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Satisfactory – Early Access Preview

Satisfactory – Early Access Preview

A couple of weeks after the Early Access launch of Satisfactory I was browsing my suggested video list clicking on some random gaming videos as we all do from time to time. I hate to say it but sometimes I’m a sucker for beatiful scenery regardless of the context of the game. The video I came across was one exploring some of the biomes of Satisfactory.

I was immidiately interested in the stark differences in the biomes and all the vivid colours. I’m not usually one for factory games but after some more investigation it was clear this seemed like much more than just a standard entry into the genre.

My original factory idea was far too small scale in the grand scheme of things.

Fast forward forty odd hours and I’ve really had a lot of fun with Satisfactory. Not only are the intracacies of factory efficiency an enjoyable addiction, but there is also an interesting and beautiful world to explore, strange aliens to fight, rare resources to hunt for and things to build that you never thought a factory game would need.

A good example of the fun I had would be once I unlocked the jump pads. I found myself working out the exact distance the pad would fire me so that I could chain them together and fire myself all over and around my factory. It’s testament to the game that players have the freedom to these kinds of things. I always viewed this genre as one that was quite rigid, this could be my inexperience talking however and Satisfactory is certainly doing it’s part to bring me around to factory games.

An early prototype of my preferred mode of transport (the jump pad).

In it’s current Early Access state, not all content is yet available for Satisfactory. The developers have decided on a monthly update schedule that adds new features and makes quality of play improvements, meaning there are almost always new things to tinker with and factory processes to update. There’s a handy roadmap over on the Satisfactory website that lays things out a little more.

I’m excited for the future developments of Satisfactory, not only for the crazy (and completely unnecessary) factory ideas I’ll come up with but also the world building, combat and exploration side of things. Satisfactory also has the potential to be regularly updated after release, either minecraft style by the developers or by modders, who I’m sure would have no problems creating some wacky idea for the game.

I’ve had fun with Satisfactory so far, who knew a factory game could be so much fun!

They Are Billions – Early Access First Impressions

They Are Billions – Early Access First Impressions

Early Access arrival They Are Billions Steam page describes the game with tags like ‘survival’, ‘strategy’ and ‘base building’ and while these are certainly aspects of the gameplay my first impressions of it remind me more of a mix between RTS (real time strategy) and tower defence. As a long time RTS fan the initial moments feel very familiar. Locating resources, creating basic buildings, managing population and setting up basic defences. By mid game you are certainly base building with solid walls, advanced defences and armies but the lead up to that is more a hodgepodge of trying to become efficient and defending the small hordes that attack you, often with many automated towers.

In fact there’s a lot of automation going on and it seems to me developers Numatian Games are trying to focus the player more on the combat and less on the minor details of being the best possible base you can. For example, when a you place a building it is auto-built (as long as you have available population) and if placed next to a resource that resource is auto-collected. Some resources are collected over time and some are auto-generated as soon as you place a specific building. Towers also auto-attack enemies within their available range. This isn’t a bad thing though as on higher difficulties things can become quite hectic and this allows you to focus on enemy encounters and how best to tighten up your defences before the next wave hits.

There’s no tutorial in They Are Billions as of yet so I found enjoyment in my initial game discovering how everything worked and pieced together with each other. During my second playthrough I was disappointed to notice that I had completely explored the depth of the games base building and unit creation the first time around. It seems that at this stage of Early Access there isn’t a whole lot of depth to the game, but maybe that’s just my mind subconsciously comparing to other RTS games as the gameplay feels quite similar at times. There are no multiple development trees, no factions with alternate technology and no unique units. Everything felt the same from one game to the next apart from the difficulty which I increased after my first game. Explore the map, collect resources, expand, defend, attack, repeat. I think They Are Billions would really benefit from a bit of tactical depth, but who knows what is to be added in the future of this games Early Access phase.

I feel like I’m being unfairly critical as They Are Billions is a good game at heart. If you are used to the RTS genre then getting into this game will be fairly straightforward. You start with a fairly small area of available land on which to build, but can expand this area over time. Expanding too far to fast can leave you open to attack, but not expanding quick enough can leave you lacking on resources and stunt your recovery in between defending waves of zombie hordes. Building placement is key to success mostly because there is not a lot of time to recover on the hardest difficulties and having to rebuild and use resources which should be spend on units will most likely mean you get overwhelmed the next time around. This can be somewhat averted by using some smart tactics like funnelling the undead waves down a walled off corridor lined with turrets.

As this is essentially a game about managing units and resources it seems to be missing key management fine tuning like selecting idol units or keyboard shortcuts to make things easier. Of course you can pause the game to sort these things out too. Units also get stuck on each other quite easily which is frustrating at times. I get an overall good feeling about They Are Billions and enjoyed my time with the game but as this is early in EA there is still much that can be improved upon at least in my mind.

Rise of Industry Rises to Early Access

Rise of Industry Rises to Early Access

Rise of Industry has risen from humble beginnings on itch.io, and has now expanding its distribution network to include Steam via Early Access. What is Rise of Industry I hear you ask? Well, it is a tycoon game challenging you to build your industrial empire by gathering resources, turning them into products, and distributing them to the towns and cities that want your goods. Easy!

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Oxygen Not Included – Early Access Impressions

Oxygen Not Included – Early Access Impressions

Klei Entertainment have made some fine games over the years, everything from the Shank series of side-scrolling brawlers, to stealthy turn-based strategy Invisible Inc. Their latest game, Oxygen Not Included which has recently launched on Steam Early Access is somewhat more akin to the brilliant Don’t Starve in that you are trying to keep alive in an alien environment, focusing on the essentials at first to survive, before turning to the nicetities that you have always wanted.

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Hellion: Preview

Hellion: Preview

Every so often you get access to something in the early stages of development  that has the potential to be big, really big. Hellion is just that; it has potential. Whether it lives up to that potential is one thing, but so far, it’s promising.

Hellion is, well let’s just say it- a Star Citizen style survival game with Rust-like mechanics. That’s lazy of me yes, but now you know exactly what I’m talking about so I can focus on the details.

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Torment: Tides of Numenera – Early Access Report

Torment: Tides of Numenera – Early Access Report

Torment: Tides of Numenera is an upcoming CRPG developed by inXile Entertainment and is currently in Early Access on Steam. It’s the spiritual successor of Planescape: Torment, the cult hit from 1999, but unlike it’s predecessor will also release on consoles rather than just PC. In this article I aim to go over some of the major points of the early game and the stage at which the game is at in the development process.

First of all I should address the fact that Planescape: Torment was known for it’s well written dialogue and I’m happy to say that the writing in Tides of Numenera is excellent for the most part. Even the non-conversation, narrator style parts of the writing shine and quite often they feel like reading a sci-fi/fantasy book. The characters seem well developed even in this early stage. In my time with the game there were a few party members who jumped in and out during different quests and they all had unique personalities that fitted in well with the overall story arc. The city area I visited was well populated and each character seemed to have their own piece of unique written speech and a few side-quests here and there. There is the odd section where speech options or characters words were missing but this could be to protect the main story line or anything the developers don’t want to get out just yet and nothing that I would consider to be out of the ordinary.

The character creation event at the start of the game is a welcome break from the standard “choose your hero and modify every aspect of it” that is usually presented in an RPG like this. Instead you make your way through a scripted event which has choices at certain points. These choices decide where the stat points go into your character and so define your class, be that spell caster, melee or a mixture. As welcome as this change is it could do with being a little more in depth in its explanation. This will of course be your character for presumably tens, possibly even hundreds of hours worth of gameplay so you want to make sure that stats, abilities, classes, choices are explained in full detail. As far as I could tell there was no visual customization options at all and instead you can only choose male or female. After the scripted event you can adjust your character some more to suit your play style.

During my time with Tides of Numenera progression through areas seemed slow at first but I am the kind of person that likes to take a new map area and dissect it, talking to as many people as possible, exploring every area of the map and finding as many quests and secrets as possible. While progress for me continued to be slow when I encountered a new area, this proved to be more a credit to how well the developers have done at populating the maps with interesting people, engaging stories, quests and secrets rather than anything else.

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So you’ve heard a lot of the good, now for some of the not so good. There were some bugs were present for me early on. One occasion of a game freeze before combat, not being able to read tooltips, missing text, pretty much what is to be expected for the early stages of an early access game. None of these aside from the game freeze actually disrupted my gameplay much and even that was fixed with a simple reload of a previous autosave.

Tides of Numenera seems nice graphically although not stunning considering it’s been built on the same engine as Pillars of Eternity which i feel looked a nit nicer. The game still looks good though and the levels are well designed but the UI and menus seem a bit clunky and are not great to look at. They’re probably going to need some work before the final release as in my opinion that could be something that really pulls a game like this down. Inventory management, map and quest checking and general menu navigation are main parts of the game and having an inadequate or ugly UI can sometimes put me off spending more hours with a game.

Combat is a very early stage as so doesn’t feel great yet. I have only come across once instance of combat and replayed it a few times just so I could see all the different options available to me. InXile have made it clear they are at an early stage of balancing the combat and that is clear to me. Skills are not explained well enough yet and some stats/spells have no tooltips or not enough info to explain how they affect a target or yourself.

Only odd snippets of voice acting have been added already and so there’s not much to be said about that just yet.

To summarize, Torment: Tides of Numenera certainly looks to be a very interesting game that is hopefully going to continue the incredible revival of CRPG’s in the past few years. The developers are doing a good job with the writing, characters and level design so far but still have a lot of work to do. While taking all that into account if you’re looking for a finished game to sink you’re teeth into, you’ll want to wait for the final release. There are still a lot of changes going on behind the scenes and the final game is probably still a good while off yet. On the other hand if you’re interested in the game and want to poke about to see what the developers have been doing so far, there is plenty of stuff to keep you satisfied, just be prepared for a few bugs, unfinished dialogue and the odd crash.

Gang Beasts Online Beta – Quick Hit Impressions

Gang Beasts Online Beta – Quick Hit Impressions

When a game is described by the developers as containing “surly gelatinous characters, brutal mêlée fight sequences, and absurdly hazardous environments” with the action taking place in a fictional place known as Beef City, you know it’s going to be fun. This is Gang Beasts, and I’ve got some quick hit thoughts after playing a bit of the online beta.

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Niffelheim – Early Access First Impressions

Niffelheim – Early Access First Impressions

Niffelheim is a 2D side-scrolling RPG currently in development in Steams Early Access Program. In it you play as a Viking who’s soul has been diverted on its was to Valhalla. You can craft armour and weapons, collect resources, upgrade your home base and defend it against numerous foes. Niffelheim is a true early access game in the sense that there are a lot of features still to be released, but the games developers are hard at work and keep in regular contact with the players via the Steam forums.

To see what the game looks like click the video below where I go through

Niffelheim is cuurently available on Steam for £14.99 link can be found here.

Faeria In-Depth Early Access Preview

Faeria In-Depth Early Access Preview

As a well versed player of digital CCG’s Faeria is a game that instantly feels familiar to me. Upon launching the game up for the first time I find myself looking at the cards and even before I play my first game everything makes sense in terms of understanding the mechanics of the cards, which although under different names are shared with other digital CCG’s I’ve played in the past. What’s different about Faeria is the use of an environmental board on which the cards in your collection can be played and can move around before entering combat. This simple addition adds a whole new level of tactical thought to a game which already has all the layers of a normal digital card game. The combination works so well that I found myself sinking 4 hours a day over the first weekend of playing.

A typical game starts with an empty board and hexagonal shaped ocean pieces on which you place your land. Depending on which faction you build your deck from you can either place mountains, lakes, forests, deserts, neutral land called prairies, or a combination of any and all of these types. You can then place your creature cards onto these lands. Your creatures can only be placed on your own lands although they can be moved onto opponent lands after they have been on the board for 1 turn or more.

From here it’s basically a game of chess with your creatures facing up against your opponents. It’s important to note there are also four Faeria wells at the corners of the board. Faeria lets you use your cards and abilities and controlling these wells can sometimes be critical to winning either long games where your opponent will run out of Faeria if not managed properly, or rush games where you will be placing a lot of creatures and using a lot of event (special ability) cards within the first few turns.

Matching your card choice to your play style is also a large factor of success and it’s important to know what all your cards abilities are and how you can best play them. This of course takes time experimenting and refining your deck when you think something’s not quite right, or not exactly how you want it to be. Whether you play defensive, rush, or go for a deck themed around a particular feature like ranged combat or a focus on efficient trades it’s important to have a game plan.

Once you’ve had a good look at the cards and have drafted a deck you’re happy with, it’s time to get into the thick of the action, and there’s a few choices of game types to be made. Firstly you should be focusing your time in solo mode, where you unlock all of the codex cards (basic game cards) by defeating AI opponents from each of the factions; water, desert, forest and mountain. Once you have done this and refined you deck with any of the new cards you should head into battle mode. Here you can play against other real players in ranked or un-ranked play. Un-ranked is a good way to test new or experimental decks you have been creating, while ranked mode, going from 25-1 and then onto God rank is the ultimate test of your deck crafting and playing skills and stands as a mark of your commitment and skill with the game. Pandora is another mode players of CCG’s might also be familiar with and is also known in other games as draft mode, or arena. This has yet to be implemented in Faeria but is very near and from what I’ve heard will work much in the same way that it does in other games.

Faeria Booster Pack

As you gain ranks and level your character there are certain awards that can be picked up. Gold for buying booster packs, card crafting material and avatar pictures. There is also a shop in which you can buy all these things and booster packs, but the good thing about Faeria is that in this early stage with not too many cards it’s strikes me as not very pay-to-win, which is of course a great thing. As the game progresses (as with all CCG’s) the struggle will be in keeping up with all these new cards and the change of the meta game towards these cards. That moment is not upon us yet and if you wish to get into Faeria I would say get in early and try to keep on top of the cards as much as you can.

At the moment Faeria costs £17.99 on Steam and with this you get 20 booster packs, 10 entries in to Pandora mode when it becomes available and exclusive aesthetic item for your god. Eventually it will be free-to-play but then the bonus for supporting development during early access will be gone. Assuming that Pandora entry is about 100 gold and ignoring the exclusive avatar items, this would have cost you 3000 in game gold, which takes while to farm though quests, so to get this quick boost as soon as you start the game feels worthwhile to me.

The Good and the Bad of Faeria
So you’ve probably heard enough about the in’s and out’s of Faeria to decide whether it’s your kind of game or not, but as a whole is the game worth playing or not? Let’s start with the positives.

Positives – The beautiful art style, familiar feel, smooth gameplay, the fact that it’s not pay-to-win, is easy to pick up and hard to master and lacks in RNG compared to other CCG’s are all great but fairly small reasons why you should play this game. The main three points for me are that: 1Faeria already has a great community of players who are all willing to help you understand the game and craft better decks and can chat to you thanks to the forum link you find in game. 2Faeria has a uniqueness about it in that it has an almost board game feel but it actually a CCG. The mix of evolving environmental board and chess game of your cards on this board is brilliant. 3Faeria even in this Early Access stage receives regular updates to balance the cards that people are playing every day. This is a great way to keep the community feeling in touch with the game and the changes that are happening whilst also receiving all the normal bug fixing and so on you would expect for a game in Early Aceess.

Negatives – Considering this game has only just entered early access on Steam there are actually very little negatives about it. This is probably in part down to the community and the open communication the developers have with the community, allowing them to suggest feedback and directly send screenshots or reports of bugs to a live developer and a team of moderators. However in the spirit of fairness I feel it would be unjust if I didn’t mention the minor negatives I have found with the game so far. 1 – There is a running battle log at the side of the screen, this is helpful but only has a history of a few turns. It would be nice to be able to scroll down this list and see what happened previously as occasionally your opponents turn can be comprised of several different moves, attacks and spells and the log quite often doesn’t even go back a full turn. It could also do with a little more explanation. Sure a creature attacked, but who did it attack? Quite often the target of spells and attacks are not shown. 2 – When opening booster packs and finding new cards, there is no indication of where these new cards are when you go back to the drafting stage. It would be nice if there was some kind of highlight that showed where these were for new players who were not acquainted with all of the games cards yet. 3 – There is currently no player interaction while in game. No emotes, no chat between friends, nothing. While some players may enjoy the silence it would be nice to have the option to chat to friends if you wanted. 4 – As the player base of Faeria is just taking off, matchmaking can be a bit unfair at times. You can be placed with an opponent five ranks above or below you, or even face the same opponent twice in a row. I assume this is because of the smaller player base and I’m sure it will be rectified in due course. It’s not like it happens all the time anyway!

If your interested in checking out Faeria further I’ve included a gameplay video below where I detail a couple of strategies for playing and talk about some other aspects of the game.

Faeria can be purchased for £17.99 on Steam, but will become free-to-play in September.

ARK: Survival Of The Fittest – Early Access First Impressions

ARK: Survival Of The Fittest – Early Access First Impressions

I’m sure many of you have already played ARK: Survival Evolved the largely popular open world survival game with dinosaurs taming abilities. Well either way you’re in for a treat with ARK: Survival of the Fittest as it includes almost everything from the main game but in a much shorter more confined time frame. If there’s one thing that I don’t like about these new wave of survival games, it’s that it always seems to take forever to establish yourself on a server and get to the good part of the game where you’re defensible and not being picked on by every player you come across. ARK: SotF immediately blows that out the water with game tending to last between 45 minutes to 2 hours, yet still contain most of the good parts of these longer survival games.

If you have ever seen the film Battle Royale (or The Hunger Games) you will have a good idea of what to expect here. Every player essentially starts with nothing, but can craft weapons and armour and tame dinosaurs just like in the main ARK game. It’s then a battle between all the players on the server to take each other out until there is only one left (or one team left, depending on the game type). The video below should give you a better idea of what to expect.

ARK: Survival of the Fittest is free-to-play and has only just made it’s way to Early Access on Steam a few days ago so expect there to be plenty of updates and changes before the game is fully released.