Obludia, Story of a Dungeon-Running Madman and His Little Dog Too!

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Demon are among the safest enemies to place in a videogame.  They are a generic representation of evil and they are often pretty ugly, so you don’t even have to give them red blood.  Demons can be smacked, berated and blamed for all the problems in the game because, simply stated, many people do the same thing in real life.  Obludia is a game that embraces these old-fashioned theories, employing a retro arena-shooter aesthetic to make you rage with overpower fury.

Now, before you grab Satan by the balls, you have to set up controls.  This is something I am becoming more and more frustrated with, and maybe it’s because I still have to install the appropriate software, but the standard for gaming right now is to use the mouse and keyboard or the Xbox controller as input.  Personally, I prefer the DualShock4 since I plan to get a PS4.  This is not supported by most games, especially indie games.  The simple fact is, it likely takes extra time to code in and the xbox is a microsoft product, so I surmise that means the Xbox controller is more natural for the PC to pick up and easier to code for.  I am not a developer, but can’t people at least start adding it as an update later on?  Moving on.

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Uhh… hey guys! Is this the place for synchronized chanting practice?

You play the role of a masked, fedora-sporting bandit (?) whose sole purpose in life is to kill and plunder.  Then again, you spend most of your time swatting flies and killing rats that it feels a little more like a crossbow-wielding extermination service.  Granted, you also have a fair number of zombies, blobs and other classic enemies.  Fans of Smash TV will likely enjoy the hell out of this title.  Your numerous weapons all have a particular poor-man’s Van Helsing feel.  They are a sword, crossbow, pistol, shotgun, machinegun, mines, TNT and magic.  Though I’ve had trouble getting the magic to work properly, this is mostly because I spend a lot of time avoiding enemies.  I consider TNT to be pretty magical, though.  One of the biggest issues with this game is that you have to sort through your weapons in one direction.  You scroll through by rolling the mouse wheel one way, but backing it up doesn’t scroll your weapons back.  It’s frustrating and requires me to pay too much attention to my current weapon.

Again, while enemies start off basic and typical, they slowly ramp up in difficulty.  The challenge is the number of foes you face.  In an arena there will usually be four doors that will spew enemies into the room.  Sometimes one is boarded up, sometimes there are only two, but they typically come from all directions in droves.  Luckily, there is help.

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First there is the shopkeeper.  Now, I am not sure if he eats bean burritos all the fucking time, but his standard animation has him squint before farting every couple second.  I shit you not, he must shit his pants.  Couped up in a small, windowless dungeon room full of enemies is likely just baking that shit into the walls.  And there is a shop every 3 – 5 floors, too!  And you go down, not up!  That means these burrito-munching cretins are farting up a storm with the reek permeating upward through the dungeon.  I cannot imagine the smell, but now I know why the main character is wearing a mask, although he should probably have sprung for an oxygen tank instead.

The shopkeepers each have a shop full of breakable items, so even if you don’t have much gold when you get there from slaughtering foes, you can get plenty on arrival.  You can even stab the shopkeeper with your sword until he farts out a modest pouch of burrito-money.  That’s right, we’re trying to save you calories you nasty fucker.  The first time you join Bob the Shopkeeper, he has a dog named Kiwi.  Adorable.  Grab Kiwi, cause you’ll need him.  In a fight Kiwi will grab money and drops and bring them to you, once you start getting hit, Kiwi loses his shit like the incredible fucking hulk, grows Popeye arms and starts man-handling enemies.  This phenomenon is seen in the above screencap.  I guess Kiwi thought Bob’s farts were suffocating the character.

There is also a little bat in a cage.  If you free him, he’ll follow you around and fire a purple.. uh.. bat fireball at enemies.  I guess the little guy was some kind of mage leftover from a race of super-intelligent, mystical, pacifist bats that once inhabited this dungeon.  Or a game mechanic.  That’s also possible, I suppose.

So THAT'S where all the extra-bean burritos went!

So THAT’S where all the extra-bean burritos went!

Another noteworthy feature of Obludia are the bosses.  They are inventive, difficult and remind me of every boss in A Link to the Past.  Honestly, though, they are tough, and you need to employ all of your skills running around like a terrified maniac launching TNT and firing shotgun rounds at these guys.  I didn’t have many issues with Obludia outside the lack of DS4 support, somewhat slow character movement and frustrating inventory mechanics.

In order to remedy some of those problems, there are a number of pickups that you can get to accommodate.  There is the berserker doll, which makes you slap on some woad and go ballistic.  You shoot faster, swing your sword harder and take on a generally more sociopathic demeanor.  Pickup the wooden cross to kill everything in the room or you can grab the swift feet pickup to run much faster – great for enemy avoidance.  I don’t know why the main character can’t just do more squats, but hey, whatever works.

The music is enjoyable, and not ear-grating at all.  The sounds are a menagerie of old-school game sounds, but the graphics look more like a flash game off of Newgrounds.  Indeed, the game itself has a “new-retro” feel that is definitely appealing.  To make this a really awesome play, however, some serious dusting up would need to be performed.  One peculiarity is that the game starts in windowed mode which can be changed to fullscreen.  I would have no desire to put it in windowed mode if it wasn’t so irritating to fucking exit the game.  Seriously.  Fullscreen it then exit the game.  There is a “thanks for playing” screen that makes you look at it until it disappears, and it is there for what feels like too long.  We see the words, enjoy the ambiance and get the gist.  Thanks.  You’re welcome.  Can I move on dammit?  It just makes the game feel like a overly-attached girlfriend that is like “WHY ARE YOU LEAVING IF WE BOTH APPRECIATE EACHOTHER SO MUCH!?!?!?!?”  I know it is a fairly trivial thing, but it does get irritating when you want to rage quit a game and can’t just log out from fullscreen mode rapidly.  Honestly, simple solution.  Cut five seconds off it. Done.  Otherwise, go buy this game if retro arena-shooters are your thing.  It’s fun, has a heightened sense of gaming tension and a sort of humor that permeates the game like Bob’s bean-burrito farts.  8.99$ on Steam feels a bit much, but they seem to be making regular updates to fix issues with the game, so hopefully the price will encourage the devs to make necessary changes, and maybe even add a little extra content!

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Skara, Shiney Pre-Alpha Preview

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Skara: The Blade Remains is a game given the go ahead by the community on Steam Greenlight.  One of many worthy candidates for support, Skara attmepts to step in where many mainstream companies leave off.  Arena deathmatch games typically come with guns and grenades, but this title threatens to drop you into an ancient desert or a volcanic nightmare and wishes you well against the hordes of your foes.  The game looks great and the developer’s site gives a lot more regarding the story and world.

Among alpha-previews that I have played, this title has to be the most difficult to discuss in my fashion.  Primarily, I would ask readers to keep in mind that this game is not even up for sale yet.  It is not even close to finished.  The developers are working hard daily to ensure this game gets to a complete phase as soon as possible.  Having recently played the pre-alpha build, I am certainly excited, but not overly impressed.  If this game were to pre-release today, I would laugh loudly and call shenanigans.  But it is not, so I look forward to the game that the developers are working on, as detailed on their Greenlight page.

First, let me generally name some of the areas that the developers have to improve.  In a game with sword fighting gameplay, you want the character to attack well.  A third-person perspective is granted to the player, and this gives you a much better perception of the presence of your character than other games of a similar genre with their first-person views.  Now, being in pre-alpha, Skara’s animations are a little slow right now and this definitely comes out in the gameplay, making it difficult to maneuver, but it was funny as hell to watch my character swinging a longsword like it was made of white-dwarf matter.  I had to actually start my attacks at a distance in order to “spool up” the animation like it was some kind of minigun with one fucking shot.  Another problem with the animations is the ragdoll effect, but in this it should be called the invertebrate effect.  Upon death all the bones in a corpse seem to magically disappear.  Instant man-jelly style.   Now, one thing that I did notice about the animations while playing was fatalities.  Let’s fucking face it, a game like this is boring without a little extra in the awesome category.  I was able to perform two fatalities that really got me amped up.  I favored the civilized look of the Durno fighters.  They just felt better than the insane, cultist look of the Kharn savages.  I was able to get a few guys to a state of “finish him” dazed-ness.  Once there I ran one guy through and flipped him over my shoulder.  The second one I put a guy on his knees like a priest at a pulpit then proceeded to hack wildly at his muscular neck.  I imagine the head will fly off at the end once the game releases, but the chopping action just finishes the animation with the victim sliding to the ground.

Just wait right there, Shraka!  I gonna keel you!

I’m not waiting here all night, Shraka.  Just get the attack over with already!

 

Arena fighters always need someoneto duke it out or there is nothing to play.  This game currently features the Durno (above left) and the Kharn (above right).  Looking at the models and textures for the races I can see why there are only two at the moment.  And why they turn into man-jelly on death.  The models and textures are detailed as fuck.  Light reflects from their clothes and skin differently and their armor and weapons gleam. It is really exciting to see.

Another element that is important to arena fighters like this is easy navigation, especially as far as the menus are concerned.  There shouldn’t be a learning curve for the usage of the basic elements of a game.  When there is a menu to interact with, Skara makes sure it is easy to use.  The only two menus I saw, however, were the escape menu and the match menu.  When loading the level right now, there is nothing.  The screen is just a dead view on the map your anticipated match will be held. Once the game starts, though you have access to the match menu. The match menu is what displays when you hit the tab button in-game.  This is pretty simple and shows you how many kills you (in a deathmatch) or your team (in team deathmatch) have scored.  The scoring system is the Kills – Deaths equation, which I can get behind.  I played enough Unreal Tournament and grew accustomed to the simple systems of games past.

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Best not ask the barbarians why they all have the same first name. Might insult their savage and unforgiving culture.

 

Now, everything that is wrong with the game can be attributed to the fact that the game is not ready for release, so it is missing a variety of important features, such as a tutorial area.  Tutorials on the operation of the battle combos would definitely be very helpful.  Looking at the explanation of the combos in the PDF that came with the game is a little on the confusing side.  Not because of the manual, that is simple.  Click this button, or press this series of keys.  Whatever, no sweats, man!  Then you get in-game and the ham-handed speed of the animations makes timing combos impossible for anyone.  Unless you are Miss Cleo or a Jedi..  then you can clairvoyantly intuit precisely when you need to hit the next key.  Otherwise it is a frenzy full of confused manipulation, like watching my childhood dog hump a pillow.

Of all things this game does and does fucking well are the sights.  Now, yes, I am very critical of graphics-heavy games with no other matter, but this is a game that is still in fucking development!  Cut me a goddamn break!  At one point the AI had a freakout session as I swung at it, and I think opted for self-preservation.  Either that or the guy was like, “fuck this!  If I die now, I want it to be a badass fight sequence!”  So he turns and runs up this tower, and I immediately give chase.  Bones of fallen warriors crunching beneath my iron-clad feet, I charge after my foe.  Bloodlust is coursing through my mind and bringing that coppery flavor thick into my mouth.  Each step takes me upward and he intermittently flags in stamina, coming into view only to catch a string wind and charge further.  I arrive at the top, only to lose my bearings.  Around me the winds howl and the glare of orange light as the sun reflects off the clay-shot fields of the moors.  Behind me my ambuscade foe howls and comes a hair’s breadth from burying the sharp end of his axe into my skull.  I dodge narrowly and heft my sword up, bringing my slice through his torso.  Dazed and reeling, the Kharn warrior blinks against the dazzling flash of my steel.  Only a blink passes and he opens his eyes to see the sharp tip of my sword pierce his chest.  Back my sword plunges until the hilt nearly touches his bulging muscles.  Kharnish men are brutal, and the warrior sneers and tries to grab my sword with his last breath, but I ram my shoulder into his sternum and twist my blade, flipping him into the air.  He lands with a sickening crunch on the stone behind me.

This is what is looked like in game, and the graphics supported every second of it.  You see a far-flung waste, venomous water gnawing at its shores and warriors struggling against death borne by other men.  I can only image that this game will get better, especially since it has been successfully Greenlit.  My biggest issue here is that the game isn’t fucking done, yet.  I played an unfinished game and honestly cannot wait until it is done, because a fantasy arena fighter would be so much fun to me.  The graphics and textures are gorgeous and the ambient sound is nice.  Perhaps the grunts and groans of the characters sound like they came out of a can, but the wind tearing at the dirt and slobbering waves on the shore sound magnificent.  Add in the ambient wildlife and you have a very graphically enticing world that utilizes the Unreal engine to stunning effect.  Now let’s get the rest of the game done, guys.  This one is set up to be really good.

Here the Kharnish warriors allow a Durnovan man how to perform the Kharnish Hot Foot ritual, performed with axes and clubs by boys at age 4.

Here the Kharnish warriors allow a Durnovan man how to perform the Kharnish Hot Foot ritual, performed with axes and clubs by boys at age 4.