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Card Fight! Fights in Tight Spaces

Card Fight! Fights in Tight Spaces

In these Corona filled times, sporting events and leagues across the country are being postponed. One such example is the Elite Ice Hockey League, the best place to go to watch some hard hitting brawling with a dash of ice hockey. Where might I find something than can quench my desire for some fighting? Later this year, Fights in Tight Spaces might fill the puck-shaped hole in my heart.

Coming from Ground Shatter, with publishing duties helmed by Mode 7 (Frozen Synapse, Tokyo 42)Fights is a card-based tactical fighting game that looks extremely stylish.

With over 150 cards to choose from, you’ll be able to create a fighting style that suits you down to the ground. Along the wy you will pick up injuries or enhancements, all while bringing down criminal organisations across the world.

For me, as long as I can get fighting like this, I’ll be happy.

 

Football Manager 2020 – Welcome to the Cymru Leagues!

Football Manager 2020 – Welcome to the Cymru Leagues!

There’s a new Football Manager due for full release in a little over a week, but of course anyone who pre-ordered will already have access to the Beta on Steam. I’ve been trying my hand at the new version, there’s lots of things which look good. But the most important for me is the expanded Cymru Leagues (Welsh Leagues for you everyday folk).

Most of my time in Football Manager is spent with clubs such as The New Saints and hometown club, Cardiff Metropolitan University. I always have fun, but without any leagues below the old Welsh Premier, there wasn’t the depth I craved.

However, following the restructuring of the Welsh pyramid and associated rebranding, the Cymru Leagues are now present and correct in Football Manager. That means you have the Cymru Premier, along with Cymru North and Cymru South sitting below the top division. All the teams are there, and as you can probably tell from my video walkthrough of the leagues, I’m very pleased about this development.

There’s no doubting that Welsh football is at the bottom of the football land in Britain, with the Irish leagues getting more exposure on a regular basis, with thanks to their clubs recently appearing in Europa League group stages. Welsh football has been performing better in Europe in recent seasons, and the Cymru Premier is becoming ever more competitive thanks to the resurgence of Barry and consistent performers elsewhere. It’s true though that TV coverage is minimal, and mainstream press coverage doesn’t exist beyond coverage of Cardiff Met’s European adventures this season, and that’s largely because they’re students.

All this means that a big round of applause goes out to Matthew Burgess who is the new Head Researcher for Wales for Football Manager. It must have been tireless work for him to collate as much information as has on the teams below the Cymru Premier, and he has a must-read blog about his adventures in this role. I’m looking forward to the final data updates that will come with the final release next week and getting stuck into a proper career.

Cymru am byth!

Northgard – The Verdict

Northgard – The Verdict

The first time I played Northgard was on the PC in December 2018. For reasons still lost to me, I didn’t try to start off in the story mode, but instead jumped straight into a singleplayer game against three AI opponents without any idea of what was going on. I didn’t last long, but the aesthetic and setting of the game still appealed.

When I heard that Shiro Games were bringing their Norse strategy survival game to the Switch, I was extremely keen on taking another look. I didn’t make the same mistake as last year this time around; this time stepping into the story mode to try and get myself a foothold in the game.

Your clan at the start of the game. So happy and friendly.

Filled with Norse mythology, the story sets you in the shoes of Rig, Viking son of the High King who must search for a new home for his clan in the new continent of Northgard. The first couple of story missions are a gentle introduction to the mechanics of Northgard, that is until the third level where the brutality of this new land starts to be revealed.

Fortunately, the console version of Northgard is more welcoming than the classic PC version. As you start a new level, you don’t have to fear about being lost as to what to build to get your clan going. An array in the centre of your screen gives you a contextual view of the buildings that might be suitable for construction.

There dynamic control wheel opens up a wider range of options, open it when on a clear part of a zone and you see the full build menu, while opening it on a building gives you the requisite choices for upgrading a building or setting production targets. At the press of another button you can choose to see details of what your clan members are up to or refresh yourself with your victory conditions.

Working away hard at the forge.

It’s easy to control and got me involved quicker to a much greater extent than on the PC. There is still great depth to the seemingly easy job of looking after your friendly clan. As the year progresses towards winter, you want to ensure you have adequate supplies of food and wood to keep your horde happy and healthy.

Balancing your resources in the early game against the need to expand your reach around the map is a key challenge. With each zone on the map only supporting a limited number of buildings, you need to expand to build the houses you need to increase your population limit, but each additional zone you want to bring into your domain requires more food to acquire.

Even when you think you’ve got a grip of things, the world of Northgard itself throws challenges at you. You’ve got a good thing going with a farm and some sheep being tended to? Rats will appear requiring silos to keep your food safe and healers to prevent the spread of disease among the clan. A severe winter will eat into your resource supplies quicker than ever, while Draugr can rise from demonic portals and wreak havoc where you were previously safe.

You can’t afford to let your guard drop at any point in Northgard with the tables able to be turned on you at any moment. It’s almost crying out for an Easy mode so I can explore a map and work my way up the Lore tree and build more breweries to keep my people happy.

While it is disappointing that the latest free content updates that have appeared on the PC version haven’t yet made their way over to Switch, it’s clear that Shiro Games have already spent a lot of time and effort ensuring their console adaptation is as good as it should be, they’ve done a great job with this console version.

The Verdict – Headshot

Platforms Available – PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Platform Reviewed – Switch

For more on our scoring policy, please read this post. Review based on code supplied by PR.

 

Mechstermination Force: The Verdict

Mechstermination Force: The Verdict

Mechstermination Force wants you to fight off towering robots on your own. No Army, no Air Force, just you, your bandanna and a big gun. You’re seriously out gunned, out matched, and you know it. But is it fun to play?

Mechstermination Force (henceforth MF) is a side-scrolling boss shoot-em-up from Bertil Hörberg – the Swedish developer behind Gunman Clive. It consists of nothing but boss fights. Boss Fights against humongous killer robots with ridiculous weaponry.

The world is under attack from killer robots you see, and you’re tasked to stop them. That’s pretty much the entire plot and to be honest, it doesn’t need much else as you’ll soon be too busy dodging a ridiculous amount of firepower from skyscraper-tall killer robots.

The enemies are varied, with some unique and interesting attacks. These range from giant centepedal robots that wrap their body around you in an attack, to giant robots that try to punch you… and then turn into a giant crocodile when you deal them too much damage.

Each is an utterly ridiculous, yet wonderfully designed mini-puzzle for you to beat. You learn the attacks, their movements and how they react and, often with split-second timing, you dodge and attack yourself. There’s a huge amount of satisfaction to be had in peeling off an enemies armour piece by piece, often to find sections you climb into to deal more damage, to eventually get to a point where you can deliver the coup de grace and save the day. Well at least until the next robot attacks. And there are a LOT of robots.

It is worth commenting on the difficulty of the game. I’m usually a PC-orientated player so sometimes struggle with the analogue sticks, so found this game to be ridiculously hard. Part of that will be my unfamiliarity with the controller for sure, but a larger part will be just how genuinely difficult this game is. You are going to Die. A lot. Yet, at no point did I find this frustrating. The sheer spectacle and size difference between yourself and the giant robots just keeps you engaged, and there is a huge amount of satisfaction to be had from finally finishing off that boss who’s been beating you for days.

This is further helped by the fact you can purchase upgrades for your character (health, magnetic gloves etc) along with a selection of varied and deadly weapons. A particular favourite of mine being a beam weapon that bounces off surfaces. Very useful when inside a robot. All this is achieved through the base that you visit in between missions. It’s an interesting location, but I can’t help feeling they could have done more with it, and to be honest there’s little incentive to linger past repeating missions or upgrading your weaponry.

Often when I’ve finished reviewing a game I put it down and (often) never pick it up again. However with this one, despite it’s difficulty, I just keep coming back. It’s a difficult, utterly unforgiving, but fantastically rewarding game, and I just can’t stop playing it. I recommend you give it a try.

The Verdict – Headshot

Platforms Available/Reviewed – Switch

Review based on media copy. Read here for more on our scoring system.

Train Valley 2 Comes Tomorrow

Train Valley 2 Comes Tomorrow

There’s a bunch of games due to leave Early Access in the coming weeks, some that I have long had an eye on (Rise of Industry, I’m looking at you) while others like Train Valley 2 have snuck up on me out of nowhere!

That’s clearly a failing of my journalistic abilities, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a game worthy of attention. The original got positive reviews, even if we only talked about the upcoming release of that! I promise to do better with Train Valley 2 and will take some time to write further thoughts on it after it launches this Saturday.

It’s a lovely concept to combine puzzling elements with traditional tycoon game mechanics. Add to that, a wonderfully cute art style and you have something that is going to steal my heart away pretty quickly.

Alongside the deep Company Mode which features 50 levels, there are numerous locomotives from across 6 generations of train with heaps of buildings and train cars. Special events, including launching a rocket, will feature and it comes complete with a level editor and Steam Workshop integration.

Choo-choo!

Noita: Preview

Noita: Preview

This. Watch this.

Now, that all looks rather good doesn’t it.

Noita is a rogue-a-like wizard exploration game with a difference. I mean, not that that’s a massively overused genre, but still. The difference here is that they are simulating every single pixel.

Now this is a rather big thing. it means fire can spread. It means water can freeze. It means electricity can electrify water. It also means giant explosions can destroy half the level… and that is something i’m keen to explore. The developers list the following:

  • Pixel-based physics: Every pixel in the world is simulated. Burn, explode or melt anything. Swim in blood of your foes!
  • Your own magic: Create new spells as you delve deeper into the caverns. Use your magic to crush your enemies and manipulate the world around you.
  • Action rogue-lite: Death is permanent and always a looming threat. When you die, don’t despair, use what you’ve learned to get further on your next adventure.
  • Procedurally generated world: Explore a unique world every time you play. Discover new environments as you adventure deeper.

I love games where you can play around within a set of rules and physical laws. you can combine spells and phenomena to devastating effect. Acid rain can eat through levels, setting off explosive barrels. you can freeze water with enemies in it. You can redirect magma flows towards people…. it just looks like a ridiculous playground filled with spells of mass destruction and i cannot wait to have a play. You can also cause a rain spell to put out your burning robes….

The game is currently listed on Steam and will be released ‘when it’s done’. And when it is done, i’m going to be playing it- so check back for more updates, and the review when it’s live!

Fimbul : The Verdict

Fimbul : The Verdict

Fimbul is a Norse comic action-adventure game by Wild River and Zaxis games. It follows Kveldulver after an attack on his home village and his quest for justice. During the attack Kveldulver is mortally wounded and is brought back to life by the Norns, female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men. Apparently.

The game is pretty heavy on the Norse mythology, and i’m not entirely sure the comic-book style gels very well with the actual gameplay. I also found it pretty hard to follow in places and if i’m honest, just started forwarding through it to get back to the game proper.

The game itself is actually very good looking. the Art style and the way the characters move and interact all looks good, and the snow in particular can be quite beautiful. I found it quite nice walking around the world looking at the scenery. That is when the camera isn’t trying to hide everything behind a tree.

Granted you don’t often get long to enjoy the scenery, as you’re pretty much constantly under attack. Be it from raiders, natives or giant trolls- there’s seemingly always someone who wants to split your noggin open. Luckily the combat is one area where this game excels. It’s fast, intuitive, and you can manage large encounters quite easily. The special attacks you can unlock often result in limbs and heads flying through the snow leaving stark patches of blood on the pristine white floor. The fact that that kind of damage is limited to the specials means it’s not overused and the sight of a limb or head tumbling through the air is always gratifying to see.

Yet again though, the opaque nature of the game starts to get in the way . You’re often left to figure out things for yourself, such as how to heal. I spent 20 minutes repeating one section because i’d managed to get into it with only a sliver of health and had 3 large group encounters to get through where I literally couldn’t be hit once. Granted, by the end of it I was very good at the combat, but I still had to resort to re-loading an earlier save to try it again with more health.

Turns out you heal by plonking down a giant banner which gives an area-of-effect healing increase because of course it does. Now there is a section later on in the game where it tells you how to spend these action points you earn, and in there you can see how each stat works; So you’d realise about the healing then, but unless I missed it, you’re not actually told about this earlier and that is a big issue. If we were told about it then it certainly wasn’t highlighted enough.

This is a bit of a misstep and I feel it is endemic of the game as a whole. The art and style has gotten in the way a bit of the game. The gaming tropes of tutorial levels and easy run-through of each skill you’ll need early on to let you get used to them are there for a reason; they’re needed. And don’t even get me started on the giant monsters with searchlight-eyes. As I literally have no idea what those sections are about, or why they’re there.

The boss fights though are really good. You’re given weak areas to exploit, attacks to avoid and they all feel pretty organic and well pitched. I enjoyed the Troll fights enormously for example. And that there is the pattern of the game, good things at regular intervals with periods of confusion and fighting against the interface or design. There’s enough there to make it worth playing, but just be prepared for a certain degree of frustration.

The Verdict – On Target

Platforms Available – Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, STEAM

Platform Reviewed – Switch

Please head here to read about our scoring policy. Review based on code supplied by PR.

The Masquerade Runs Through Seattle

The Masquerade Runs Through Seattle

It’s long been rumoured that Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 was in the works, with Paradox Interactive dropping several hints on Twitter in recent weeks. Finally, at GDC this week, the big reveal landed, and next year you will be taking to the streets of Seattle.

Following Paradox taking ownership of the World of Darkness IP back in 2015, it’s a great news story to see a new game in the Bloodlines vein being developed by Hardsuit Labs, with original creative guru, Brian Mitsoda returning as Lead Narrative Designer.

Jon has already talked about his excitement for the new game, and I too am pretty excited. I never quite sunk my teeth into Bloodlines as much as I would have liked. Released way back in 2004, the original was built upon Valve’s Source engine that was the backbone for Half-Life 2, perhaps not the best engine at the time for a narrative focused semi-open world game. Development struggles aplenty led to a rushed release in the same month as Valve’s titan.

Going head-to-head with Half-Life 2, and being released in a very buggy state made for a poor initial reception. But, the fans who were drawn into the world of Bloodlines fell hook, line and sinker in love with it.  It inspired such passions, that fan developed patches for the game have continued ever since, restoring missing features, fixing bugs and bringing the game up the standards that many hoped for upon release.

With the backing of Paradox, I have no doubt that Bloodlines 2 will be released to the wild in a much healthier state than the original. New Paradox CEO, Ebba Ljungerud said:

“Fans of the original Bloodlines have been hungry for a sequel for a long time, and we began to hear those suggestions — well, demands — as soon as we began to work with the World of Darkness. We all understood what this opportunity could mean, but it was essential for both us and for Hardsuit Labs that any sequel should be done properly; a true successor guided by the people who knew what made the original so special. Keeping this game a secret for the last few years has been quite the Masquerade for us! It’s both exciting and relieving to finally let everybody know what we have in store for them.”

Mitsoda revealed that the themes and stylings that drove the cult following of the original will remain:

“Our aim has been to carry on the signature themes that made Bloodlines unique – particularly its dark tone, atmosphere, and humor – and I think that fans of the original will love what we’re doing with Bloodlines 2.”

I’m excited, I hope you’re all excited. Bloodlines 2 will be coming to PC and consoles, though I don’t imagine the Switch will have the power to drive a game quite like this. More relevant for the PC fans, Bloodlines 2 is available for pre-order on Steam, the Epic Games Store, GOD and the Paradox Store. No miserly exclusives here!

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 announced

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 announced

It’s not often I get excited about a new game announcement- certainly a sequel to an old IP, but this one had me ‘squee-ing’ like a little school girl. You see, in 2004 a game called Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines (V:MB) came out on PC, and it was glorious. Sure it was a buggy mess, with slightly janky combat, utterly broken latter levels and met decidedly average reviews upon release, but it soon turned into a cult classic and is arguably, one of the best RPG’s ever made.

One of THE most memorable game characters ever.

V:MB was something special. It’s one of the few games i’ve played that managed to build a world so successfully around it. It felt like a real world. It felt lived in, and more gloriously, what you saw of it (including huge character arks and complete levels/location sets) depended entirely on the type of Vampire you selected.

You could play as a Toreador (cultured), Venture (nobility), Brujah (fighters), Malkavians (insane), Gangrel (bikers), Tremere (secret society) and Nosferatu (hideous half-bats) and your take on the game, the locations you visited and how people reacted to you depended entirely on which clan you were. Play as a Venture, and you can bluff and bully you way through most conversations, but would struggle in a fight. Malkavians (by FAR the most fun to play), were utterly insane- so the conversation choices you made never quite matched-up with what actually came out of your mouth resulting in some incredibly memorable moments. Or, if you played as the Nosferatu even being seen in public was enough to breach the Masquerade, and have all local vampires trying to kill you.

This is what the game centred around; the titular ‘Masquerade‘. These are the rules that bind Vampire society as a whole and keep them shielded from the humans at large. Revealing your true nature, or killing too many people in one area was classed as a violation of the Masquerade, which pretty much always resulted in your death. An in-game meter told you how close you were to violating it, and it would move up and down depending on your actions and choices in game.

It was utterly utterly brilliant. Some of my best gaming moments (the haunted motel, the werewolf escape in the park) and best plot twist (Jeannette) in any game i’ve played. The announcement of a sequel has me very excited indeed.

The release trailer can be found here, and while it doesn’t show much it does set the scene and it looks like they’re going for the same foreboding and claustrophobic aesthetic that worked so well in the first game and if they can capture even a fraction of what made the first game so special, then we’ll be in for a very real treat indeed. I’m going to be following this one very closely folks, and will add updates and previews as I get them.

Feature: A Parents perspective on the Nintendo’s Switch

Feature: A Parents perspective on the Nintendo’s Switch

So as you may or may not know I am a Dad, and I have two young boys. As such I’m often walking that tightrope between trying to introduce them to gaming (one of my major often involves wrestling little ones off ‘screen time’ (any digital device- i.e. phones, iPad’s, handheld gaming devices etc), and then dealing with the inevitable (nuclear) fallout of such parental directives.

I grew up with gaming in the 90’s when it was new. And I mean new. We’re talking pre-(widespread)-internet here and then the heady-days of dial-up. As such my parents had no real reference to compare what I was playing to, and as a result I’d end up with my grubby little hands on titles such as Doom and System Shock…

Now it’s my turn to make those kinds of calls and I’d like to think that there is a lot more information out there and that the ‘they’re just games’ mindset that see’s little Timmy’s beating prostitutes to death in GTA is no longer as prevalent, or indeed an acceptable excuse.

I like to think that I can recognise just how ‘adult’ games can be and how unsuitable they can be for little-ish eyes. The certificates are there for a reason folks. Fortnight for example, is a 12 certificate. Yet it seems like every child in my son’s school plays it. Given my eldest is in primary school, you can perhaps see the issue with that. That said, as far as games go, Fortnight isn’t that bad for kids- you know, competitive violence and one-man-upmanship aside, but it doesn’t change the fact that the certificate is sometimes a good 6 years above the age of a lot of children playing it.

Now I thought I’d have this nailed. You just don’t go into the shop and buy them the 18 certificate game. Easy. Dad-1, World-Nil. Suck it. Unfortunately the internet and more specifically digital downloads makes that harder. Now of course, you can restrict their ability to set up accounts etc, but again, with voucher codes and pre-paid cards, even that isn’t foolproof. Seem’s I’ll actually have to be a ‘parent’ and watch what my kids do. The humanity….

That was until my son got a Nintendo Switch. Nintendo have long been at the forefront of innovation and user-experience, but the parental controls around the Switch have left even a jaded old man like me happy.

The parental controls are accessed through my smartphone. I’ve set up his gaming account through it, and by using my email any communication he gets comes to me also. This nicely side-steps THAT other worry of letting your kids online; unsolicited external contact. But wait, there’s more. I’ve set age-limits into the switch that can only be changed through my phone. No matter how tech-savvy he gets, he’s not worming his way around that one.

I also see what he plays/does and for how long, I can get notifications whenever he picks it up and I can (and have) set hard-wired time limits into the device that i can change on the fly. The parental controls  literally switched the game off after the allotted time. No if’s, no ‘5 more minutes dad’, it just stops. It’s glorious, and it makes parenting that much easier.

More importantly it allows me to give my eldest a bit more freedom with his tech. Knowing I can monitor and review anything that happens on it, should I wish, gives me more confidence that he is safe and that he’s not accessing anything he shouldn’t. And what’s more, it’s all highly intuitive, easy to control and (as you’d expect from Nintendo) very well thought out.

I didn’t know about this aspect of the Switch until after i’d bought it, but you know what? I think nintendo are missing a trick here- this is a REAL differentiator and something more parents should know about. If I were undecided over which console to get, this sort of thing would push me nintendo’s way.

It’s clearly something that they thought about from the start of the design process of the Switch (at least for the software), and I think it shows just how important this is to Nintendo.I’ll tell you one thing, it’s certainly made my life easier.

Hats off folks.


EDIT: Since drafting this article my son’s school received a number of warnings about the ‘Momo challenge’ through the parent-email system While I couldn’t do much about the iPad’s, I have been able to disable the browser on the switch to protect from that particular aspect too- at least until it all blows over. Another point for Nintendo.