components or upgrades down the line. Certain websites can offer free postage or discounts if you buy more than one item, but remember to always order from reputable sources, a quick Google check always cleared my mind on this front.

Step 5: Build

Of all the steps I took, the build was both the part I was least confident about and most looking forward to.

Luckily an experienced friend agreed to oversee the construction (and by oversee i mean he did most of the work). In this short time I went from complete novice to having a good idea of what I would need to do if I ever had to replace or upgrade a component in the future. This experience was invaluable and if it wasn’t for my friend I would have probably looked up a guide on the internet instead. Each piece I ordered also came with a fairly in depth manual explaining exactly how it fitted into the motherboard or connected to the power.

If you don’t know or can’t convince anyone to help you out, there are number of helpful guides online that can be used to aid you in your build. They can be found here, here and here.

Step 6: Game On

OK, so this is not so much of a step as a celebration of all that you have achieved, your machine is finally up and running! You’ve spent weeks buying all the components, waiting for delivery, building it, installing the OS and countless updates and you want to finally test it out. Make sure you have anti-virus installed and download your most graphics heavy game, turn everything up and test it out to make sure everything is running ok. No lag, no graphical or sound problems, unexpected crashes or faults with the system. Once this is all done you’re pretty much free to do what you want. Enjoy your system, you deserve it.

Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms – The Verdict

Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms – The Verdict

I hack and slash but the enemies keep at me thick and fast, surrounding me from every angle. Slowly they chip away at my health, forcing me to drain my soul reserves in order to replenish my health. I pull back to a previous area hoping to pick off a few grunts before the full force hits me again. Alas it’s no use, there are just too many. Fortunately I have one last trick up my sleeve. Not one that many mortals would openly admit to, but then again I am not just any mortal. I have already been resurrected once today and don’t plan on giving cause for a second time. My secret… well, you see I have a demon in my soul and can transfer to its shadowy world in a mere second.

And just like that… I vanished.

The cross dimensional mechanic is easily the best thing about Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms, meaning you can start and finish quests, find secrets, solve puzzles and encounter entirely different enemies in both the realm of the living and the shadowy realm of the dead. In fact one of the best moments of the game came when I discovered some poor betrayed soul haunting the afterlife, only to take pity on the story they told me and exact revenge on their betrayer back in the mortal world. It’s this added sense of depth that makes the questing in exploration in Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms all that more enjoyable, especially when travelling through previously visited areas. Another high point is the all too rare boss battles, which provide a real challenge even in lower difficulties. These encounters are filled with unique abilities and situations that make them stand out amongst the hundreds of normal enemies you will encounter over the course of this game. They require tactics, patience and often multiple attempts, which is exactly what I would expect from an ARPG that knows what it’s doing.

If Shadows: HK was able to keep up this level of performance across the entire game, then it really would be something special. Unfortunately just like a freshly unearthed gem you can see that it has value, that there is something special there, but it’s rough around the edges and needs some work to mould it into perfection. Shadows: HK has plenty of plus points but lacks the polish and overall direction of an ARPG that has larger funding behind it.

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One of the main problems I have with the game is the way the story is delivered. There is a very short prologue that does little to set the story for you, the cutscenes are poorly processed and it’s not until you are a few hours into the game that the story really begins to open up thanks to the great voice acting and pick up and read lore books that you find dotted about the levels. Combat is also very slow to begin and again it’s not until a few hours into the game, once you have a full party of characters and you’ve had some time to level up abilities that the combat becomes more exciting. Even then it is still slow when compared to other ARPG’s.

Another major bugbear, although not necessarily a problem depending on what kind of a game you are expecting, is the looting and crafting systems. Gear drops are not frequent and I rarely found myself using the crafting systems to build myself armour or weapons. Instead most of my character progression was achieved through leveling up abilities and stats and by picking up the odd gear drop. If you are looking for an instantly fast paced ARPG focused on gear drops then you might want to look elsewhere.

Of course there are many good points to Shadows: HK and if you are willing to put in a couple of hours to get past the initial slow start, the games combat and story really begin to open up and become more enjoyable. Another positive to note is that the game is really easy to get to grips with in terms of understanding the UI, maps, combat mechanics, character movement and travelling through the levels. Questing is a particular plus point for me as I found the cross-realm mechanic really added a sense of depth to what would otherwise be quite linear quests. There are occasionally also moral choices to be made, that whilst not ultimately storyline changing, do directly affect the game world.

At first I wasn’t sure about Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms slower pace but found myself sinking hours into unlocking new characters and completing challenging quests just so that I could see every area of the well designed and smart looking levels. Upon completion it now ranks among the top games in my steam list for play time and that’s only with part one of the game. Book two is planned for release in 2015.

The Verdict – On target

Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC

Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.

Lords Of Xulima – Early Access First Impressions

Lords Of Xulima – Early Access First Impressions

Back in November of 2013, Lords of Xulima closed a successful Kickstarter campaign to the tune of more than three times the $10,000 they initially asked for. The excitement for this game was almost palpable and since then over thirty updates have crafted this game into something that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who loves old school RPG games and more importantly a really good challenge.

I decided to take a look at the game in its final stages of Early Access and hopefully give you a good idea of what’s on offer when the game releases very soon. I’ll do my best to answer any questions if there was something I didn’t cover in the video.

Lords of Xulima is available on digitally on Steam or you can buy physical editions directly from the Lords of Xulima store.

Our Week In Games – Week 104

Our Week In Games – Week 104

In a rather strange series of news posts it became apparent that Ubisoft had removed all their new releases from Steam earlier in the week. The reason why they felt they had to do this has not been fully discovered yet but the internet was rife with rumors of a fallout with Valve over the pricing of their games. Whatever the reason it seems to have sorted itself out as after a brief spell of wondering what to do with ourselves, the games magically appeared back on Steam yesterday afternoon.

Kevin

This week has been very busy on the gaming front. Now that my new PC is all set up nicely I’ve had some real time to sit down an play some good games and even get some recording done!

First off I managed about an hour of the surprise Evolve alpha, I was hoping for more but ended up missing it. It was good fun when it worked (it was very temperamental) but nothing to shout home about just yet as you would come to expect from an alpha honestly. Next up was Mark of the Ninja. I’ve been wanting to play this for ages and it’s been in my Steam backlog for… well, ages. Really enjoyed it and was surprised to realise it took me 8 hours to finish, seemed a lot shorter. That’s usually the mark of a good game in my books, something you can lose yourself in for a bit.

Finally I’ve been taking a look at Lords of Xulima early access on Steam. It’s an old school styled RPG with lots going for it, definitely worth checking out if you like your Ultima games. More to come on this very shortly and I managed to get some recording done too.

Oh yeah, and there’s Hearthstone, but that’s a given for any of my OWIG entries.

Jon

I spent a lot of last week playing Evolve and if you’ve read my preview on it (of course you have…) you’d know I think it has promise. I particularly like the a-symetrical nature of the combat. The success or otherwise of the title, for me at least, rests on maintaining this a-symmetry as the playerbase becomes more experienced and the characters progress and unlock more skills.

Rampaging monsters and hunters aside, i’ve spent a bit of time re-visiting an old love of mine; X-Com. Now the game is starting to look old, and if im perfectly honest with myself, it wasn’t the best looking game on release (though it was by no means bad, the styalised visuals hid an ageing engine very well), but the gameplay is still immense.

With the benefit of the 2nd wave options (a way to modify the game for extra playability) im going to give it another bash. ON classic ironman of course….