Minion Master

Minion Master is a tactical board game, where players battle with armies of miniatures summoned and controlled via a customisable deck of cards.  It is currently available from the website and on Desura, with a campaign for Steam Greenlight running.

Minion Master - Minions Battle (more…)

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 😉

Overlord!

I started on another old-but-good game just prior to picking up Skyrim.. Overlord, by Triumph Studios and Codemasters.

This game is a third-person RPG where you take the role of The Overlord: would-be master of a fantasy kingdom.  Your predecessor was the master of the kingdom.. but he was killed, the Tower was destroyed, and the Kingdom has been taken over by a bunch of do-gooders!

To assist you in taking back your kingdom you have minions.. goblin-like creatures who run around after you waiting for instructions.. you also have Gnarl, overseer of the minions, the narrator, and your advisor.  The tutorial teaches you how to control your minions via the task of subduing the Jester, who runs around mocking you until he’s taken enough of a beating!

Controlling the minions is initially very easy.. left click to send them in a particular direction, or shift-click to highlight an object for them to attack.  If there isn’t a direct path between you and the target, you can also use LMB+RMB to sweep them along a path.. for example, crossing a river via a fallen tree.. though later on in the game, this can be fiddly.. while you are sweeping them along the path, they aren’t using their own path-finding skills, and can end up walking into hazards 🙁

The minions will interact with whatever they encounter.. which means they’ll kill sheep and enemies, destroy pumpkins, smash vases and grab life force, loot and gear.  I found this hilarious, as they cackle and squeak as they run along smashing things.. and when they find anything they can equip, they will do.. which means pumpkins as helmets 😀

Collecting life essence means more minions become available, although the number you can have following you at once is limited.

You start off with just five, and move up to ten when you complete the first mission and recover the Tower Heart.  As you explore further you find more artifacts, allowing you to summon more minions.  The minions themselves also find better armour and weapons too, so your army becomes bigger and stronger!

Some of the first quests were more helpful than outright evil, such as shifting some Halflings off a farm for the Human farmer, or rescuing slaves.. but helping the Humans does mean they pay you!  The game allows you to be more evil if you want, though.. you can attack the Humans within the village and destroy their homes, but this will turn them against you and increase your Corruption level.  I may return to try this later, and see what happens! 😉

You can only summon Brown minions to begin with.. the other tribes are Reds, Greens and Blues, and you need to recover their Hives before they will serve you.

Different tribes have different abilities: the Browns are good all-rounders; fairly strong and with a decent amount of health.  Reds have a strong ranged attack allowing them to shoot fireballs at enemies, but they are much weaker than the Browns.  Greens are poison-resistant and can stealth, allowing for surprise attacks.  Reds and Greens are also able to clear away fire and poison respectively, allowing you and the rest of your minions to pass through unharmed, and reach new areas of the map.  Blues are rather different to the others, able to enter water without drowning, and revive other minions, but they will not attack enemies unless specifically directed to do so.  They have a magical attack too, useful for enemies encountered later on.

In some areas you need to choose which minions to send where, making sure to keep Reds out of range of enemies, or splitting Greens out from the pack to stealth and lie in wait.. so there is some strategy involved.. but it’s also rather a lot of fun to allow them to just wreak havok too.. smashing things, eating and drinking.. and even getting drunk and peeing on the carpet!

I also picked up the expansion pack, Raising Hell, which adds more missions to the end of the game, as well as sequel, Overlord II.  Steam sales.. 😉