You may remember I chatted about this one, and about a year or two before that it was all over the board game social groups. In short it’s a leviathan board game in a box the size of a couple of breeze blocks, it has a foot firmly in the RPG camp in the same way that Diablo and Grim Dawn are RPGs, all the stabbing, easy on the character moments, incidental decision making with pretty direct fallout, but damn it does the hacking and slashing well.
Characters are diverse in appearance and collection of powers building to tactical combinations with the rest of your party, clever but frustrating action economy, and so many possibilities, status conditions, and moving parts that the whole thing is far easier to manage with an app or three on the side. And actually with that electronic assistance Gloomhaven becomes an incredibly fun game, without it you’ve really got to enjoy your bookkeeping.
Borne on its popularity, Gloomhaven now has a video game version, all of the heroes fully animated, the modular board pieces turned into deep, rich scenery, and all of the numbers handled for you from behind the proverbial curtain.
The video game version is still in early access stages so that players can help test the hell out of the many features to make sure that every character is ready and waiting to go. Currently the only playable characters are the Brute, Scoundrel, Spellweaver, and Cragheart, and after a recent update, the Tinkerer, which means that of course, my character has to wait until last. It’s almost like the Mindthief’s deck is filled with complex strategies, different mechanics, and like huge swarms of rats are hard to animate! Vermlings will not be sidelined!! Although apparently he gets released some time before the end of the year.
The board game has a mass of other characters who are unlocked over time, and given the pace of updates we might not be waiting all that long for the full release as it’s the characters and their management who are the most intricate part of the game. If their actions can be managed properly then so can all of the creature actions.
Oh, and on the subject of the creatures, the creatures in Gloomhaven always looked pretty in the artwork, but seeing them brought to life is something truly incredible. Demons, elemental undead take on a far more haunting aspect when they float and shamble their way towards you to kill you. “Elite” creatures also take on a better visual aspect, rather than being the same cardstock token inserted into a different colour stand, cultists change robes, bandits gain subtle armour decorations, and while the differences are not dramatic, they do add a little depth to the design that sets it apart from the tabletop version.
The gameplay is practically identical, you have your deck of cards, each of which with two options, in combat you choose two cards per turn, and you execute the top of one card and the bottom of the other, typically the top half will be more offensive, the bottom will be more tactical. For a turn based strategy you can easily take your time mulling over your options, and because you can play alone you’re not rushing to ensure you’re not holding everyone else up. When using those abilities, there is always the extra step of “confirming” your moves, which can be skipped by double-clicking, and there’s also a lot of confirming the end of turn, confirming how you take damage, and while it’s all necessary, it does jar the flow of the gameplay a little. Better I think to have played the board game to appreciate the reason for each feature, or maybe in-game tutorials will help advise new players after the proper release.
Early reports are naturally mixed because this game is early access, but fixes have been swift, broadly successful, and expected features are being released at a respectable pace. Whether you decide to jump on in the early days or wait for the full title, I think it’s safe to say that this will be a worthwhile investment for fans of the original board game. Whether or not it will translate to a broader audience… I’m going to suspend judgement for now.
Not long ago I spoke about wanting to play some harder games and record them. One such game has appeared for me in the form of Steredenn, a space shooter bullet-hell. I have been playing the Early Access version of the game, but I’m pleased to tell you that it’s out of Early Access. Released on October 1st, this game is hectic and chaotic, whilst being smart and modern. It’s a great game, but enough about that, why not check out our video at the bottom of the page?
As is typical of a bullet-hell, there’s really not much of a story. It’s just that some pirate fleets have come to infiltrate your base. They’ve caused some serious damage, shredding through all of their opposition (you and your allies), leaving you to defeat them through the wreckage of your allies and the space rock. It’s not exactly a hard game to understand, you’re flying a ship with the premise of just blowing enemies up, which is A-OKAY in my eyes!
I believe not all games need to have some of the most incredibly intricate of stories – But this tells a typical bullet-hell story: You’re a single unit against vast seas of enemies… You, and you alone, must take these pirates down. We really don’t need anything more than that for the story.
The game plays really well. It works well on both keyboard and on the game pad, of which I used both to test the game. The video below is me on my game pad – The latency of which feels pretty good (very minimal, which is hugely important to this kind of game.
An interesting aspect is the fact you get just two weapons of which you choose what you want to keep and change over. If you see an available weapon, you tap the pick-up key to pick a weapon up to replace the one you are currently using. You always start off with a basic blaster but you can go on to get rocket launchers, lasers and even auto-firing robots. The many different weapons work in particular scenarios better than others.
It felt as if the game has a very steep difficulty curve once you get past the first boss. Typical of bullet hells, this is a game where you will not kill every enemy, often leaving them out so you can go and beat up the big baddies. On the plus side though, the game seems to be really high on using score as an indicator of success. I, however, will try to get as far as beating the big baddie of the final stage… Eventually! I don’t think I’ll be getting there any time soon.
The music is a simple arrangement of heavy guitar work and drum patterns. It’s basically a metal-inspired soundtrack which really helps to pump the adrenaline into you. It’s simple, it’s fast paced and it does the job effectively. Couple the heavy metal with the space-like and ambience inspired sound effects of the game, we’re onto a modern space shooter that anyone can get behind. The volume can be adjusted, depending on your interests in metal!
I’d highly recommend Steredenn, if for nothing more than the fact it has a great soundtrack, it is visually pleasing on the eye and it’s hard as nails. I know this won’t be a game for everyone, due to the very nature of bullet-hells, but hey, I personally loved every second of it. With this in mind, I’d like to leave you on the thought that Steredenn is a fast-paced bullet-hell, which is beautifully presented and is a genuine challenge. Check it out below and don’t forget to comment, like and if you liked the video to subscribe to our YouTube channel too. Also, leave us a comment on Twitter and Facebook.
The term “Development Hell” has plagued gaming history for decades. Many incredible game-projects have never seen the light of screen because matters of financing and dispute over intellectual properties have bogged them down to the point where it’s no longer an option to release them. The modern method of circumventing this issue is to release a game to the public while it is still incomplete, under the premise of releasing content for free to those who have already paid.
It’s yet another business model that Minecraft popularized, access to the flat-world alpha version started that popularity train and started money feeding into what would become the modern standard sandbox-survival master-crafter and of course genre-spawner. It extended the lifespan of a project that could have died very early in its’ development because of its’ sheer size and complexity.
It also allowed Minecraft to stay in development for many years, in fact it had a convention and a product range to its’ name before boxes even appeared on shelves. Mojang were doing so well before the official release of Minecraft that they had even begun work on their trading card game Scrolls.
A lot of people have justifiable concerns that the method could be exploited to make a great deal of money on a game that may never actually be completed. For example, Grim Dawn when I first purchased it was around £17.99 for a single act of narrative, a dozen or so enemy types and very little by way of original features. Since then two acts have been added, as have a great many aspects of gameplay that are building to a very complex and interesting hack-and-slash, but the game remains in development three full years after its successful Kickstarter Campaign.
Games like these are changing the nature of the industry, and how funding can be found, directly from those people who would be interested in playing them rather than publishers who only speculate on the market’s wants and desires. It’s a good thing, and it’s a bad thing. Publishers have a certain resilience against the financial sink-holes that development hell creates, and often a studio will get another chance, or an idea will be remolded and repurposed into something new and possibly improved. Our money is somewhat less secure, and if a studio fails to deliver on an early access game or Kickstarter, we’ve invested money and have nothing to show for it, or something subpar and not worth what we put up for it.
Lego Worlds is also in early access, adding one of the worlds biggest manufacturers in entertainment to the list of mainstream publishers making use of the new format of funding. It’s a future that comes with incredible risks to the consumer, but also offers the opportunity of a future without Starcraft Ghost, the proeject we all wanted that never happened; or Duke Nukem Forever, which sadly happened.
A game staying eternally in development comes with its’ own challenges, no piece of art, or any other major project is ever truly finished, as anyone who has ever written a book to completion will tell… anyone who’ll listen. Even when a project successfully makes it from beginning to end it can always be tweaked somewhere in the middle, and again, and again, until it’s something unrecognizable. It’s a difficult skill to master, knowing when to stop, but when your art is your business, then you have a problem.
The short version of what I’m rambling my way around is that I don’ know what to make of the “Early Access” phenomenon and its’ inherent risks and complexities. The industry is changing, but is it for the better, or just for the different? Talk to me in the comments or on Facebook! You can also share your opinion on Twitter, where Tim will tell me what you think…
Though Minecraft has earned many awards across it’s many, many years of active gameplay, is there a greater accolade for any piece of work than to call itself the beginnings of a new genre?
Minecrafts‘ biggest appeal is the construction toy taken to infinite proportions. It’s limited of course, but considering it’s now over six years old that’s not exactly surprising. Despite vast numbers of updates, a battery of additions made to the format and a host of new features, it still remains the same open-world, survival, castle-building trap crafting game that emerged from the vast planes of flat creative surface that first captured the internet’s imagination in 2009.
This week we’ve had a much better week for news, I can tell you! From browsers making some interesting partnerships, to Valve becoming a lot tougher on their criteria for certain things, oh… also we talk about the return of a major UK convention that Joel and I adore. So come join us as we relive the Week in Geek!