Animal Gods – PC

Animal Gods is a fully illustrated, top-down, 2D action RPG where players adopt the role of Thistle, a young priest and hunter from an ancient age who sets out to find and release the fallen Animal Gods and stop an occult leader.  We received a copy of the game from the developers, Still Games, for this review.

Animal Gods

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Animal Gods Due October 12th

Indie developer Still Games have announced that action RPG Animal Gods is now complete, and will be available on the 12th October for PC, Mac and Linux, via Steam, with a Wii U version to follow.

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Neverwinter Shadowmantle Announced

Perfect World Entertainment, Inc. and Cryptic Studios are pleased to announce Shadowmantle, the second free expansion Module to Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter!

NW_Shadowmantle-Logo

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Neverwinter Early Access

Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter is due to enter full Open Beta tomorrow, but Founders and press were given early access to the game to check things out.  From here on out, there will no character wipes, so while this phase is Open Beta, it’s more of a soft launch, and players will be able to start levelling all the way up to 60, and see the entire end game!

Neverwinter

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Some Love for The Valentine’s Bundle!

I just picked up the Indie Royale’s The Valentine’s Bundle, which came with five games and bonus DLC!  The first three games, Zeno Clash, Hoard and Lume, along with the bonus DLC for Hoard, all came with Steam keys 🙂

Zeno Clash, by Ace Team, is an action-fighting game in a strange fantasy world.. the visuals are colourful and varied.. but also a bit disturbing, with repugnant, deformed half-bird half-human creatures in a variety of bizarre, revealing outfits.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the game at first, with the initial cutscene of babies, mannequins and cooking pots, and then the tutorial where player-character Ghat is taught the basics of combat by the growly-voiced Metamoq.  The game seemed a bit weird, and I wasn’t sure whether I would get to grips with the melee combat enough to enjoy it.  I don’t normally play fighting games, and I found the timing of strikes and dodging a little hard to get right.  Fighting felt brilliantly violent, though, with a satisfying thud when I landed a blow 🙂

The story sees Ghat and flee the initial town after killing his “mother-father”, with the assistance of a friend who then faces exile with him.  There are flashbacks to previous fights with members of the crazy Corwid, and other combat lessons with Metamoq mixed in withthe journey.  More advanced fighting moves were introduced in these later tutorials, but it still seemed easiest to just punch the enemies over and over, and hope not to be surrounded.. many of the fights featured multiple enemies where it became harder to dodge blows.  I’ll be trying the gamepad when I next launch the game to see if I find it any easier that way.. I do want to see where this story goes 🙂

I already owned Hoard, by Big Sandwich Games Inc., but hadn’t picked up the DLC: Dynamite Roll! and Flame-Broiled SANDwichI wrote about Hoard when I got it back in May, and the game itself hasn’t been changed aside from the addition of the DLC here..

New buildings means more variety, and an extra heal from within the Bell Tower is nice if you’ve taken damage while trying to intimidate a town, but the bomb wagon is possibly the most noticeable addition from the Dynamite Roll! DLC, adding a wagon full of fireworks instead of the usual tithe wagon.  These wagons still carry gold, but if you don’t back away after setting it on fire, it will take off a large chunk of your health.

You can use the explosion to damage enemies too 🙂

The Flame-Broiled SANDwich DLC is a new tileset, with a new look for all buildings, units and terrain, and even the dragons have more feathery scales.  Tilesets can be swapped in the game options, under graphics.  Available tilesets are: normal, snow, desert and random, and there’s also an option to set the game to night-time, for a completely different look to the map 🙂

Lume is a point and click puzzle adventure, with beautiful paper and cardboard scenery.. the game was nominated for the IGF’s Excellence in Visual Art award.  When I first glanced over the contents of the Valentine’s Bundle, it was Lume, by StateofPlay, that really got my interest.

The story follows Lumi, who has gone to visit her grandfather.. but he’s left to find out why there’s no power in the nearby village.  In the meantime, he left lots of little puzzles for Lumi to figure out, with the goal of restoring power to the house.

The first few puzzles were fairly easy.. finding a broken solar panel and re-wiring it, for instance, was a matter of clicking the squares to rotate them and get all the lines to join up.  I quite liked this one 🙂

When it came to the later puzzles though, I found one in particular a little frustrating.  There is no hint system in the game, which meant looking for a walkthrough.. something I’m not keen on, as I often end up seeing the whole solution when I only wanted a quick pointer.  After dealing with that puzzle, I went on and completed Lume fairly quickly.. in part because it is a short game, but also because completing each puzzle led straight to the next and the next.

Lume is actually the first part of a larger story, with the next part currently in development.. progress can be followed on StateOfPlay’s blog!

Completing Lume left me with MagicalTimeBean‘s retro RPG defense games, Soulcaster and Soulcaster II.  Soulcaster was previously released on Xbox LIVE, followed by Soulcaster II: this is the PC premiere for both titles.

Soulcaster is the tale of a wizard who manages to awaken the undead in his travels.. fortunately, he also discovers the statues of three heroes, and gains the ability to summon them in order to assist him.  The heroes are: Shaedu, the archer, Aeox, the warrior, and Bloodfire, the alchemist.  You can summon an image of the heroes by pressing Q, W or E, for Shaedu, Aeox or Bloodfire, with as many summons as you have Summoning Orbs.. you can also summon three of the same hero if you wish.

Each have different strengths and weaknesses; for instance, the archer can do a lot of damage, but needs a clear line of fire, while the warrior has little range but can take lots of damage.  Positioning the summoned heroes matters; Aeox can be used to block the path while Bloodfire stays safe behind him and throws bombs to destroy attackers.

Enemies spawn as you progress through a level, sometimes coming from behind you, which can mean repositioning your heroes to face the oncoming attackers.  To reposition the heroes, you first need to recall them by pressing R; however, this recalls them in the order they were summoned, rather than allowing you to select just the one you want to move.  A shame, as otherwise the controls were great.

If one of your summoned heroes dies, you can re-summon him after a short delay.  Bloodfire explodes on death though, which causes damage to all around him including you.. after being backed up in one dungeon I managed to get myself killed this way!

There’s also a merchant on some of the levels, where you can spend all the gold you find laying around in the dungeon.  He supplies health potions and scrolls, and upgrades for the heroes’ gear, as well as the rather expensive Summoning Orbs.  You have room for up to five Orbs, which would allow you to have up to five summoned heroes in play at once.

This game surprised me.. I hadn’t expected it to be this good, and hadn’t expected to want to carry on playing as long as I did.

As a quick look at the bundle wouldn’t be complete without it, I also took a very quick look at Soulcaster II.. and found it very similar to the previous game.  I quickly found that I wanted to carry on playing, but ended up cutting it short because I really want to finish the first game before getting too far in!

For a quick look then.. just the first few levels.. this seemed to be more of the same gameplay, with the three heroes from the previous game along for the journey, and undead attackers springing up to try and ambush us.  The description of the game on the dev’s site promises new puzzle elements and a new upgrade system, so I shall look forward to those!  These two games really reminded me of my old Spectrum days 😀

The Valentine’s Bundle is available for a few more days yet.. go and get it, and show your love for the indie devs 😉

More Skyrim

After picking this up at the weekend, I’ve played almost nothing else.. though non-gaming things have arisen to keep me from playing as much as I’d have expected by now 😉

I’ve now tried out woodcutting and mining, and I’ve been learning the Smithing trade along with Alchemy.. nice ways to make money.  I also make money in less nice ways.. lockpicking, if I find something reasonably unattended.. and if I come across bandits, I make sure to take all their possessions too!

Looting dungeons actually feels far more dangerous than in the previous games, with traps and slightly smarter enemies.. in my first dungeon, I was scared by the Draugr who played dead till I got up close, and in another, I had a fierce battle with a Giant Frostbite Spider..

As planned, I have progressed to dual-wielding swords, although I still dabble in Destruction for a few enemies.. in the past I have concentrated on magic, only carrying an enchanted weapon just in case, so this makes a change.  I’m loving the power moves, and have my eye set on certain of the perks in the One Handed Weapons tree which will allow me to decapitate my enemies!

I even have a follower, named Golldir!

I met him in a tomb while taking cover from a dragon I just couldn’t defeat.  He had problems of his own: a Necromancer who was fiddling with his ancestors.  After I helped kill him, he joined me in my travels.. he now fights for me in battle, and of course, I make him carry the loot 😉

My only complaint so far has been about the menu system and inventory.. I like having an unobstructed view of the game world while playing, but to change weapon or equip a new piece of gear I’m forced to start clicking and scrolling.  All the lists start near the bottom of the screen as well, which virtually guarantees that hateful scrolling will be needed.

We have large monitors and high resolutions now.. why not just use more of the screen and let us see our inventory at a glance?  In the previous games, equipped items all moved to the front of the list, but in Skyrim they remain where they are.  As you can’t even see your character on this screen any more, any accidental unequipping can easily go unnoticed as you don’t get that quick visual clue that something’s wrong!

I guess you can’t have it all, though.. and the rest of the game is fantastic..

I didn’t like monster-levelling in Oblivion, as enemies levelled with the character.. after a while, the wildlife was all replaced by high-level creatures, so it didn’t even seem to fit in with the area any more.  I was also finding myself accosted by bandits wearing top-notch gear with expensive swords.. with that kind of gear and ability, they should have been wiping out the nearby village instead of trying to mug me for my cash!

As for the effect on the story.. I levelled up a way before entering my first Gate, so when I was sent in with a few companions, they were struck down immediately by the over-powered enemies inside, and again, it felt wrong.

In Skyrim, I’ve only really struggled with a few larger enemies, such as the Dragon, and the giant spider.. these felt like a decent challenge, while attacks by wild wolves started off difficult and are now easy, as I’d expect as I’m now a bit more of a seasoned warrior.  All 12 levels’ worth 😉

Dungeons

During ScampLAN, I tried out DUNGEONS on a friend’s PC.
Dungeons is a strategy RPG by Kalypso Media, where you play the role of a deposed Dungeon Lord fighting his way back to power by creating fantastic dungeons and killing off heroes and explorers who come to plunder your riches.

On the first part of the tutorial, you learn how to navigate by taking your goblin minion through a few corridors, and here, I found turning was choppy and awkward.  Fortunately, I was told the game itself wasn’t so bad.. though the next part of the story had me escape my original dungeon lair, and I found it very easy to lose track of where the Lord was amongst all the details, never mind the place he was meant to go!

So.. starting off at the bottom again, you have a tiny dungeon with nothing much in it.  To enlarge the dungeon and your influence,  you need to convert or build monster pentagrams.. first killing any non-loyal monsters.  As well as gaining influence, you need a source of Soul Energy, which you gather from Heroes!  Heroes enter your dungeon in search of treasure, and build up Soul Energy as they do the things they are interested in.. gather gold, fight monsters, etc.  To get the Soul Energy, you simply attack the Heroes and imprison them, which squeezes the Energy out of them!

As I progressed through the first few levels, I found the difficulty increasing too..

Placing monster pentagrams to increase the size of the dungeon meant I kept coming close to the population cap whilst not quite expanding as far as I wanted in any direction.. and meant the monsters were spread around the edges of the map instead of tactically placed near my Dungeon Heart or treasure.  I also started to get harassed by the Zombie King, who wanted me to ‘donate’ Soul Energy to him almost as fast as I was earning it.. this left me less room to concentrate on the missions at hand and made it more frustrating than enjoyable.

In addition to increasing his influence, the Dungeon Lord needs to earn prestige by building gimmicks.. coffins, braziers and so on.  Apart from using them to entice Heroes along different routes within the Dungeon, they do give a nice bit of atmosphere.  However, at times the requirement for a set amount of prestige meant littering rooms with gimmicks and spoiling the illusion altogether.

I did like the options for levelling up the character and his skills, with three skill trees: combat, improvements or building, but felt the only way to go was improvements.. this would then allow you to leave your monsters to handle invading forces rather than trying to micro-manage everything.

Minecraft: The Adventure Update!

Minecraft has now been improved with The Adventure Update.. adding new biomes, ravines, NPC villages, more, and bigger, dungeons, and abandoned mines..

This last is maybe a bad thing where I’m concerned, because when I find a dungeon I want to explore the whole thing, and tend to get stuck down there for weeks.. but what I’ve seen so far has been rather interesting, and certainly an improvement to the game.

Another pair of additions are the food meter and the experience bar.  I wasn’t too sure about the food meter when I saw it at the weekend.. I don’t really want to have to eat in a game.. but I think it’s added an extra, minor challenge, as well as a use for all that food.  Food also has the unfortunate effect of making it look as though your character is vomiting, though not from your own point of view.  Experience hasn’t been added properly to the game yet, so while you can gather little glowing blobs of XP from mobs you kill, it doesn’t do anything.

I went exploring with a friend tonight, looking for an abandoned mine.   The abandoned mines also have small wooden structures and track, and I’ve been digging that up as I find it.. I plan to link up my latest base, ‘Wolvesholme’, with the rest of the explored world.

We found one of the many huge chasms first, and I was taught a slightly cheeky trick of using water for a fast descent to the bottom, rather than the slow staircase I’d have built.

There are now spiderwebs in the caves, which make it feel a bit more sinister.. especially when you hear the spiders scratching around above you..

I suffered at the hands of the mobs tonight, especially the creepers, and had to make several long runs back from ‘Silver Bay’ as that’s where I’d last used a bed.  Tomorrow’s job will be building some kind of outpost to save these long runs back!

Free to Play Games on Steam

Steam announced some free to play games this week: RPG / MMOs; Champions Online, Global Agenda: Free Agent, Spiral Knights and Forsaken World, and an action game, Alliance of Valiant Arms.  Free-to-play games usually include some sort of paid features.. extra skins, more equipment, or faster levelling.. or serve up adverts or limit the places you can go in the game while free.. so this announcement got my attention..

Champions Online requires payment to play past level 40, which at least allows a good trial of the game, in which you play a hero going up against Dr. Destroyer and his minions.. the game also apparently allows you to customise your own character, but more interestingly, your own customised enemy to harass you throughout your superhero career.  This sounds rather interesting, though.. another game with a big open world?  I need more free time 😉

Global Agenda: Free Agent‘s free version allows all the game’s content to be played, but you can pay to speed up levelling and purchase better gear more quickly.  I actually bought Global Agenda back in March, just prior to it going free, but having the option of adding it to Steam is a nice one.  This might also help me keep it updated, though I’ve not actually played the game recently..

Spiral Knights, is also fully free to play, but as a co-op game, this will require friends to play with..

The fourth MMO, Forsaken World, has races and classes as I’m used to with WoW, but with dungeons where the difficulty scales with the players’ experience, and weapons and gear which evolves and changes.. another one worth a look.

The action game, Alliance of Valiant Arms, looks to be another squad-based shooter with teams of 4 or 5 players per mission.  Players rank up as they play; the highest ranked player becomes the Squad Commander, hopefully meaning good players can lead others, rather than a recipe for griefing.. another one I’ll have to rope the guys in for 😉

 

An Addition to the Guild

A friend moved his Shaman over to our server tonight, to join our guild and play with us 🙂

To help him out a little, we went over to Zul’Drak with him, and through Gundrak a few times..
Not only did this give him lots of XP, it also gave me plenty of loot, which will go some way to making up for the thousands of gold I’ve spent on herbs for Inscription over the last week 😉

It was also rather good fun, and allowed me to take a proper look around the dungeon as we went, rather than having to speed through because randoms are impatient.

I also remembered that I was carrying a Blossoming Branch from the Noblegarden event..

I had kept hold of one of these so that I could surprise a friend at some point, and this just seemed like the perfect time 🙂

Bunnies can apparently still do Heroic Leap, which is quite funny to see.  They also fit in the side-car of the Mechano-Hog!

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