Valley of the Dead Pre-Releases

dead_logo

Before any gets clever, I am not asking about the dinosaurs; I am referring to a mass extinction event going on within the confines of digital media.  Early Access games are out there and comprise a large part of Steam.  I have nothing resembling exact figures, but it feels like there are at least 5 unfinished games on steam for every complete title.  Want a more solid idea of how many there are? Early Access is its own searchable category on Steam.  It contains such prestigious titles as The Forest, DieselStormers, Galactic Civilizations III and others.  The three I will be discussing today are those shown above: Towns, Terraria and Stomping Lands

What is Early Access?

Once upon a time there was a magical viking who had an idea for a video game.  You can mine and mine and mine, build a house, a fortress a town, farm, breed animals and fish.  You’ll be able to use portals to travel to other dimensions and work magic.  Monsters will come out at night, but you can defend against them!  And in the End, you’ll fight a dragon!  This game was slow to catch on at first, but once kids and gamers found it, they fell in love.  It rapidly became one of the most popular games of all time, spanning generation gaps and giving everyone something they loved.  This was the first instance of an unreasonably popular early access game.  It was called Minecraft.

Since then a number of companies have vied to create an early access hit like Minecraft.  Steam has been the most successful in its push, encouraging devs to submit their games for rigorous vetting by Steam’s community through Steam Greenlight.  Once the games have been selected, they are allowed to provide an early version of the game at a reasonable price for purchase.  This was awesome at first, but then Steam became progressively more inundated with games that aren’t finished.  And worse than that, some games die in this public-run games incubator.

earlyAccess

This is a brief description from Steam’s website about what early access is and here is a link to their complete explanation about what all of that entails.

towns_logo

Many people are familiar with this title.  The idea is that you start a small, 16-bit town of sprite people and then guide these people through building a town.  You can do all kinds of fun things from farming and animal husbandry to combating foes.  You can also create a little stairwell down to the mines below.  Of course, these mines are filled with all nature of foul monsters, so you need to attract heroes to your town to battle the enemies and delve deeper.  By doing this you can get better materials to build with and make a fabulous town!

So how did it die?  Sales.  In a lengthy post on the Towns official forum, gamedev Moebius went into detail about why Towns is no longer being developed.  Hardly news, this post goes back to May 2014 and details his reasons.

“When I signed up for working on Towns I was told that we sell a minimum of about x copies/month of the game. I agreed to work on Towns for 15% of what would remain after removing all the taxes and the Steam fee. Xavi and I agreed that this would be a fair amount, and I still think it is.  After getting used to the source code and publishing the first new version of the game, we talked about the agreed payment and it turns out that the sells are getting down rapidly. So we are now selling less than a third of the x copies a month, loosing about 33% of sells per month.”

Yea, that is the most of it.  The game wasn’t selling anymore and the most of the money to be made there was lost in the initial rush of sales.  By the time Moebius was conscripted, it was too late.  If you keep reading that little post by Moebius, down at the bottom they make some spectacularly upsetting statements.

“Xavi and I were talking about a possible Towns2. At the moment this is just in an idea stage and we can’t really say if he, I or eventually Ben have the time to create a Towns2. As faithful fans of Towns we would of course reward you in some way, when/if the new game is released.

“A new game will give us the following advantages:

  1. we can implement all the cool things that are not possible at the moment due to how the core mechanics works in Towns 1
  2. we can also rise attention as this is a completely new game and a successor for once great runnning game
  3. this will also make it possible to have a financially sound basis for a long development of Towns2

“I want to end this post by thanking you for reading this and for all your support in these two months. Again I’m sorry that we had to pull the plug right here, but I sincerely hope you can understand why we had to make that decision right now.”

So let me get this straight.  Not developing the game anymore because of a decrease in sales, so the money isn’t there.  Got it.  Now we are considering a Towns 2 as a sequel to this farce?  What the fuck?  I mean at least they were open about saying the idea is just a way to get more money out of the game, but how do you make a sequel to an unfinished game?  Granted, there have been 2 updates to the game since this post, but they were the only two updates to the game since September 30, 2013.  So fans of the game are left with an occasionally updated title that is a testament to what could have been.

terraria_logo

I am pretty sure this title is older than Towns, but there is a reason I am listing it here.  Terraria is a game where you build 2D houses and dig in the ground for stuff.  At night evil monsters come and try to kill you.  God what the fuck is with all the similarities here…

Back in 2012 the developers of Terraria declared the game had received its final update and that it was “time to move on”.  In this PC Gamer article, it is explained that one of the developers even went to work on Starbound with Chucklefish, which, for lack of a better term, is Terraria in space.  In my opinion, it seems like CF stole the developer for this game to prevent it competing with their own game.  Shady horseshit.  Despite the developers apparently jumping ship, the game is still receiving updates on the Steam store, which makes it seem like the whole “boo hoo we’re ending the game” thing was a cry for help.

SL_logo

Now we’ve got this game, The Stomping Land.  I was originally planning to review this game, but I spent hours in-game and realized how much it sucks when you play it alone.  To give you an idea, when I first came in, I was a naked caveman.  I was on a beach for about a couple seconds when an idiot burst out of the underbrush riding a raptor and hurling bolas.  Someone else was trying to stop him from killing me, and I managed to use the terrain to conceal my escape.  Crafting was boring and you couldn’t stash your shit except in a box, which you dragged along behind you.  It was utterly unfinished, and now I read THIS horseshit.

Apparently the game has gotten no updates in months, which really got Kickstarter backers nervous.  The company also went radio-silent for a while too, but they came out and said that they were switching to Unreal 4.  That is not so bad, but with the game itself being pulled from Steam, everyone with that game in their library – myself included – shat many bricks of frustration.  Of course, before Alex Fundora, SuperCrit founder, announced the engine change, he effectively disappeared for two months!  Tumultuous, scary shit.

So what does all of this mean for Early-Access games?  Tread lightly.  Many of these games are financially on the ropes as it is, so a heavy measure of trepidation is urged in investing.  Buying these games isn’t you standard I give you money you provide a product, it is literally a form of speculation similar to stocks trading;.  Certainly it is not nearly as volatile or risky, but you might not get your 20$ for that game back, nor might you get a finished game.  It might be a sign that all of these games attempt to emulate Minecraft’s basic structure despite adding new elements to their games.  Just like so many other MMO’s attempted to emulate World of Warcraft’s success and died trying.  In some of these instances you even have games that died and came back from the dead, which gives a new meaning to the term “zombie-game.”

I spoke briefly with my friend Dave about these types of games and he echoed the same frustration that many long-time gamers feel.  When you buy a game, you want a finished product.  You don’t want to play a game up to the point where the bugs are too much to handle and then have to put it down.  Sure, there will be more content later, but it will trickle in; then you’ll log on each time to experience that new content, effectively experiencing the finished game in pieces until the finished product feels as worn and old as the other games in your library.  It is irritating and many of us just want to play a finished game.

Some people seem to be over Steam Greenlight and similar services altogether, but just how many I am not sure.  VG247 had a pretty interesting article back in January 2014 about Greenlight closing, which might not be the complete answer, but I am not sure that too many people would be upset about it.  What are your thoughts about early-release games?  Join me in a discussion about it on Crotchety Gamers United!

Advertisements

Lantern Forge, Dr Sandbox and Mr Hack ‘n’ Slash!

LF_logo

 

I swear to fucking god, if I play another goddamn sandbox again it will be all my fault, because I like sandboxes way too much.  Granted, last week was the unofficial “week of sandboxes” for me, so I am getting some time in with something more violent after this.  For now, this was a game that persisted in surprising the fuck out of me.  Seriously.  Every time I thought I had gotten to the furthest extent of content in this game, I got hit with more.  It isn’t listed as a pre-release title on Steam, but the devs are still adding content, Terraria-style, so it must be an Early Release.  Either way, this game could have fucking fooled me, because it has more flesh than my own personal ass post-Thanksgiving.

When you load it up, you are in the middle of tabula rasa, a clean slate just waiting for creativity.  One of the first things I noticed was how pretty the UI is.  I mean LOOK at it!  It has everything necessary for an RPG and a sandbox while having some high-speed options for quick-paced combat, and it plays well, too.  It focal feature is a little mode-toggle that is wedged between the hotbar and mana bar like my brother’s face in a dancer’s boobies at a strip joint.  Hit that baby and you go from fun-times-with-Mr-Rodgers sandbox to fuck-me-in-the face Hack ‘n’ Slash.  No joke.  Everything is pretty colorful, beautifully detailed world and a skillful procedural generation that somehow hides itself at first, but that button flips half your menu into blood-stained weapon of death!

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, mother fucker.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, mother fucker.

Take a gander around and you will notice that my house, the log building, and the workshop, the stone building with castle walls, have no floors.  One of the perks of a (sort of) pre-release.  That is ok, though.  And here is why.  Above you can see a fraction of what is possible in ths game, attained in about a full day of gaming.  You can build houses that are basically walls, windows and doors.  Your bed is the binding point where you respawn after death, and incidentally a time-warping machine of the future.  When you sleep, night turns into day, but it looks like you just walk over and look at the bed as time changes.  Given another efficiency feature of the game, you can do this through walls.  This feature is one of the elements of the sandbox.

Next to the blue toggle are four buttons.  The first makes visible your character’s range of influence, which is how far away you can touch things.  Educated guess puts this distance at about 10 fucking feet.  This guy rivals Garrett in the “characters with the longest arms” category, but again, this makes things like harvesting a grove of trees easy, so you can avoid being at dick-distance from each tree to cut it.  At first I thought I found a glitch, but then I stared to look over the buttons, and it all made sense.  The next two buttons say they rotate objects before you place them, but don’t be deceived by this low-down, dirty deceiver; it actually morphs the physical form of items being placed.  For instance, a log fence could become a single section, a corner of fence or  just a goddamn post.  Test this out with various items as the results are titillating.  Last is the sub-subterranean article induction rectifying selector or the STAIRS button because the only fucking thing you place between levels are the stairs!  I mean, if you want to get down to the shrieking charnelhouse of nightmares that is the underground, you’ll need to take the stairs.  Press the mode-toggle before you go, though, as you can’t fight in placement mode.

Blizzard called, they want their orc barracks back.

Blizzard called, they want their mercenary camp back

Granted, before you venture in the dark abyss that lies beneath, you’ll want good gear.  You can craft a wide range of items from the beginning, but the items you may craft are limited to what you can pick up off the ground.  And by “pick up off the ground” I really mean “beat into submission with your bare hands” as the animation seems to display.  Still, you can get loose stones, sticks (which are in fucking everything), logs and food on the surface, and the list goes on.  You can feasibly get a few levels before needing to venture downward, especially since it feels like there is an entire game up top.  Eventually you will want to make stairs down.  Now if you start near stairs, DON’T FUCKING GO DOWN THERE!  I did and I got my ass torn open by goblins.  Luckily the animation just has you pulse into nothing in a flash of light, presumably as Scotty beams you back to the Enterpr.. I MEAN.. your bed.  Building your own staircase is likely to lead down to a single claustrophobic space where you claw your way through the walls for air.. or you could just craft a stone pick and dig your way out, fucking lunatic.  Down here on the first level you can find copper, albeit sparsely populated, which will get you the necessary components for some workbenches.  Materials increase in availability the deeper you go, too, but so does difficulty.  Eventually you need to go down, but be prepared when you do and craft yourself some solid gear on a workbench.

Imagine there are half a thousand artistically detailed workbenches in this game, each with their own function and an impressive array of craftable items and you’ll be imagining… uh.. this game.  I even found a workbench that uses workbenches as crafting components.  It gets intense, but as you need to go deeper, so too do you need to get crafty.  My first workbench helped me combat my hunger bar through agriculture.  The gardening workbench lets you use fruits and flowers to make seeds and potted plants.  Now many things in Lantern Forge also have numerous uses: food-bearing plants can be turned into seeds, sticks are in fucking everything and stones are always useful.  It pays to never throw anything away, so it is a good thing there are as many types of chests as there are types of crafting materials.  Granted, eventually you will have more stuff than you know what to do with, so one really cool mechanic among the pile of awesome elements in this game is the Town Center.  The Town Center is that giant ominous lantern over a bottomless pit in the first screenshot.  This uses workbenches to craft shops that are associated to the functions of those workbenches.  Over-simplified example: a gardening workbench lets you build the farming supply shop.  This can then be placed to buy food, tools, seeds and plants for farming.  The best part is the shopkeepers rotate their stock, so the items in there always change as you play.  Honestly, I am not sure what Hearthfire Studios is trying to pull, but my brain almost exploded with all the shit there is to do in this game.

What Seuss-Lovecraftian nightmare did I just acid trip into?!

What Seuss-Lovecraftian nightmare did I just acid trip into?!

Just when you think you have seen it all, they come up with this shit.  A giant haunted dollhouse in the middle of a pink and purple field spewing out knitted doll-beasts that chase you into the next fucking biome.  Great.  Combat is pretty tough at first, but as you get higher in level and secure a handle on it, it becomes manageable.  You have three combat trees to pour skill points into: hunter for ranged, knight for melee and mage for magic.  They also threw in an adventurer tree and filled it with a variety of passive abilities that make exploration, sandboxing and everything in the fucking game better in general.  On the surface, you are less likely to run into enemies, unless you are a stupid screenshotting asshole that runs into the weirdest shit possible and takes pictures while evil dolls poke him with giant needles.  Yea, that’s me.  At night, however, the forest becomes populated with all sorts of enemies.  That’s why gear can really be important.  While you can only make stone tools at first, eventually you will get to iron and mithril.  These items are, in turn, used to get even more items which can open up new varieties of craftable items, both practical and cosmetic.

Everything about this game is fun.  The art and music work symbiotically to generate the ambiance of this game: colorful and bright at first glance, but as night falls, things get dark and ominous.  And at first, it feels like a winsome frolic in an idyllic land, but as you get deeper and deeper, you will realize there is really more to it.  To give you an idea, I was playing this game for nearly a full 24 hours and still only got to the second tier of technology, crafting in copper.  Granted, I like to really explore things, so I was going all out and getting loot, farming, cooking, crafting and making a town.  This game is gradual sandbox gameplay combined with challenging combat, which spikes in difficulty to keep you on your toes.  Overall, this game is worth every cent of the 9.99$ asking price on Steam and is a lot of fun for those with this taste.  It splices two genres into a coherent and instant-switch whole that holds its own on either mode.  I am not even a fan of anime, but this game’s subtle JRPG tones really bring out the lively feelings of this game and give it a unique flair that really entertains.  Even considering everything I have said about this game, there is still so much to explore and experience about it.  Play it yourself to see.  Thumbs up to the developers on this one; Lantern Forge deserves an adoring fanbase of its own.

The Forest, Sandboxing With Naked Cannibals

TF_logo

 

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.  When in The Forest, you run like a Kenyan or die like a dog.  In fact, I am pretty sure most dogs have better deaths, but I am not here to debate that shit with you.  The Forest is fucking brutal, and you feel it every bleeding second.  It starts with your character pulling himself from a plane crash covered in blood and it ends… well.. I haven’t seen it end happily yet.  But the title screen shows two heads tied up on a stake with intestines that connect through the mouths and wraps around the necks.  And they are upside down.  Yea, shit gets nasty.  This game is also in pre-release, so remember that there is a lot that is still missing.

At the start you are on a plane ride from a presumably civilized location to god knows where when the plane is ripped in half rather suddenly.  It’s not exactly like there is a fucking smidgen of turbulence, just a loud bang like something hits the plane.  I am going to venture a guess here and say that someone threw a homing spear and it tore the plane in half.  With all the bodies and everything that seem to litter the forest, the locals have some kind of vastly successful marketing campaign that lures in hapless morons so they don’t go hungry.  Cause cannibals can’t eat each other!  That’s how they get diseases!  On the plane with you is a little kid.  He is cuddling your arm until the plane breaks apart, then he is white-knuckling the arm rests.  When you come to, you are laying in the aisle and this mostly-naked wildman is standing over the kid.  No worries, he picks up the kid’s bloodied body and carries him off into the untamed wilderness.  It’s ok, though.  Plenty of happy-endings start that way, right?  I am sure he ends up in a Disney-Pixar plot line where his father’s death in the plane crash is the tear-jerking opening.  And the fucked up reality is that I am really fighting cannibals and mutants in the woods for years to come.  Magical.

Don't worry, kid.  It's more aero-dynamic without the front!  We'll just get there faster!

Don’t worry, kid. It’s more aero-dynamic without the front! We’ll just get there faster!

Once you are able to get up, you need to look around you.  This is likely the last solid chance you get to search the wreck.  All about you there is soda, booze, some food and a cellphone.  This cellphone is very important because it sets a keynote for what useless, shitty inventory items look like.  It doesn’t really do anything except tell you the weather, the temperature and how far you’ve walked.  Let me repeat that: In a game where you spend your time OUTSIDE IN THE FUCKING WILDERNESS you are given a goddamn cellphone – a separately programmed mechanic – that tells you if you are cold and what the weather is like.  Of course, that step-counting feature is the major point, I think.  It lets you know just how many steps you take to get between the forest line where you cut trees, spot natives and run for your fucking life.  Naturally, useless.

Now, I died numerous fucking times right out of the gate.  The game tells you to page through a survival guide and see how it might help you, and it does at first, but it fails to mention there are cannibals creeping up behind you preparing to gnaw your ears off.  Like chewy little snacks…  I started right next to a cannibal village the first few times, and walked right in just like “Hey guys, nice grass huts!”  They tore me apart.  The second time I kept my distance, and they overwhelmed me before I had the chance to build a fire.  Strangely, fire is what keep these loonies at bay.  They see it and back off like, “SHIT! He has gypsy magic!!”  Before getting the fire together, though, the guide has you build a little stick shelter to sleep in.  This is how you save your game, so it’s important, but don’t sleep right away.  You’ll wake up at night with cannibals gnawing on those delicious ears again.  The last tutorial shows you two plants: a blueberry bush and a bush with black-colored berries on it.  I specify because the first is edible, the second will fucking kill you.  Important.  And these are not the only edible plants in the game, just two of them.  The rest you have to figure out by trial-and-error!  And I mean, most survival books are specific to a section of the world or a continent and give you a wide variety of things to eat in those places.  Whoever wrote this book just kind of implies that there are other things out there you can and cannot eat: either madly sadistic or profoundly lazy.  Not to mention, you can eat certain animals in this game but not others.  Why can I eat rabbits and lizards but not the fucking frogs and birds?  And why not the shark that washed up on the beach?  I know I would be using that for days.  Just cook it up really really well and add some salt from distilled seawater.  Maybe some seaweed for flavor.

Each year hundreds of people survive in the wilderness, except you.  You're fucked.

Each year hundreds of people survive in the wilderness – except you.  You’re fucked.

This is one of those places that the game is still vastly unfinished.  I am sure that there will be more added to this book given time, but right now it is pretty useless for finding food.  Your best bet is killing animals for food anyway, clearly not a game made by vegans.  Although there is a vegan mode where the cannibals won’t eat you.  Makes it a little easier.  The primary role of the book is to help you build things.  Those ghost-walls you see up there are what happens when you place something.  It creates an image of what you are building and you bring materials over to it, building into the image.  Really neat, overall.  Of course, you need to be careful where you place things.  A ghost-image cannot be removed right now, not that I could find anyway.  Then there is the matter of cancelling an object.  Say, you want to build a fire.  In your panic to avoid slipping into the stomachs of cannibals, you accidentally select the head-on-a-stake effigy.  You’ll have to go back into the book and then exit or select something else to cancel the head.  Now I was panicked, and that is the story of how I got a head-on-a-stake next to my cooking pit.  It’s a little unsettling, but it’s a great conversational piece that adds seasoning to my skinned rabbits and lizards.  The most frustrating element of building is you have to look back into the book every time you want to plan out a section of wall or build a fire.  This makes sense the first time, but it gets old after the thousandth fucking time.  I would have memorized the best method for building a fire after having to read the book a bazillion times.  Early on all your construction should be fueled by soda and candy bars you got from the crash and luggage around it.  This gives you food and energy enough to get a good bit of a citadel plannedand built before the cannibals become too much of a problem.

O, yea, effigies?  That shit is fucked up.  One way to keep cannibals at bay aside from filling your camp with campfires is to set up little effigies.  Effigy is a nice term though.  Really, you are creating survivalist outsider art with the limbs of your fallen foes.  Fucked up and brutal.  The best part is, they only keep the fuckers back as long as they are on fire, which they stay lit for like, an half hour at most?  Then there was this problem I had where it was raining almost constantly.  So, apparently I am in a sub-tropical rainforest.  Those aren’t fucking common, but they exist.  This might help me pin point where The Forest takes place.  There seem to be no tropical plants that I can determine, and there is a shore.  The natives like taking body parts and wearing them like feathers plucked from a peacock.  The animals tend to be small and there are a lot of lizards.  At first I would think Russia, but there aren’t any wolves and it can’t be Africa since no one is black.  That would be racist.  Then again, nobody looks asian, but some pacific islanders look white, right?  Best guess, this takes place in Oceania, not too far from New Zealand.  What likely happened is all the hipsters and vegans banished the meat-eating people to an island and there they went fucking crazy and started eating people.  Of course, that was years ago, so they’ve all but forgotten about them except in stories and tales.  This is why you find hikers and campsites out here where no one in their right fucking mind could ever consider camping.  I assume they are hikers because they are miles from any roads and there aren’t any off-roading jeeps or anything.  Then again, they could have come in by plane, given there is a lake nearby and the seashore is accessible.

There is also an interesting crafting system that reminds me of the Zork games where you combine different things to create something else, like a bottle of booze and a rag makes a molotov cocktail.  Of course, there aren’t a lot of recipes to figure out at the moment.  The survival book naturally doesn’t tell you how to build any of these things, either.  I remember reading the military Field Manual on wilderness survival, and that shit is comprehensive.  I would have bought a better manual if I were this guy.

Welcome to my home, you can have a seat over by the head-on-a-spike.  His name is Wilson.

Welcome to my home, you can have a seat over by the flaming head-on-a-spike. His name is Wilson.

Of course the cannibals in this game are the early enemies and the source of a lot of fun.  Before the mutants come and ruin your life, the cannibals are just funny as shit.  First off, they run around shrieking and generally acting like they think they’re zombies.  They’re all naked, including the women, so seeing some boobies every once in a while is nice, even if they are weird and dirty.  Remember all the booze from earlier?  Use a few of those bottles to make molotov cocktails, and let it rip.  These things take out cannibals like nobody’s business.  You’ll need the rest of the booze to make bombs for use against the mutants.  When you die, you also go to this fucking cave full of terrifying shit, but I don’t want to talk about that again.  The least the bastards could do is just let you die.  It really does say a lot about a game, too, when you can take one guy’s arm and smack his friends to death with it.  There is a little problem with killing enemies with fire, though.  The enemies will die and their corpses remain standing.. and breathing.  You can smash them apart with your axe, and the legs even stay there.  Then there are the women.  Sometimes you will kill them with fire and they will change from a hairless weirdo to a woman with hair.  Then you smash them apart like a blood balloon and their body parts turn into male body parts.  It is just a little weird.  All the mechanics are there, but the models and art have to catch up.  Generally this game screwed up where Minecraft excelled.  The Forest chose some spectacular graphics not realizing that all that detail leaves HUGE fucking holes.  There are so many graphics bugs in the game that going into them at length is its own fucking essay.  Minecraft had crappy graphics that were ridiculous by comparison to other games at the time.  But it worked and did its job so well that it is a gaming sensation.  The graphics were simple and clean.  This allowed the developers to move on to other, more important things, thus Minecraft had more to start with than The Forest.  Right now, this is a great game, and 14.99$ on Steam is pretty reasonable for where it is in development.  I would wait a bit on this game, though, if you expect a good and complete game.  Should you choose to invest right now (and I would advise waiting until it goes on sale again), don’t wander too deep into The Forest and it’s still pretty fun.

 

 

Reus, Sandbox of Giants!

reus_logo

 

Reus is a game for hippies.  Rather than suggesting that the player represents the power of some god, as you might expect in a game of this nature, the player is suggested to be the planet.  Now, generally speaking, while a planet could be said to be a living organism, in Reus it cannot affect its own changes.  In order to make life, oceans, forests etc. you have to utilize four extensions of your planetary will: the rock giant, the ocean giant, the forest giant and the swamp giant.  Each has a unique set of abilities that have multitudinous effects on the land, which are limited only by your imagination.

There are the basics: ocean giant makes oceans, forest giant makes forests, rock giant makes mountains and the swamp giant makes swamps.  In order to create swamps and forests, you need water and the world you start on is a barren wasteland.  This means you need to make a couple oceans first.  Oceans will soak enough land on either side for you to create a full forest or swamp.  There is also the rock giant.  This burly fucker just lopes around like a badass all the time.  Use him to raise a mountain, and the side that faces an ocean will remain the same while everything past it changes into desert.  This can be used to destroy forests and if you make a mountain or ocean on a village, they all die.

The variety of wasteland shades go from a stunning grey to a lovely off-white

The variety of wasteland shades go from a stunning grey to a lovely off-white

Some of the less obvious abilities make a sort of sense.  The forest giant can make food plants and what comes out of it depends on where you put the plant.  In a forest it’s blueberries, in a desert it’s a dry bush (more on that later).  Despite looking like a monkey, the forest giant is fully unable to create animals.  The ocean giant makes domesticated animals.  These are things like chickens in the forest or desert tortoises in the desert.  At first you would expect the forest giant to make animals, but then when you realize that all life comes from the oceans originally, it makes a sort of logic.  Plus, why would a forest giant be able to make fish?  The swamp giant is another weird one: he makes exotic animals, but again, if you think about it, this makes sense too.  Swamps are dangerous places where some of the most fucked-up shit evolves.  That and Australia.  Swamps are where you find things like Bot Flies evolving.  The bot fly is something I will not discuss, but if you are fucking curious, check it out here.  It’s fucked up as all fuck.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you. FUCK!  I just read the page a bit too much.. grah..  Either way, weird shit evolves in swampy areas.

As well as making the exotic animals, the swamp giant can also make herbs.  These tend to generate more tech or wealth than fruit plants from the forest giant.  Your rock giant will also generate a variety of minerals resources.  Alongside all of these differing resource-types, Giants are able to enhance resources with aspects.  These aspects are things like the leaf aspect, which will allow the Forest giant to add natura or food to plants.  The ways these aspects affect different resources varies based on the region-type, but typically you can transmute a resources two different ways depending on the aspects you place on it.  Be careful, too!  Some resources have a symbiosis.  These things will work together to create a bonus to what it produces.  Having blueberries in range of chickens will make it so that the chickens generate more food.  If you change what resources are next to each other, you will change the symbiosis for your resources, destroying what you had working before.  The game quickly becomes about efficiently managing what you have growing on the land of your villages after a while.

Have Number 2 step forward and say "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."  Thank you.

Have Number 2 step forward and say “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.” Thank you.

The focus of this game is really on the villages, though.  The giants are just where you put all your powers.  Adding resources to the map makes villagers appear.  These villagers, in turn, build towns and settle lands and make the game fun.  All of the villages will start building various projects, too.  This might be a shrine, a granary or a school, and as they get higher level, they will start building higher-level projects.  Given that the effects of your giants’ powers vary based on what terrain-type you use them in, each village will have a different focus depending on where it is located.  Swamp villages tend to require tech for their projects where forest villages need food for theirs.  This isn’t always a set thing, but it all depends on what the villagers choose.  Each project is timed, too, and proper symbiosis match-ups will govern whether you meet the time-limits or not.  Once you finish a project, one of the villagers steps forward as an ambassador.  This person is someone that you pick up and allow to ride on you giants.  Having the little ambassador up there unlocks different abilities depending on where they are from and which giant they ride.  Properly managing which ambassador goes where will determine just how successful your villages will be.

This all sounds like a fun and free romp through a magical world, but there are dangers in this paradise.  The biggest among them is greed.  If your village gets too prosperous too fast, it will start to go ballistic and get dirty.  Eventually they will start attacking other villages and fucking everything up.  When this happens, you have options.  If you really really like that village, you can create “awe” among the villagers.  Do this through symbioses and properly locating different resources next to each other.  Another way to counter-act the greed of a village is with danger.  If you have desert tortoises in your area and you get wealthy and greedy, you might see the world as a desert tortoise that cannot keep up and is easy prey for the clever man.  If the giants transmute those tortoises into snakes, your ass will be too busy working on not dying a painful, poisonous death to make battle plans.  Finally, if your villagers just get too fucking greedy and are past redemption, you can always have the swamp giant launch mud bombs that burn with acidic death or send the rock giant to smash them into the dirt.  Granted,  the little bastards might just start fighting back after a while, so keep an eye on them.

Greedy little bastards...

Greedy little bastards…

Reus is a game that says a lot about people.  Those that want to work in unison with the world prosper and flourish in its favor.  Those that get caught up in their greed fight their peaceful neighbors, who are happy with what the world has given them, and are eventually vanquished to dust.  If they fight the will of the planet itself, they can win, but ultimately they just ravage and destroy the world, returning it to the barren waste it was in the beginning.  A great game and a truly interesting take on sandboxes, since it is a 2D game.  Well worth the 9.99$ asking price on Steam.

My biggest fucking issue with this game is how much memory it eats.  This thing is a memory beast.  I have 16 GB of memory in this computer and Reus still managed to crash it!  I was playing through the tutorials to understand the game.  I played straight through, got about halfway through the third one and BOOM!  blue screen fucker.  The only time I nearly ate my monitor in blind rage.

Craft the World, Dwarven Shenanigans

ctwlogo

Dwarfs have always been the fantasy race I love the most.  Long friends, strong hearts and a love of drink and mead!  And this title is full of all the best parts.  Battle bad guys, collect gold, dig mines and build to your heart’s content.  This cartoony game will keep you crafting to the last!  Another title in early access, yes, but it is a good time!

I’ve already placed time into previous plays in this game, but with its recent updates I feel it’s nearing a completed state and deserving of discussion.  The first couple times I played it, I was quickly diced to ribbons, so I recommend restarting until you have a little bit of an elevated platform above your surroundings.  Trust me, when night falls you will be glad you did!  Upon start up, you have one dwarf that warps in through a portal, proving they are descendants of an alien race.  You cannot move your stockpile nor your portal, hence the restart need to relocate your spawn.  Once you have a suitable location, you just follow prompts and missions.  These missions give you exp points, which help you to work toward levels.  At each level, your holdfast gets another citizen, but be careful to keep them alive.

Your dwarfs do everything from mining and building to fighting and fishing.  They gather resources, too, but you have to deliver all their orders yourself, making this a fairly active title.  As you gather resources, you’ll get missions to start crafting things, and making new items is always a good idea.  That’s how you’ll get armor and weapons!  You also level up to get a smithy for advanced projects, furniture and building pieces.  With these you can make some nifty living quarters for your dwarfs.  One of your early missions also grants you with this bearded totem-face.  That is what tells you how good their standard of living is, which is bullshit since the bastards are demanding as fuck!  They need all stone walls and secured doors, hand-carven beds and the finest food cooked in the finest kitchen.  But they build it all themselves (albeit under your strict direction), so I guess they deserve the satisfaction.

Creepy wall face watches you sleep.

Creepy wall face watches you sleep.

As you can see, you won’t be starting off with five-star accommodations, but you work up to it.  This fancy hole-in-the-ground establishment took a good hour in real life, a couple days in game, to create.  But you really don’t get much time to wallow in the luxury of mud-lain floors.  Soo enough you get to deal with all kinds of assholes.  Actually, every night a parade of skeletons and zombies come walking toward you, since dwarf is apparently a pungent and delicious dish, and bust your door down!  Not to mention ghosts start swarming all over your stockpile, and if you leave the stuff out too long, it get stolen by goblins.  Yup!  Little green shits, too!  At some point after the third or fourth day, you’ll have a tribe of goblins spring up nearby, and where the skeletons use their shields to boost each other over terrain, goblins build ugly little stick platforms.  So, it is in your best interest to build weapons and armor as quickly as you can.

In order to get all the materials necessary to move away from beating your enemies with logs while wearing lumber-plated chest armor, you need metal.  Sure, you might have to buy some materials from the Ogre Store to grease the wheels at the start, but coin is not easy to come by, so it’s not the best long-term strategy.  Dig deep and you’ll find nice-sized deposits of iron, gold, silver and even mithril!  If that gives you a bearded little chubby, then you’re playing the right game.  This one is all about getting materials and making shit with ’em.  Of course, it’s not all gold, gems and berry sprinkles.  Leave a mineshaft abandoned without lighting, you’ll find it over grown with snapping plant-life.  Or maybe you’ll unwittingly spawn on top of a colony of psychotic fire-ants with a taste for leathery dwarf-flesh!

problemsbelow

No, seriously, that shit happened to me!

You may also have noticed the skeleton timer up there, too.  When that timer runs out after a good 45 minutes, all hell breaks loose.  Alongside whatever other nocturnal terrors you cope with regularly, hell sends a warming party to drag you down into the pits of fire with them.  Often a boss will come through, too.  And walling off that side of your home won’t do shit, either.  They’ll knock down doors, tear apart your ground-hatch; shit, they’ll dig through a stone wall to get at your sweet sweet dwarf meat.  So the only recourse is to forge your way to victory.  The above images, by the way.  Those are from the first world in the campaign mode, and it’s on an easy difficulty.  I have yet to get past it, but I am sure the next realm isn’t exactly a picnic in happy-land.

Along the bottom of your screen is the hotbar.  You’ll be placing furniture, door, torches etc. out of this tray.  Equip is how you get your dwarfs to wear their armor (as if the marching onslaught of demons wasn’t all too inspiring) and craft is where you craft.  The crafting menu is pretty minecraft-esque, and you drop materials into various coordinations to assemble pickaxes, maces and everything else you can’t dig out of the ground.  Of course, you just have to click on items in your stockpile to learn how to make them.  Of course, blueprints of new items will appear in there depending on how far through the crafting tree you progress.  Technological advances are separated into various types, typically designated by the primary material used to make the items.  Moving up through the tree lets you go from sleeping on a bed of leaves to lodgings fit for a king.  Not to mention increasing dwarf inventory size with back packs, making better foods to keep them fueled longer and healing them faster when they go to sleep.  Aside from just the inventory size, each dwarf can learn different skills related to dwarf tasks.  cooking, logging, climbing, swimming, hunting; you name it, there is probably a book about it.  If there were female dwarfs, I might be scared what other books might get dropped.  Good thing each dwarf is cloned by our alien gods.

Of course this is a developer manor, but I don't have all the time in the world to dig stone.  That shit is heavy!

Of course this is a developer manor, but I don’t have all the time in the world to dig stone. That shit is heavy!

Good for a return game after you get bored with a title you’ve been waiting to play for a year and a half, this one is always a good time.  It gets a little frustrating at times, but the message is always the same: this is all about a good time and freedom.  And after you build as far as you can?  Just move on to the next world.  Face greater challenges, fry bigger fish, make bigger castles.  Whatever your cup ‘o’ tea, just make sure you defend the little dwarfs, cause as stinky as I imagine they are (you sure as fuck can’t build a bathtub) listening to their shrieks and watching their ghosts drift away is a little heart-breaking.  Especially after you spend all that time and randomly-dropped occupation books to customize each dwarf.  And for only 15$ on Steam, you can have your very own dwarf colony.

Many things bring forth my ire, and in this the little shit gets annoying.  The dwarfs are like the ones from Lord of the Rings with a touch of Snow White’s infamous seven.  These guys can make some bitchin’ armor and weapons, but as cool as they look, they sound like adorable, dirty, stinky teddy bears.  Seriously.  They say ‘ow’ when they fall down from climbing trees.  They grumble and bumble and talk in Sims-style chat bubbles.  But that’s ok.  Just wait until it’s night and they’re asleep.  They’ll learn why Maxis won’t let me play the Sims anymore.  Just wall off the exits and put tapestries over the firepits and voila!  Instant dwarf roast!  Of course, even if fire mechanics in this game were advanced enough to do that, they would be the ones placing all the tapestries and walling themselves in like kool-aide sipping cultists complicit with the totem-god in their own mass suicide.  O, well.  You can’t torture all helpless little creatures under your command.

TerraTech, Constructive Preview

TTLogo

 

TerraTech is a game full of potential, which will be appearing at E3 2014, and I am hoping at IndE3 as well!  It is a solid concept built from the dirt up in Unity3D, and, of course, this game is an Alpha Demo, so please leave the screenies alone.  They were on the highest possible graphics setting.

TerraTech is like a combination of lego and erector sets where you start with a few simple pieces.  You gain more pieces by roving the surface of the alien world mercilessly destroying the cockpits of other vehicles.  In the beginning you have your cockpit, a body piece, a machinegun and some wheels.  The pieces are dropped on you like, fuck, here, whatever.  I laughed.  So I am driving around and I see some asshole with a couple wheels and a drill.  So, I naturally did the first thing you do when meeting other people: level your machinegun and prepare for battle.  After nuking his cockpit and leaving their corpses exposed to the extra-terrestrial atmosphere, I took their drill, which I affixed with a blue building beam (Psh, I ain’t fucking going out there!).  And I went off to drill some rocks.  After some drilling and a few battles, I realized that a tractor beam piece was used to pick up raw materials and parts.  Now I am that guy driving around with a whirling ball of resources and parts just chillin’ there, not in any kind of use.  Then I killed an automaton and found an AI interface.  Pretty useful.  That let me make an AI that would drive into trees and turn a little bit when fired at.  Eventually I saw this big asshole that had some neat yellow parts I wanted, so I killed him and took his pieces.  I am now the lord of the big alien world.  That is until some dick drives up out of nowhere and levels me, scattering my parts everywhere.

That's the smug son of a bitch driving through my pieces.

That’s the smug son of a bitch driving through my scattered pieces

I was not unreasonably frustrated, so I went on to see what else this little demo had in store.  Turns out there are some other really nifty modes for this game.  The first I saw was Rocket Mode.  That sounded badass as hell, so I clicked it.  I was greeted by an orange desert and what looked like a two year old overturning a giant bucket of legos.  My eyes instantly lit up like fireworks and I went to town, baby!  When I was a kid, my parents wouldn’t allow us to have legos for two reasons.  I have 4 brothers and that shit is fucking EXPENSIVE.  Not to mention we scattered toys with impunity, and my mom did not want to fall victim to the natural predator of bare feet – lego blocks.

This mode is a ton of fun.  They dump out a ton of blocks and say “have fun!” like a dismissive parent that just wants to watch football in peace.  I am happy to let him go, cause I have some wings, there are repulsors, some wheels ( those are remarkably important for a flying vehicle I find ) rockets and rockets and rockets and fuel tanks and rockets.  Now, they give you some advice.  Don’t put too many fuel tanks on or it will be too heavy to fly.  I nodded absently and started throwing things on like a kid on Christmas.  After about twenty minutes of sorting through the disheveled heap I cobbled together what I thought seemed a craft fit for flight.

To the moon!  Won't be tough since we start on Mars, methinks.  Mars has less atmosphere so.. ah fuck it..

To the moon! Won’t be tough since we start on Mars, methinks. Mars has less atmosphere so.. ah fuck it..

I know right?  Badass!  Upon finishing I hit shift and let it rip!  And it flew like a broken-legged seagull that ate a rock.  It was funny as hell though!  It dragged through the sand, did a backflip.  I imagine the little engineer inside must have gone to Space Camp as a kid, gone to Space College and even manned the centrifuge only to end upside down in the orange sand like “This is what I’ve become”.  LoL!  This was a difficult task, though.  I tried a few times and still could not get it right.  This is why I am not a goddamn engineer.

After my aeronautical failure I turned to Checkpoint Mode.  Again I was greeted by the joy-inspiring avalanche of blocks.  This time I noticed two GIANT sets of wheels.  This opportunity would not go unaddressed.  I immediately set to work placing my cockpit atop a massive yellow block with giant wheels and covered it with as many fuel tanks as I could get.  I would need them.  For propulsion I covered the backend of this baby in as much fuck rocket engines as baby-Jesus could pour from the heavens, and thus did I rock most righteously.  Immediately I flipped on the CD player, popped in some Hendrix, closed the blast shield on my helmet and engaged.

'Scuse me while I kiss the sky!

‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky!

I threw the wings on there because fuck you it looks awesome. Ha ha ha!  I enjoyed the hell out of this mode.  Granted, steering this beast was like trying to turn the Titanic by paddling with Q-tip, but I didn’t have to worry about trees!  I just hit the nitro and flattened the fuckers!  Rocks, on the other hand, still provided a challenge, and as you can see Ethan, Reece and Stephen did not feel threatened.  That’s ok, though.  My rig would probably blow right through whatever dainty little maneuvering craft they made.  I bet they used the tiny baby wheels, too. Heh heh.

So what about this game pisses me off? I’ll tell you!  The rockets!  I need more fucking rockets!  Seriously!  I could have gotten at least thirty more megatons of propulsive force on the back of that baby!  The opportunities I missed!  Ah, well.  This is an alpha mode, so I bet the Devs are preparing a mode for me where I have to attach as many rockets as possible to the back of a cockpit with wheels.  Then I can launch it into the horizon!

Rust, Naked and Scared Shitless

Rust

 

Garry Newman, the same person at fault for Garry’s mod, is the brains behind Rust, another in the line of games that wish they were Minecraft.  But where in Minecraft there is some sense of decency and still an air of fun for fun’s sake, Rust plunges you naked and screaming into a world that suffers from griefer syndrome.  Before I go off on the playerbase, the game itself is actually quite fun, for a pre-release.

First, you start naked, and who doesn’t like to be naked.  At least it is fun until the sun goes down, then you realize what this game is all about.  If a game about digging in the ground and building is called Minecraft, a more appropriate name for Rust might be Mancraft.  Aside from a free-flailing dangle-down, your inventory includes a rock, a torch and some bandages.  Of course, the bandages don’t heal you, just stop bleeding.  So when you are randomly spawned and an asshole with a fucking pistol chases after you shooting for kicks, your best defense is to fucking run for cover.  I recommend loosing him among rocks, but he’ll still get you with a shot or two.  The bandages help there.   So once it gets dark, you’ll say “Good thing Garry gave me this torch!” but that shit is like herpes, keep it to yourself or someone will cut your dick off.  Take out that torch, O, naked wonder of human deduction, in the middle of nowhere in pitch darkness and what do you become?  A blazing goddamn beacon of newb-dom.  If you have the presence of mind to try gathering resources upon being thrust into a new world, as nearly no one fucking does, you might have some resources, and that is all the reason most people have to cut you open.  For the rocks you were keeping in your bunghole.

So, it should come as no surprise that God’s own multi-tool, a fucking rock, is the most useful thing you begin the game with.  By all means, swinging this rock becomes a sort of divine experimentation when you begin as you try to gain resources.  Look in your crafting section and you might see things you can make and things you need to make them.  Rocks and wood are among the most necessary base materials.  Now, for wood you just hit the rock on trees.  If you find a wood pile, even better.  But when I was looking for rocks, I felt like Christopher fucking Columbus exploring the Atlantic ocean: lost as a cumshot in a snowstorm.  There are TONS of fucking rocks around, especially near the mountains, so you might try harvesting them.  Those are, however, scenery and you are running out of time.  So it is a rock-bashing experiment until you realize which rocks you need.

Do you really need to ask me how it's hanging?

Do you really need to ask me how it’s hanging?

So, if by some fluke of merciless fate you spawn during the day time and you were blessed with ample time to figure all this out and get the necessary resources, you might just be able to survive.  Did you go looking for food too? O, yea, forgot to mention that.  You have a hunger bar that depletes over time, and the more active you are, the faster it goes down.  So that shit goes down but fast when you start just about fucking anywhere naked.  Basically, unless you lay your ass down and prepare for death, your health bar depletes faster than you realize.  Now aside from the locations where prepared food can be found (and those are usually camped by tuna-eating lunatics with hatchets hoping for the last chocolate bar on Earth) you have to take that rock, which is a more reliable inanimate best friend at this point than the companion cube, and chase down chickens, pigs or deer.  Should you be the asshole undaunted by the challenge of running around in the open naked whacking deer with a rock, you find the reward is… chicken.  Wait, what?  Yes, everything you kill provides, for the moment, little, raw chicken cutlets.  Eat up! And promptly spew your guts out, because somebody just had to make it realistic and give you salmonella poisoning!  I swear to god, people – including me – are paying money for this.  So, once you have your materials and chicken, you can build a little campfire and get cooking.  It’s a good thing they didn’t include stomach grumbling noises for all the players on the island or it would sound like you were constantly being stalked by ninja whales.

By this time, it is likely the middle of the night and you have died at least three times.  Aside from hunger and salmonella, which is shown above by the green health bar, you will get cold.  At the time being, campfires are the only thing that can warm you up with torches and furnaces expected to do this as well in later updates.  At night is when the scary things come out.  During the day you have bears and wolves to contend with.  Originally it was zombies, but the devs thought this enemy was just too played out.  So they went the realistic route and make it so that you have to outrun bears and wolves that will maul you to death, slobbering over the idea of gnawing on your femurs.  The scary things I am referring to are the other players.  And these assholes are relentless.  I have played a number of servers that advertise their friendliness to noobs and ‘outlaw’ the killing of nakeds.  This just amounts to bandits not killing you on sight every time.  Sometimes they will see you, follow you a bit and then kill you.  And I have run into groups of players that rove and hunt noobs and still others that just kill whoever they feel like at that moment.  It’s like a page out of The Lord of Flies without the little boys.  That would end in rape, given the mentality you’ll regularly see.

But that really is the fun of the game.  That and building houses out of foundation and wall segments.  You can customize your own little mansion on a mountain, craft a rifle and start taking potshots at people wandering by.  You’ll probably be killed by someone doing just that during your first days.  Survival against all odds.  Every once in a while, as if the game wasn’t brutal enough, an airplane flies by and performs an airdrop.  This makes me laugh.  It’s as if civilization knows were here and, not only do they not care, but they are throwing finite amounts of supplies down at us and watching the battles ensue.  Did I mention areas are randomly irradiated? Yep, usually around where there is pre-packaged food.

just wait 'till I build an RPG launcher, you smug sons-of-bitches.

just wait ’till I build an RPG launcher, you smug sons-of-bitches.

So what pisses me off the most in this game?  Aside from everything else in this game that makes no fucking sense ever again, one thing that stands out are the visuals.  They developers put a lot of time and effort into making the game pretty.  The trees are variegated enough that you feel like you are in a  forest.  The grasses look like fields of gently-waving grass.  I mean, everything looks very very nice, so you get that ‘beauty of nature’ fix before dying a brutal death at the hands of almost anything within sight-range.  It’s like somewhere above the trees you can hear a melody soft and sweet that is clipped short by the gunshot travelling through your skull.  One of the most frustrating things about the game is that it is multi-player only.  You have to go find a server and deal with it.  There is no ‘remember your first game of Rust’ discussions on the Rust forums.  That shit reads like  a PTSD support group.  The benefit, however, is that all servers are using the same map.  No procedurally generated randomness to contend with here, so if you find a great place to build your house, you can fight over the same beachfront property with other people on another server.  Ain’t life grand?

Can you spot the socio-pathic, hatchet-weilding psycho?

Can you spot the sociopathic, hatchet-weilding psycho?

All-in-all, it’s definitely worth playing, especially for the $20 asking price on Steam.  It’s a bit of a niched game that caters to the “minecraft isn’t realistic enough about survival” crowd.  Weird that such a deranged genre would arise from such a harmless source material.  Well, as harmless as any source-material where zombies chew on your bones at night.