Acaratus – A game I WANT to love.
Acaratus, by Nodbrim Interactive, is a medieval-steampunk mech oriented turn-based tactical RPG. The idea is to build and equip battle suits (mechs) and explore a path-based world, fighting battles along the way for the sake of revolution. Story points are marked along a semi-linear path in the world map, with areas that unlock after progressing the story or through battle. Before I begin, this game is a full release, I feel I should point that out.
The story itself is fairly simple and has some very predictable elements, even a plot twist can be seen coming a mile away. A shame really, it has a good underlying basis but it just feels rushed and lacking in it’s current form. The battles make up the meat of the game, you command a number of mechs to defeat a number of enemy mechs. Customisation brings some fun bonuses and the battle suits look nice, time and effort has certainly gone into the design.
The choice of equipment is pretty good, ensuring my mechs have a good balanced loadout is one of the joys of playing Acaratus. There is a system for ‘crafting’, I say this very loosely, which resembles a slot machine. It is not a system that is taught, nor is it logical. It is fun though, in a ‘gamble all your money away in hopes of a high level weapon’ sort of way. There is a battle cards element but you can get through the majority of the game without even touching them, though I can see a use for them at higher difficulties. Later in the game (normal difficulty) I find that I finish most battles in a single turn, rendering the cards almost useless.
No game is without issues…
I really want to love Acaratus, but unfortunately there are a large number of problems. While no game is without issues, Acaratus has more than it’s fair share. I mentioned earlier that the game feels rushed, this is most evident in the story.
Plot points on the map are all over the place, it’s easy to miss some of them, especially if you have forgotten the number of the previous chapter. Since each plot point is full of dialogue text it can get confusing. In fact, some of the text is shown to be said by the wrong person. Some makes no sense due to bad timing (plays out before the battle it implies is over). It’s a mess, to put it politely. Battle arenas lack variety in the first and second act, considering the number of battles you fight. Finally, the only voice acting is between ‘acts’ and only adds a bit of exposition and narrative.
Many of these issues could be fixed relatively easily, with a bit of care and attention. If further voice acting were to be introduced (budget allowing), I feel it could enhance the experience. Similarly with making story points more linear and accessible only once the previous point has been visited. While patches are forthcoming, it is not yet enough to make Acaratus enjoyable to play as a whole. I desperately want to love Acaratus, in fact, I still hold out hope that the problems will be fixed. But as it stands there are far too many issues.
Have you tried Acaratus? What are your thoughts? Let me know below.
Phoenix Point isn’t X-COM but it’s from the designer of the original.
Phoenix Point is a new strategy game, currently being crowdfunded on Fig.co. It may appear to be another X-COM clone but that’s because it’s from Julian Gollop; the designer of X-COM: UFO Defence, among others. Phoenix Point is currently in development by Snapshot Games (there’s a reference there I think). It took less than a week to meet the initial funding goal and (at the time of writing) is close to the first of two stretch goals.
Boasting all the features you might expect from a modern X-COM game and more; Phoenix Point holds plenty of promise. Despite having played a large number of clones, and other games with similar concepts, I can still say that I’m excited to see what Julian has in store for us. I am hopeful that it will become a title worthy of it’s pedigree. Needless to say, this is the strategy game I have been wanting for a very long time!
The sheer amount of pre-release lore is staggering.
A brief summary of the plot: Melting permafrost has revealed an unknown/unusual virus. Skip forward 35 years, humanity is all but decimated, warring factions exist; fighting eachother and the mutated results of the virus. The Phoenix Project activates, scattered cells with the aim of researching and fighting the threat.
Choosing your base location is back, as is the world view. Fans of X-COM Apocalypse will recognise the concept of factions, you can gain various perks depending on your approach. I, for one, am glad to see factions return, a feature that has been sorely lacking in other games of this type. Something new to Phoenix Point is the concept of evolving enemies. That’s right, if they pull it off, enemies will evolve and adapt over time depending on how you deal with them and forcing you, in turn, to adapt. This is before you see the size of some of them. Let us also not neglect to mention the ability to destroy terrain and set pieces. They’re really pulling out the stops!
Phoenix Point is due for release in Q4 of 2018, although, certain tiers of pledge offer early access. It has already been in development for a year before the campaign began. I have faith that Julian and Snapshot will create something truly amazing and fun to play. If you have time I urge you to read some of the lore on the website, it is incredibly well written and a pleasure to experience. What do you think? Are you as excited as I am? Is the world ready for an evolution of the genre? Let me know in the comments!
Dyson spheres, traditions and ascendancy perks. Space Utopia?
Much has changed since I first reviewed Stellaris this time last year. A fair amount of DLC and several large patches have only expanded on a winning combination. Paradox have certainly given Stellaris a significant amount of content us to chew on and Utopia is simply the latest in a line of content expansions. Admittedly, there is much I have yet to encounter and learn. In fact, it is unlikely that I will ever stop finding new aspects to admire.
Let us begin by giving mention to the Leviathans DLC which arrived back in October. The main premise here was the addition of, you guessed it, several rather sizable events. From impossible entities to hulking dreadnoughts, even a dimensional horror. In most cases you should be prepared for a tough fight! Let us not forgot the enclaves who will provide help, for a price. As DLC goes (and despite the name), the amount of content is a little short. But at £7.50 (around $9.70) I believe it’s worth it.
From massive creatures to mega structures, it’s Utopia, for some of us.
The Utopia DLC brings quite a host of changes, not the least of which is mega structures. Ever wanted to encase an entire sun in a Dyson Sphere? Maybe build one of the ring worlds you’ve encountered among the fallen empires? Now you can and, my goodness, are they glorious.
That’s not all, of course. One of the more game changing additions is traditions, a similar system to that of civics from the Civilization games. These tradition trees are now the only way to unlock certain features that previously required research. Many traditions also provide buffs to other areas, from border pops to faster colony growth, take your pick! But be careful, they get more expensive with each new choice.
Ascension and progress.
Another new system is that of ascendancy. These perks are granted once a tradition tree is completed, giving a choice of three directions of progression. Psionic transcendance, biological mastery and synthetic evolution. Utopia also adds advanced options for government and improved slavery systems. Let us not forget the inclusion of hive minds. Food has also, more recently, become a global resource, no longer will your population starve because your planets don’t share!
There is much more to play with and far more depth than I am able to convey. Rest assured, this is a major DLC and is certainly not lacking in content. For £15 ($19.40 approximately) they have not disappointed me. I only hope that Utopia is the beginning of a lasting 4X legacy for Stellaris.
Battle Brothers: Build and nurture your own mercenary company and then lose it all in a single mishap.
Battle Brothers is a new release by Overhype Studios. A turn-based tactical RPG set in a grim medieval open world that uses procedural generation to great effect. The gameplay feels like a cross between Mount & Blade: Warband and Heroes of Might and Magic 3. This combination lends itself well to many different play styles. There are also late game crises, not dissimilar to Stellaris.
The start of the game puts you straight into battle with a little exposition. Your sellsword company is all but decimated and needs rebuilding. You should probably get on that straight away because the world is unforgiving. Hiring mercs, buying and choosing their equipment, restocking supplies, that’s all on you. Balancing your budget so you can still afford to pay wages is very important, leader and accountant, what’s next?
Expect losses in this line of work!
So you’ve spent all of your hard earned cash? You need to take up some contracts. How much you will earn depends on a number of factors, the most important (to a point) is your renown. There are a number of ways to become more renowned, setting and completing goals is one of them. They also help build a narrative for your company. Contracts range in difficulty, as you become more well known the bigger jobs become available. This is where things start to get messy (if they aren’t already). Your Battle Brothers can die, they will die, fairly frequently in fact. You need to be prepared for losses. It’s permadeath, they don’t come back, except maybe as the undead. Sucks to be you.
Virtually every contract you take will involve battle (unless you’re very lucky). Keeping your people alive will involve tactics, keeping formation is one such way. I won’t tell you how to play, that’s your choice, but learn quickly, for your own sake. If you manage to get your people through a few battles they might level up. For each level you can select a perk and distribute some stat points. The numbers may seem small but they can greatly increase your odds of survival.
Everything fits together nicely.
The character design in Battle Brothers is actually very appropriate. If I were to attempt to describe a fantasy medieval peasant it would likely look very similar. If you find a barber shop in a town you can even customise your troops. From character design to level and world design, everything fits together nicely. Nothing seems out of place, which is great for immersion (even for a 2d game).
While I am still playing Battle Brothers and have not got to the late game content, I am impressed. There is a good level of difficulty (even on the easiest mode). The mechanics work brilliantly and the gameplay and GUI are easy to understand and use. While I would love to see fully animated characters rather than tiles, this does not detract from my enjoyment. Even the soundtrack is easy to listen to and creates a nice ambience.
In summary; I am thoroughly enjoying Battle Brothers. I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys gritty medieval warfare or tactical turn-based games. Fans of Mount & Blade: Warband will almost certainly find a home here. While the release price may seem little expensive, the replay value and overall content does seem to make it worthwhile. Definitely one to watch, I wonder if they’ll eventually add mod support?
Working the forge all day for people with no manners, so, like a job? It’s My Little Blacksmith Shop!
I found this little gem over on itch.io some time ago, to say I have high hopes for it is an understatement. Currently being developed by Dasius of Noble Games Studio; My Little Blacksmith Shop has some serious potential. Please don’t misunderstand, the game is in very early access and is quite some distance from completion. However, what we do have is a labour of love and a dedicated developer, who readily interacts with a growing community. Dasius has taken inspiration from other titles including Skyrim and Blacksmith Simulator by Planet Howard. Work started while feeling the itch for more but not wanting to sit watching progress bars and numbers.
But what is it?
My Little Blacksmith Shop is exactly as it sounds, a fantasy smithing simulation. You play as a blacksmith, you order materials, you make equipment. It might sound simple and boring and it’s true that there isn’t a huge amount of content. There is, however, already limited progression, including a simple levelling system. Add to that a variety of materials and a range of items to forge, it might not seem like much but it works well. The shop environment is set up logically, the forge itself is outside the back door and there is a chest for payments. There are shelves and racks for storage of parts and even finished products. Customers can (and will) purchase items you put out for display which is a refreshing touch.
As the character, you are involved in every step of item production. From heating the ingots in the furnace, hammering them on the anvil and even quenching the forged item. You’re not finished yet, now you need to take it to the work bench to attach the grip and guard. Finally, take it to the customer, who has been waiting the whole time (with a timer ticking down), and you’ll be paid. Payment depends on a number of factors: Is it a blade or a hammer? Did you fit a regular or fancy grip? What material is it made from? There is a fair amount to consider and a whole lot more to come!
The future is looking good!
I spoke to Dasius about the future of My Little Blacksmith Shop and there are some big plans! Deeper interactions with a small community, friendships and the ability to buy a bigger shop. Perhaps the most exciting thing for me is the plan to allow you to equip the townspeople, in order to defend against an unknown force. This is before we even mention the crystals, I’m sure we’ll find out what they are used for eventually. Of course this is all long term, a considerable amount of time is being spent fixing bugs before adding new content. This is Dasius’ first major project, during which the aim is to learn a multitude of new skills. The dream is to build a strong team and studio filled with the creative passion that is already evident.
I like it, I like it alot!
It’s safe to say that I already enjoy My Little Blacksmith Shop. If the future plans all come together then I can imagine investing a large amount of time into the game. I shall be keeping an eye on progress and will likely write another article with any significant updates. There is currently no official trailer, though I will update this page if one is released. Have you tried it? What do you think of the future plans? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Conan Exiles – Nudity and death. Only the nudity is optional.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s not what Conan Exiles is all about, with the exception of death. You will die, more than you might think. Developed and published by Funcom: Conan Exiles sets you on the path of a customisable exile in an unforgiving land. Not unlike ARK or Rust, Conan Exiles is a survival based game with emphasis on building and exploring dangerous areas. You can choose PVP or PVE game modes, that’s not all, there is also single and local cooperative play included.
Character creation is a given and fairly easy to use. Choose from all the usual options for customisation, though there is another slider: genitalia. I’m being serious. I’ll let you discover the details yourselves, the results are fairly comical. Leaving that aside, there is one major difference to Conan Exiles: religion. You can choose from a total of 4 Gods to worship (though that number is set to increase as development progresses). There’s one for cannibals (Yog), the snake (Set) and justice (Mitra). There’s also Crom but he doesn’t care. Once your character is created you will be presented with a list of your crimes, some can be rather funny.
Kill to eat, or die in the process.
Gameplay is as you might expect, 90% of all creatures want you dead and will succeed around 80% of the time. By the time you can kill them easily you’ll be exploring areas with much nastier enemies. It’s a never ending cycle of death. There will eventually be dungeons to fight through, though currently the spawn rate in at least one of them is bugged. There’s an established tech tree, you gain points to unlock recipes as you level up. The tried and tested method for survival games, but it works well. Those who picked a religion (except for Crom, he doesn’t care) will have unique building options as they level up. I almost forgot to mention the Gods’ avatars which can be devastating. All except for Crom.
Crom really doesn’t care.
One feature worth mentioning is the ability to take slaves. Much like taming dinosaurs on ARK, slaves must be broken (tamed) and can then be put to work doing various tasks. Slaves come in the form of NPC exiles you will find in various places on the map. Once you unlock the correct tech you will be able to beat them into submission and take them away, the rest is up to you! Building is fairly intuitive and everything snaps together to make life easier, much like other games of this genre. There are material tiers for extra defence in PVP, though even the first tier of buildings cannot be destroyed by other players until they have steel tools. This is supposed to help new players get started, not that this will stop other players from attacking you, whether you have anything worth taking or not.
Since this is early access there are a huge number of bugs, some more severe than others. There are regular updates though, so don’t let that put you off too much. Overall Conan Exiles is a very playable and enjoyable game though I would suggest playing with friends. When playing alone I found that I would get bored very quickly. Don’t take my word for it, we’re all different after all!