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For The King – The Verdict

For The King – The Verdict

Trouble has struck the lands of Farhul, the King has been slain and the minions of Chaos are roaming the lands, spreading their evil across what was once a friendly, happy land. This is For the King where your trio of characters aren’t adventuring and questing for fame or fortune, but to avenge their King!

Well, that is the case if you are playing the vanilla For the King experience. I’m playing the recent Switch release which includes all the free updates IronOak have released since the original PC release last year, updates offering endless dungeon crawling or all new adventures around Farhul. I briefly dallied with the PC version during EGX last year, and initially had some concerns about how the game would transfer over to consoles, let alone the portable mode on the Switch.

I needn’t have been concerned. This is a mighty fine port, while I’ve seen some slight performance drops in combat, you get the full experience here. Things are made smoother thanks to the hex-based map that is used within For the King, plotting your path around the map is smooth, and most actions are easily accessible on the joy-cons. The one strange decision is to put the End Turn button on the minus button, but I quickly settled into my rhythm.

Fiiiiight!

When starting your adventure, you have freedom to create your three characters from a welcome variety of clothing options, with everyday professions like Blacksmith, Hunter and Scholar open to choose at the start of any adventure. Fitting archetypes to fit in my character names of Gendry, Arya and Sam (see where my influence is coming from?), with each profession bestowing special abilities upon your characters.

While the professions I chose from map across to heavy weapons, ranged and light weapons and magic seamlessly, the Minstrel profession offers an insight into the fun nature of For the King. A Minstrel will start with a high rating in the Talent stat, which allows them to bring a Lute or other musical instrument into battle.

Lute bearing Minstrels aren’t the only touch of fun that IronOak have included in For the King. Ghosts are named after their former living selves, while Jellies are just that, giant blobs of jelly. It should come as no surprise that you can unlock more entertaining items from the Lore Store. Lore is earned through completing quests for the Queen, side-quests picked up from the towns of Farhul or by complete the numerous dungeons that you find on your way.

My Game of Thrones inspired squad

Upon entering a dungeon, the overworld hex map disappears and your focus is on the combat. It is sensible to approach a dungeon with a well-stocked party, even if it means spending all your hard-earned gold at the nearest town. Unless you find a chest holding some much needed supplied, smaller dungeons won’t give you any chance to re-stock which can make a series of three or four battles, along with potential traps, a bit of a challenge.

It isn’t the end of the world if one of your characters die along the way, providing you have enough hearts remaining in your Life Pool. As part of your adventure, you can bring a character back to life, for the right price. If your Life Pool depletes completely and your trio gets wiped, then sadly it will be game over.

Fortunately, various special locations offer you a chance to add to your Life Pool, or decrease the Chaos that plagues Farhul. With Chaos rising, special Chaos Hexes will start spawning which you will want to avoid, while enemy health with start ratcheting up as Chaos rises.

I beat Coal Heart. Got his hat. Love it.

Putting everything together, and you have a very fine RPG from IronOak, once that offers a nice level of replayability thanks to the procedurally generated maps, numerous character choices and various game modes.

While I fear For the King might have got lost in the shuffle on its original PC release, this console release has brought new life to what is a gem of an RPG. If you spy this one, I would suggest you check it out.

The Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch
Platform Reviwed – Switch
Reviewed based on review code. Please read this post for more on our scoring policy.

SteamWorld Quest – The Verdict

SteamWorld Quest – The Verdict

Image & Form Games have done great things with their SteamWorld games, with the two main Dig games being wonderful adventures, especially Dig 2 which I took a look at last year. So, when I saw their new release was going to a card based RPG, I was quietly confident that it would be another hit, even with my so-so history with card games.

Fight!

SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech, to give it its full title, takes place in a time before the Dig entries. Robots roam the lands, but this is a world of heroes, villains and a dusting of magic. You take your band of merry wannabe heroes on a quest to find out why your village has been overrun with nasty folk who have kidnapped the not so heroic Guild who had one job – protect the village.

As you start adventuring across a beautiful hand-drawn world, more heroes will join your quest through dungeons, magical forests and other well-crafted tropes of fantasy games. While some of the broader plot points might be more cliched than the fresh adventures of the Dig games, everything is delivered with the same wit and charm as we have come to expect from Image & Form.

Wit and charm are one thing, but some action and drama is needed to balance out the hijinks. This is where the cards come into play, every battle is fought with cards that you collect from treasure chests, earn from adventuring or craft at the magical shop that appears where needed.

What a wonderful dragon you have there!

Your characters fall into broad archetypes of warrior, healer, spellcaster and suchlike, with the abilities conferred by their cards complementing them accordingly. As you progress through the game, your understanding of how to use them develops accordingly. No longer will you just be throwing out card after card trying to inflict damage or heal your fellow heroes, you will see the intricacies of status effects and card combos coming to light.

Even if you are used to card battling games, I would suggest you start playing Quest on Easy mode, to start with at least. While working out your strategies, some of the early battles on Normal difficulty can be quite frustrating. Knocking the difficulty down a touch to get to grips with the mechanics and to develop your understanding the types of cards you want in your hand are sensible approaches to take.

There are some fun dynamics going on outside of the combat. Every now and again, as you explore the various Chapters and Acts, you will find a nice statue. Activate this, and your party will be restored to full health, a welcome reward after some hard battling. However, in the vein of Dark Souls, using this healing statue will lead to enemies in nearby areas re-spawning.

You’ll come acros a number of enigmatic heroes on your journey.

It isn’t all doom and gloom when it comes navigating your surroundings. When you see an enemy, you can land a pre-fight blow to inflict some damage, or if you are smart enough with your movement, you can even avoid some of the battles against inconsequential enemies. That won’t always be the best plan though, as when you come across the bosses, you will wish you had defeated the lesser foes to help you level up.

My one frustration is that some battles can drag on for quite a while. It isn’t too bad when fighting bosses as you always have to keep on your toes, but against the lesser enemies, it can turn into a bit of a grind.

That shouldn’t take away from what Image & Form have done here though. They’ve taken the beloved SteamWorld Dig games, and managed to both expand the universe, and introduce a new genre to their growing series.

If you own a Switch, then you really should own this.

The Verdict – Headshot

Platforms Available/Reviewed – Switch

Review based on review code. Please read this page for more on our scoring policy.

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 – The Verdict

Train Valley 2 – The Verdict

Choo-choo! I’ve bee down the rabbit hole of Train Valley 2 recently, a cute puzzler with a dash of tycoon thrown in for good measure. And yes, it’s something I’d heartily recommend you check out.

A nice easy, starter Valley.

It’s a simple game at heart. A city requires some resources, and you have to deliver said resource to the city. Easy! Just build some train tracks, and link together the production locations to the city, right?

Not so fast, this is a puzzle game after all. Anywhere that produces anything needs workers from the city, while the more advanced production facilities require their fair share of raw materials to create their products.

So, tracks are laid, workers are shuffled back and forth, goods are sent to factories and cities and everybody is happy!

That might be so, but then you notice that to reach a key factory you need to build a bridge or a tunnel. Structures which require a whole load of money, money that you don’t have because you bought an extra locomotive to run the rails and had upgraded your starting loco.

Bridges are coming into play. Difficult moments lie ahead.

There’s no need to panic, you just need to make some money. Every train that reaches a suitable destination will earn you money. A loco pulling three worker carriages will put $3,000 in your account when it arrives at a production facility. A train taking logs to a saw mill will be worth $6,000, regardless of whether you actually need any more planks of wood for delivery, or another factory.

You put your mind to it, and soon enough you have enough money to reach your final destination. Imagine it now, your gold ore has been turned into gold ingots and arrives at your city. You’ve done it! You’ve delivered everything you need to complete the level.

Well done you.

I was quite successful here. But I missed out on a star!

It’s just a shame that you upgraded one of your locomotives in the search for a faster train that could pull more carriages. You’ve realised that by having to scrape together all of your pennies, you’ve spent half an hour on one level.

It dawns on you that despite finishing the level, and moving onwards to the Industrial Age, you didn’t meet any of the mission objectives. It doesn’t matter too much, but that nagging part of your brain shouts “you could do better”.

The levels start to get more complex the further into the game you go.

And you do, you return to the level you have just completed. You pay attention to the objectives, take your time scouring the landscape for the best route to lay your track on and smash your previous best time, earning some lovely stars for your efforts.

It’s then that you realise you’ve been playing for four hours straight, and are only a quarter of the way through the 50 Career levels, and you haven’t even started to make your own or look on the Steam Workshop for more.

Your life, as you know it, is now dedicated to the Valley.

The Verdict – Headshot

Platforms Available/Reviewed – PC

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

Ace Combat 7 – The Verdict

Ace Combat 7 – The Verdict

Simulation games have long held a fascination for me, and have long been featured here at Reticule Towers. Go back ten years, and I first dropped mention of classics like Silent Hunter and the original Euro Truck Simulator. I’ve covered flight sims, even doing a series of videos on Dovetail Games’ Flight School. But, amidst all those wonders, I’ve not had the pleasure of writing about a combat flight simulator.

That, my friends, is a great personal shame. I have fond memories of playing the Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator games with my neighbour many moons ago, while I also relished in piloting the Ju-88 around the Battle of Britain map in Battlefield 1942.

In singleplayer mode I might add.

I even took to the skies in Battlefield 2, and while I was a liability in the jet (some of the pilots in -=256=- were quite something), I certainly enjoyed tootling around in the attack helicopters.

Fast-forward many a year since those glorious college days, and by chance I stumbled across the stand for Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown at EGX last autumn. I jumped on, crashed a plane…and the game, then skulked away with my tail between my legs.

But that brief moment with Ace Combat 7 reignited a passion that had been long dimmed. I might not necessarily be the best fly-boy in the world, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try my hand at a spot of flying and have a bloody good time while doing it.

Of course, while I am a fan of simulator games, I’m by no means an expert at any of them, especially not flight sims. What that does mean, is that when a game like Ace Combat 7 comes along and offers an easy and joyous flight handling model (when turned down to easy – Ed), I’m going to get stuck in.

It helps that Ace Combat 7 has missions to rival those of the high-points of the Medal of Honour and Call of Duty games. Perhaps Titanfall 2 is more suitable comparison. As with Respawn’s brilliant robot romp, Ace Combat 7 manages to make each level feel special and unique, while remaining part of a cohesive whole.

The levels are tied together by a story of warring empires, one that is sure to hold interest to long-standing fans of the series. Personally, I’ve found it a neat way to bounce between different set piece missions, with enough story to keep me invested beyond just the action.

Scrambling to defend an airbase that is under attack might be a straightforward experience, but another mission where you are tasked with navigating through gaps in the enemy radar coverage ranks up there with the best stealth levels you’ll encounter in a first-person shooter.

There is also a majestic mission taking place during a storm, over a landscape that is as stunning to gaze upon as it is heart-racing when your jet is struck by lightning, leaving you grasping at the controls to keep from smashing into a sheer cliff face.

I’d probably have been happy with a tiny choice of planes to tootle around in, but among the beasts on offer are some well known names from the USAF (the F-15 series is well represented) to classic MiGs, while my current favourite is the Mirage 2000-5. If you are a plane junkie, I think you will be very pleased with the eclectic mix on offer.

If you’ve been turned off from flight games in recent years thanks to their focus on real-world simulations, then Ace Combat 7 might just be what you are looking for. It’s a fine return for a series that has been missing in action since 2007. Go get them Maverick.

The Verdict – Headshot

Platforms Available – PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4

Platform Reviewed – PC

For more on our scoring policy, please read this post. Review based on Steam media account code.

Dead Cells – The Verdict

Dead Cells – The Verdict

I had a feeling Dead Cells would be something special when I previewed it last year, and frankly, it’s proving difficult to pull myself away from it to actually write this Verdict. I told myself that I’d jump on for just five minutes this morning, to get myself in the groove. An hour later, after failing at the hands of The Concierge, the first boss, I’m back to writing. It’s a great game.

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The Crew 2 – The Verdict

The Crew 2 – The Verdict

I’d kept low-key tabs on The Crew 2 ahead of release, intrigued by the prospect of switching between cars, boats and planes. It looked fun, and having got my teeth nicely into the first game a few years ago, I was hoping for a similar enjoyable experience. Yes, while The Crew 2 is generally enjoyable, I’m not finding myself as engaged with it as I expected.

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God of War – The Verdict

God of War – The Verdict

I found myself thrown when I started playing God of War, the rebirth of Sony Santa Monica’s Greek God game…where did I recognise the voice was that coming from Kratos’ mouth? It was Teal’c from Stargate SG-1! Apart from stoking a desire to watch that classic show once again, I immediately though that Christopher Judge was a great choice to voice Kratos. As Teal’c, he had spent his life working closely with the Goa’uld “Gods”, and had a sometimes strained relationship with his son. Perfect for the role of Kratos in God of War

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