24 February, 2018

The Trail: Frontier Challenge Review

The Trail: Frontier Challenge is literally a walking simulator- But this does not need to be bad. In fact, the walking combined with the physics-based inventory management that has your items almost bouncing around in your backpack is a good match, both relaxing enough to casually wander and with enough to think about that you won't be bored all the way.

However, it does come with flaws. There are a lot of bugs- Some of which gamebreaking, and the balance goes completely out the window after playing a few hours, after which it doesn't get any better. It has a few systems that look like they had great plans, and then only did the bare minimum to get it working, with the latter part of the game becoming near impossible to anyone who hasn't planned that far ahead, or consistently gets incredibly lucky.
For the first few hours, it is well worth it. An interesting game that is perhaps a bit too easy, but it gets noticeably harder once all the mechanics are introduced. After that there is a large part of the game that will be slow- A lot of walking, with a lot of interesting terrain. And a multiplayer section that is essentially mandatory while also being nearly impossible to use.
Finally, the last part of the game is teleporting around campsites hoping the npcs trade the one piece of gear or ingredient you need to progress, spending hours of prepwork to get the right outfit with the right resistances so that you can make a quick sprint from one campsite to the next, followed by more time gathering what you need to survive the next stretch. Ideally, and what it looks like the plan was all along, you would be working together with other players to make this gear and complete item gathering challenges, and then together you'll make it to the end of the trial with a nice build-up village.

In practice, out of the 5 players that will be randomly matched in a town, expect 2-3 to go offline and never log on, one of them to not know English, and one of them to be you- You will be essentially performing group tasks on your own, and unless you chose to be a tailor you will spend hours just teleporting around to find the clothing you need to not immediately pass out. And as extra, you will need to spend a lot of time and effort to be able to move to a town where the players might be active and talking, making it difficult to play with friends despite the design clearly calling for a group of people who are motivated, talk to eachother often and coordinate their needs and abilities together.

In the end, The Trail: Frontier Challenge is an interesting title. It has a good start, a strong middle section, and then it falls flat when the bugs and questionable design points build up and overwhelm the positives. It is certainly worth getting if it goes on sale, but be warned, it will take effort and motivation to get to the end of the trail, and a great deal more if you end up having to do so alone.

21 August, 2017

Brigador Review

It took me a long time to think about what I'd say about Brigador, as I usually list a negative first and I'm very judgemental when it comes to games. Brigador only had very mild negatives, along with some very strong positives that makes it difficult for me to say anything bad about it.

From an excellent soundtrack to the incredible gameplay, to the lore and graphics design, everything about Brigador appears to have been well made and shows great attention to detail. A gentle learning curve and a campaign that will teach you and then present you with ever increasing challenges followed with free play contracts that will let you go at the speed and difficulty you prefer means that you will always be able to customize your experience to tailor it to what you like and what you can handle.
The maps are designed well and pretty to look at, with everything inside except for the map boundaries being fully destructible. You are even encouraged to do so, and destroying things gives you a bonus.

A large selection of vehicles, weaponry and enemies ensures that there is a lot for you to choose from, with every piece of gear you pick having its use and using your gear well is usually the key to success. But with all that gear, you can pick and choose how you want to play. Stealth, guns blazing, or a mix is all possible with none of the weapons seeming overpowered or underpowered. And everything you see ingame is a thing you can take and use.

The only negative I've found was the control scheme, which doesn't always work well with every vehicle. But it is barely a negative as you can change your control scheme as needed. Out of all the things in game, everything works together amazingly well and handles great, both in the missions and with the overarching theme.

Brigador is one of those rare games where you do not regret any moment of your time playing it. Everything can be made to be the way you enjoy it the best while at the same time offering you challenges exactly the way you want them. It seems to do everything right and has no real negatives to it that I could find. Brigador tells you to enjoy yourself, and it gives you all the tools you need to do so.

21 July, 2017

Friday 13th: The Game Review

I was going to write a detailed review and put effort into it, but since the devs don't seem to care I won't care either. In Friday 13th, you can have a great time or a terrible time, depending on who you play with and the amount of bugs you run into. Generally from what I've found it's people who don't speak English, with those who do speak English either teamkilling you for fun or being excellent people.

The gameplay itself is pretty nice. You don't need to run scared all the time and you can actually fight back against Jason, though it's more of a way to buy time so you can get away than anything else. If you run, there are a large amount of invisible walls around the map, making it a risk to go anywhere that Jason won't look for you. Luckily, you do have the advantage around windows and cabins, and you are faster when you sprint.

The best part about this game, in my opinion, is that you can talk to eachother and Jason while playing. Trash talk, pleading, and misdirection brings a lot to the game. Telling Jason that the others are escaping in a car will make him usually pull out his map to see if the car moved, buying you precious time. And not just once did I hear someone plead for their life and told them I'll save them for last. Out of everything, being able to meaningfully interact with people the rare few times they know English is what makes it fun.

But then the bad is plentiful as well. Only three maps, many councilors being just terrible in general, a kickstarter-only Jason that is just flat out better than any other Jason you can ever hope to get and bugs+exploits still in the game long after launch leads to a feeling that this is not very well managed or planned out, and ultimately combining these factors with the devs being ban-happy at the wrong people and ignoring the people who do need to be at least warned leads to me concluding that this deserves a negative as it stands right now. At the very least until the devs bring about a serious effort to address everything they've been ignoring now.

Friday 13th is a nice idea, that was almost there. It's massively overpriced for what it does and would have been great if it was done by someone who actually gave a shit. Wait for a substantial sale if you do want to get it, because what they're asking for now is too much.

14 July, 2017

Predynastic Egypt Review

Predynastic Egypt is a resource management and optimization game in which you overcome trials and ordeals and establish Egypt as unified kingdom.
From humble beginnings with simple decisions to make to managing a large amount of workers while planning several turns ahead, Predynastic Egypt offers a pleasant if a bit simple of an experience. There aren't a lot of different mechanics involved, but they do not need to be. With a simple foundation and easily controlled, intuitive basic gameplay you'll be able to manage your tribe and deal with what Egypt has to offer. Multiple difficulty options allow you to customize the game to your liking while everything is explained in enough detail that you will not have to worry about not knowing what is going on, though it still doesn't give you more information than you really need.

One concern is replayability. As it is the same map every time, with the same ordeals every time at the same turns it becomes predictable and later playthroughs will feel repetitive. At the highest difficulties, it's all about solving everything perfectly, with perfect timing on everything and good luck on the random events. If you enjoy achievement hunting, you will get plenty of replayability out of it, but otherwise there isn't much reason to play it a second time.

As for the trials and ordeals, they are challenging when you first go through them, but fair. With a bit of planning and forward thinking you can win the game on your first try. Playthroughs after the first will make it a lot easier and unless you actively avoid doing them it is difficult to really fail at any of them.

A relaxed atmosphere and simple base mechanic means this is mostly a casual game, pleasant to play and worth the time to get it, Predynastic Egypt does what it tells you it does, does it very well, and overall delivers a good experience at a good price.

25 June, 2017

Carrier Deck Review

Carrier Deck is a simple management game where you control the deck of a carrier, select mission loadouts and manage who flies and where. Don't be fooled by the suggestion of a simulation game. It is definitely not one of those.

While it isn't the most detailed by far, and certainly not hard, it is capable of occasionally providing decent challenges and keeping the action up at a decent flow in the campaign. There are however several issues with it that make it difficult to really get into it.
(Campaign) Missions feel too small, and don't seem to really present a challenge except for the last few. But they are decent enough and enjoyable to play. On the contrary, 'quick' missions and endless mode are not really enjoyable as there is a large amount of waiting and when things do happen they seem to be randomly throwing things at you regardless of whether it's possible to succeed. This makes the endless mode more about luck than actually managing your carrier.

The other flaws include the hitbox for clicking on things being just too small on many things, leading to clicking off something and wasting time, and the airplane/heli pathing being terrible. They only move in pre-determined paths, and when they run into one another they wait for only a second or two before deciding to turn around and go back to where they were before you ordered them. This in turn makes managing any more than two or three things at the same time a huge pain in the ass, as you need to babysit almost everything or risk them deciding they don't really want to do what you told them to.

Yet with all that, it's still decent. It's certainly not amazing, but it does what it tells you it will do, and it does so well enough to entertain. But it doesn't go past that, or try anything special, but it isn't bad at least. It's worth the price it asks for, but I wouldn't recommend it if you weren't into any kind of management game. For those that are, Carrier Deck is worthwhile enough to try out.

23 June, 2017

Orbt XL Review

Orbt XL is a small game about orbiting a black hole and not crashing into things

It's simple, cheap, and a pretty decent price. The control scheme is simple(Left mouse button to go further, let go to go closer) and the gameplay itself is varied enough to be entertaining.
A few special cases mix things up, the obstacles are varied enough to be entertaining, and the gameplay simple enough to be easy to understand.

It represents a good price to value ratio, and it is pleasant to play for a while but it is certainly just a short thing to spend some time on and then move on. Worth picking up if you run across it bored or otherwise have a euro laying around doing nothing.

09 June, 2017

Take on Mars Review

Take on Mars is more simulation than game, and clearly showing that the goal was a simulation first, and a game second. That said, it remains very interesting and works quite well as a game, when you can figure out how to do things and get it to work.

And that is one of the problems. The biggest problem however is the complete lack of time acceleration and slow speeds. I understand wanting realistic speeds in your simulation game, but this is not an experience that any but the most patient people are willing to go through. For reference, to complete the unmanned campaign you will need to travel ~50,000m at speeds between 1.5m/s and 2m/s, or in more understandable terms, your rovers go at the speed of an old man with a walking aid and you need to travel roughly a small country's length. The game does helpfully offer you a realistic wheel speeds option, which will bring your speed down to around 0.6m/s, or roughly the speed of that old man if he had to stop to take a breather after every step. I firmly believe that I am one of the most patient people in the world and submit this game as proof for that.

With the biggest problem out of the way, the smaller problems are still noticable. It essentially does not tell you how to do or use most things. When starting a campaign, the first thing I had to do was push every button on my keyboard in the hopes that it would move along the interactive first landing of an historical Russian lander. It worked eventually, and I could play the game after that. After that, you are never told how to use specific instruments, and you aren't told what technologies actually do for you as a player. But that is something you can figure out as well with a lot of looking for things, so eventually it will work out.
There also still appear to be a fair amount of bugs in the game, including random missions asking you to take microscope pictures of the atmosphere, and one that makes it so missions do not spawn when they should so the game literally becomes unfinishable. With the last one in mind, I had to stop my playthrough before I could get to the manned stage, as the missions I needed to complete did not ever show up. The physics at times become a large problem in that your science instruments need to be held still to do science, but the physics tries to make your rovers almost dance, which makes it nearly impossible to use your instruments unless you forcibly jam them against the rock or sand you are trying to perform experiments on.

Even then, Mars is a nice and often varied place, with a lot of interesting terrain and good looking locations, with missions placed so that they show you to all the good places with almost scenic tours. The economic part of the game- Getting your funding, is very rough early on and practically doesn't exist in the later stages. This may be to save up money for the manned missions, but I never actually reached that part, so I wouldn't know.

All things said, Take on Mars needs work. It is not an unpleasant experience for one with a lot of patience, but I struggle to see what would draw in anyone other than the most scientific minded people who at the same time don't mind gameplay. For anyone else, it is a nice novelty, but very repetitive and slow. There does not seem to be that much here, at least not in the unmanned campaign.

There is also a multiplayer mode, but I've yet to be able to motivate anyone into playing it with me. I will update this review whenever I get people into a server with it.