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Conan Exiles – A Preview (PC)

In the early 1930’s, Robert E. Howard began publishing short stories about a massive Cimmerian barbarian and his quest to rule a kingdom.  At the time of Howard’s suicide in 1936, he had written 21 complete stories about this barbarian.  These stories faded in and out of publication for almost the next thirty years, never really grabbing the popular culture again, until 1982.  In 1982, a movie about this barbarian hit the big screens, starring an Austrian bodybuilder that was aiming for stardom as the next big action hero.  That bodybuilder is named Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the title character of this movie is named Conan.  Since that movie, Conan has had relative success in both movies and video games, but it wasn’t until Funcom released Age of Conan that Howard’s vision of Hyboria truly felt realized in the medium.  Currently, Funcom is working on their next Conan game named Conan Exiles.  The best way to describe Conan Exiles is that it is like Rust or Ark, but with balls.  And by balls, I mean actual testicles.  Yes, Funcom went the Full Monty with Conan Exiles.  Is it enough to make you want to play the game?  Let’s take a closer look with our preview.

Story

You begin Conan Exiles crucified.  Yes, actually crucified.  As in, strapped to a cross and left in the desert to rot and die.  The intro cinematic shows Conan wandering through the desert, as he comes upon you and your cross.  Conan cuts you down, defends you against some hungry monsters, then abandons you to your fate.  You next find yourself an exile, a criminal, left alone in the desert with nothing.  You must make your way to the relative safety of the valley in front of you and build your camp.  While in the valley, you will need to hunt for food, gather materials for structures and weapons, and defend yourself against everything that wants to kill you.

Let’s start this preview by saying that Conan Exiles is still in early access, so not all aspects of the game are polished, or even present.  Conan Exiles does a good job in setting up the narrative in the beginning of the game, by showing you your crime during the character creation process, and then by having you find journals as you make your way to the valley.  Once in the valley, the narrative begins to take a life of it’s own.  You will run into some characters that will talk to you, and let you in on more of the story.  Other than that, the story will progress by your own creation.  You make your own narrative, in a similar way as it is in Minecraft, 7 Days to Die, or Rust.  There are stones and journals that dot the wasteland that will fill in the gaps and inform you of the ancient civilization that once was here, but like most games of this nature, the story will change depending on your actions and you can create your own narrative.

Game Play

Let’s start with the naked, swinging genitals in the room, shall we?  Conan Exiles will get a lot of publicity over its approach to nudity.  You have the option at the start to go with no nudity, partial nudity (breasts), or full nudity (everything! and I mean everything!).  Character creation is very deep, allowing you to customize your race based on Howard’s world, and then begin to change all of your features using sliders.  Yes, there is a slider for penis length and breast size, you naughty person, you.  Part of the character creation process is also choosing your God.  You can select many of Howard’s pantheon of gods, including Crom, Yog, Set, and Mitra.  This selection will give you access to special structures and items that can only be crafted by a follower of that god.  You can view the game in first person or third person point of view, which alone will give you at least an hour of laughs watching your bits sway as you jump and run across the desert.

Once you get passed acting like a 13 year old boy, you will realize that Conan Exiles has much more to offer.  The main part of the game is truly survival, and that means keeping yourself fed, hydrated, protected, and healthy.  You gather materials as you travel across the land, and craft items that will help you live longer.  Tools, weapons, bedrolls, and even structures can all be crafted and placed in the world.  You will need to watch your encumbrance as well, so you cannot just grab everything in site and take it back to camp.  You will have to manage your pack and the weight of the pack.

Combat is fairly straight forward, but I found it incredibly difficult in the beginning.  Most everything will kill you in the beginning, so picking your fights will be very important.  As you level up and learn new recipes, gather better items, and even collect slaves, you will discover that these enemies will no longer prove a challenge and will need to find stronger enemies to fight.  Then there is the other players.  Depending on what server you are playing on, other players will also prove to be a hazard to you.  Many will kill you and nick all of your stuff, burn down your fortress, and make your life hell.  On the other hand, if you can get a few of your mates to band together, you can become the object of fear in the valley.

Conan Exiles feels right, though the difficulty curve is something that you will need to get used to.  I found the game fun and enjoyable, even in its early access state.  Lag was an issue on some of the servers that I joined, but here’s to hoping that gets hammered out before release.  What is here, is in good condition and was fun to play.

Aesthetics

Conan Exiles is a nice looking game, with full voice acting.  Many of the animations seemed off during my playthrough, including many enemies that just glided towards me, but hey it’s early access.  You definitely get the feeling of Conan here, from your character’s look, to the look of the enemies, and the structures you are able to build.  I love the way Funcom allows you to pick your character’s origin, which helps define your character.  Choices like Hyborian, Stygian, Kushite, and Zamorian are all offered in game, and will help determine the look of your character.

Graphics wise, Conan Exiles looks good and comparable to other similar games on the market.  The game had issues at distance, but again it’s not a release copy yet.  Structures look fairly generic, but will be completely up to you on how you design them.  I found it fairly easy to build a two story hut out of rock and wood.

Preliminary Thoughts

Conan Exiles is looking to be a very good, if not a great survival/crafting game.  The game has the look, the feel, and the blood of a Conan game, with all of the nudity that goes with it.  As of this writing, Conan Exiles has already sold about 300,000 copies and Funcom has completely recouped their cost for the game.  This is one game that I will be keeping a close eye on when it fully releases.  Funcom is also preparing an Xbox One version of the game, with a possible PS4 release later.  Conan Exiles is currently available on Steam Early Access.

Phoning Home – A Review (PC)

The current landscape of gaming has made it much easier for independent game makers to get their products made and published.  Kickstarter, Indigogo, and Steam Greenlight have opened the gates for many game makers to get their ideas made, and into the hands of the public.  However, not all games are made equal.  For every great game that comes out, there are usually five to six really, really bad games that came out with it.  One such game to get made this way is Phoning Home, by Ion Lands.  Phoning Home made its way through the Steam Greenlight community, and into my hands prior to its official release.  Is Phoning Home one of the good games to make it to market, or something to avoid and forget about all together?  Let’s take a closer look at Phoning Home by Ion Lands.

Story

In Phoning Home you play as a droid named ION, and begin the game by crash landing your ship on an unknown planet.  Your ship’s AI immediately sets you out to collect materials and craft parts to repair the communications array to contact your home planet for extraction.  As you explore the alien planet, you soon discover remnants of an older alien civilization, and another spacecraft, who is missing its own exploration unit, named ANI.  ION quickly realizes that escape from this planet is impossible, without ANI’s aide and sets out to find her.  ANI is discovered, but is also a bit mad, but is absolutely essential in your quest to escape.  Together, you and ANI begin searching for ways to get off the planet, while also exploring the ancient civilization and discovering what other resources are available on the planet.

The story is pretty generic, as these types of stories go, but still will keep you interested throughout the entire game.  The most interesting aspect of the story is the interdependence between ION and ANI.  ANI is extremely dependent on ION to move around the landscape, but ION cannot make it off the planet without ANI’s systems, so what develops is a story that really centers around two characters that are vital to each other for survival.  The story of Phoning Home went a lot deeper than I was expecting it to.

Game Play

You begin the game by completing some rudimentary quests for your ship’s AI unit, trying to get certain systems back online.  ION moves around the open world very well, with a jump pack and a sprint function to help you get around.  However, using the jump pack burns fuel faster, and using the sprint function will drain your battery.  This makes gathering of resources and crafting vital to progressing through Phoning Home.  

As you explore the planet, you will discover different resources that you can use in crafting.  Resources are initially unknown and not on the map, until you discover them.  Once you have located and gathered a particular resource, that resource will now show up on your HUD and makes finding more of the same resources easier.  ION can only hold a certain amount of each resource, so gathering maximum amounts and constantly crafting fuel and batteries is a great way to make sure you can get around whenever you need to.  Crafting is also done very simply, yet still felt satisfying.  In the crafting menu, you will see a list of all the objects that you can craft, and the materials that are needed to craft that object.  Once you have all the materials, you simply click on the item you want to craft and it is created and placed in your inventory.  Some items require multiple parts to create, so you will need to gather a larger batch of resources.

These items you can craft also include upgrades to ION, including weapons, teleporters, or magnetics that help you move ANI around.  Each upgrade changes the way the game is played and are realized at certain points of the game.  Your ship’s AI will contact you when a new upgrade or item is now craftable, and all you need to do then is locate the right resources to craft and unlock it.  Crafting these upgrades and items are vital to the overall game play of Phoning Home because of the constant shift and threat of the terrain.  ION will take damage from falls, creatures, and even the weather.  Repair kits, batteries, and fuel are in constant need and so you will spend most of your time gathering and crafting, as you explore your planet.

If crafting and resource gathering is half of the game here, then the other half is survival and solving puzzles.  ION is only outfitted with a pipe as a weapon in the beginning, so combat isn’t an option.  Large rock creatures will just crush you with boulders if you get to close, so you best learn to keep your distance.  Later, you will get some photon blasters and other weapons, but the option to hide and wait is usually the better option.  You will also have to deal with ANI, in what becomes long escort mission.  ANI has her own health bars and abilities, so you need to keep her alive at all costs.  ANI is also not outfitted with the same gear you are, so cannot fly or create her own teleport portals.  That’s all you, bud.  You will have to lift her over rocks, create portals to help her climb, or use your magnetics to get her to keep up with you as you run away from a very large rock creature using your head for target practice.

Aesthetics

Usually, indie games go with a drastically different aesthetic or really leave one aspect of the design short to save money.  Phoning Home’s aesthetic is impressive and really works well with the game.  ION does look a little too much like Wall-E for my taste, I would have liked to have seen something that really could stand out as being unique to Phoning Home.  The graphics aren’t awe inspiring but still do a hell of a job making the alien planet interesting to explore.  The planet has many different climates to explore and the planet looks just close enough to Earth to allow you to understand what it is you are looking at, but different enough to know that you are on an alien world.

The sound design, music, and voice acting are done extremely well.  Everything about Phoning Home feels much more polished than your average indie game, but the voice acting and music are easily the highlights of the aesthetic.  The voice acting was really well done, with just enough emotion to keep you invested in the story, but not too much to stop sounding like it would come from an A.I.  The music fits the feeling of the game, of being lost on a strange planet far from home.  It’s immediately the one area that you can just feel that the developers put a huge emphasis on and it comes off almost perfect.  The game feels very atmospheric thanks to the soundtrack.

Final Thoughts

Phoning Home is one of those good games that really shows what Steam Greenlight is really capable of.  Solid storytelling, decent graphics, and a great aesthetic (minus the Wall-E look) makes Phoning Home a must play for those that are looking for a game about gathering resources and exploration.  Phoning Home officially released on Steam on February 7.


Phoning Home Review Score

(3 out of 5 Stars)


 

Valve Announces the End of Steam Greenlight

Looks like Valve has announced that it will be ending its Steam Greenlight system, which was used to get independently-developed games onto the digital distribution platform. Steam Greenlight will be replaced this Spring by what they are calling “Steam Direct”. Steam Direct will allow developers more direct paths to publishing their games.

http://steamcommunity.com/games/593110/announcements/detail/558846854614253751

You can read the entire blog post at the above link!

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Review (PC)

Telltale Games has pretty much gone all-in on the episodic graphic adventure game genre.  Out of the 12 or so games released by Telltale Games, I have played and completed about a quarter of them, so I wasn’t a stranger to this genre when The Walking Dead: A New Frontier came across my desk.  What I love about these types of games is the way that Telltale Games really focuses on the narrative and character development, while still making the games engaging to play as an actual game.  I felt that Batman:  The Telltale Series really had improved on this genre greatly over the last two games that I had played.  So, where then does The Walking Dead: A New Frontier fit in?  Let’s take a closer look.

Story

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is the fourth game by Telltale Games that takes place within the Robert Kirkman world of The Walking Dead.  This time around, you play as Javier Garcia, a former professional baseball player who is trying to keep the remnants of his family alive during the zombie apocalypse.  The story begins just as the zombies are beginning to rise, with Javier trying to reach his dying father’s home.  Due to the traffic that is being caused by the initial stages of the zombie outbreak, Javier reaches the house moments after his father passes away.  On the steps of the home Javier’s brother, David, is waiting for Javier and the two siblings begin to argue over family matters.  After the two brothers calm down, the family begins to prepare to move the corpse of the father, when one of the children tells the brothers that the father is awake.  Javier and David, along with the rest of the family, move cautiously into the room, only to find that their father has become a zombie.  Their father attacks, and is subdued, but only after biting the brothers’ mother.  The family races the mother out to a van, to try to get her to the emergency room.  Then the real story begins.

The first part of the first episode does a great job in building up the new characters so the player can get a feel for them.  The Walking Dead: A New Frontier introduces a whole new set of characters that you control.  When the game resumes, Javier is in the same van from the introduction, but with David’s wife, Kate, and David’s two children, Gabe and Mariana.  From the immediate outset of the game, you get the feeling that this group has been on the run for far too long, and is in desperate need for a safe place.  Now, I don’t want to get too much into the story blow for blow, but if you know anything about the Walking Dead universe, you can imagine that their bad day just goes downhill from there.

Let’s get a few things out in the open first, you will play as a whole new set of characters, with some characters from Seasons 1 and 2 making appearances.  Ultimately, that means that The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is connected to Seasons 1 and 2, but not a direct sequel.  The Walking Dead: A New Frontier occurs roughly 3 years after Season 2, and introduces a new human faction, in the New Frontier.  Pretty much like most other factions within The Walking Dead, the New Frontier started off as decent enough folks but have degenerated into brutal and savage individuals who raid other settlements for supplies.

Now, I never played any of the other Walking Dead games by Telltale, so I had no connection to any characters.  I only know that some of the characters appeared in earlier games, because I did some research on those characters.  So that really meant that I wasn’t as invested in those returning characters as somebody who had played the other games would be.  With that being said, I still feel that Telltale Games does some of the best work when it comes to narrative storytelling in video game form.  Does this feel like a Walking Dead game?  Yes, to me it does.  I know that others that I have talked to that might be bigger fans of the series had their issues and critiques, but I absolutely enjoyed my time with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier.

Gameplay

Let’s go over the game play for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier for the one or two of you out there that have yet to play an episodic graphic adventure game.  The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is a point and click adventure game that allows the player to take control of the main characters of the story.  Depending on what part of the story you are in, the main character will change, but for the most part in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier  you will be playing as Javier.  You move your character around parts of the game, interacting with items or initiating conversation with characters.  During some of the conversations, you will be given choices as to what your character will say, and  you have to respond within the time limit given by the options.  Of course, just like in real life, silence is always an option.  The other characters in the game will remember your responses, and your decisions that you make during the game.  These decisions will affect future interactions, and have consequences.  These consequences can be tiny and insignificant, or can lead to the death of a character.  The Walking Dead: A New Frontier will also access any old save file that you have from Seasons 1 or 2, so any past decisions will carry over into the new game.

Combat is mostly quick time events, with the player pressing certain keys according to the prompts on the screen.  In some cases, you will have to move the cursor until it is within a shrinking circle and click the mouse button to initiate that action.  These quick time events always seem to come up when I have my guard down, enjoying the story telling.  The button sequence is fairly forgiving, and missing one does not mean immediate failure or death.

Really, there isn’t anything new or exciting here that hasn’t been done about twelve times before.  However, just like the old adage goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Everything here works just perfectly, and draws the player even deeper into the world that Robert Kirkman has built.

Aesthetics

The aesthetics for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier are exactly the same as all of the other games in the series.  The visuals are done in a very cartoony way, with cell shading and heavy outlines around the objects in game.  This makes you feel like you are playing a graphic novel.  I still love the visuals of these types of games from Telltale Games, and feel that the aesthetics fit perfectly.  If you have never played a game like this before, imagine your favorite comic book coming to life, and you will have a great image as to what The Walking Dead: A New Frontier looks like.

The sound design again is nearly flawless for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier.  Telltale Games always puts a lot of effort in their actors and the dialogue that goes into these games.  A great story can easily be ruined by an actor that isn’t into her or his part.  Every actor that is in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier feels like they gave it their all.  I do not remember any dialogue or performance that felt cheesy, over the top, or just bad.  The music and sound effects also worked brilliantly to bring the story to life.

Final Thoughts

After twelve episodic graphic adventure games, Telltale Games has got the formula down.  What you get with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is another polished episodic graphic adventure game that fits nicely into Telltale’s collection.  Now, whether it’s a great The Walking Dead game or not, I can’t help you there.  I know the comics, and have seen some of the television show, but I never did play any of Season 1 or 2 or even the Michonne game by Telltale, to tell you if The Walking Dead: A New Frontier fits perfectly.  I can tell you this, I enjoyed my time with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, just like I did with Telltale’s other games that I have played.  The story is engaging and really focuses on character development, the gameplay is simple yet is immersive enough to feel like you are still playing a game, and the aesthetics are just fantastic.  The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is another solid game by Telltale Games, and should definitely be checked out by anyone that is a fan of this style of genre.  The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is available now on Steam.


The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Chapters 1 & 2 Review Score:

 (4 out of 5 Stars)


 

M.E.R.C. Now on Steam Early Access

January 17, 2017 – Round up your squad and step into The Sprawl, an expanse of concrete slums bordering Neotopia, humanity’s last standing city – for now. It’s time to rise up against Manta in M.E.R.C., a squad-based real-time tactics game set in a dystopic near future, available now on Steam Early Access!

As a mercenary commander for hire, you must infiltrate The Sprawl to cut off Manta’s rise to power and change humanity’s fate. Direct a four-person squad to challenge Manta’s control in real-time combat, and enlist your toughest recruits to join your allies in cooperative multiplayer. Adapt to Manta’s strategies with the use of multiple classes, complete procedurally generated side missions, and keep the unsteady peace.

M.E.R.C. is available now on Steam for $19.99 USD!

For the latest news and updates be sure to follow @tinymobgames on Twitter or visit www.playmerc.com

Shadow Heroes: Vengeance in Flames – A Review (PC)

Allied Games have released a new style of real time strategy game that is designed to be fun, regardless of your skill level or game style.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames began life on Kickstarter, where the campaign was canceled then moved over to Steam Greenlight.  Designed to be a fast paced, episodic rts game, Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames reduces the need for micromanagement of forces and puts the focus more on combat that is fun and engaging.  Was Allied Games successful in their goals or does Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames fall short?

Story

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is set in the fantasy land of Hendrika.  You play as the new lord of the land, after a costly battle against a faction of magic users.  You begin the game being attacked in your fortress by this faction, who are trying to create an uprising against your regime.  The campaign follows a series of tasks, quests, or objectives that pretty much boil down to you trying to prevent the enemy from gaining any ground and taking power back from you.

Ok, so honesty time here.  I played Shadows Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames last about a week or so ago, and the above paragraph was all I could remember of the story.  I couldn’t tell you the character’s name that you play as if you held a gun to my head.  What could have been a great story line that could have dipped into the new oppressive regime that was now banning all magic in the kingdom and hunting anyone that showed any signs of magic ability, forcing the player to make some serious ethically questionable decisions and wonder if he or she is on the right side, pretty much boiled down to “you are in charge now, screw the other guys”.

The story is presented in static shots of characters as they talk to each other before missions, or as voice overs during missions.  There is also an opening cinematic that tries to set the story up, but I couldn’t remember a single detail of it.  The names all sound silly, like some sort of fan fiction gone horribly wrong.  It is better then having no story at all, but not by much.  Shadows Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames pretty much will live or die by it’s game play alone, as the story and the aesthetics just are not enough to save it.

Game Play

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is an rts game without much strategy.  The game plays more like a real time tactics game, then your traditional rts style game.  You begin the game with a set amount of leadership points to buy troops.  Troops will then spawn from these beginning zones and attack your enemies, while also generating more leadership points.  With more points, you can buy more troops or upgrade your troops by purchasing items.  Troops are categorized into 3 main groups:  Core, Air, and Assault.  These 3 groups are further broken down into 3 sub groups:  Light, Heavy and Support.  What this really means is you have 12 different troops to choose from, all with their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities.

Abilities and items come in two flavors as well, being passive or active.  Abilities are attached to the particular troop you have purchased, while items can be purchased at any time.  I was surprised at the amount of items that were available to purchase for my troops, but found it difficult to really understand what each item did.  Part of that is not knowing the system at first, but also due to the action continuing in the background as I was shopping.  You do not have time to peruse your items if your troops are being attacked.

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames offers quite a few options for game play, which is quite nice.  The campaign will be episodic, and more will be released as time goes on.  The first episode can be finished in about an hour or so, but there are other options to play with while you wait for the next episode to be released.  Assault is the standard rts type game where you set out to destroy the enemy base, Onslaught tests to see how long you can survive your opponent who has superior numbers, and Commander targets the enemies commanders instead of their base.  You can also play these mode in either single or multi player settings.

Allied Games tried to come up with a stream lined version of a real time strategy game.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is just that, but whether it works or not is based on what you want out of a game.  I am a horrible rts player, always have been and pretty much always will be, so Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames should have been right up my ally.  It isn’t and here’s why.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames just feels unfinished to me.  It feels like half a game anytime I play it.  Sure, I have less to stress about and I don’t have to worry about resource management and all that, but in the end all of that is part of what makes an rts game an rts.  I’m not saying that Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames isn’t fun, but it doesn’t not feel like a full experience when compared to other games on the market.

Aesthetics

The visuals of Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is completely influenced by Japanese anime, so everyone has a very anime feeling to them.  It is a decent aesthetic to work with, but in the same vein that some games feel too generically fantasy like, this one feels like a generic anime style game.  There really isn’t anything here that pops up and feel unique in terms of design or art.  Everything pretty much feels like I’ve seen it somewhere before.

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is fully voiced, which is a positive, but the actors sound so bored that it really took me out of the experience.  Bad acting is sometimes even better then bored acting, at least you can enjoy just how bad it is.  The actors here, at times, just sound like they are just reading their lines without emotion nor context.  The soundtrack is completely forgettable, which is a shame.

Final Thoughts

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is a bargain at the $2.99 price tag it is set at on Steam, it really is.  However, the old adage “you get what you pay for” is absolutely true in this case.  You can a great amount of content for the price, but you will not get the polish nor the excitement of game play that you would from a AAA rts game.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames does feel like part of a rts game that is missing an significant chunk of what makes rts games fun to play.  To compare Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames to something like Starcraft II would be unfair, and to be honest, criminal.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames has an audience out there, and that audience just isn’t me.  I think if the aesthetic and story had been far more polished, Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames would be a much easier game for me to recommend.  As it stands now, Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is an interesting diversion, especially for $2.99.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is available now on Steam.


Shadow Heroes: Vengeance in Flames Review Score:

(3 out of 5 Stars)


 

Endless Space 2 Now on Steam Early Access

Paris, France – October 6, 2016 – Award-winning developer Amplitude Studios announced today that Endless Space 2 is available now on Steam, for $37.49, a 25% discount off the $49.99 retail price for the Digital Deluxe Edition, and $29.99, a 25% discount off the $39.99 retail price for the Standard Edition. Set in the same universe as critically-acclaimed Endless Space and Endless Legend, Endless Space 2 is a turn-based, 4X space-strategy game that expands the Endless universe even further.

In addition to the Standard Edition, Endless Space 2 is available in a Digital Deluxe Edition (only available during Early Access), which contains the digital Soundtrack from FlybyNo and cosmetic in-game bonuses inspired by the Pathfinders of the Academy.

“Endless Space 2 has been such a fun development process, building upon Endless Space and Endless Legend, and creating the game brick by brick,” said Romain de Waubert de Genlis, Creative Director at Amplitude Studios. “Our games are deep, and we need lots of different people collaborating and contributing their thoughts and suggestions during Early Access, to help us formulate the perfect game.”

The Early Access version of Endless Space 2 features four of the eight factions planned for the full release of the game. Discover each faction’s story, from the AI gone berserk to the origins of the lethal Endless creation called the Cravers. Feel like an emperor and see your population react to all your decisions, as they will be the source but also the key to all your conflicts. Explore the Endless universe, discover its secrets, its new life forms and find your own path to galactic dominion.

Endless Space 2 Early Access Features:

  • Asymmetric Factions: Discover the unique gameplay and storyline of each faction.
  • Check Your Surroundings: Every person reacts differently to their surroundings, your actions and game events — your population fuels your power, but they can be hard to control.
  • Amplified Reality: Scan the map to get more detailed information with a simple keyboard touch. Keep the game as simple as possible while still allowing more detailed information for those who want it.
  • Immersive Battles: Prepare your ships, organize your fleets, choose your strategies, and study the results in real time.
  • Rich, Endless Universe: Quests and events linked to population, heroes, exploration, thriving factions – Endless Space 2 has everything you need to create your own story!
  • Four Factions: Pick a race and build your colony from the first four factions available: Sophons, Voydani, Cravers, and Lumeris. A total of eight factions, including one that is entirely created by the community, is planned for the Gold release.
  • Two Victory Types: Play for 100 turns and either Score or be Eliminated. More victory types will be added later.

Known for its deep, engaging, and gorgeous 4X strategy games including 2014’s celebrated Endless Legend and Dungeon of the Endless, Amplitude Studios won the venerable 2013 Golden Cube and Community Choice Unity Awards for Endless Space and the 2015 Best 3D Visual Experience for Endless Legend. For more information onEndless Space 2, visit Amplitude Studios on its Website (www.amplitude-studios.com), like it on Facebook, and follow it on Twitter.

Zombie Night Terror – A Review (PC)

Today, I review Zombie Night Terror, the second zombie themed PC game this month.  Yes, I can hear you saying it, “not another zombie game”.  One thing that can be said about the video gaming industry is, like the movie industry, when a theme or a genre is popular, even for a moment, then we get tons and tons of content from that idea.  Zombies have become the new World War II shooter in today’s market, so it takes something different or fresh to really get me to take notice.  While Zombie Night Terror isn’t the greatest zombie game in the world, in reminded me of another game from the early nineties that I used to play a lot of, Lemmings.  This connection alone made Zombie Night Terror, by NoClip, much more interesting and worth my time then I originally thought it would be.

Story

Zombie Night Terror centers around a mad scientist who has created a new street drug called Romero (as in George).  This new street drug has a horrible side effect on the user, and by horrible I mean it kills the user and they return as one of the walking dead.  Apparently, the mad scientist didn’t concern himself with returning customers that were still breathing.  You are the hive mind behind this newly created horde, and you are out for blood.  And brains, brains too.

The story for Zombie Night Terror gives you a framework for why you are doing the things you are doing in the game, but it doesn’t really drive the overall game play.  The story is told through in game cut scenes, or through dialogue boxes that come in the shape of news reports.  Usually, these news reports are telling you about a new ability or feature that you can do, but more on that in the Game Play section.  Each level gives you a certain amount of humans you must eat and convert to move onto the next level, but there are also challenge objectives that can be done, like find the secret drug stash or kill every last human on a level.  Ultimately, the story is pretty simple to follow with nothing substantial or ground breaking, but it is a zombie game so what did  you expect.

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Game Play

Zombie Night Terror plays a lot like Lemmings, a lot.  For those of you that are on the young side and don’t know what Lemmings was all about, let me describe the game play style.  You are placed in charge of a horde of creatures that have no mind of their own.  This horde will walk right into dangers and perils, without any thought of their own safety.  Your job as overlord, is to complete the task set in front of you, by commanding your horde in a way to preserve the most numbers.  As you loose members, you become less efficient, and it becomes harder and harder to complete the level.  That perfectly describes what Lemmings and Zombie Night Terror are at their core.

So, how does Zombie Night Terror differ from Lemmings?  Mostly in theme, but you have a few other things you need to worry about.  First, you can get a certain amount of syringes filled with Romero to infect humans anywhere in the level.  This could give you a tactical advantage, or help you kill off hard to reach humans.  You can find more Romero in the level as you play, but it is always a limited amount so what you you stick.  You will also have access to special zombie types that will help organize your horde.  Like the Overlord, who will block a path and tell your zombies to walk the other direction, or the Exploder, who can destroy certain walls on the level.  You also only have a certain amount of DNA to use, and you need this DNA to create special zombie types.  You can burn your own zombies to get more DNA, but must watch because the less zombies you have, the less effective your horde is.

As you kill humans, your horde becomes stronger and stronger.  The humans, however, won’t stand idly by and let you just eat their brains, oh no!  You will encounter tougher enemies, like bat wielding tough guys, or even SWAT officers, who could easily decimate your entire horde if you are not thinking ahead.  Controls are fairly simple, once you get used to them.  You use the arrow keys to move around the camera around the level. The HUD has a dashboard on it that allows you to choose your zombie type or use certain powers.  The rest is pretty much point and click, then watch humanity die.

Zombie Night Terror plays extremely well and is a great take on this genre.  Yes, it’s another zombie game, but it’s a zombie game based on Lemmings!  That’s something we haven’t seen at all yet. It will take some tactics to complete each level, you just can barrel through the game without thinking, but it will take some real planning to hit all of the challenges.  Zombie Night Terror allows you to pause the game by using the space bar, and this will allow you to think ahead and plan.  You can also use this time to see each route through the level.  There will be doors you need to break down or stairs you need to climb, and you will need to tell your horde to do just that by clicking on the icons near each feature.  These icons can be switched at any time, and doing so will help guide your horde or keep them locked in the attic until you have figured out your next move.

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Aesthetics

Like The Final Station last time, Zombie Night Terror uses outdated graphics to both help keep costs down on development, but to also make the aesthetic fit the game.  Zombie Night Terror looks like the old Lemmings game visually, using pixelated graphics that won’t win any prizes this year.  With that being said, Zombie Night Terror isn’t a bad looking game, not in the slightest.  NoClip chose to use these graphics with a monochromatic color pallete.  The game is almost entirely done in black and white, with the only two major colors being green and red.  Green shows the player where more Romero is, and red is, well, it’s the blood.  Lot’s of blood.

The sound design follows the visuals in aesthetics.  The characters all talk like they are rejects from a Sims game, speaking mostly the same type of gibberish, with all dialogue being shown in subtitles.  Again, a smart design decision that helps keep costs down for a small developer, while feeling like a conscience design thought.  If you are a graphics hound and only play games for the shiny, just skip Zombie Night Terror.  For those of you that are willing to look past the aging exterior, you will find a really, really fun game.

Final Thoughts

Zombie Night Terror is flat out fun and challenging.  This is a new take on a tired genre, and helped relive my high school years by bringing back memories of Lemmings.  Is it possible that I’ve been seduced because of my memory of another great game, sure.  I recommend this game anyway.  The theme and aesthetic work perfectly together, the game play and mechanics are finely tuned, and the game is just flat out fun.  What else do you need from a game that costs $12.99?  Zombie Night Terror is available now on Steam.

[easyreview title=”Zombie Night Terror Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ]

Office Freakout Launch Trailer

Hollow Robot’s OFFICE FREAKOUT is launching a week from now, Sept. 27th. Play as Philbert — a disgruntled office worker unfairly fired after decades of faithful service — and utterly destroy cubicles, office equipment, tacky mugs, and much more 🙂

In Office Freakout, you get to release all of your anger on a nondescript office — laying waste to anything in your path (including robot security guards) to build your “rage meter.” In rage mode, you will have access to a variety of weapons to amp up your destructive capability. Take the traditional method of smashing things with a baseball bat — or for a more artistic approach, use the mythical Golden Poo!

Pick up, punch, and destroy everything in sight. The more you rage, the more you’ll increase your rank and unlock more tools of destruction. In need of a more effective flinging device? The Grabbity Gun gets the job done with ruthless precision. Surrounded by guards and need a quick boost of power? Drink a soda to trigger special perks! When 90% of the environment is destructible, the possibilities are endless.

Fight your way through more than two dozen cubicles, offices, server rooms… causing obscene amounts of damage as you chart a path toward the boss’ office. Make sure you’re efficient, though: You only have a limited amount of time in each room. Just because you’ve been fired doesn’t mean you’re not on the clock …

But wait — there’s more! Secure crazier weapons, even more insane perks, wackier office customization skins, and more by completing special objectives as you play 🙂

KEY FEATURES
*   Annihilate up to 90% of the environment.
*   Fill your Rage bar based on the trail of destruction you leave behind.
*   Unlock valuable pieces of Golden Poo in every level.
*   Destroy everything in sight with a universal pickup/melee system.
*   Build up your points using a dynamic points calculator based on object mass and velocity.

PRICING & AVAILABILITY
On September 27th, Office Freakout will be released on Steam (PC) for $9.59 — 20% off the game’s retail price. The sale will end a week after launch (October 4th).

The Final Station – A Review (PC)

Do My Best Games and tinyBuild Games have just released a side scrolling action game by the name of The Final Station.  The Final Station is a zombie-like apocalypse game set in the future, with you playing as a train conductor, traveling through the vast forsaken lands, always trying to reach your next destination.  Is The Final Station worth the train ticket, or should you just stay on the platform and wait for the next rain.  Let’s find out!

Story

When it comes to the story, The Final Station borrows heavy from the typical zombie-apocalypse tropes that everyone knows, except it’s never clear as to whether or not you are really fighting zombies, or maybe an alien life form.  You begin the game as a train conductor, working a freight train on a normal, beautiful day.  As you travel with your supervisor to the next station, you begin to hear reports about an occurrence in the north.  This occurrence has the locals baffled and scared, and talks of the “second visitation” begins to circulate.  For much of the game, what this exactly means is up to interpretation, but as you progress to the north, a black substance begins to infect humans.  These infected humans then begin to exhibit zombie-like traits, and attack you on sight.  Your job is to continue hauling important materials for the government through infected lands, and look for survivors at each stop along the way.

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The story for The Final Station is interesting enough, but I feel that is suffers a little bit from translation issues.  The story always feels like it’s just out of reach with the dialogue, and not from just bad script writing.  It feels more like the writers tried to convey a sense of mystery, but due to a lack of knowledge with the English language, the mystery just comes off more confusing then mysterious.  I tried to find out where Do My Best Games is located to see if this is actually correct, but couldn’t find any information of where the developer is based.  The story is helped along by forcing you to make a stop at each station on the route for access codes.  It would be too easy for the train to just be able to leave one city and reach it’s destination, so you are forced to stop at each station and find an access code that will unlock the train and allow you to continue.   The story hold up all right, save for the translation bit, so if you are ok with a little bit of muddled story, then you will get through The Final Station just fine.

Game Play

The game play for The Final Station is broken down into two segments:  train and station.  On the train, you have to keep the train moving.  This means keeping an eye on certain components as your train speeds along.  These components each have a small mini game that allows you to keep them in working order.  If you don’t then the train runs the risk of taking longer to reach the next station, or breaking down entirely.  You also have access to an instant messenger station that allows you to talk to other conductors to find out more about what is going on in the world.

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You also have to manage your passengers that you find along the way.  Your passengers will get hungry or have injuries that need tending.  The only way to solve this is by having food and medical kits on the train, then choose which passenger gets which.  This becomes a resource management game, seeing what the pas
senger will give you if you delivery him or her safely to the next town, to determine if they are worth the med kit or food.  Worst yet, the med kits are the same ones you take with you when you venture into each station, so if you have a bad time at it in a station you may not have med kits to give the passengers on the train ridge to the next stop.

The other segment is the station.  Here, you get off of your train and venture forth in search of the access code, survivors and information in that order.  The access code is vital to continue along your trek, while the other items will make the trek easier and more interesting.  You have a limited amount of ammunition for your guns, and need to find more along the way, or purchase supplies whenever you are in towns.  You can also use parts of the environment to help defend yourself, but I found that aiming these items was touchy at best, so make sure you have plenty of time.  You will run into the zombie-like townsfolk in the stations, and they will be your biggest threat.  Each type has it’s own strengths and can be dealt with differently.  The standard enemy can easily be punched to death, while the armored type needs to be punched once to remove the helmet then can be shot int he head, and the shortest enemy is the fastest and the most deadly.

The Final Station is a fun game to play, until the repetitiveness of the actual game play comes into effect.  You only ride the train, then explore stations, that’s it.  It’s really fun in the beginning, and suspenseful and you play the first 10 or so levels, but then it just becomes repetitive and tedious.  On the good side, the repetitiveness of The Final Station wasn’t enough for me to stop playing the game nor not recommend it, I just have to caution that there really isn’t much more to the game then what I’ve mentioned above.  If you are fine with that, the The Final Station will work great for you.

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Aesthetics

The Final Station is a 2D video game that uses 8-bit style graphics, so even some of the oldest machines that are still functioning should be able to run this game.  It’s a good aesthetic for the game, and I know it helped keep the costs down.  The graphics do a good job in setting forth the aesthetic of the world, and the zombie-like creatures are particularly unsettling with just being black bodies with white eyes.  The music design for The Final Station is the real winner for setting the game’s aesthetic.  The music is moody and dark, and really helps keep the game feeling very much apocalyptic in nature.  Sound design works as well, and is much more realistic in nature then the visuals would imply.  No 8-bit gun shots here.

Final Thoughts

The Final Station delivers the goods on some solid game play for PCs out there that cannot run many games.  While the story line may be a little bit confusing and the game itself may fall into repetitiveness with the train-station-train-station level design, I still had a lot of fun with The Final Station. The controls were mostly responsive to get myself out of some sticky situations, and once you learn which zombie-like creatures you can punch, then ammo conservancy becomes a little easier.   Really, the choice to get this game comes down to what you are looking for.  The Final Station is a nice little, challenging, 2D shooter with some resource management mini games built in, and I was fine with that.  The Final Station is available now on Steam for $14.

[easyreview title=”The Final Station Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”3″ ]