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Knights of Pen and Paper 2: Standup and Strategy

Developer: Kyy Games
Genre: Turn Based Strategy RPG
MSRB( at time of writing): $7.99
Platform: IOS, Steam, Xbox One, PS4

Intro: In the days of constant internet connection one often longs for the old days, wehre groups of people could sit down over a wooden table, and roll dice and talk about dragons while two people are on their phones and another one is busy drawing their character. No, im not talking about the days of the 80’s, im talking about fall last year. Covid sucks and we all know it. Fortunatley, there are alternatives to those activities. Such as Knights of Pen and Paper 2, an old school strategy rpg that combines the turn based action of final fantasy with the humor of a DND session where the DM is one of the interns for a writer of The Big Bang Theory.

Story

I’d be lying if I said that I can remember much of the story, as there’s barely any. It feels as if im filling in a fantasy/ rpg MadLib. Think of a generic rpg story and there ya go, thats KOPAP 2 for you.

That’s not to say that the narrative and writing aren’t good (sometimes). But alot of the time the story barfs on you’re face on the short linear paths to the next objective. There aren’t any real factions, or groups that you’ll grow attached to, no villains to grow contempt and hatred of, no party members that will sadden you with their deaths.

The only real meaningful parts of the story are the narrative, and the dialogue spoken between characters. It tends to have decent comedic timing, and charming, if limited, pop culture references. But that’s the only real string to the games comically weak bow. After a while that charm wears itself out and makes you want to take up sword swallowing.

Towards the halfway point theres plenty of dead humor that doesn’t land and brings the pacing to a grinding halt. The worst is when important dialogue needed for questlines is sandwiched between “jokes” and exposition dumps of story. The skip button started to look very appealing because reading pure cringe bored me to tears. For all the aspiring RPG/ strategy makers of the world heres my two pieces of advice for this type of narrative: A. when it comes to humor and jokes, having a little bit less is better than having a little bit too much and B. if at any point you or your test audience gets bored and attempts to skip dialogue to get it over with, its time to go back to the drawing board and figure out what went wrong.

I did like how the game was willing to go completley insane and fight weird hectagonal monsters. I feel as if the wackiness could lead to a potentially more engaging game overall. But ultimately it was only a few sections and then tossed out in favor of more dead jokes.

In short, KOPAP is a game where the jokes acts as airplanes, and the story structure acts an aircraft carrier: at first the planes land normally and smoothly, but as the deck fills up and storage is limited, the other planes panic and begin to kamikaze the ships hull, destroying the whole ship in the process.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is similar to that of any turn based strategy rpg games. While there are a few new ideas and trying something new, KOPAP prefers to stick on well- trodden ground.

In terms of classes you have healers, barbarians, mages, and thieves. While there are other class roles, they all essentially revolve around the same 3 basic types of classes: Tank, DPS, and Healer.  With these well know, and somewhat generic, classes the gameplay is about as standard as possible. With not much changing to the core basics, the gameplay soon becomes mind numblingly repetitive, and the strategy becomes bland and exhausting.

There is near constant backtracking to get anywhere. From traveling to searching the area around it, to resting around a campfire you have to roll dice. If you make a bad roll, (and believe me youll make many) either you fight enemies that are so low level to you theres no point, or enemies that will straight up kill you in a two hits, though that last one is gracefully rare.

 In my opinion the class system is not necessarily bad as it is simplistic. Some of the classes do have different attacks from each other, and different styles to adapt,  such as the ninja class applying bleeding on a crit, while a thief has bonus damage on undamaged enemies. There are also different abilities that I would straight up ignore, such as the ranger having a grapple hook attack that pulls enemies to the front of the line.

Some characters become so overpowered that breaks the game like a gingerbread house. The Ranger, for example has a bow attack that at level ten deals more power than the entire group combined. Using this one attack alone, you can beat it so fast you could turn the game back in on Steam to get a refund. With the games lackluster upgrade system, it basically railroads your progress to one or two abilities. I always felt claustrophobic playing it, like I was making a mistake regardless and missing a key feature.

The character class customization is also far too linear and railroaded. You choose a race (elf, dwarf, and human), a class, and most interestingly, the type of player playing, be it a jock, geek, cheerleader etc. The effects these give off is lacking, though. It tends to just give a small stat boost and nothing else.

In the end, i liked alot of the gameplay elements in theory. In practice, though, they were lacking depth, which ultimately killed the game near the end for me

Artstyle

The artstyle is very hit or miss, and tends to land on the miss side of the die, ironic for a pen and paper rpg. While the game has its fair share of well-designed items, alot of the game lacks much character, or atmosphere. When the players attack, the animation often lacks impact and feels hollow, or has very little artistic flair beyond the bare minimum.

The enemies too lack motion, simple sprites with minimal, unimpressive animation fill the enemy roster every single time regardless of size, enemy type, or biome. The color palette also suffers as the look of the game looks quite flat, and lifeless. Some of the designs can look rather excellent, for the example the giant chicken men near the huge city, or undead maids from an early quest in the game. There are also absolutely bafflingly lazy designs such as one enemy literally being a square.

In a type of genre known for creating epic monster designs, and the beauty of nature, it’s a shame KOPAP 2 falls short

Conclusion

Overall, KOPAP 2 has the building blocks necessary for a good strategy game, potentially even great game, but is mired by increasingly repetitive combat and humor that often misses the intended mark. While it can be fun for a bit, it tends to bury itself in the ground due to too much backtracking and grinding, and the artstyle can be bland and straight up lazy at times.

Jet Lancer: Zoomies and Dogfights in the sky

Name: Jet Lancer

Developer: Code Wakers

Genre: Arcade shoot em up

MSRB( at time of writing): $14.99

Platform: PC

Game Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/913060/Jet_Lancer/

Intro

Jet Lancer brings a refreshing and nostalgic sense of arcade fun to it’s dogfights. It does so with a beautiful, lighthearted shoot ’em aesthetic that shows its teeth when it comes to gameplay difficulty.

The main core of the gameplay is a simple fighter pilot vs hordes of enemies in various dogfights, in a very similar vein to Luftrausers. You have a dodge move that negates all potential damage, an afterburner for speed, and several different types of weapons. 

Pros

I love the core gameplay which is fast and kinetic, and takes a level of skill and finesse to pull off, especially during higher level dogfights, where enemies fill the screen with dozens of bullets and rockets. 

At first glance, the gameplay seems simple enough. The game is 2D with an emphasis on speed and maneuverability, and memorizing attack patterns. This challenge ramps up, and soon the dogfight becomes a desperate struggle for survival

You are the definition of a glass cannon, able to tank three hits before death with no way to heal in game, leading to a buildup of tension as the level progresses. This aspect of nervously dodging attacks on your last bar of health really enhances the gameplay nicely. It gives a lot of tension, due to a game over sending you back to the start of the level. It also gives off an adrenaline rush similar to a Dark Souls boss, which i greatly appreciated

There’s a multitude of unlockable weapons from guided missiles, to summoning drones, and overpowered railguns. While they do change the way the game is played, I feel that there needs to be more to add complexity to your choices. This is Jet Lancer’s biggest problem: a lack of ship customization.

Cons

At the writing of this review there are two game modes: Story mode and Arcade mode. 

Story, as one might guess, is the game’s campaign, surrounding a disgraced pilot seeking work as a mercenary, and trying to fight off an overwhelming enemy force. It’s a decent story, with fun character moments and a good plot. Once you beat it you’ll probably never play it again though. 

For me the best part was Arcade mode, where it throws you against an endless wave of enemies, with a rogue-lite loot system.

Arcade mode is fun, though it harbors Jet Lancer’s deepest problem: the lack of customization. There are four ships in the game, which range in size, speed, and primary weapon (machine gun, flamethrower etc).

Beyond that however, the game lacks any real customization, even cosmetic. The planes are all painted in the same pinkish hue and even have the same sounds when dodging. The core game is great, but I feel that the lack of customization really hamstring the whole roguelike appeal of the Arcade mode.

Conclusion

Despite this one gripe, I think it’s a worthy buy. It’s dogfights are pure fun, and looks beautiful, along with stellar songs. Absolutely pick this game up if it’s on sale, even if you’re cautious about the lack of replayability. 

Robo Recall: Shame it isn’t free

Name: Robo Recall

Developer: Epic Games

Genre: First Person VR shooter

MSRP( at time of writing): $29.99

Platform: Oculus Quest( 1&2) Oculus Rift, HTC Vive( with mods)

Game Link: https://www.epicgames.com/roborecall/en-US/home

Like many people when they first got their Oculus Quest 2, I immediately picked up Robo Recall. It was both the first game I saw on the console, and the first i played

I booted it up, got into the game, and began playing. 

I had fun, throwing robots off cliffs, firing on a multitude of different robots, and generally being impressed with the game… For all of the three hours it lasted.

The Good

Robo Recall comes from the famous Epic Games, and was their last project before releasing Fortnite and becoming the patron saint of Twitch thots for all eternity. The general story revolves around a company agent assigned to hunt down rogue robots built by an Amazon-esque company. So like all VR games currently reviewed by me, it puts roughly the same amount of time into crafting an intricate story as a World of Warcraft player does into his personal hygiene. 

But that doesn’t matter, as long as the core game is fun which it is, thankfully. Youre thrown onto the open streets, fighting waves of robots with various weapons. It’s simple but fun, as you teleport around, hitting the robots in vital weak points or just ripping them in half Gorn style. During a fight you can grab enemies’ bullets and throw them back at them for huge damage, as well as throw the robots into the line of fire as a shield. You gain points and complete challenges to unlock modifications for your weapons, and do it all again. 

t’s all backed up by great sound design, good artstyle, and a snarky sense of humor that admittedly gets somewhat repetitive hearing the same “Robot heaven.. I SEE ITTT” over and over again for the fiftieth time that level.

The Bad

So some solid gameplay and sound, shame that the game is so short.

I played this game on and off over the course of about two days and burned through all the levels in about three hours total. The ending totally kicked me in the head, as it shocked me the game was over so soon. 

Short games aren’t a problem per se, but I do have an issue with the games pricing. If you looked at the MSRP at the beginning of this review, you’d know the game is being sold for $30.

That’s overpriced, no matter the quality of the game. 

From a bit of digging I saw it used to be free, before deciding to charge people. I believe it should have stayed that way. In its current state there are a total of nine missions, all lasting about ten to fifteen minutes.

Conclusion

So as a result, I can’t recommend this game at full price, especially with no mod support on the Quest. If it goes on sale for $15 or even $20 it’s a good pick. However, I do not condone buying it full price, unless the game is updated with more features

Gorn: Toontown meets The Gladiator

Name: Gorn

Developer: Devolver Digital 

Genre: VR first person brawler

MSRB( at time of writing): $19.99

Platform: Oculus Quest(1&2), HTC Vive, PlayStation VR

Game Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/578620/GORN/#:~:text=GORN-,GORN,of%20Broforce%20and%20Genital%20Jousting.

When buying your first VR game, be it the HTC Vive or an Oculus Quest 2, it’s best to buy a simple, fun, and cartoonish game. This gets you used to the sensation of having a Quest 2 headset strapped to your face, getting used to the somewhat disorienting physics.

It also helps to have a game where you can release your frustration from a day at the office listening to Jack from marketing talk shit about you at the water cooler,

If those points strike home for you, first get a therapist because that takes a toll on anyone’s mental health, but also buy Gorn, the brawler thats one of the most popular VR games. Well, aside from the eternally re-released Skyrim and new age religion of Beat Saber. 

There’s little to no story, you’re a gladiator and you need to kill people to please an emperor. Not exactly breaking any narrative bounds. But why would it need to have combat as excellent as Gorn’s?

In contrast with last week’s Blade and Sorcery (https://shutyourcakehole310407335.wordpress.com/2022/01/07/blade-and-sorcery/ )Gorn sets itself apart from the normal hack and slash Oculus Quest VR games with a ridiculously cartoonish art style. 

The game features a horde of overly muscled barbarians, with rubbery weapons that look like something out of Disneyland’s Toontown attraction. 

Despite their rubbery, toylike appearance, that feeling actually makes the weapons quite satisfying.

It gives them a nice sense of momentum and weight when you swing them. This, along with the fantastic body dismemberment, where every body-part can be hacked off, gives the game a cathartic edge. 

The gameplay more or less drives the entire game, as gladiators begin putting on armor, equipping better weapons, and swarming in greater and greater numbers. There’s little in the way of progression, mostly just unlocking different weapons in the custom game mode.

The weapons themselves all feel satisfying though, with a range of different play styles to choose from. My personal favorite was the enormous greatsword that admittedly broke the game by cutting every enemy with one swipe. Throw in some basic parrying mechanics with shields, long knives, as well as ranged weapons like the bow and arrow, and you have a great mixture of gameplay opportunities

I also liked the caestus mechanic, glove gadgets that stay on your arms with abilities ranging from throwing knives, wolverine claws, or grappling hooks. It added a nice bit of spice to the already excellent gameplay.

All in all, the game serves as a fun yet simple violent fantasy romp. The only real issue I have is the mechanic where when you receive a single hit, no matter how small the weapon, you have eight seconds to kill an enemy, or else it’s game over. This means the gladiators have to take big windup attacks that are easily evaded, unless you’ve been swarmed with enemies. I found it made the game too easy, and more about pattern memorization than combat skill like Blade and Sorcery. That’s more of a personal taste issue though.

In the end, I find Gorn to be a good intro to VR brawler games, especially with the simplicity of the Oculus Quest 2. It’s not too hard or too intricate, and it’s basically all about the gameplay. But it’s a game you’ll always be able to jump in and let your anger out on some cartoonish barbarians. 

Blade and Sorcery: Fantasy meets VR

Name: Blade and Sorcery

Developer: Warpfrog

Genre: Hack and slash/ first person RPG

MSRB( at time of writing): $19.99

Platform: Oculus Quest, Oculus Quest 2Game Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/629730/Blade_and_Sorcery/

While the drought of PS5 and Xbox Series X is annoying, its given a much smaller, and more niche system to forge ahead: VR

But maybe you see these fancy new helmets and wonder how good the games are. While VR is still getting its sea legs there are absolutely some great games on the system.

In particular, my favorite on the system is Blade and Sorcery, a medieval themed hack and slash that, while janky and barren in some parts, is more than enough to be worth the $20 asking price.

Blade and Sorcery stay thoroughly in it’s fantasy themed comfort zone, pushing no real bounds of it’s medieval setting. As of right now there isn’t a story, or even a tutorial to speak of. 

As it’s in early access currently, the story is sure to come through.

The game is set in multiple arenas, fighting against enemies ranging from nearly naked gladiators, to knights in shining armor. You’re armed with a multitude of weapons and spells, and you can take it from here. 

I should clarify that this game is still rough around the edges here, but when it hits it’s mark it absolutely nails it.

The combat is incredibly fun, with its ability to let the player form their own style of fighting, which is only available with VR. Playing a warrior immensely enjoyable with intricate swordplay, along with well done hitboxes that mix together and make you feel as if you’re in an actual duel, rather than playing make believe in your friends basement.

You can choose to cut an opponent’s leg, wait for an opening in their shield, or any number or even just grab them by the neck and throw them off a bridge ( personally my favorite war time strategy). It takes player choice and absolutely runs with it.

Some weapons take a bit of skill to use. I quite liked the bow because for as good as you may be, there still is that little element of luck, which gives a massive rush of dopamine when you nail a knight right in the throat from twenty yards away.

All this is supported with excellent sound design, from the sound of swords clanging together, an ax hitting someone’s head, or an arrow reflecting off a shield. The blood effects aren’t the greatest, but kills still stand out as satisfying, especially when in the heat of battle you cut the head off a fully armored knight, or slam an arrow into the gap between a bandit’s leather armor.

While the Blade aspect of Blade and Sorcery is well polished and fun, as of right now the Sorcery aspect is a little lacking.

 I hope you like playing Barbarian, because you have a grand total of three spells: fire, lightning, and gravity, all which does exactly what you think. 

The only interesting mechanic is using the elements to coat your sword in an element, which can help to take on different enemy types, like fire going through shields and armor.

Besides that, the magic is lacking, which is fine for an early access game, as the devs have stated that they’re looking to add things such as healing spells later. But for right now, the most fun I’ve had with magic wasn’t using it, but rushing enemy mages, who fire off balls of fire at me, and then proceeded to panic and whack me with their wands as I cut them down in one stroke. 

The enemies themselves tend to be a bit lackluster for me, as there’s no difference in weapons or fighting style. This results with enemies like fully armored knives carrying two daggers which I believe are meant solely for the bandits.

The only real difference is the types of armor given to each faction. Gladiators have little more than a medieval jockstrap, bandits are dressed like Robin Hood, and knights wear armor.

While the A.I is usually pretty good, there are parts that seem to just break them. Sometimes they’ll crowd around a staircase and stare longingly at you like a child trying to get dessert from their mom. It can be tedious backtracking to find out where they’ve gotten them stuck.

The maps are pretty sparse and bland for the most part, with a few key differences, like one map having sliding ropes. However, they rarely ever change the way you fight, or enhances the experience at all.

While I have my issues with Blade and Sorcery, they pale in comparison to how good the main gameplay is. I could spend hours hacking away at knights and bandits, roleplaying as the last defender of a once mighty castle.

With updates hopefully coming, as well as the VR market still being small, Blade and Sorcery could be the first step on VR’s road to normalcy. 

Even if it isn’t, it’s a game I can highly recommend and say that it’s definitely worth the asking price.

Dying Light: Parkour and Dropkick in the Apocalypse

My God, zombie games have become new and interesting again. It’s easy to forget in 2021 how oversaturated the zombie game genre was. It filled every type of genre, from tense emotional stories like the Last of Us, to abominations like Road to Fiddler’s Green.

Now that we’re in the age of battle royale/ sandbox games though, zombie’s are making a comeback, in part due to the fact that now the trend chasing (Or trend parkouring) is over we can get back to zombie games made with an actual fucking point in mind, rather than big companies chasing the green.

With the new Dying Light 2 releasing in 2021 i thought it would be nice to lookback on one zombie game from this time that people actually seem to like.

Pro: Fluid Parkour, and Desperate Combat

This game is all about movement, which is something one usually doesnt find in the zombie genre. The parkour elements to this game add alot of depth, as your ability to move is your best weapon in this game. For the most part Techland did a good job with the movement. It feels solid, with good sound design and character animation, and is overall really smooth. Despite the fast movement there is little, if any framerate drop, which is good as that problem would have torpedoed the game.

It still has physics problems where the protagonist doesn’t seem to remember how his arms work as you fall to your death, cursing the devs all the way . But for the most part it feels solid, fluid and satisfying. Every piece of equipment feels “Parkoury” , and everything is built around your movement, such as throwing stars to stop a zombie quietly from a distance.

The combat itself is, for the most part, pretty good. The undead are pretty lively in this game. They dodge melee swings, try to trap you into tight corners, and can climb any building. Melee combat is a slog for the first hour, but once you start getting some decent gear, it becomes quite satisfying to whack your way through a group of biters.

Once you get a firearm, the game’s difficulty drops like a barbell into the ocean. You can pretty much kill anything in the game in a few hits, which causes the late game to becoming a bit tired and repetitive.

Going from struggling to take down three at a time to mowing through an army ends up going dull real fast. Regardless, the gameplay’s focus on movement and snap decision making create a tense survival game in a way that makes Mirror’s Edge look like a game about a child running through a dreary office complex

Con: Terrible Characters/ Story

I have to get this out of the way first: Who in their right goddamn mind thought that Rais would be anything above a waste of time and effort.

The characters in this game are god awful. It is so filled with zombie movie cliches that when a cutscene plays i roll my eyes and skip it half the time.

Rais is the absolute worst character. As the main bad guy he promotes a feeling of evil and badassery, which is fair considering he’s a murderous warlord. But he is so evil, he becomes unrealistic. From shooting his own men, to controlling life saving supply drops that the government just gives away anyways, he just defies common sense. His soldiers should just cut his throat and elect someone who doesn’t have an absolutely massive God Complex. His design is generic, think bald guy with a black mustache and you’ll probably be able to fill in the rest on your own.

It has other problems with genericism, to the point it sounds like they are going off a checklist

The good doctor working a cure out of a trailer? Check.

Hot badass lady that the hero needs to rescue? Check

Young child who has a bizarre amount of technical knowledge? Check

Main villain screaming the main characters name in rage? double check

the themes that “Men are the real monsters”

The only characters i found myself relating to was the main character, Kyle Crane and the leader of the resistance, a man called Brecken. Kyle surprised me at first, due to the fact that unlike other zombie FPS characters, he actually has a personality. He’s snarky, witty, and doesnt fail to tell his secret agency to shove it up their asses. Brecken, on the other hand, falls on the opposite end of the specture. He isn’t a military leader, in fact he traveled to the city as a parkour instructor, and it shows. Every scene he’s in shows him as this broken down, terrified man, who might snap and hurl himself out of the window at any moment.

Conclusion

Dying light is a flawed game, but one that is still very worthwhile. If you’ve been craving a parkour game and a zombie game at the same time then this is a perfect buy for you. If you wanted a more narrative focused game similar to Last Of US, then skip it and play something else, because Left 4 Dead 2 has a better story than this confusing narrative

Amnesia: The Dark Descent: Unmatched Horror

Amnesia’s title is eye rolling-ly generic if youve spent more than a few minutes in the horror games category. The “I have Amnesia” trope has been worn thin through constant abuse through the years.

“No,” they say, “lets just delete the memory and fill it in later so we don’t have to write compelling stories.”

So that sort of title, combined with its listing under Lovecraftian horror, doesn’t sound promising. That goes double if you’ve only played the terrible Amnesia: Rebirth and been turned off from the franchise.

But, this game is one of, if not the most important, horror game in the general market today. It’s up there with SIlent Hill 2, FNAF, and (far, far, FAR) above the Slenderman games. With Halloween fast approaching, Amnesia is a must have game for any horror fans library.

The game starts off with the main character, Daniel, waking up in a castleto discover he has amnesia. A note left behind reveals that Daniel willingly wiped his memory, and then tells the now mindwiped Daniel that he needs to kill the Baron of the castle

Now, while thats the extent of your role in Amnesia, the backstory that you find through notes, is fantastic. While the trope of scavenging for pieces of paper with words on them has been worn thin, Amnesia does it in a way that makes it feel rewarding. In contrast to the meandering notes of other horror games, Amnesia’s are well written, short, and clearly state important information. This allows each note to give you a quick, useful piece of background info, that you can look at and instantly understand it’s significance.

Scavenging in general is fantastic, as each item, be it tinder boxes, oil, or first aid supplies feels rewarding to find. You never know when you may be trapped in a basement and need a bit more light. So scavenging feels as if you’re preparing for a challenge, rather than loading your inventory with a bunch of crap. I might have enough oil to fuel a battleship and i’ll still get a burst of dopamine when i check a closet and find that bottle of oil. Which is good, because light plays such an important factor in the gameplay.

Light levels and the Sanity meter is the closest Amnesia has to unique gameplay mechanics. For starters, the main character has a deep seated fear of the dark, to the point he goes insane after several seconds. To remedy this you have several options, either a. use a tinderbox to permanently light stationary candles, fireplaces, and lamps, or b. use a portable lantern that runs on limited oil However, they also provide a tradeoff, as the monsters in the game can find you instantly if they see you out in the open. This is also where sanity kicks into overdrive, and what i think is Amnesia’s strongest element. You can’t look at the monster’s for long as your sanity will drop, and with no combat all you can do is run. . This keeps the look and feel of the monster fresh, and tense, allowing the game to use the same enemies without getting exhausted. This, along with excellent ambient sounds and artstyle, keeps the game scary from start to finish.

The artstyle has truly stood the test of time, despite the game being a decade old at this point. The castle is ominous, darkly lit, and resembles a twisted maze. overflowing with massive rooms of barrels, libraries, and steampunk technology, along with various tools of witchcraft like spell books, and runes. There’s also certain ambient noises that really get under your skin in a good way. The footsteps alone make you feel trapped as they echo down the hall. If I’m being honest, tis games atmosphere is a better Call of Cthulhu than Lovecraft’s original works

Overall if i had to pick one strength of Amnesia, it would be how effectively simple it is. While it does nothing revolutionary, the surgical precision of these basic elements allow Amnesia to stand the test of time.

Brigador: Mechs Galore

Intro:

Ever since i got into gaming, there have been a few genre’s in gaming that always get me excited everytime i hear of a new one. Mech games are almost always one of them. Given my love for the excellent Battle-tech, as well as my favorite anime being Neon Genesis Evangelion, its easy to see why i love the genre.

While i love mech games, the genre has it’s problems. the majority of the games tend to fall into very specific categories, mostly first person shooters. Admittedly it does make sense. One of the coolest things mech games allow is the ability to immerse yourself into the cockpit of a mech, filled with all manner of gadgets and gizmos gives it a unique aesthetic edge that most games cant match. However, if your in the mood for mechs, but don’t want to deal with another fps game, then you might find your options severely limited.

However, There exists an outlier: Brigador, a top down isometric shooter that seemed as if it would never rise beyond the title of cult classic. While it fortunately is getting more attention thanks to reviewers such as Mandalore Gaming, Brigador still deserves far more of the spotlight.

Pro: Strategic Gameplay

Brigador’s gameplay focuses heavily on both movement, positioning, and precise aiming. The mechs stomp along slowly, and stopping is basically giving the A.I a free pass to swarm you and take potshots at you as you panic, fiddle with the controls and wheel around trying to defend yourself. This is a game that requires you to plan ahead, both in the loudout screen and in-game. The most important skill you can develop is knowing when to cut and run and when to dig your heels in and give em the ole Japanese curbstomp.

The main goal of the game is to destroy certain objectives, such as planetary defense guns, communication stations, and ammo depots. Destroy all of them in a mission and you get a cash bonus. Overall, pretty simple stuff. However, this requires you to destroy every single one in each level, called districts. which varies from just two to an exhausting ten. Adding onto the difficulty: if you die, you lose 90% of your money and have to start over. So planning i essential.

You have a wide variety of tools at your disposal, with weapons ranging from standard machine guns, to mustard gas launchers, to “gatling mortars” which can take out an entire city block in one blast provided you run for your life and pray the splash damage doesnt kill you as well. In addition there are special abilities, with a staggering four pieces of equipment: emp, camouflage, smoke bomb, and an audio pulse that acts as a short range backup weapon. Add to that the different weapon mounts to mechs, as well as the mech’s stats , and you’ve got a game where youll spend quite a bit of time wondering wether to go with the safer 12 mm machine gun, or throw caution to the wind and weld on a giant death ray that runs out of ammo in about four seconds.

Even more important than weapons knowledge thought is you ability to gamble. when you consider the risk and rewards type of gameplay Brigador supports: If you die you lose any and all money you had gained. So knowing when to go after communications so that reinforcements cant be called in, or hunt down an enemy commander can mean the difference between a win or a loss. In addition, the ability to use your equipment properly to set up traps can be immensely satisfying. But the moment to moment gameplay, where you dodge and weave between enemy fire, and try to fend off an approaching hoard of space hillbillies, is where the game shines the most.

Every part of the game relies on strategic planning, and resource management which is hard enough to pull off in slower paced strategy games without wanting to headbutt the monitor. This balance, alongside excellent animation, and artstyle allows it to stand out amongst both mech games, and twin stick shooters as a genre, and blends the best of both games together.

Con: Samey, Repetitive Mech designs

The game itself looks stunning, specifically in it’s art style, and wide range of beautiful colors and sounds. It’s cyberpunk aesthetic and dramatic use of lighting give it an almost vaporwave feel to it. If not for the mech rampaging it would look like a piece of art on a Lofi Beats To Study/ Chill With livestream. However, one of the biggest problems I have with the game revolves around it’s mech designs. and how they tend to lack distinction, both from a visual and gameplay perspective.

For starters, the mechs tend to blend together on the selection screen, as they are shown exclusively in a dark red, making it difficult to tell apart. Even if the devs patched in a feature that added different shaders to them, there would still be an issue with how they look on screen. About 75-80% of the mechs are either some variation of cylinders, squares, boxes, and scrawny legs. Mixed with the above stated red, and i honestly couldnt tell you which mech was my favorite, as i just selected whichever mech gave me the stats i was looking for. Even worse, the unique looking mechs are often relegated to one faction: The Corvid, which are guerilla fighters who quite literally dug through a graveyard to find old cars to tape together before sending them off to the front lines.

Put a gun to my head and ask me what was the name, weapon hardpoints, and basic stats of the last mech I played as and I wouldn’t be able to answer, which is a real shame. There could have been plenty of interesting mech designs, like a tripod shaped one that carried long range artillery, scouts who could run in a straight line fast but have difficulty turning, etc. Fortunately, the devs have realized this and are adding new abilities for some mechs, such as giving them automatically firing weapon hardpoints separate from you main loadout (Yay!) or a straight up damage reduction (Boo!). But for now, the individual mechs are relegated to little more than their stats and random clicking, rather than being interesting and memorable in their own right.

Pro: Weapon Designs

While the mechs may be a bit more on the generic side, the weapons are the complete opposite, in which the majority all stand out. Each mech supports two weapon hardpoints, with each weapon placed in a subcategory of turret, small, main, heavy, and auxillary. Strong audio and animation gives them a weighty feel, and seeing enemies explode on screen from a well placed howitzer blast will never get old.

In addition, the differing hardpoints allows you to be creative and take risks in order to potentially give you an edge. Will you play it safe, putting on a simple heavy cannon/ machine gun combo, or will you strap on two mortars and active camo and pray the enemies never come within eyesight of you? The choice is yours if you want to be practical or and it gives a satisfying rush when your running around with a mech with the speed of a cheetah on cocaine and testosterone supplements and sprotection of a cardboard box wrapped in duct tape and bubble wrap wielding an enormous chemical launcher (which i took to calling my “Mobile War Crime Platform)”

Mixed: Bad Campaign, Good Backstory

When i checked out the campaign tag I was expecting a decent enough story, nothing on the scale of mass effect obviously. But with a game as good looking, polished, and fluid as Brigador is, the campaign ends up being a shallow, wasteful endeavor, as your given a set loadout and tasked with completing a shortened version of the freelance missions. Worse yet, there’s no narrative, other than some decent flavor text in the beginning, but lacking any emotional weight, rendering everything pointless

Now thats my thoughts on the campaign, but the story is completely different. In the main menu there is a separate tab titled “Lore” In which you can buy story beats, faction backstory, vehicle descriptions etc. I remember being quite impressed with the amount of lore that just went into the civillian’s yellow raincoat that they wear in an emergency. It’s not just a dry telling of events either, it’s laced throughout with black comedy and a wicked sense of humor that makes you actually want to keep reading. Of course a few bits of lore is generic and samey, and some descriptions come off as super short and dry (Hopefully for comedic purposes)

Truly the lore runs deep in this game

In my opinion Brigador has Destiny syndrome. The story had the potential to be great, but somewhere along the game development conveyor belt they forgot to put it into the actual game, panicked, and just bolted the story into it’s own, barely marketed lore section.

Conclusion

SCP Strategy: A Hopeful Investment

I don’t think that I have to explain what the SCP foundation is to anyone with even a passing interest in horror. To sum it up, the SCP Foundation is an online site roleplaying as a secret organization called the SCP Foundation, which stands for their motto: Secure Contain Protect. It’s based around made up documents that describe a monster, why it’s contained, what the containment procedures are. Usually it adds things like the history of said monster, and field reports from special units dispatched to deal with them. It’s a fantastic site that I’ve clocked in at least a few hundred hours. When it comes to the games however, there isn’t much, aside from a few basic first person horror games. So imagine my surprise when i browsed Steam a few days ago and discovered a game title SCP Strategy, on sale for the low cost of five dollars. It was an easy sell, and i snatched it up on the spot.

Before I get into the basics i should clarify that this sort of game is not a full, finished product. Rather, think of it more as an investment. It is extremely limited and simplistic. However, it is in Early Access and the devs seem to be responding to the community with great enthusiasm, so i feel comfortable recommending the game as is.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, lets dig into what the game has in store. The game is a realtime strategy, with minor base building where you send special forces to a country to investigate anomalies. You then perform a search, have the scientists research it, and get money to do it all over again. Theres no combat, building containment facilities, or even areal goal other than to mindlessly get more and more resources. It’s quite repetitive and mundane in all honesty. However, it does a great job at the little it presents. The menus are smooth, the graphics themselves look decent, and it’s very obviously made with care yet a lack of current funds.

Overall, If your the type of person to want to risk a bit of money and buy a game to see as it grows and develops, then I’d recommend checking it out.

Salt and Sanctuary: Would you like Salt with your tears?

It’s good these days to be a Dark soul’s fan, what with the recent rerelease of Demon Soul’s, a game that was feared lost to the void of copyright law, and the ever so encouraging prospect of Bloodborne 2 being a possibility. It’s good that these types of difficult games are coming back into the limelight for those who crave a challenge.

However, there’s only so many From Software developers at one given time, so the dream of them pumping out souls’ game like McDonalds pumps out chicken McNuggets is sadly not part of our current reality.

That’s where indie games come in, with games like Salt and Sanctuary, a 2D platformer that has a solid core gaming loop, and a bit of a naming problem.

Also before I go further, I just wanted to explain that I’m trying to figure out a review style that works for me, so feel free to leave feedback to the Pro/ Con list idea.

Thanks!

Pro: Art style

One thing that grew on me over the course of the game was the bleak, grayish art style. While it is true that it isn’t conventionally beautiful, I do think it does a good job of setting the atmosphere. The game is set on an island in the middle of the ocean, so the art style looks very grayish, with a lot of the background areas covered in mist and fog. The overall look of the game is very bleak and muddy, and the character designs are… unique to say the least. The weapons and gear aren’t much to look at either, the but the color pallet overall does a good job of setting the atmosphere. While I’ll touch on the levels later, I will admit that the same look of castle after castle gets old quite quickly. Other than that though, I did enjoy the bleary, somewhat depressing atmosphere of the island

Con: Story

Ask any Dark Souls fan what makes a Souls game a Souls game and they’ll respond with three things: Difficulty, Atmosphere, and Story.

While the first two are in ample supply, the latter I find lacking in Sanctuary.

The main plot is that you’re trying to rescue a princess that was captured as it would mean the end of a long war if she were to be married, and your quest to rescue her. It starts off nice enough, a strong if generic, story hook. But it fails to develop from there for a number of reasons. The way a good story is told through these games is not through cutscenes and characters yammering on through them, but in the bits and pieces. In the first DS game, the story is started off with a. cutscene that explains the basics of the world, and from there it comes in through snippets of conversation, the level design, and through flavor text. Through item descriptions. That last one is the one I find lacking in a lot of games that attempt this type of style. Flavor text is vital because its A. adds depth to the world, B. allows the writer to stretch their creative wings and make reading descriptions of things cool, and C. give vital story information while not overwhelming the player. The reason we know I’d say about ¾ of the world of Lordran, Drangleic, or even Yharnam is through the flavor text on weapons, clothing, and items. It also allows the player to experience the story at their own pace, while not forcing them through a story they don’t want. Salt and Sanctuary lacks this, as they seem to offer a barebones item description, only telling the absolute essentials. For example, I played a beast hunter, because anyone who has read my Hellsign review(https://wordpress.com/post/shutyourcakeholegaming.com/112)  would know my love for monster hunting games. When I delved into the description for the cloak he was wearing, it simply read, “Cloak of a beast hunter.”

Nice worldbuilding there Salt and Sanctuary. The item description for literal garbage in Dark Souls 3 has more words than the description of a starting class’s armor in Sanctuary. While some do have a bit more than others, for the most part it’s pretty lackluster. I also found the starting items annoying because you couldn’t read the description of them, so you had no clue what they did until you were in the game.

 Sanctuary also attempts to give depth through these made-up Bible passage things in the skill tree which I stopped reading after the first few due to them being of little substance.

Overall disappointing but in the end, is made up for in other areas, such as the combat

Pro: Combat and Gameplay Loop

Overall, I’d say that Sanctuary is the best form of a 2D souls-like, even amongst others like Blasphemous and Hollow Knight. Despite the meandering story everything else tends to make up for it. The gameplay is no exception, as it apes the wide range of play styles of the soul’s games, and even adds a few new elements to the mix, however scant. It’s your standard fighting controls for the most part: light attack, heavy attack, roll, block etc. you can choose to two hand almost all weapons in the game, which is nice, but it also allows the use of charms for weapons, which give a variety of buffs from more damage, to a portable lantern, and other nice passive buffs. Other than that its basically souls combat in a 2D space. Which isn’t bad, in fact it is quite fun, although I will admit that the knockback/ immediate stunlock is frustrating, as are any enemies that stop the game to attack you with a long, drawn out attack animation, completely killing the pacing of an otherwise fun fight.

The gameplay loop of souls is here, which not a lot of other games do, and includes the mechanic of circling back to unlock a door that gives a quicker route to a boss from your sanctuary. Speaking of.

Con: Sanctuary mechanic/ Creeds

I wouldn’t stay that this is a hard negative, more like a wasted opportunity. Rather than bonfires you have Sanctuary’s which allow you to refill health potions, level up, and such. The difference is that you now have the ability to place vendors in the sanctuary. These range from merchants to blacksmiths, to guides that allow you to teleport to literally any unlocked sanctuary for no cost, which makes me wonder why not just cut out the middle man and let us teleport straight from the altar. There are also leaders to your specific faction, or Creed, that you can call that let you upgrade the merchants etc. etc. The problem is that once you put exactly one guide down, and all the merchants in one or two sanctuaries, it becomes more or less useless. Sad really, I feel if they expanded on that, like every merchant you put down you get a new piece of gear available from the store.

Creeds are also a massive pain; they tend to be worthless. They function as covenants but in this game also determine the types of equipment given to you. Top tip: if you play any melee build, get the iron ones, because they are the only ones geared towards it and all the others offer useless equipment. It could have been interesting, but the creed system tends to be fairly boring, only upgrading the shop once you grind for body parts, which is just the definition of fun aint it?

Rating:

Overall, this games pretty great, with a solid core loop, and a decent amount of replayability especially if you want to try out both a melee and a magic class down the line.

It’d give it a solid recommendation for those wanting some Darksouls/ Castlevania action.