Here I was alone on my spaceship. Minding my own business. Basking in the bliss of eternal solitude, when all of a sudden I noticed a distress signal coming from a nearby ship ‘The Alabaster’. I took one look down at my control panel and decided “not today my friend”. I turned off incoming transmissions and slowly continued on, not knowing where I was going or what I was doing. Free from responsibility and game mechanics…
…of course the game had other ideas. …
Noita (the Finnish word for witch) is an early access rogue-lite with an emphasis on every pixel being simulated. That’s right, every single pixel in the game has physical properties and can be affected by the player in one way or another. Explosions gouge chunks out of caves and yourself, fire burns down anything organic including any wood you’re standing on and yourself, water fills up all the little crevices and drowns you if you’re not careful and many enemies have the same abilities. Indeed traversing your way through Noita can be as precarious and treacherous as fighting the enemies that dwell in it’s caves.
Combat and exploration come with a magical flavour, as you move around the underground landscape with what is essentially the power of a recharging jet pack. The game also adopts the no hands held approach which works well in generating a sense of exploration and a reasonable learning curve although I admit I did take a peek at the wiki a few times.
Weapons come in the form of wands and throwable flasks, each with their own properties and statistics. In the case of wands, the statistics of any given wand are permanent but they also come with spell slots and interchangeable spells attatched to them. Wands are plentiful at the start of Noita and this makes for some interesting experimentation as you try different combinations and find out a combat style that suits you. Flasks are equally as interesting and can teleport, polymorph, increase damage, burn, slow and many more things.
As you progress through Noita you find yourself passing through many different biomes, at the end of these biomes you are offered the chance to rest as you pass through a gateway chamber of sorts. You are able to replenish all spells, heal and are offered a choice of three upgrades of which you can only choose one. There are over fifty different types of upgrades currently in Noita and combining this with the different types of biomes and enemies gives the game a nice amount of replayability.
Noita may currently be in Early Access but even taking a quick look at the wiki shows the amount of content it has already is impressive. Developers Nolla Games reckon that Noita will be in development for a year before it’s full release. I’m looking forward to see how the game evolves during this time.
It was great fun. That’s it, no introduction needed. I’m going straight for the jugular on this one! Despite previously being somewhat of a skeptic on anything VR related, I also believe in a lot of cases it’s hard to have a stong opinion on something without first having an experience with that something. And so I had my first experience of virtual reality with my Oculus headset awkwardly strapped to my face and my touch controllers waving around clumsily as I entered the VR world of SUPERHOT.
I loved the original SUPERHOT on PC and soon became accustomed to the feel of my two motion controllers and headset within the game itself. I did almost lose my balance a couple of times early on but familiarized myself with the movements the game demanded of me with my previous experience with the PC version. With a game like SUPERHOT VR there certainly is a lot of movement involved. Every level is essentially a combination of dodging bullets, disarming enemies, shooting at unusual angles, picking up throwables from the ground, shelves and desks, punching enemies, dodging their attacks and so on. It definitely qualifies as light exercice and while I loved my time in the with the game, this is not the experience I look for in every day gaming.
The way I like to think of my enjoyment of this particular VR game is that it reminds me of going to the arcades as a kid. The enjoyment of having lots of small experiences that are super fun for short bursts before you move onto the next thing. And so I found myself after twenty or so minutes of SUPERHOT VR wanting to move onto something else. I ended up playing four or five different games in total but returned to SUPERHOT once more before I ended my session because I enjoyed it the most.
The immersion factor was much higher as is expected for the VR version of the game. It gave me a new appreciation of just how to take out each enemy and in what order, although aiming felt very different. Those moments you get in SUPERHOT PC where you pull of a really cool move felt even better in VR and things like flicking bullets out the air with your weapon, catching enemy knives and guns and swordplay were the highlight of my playtime. I would definitely be up for experiencing more SUPERHOT VR and VR in general in the future but I am yet to be convinced that this would ever replace my normal gaming set up.
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.
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.
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!
It’s 1924 and alcoholic ex-serviceman turned private investigator Edward Pierce is sitting in his quiet office, drink in hand, wondering where the next job is going to come from. All of a sudden there’s a knock at the door and before he knows it, he finds himself whisked off to a remote island to investigate the death of the Hawkins family in a fire that consumed their home.
The intro to Call of Cthulhu may seem a little cliche but that’s probably because because it’s the beginnings of a tale of Lovecraftian horror, a genre of horror that until now I thought I had no experience with. Truth be told H.P. Lovecraft has huge prestige in the genre and whether you directly choose to read one of his books or not, the chances are that if you enjoy horror in any of it’s mediums you will most likely have come across his influence. It’s at this point that I feel Cyanide Studio have set themselves a hard task, to convey their twist on a story told many times before while making it fresh and interesting.
The first couple of chapters of Call of Cthulhu feel a little on the slow side to me. Characters are introduced, you go to a couple of new areas but nothing much actually happens. Thankfully at chapter three things start to pick up and I begin to sense there is something not quite right with the island I have found myself on. While investigating various points around the island I get the same feeling as when I watched The Wicker Man, that everyone knows something that I don’t and that something is not good.
As this is my first real experience with a pure Lovecraftian story I find that the mystery behind the island and the deaths of the Hawkins family are one of the strongest points in Call of Cthulhu and they really carry the game forward. The developers have really nailed the setting, game design and atmosphere on the head and this creates a really spooky (but enjoyable) environment in which to explore and find out information from the other islanders.
Another strong point in the game is the stealth. Call of Cthulhu doesn’t afford you many weapons and being able to take out others by yourself is very rare. Instead you slip about the levels causing distractions that let you into areas you otherwise couldn’t reach. While some people may see this as a cheap way of making the game harder, in my eyes it increases the intensity and feeling of unease when trying to reach your goal. You feel a little helpless and less likely to just run about destroying everything and for a horror genre game I’d say that’s no bad thing.
On the whole the voice acting and writing is good although there were some irregularities with the volume of the voice acting from the main player character. Sometimes his voice would be really quiet compared to everything else. However I’m going to put this down to me playing an early release of the game as there really were no other problems with the game or settings what so ever. It ran really smooth and I was able to play through on the highest settings without any problems at all which is impressive considering how old my PC is.
There are slight RPG elements to the game also. You have the classic conversation options but in most cases you need to exhaust all options in order to advance anyway, so there’s not a whole lot of choice aside from a few occasions. The other element is the skill tree, which works much like Focus Home Interactive’s other game The Council in that it allows you to grow your character in the way that you see fit. You can put your skill points into things like being able to better spot clues or being more able to influence people when speaking.
Unlike in The Council I didn’t notice much of a difference when levelling up the skill tree and almost feel like they would have been better not even including skills in a game with only 10-15 hours game time. It almost seemed like an illusion of choice because if you explored each area thoroughly enough and spoke to each person for long enough you generally discovered everything you needed to advance anyway. This leads me to my biggest bug bear with the game that it seems to be very on rails. Yes you can explore areas, yes you can choose conversation topics but for the large part the game seems to pull you to the same point regardless of what you do.
The last few chapters of the game also feel a little disappointing in that they seem far more rushed than anything else. I get that towards the end you want to ramp up the intensity and finish on a bang but there were moments when I wasn’t quite sure what was going on in terms of the Lovecraftian lore and the game didn’t explain well enough for a newcomer like myself. Was it possible that the game was rushed to release or did they perhaps overlook the fact that a complete Lovecraft beginner wouldn’t be able to fully understand every aspect with ease?
On a whole I enjoyed the game but would have loved to have seen it fleshed out a little more to include more explanation of the lore and more scary areas to investigate. It would have been great to be able to better understand why I got the ending that I did as I know there was multiples ways for the game to end and again wasn’t entirely sure what I had done to reach the one I did. The gameplay was enjoyable, especially when investigating new areas and reconstructing crimes much in the same way you would in a Batman game and when dealing with the games ‘bosses’. Production was lacking in a few areas but like I said this could be down to having access to the early release version of the game.
The Verdict – On Target
Platforms Available – PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch
Platform Reviewed – PC
Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.
Codebyfire the developers behind Settlers inspired game The Colonists had been quiet for quite some time. Then out of nowhere came a trailer, a ray of hope for those who had been keeping tabs on the game since it was first announced over a year ago. It seemed that somewhere deep inside the matrix of game development, cogs were beginning to turn and foundations were being laid. I had to find out more about this mysterious game.
With The Colonists being in it’s alpha stage of development there are currently only pre-set scenarios for me to try out. As it turns out these are a good way to get to grips with the game and what it has to offer. The first couple of scenarios have me exploring the basics of building my town, advancing technologies and managing resources. Scenarios three and four teach me about building boats to explore the seas and combat with other colonies. And each of the scenarios after that include most of the same but at an advanced level.
Resource management is a big thing in this game and keeping tabs on how your resources are used will help you advance much quicker. Thankfully there is a ‘supply and demand’ menu for each resource which shows if you are falling behind or overproducing. In my eyes this is something that a lot of management games could do with having. It helps you make much more informed decisions when choosing what to build next and can explain why overall production rate of your city has stalled.
Overall the gameplay in The Colonists is pleasant and enjoyable. The game goes at a nice pace (you can make time move as you want) the graphics are cute and its quite a relaxing game to play for the most part. Some of the building material needs seem a little anti-progression however. For example; you run out of stone and need to expand your territory to find more deposits. To do this you build a watchtower so you can see further, but building a watchtower requires stone… see where I’m going with this. Thankfully it is slowly auto-generated but without proper management of resources, this can be a very slow process.
If there’s one thing that I would point out at this stage it’s that overall game progress is easily halted by bad resource management. This may be entirely my fault in that my style of gameplay doesn’t suit The Colonists but as a fairly experience management gamer I feel some more balancing needs to be done on the requirement of resources. The game may seem to be cute and relaxing but it’s certainly not casual in this aspect and your game can easily be brought to a slow pace if you’re not careful.
As this is only Alpha there are some bugs to be found, it’s inevitable at this stage of development. On The Colonists Discord channel, people have been busy reporting any problems they find and developers have been working hard to fix them and update the game on a regular basis. I expect many changes and balances to come before the game releases and can’t see anything to worry about at this stage.
In face for a game in Alpha there is a surprising amount of things to do and the game is in a very playable state. Aside from gathering resources and expanding your city, there is also exploration, combat, technology trees and everything is well explained and easy to get the hang of. If city building and management games are your thing, then keep your eyes on The Colonists because it’s looking like a promising little game so far.
Dead Cells has been in Early Access since May 2017 and developers Motion Twin have just released update seven, otherwise known as the Baguette update (no seriously) which brought about some mechanics reworkings, feature and UI updates and some cool fan/concept art. One unexpected piece of news from the update was the announcement of the full release date of Dead Cells in August of this year.
An excerpt from the update reads:
Motion Twin is thrilled to announce that Dead Cells will be leaving Steam Early Access in August of 2018. Today’s update brings us one step closer to leaving beta and bringing the complete, polished Dead Cells experience to PC and Console.
With the seventh update rolling out on Early Access, Dead Cells is very close to being content complete, the lore being the last piece of the puzzle we’re working on for launch day. Although version 1.0 definitely won’t be the end, as we’ve already promised one major free DLC to the community that made all of this possible.
In case you’ve missed out thus far Dead Cells is a rogue-lite, action, platformer which the developers have self-labelled in the “Roguevania” genre. Taking after games such as Rogue Legacy and Metroid, Dead Cells aims to teach you about the game through trial and error. Death is a expected part a game with no checkpoints and the only way to advance is through learning about your surroundings and enemies and try, try, try again.
Dead Cells is currently available in Early Access on Steam for £16.99 or regional equivalent and has received rather solid reviews at this stage in its development.
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.