Bundle Stars – The Majestic Indie Bundle

Heroic conflict and brutal devastation await gamers as they command and conquer fantasy kingdoms in the latest bundle from Bundle Stars.

Bundle Stars - The Majestic Indie Bundle

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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 :D

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


The Indie Royale: The Valentine’s Bundle

Indie Royale’s The Valentine’s Bundle is now out, with five games, and bonus DLC!  As usual the bundle is available on a pay what you want scheme, with a minimum price, although you can pay more to unlock the bonus, show your support, and knock down the price for others!

The games are: action fighting game Zeno Clash, by Ace Team, Hoard, a strategy game featuring dragons, by Big Sandwich Games Inc., adventure puzzle game Lume, by StateofPlay, and world premiere PC versions of retro RPG defense games Soulcaster and Soulcaster II, by MagicalTimeBean!

The bonus DLC in this bundle is for HOARD: Dynamite Roll!, which adds nine new maps and extra units, and Flame-Broiled SANDwich which adds a desert continent and remodelled buildings, units and terrain!

For those paying more than the current minimum, there’s also One Life Left’s music compilation, “Music To Play Games By Too“.

We looked at all the games in a bit more detail.. you can read it over here.


HOARD

A friend bought us all HOARD this weekend, as a 4-pack on Steam.  Yay! :)

HOARD is a mix of action and strategy, developed by indie team Big Sandwich Games, where each player takes on the role of a dragon in a table-top style medieval kingdom with farms, towns, princesses and knights..

Every dragon needs treasure, and this is obtained through burning down farms or towns, intercepting wagons full of tithes, and capturing and ransoming princesses.

The game has a co-op mode, which allows friends to work together to gather as much treasure as possible in one shared hoard, but you can also play competitively.. this can mean racing them to the treasure, or actively trying to get in their way or kill them!  Killing another dragon forces them to drop their treasure and flee straight back to their hoard, where they are unable to move while they regenerate health.. a great opportunity to steal the dropped treasure ;)

At the beginning of each game, your dragon only has weak abilities, but as you gather more treasure you are able to spend points and upgrade your dragon’s speed, fire-breathing capability, carrying capacity and damage resistance.  I prefer to improve the speed of my dragon, as well as fire-breathing, but I think this could change depending on the map and game mode.

Upgrades cost more at each level, so you need to gather more and more gold to keep upgrading.  The kingdom also improves over time, with towns becoming larger and producing archers, who will fire on you.  If you do enough damage to a town you can scare them enough that they ‘belong’ to you, and send you tithes.. a nice way of gathering money automatically :)

During a competitive game, you will need to keep an eye on ‘your’ towns, as other dragons will want to take them over.. either by damaging the town enough to turn its loyalty to them, or by destroying the town centre and resetting the town’s loyalty.  Giants also appear in the kingdom.. they will attack towns they come across unless suitably distracted.. say with some fiery breath.. ;)

There are also small towers around the map, which spawn knights.  The knights will attack you if you pass by, and if you capture a princess, all the knights in the vicinity will come to try and rescue her!  I found the knights were best avoided until you had levelled up a little, as they are rather strong and can kill you easily if you stray too close.  As the kingdom grows, the towers become keeps, with more knights being spawned.. increasing the danger but also the reward, as the ransom value goes up with the level of the keep!

Another danger comes from the mage towers, which fire bolts at nearby dragons: destroying one of these reveals a large gem which is worth a lot of gold, but slows the dragon and makes you vulnerable to attack while carrying it.  I found the upgraded towers harder to destroy, as one mistake in avoiding the bolts means death.. and as the bolts can travel a long way, I sometimes got killed by a bolt set off by another dragon!

On all the maps, there are a variety of power-ups, which appear at regular intervals.  These can give you stronger firebreath, icy breath, or allow you to shoot fireballs.. another increases your speed, while the last is maybe a little evil, allowing a player to steal from another dragon’s hoard.. aside from the obvious exchange of gold, this has the added advantage of resetting the victim’s score multiplier!

As well as the Treasure game modes, there is “Princess Rush”, where you need to capture the most princesses to win, and a survival mode, which I’ve not tried yet.