enfrdeitptrues

Turn Based Strategy

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Phantom Brave PC
    Developed By: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc.
    Published By: NIS America, Inc.
    Release Date: July 25, 2016
    Available On: Windows
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Violence, Blood, Suggestive Themes, Mild Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
    Genre: Strategy Role Playing Game
    Mode: Single Player
    MSRP: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you NIS America for sending us this game to review!

    Phantom Brave PC is the definitive (perhaps final?) edition of the highly regarded PS2 game of the same name. This version includes all of the extra content from the Wii and PSP ports, and has higher resolution backgrounds and interface adjustments to make it run and look reasonably well on PC. While not an ideal PC version, it is a decent enough port, and the deep and charming story as well as the complex gameplay systems are all here.

    The main characters are Ash and Marona. In the introduction, it explains that Ash and Marona's parents were fighting a powerful evil force, and they were defeated. Just at the moment of death, Marona's father casts a spell on Ash preventing his complete death, but instead of remaining living, he becomes a Phantom. In this game, a Phantom is probably easiest to describe as a more powerful ghost – it's dead and yet not, as he can manifest physically for a limited time, and has a full personality. Marona inherited from her parents the ability to see and interact with Phantoms, which both grants her great power, and makes her an outcast and someone to fear from almost everyone.

    Marona was five years old when her parents died, and Ash was left behind to help take care of her. Ash cares for her very lovingly, and Marona trusts him very deeply as well. Their relationship is one of the highlights of this game, and their intense care for and trust in each other comes through very clearly throughout the story.

    At thirteen years old, Marona decides that she has to start working in order to meet her needs, so she heads out as a Chroma (which is what Ash and her parents also were in life) in order to offer her services to any citizens in need. Chromas are basically legal mercenaries for hire; their jobs range from finding lost items to defeating powerful enemies. Of course she is not the only one, with other individuals and companies competing for contracts.

    Despite people's constant harassment because of her unusual (and frightening) power, she believes deep down the words of her parents – that she would face a lot of difficult prejudice against her, but over time, people would be swayed by her kind personality. Watching this happen is one of the highlights of Phantom Brave's main campaign. Over time, you come to really love Ash and Marona.

    Phantom Brave PC
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Wonderful characters; fantastic music; interesting variation on the SRPG genre; solid challenge, with a whole lot of character and item customization; tons and tons of content
    Weak Points: Character art is much lower detail than the backgrounds, so it takes time to get used to it; at times very difficult (if that's a con) which can require grinding to overcome; controls could be better; requires a significant time commitment to make progress (not pick up and play)
    Moral Warnings: Some blood and cartoon violence; foul language, with words like 'b*st*rd', 'hell', '*ss', 'd*mn'; sexually suggestive dialog in a few places, with references to breast sizes; some skimpy outfits, though most are on very pixelated sprites; alcohol consumption, drunkenness, and tobacco use; significant spiritual elements, most of your warriors, as well as one of the main characters, are Phantoms, which are manifested by possessing items; magic use

    The second story, which is accessible via New Game+ or from the main menu, is called 'Another Marona'. This story is a bit darker, with more conflict between the characters, and more sexually suggestive dialog. I would recommend the main campaign be played first, with 'Another Marona' reserved for older gamers.

    At first glance, it may appear that Phantom Brave is a Strategy Role Playing Game (SRPG) similar to other popular titles, like Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics. In some ways this is true – it's a top down, hybrid 2D/3D game (3D areas with 2D sprites) with characters that move about the battle map with skills that affect friends or enemies with various areas of effect, and so on. Each turn, your characters, along with enemies, go in order of their speed attribute, and move into place to utilize the best skill or attack for the situation. It's a time tested and enjoyable game mechanic, and it works well here, too.

    Despite a similar heritage, there are a few aspects of Phantom Brave that really sets it apart from other SRPGs. For one, rather than the more typical grid or hex based system for movement and combat, everything here is completely freeform. This means that if you are careful, you can step around objects, or find the exact shortest paths to make the most of your movement. This is really handy on slippery levels, where you can move really far with the smallest amount of movement. At other times, it can be a bit frustrating, as characters may not go exactly where you expect, or they can get stuck on something stupid, which wastes their turn.

    The other, and much bigger change, is that all of Marona's team members are Phantoms. She literally summons her team members into nearby items, which then go on to possess those items, take physical form, then proceed to fight for her, until their time runs out. Each class has a summon turn limit – anything from three to eight – where they can move and perform actions. Once that limit is reached, they disappear and cannot be summoned again until the next battle. There is an incredible amount of strategy involved in both character and item summons, as well as placement; after all, a move-only turn is all but wasted. There is a lot to consider here, and a well executed plan can be very rewarding indeed.

    The game system is really meant to be abused, by design. Much of the more difficult content expects you to know how to do this, and the game seems to expect you to use a guide or figure it all out via trial and error. Item leveling, skill leveling, character leveling, and even dungeon leveling, as well as titles, are all interlinked in that you can take advantage of the systems to make obnoxiously powerful characters with levels that are just nuts.

    And there is also the fusion system. You need to fuse items together, generate random dungeons with various attributes, fuse characters together, and so on to transfer skills, mana (which levels skills), and more all in the pursuit of more power. The game has a character and item level limit of 9999 – which cannot be reached without a ton of fusions. Honestly, the fusion system is very complex, and that's not all of it – there is another tangential blacksmith system as well, not to mention merchants whose items level up as they do. And of course there are ways to abuse the game to get tons and tons of money as well. Exploits and powergaming opportunities are endless.

    Phantom Brave PC
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 64%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 4/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    The presentation is a mixed bag. Graphically, the characters are very low resolution sprites, which looks jarring next to the much nicer backgrounds. Thankfully, there are filters you can apply to the sprites that helps somewhat. The backgrounds look better, though you can tell much of the improvements are just higher resolutions, with textures that are clearly dated.

    On the other side, the music is clearly fantastic. The pure audio quality is top notch, and there is an enchanting mix of instruments and vocaloids that really sets the appropriate moods. There is also excellent voice acting that really helps you get to know each character. Top ratings here for sure.

    Moral warnings are a mixed bag. On one level, we are talking about Phantoms - ghosts who fight for their living masters. There is emotional pain, and loss of life. On another, you see people with an undying desire to help others, and an unrelenting kindness that never gives up, and the rewards of that love. Marona also thanks God for her gifts and desire to help others and considers her powers to be from God. God is otherwise unnamed. You also see the consequences of lying, and other moral lessons.

    There are also other concerns, like violence, language, and sexual content. There is cartoon violence, blood, and a scene has a man impaling himself. Foul language includes 'b*st*rd', 'hell', '*ss', and 'd*mn'. There is sexually suggestive dialog, mostly in the 'Another Marona' episode. Some outfits are very skimpy, showing skin everywhere but the required coverings, though it is rather low detail because of the sprite resolution as mentioned above.

    Phantom Brave PC has a rather excellent story and game system, and is absolutely worth playing if you are looking for an extremely long and involving SRPG. If you like a quick pick up and play, this game is absolutely not that – I would never commit less than an hour or two at a time when sitting down to play this game. A game for lunch breaks this is not. While not without flaws - the controls are a little tedious on keyboard/mouse, and occasionally stubborn on controller (Steam Controller is best in my opinion because you can have both), and the graphics have a lot of room for improvement - it is a very good game, and worth playing. And as always, please consider the moral warnings before purchase.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Phoenix Point
    Developed By: Snapshot Games
    Published By: Snapshot Games
    Released: May 1, 2018
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Strategy
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: 1 offline, no online
    Price: $50.00

    Snapshot Games just recently released its Pre-Alpha Development Build for Phoenix Point. Phoenix Point is a turn-based strategy (TBS) game from the creator of the original X-Com back from 1994. In this game, you lead an organization that is fighting against monstrosities born from a virus that was released from a melting ice cap. This virus began to spread and quickly consumed most of the world. In this early build, you play as one of the three factions that you will encounter in the full game. All of your four soldiers have been infected by the virus, also called the mist, and have been sent on a suicide mission to recover a lost facility.

    At this point in the build, there are two scenarios you can play. There is the preset mission which is mostly the same as the press build they have been showing off for a bit now and then there is the randomly generated level that is mostly the same as the preset with the objectives and enemies present, but it is not set up so that it is balanced like the other mission. These missions are so you can test the currently available features which is really nice since there are some really different things that are trying with this game and that is what I’m mostly going to spend the rest of the article talking about.

    So far, probably the most unique feature would be the way they handle what each unit can do during their turn. In Phoenix Point, there are no TUs (time units) nor the two action system that recent TBS games have implemented to replace TUs. Instead, you have what I believe I’ve heard referred to as the action wheel. This “wheel” is a bar you have under the list of actions that a unit can do. Each action, including moving, reduces that bar down. When that bar is empty, that unit’s turn is done unless there is still some free cost actions they can perform. This bar takes some getting used to, but once I got more familiar with it I have really grown to like it. Most actions that can be performed remove set chunks of it. For instance, firing a rifle uses half of it. Throwing a grenade or using a medkit use half. Firing a heavy weapon like the sniper or machine gun costs ¾ of the bar. Using a pistol or messing around in your inventory costs ¼. Moving is fairly cheap. I believe one space is roughly 5% of the bar. To help you know if you can still use a weapon after moving, the game displays some different areas. If you move to a spot inside of the blue area, you can still fire the equipped weapon once that spot is moved to. The orange area shows a spot that can be moved to, you just can’t use the equipped weapon once you get there, but you may still be able to swap to a different weapon and then use it. This whole system I found to be really good in most cases and I look forward to seeing how it will play out once a couple more things get added into the game.

    Phoenix Point
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay with a lot of new and interesting mechanics, a randomly generated map, nice art and music.
    Weak Points: The build is very early so it is fairly buggy, the use of will in some bits feels a bit much, the game starts you off woefully underequipped, the random generation of the map can be very unfair.
    Moral Warnings: Lots of violence, Lovecraftian creature design.

    The next thing that the game has that is very unique is its firing system. In Phoenix Point, every shot uses a realistic ballistics simulation. This basically means that each shot fired actually matters. Shots are handled by playing an animation and then damage occurring. In this game, it matters if each shot hits and where it hits. Bullets must actually be able to hit their intended target. That also means that cover actual works off a system of whether it is big enough to block a shot from hitting you or not. It is no longer a wise idea to try and hide a big guy behind a puny coffee table since most of his body will still be poking up above it. To also allow for more freedom, the player also gets to actually aim each shot. When you go to shoot, you actually get to aim in a sort of first-person perspective. You get to pick which part of the body you want to shoot at. This allows you to target certain parts of the enemy that you might want to disable such as their gun arm to prevent them from shooting or their legs to limit their ability to move. All body parts can be disabled in this game including your own. Depending upon the body part damaged, your soldier is affected in a different way. If a leg is damaged, their movement ability is greatly hindered. If it is a hand or an arm, they can no longer use weapons or equipment that requires both hands. If you are really unlucky, you can even have your weapon shot and destroyed. This can be really annoying, but it shouldn’t be as bad in the full game when you can equip your squad since you’ll be able to carry more than the bare minimum. Also, the later builds shouldn’t be as bad with gear as the current one since they stated that they wanted to limit your gear to encourage looting to kind of force players to test the new inventory system.

    Another thing this game is doing differently is tying abilities to a will system. In the demo, you have three different types of player units: soldier, sniper, and heavy. (These are what I’m calling them, but I have no idea what they are officially called.) Each unit has different gear and maximum amount of will points. Everything besides the most basic abilities like shooting or reloading, require the player to use will points. This is a very different way to do a lot of these abilities. Some of the abilities allow for some basic things such as healing or going into overwatch while some abilities allow for some really special things such as using your jumpjets to move long distances or to give yourself some extra points in your action wheel. Some of these abilities seem to be tied to the soldier and what class they are while others are tied directly to the equipment they have. Once you run out of will points, your soldier is supposed to be able to panic, but I have never had this occur to me. I’ve heard that they even want to do some more things in the future with things such as a soldier with no will is more likely to get infected which should be interesting, but as of right now it just mainly seems to mean you just can’t use any of your special abilities. Will points can also be lost by taking a lot of damage. If you lost a body part your maximum will decreases. Will can either be restored by spending all your actions on regaining a bit of it, by ending a turn in some special buildings, or by doing objectives. While I’m not a total fan of some of the abilities being locked behind will points, such as healing, it does seem like a good way to limit the use of the really powerful abilities and is certainly more interesting than just putting it on a cooldown.

    Phoenix Point
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 91%
    Violence - 5.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The enemy designs are something I did really enjoy. So far, the early build just had in it Crabmen enemies and the Queen boss enemy. The Crabmen are either crabs mutated by the virus to become more human like or humans mutated into some more crab-like beings. There are a nice couple of different versions of them in the build to mess around with. There are four types in total now each with some slightly different body parts. It seems that in this game, instead of equipping the enemies with different types of gear, they will instead get different body parts. If one of them is supposed to have more armor, it will have a big carapace on its back and it will now have its head tucked more in. It this is a melee enemy, it will have a crab claw. This looks like it will be a fun way to make each enemy different. The Queen is also an interesting enemy. The Queen is a massive mix-up of crab and spider with the upper bits of a person sticking off the front of it. This enemy is well armored and has a lot of health. What makes this interesting is it also has a lot of body parts to shoot. This is where attacking the different body parts really shines since the Queen is healthy enough to survive a few targeted shots so you can really mess around with disabling different things. Right now, the only attack is from the two claws so once you take those out there really isn’t much threat left, but there are supposed to be some more abilities she’ll be able to use later so you can really take advantage of disabling the different parts. Each of these two creatures feel very Lovecraftian in their design and I really like that, but this direction might not be for everybody since it can be gross and creepy.

    What art I saw in the build was good and it was more polished than I expected from a game this early in development. I’d also argue that in this game, the art matters a little bit more than it does in a lot of other TBS games since you can actually zoom in with the different weapons and look around. The sound so far is also good. I like the background music a lot and I am looking forward to seeing what else they make for the game. The guns all sound interesting and the enemies all sound very alien for their little murmurings and death screams. The stability is lacking, but that is to be expected of such an early build.

    Since there is so little in the actual game it is pretty hard to judge this game morally. There is some violence with killing the enemies, but there isn’t anything too gory or violent. When you disable a body part, it just seems to darken. The Queen does lose a bit of her claws but it is not in a gory manner. Everything else I can’t really comment on since I know nothing of the lore or story for the game.

    Overall, I’d say this is a very solid early build for Phoenix Point. I am happy to have backed the game and I greatly look forward to later builds of it coming out and adding more features into it. The game is doing a lot to differentiate itself from the other TBS games out on the market, but I could see some changes alienating some potential buyers. I’d love to say go and try the early build for yourself, but it is locked behind one of the slightly higher preorders so it isn’t really possible to try it out before you buy it. In my opinion though, the game seems to be heading in a really good direction and I’m looking forward to being able to enjoy the ride as it comes along.

    - Paul Barnard (Betuor)

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Pirate Code
    Developed By: Circuit Hive
    Published By: Circuit Hive
    Released: Apr 24, 2018
    Available On: macOS, Windows
    Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: Single Player
    Price: $19.99

    Thank ye Circuit Hive for sending us a review code!

    Ahoy, matey! Let us sail the high seas and embark on a grand adventure in hopes of finding rare booty! Get all of yer gear, weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen. We got work to do! Ye know of any good sea shanties to past the time?

    Pirate Code, created by Circuit Hive, features pirates, of course! It is of the turn-based strategy genre created by one clever lad. Some of us are rather smart after all; we’re not all barnacle-heads! The arena of choice takes place on a hexagonal grid. There are four types of factions that ships belong to: We have the standard cannon-firing ships seen in every piece of pirate media, special deep-sea diving ships that use torpedoes for high damage while having low health, mechanical clockwork ships that trade power for defense, and ships with a serpent motif that use fire for potentially more damage. Sea warfare is rather different from others as positioning is very important. Each ship has the opportunity to move and attack in a turn (or even another action such as fishing and supply gathering). Attacks can only be performed at certain ranges usually being two to four spaces, depending on the ship. Some ships can even attack multiple targets.

    Just because ye happen to be outgunned and outnumbered, doesn’t mean ye can’t win. Aye, tactics and careful positioning play a crucial role for a rather simple bout. Any boat in your fleet can be assigned a captain, and depending on the captain commanding the ship, said ship will have different abilities that can also level up for stronger effects. A quick wit and usage of abilities can bring ye victory for most battles, but do not get too cocky when the situation is in reverse. The tides can turn very quickly in their favor and a simple misplay can put ye at a severe disadvantage. Morale plays a very important role as every boat has their own separate morale, which can be raised by certain abilities or by attacking and sinking ships. Above a certain amount of morale, boats deal extra damage. Morale can also be lowered by losing ships, and if a ship has too low of a morale, they will surrender, no matter how many ships are left. Keeping your mates in high spirits can mean all the difference between a date with Davy Jones’ Locker and, well, living!

    Pirate Code
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A low skill floor, and a high skill ceiling; large variety of ships with interesting attack patterns
    Weak Points: Rough beginning; stability issues; very few graphical and audio options
    Moral Warnings: Pirate warfare; small mentions of a sea goddess

    Speaking of captains, our first captain goes by the name of Rogue Swanson, a charming lass with great ambition. She is the daughter of the legendary sea dog, Jabber Swanson. As her father is a very important man, she goes around defending the helpless from other pirates. Her strong morals have gained the respect and admiration from many. In the beginning, Rogue is the only captain available, but as the journey progresses, ye can gain more captains to use in battle. When not partaking in sinking bilge-sucking scallywags, ye can pass the time with fishing or botany to gain resources to complete missions, or sell them to gain gold.

    Fighting is not the only thing pirates are good at! Of course fighting is still rather important as every victory gains liberation points, which can unlock stores on the islands or discounts on items. Even though battles are controlled all through the mouse buttons, the overworld is operated via WASD. The overworld is used to traverse from island to island and to come across other pirates. Each island also has special battles that grant an increased percentage of gold gained.

    There are about five chapters in the game, but chapter 1 can be rough for some. Chapter 1 all takes place in one section of the map, and ye only have a very small selection of ships at your command while the enemies have a wider variety. Gold is also required for a whole load of options, and gold is a rather rare resource to come across in the early game. Be sure to save often, as a defeat sends ye to the last save. Most of the missions in chapter 1 amount to fetch quests as well, so it can also get repetitive too. Luckily, Pirate Code starts to pick up massively after the beginning slog, as the later chapters span across the other sections, the fights become more engaging and gold becomes easier to obtain.

    The world of Pirate Code is filled with color. Bright, vibrant uses of color, and (important) characters have character art similar to a painting. The environment has variety to it, but since there are no graphical settings, some parts can look rather blurry, especially in the overworld.

    Shiver me timbers! The sound and music are well done! There may not be a huge amount of musical pieces, but the score is booming, giving off that naval warfare feel in every battle, and even simply traveling the overworld. Hearing the cheers of the crew, the booms of the cannon, and the smooth soundtrack really makes me feel like a pirate.

    Pirate Code
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Since Pirate Code stars pirates, there is nothing wrong morally. Pirates are upstanding citizens that all landlubbers should look up to and be inspired by! Okay, enough jesting from me. Pirate warfare is the name of the game, so sinking ships is guaranteed, all the violence is portrayed by the boats, and Rogue’s crew tends to capture pirates instead of killing them. There are a few mentions of sea goddesses from battle and NPC dialogue. As Rogue and her crew are good pirates, I didn’t come across any swearing, surprisingly. (It is a pirate game after all, I expected at least a mild swear.) There is a lot of pirate jargon, as expected.

    Like an old bucko, Pirate Code isn’t the cleanest game as there are quite a bit of stability issues. Alt-tabbing does not play well with the game, as it will sometimes take a while to return to the screen—or in very rare cases, the game will crash. Some missions also didn’t spawn one of my ships, which left me at a disadvantage as well. Saving, starting up a story battle, and returning to the main menu may also cause issues. If ye try to return to the file and start the mission, the screen will softlock, and the only way to cure this is to close the game. The same action also causes strange overlay issues in the game menus.

    A pirate’s life isn’t for everyone. Sailing the seas is a dangerous task, and sometimes stressful to boot. Pirate Code may not be the most polished game on the market, nor is it the most stable. If ye can get past the rough beginning portion, there is a simple, yet at times addicting strategy game buried underneath. Twenty doubloons isn’t too bad of an asking price for something that can easily last 15+ hours, and worked on by only one buccaneer. The enemy fleet variety and amount of ships keep the battles engaging and exciting. Pirate Code is safe for kids to play, as well as a good product for casual players, but can also present a decent amount of challenge to veterans of the genre. With an active developer, Pirate Code is looking to be shipshape in the near future.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Pit People
    Developer:The Behemoth
    Published by: The Behemoth
    Release Date: Jan 13, 2017
    Available on: Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Action, Strategy RPG
    Players: 1-2
    ESRB Rating: T for violence, blood and crude humor.
    Price: $14.99

    Every gamer out in the world has that one genre they are very peculiar on. Some people look for the best platformers. Other people are very picky when it comes to rhythm games. For me I am specific with strategy games. I have seen games that claim they have deep strategic layers only to disappoint me.  So I was pleasantly surprised with Pit People. The style, charm, and quality are here and the game is one of the best strategy games I have played in a while. Let’s lead our group of princesses, berry farmers, and cupcakes with Pit People.

    Pit People starts with a gigantic bear crashing into earth, terraforming the land into a chaotic mess. Horatio the berry farmer fights to protect his son from cannibals. A voice from the sky commands Horatio to die; when he refuses the voice crashes the hand of the bear into his home to take his son away into space. As he fights for survival he is joined by the princess Pipistrella and the cyclops Yosef in an effort to fight against all odds. Gather in the city, build up your forces and lead the charge against the apocalypse. 

    People describe this game as a mix between Fire Emblem and Pokemon and it shows. Once you organize your party and equipment you pick the next quest you want to work on whether it be a main story quest or a side quest and you enter the world. Side quests can also be found exploring the world map. In battle you move your team along a hex grid, positioning your team where they can best attack foes. After they move they attack automatically. You do not get to choose who they attack so your positioning matters much more compared to other strategy games. When you are down to the last enemy in any mission you can use the cage item and a unit with a capture weapon to take the unit for your own use. Units can range from humans, giants, robots, living cupcakes, fairies and more. Your hub city allows you to compete in tournaments to win equipment against the AI or human players. You can change your difficulty, customize your party, and start online or local co-op games as well. 

    Pit People
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A challenging strategy game with fun humor and an interesting story.
    Weak Points: As always be wary of early access games. Depending on how the finished product comes out, the game may lack replay value.
    Moral Warnings: Crass humor is in this game. Some of the jokes will be inappropriate to certain age groups. This includes drug references, poop jokes and self mutilating cupcakes.

    The depth of the strategy in this game took me by surprise. The story was engaging and fun. I was strangely moved by Horatio  and his war against the vile narrator. The soundtrack makes you feel like you're in an excellent action movie. The character customization is one of the best I have seen in a strategy game. You can equip your team with anything from swords to lollipops to used matchsticks. The equipment does not change stats much. Most of the weapons will have little to no stat changes; only some have different elemental effects or damage increases. The changes you make to your characters are mostly going to be for visual fun. Unit types will matter much more then the level of your units. Be aware that as of now you don't have to worry about your units dying. Once you get back to the city, knocked out units will be revived at no cost.

    I don't have many negative thoughts about this game. While Pit People seems easy since it takes away the ability to choose your targets, simply charging into battle will get you nowhere. You have to use your weapons, abilities and positioning to your advantage to attack who you want, and have your enemies move the way you want them to. The game is balanced well, nothing feels broken and the power you gain, however small, always feels worth it. Note that the story mode is not complete and the title is in early access yet the game has plenty of content to cut your teeth on. A glaring negative that may or may not come from this game will be a repetitive nature depending on how the pacing of the main story comes out. As it is right now, I would want to have more reason to come back to the game after beating story mode. The balance of the game is sort of a double edged sword. Sure, everything's usable and strategies are varied, but visual loot will only drive so many people to keep grinding once the main story is complete. I respect the artstyle and graphics, yet funnily enough, it's nothing that surprises me or keeps me interested in the game. With all the customization you won't keep the main story characters looking the same for long. The Behemoth's wacky nature almost leaves me inoculated to beating enemy soldiers with a potato. 

    Pit People
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Multiplayer is a bit of a different story and adds to the fear of the repetitive nature of the game. The good news is that the gameplay is very balanced as of now. This allows you to make various team compositions to face opponents with or beat the unfair AI challenges in arena. Yet the game lacks that motivational push to play past single player missions. I didn't even know that prizes were awarded the more you build up your victory score. If they were to advertise the special prizes you could get each week in game this would push more competitive gamers to play past single player content.

    The Behemoth’s crass humor is here as usual. This can range from poop jokes, self mutilating cupcakes or references to drug hallucinations. (At least, that's what I think the thing between Horatio and Yosef was.) The violence is cartoony and exaggerated, most foes explode into blood and bone upon defeat. I recommend this game to anyone over the age of 13 due to complexity and mildly suggestive humor. 

    The Behemoth fans and newcomers will enjoy this latest adventure. Prepare your band of misfits to save the world from its end. 

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Quar: Battle for Gate 18
    Developed By: Steel Wool Games
    Published By: HTC
    Release Date: April 4, 2016
    Available On: Windows (HTC Vive required)
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Turn Based Strategy
    Mode: Single Player
    MSRP: $19.99

    Thank you Steel Wool Games for sending us this game for review!

    Quar: Battle for Gate 18 is based on the miniatures tabletop game This Quar's War. There are two main opposing factions, the Crusaders and the Royalists.  Quar life has had war as an almost constant for centuries.  The Crusaders have decided that in order to finally stop the hundreds of years of war, they must make it worse – so it can get better, and finally give the common people their freedom.  Battle for Gate 18 is a series of skirmishes that culminates in the historic eponymous battle for which the game is named.

    Quar are an interesting race of humanoid anteater-like creatures.  They are intelligent, speak in a Scottish-like accent, and the game world has a World War I level of technology.  You get to fight with many types of infantry, cavalry, various kinds of tanks and other vehicles, and air strikes.  Depending on the unlocked units and the number of battle points you have in each mission, you can select a number of units to try to overwhelm your opponent using strategy and military might.  As you win battles you gain VP, which you can use to upgrade your unit buildings, which in turn upgrade your units and make them stronger and more powerful.  Which of course leads to victory in more battles.

    The game takes place on what looks like a very large miniature playset set up on the floor.  But unlike your typical miniatures, everything is living, breathing, and moving as you stand there above them.  You can use the Vive's controllers to teleport to anywhere on the map, and thankfully, changing your direction without having to rotate your body was added in a recent patch, which makes stationary play at a desk much easier.  If that wasn't enough, you can also change size – then, you see that the Quar really aren't so small, but appear to be a few feet taller than you, and quite an imposing presence.  If you don't mind changing size often, there is a ton of details to be observed for the motivated by switching between overlord and soldier view.

    Quar: Battle for Gate 18
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Charming game world and characters; nice, detailed graphics; good music and sound effects; well implemented turn based strategy system; being able to zoom in or out is very neat
    Weak Points: Controls take getting used to
    Moral Warnings: Battle between opposing armies, so people die from gunshots and various other weapons of war

    The main gameplay consists of turn based battles, using a hex grid, with a base view in between.  While in base view, you can witness the correspondence between a soldier and his nephew.  This is fully voiced, and quite touching.  You can tell that a real child read the lines that were written for the boy, and their long distance conversations really do a great job of humanizing the Quar, as well as making you care about this world and why they fight.  They also give names to every unit, so if you lose one, it feels more personal.  I haven't noticed any actual impact on your effectiveness, but it again humanizes the Quar under your command.  It's a really nice touch, really.

    In battle, you first choose your units as mentioned before, and then place them in some of the many spots allowed for your units.  There is a lot of implied strategy here, as depending on the terrain, you can gain cover advantages, be out in the open, or gain an advantage (or deficit!) with a pincer strike.  The options are endless, only limited by your strategic skills.  Each unit type also has strengths and weaknesses against various other unit types.  Some also have abilities, that can help compensate for weaknesses if used correctly, or make them even more dangerous on the field.  The commander's a good example – a mostly worthless unit some of the time, but practically indispensable when raising morale or ordering an air strike.

    Each turn, you get to choose which unit goes next, and give them any orders you would like that is within their skillset.  You point at the unit using the Vive motion controllers, chose what they do, and then watch them do it in front of you. The controls mostly work well, though mistakes can happen, especially since they treat the touchpad as a d-pad, with options on the top, bottom, left, and right of the pad.  Several aspects of the game control scheme seems a bit wonky at first, but you do quickly adapt.  After all, this game was one of the very first turn-based strategy games in room scale VR ever.  It's natural that there may be some learning involved when it comes to the interface.

    Quar: Battle for Gate 18
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Quar is of a decent length, with each battle taking between ten and twenty minutes for most of them.  Longer battles seem to happen when the random number generator (RNG) works against you too much; there is definite strategy to battles, but a certain amount of luck as well, as your shots have a chance to miss – and that does indeed happen quite often.  It seems that each member of your attacking unit gets a certain number of shots, and if they get a lucky roll (the rolls are all invisible) they may hit their targets.  If they hit, they either die right away, or their vehicle gets visibly damaged.  Even after playing for a while, it's always a sight to see to watch a tank literally go up in flames when destroyed – and see the progress as you see more smoke and damage as they get closer to that gruesome end.

    Despite some very small issues, like poor performance looking at water on some hardware, or Vive controllers acting up occasionally, there is actually an impressive amount of polish in this game.  It doesn't feel cheap or hokey, despite being made by an independent developer, and being low polygon models.  In many ways, it's actually one of the more ambitious VR games I have played to date, with no 2D option at all, and also one of the few with a fully developed world, storyline, and a fair amount of gameplay as well.  The developers suggest over six hours, and I already have seven, with some things still left to do.

    Appropriateness-wise, this game is really clean.  Most of the talking is done between the uncle and nephew, and I didn't note any curse words, though admittedly it is really difficult to take notes with a screen strapped to your face.  Of course there is war and dying.  When a soldier dies, a flower is left in their place.  There is no blood.

    Quar: Battle for Gate 18 is a really ambitious turn based strategy game, exclusive to the HTC Vive or SteamVR.  I was pleasantly surprised with this game, and if you enjoy turn based strategy, or are really into Quar miniatures and would like to delve deeper into their world, I would highly recommend this game.  Honestly, if you have a Vive and are looking for something different than the more typical first person fare, that is also a great reason to check out Quar: Battle for Gate 18.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Renowned Explorers
    Developed by: Abbey Games
    Published by: Abbey Games
    Release Date: September 2, 2015
    Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux
    Genre: Turn based strategy
    Number of Players: Single Player game
    ESRB Rating: Unrated
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    That curious sense of adventure is within everyone. Whether it's a new direction you've never traveled before or that brand new restaurant down the street, we are always ready to try something new. When we were children small hills and holes in the wall become tall mountains and mysterious caves. We don't lose the adventurous spirit as we get older. We can't go explore the deep reaches of the Caribbean or the lost Mayan temples on a whim. However, with Renowned Explorers: International Society you can live out those dreams. This lovely gem is brought to the world by Abbey Games and the quality sparkles like the treasures you will be tasked with retrieving. 

    Renowned Explorers challenges the player to create a cohesive team with different roles. Those roles include fighters, scientists, speakers, and scouts. Whoever you choose as the captain will give your crew special abilities. The first map will always give you the option of a robust tutorial which teaches you what spaces on the board game like map mean and how to make the most out of your score. Each map tasks you with collecting gold, fame, and research through different event spaces. Spaces marked with treasure chests will give you a chance at obtaining a treasure which will be where the majority of your score comes from. 

    Renowned Explorers
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A game with heavy replay value and great imagination. This game is designed to give you a reason to play again.
    Weak Points: Complex games deserve detailed explanations. While this game is not hard to learn a bit more in-game advice for new players might be nice. 
    Moral Warnings: Unless you find punching sheep offensive or retrieving a voodoo doll to lock it away in a museum then there isn't much in the way of offensive material.

     

    Everything you gather adds to your Renown points which is what you need to beat your rival, Matthieu Rivaleux, and become the World Renowned Explorer. Science is spent on research trees which are basically different builds for what you can earn through exploring. Gold will get you new equipment for your explorers that teaches them skills and increases their stats. Status will allow you to purchase entourage members and specialists. Entourage members can increase the value of status, gold and research you earn. Specialists have strong effects such as teaching a crew member a skill or adding powerful bonuses to your team as you explore. 

    The sounds, while repetitive, are not displeasing to the ear. The graphics are very stylized and always a pleasure to look at. It really adds to the value of the treasures I find in each stage when they have such detail to their art. The game's replay value is extremely high, with 148 achievements, hundreds of treasures and plenty of ways to explore each location. You'll find yourself coming back for more. 

    Renowned Explorers
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 88%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    The only problems I personally have with the game are very small. While the tutorial is decent, some finer points could use more explanation for new players. An example of this is how you build your crews. While you can solve encounters in devious, friendly, or aggressive ways, you won’t understand how the crew you build will somewhat dictate what treasures you find on a stage. A devious crew won’t achieve as much in Mali as a friendly crew will. The game doesn't need to hold my hand, but emphasis wouldn't hurt.

    There isn't much in this game that could be morally disturbing. While some treasures you could retrieve include shrunken heads and voodoo dolls, your crew never uses them as anything more than museum pieces. Violence is cartoony and strange; you might find yourself punching a sheep or saying mean things to Dracula. With over 88 hours in the game so far I have found no bad language or grotesque sexual content.

    Renowned Explorers will make your inner child get ready to sail the seven seas again. With fair challenge and plenty of wonder, you'll enjoy exploring the secrets of the world. 

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Renowned Explorers: The Emperors Challenge Expansion
    Developed by: Abbey Games
    Published by: Abbey Games
    Release Date: May 10, 2017
    Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux
    Genre: Turn based strategy
    Number of Players: Single Player game
    ESRB Rating: Unrated
    Price: $19.99 for the game, $ 7.49 More To Explore expansion. $7.49 price for Emperor's Challenge expansion.

    Thank you Abbey Games for sending us a review code.

    Exploring! Adventure! Excitement! That's what Renowned Explorers: International Society brought to me; to think I picked this game up at random. Now this is the first time I'll be writing a review on an expansion. I'll add upon some thoughts from the former review and add new ones with what the expansion has brought. Keep in mind that the scores will combine both the base game and the expansion.

    The main focus of the Emperor's Challenge is a new game mode. In this mode instead of competing to maximize your Renown score, you are invited by Emperor Guāngxù to compete in challenges of his own design. Since he has invited your arch-enemy Rivaleux, you'll have limited time to complete them. These challenges can include but are not limited to raising the stats of your explorers certain ways, collecting particular amounts of study, campaign or science tokens or gathering treasures quickly. You'll also have renowned challenges and encounter challenges as well. Each challenge you complete rewards you special pottery from the emperor; the main challenges reward you much more elegant pottery while others reward you smaller pots. At the end of a set of expeditions, the team of explorers with the most pottery wins.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: The new location is fun to explore, and the four new explorers are rather lovable even if they vary in strength and ability. The new mode will have a lot of challenge for experienced players.
    Weak Points: While the Emperor's Challenge mode is strong, the amount of loss you'll experience due to luck is high in this mode. Your skill with the game will not save you in certain moments. 
    Moral Warnings: The cult story can be rather disturbing for some people.

    The expansion also includes a new place to explore and four new explorers from the reaches of Asia. They are Phailin Boonyasak, a cultured dancer and retired Thai assassin; Wang Yu, a wild inventor with a knack for explosives; Hojo Fumiaki, a great explorer and janitor; and finally Min-Jeong, the talented 12 year old scientist and diplomat. While all the other locations are still standing strong, now you can journey to a set of islands called the Anagogic Archipelago. A explorer named BoBo the Misadventurous has gotten lost while investigating a strange new religion that seems to give people an over-abundance of happiness and a really large amount of free coffee mugs.

    So the positives first: the new area to explore has an interesting backstory to it. You get to save a goofball explorer while putting a stop to this evil happiness cult. The treasures have a lovely east Asia theme to them as well. Stopping the king of toucans was the best side challenge to experience. The new characters are a mixed bag for me, as captains, Min-Jeong and Hojo are the best while Phailin and Wang Yu have rather boring captain perks. Min-Jeong and Wang Yu seem to be flexible enough for multiple parties while Hojo and Phailin need to be built around. All of their personal campfire stories are rather fun and helpful at least and it adds to these character's unique personalities.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 78%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

    Now the new game mode shows both the strengths and the weaknesses of Renowned Explorers. The Emperor's Challenge is either a daily challenge or weekly challenge that are reset accordingly. The thing about that is if you want to have a successful run you'll want to know the game inside and out. You'll also want to take a team of explorers who have all their campfire stories unlocked. Campfire stories are unlocked by completing expeditions to earn card packs of campfire stories. The problem with a min-max game mode in Renowned Explorers is that the problems of the random number generator (RNG) and game knowledge can be highlighted. Usually I am ok with a random element to my games yet even with my hours in Renowned Explorers I felt at the mercy of luck in this game. If you don't get the right events in order before you run out of supplies, or you get a challenge that may mess up your team build, it makes it that much harder to win. I had Emperor's Challenge runs where it asked me to add diplomat or athlete perks to my explorers when I had no plans to give them said perks. Depending on the challenges you may have to plan to get certain treasures which can sometimes be up to luck as well. Add all this to the potential to fail on the adventure wheel to get certain treasures, perks or rewards and you won't be happy at every failed dice roll. I am fine with the game mode being catered towards experienced players, but the balance seems off and adds to the frustration, not the fun. Don't expect to have a team to get every single challenge completed. You'll have to decide which challenges to focus on to succeed and abandon the ones that are beyond you at that moment.

    Morality-wise, most of my points still stand from the original review. Violence is strange and cartoony but not disturbing in any way at all. With the new location some people might find the story of the cult strange and disturbing. Any treasure you may find are just museum pieces.  

    It's a good expansion regardless for the characters and the new area to explore, experienced players will enjoy the expansion no doubt, but that enjoyment may come with a asterisk. You can almost hear the Emperor laughing at any bad luck you may have.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Rezrog
    Developer: Soapog
    Published by: Kasedo Games   
    Release Date: May 31, 2017
    Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux
    Genre: Adventure, Turn Based Strategy
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: Unrated   
    Price: $9.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Kasedo Games for the Review code.

    I can't think of many games that try to give a hardcore feel yet has easy access for every type of gamer. It gives me hope for future titles that can catch and please almost everyone. This is Rezrog.

    Rezrog gathers a bunch of adventurers of the usual fantasy tropes such as rogues, archers, mages, paladins and more to dive deep into dungeons filled with monsters, mages and villains of all sorts. That's it for the story folks, you won't find a meaty plot here, but thankfully that does not cause any problems to the enjoyment of the game. The problem comes in the ups and downs of the gameplay.

    In Rezrog you choose an adventurer to dive down into a dungeon and solve its randomly generated task - though the first dungeon always has the same goal. Some runs, for example, may ask you to repair a key or forge a special weapon before you exit. You control your character by clicking where you want your character to move. When you're not in battle you have infinite movement but when you're in a fight with enemies you have a limited amount of movement spaces and one attack per turn. When you begin each dungeon a random event will be rolled on a wheel to change the dungeon. Some of these events can aid you by giving extra rewards in chests or extra strength. Some events will weaken your defense or make the monsters stronger.

    Rezrog
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: This game is not only cute to look at but it can be quite challenging in a fair way. 
    Weak Points: The luck based elements and structure of the game itself makes grinding xp for characters rather daunting.
    Moral Warnings: Small bits of magic and fairy tale monsters yet nothing to really throw a critical eye at.

    Keep in mind that aside from the first dungeon, the physical layout of each level will always be different. If you succeed your quest you'll be given gold, xp and a random extra reward of your choosing. If you lose your character will be imprisoned. Aside from not being able to use the character in question, you can't have access to anything they were carrying at the time. You can use another Hero to rescue the lost Hero in the dungeon you previously failed. If you fail with all characters your entire game starts back from the beginning of the game. Hope isn't completely lost if you reach a permadeath state in your save file. You can craft legacy points with special items and money. Use these to give your new group of Heroes extra stats to boost yourself further. The Tavern will allow you to craft new weapons, buy new weapons and supplies and organize your party.

    The aesthetics of the game are top notch. It gives that pen and paper board game feel. You'll even see cans of soda, pencils and other silly objects outside of the dungeon walls. The way the dungeon forms when you enter each door is exciting. Watching the procedural generation take place is something that is more pleasing than I thought it would be. Though your character is only a board game piece the animation and sounds that go with battle and movement bring that feel of a tabletop game to life. Coming up with strategies for defeating monsters and discovering weaknesses is part of the fun.

    Rezrog
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The repetitive nature of the game becomes very apparent very fast. If you lose a character in a level 7 dungeon and you don't have any other Hero that high of a level then you're going to want to grind that Hero first to obtain the proper levels and equipment. The most optimal way to play this game seems to be grinding characters evenly. With the game having more than 100 levels the grind can get annoying. Even with procedural generation and a cute aesthetic that can get very boring quickly for a lot of people. The random events at the beginning of each dungeon can also add to the pain of grinding. If the enemies get that extra damage or you lose some power, that bad luck can cost you another Hero. Don't rely on those legacy points either. They seem to be more designed to help the hardcore gamer if they lose all 8 Heroes in a run. They get more expensive to make as you generate them. The gold they cost could also be used to buy new equipment and healing items.

    While its very cutesy and not focused on, magic and monsters are a part of Rezrogs world. Wizards and Necromancers are an example of what you'll see. Despite this it doesn't put any main focus on magic in the story. Keep in mind Rezrog only has the look of tabletop games, not the roleplay functions.

    This game will be for the more hardy grinders and dice rollers for sure, yet it has just enough access to turn the most casual of gamers into hardcore burly controller wielders. Take your risks everyone, with Rezrog.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked
    Developed by: Atlus
    Published by: Atlus
    Release date: August 23, 2011
    Available on: 3DS
    Genre: Tactical RPG
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for violence, blood, language and partial nudity
    Price: $23.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor was originally released in 2009 for the Nintendo DS system.  It was well received and inspired a Manga and a drama CD after it.  A sequel was also released a couple of years later.  Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked provides full voice acting and some 3D effects to utilize the 3DS’ capabilities. Depending on which of the endings you choose, there’s optional 8th day content.

    Other than the new day, the original story remains the same.  Humankind is being judged for their misuse of power and their ability to summon demons with the help of devices that look like Nintendo DS' called COMPs.  While some demons can be tamed and used in battle, many more are roaming around Tokyo and attacking innocents.  Because of this problem, Tokyo is under a military lockdown and only has a week to solve the demon problem or face destruction from mankind or from God Himself.  

    You may be wondering why we know that there’s less than a week to solve this crisis.  Besides forging contracts with demons, the COMPs let you see how many more days a person has left to live.  Most people in Tokyo only have a few days to live.  Thankfully, the numbers above their heads are not definite and can be extended depending on your party’s actions.  You’ll spend a good majority of the game with your death clock at zero days. 

    Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun tactical RPG game with multiple endings
    Weak Points: Dated visuals; lots of grinding required
    Moral Warnings: This game requires you to forge contracts with demons; some of the demons have revealing clothing or lack thereof; violence and blood; swearing and blaspheming

    This game is broken down into days. You can choose where to travel and who to talk to in order to establish relationships and to guide the story.  While there are free battles (for grinding) that do not consume time, most relationship scenes and story battles take away a half an hour apiece.  Success in battles depends on who your party members are and how powerful the demons they have equipped.

    The starter demons are pretty weak and you can acquire higher level demons by buying/bidding on them through the COMP.  Demons can also be combined/fused together to make stronger ones.  When fusing demons you can customize some of their attributes and abilities.  Each demon type has its own strengths and vulnerabilities to certain types of elements or physical attacks.   Demons can attack with and be weak to fire, ice, electricity, wind, and curses.  Both humans and demons share other attributes like strength, magic, vitality, and agility.  When the main character levels up you can increase one of those attributes.  Everyone else has their skills adjusted automatically. 

    Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 39%
    Violence - 4.5/10
    Language - 1/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 3.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    There are a wide variety of demons and many religious influences have gone into their designs.  Some demons are angelic in appearance while others are distinctly evil, especially the boss battles.  Towards the end of the game you’ll have to battle Beelzebub.  Depending on your choices you can even battle God Himself.  (I didn’t take that route.)

    Other issues worth mentioning include violence and pixilated blood.  The scenes that have blood are DS quality and not very detailed, but you can still tell that there’s blood involved.  Some of the deaths by demons go into some gritty details.  There is a lot of language and blaspheming in this game as well.  The F-bomb is not used, but every other word is in the game, including the Lord’s name being used in vain.  Last but not least is the lack of clothing on demons both male and female.  Nothing is seen in either case but plenty of skin is shown.

    If you don’t mind the moral content, there is a lot of fun to be had in this game.  I’ve spent over forty hours completing just one of the endings. The refined visuals and full voice acting add to an already great title, though I’m not sure if it’s worth buying again for owners of the original game.  If you enjoy darker themed tactical RPGs, this one is worth checking out.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    SteamWorld Heist
    Developed by: Image & Form
    Published by: Image & Form
    Release Date: December 10, 2015 (3DS)
    Available on: 3DS, Linux, PS4, Wii U, Windows, Vita, Xbox One, iOS
    Genre: Action-Shooter, Turn-Based Strategy
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and Up (Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Use of Tobacco)
    Number of players: Single player
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you so much Image & Form for sending us a review code!

    Released nearly a year ago, SteamWorld Heist debuted on the Nintendo 3DS to critical acclaim. Over this past year, Heist has been ported to numerous other systems with a physical version for the Wii U also due to release in the coming weeks. After playing the game for the first time for this past week, it isn't hard to tell what all the fuss was about.

    The story of Heist takes place hundreds of years after SteamWorld Dig, and follows Captain Piper Faraday. She was once a pilot for the Royalist Space Force, but deserted after she refused to bomb a rebel base. She leads a ragtag band of steambots as they raid Royalist spaceships in the search of loot and glory. Along the way she'll be able to recruit more crew members and deck them out with massive firepower and dashing hats.

    The gameplay is something not seen very often, blending turn-based strategy and precision shooting on a 2D plane. Missions take place in procedurally generated spaceships, and each bot has a certain amount of steps they can take before ending their turn. Their movement paths are highlighted with orange and blue lines. The orange line represents how far you can move and still be able to shoot after, whereas the blue line is how far you can fully move without the ability to shoot that turn. This mechanic of moving and shooting felt similar to the Worms series of games.

    SteamWorld Heist
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Graphically impressive; The soundtrack is woven into the game wonderfully; Challenging and rewarding gameplay.
    Weak Points: Some trial and error is required for certain stages; Lining up long shots can be difficult due to the limited size of the top screen.
    Moral Warnings: Depictions of robots being blown to smithereens; Stealing; Part of the story involves robot necromancy; Minor amounts of swearing (d*mn.)

    Combat and movement is displayed on the top screen with the touch screen being used to activate abilities or items. Shooting requires the player to aim their gun with the D-pad in order to line up a shot. A bullet can ricochet off walls and other objects, and certain weapons allow the bullet to ricochet off more objects before stopping. This makes trick shots possible, and also adds to the fun factor. The only issue is that due to the small screen on the 3DS, some shots feel like a complete gamble because you simply can't see the enemy. Completing a mission with all crew members surviving, as well as collecting all the loot in that particular ship, will reward more reputation. This is represented as stars and is used to unlock new areas and rare weapons at stores.

    Each crew member has unique abilities and primarily focuses on the use of one type of gun. Piper uses handguns that deal moderate amounts of damage and normally have the ability to shoot twice, or the gun has a laser scope to help with aiming. Other guns include: SMGs, shotguns, as well as RPGs and grenade launchers. Each weapon has its ups and downs as far as effectiveness goes, but each is a blast to use and experimentation is the key to success. By completing missions you'll gain experience points needed to level up the crew. Each level usually unlocks a new ability or perk. 

    A neat feature to the game is ability to shoot the hat off of an enemy. Each enemy robot wears a hat, and you can shoot it off their heads and claim it as your own. They don't add any additional benefits, but they all look great and make your character stand out. Once you have one you can't claim it again and each member of the crew can wear it. If you own SteamWorld Dig you'll get a very special hat. It was one of the few hats I had Piper wear throughout the entire game.

    SteamWorld Heist
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 94%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 80%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Throughout my 15 hours with the game I was blown away by the art style in Heist. Every inch of the game is incredibly detailed, and the bots themselves are just a joy to look at. Interactions with NPCs and the crew opens up much more of the backstory of the game and its inhabitants. So on top of breathtaking graphics, there's a deep lore to get lost in as well. There's a ton of hilarious conversations to be had. In an effort to not undersell it, the writing in this game is top-notch.

    During your expedition through space you'll be accompanied by a standout soundtrack. It still retains that old-western vibe that made Dig so good in my opinion, but other pieces sound much more somber and futuristic. Sound effects are fantastic, with the guns sounding extra amazing. The real gold here though is actually hearing Steam Powered Giraffe in a video game! Songs both new and old by the band are used at the various bars around space. Now initially when I started playing I'd never heard of them before. After my first trip to a bar in the game I knew I was hooked. To say that the production of the music is high would be an understatement.

    Morally there are a few things to mention. As this is a game about guns there's inherently some violence to be witnessed. Finishing off a robot at low health shows them disintegrating into a pile of scrap. Headshots are encouraged, and if it were to finish off an enemy, it would result in a slow zoom-in to the pieces of the robot scattering. There's swearing in the game, but it's so minimal and used so infrequently that you may never notice. Looting ships is the main goal to the game, and though it's technically stealing, it's the only way for Piper to maintain a decent amount of water for her crew of steambots. One of the bosses is a necromancer named Chop Sue. She combines robot scrap parts together to make new ones, and in combat can resurrect her fallen minions.

    Now if you don't mind a little robot violence with your turn-based strategy there's a lot to enjoy with Heist. Its campaign lasted me 15 hours and with the New Game+ option, there's plenty of reasons to replay the story. There are a ton of hats to find, multiple difficulty options, and with the DLC pack known as The Outsider, there's a lot to enjoy long after those credits roll by. This is a game that should be played no matter what console you can get it for.

    -Kyuremu

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord
    Developed By: AQUAPLUS
    Published By: Atlus
    Release Date: October 14, 2014
    Available On: PS3
    Genre: Visual Novel/SRPG|
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Blood, Fantasy Violence, Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Use of Tobacco
    MSRP: $39.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Atlus for sending us this game to review!

    Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord is the second game in the series, but is the first one to hit our shores.  That was a PC game (which contains erotic material, so please don't look for it), which was later remade for PlayStation 3 with the erotic material removed, but it never left Japan.  This second game is it's own independent story, and does not require having played the first, though I did see some of the connections when I went back and read about it more later.

    You follow Hamilcar Barca, usually called Hamil, and his goddess Astarte, usually called Tarte, and their band of friends as they throw off the oppressive Divine Empire and take back Hispania from their evil rule.  While at first glance it may seem cliché, it really is not – this game is loosely based on the historical figure of Hamilcar Barca and his son, Hannibal, though some say that Hamil's in-game events more closely resemble Hannibal's life than his father's.  Another switcheroo is that Hamil's father's name is Hasdrubal in the game, while history shows that name to match another of Hamilcar's sons.  Regardless of this, it allows the game to have a deep, deep lore to draw from to fill out the game's events and storyline – and that it does with aplomb.

    And it takes plenty of time to develop the incredibly engrossing storyline.  Tears is what they call a Visual Novel, which is to say that much of the game is really sitting through reading and watching the story unfold in a non-interactive manner. While this may sound boring, and if you did not expect it, you might be a bit surprised (the PR from Atlus took special pain to make sure that reviewers understood this going in) and disappointed – if I expected a typical strategy role-playing game (SRPG), I would have been quite upset that I had to wait over two hours before the first battle, and over five hours before getting to the world map. But they did such a great job telling this story, that I am glad I waited it out.

    This game really has two primary modes, along with an overworld map, which is accessible after the second chapter or so.  First, and primarily, is the cut scenes.  These are primarily rendered in engine, with text boxes and character portraits.  The portraits change based on the person's expression, and they are constantly swapped out as conversations continue.  The chibi-style 3D rendered sprites also move a bit to further enhance the storytelling.  Playing this game is, in many ways, like watching an interactive anime, or reading an interactive book (hence Visual Novel).  It does follow many anime tropes, like the tsundere (hot-headed but soft hearted female, for those not up on anime lingo) heroine, the kawaii (extremely cute) girl, and the very attractive cross dresser.  Incidentally, it also in no way underplays a woman's power as a warrior – they more than hold their own in a fight, both in your party, and during storyline sequences.  Also, like many anime, there are at least a couple women who show off far too much skin.

    Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord
    Highlights:

    Strong Points:  Incredibly engaging storyline; very likeable characters; long, engrossing 80+ hour adventure; excellent music and (Japanese) voice overs; fantastic translation; loosely based on real history
    Weak Points: Very long cut scenes if you aren't prepared for it; all voice acting is in Japanese except for the Bonus Scenario, which has none
    Moral Warnings: Violence and blood, including a few rather dramatic scenes; occasional PG-13 language, like h*ll, b*stard, b*tch, sh*t, d*mn; some alcohol and tobacco use, especially one character in particular; Some female characters regularly show significant skin, with one in particular showing a lot of cleavage, with another showing midriffs throughout; heavy themes of polytheism, some pantheism, some atheism, and the heroes are fighting against an established religion that seems awfully similar to Catholicism; Lucifer is considered a good guy; contains a few hexagrams

    The cast of characters is quite extensive, and the game does a fabulous job endearing the player to almost all of them.  There is Hamil, who is a fantastic leader.  He shows his strengths, weaknesses, and his human side.  They did a great job making him a complex character you grow to love.  His goddess, Tarte, is a lovable tsundere who always encourages people to worship her, while bringing out the best in Hamil.  Dion is a goofball, whose sole goal in life is to figure out how to become popular with the ladies.  Monomachus and Enneads are formers servants of Hamil's father, Hasdrubal, and are leaders of the Barca Faction, the secret organization working against the empire whose sole purpose is to revive the glory days of Hispania and the Barca family.  There are many more characters I could introduce you to – and there are many – but suffice it to say, other than a few late-comers like Golyat, each character is fleshed out in a way that you quickly come to love all of them.

    The other aspect of the game is the SRPG combat.  Each character has a different class, weapon type, and strengths and weaknesses.  Warriors have attacks and techniques, magic users have attacks and spells, and some unit types have both techniques and spells.  Magic and techniques cost magic points, and some skills also cost chain stocks.  Chain stocks are built up during battle, and can be used in a few ways.  The most common way is to press a button while attacking, which allows you to get a second attack in.  Later in the game, as you get more chain stocks, you can actually do this repeatedly, and get in 2-5 attacks in at once. However, skills that require chain stocks to cast are usually a much more effective way to use them because they are often very powerful, or do damage to an area.

    The battle area is arranged in a grid, with various obstacles in the way.  A few characters can float, and actually fly over some obstacles, but most cannot.  Every attack has a range, and an area of effect.  Most melee warriors, for instance, have at least one technique that strikes more than one range, which can be great for avoiding counterattacks.  There are also leadership skills, as well as skills that characters learn through leveling up, or by reading skill books, which uses them up.  Books can be found, purchased, or crafted.  A few skills, like double action or forbid counters, can be game changing.  Forbid counters does what it sounds like, but double action allows you to attack twice if you don't move first. This can really make a huge difference if you saved up the necessary MP or CS to unleash two incredibly powerful attacks.

    A couple of characters, namely Hamil and Tarte, can unleash alternate forms, which are very powerful.  You see, Hamil was cursed by Melqart's sword, and has a demon living inside of him as a result.  He made a pact with this demon, where he promised him the blood of his enemies, and in exchange, he will allow Hamil to summon him at will.  Tarte is a goddess, so she can channel her 'older sister' Tanit, and when summoned, is also considerably more powerful.  These abilities are temporary, and can only be summoned when a meter at the bottom is filled up, based on various factors like how many attacks, deaths, and other things have happened in the battle so far.  After summoning their alter egos, they only have two turns to enjoy their altered state, and then they have one turn of cooldown where they are very weak and vulnerable.  But, with proper planning, it can completely turn the tide of battle.  Melqart, in particular, can sometimes wipe out a boss by himself, and with proper planning, double action and a technique called Eternal Return can send many bosses to, well, their eternal return.

    Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 63%
    Violence - 4.5/10
    Language - 3/10
    Sexual Content - 5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 6/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10
    Bonus Points: +3 for showing great examples of friendship and self sacrifice

    There is also a map view, where you can do any necessary training or grinding if you wish, along with a base where you can purchase new equipment, items, or craft upgrades to your existing equipment.  The 'game' side is a very solid strategy RPG, and also a very good challenge.  The game allows you to rewind to the beginning of any turn, in case things don't go your way.  Any turn taken the exact same way, will have the same results, but switching the order of things can sometimes change the results, and of course doing different things can as well.  It's very interesting, and fun for those of us who try to do things perfectly.  But get too perfect and you will pull your hair out – aiming for S ranks, which requires getting all objectives, bonus objectives, using few items, and having no overleveled characters – that is a challenge, and I ended up giving up on that goal if I ever wanted to complete this game in a reasonable timeframe.

    And even still, this game took me well over eighty hours to complete.  I started the Bonus Scenario, but decided that I simply couldn't afford another ten plus hours at this time – not that I didn't want to.  It is fun, but I got the most out of the storyline, and the battles, while entertaining, are very challenging and can become frustrating.  On top of all of that, there is a New Game+ mode, so you can carry over all of the equipment you earned on the first playthrough if you want to do it again.  You can certainly get your money's worth here.

    And the quality of the experience is fairly good.  The graphics are nothing special, though they do the job well enough.  The music, sound effects, and voices are fantastic.  No two ways about it – I had my kids (who I couldn't let watch me play too often... more on that soon) asking me for the game music CDs from this game.  It is that good; I agree with them – I want the music too!

    Given that the graphics are anime-like, and the battles are fantasy violence, it may not be immediately obvious why this game would not be safe for kids or teenagers.  But the more you play, the more obvious it becomes that this game deals with a lot of mature topics, and really requires discernment to handle properly.

    Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord

    First of all, there are the surface issues.  Blood, while not a common occurrence, when it does appear, is rather intense.  It is not gory, but one character offers their bloody arm to another to try to appease Melqart's bloodlust (and it is not figurative – he really does want to drink blood.)  Another time, there is a rather dramatic and emotional death that involves lots of blood everywhere.  Alcohol and tobacco is used by a few characters.  There are PG-13 curse words used, like h*ll, b*stard, b*tch, sh*t, and d*mn.  There are also a few hexagrams found, though no pentagrams thankfully.  One lady Izebel has massive cleavage and very short skirts, while another, the goddess Tarte, has bare midriff syndrome – and she's a melee tank.  I guess being a goddess must give her skin of steel.

    Occasionally, the characters will find themselves in a compromising or 'humorous' situation.  One time, they were traveling through a tropical forest, and several suggested that they strip a bit to handle the weather better.  As it happened, your character (Hamil) accidently stumbled onto Kleito (a dragon goddess) changing. Now, she has a trickster side to her, so she orders him, as a goddess, to put himself into a compromising situation.  Of course, Tarte, who at this point won't admit that she likes Hamil but does, catches him, and 'hilarity ensues'.

    While this is the only situation of this nature exactly, there are several other scenes with characters in odd situations meant to garner a laugh.  Kleito one time seemed like she was making a 'move' on Charis – a twelve year old girl.  I don't want to make it out like Kleito is some crazy evil sex fiend – she is not, and 90% of the time she is respectful, patient, and generally a good character, but once in a while they show a different side to her, where she tries to stir the pot a bit in strange ways.

    And of course, there is the case of Daphnis.  This is a rather strange case, where Elissa, a noble's daughter, is given at a young age by her father a young boy as a bodyguard who he dressed in girl clothes so that they could stay together all the time.  As Elissa and Daphinis go to join Hamil on his quest, they find themselves in a perilous situation, where Elissa expressed her love to Daphnis, and he seems to reciprocate.  But it soon seems like their definitions of love may be different, as Daphnis soon makes strange statements talking about 'my type', and always in reference to other guys...  This is one of several running gags with him, especially with Elissa's reaction to follow.  Some of the girls find him more feminine than they are.  One time he actually wears men's clothes, and they say 'hey no crossdressing' -  and he reminds them that he is actually a man...  Oh and it was an awkward moment when one of my kids walked in and asked 'what is a boy in drag?' since that is his class type name.

    Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord

    And then there is the brunt of many jokes, Dion.  He is actually a likeable character, despite being a pretty big coward for much of the game, though he does grow and develop into someone at least a little bit more mature.  He always seeks out the ladies, and keeps striking out.  More than once, he doubts that Daphnis could really actually be a man and wants to find out... he says that if he's that cute, maybe he should try dating him anyway?  Is it really that important that 'his first' be a girl?  He does eventually snap out of it.  While far from common, there is enough sexual humor that this is definitely not an experience for a younger audience.  On the plus side, outside of a picture if a lady's bare back, a bit of 'side cleavage' in one shot, and the aforementioned Izebel cleavage and really short skirts, nothing else is really shown.

    And that really only scratches the surface.  What really sets this game apart is the story, and much of it would really give pause to many used to western monotheistic ideas.  The main character came from a family of the Canaanites, in a long line of Ba'al worshipers.  For anyone who knows their Biblical history, that alone should give you pause.  It's not quite as bad as it sounds in some ways, but in others perhaps worse.

    The principle enemy is the Divine Empire, whose trappings seem suspiciously similar to the Catholic Church in many ways.  This Empire talks often about sin, judgment, heaven and hell.  There is also talk of a Divine Scriptures, and a leader called a Pontiff.  The Divine Order worships a God (yes, the game uses a capital G for him, but not for other gods/goddesses) named Watos.

    *** Massive Spoiler Alert ***

    This Watos, whose existence is questioned at certain points in the game by the very founder of the Divine Order himself, was trying to kill humanity, and they were saved by an angel called Arawn, whose other name is Lucifer.  So Lucifer is pitted as a good guy, and he rebelled against the other angels, trying to protect humanity from destruction by Watos.  The Ba'al tribe was a group of an older race called the Elves, and that tribe worshiped Watos very faithfully.  After they decided to help the rebellion to save themselves and the humans, they taught the very young human race basic life skills and the young humans worshiped them as gods.  They initially resisted, but Lucifer encouraged them to accept it.  Like the Elves, the Dragons were also an ancient race, also called gods by the humans.  The end climaxes with you trying to defeat the very machine Watos himself sent to destroy the human race.

    *** End Massive Spoilers ***

    The gods of Ba'al are shown as the good guys, with free will and tolerance as prime traits, while the Divine Empire and its Supreme God is shown as intolerant, discouraging independent thought and education, and generally really bad guys.  

    On the flipside, Hamil bucks the trend of his ancenstors, and decides to avoid the pure warlord path, and tries very hard to save the lives of innocent people as much as possible, even at the cost of great personal hardship.  He is a great example of self sacrifice, and inspires the very best in others.  Hamil is a wonderful leader indeed.

    Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord ended up being absolutely nothing like what I expected going in.  We have a very richly detailed and interesting world, with lovable characters, buttressed by a solid SRPG gaming experience, filled with mature and difficult philosophical and theological questions that are not for anyone who is not theologically grounded.  This game could help the reader/player ask questions that could lead them to take an atheistic or contrarian perspective for the easily influenced or unstable follower.  For those willing to tolerate the downsides mentioned above, and in my opinion an adult player only, there is a deeply satisfying storyline contained herein that can inspire very deep thoughts – it's not everyday that we get to put on the hat of the other side of the polytheist/monotheist divide and see things from a little bit different point of view.  And on top of that, I learned something about history.  This game was extremely memorable for me, and I won't forget it for quite a while.  But you better set aside a minimum of about two hours per play session, because it's very difficult to play for much less than that in one sitting.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Total War: Warhammer
    Published by: Sega|
    Developed by: Creative Assembly
    ESRB Rating: M
    Available on: PC
    Release Date: May 24, 2016
    Genre: Strategy
    Number of Players: 1 - 2
    Price: $59.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Total War: Warhammer is the first non-historical game from the folks at Total War.  It combines the gameplay and feel of Total War titles with the lore and setting of the Warhammer world created by Games Workshop.  (For fans of the franchise, this is the Old World setting before the Age of Sigmar reset.)  The player controls one of the many factions in the game and must use diplomacy, trade and military power to expand and secure their empire.

    While the game is very similar to previous Total War offerings, I found the learning curve to be incredibly steep.  Then again, I was playing the Empire faction which relies heavily on synergy and very precise tactics to find success.  This is actually very similar to how this faction played in the Warhammer: Fantasy Battles game this is based on so in that sense the game was very successful at capturing the feel of the tabletop game.  My friend tells me it's much easier if you play Vampire Counts because you can resurrect dead troops and add them to your army without needing to spend resources recruiting.  Orcs are also represented here with their style being pretty brute-force based.  Sadly, my beloved Bretonnia is not a playable faction in campaign mode (at least as of the time of this writing), but it is playable in multiplayer.

    At one point one of my fresh armies was attacked by an Orc army of smaller size (Man, those things can move across the campaign map like greased lightning).  Confident because of my experience playing other Total War games as well as Warhammer itself, I chose to fight and teach these greenskins a lesson.  Well, it was I who got schooled that day.  My army was all but obliterated.  Clearly I need to climb higher on the tech tree and get better units or this campaign's going to be very, very short.

    The game plays in two modes.  One is the campaign map where the player can manage settlements, move armies and conduct diplomacy.  This is the turn based strategy element.  I disliked the interface here because instead of the map looking like an actual, flat campaign map it is rounded as if the player were up in low orbit looking down on the world.  It was aesthetically very interesting, but it's hard to get a sense of the scale of the world around your settlements and as your empire grows it becomes harder to see how things are going at a glance.  

    To be honest, I also dislike the look and feel of the UI.  Yes, it's very Warhammer-like and successfully captures the look and feel of the Warhammer fluff.  My problem is that the Warhammer style is very Gothic and busy looking with lots of decorations and Roman numerals.  Having been used to the simpler, cleaner UI of previous Total War titles I found this distracting.    

    What's interesting in campaign mode is that you can also see areas where the Winds of Magic are blowing strong, so if you have wizards in your army these are good places to try and get your enemy to fight you.  The Winds of Magic do move around, so a wise general needs to know when to try and catch up with one and when it's better to wait. 

    As of the time of this writing, Warriors of Chaos and Beastmen now can be added through downloadable content.

    Total War: Warhammer
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: New tactical options, faithful rendering of Warhammer
    Weak Points: Steep learning curve
    Moral Warnings: Strong violence and occult themes

    The second mode is where battles are fought.  Here, the player arranges their army on their deployment zone and when all is ready, the battle begins.  The player can zoom around the battlefield anywhere their units can see in order to get different views or angles on what's going on.  Sometimes the beginning of the battle gets boring as the two armies slowly cross the field to come to grips with each other, but the player can speed up time a bit which helps.  Units will fight until they take enough damage that they become panicked and run away, though it is sometimes possible to rally them back into the fight.  Unlike most other Total War games, individual heroes are not part of a unit, but can run around the field alone, and are devastating combat murder machines.  It's still important to support them as they can be overwhelmed and killed if surrounded, but it's amazing how long they can last and how much damage they can do just on their own.

    Moving units around the field is simple, and just like previous Total War offerings.  Units can be selected individually or in groups, and their formation can be adjusted easily by right clicking and dragging the mouse across the unit's destination to set the number of columns in width.  Attacking an enemy is done by right-clicking the target and a set of buttons located along the bottom of the screen provide a way to use special abilities and orders.  Essentially, the gameplay is good because Total War gameplay in general is good.  I haven't found much about this particular version that's an improvement over other Total War titles, so it feels like a missed opportunity.   

    By and large the regular units are blocks of infantry or cavalry, though some factions have access to war machines like field trebuchets or catapults.  In the later campaign the player can also field wizards or monstrous creatures like wyverns or gryphons.

    The multiplayer game is as straightforward as any Total War offering.  The opponents are allocated a number of army points to build their force from, with a default army already assembled for those who are still learning that faction or who just want a quick fight.  There are lots of playable factions available, including my beloved Bretonnia.  It is something of a culture shock though for those who are used to the tabletop game.  I can't decide whether it's awesome or cumbersome to have a unit of a couple dozen Pegasus Knights where I'm used to them flying around in groups of only three, or to have a triple battery of Field Trebuchets instead of just one or two in the back field.  Units from the tabletop game are carried over faithfully here, so veterans will be able to easily understand how they work.

    The graphics are good quality and will give your video card a workout.  Again, the Warhammer aesthetic feels like a disadvantage here because the world looks so gloomy and sinister.  This is strictly a matter of personal taste of course, but I like my environments brighter and greener.  The other visual wrinkle I noticed in this game is that differentiating between units can be very tough at a distance.  It's a problem when you can't tell a unit of heavy knights from a unit of light cavalry at a glance (especially as Bretonnia).  The unit cards at the bottom of the screen also suffer from the Warhammer aesthetic.  Instead of a simple image depicting the unit there's artwork showing the unit in action, but it's small enough that you have to look close to really appreciate it, which is something there's no time for in the heat of battle.  I think a better selection of images would have been great here.  The new arrangement of unit command buttons feels less user friendly than previous titles as well.  Overall it just feels like a step backward.  

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 66%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

    Realtalk:  Warhammer Fantasy Battles doesn't visually translate well into the PC environment.  It just doesn't.  One of the major characteristics of the tabletop wargame was the ability to push beautifully painted models around on the table and admire the artistry of the sculpts and hopefully the skill of the players.  Hero characters tended to be elaborate, beautiful models that were just fun to look at.  Unit sizes were small enough to distinguish individual troops and enjoy the artistry there was well.  Total War: Warhammer takes all of that and turns it into a massive soup of huge units on the field.  Even highly colorful units like Bretonnian knights just look like a drab bunch of guys on horses unless you zoom in so close that you can't fight the battle.  Heroes are just little splotches with a unit banner running around the field and it's incredibly easy to lose track of them when battle is joined.  A huge effort has been made here to replicate the Warhammer visual theme, but that's not a good thing.  It just makes everything look drab, worn and visually busy.  For all the graphics quality and polygons, the game just looks "meh" to me.  Why do I bring up the tabletop version so much?  Because this game is really aimed at the Warhammer fans who always wanted to play Warhammer on the PC.  That's what they're going to compare this game to and measure it against.

    I didn't experience any graphics problems in either the campaign or battle modes other than some performance degradation.

    The sound effects are adequate though not terribly memorable.  Human voice actors provide the voices of characters and the in-game advisor which is always preferred over digitized voices.  

    I didn't experience any crashes or glitches so overall it was a good experience from a stability standpoint.  The most frustrating part is that selecting units during battle felt a bit finicky.  The player can click right on the unit's banner in order to select it and that can be a little tricky when the unit is moving or when it's bunched up among other units during melee combat.  There was also a tiny lag between my clicking the mouse button and the unit actually responding, which can be a real problem when the battle is heated up and things are happening fast.  I had a tendency to try clicking faster and often I just wound up selecting the wrong unit or selecting then de-selecting the one I wanted.  I'm not sure whether smoother game performance would have helped on a more powerful machine, so this may not be the fault of the game itself.

    If you've ever played any form of Warhammer game you know what to expect from Games Workshop titles.  Brutal combat and violence are the primary items to be aware of.  Games Workshop games like their violence graphic and bloody,  though that's mitigated in this game since you generally won't zoom in too close to what's happening during a battle so everything is seen from a distance.  

    The next big element for these games is magic, which is usable by all factions to some degree.  The magic system in Warhammer makes no distinction between arcane and clerical type power so a wizard is no different form a priest.  Speaking of religion, each of the factions has some sort of god or pantheon of gods, none of which has anything to do with the Bible.  Some of the gods are benevolent, some apathetic, some evil and cruel.  The nature of a deity reflects upon the faction that follows it.  For example, the patron god of the Empire faction is Sigmar, an ancient warrior and former Emperor.  The Chaos factions may worship one of four chaos gods who represent different aspects of corruption: violence, plague, deceit and extreme pleasure.  This doesn't directly affect the game beyond the available units and abilities for each faction, but it is an essential element in the fluff. 

    While all factions have some access to monsters and mythical creatures, some can use demons of various types.  

    The game doesn't enforce any particular moral approach and so the player is free to be a tyrant or a benevolent ruler during the campaign.  The game is open ended, so it can reflect a wide variety of play styles.  That means it doesn't force the player to do anything particularly unethical, but it also allows for the possibility of some underhanded actions.  The game is about conquest though how the player brings that about is an individual decision.

    As a fantasy setting for adults the language is PG level.  Mild swearing like one might hear in a sitcom are in this game, but it doesn't push any envelopes.    

    Total War: Warhammer is a good option if you enjoy strategy war games with a fantasy twist or if you really loved Warhammer Fantasy Battles.  If you're just interested in a Medieval strategy game you're better off playing Medieval II:Total War which is cleaner, smoother and more tactical.  It isn't a bad game it just feels like a better option would have been to release a Warhammer mod for Medieval II rather than retool the UI to prioritize the aesthetic over usability.  I probably won't play much of this game unless Bretonnia becomes available to play in campaign mode, myself.  That makes me sad, because I have eagerly been awaiting a game like this for years.  If I suddenly felt the urge to fight a Medieval battle on my PC right this minute, I'm more likely to open up Medieval II than Warhammer.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception
    Developed by: Aquaplus
    Published by: Atlus
    Release date: May 23, 2017
    Available on: PS4, Vita
    Genre: Visual Novel, SRPG
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for blood, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language, violence
    Price: $39.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Atlus for sending us this game to review!

    The Utawarerumono (I have no idea how to pronounce that) series has been around since 2002 and Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is the latest entry and the first I’ve played so far. Later this year the final chapter, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth, will be coming to the West and I’m looking forward to it. This series is known for its hybrid combination of visual novel and strategy RPG (SRPG) gameplay. The turn based battles are few and far between the hour-long (or more) segments of text and story arcs. If you’re looking for a lot of action, then you may want to consider another game.

    When you start your adventure your first choice will be selecting the difficulty. The options are Normal and Hard; if you’re unhappy with your selection, you can change it at any time. I found the normal difficulty to be well balanced and I never felt under-leveled during the battles. However, you do have the option of doing free battles if you want to level up some of your neglected party members. Though all of the party members will level up, only actively used characters can earn points to increase their various stats like health, attack, defense, and speed. As you improve their attributes, the cost to do so again increases. The neglected characters will only increase their level number.

    The game begins with the main character waking up in the future from a cryogenic sleep but there is an error in the process. As a result, he suffers from amnesia. When he finally comes to, he’s in a tent with a humanoid female tending to him. Her name is Kuon and she has animal like ears and a long tail that’s often used to choke the protagonist when he gets out of line. Kuon assigns him the name Haku and agrees to help him until he’s self-sufficient.

    Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Engaging and often funny story with excellent character development; balanced battle system
    Weak Points: Slow performance during some of the final battle sequences
    Moral Warnings: Strong language and blaspheming; violence and bloodshed; sexual situations and nudity with the bare minimum covered; strange powers and the emperor is considered a god; excessive drinking and drunkenness

    Haku quickly discovers that physical strength is not one of his strong suits as chores that children do are much too strenuous for him. Thankfully, he does have a sharp mind and is good at strategizing and solving problems that his party gets into. He’s also quick to come up with various excuses to justify his slacking off.

    There are many light-hearted moments and it’s been a while since I’ve played a game that made me laugh out loud on several occasions. There are also several emotional moments where you feel for the characters while they are struggling with various problems. Each character has a backstory, and like many popular mangas and animes, Haku accumulates a disproportionate amount of female companions. They all happen to be good looking and a couple of them try to seduce him on numerous occasions. Despite the numerous opportunities do to so, Haku does not get intimate with anyone in this title.

    There are many instances of sexual humor with nudity being described in detail. Kuon is very fond of baths and there is a scene where she strips down and hops into a hot bath despite male party members still being present. While usually a gentleman, Haku is the last to leave the bathing house and enjoys the view. Several female characters are shown naked or close to it. They either have very little clothing to cover up the bare necessities, or some obstacle like steam, bubbles, or a fire ember is obstructing the view ever so slightly.

    Pretty much every character in this game drinks regardless of how young they look. The various liquors are described in detail and if there was a drinking game based off of the consumption rate in this title, the participants would surely get wasted along with them.

    Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 33%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 0/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Language is another issue to address. Every curse word is used and they are all used frequently, including the F bomb. Blaspheming also occurs. Christianity is not present in this game and a majority of the people in this world regard their leader, the Mikado, as a god since he has lived for several centuries. The Japanese themed country of Yamato is very prosperous and has a powerful military thanks to the eight pillars and their hidden powers within them. In battle, these guardians can gain superpowers in exchange for their soul.

    With battles come violence and there is plenty of bloodshed in this game. The actual 3D battles themselves aren’t so bad since you just see the physical or magic attack being done without much detail. However, in some of the story sequences you’ll see some bright red blood splatter onto the Vita screen to get the point across that a character is fatally hurt.

    The only game changing choices you can make are on the battlefield. I was able to win most of the battles on the first try and felt that the game was well balanced in that regard. Though you usually have multiple story arcs, they all have to be completed in order to progress the main story. All you get to do is select the order of the side stories.

    From start to finish, I completed this game on normal difficulty in twenty-six and a half hours. While I enjoyed it, I see little reason to play it again on a harder difficulty. If you’re a fan of the previous entries, then you’ll most certainly enjoy this one. If you’re looking for a visual novel with a great story and some action and don’t mind the many moral issues, Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is worth looking into.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth
    Developed by: Aquaplus
    Published by: Atlus
    Release date: September 5, 2017
    Available on: PS4, Vita
    Genre: Visual Novel, SRPG
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for blood, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language, violence
    Price: $39.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Atlus for sending us this game to review!

    The Utawarerumono (I have no idea how to pronounce that) series has been around since 2002 and Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is the latest entry and continues from Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception. This series is known for its hybrid combination of visual novel and strategy RPG (SRPG) gameplay. The turn based battles are few and far between the hour-long (or more) segments of text and story arcs. If you’re looking for a lot of action, then you may want to consider another game.

    When you start your adventure your first choice will be selecting the difficulty. The options are Normal and Hard; if you’re unhappy with your selection, you can change it at any time. I found the normal difficulty to be well balanced and I never felt under-leveled during the battles. However, you do have the option of doing free battles and training sessions to further power up characters and their special abilities. Though all of the party members will level up, only actively used characters can earn points to increase their various stats like health, attack, defense, and speed. As you improve their attributes, the cost to do so again increases. The neglected characters will only increase their level number. As characters gain levels they will unlock new abilities and special moves.

    This game quickly picks up where Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception left off. Though there is a bit of a recap, I highly recommend playing that title before enjoying this one. Spoilers will follow in case you haven’t played that one yet. Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception left off with Haku wearing Oshter’s mask and taking over his role as the Mikado’s pillar general. This game focuses on his new life and having to lie to friends and their families about his true identity.

    Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Engaging and often funny story with excellent character development; balanced battle system
    Weak Points: Slow performance during some of the final battle sequences
    Moral Warnings: Strong language and blaspheming; violence and bloodshed; sexual situations and nudity with the bare minimum covered; many deities and some of them require sealing away; excessive drinking and drunkenness

    The Mikado, Anju, is still healing from the attempt on her life. Besides recovering her health, she must reclaim her throne and win back the support of her people. It’s an uphill battle for Oshter and his group of friends, but they are hard to beat when they set their minds to something.

    There are many enemies and they have former allies become foes and vice versa. Despite the long story sequences, there are a fair amount of battles and several gigantic bosses to defeat towards the end. Several times, I thought I was at the end only to find more story sequences and battles ahead. The final boss battle lets you use all but two of your party members.

    As the characters fight together, they will form bonds, which allow chain attacks. Enemies can perform the same combo attacks as well so make sure you always have a healer in your party. Some melee fighters can do counter attacks which are helpful. As you win battles, you’ll unlock equipment that can raise defenses against physical, mental, elemental, and magical attacks.

    Characters also bond outside of the battlefield throughout the many story sequences. There are several emotional moments where you feel for the characters while they are struggling with various problems. Each character has a backstory, and like many popular manga and anime, many of the females have a crush on Oshter/Haku. They all happen to be good looking and a couple of them try to seduce him on numerous occasions. Despite the many opportunities do to so, Haku does not get intimate with anyone in this title.

    There are many instances of sexual humor with nudity being described in detail. There is a scene where Oshter teaches Nosuri a new gambling card game and she winds up losing all of her clothes and leaves his room in her birthday suit. While the bare minimum is not shown, many of the characters wear revealing outfits.

    Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 33%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 0/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Pretty much every character in this game drinks regardless of how young they look. The various liquors are described in detail and if there was a drinking game based off of the consumption rate in this title, the participants would surely get wasted along with them.

    Language is another issue to address. Every curse word is used and they are all used frequently, including the F bomb. Blaspheming also occurs. Christianity is not present and there are several deities shown and some of them grant wishes in a sadistic manner. Many of the Mikado’s pillar generals, like Oshter, have hidden powers within their masks. In battle, these guardians can gain superpowers in exchange for their soul.

    With battles come violence and there is plenty of bloodshed in this game. The actual 3D battles themselves aren’t so bad since you just see the physical or magic attack being done without much detail. However, in some of the story sequences you’ll see some bright red blood splatter onto the Vita screen to get the point across that a character is fatally hurt.

    The only game changing choices you can make are on the battlefield. I was able to win most of the battles on the first try and felt that the game was well balanced in that regard. Though you usually have multiple story arcs, they all have to be completed in order to progress the main story. All you get to do is select the order of the side stories.

    From start to finish, I completed this game on normal difficulty in forty-one hours. While I enjoyed it, I see little reason to play it again on a harder difficulty. If you’re a fan of the previous entries, then you’ll most certainly enjoy this one. If you’re looking for a visual novel with a great story and some action and don’t mind the many moral issues, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is worth looking into.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Valkyria Chronicles Remastered
    Developed by: Sega
    Published by: Sega
    Release date: May 17, 2016
    Available on: PS3, PS4, Windows
    Genre: Turn based strategy
    Number of players; Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Teen for blood, mild language, suggestive themes and tobacco use
    Price: $24.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Sega for sending us this game to review!

    Valkyria Chronicles was originally released for the PlayStation 3 in 2008.  It was well received and spawned two sequels and an anime series.   After playing this game and getting to know the characters (even crying at the death of one of them), I’m interested in seeing the anime.  The remastered edition supports 1080p visuals (with the exception of the cutscenes still being in 720p) and bundled in DLC for even more action than the thirty plus hours of game time.  That thirty hours is a conservative estimate because the battles in this 3D turn based RPG can be challenging at times and redoing a few of them is almost guaranteed.  

    The story behind Valkyria Chronicles is that the neutral province of Gallia is invaded by the Imperial army for their precious mineral, ragnite.  Many innocent civilians are killed and Welkin, a nature loving guy whose father happens to be a war hero, steps up and defends his hometown of Bruhl from their attack.  A baker named Alicia stands beside him and they join the army together to save their homeland.  The story and characters are really well fleshed out and the battles are challenging, but fun endeavors.

    My only complaint about Valkyria Chronicles is that there is only one difficulty setting for the story based battles and people looking for a casual story telling experience may be put off by the grueling battles.  On the flipside, veterans looking for an intense challenge won’t be able to do much other than try to get an A rating on all of their battles.  There is a Steam achievement for doing so, but I’m perfectly happy with the Bs and Ds I’ve earned for my skirmishes.  Retrying the story-based battles isn’t possible until you start a new save after completing the game.  

    Valkyria Chronicles Remastered
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent story and character development; great voice acting and music; beautiful art style
    Weak Points: Only one difficulty setting for the story mode battles
    Moral Warnings: Battlefield violence; same sex attraction among officers; language (d*mn and b*stard); optional beach scene with a female character in a bikini; unavoidable prejudice against a race of people

    The story telling is done in an interactive manga/comic book format.  You can click on the story panels to watch (or skip if you’re in a hurry) movie sequences that explain the backstory and build up the upcoming mission and battle sequence.  Each of the eighteen chapters has a mandatory battle or two that are turn based and typically require your squad to recapture a stronghold from the imperial forces.  The mission objective must be completed within the predetermined turn limit (usually 20 turns) and certain characters must be kept alive or else you’ll see a game over screen and have the option to retry the battle.  

    Depending on how many enemies are defeated and how fast the mission was accomplished you’ll be scored and rewarded in money and experience for your efforts.  The money can be spent in the R&D lab for researching and unlocking better weapons and tank enhancements to give you an edge in battle.  You can also spend money on extra story content and battles by helping a reporter out on her upcoming book about the war.  

    Experience can be spent on training your units which helps unlock new abilities and leveling up their class which benefits everyone in it.  If you find yourself needing more money and experience than the story-mode missions provide, you can replay skirmish battles as often as you like.  Unlike the story-mode battles, the skirmishes have multiple difficulty options.  

    While your squad consists of twenty units, you can’t deploy them all in battle at once.  If you have a base occupied, you can call in for reinforcements as long as you have battle slots open.  Units wounded in combat have three turns to be rescued or they will be gone forever.  Be sure to utilize all of the available unit types to match the battle terrain you’re facing.

    Valkyria Chronicles Remastered
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 63%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 6.5/10
    Sexual Content - 2.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10.5/10

    Characters are clearly demeaned or negatively bias by race, or ethnicity (-2.5 pts)

    The story in this game delivers a good moral lesson. (+3 pts)

    There are several unit types:

    Engineers: Not much firepower, but they can disarm mines and resupply ammo for everyone.

    Lancers: Strong enough to take out tanks but they can’t walk very far per turn.

    Scouts: They have the most movement points and can fight back if needed.

    Shock Troopers:  They can do a decent amount of damage, but can’t go as far as a scout.

    Snipers: Good for taking out foes far away,  but not very durable.

    When selecting recruits for your squad you’ll notice that they have various traits that enhance or hinder their performance in the battlefield.  For example, some the recruits have allergies to pollen or desert sand which will reduce their hit points if exposed to them in battle.  A few of the recruits are loners while others fight better alongside their comrades.  If units are next to their friends, they will receive backup fire from them during their turn.  Free attacks come in handy so pay attention to who your units like to fight alongside. 

    Some units prefer fighting alongside the opposite sex while others clearly have same sex attraction.  There are a couple of heterosexual romances that take place during the game and nothing more than kissing is shown.  Since this game takes place during a war, there is a lot of battlefield violence, but not a lot of blood is shown.  There are still plenty of gruesome scenes as there are people imprisoned in labor camps and it’s implied that many of them, including children, were burned alive. 

    Prejudice is shown towards a group of people called the Darcsens and some of the characters learn to treat them properly while others remain spiteful.  Despite the negative themes there are positive ones including messages of hope, redemption and forgiveness throughout this game.

    All in all, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is an excellent game that's worth picking up if you haven’t played the original game on the PS3.  Out of all of the versions I’d recommend the PC one which sells for $19.99 on Steam. Though it doesn't have "Remastered" in the title, it's on par with the PS4 version which is just as beautiful to behold.  The hand-drawn and water color painted visuals look fantastic.  The great voice acting and character development make the story a treat to watch - so much so that I’d rather watch the stories than get my butt kicked in the battlefield.  While the battles can be grueling, they are also very rewarding when you send the Imperial army retreating.  

     

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Warhammer 40K: Mechanicus
    Developed By: Bulwark Studios
    Published By: Kasedo Games
    Released: November 15, 2018
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Strategy
    ESRB Rating: M for Mature
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Many thanks to Kasedo Games for the review copy!

    In recent years, there has been a storm of new licensed games based on the Warhammer 40,000 IP created by Games Workshop. Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is the first to feature the Mechanicum (also known as the Adeptus Mechanicus), an entity in the 40K universe based on Mars and utterly dedicated to the preservation and rediscovery of technology in the 41st Millenium. The Mechanicum is a playable faction in the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop wargame, and is now a computer game!

    To understand the Mechanicum, imagine a society, based on Mars, that revolves around machinery and technology so completely that even their religion is based on the Omnissiah, also known as the Machine God. They replace their own body parts with cybernetic upgrades and believe that flesh is weak and inferior. The most highly regarded members of society are also those with the most and greatest cybernetic upgrades. Machinery is their religion. They do not have technicians, they have Tech-Priests. They do not have technical documents, they have litanies. They do not have procedures, they have rites. They do not have devices, they have relics. To have knowledge of technology is to be inducted into an order that is secretive, holy and exclusive.

    The Mechanicum are the ones who construct the weapons, vehicles and engines of war for the Imperium of Man. Even the power armor worn by the Space Marines is crafted by the Mechanicum, and every Space Marine Chapter sends marines to Mars to learn, and return as Techmarines - still members of their chapter, but wearing modified armor, painted red like Mars, to acknowledge the Omnissiah.

    One of the missions of the Mechanicum is to recover lost technology and pursuant to this goal, they search the galaxy for ancient human settlements, some of which lie under contemporary alien civilizations. Thus, we have the set-up for the story in Warhammer 40K:Mechanicus.

    The Mechanicum has sent an expedition to the planet Silva Tenebris to search for archeotech (technological artifacts), but discovers that the world has become a Necron Tomb World. (Imagine an alien race who, eons ago, transferred their minds into mechanical bodies and now lie dormant, with a heavy ancient-Egyptian flavor.) Each mission has the player leading a cohort of Tech-Priests and attached personnel to clear out Necron tombs and recover whatever technology they can.

    Each mission progresses over a map which features corridors and rooms that have puzzles, enemies and bosses. The player navigates from room to room and can choose their path through the tomb. It is not necessary to visit every single room, but all rooms with enemies in them must be cleared. The map displays which rooms contain enemies so that the player can plan ahead.

    In the puzzle rooms, the player has to make choices based on the contents of the room. Sometimes it's choosing between Necron glyphs, sometimes it's a command decision the player has to make in response to events triggered by entering the chamber. When the player chooses correctly, they receive benefits which can include blackstone (the "currency" of the game), equipment, bonuses in battle, or debuffs for the Necrons. Choosing wrong results in buffs for the Necrons or damage to the player's cohort, sometimes both.

    Warhammer 40K: Mechanicus
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent balance between complexity and playability, very faithful to the setting
    Weak Points: Minor battle camera issues, decision points feel random
    Moral Warnings: Violence, in-setting religion incompatible with real life spirituality, occult themes

    I have very few complaints about this game, but one of them is that there doesn't seem to be a way to figure out the correct answers, and it feels like a guessing game. A strange device is located in one of the chambers. Do you destroy it, avoid it or take it for study? The answer is.... take your best guess. It may be that there really are clues and I'm just missing them. I have noticed that it does help to think like an utterly dedicated zealot though. Destroy that thing! It's blasphemy against the Omnissiah! More often than not, that yields the correct answer. To make matters a little harder, sometimes the Adepts in charge tell you what they'd like you to do, but that isn't necessarily the correct option.

    The overall thread in the game is that the Necrons are waking up, and the level of wakefulness is expressed as a percentage. At 100%, the Necrons are fully awakened on a planetary scale. The percentage increases during gameplay, which is measured by the number of moves made on the map as well as the number of turns taken during combat. If the player explores every single room, there are more opportunities to collect benefits, but that also means risking penalties as well as giving the Necrons more time to awaken.

    Between missions, the player has the opportunity to buy upgrades for their Tech-Priest cohort. Additional skills, cybernetic upgrades, weapons and armor are purchased using blackstone recovered from the tombs. There's plenty of variety in skill trees to choose from, but there is some overlap that makes it a little awkward to try to truly specialize. Even so, it's a great system that lets you customize your characters. I also liked that equipping items reflects on the appearance of the characters, making them feel truly unique. I only have two complaints here... one, there doesn't seem to be a cost listed for upgrades, so it's impossible to plan ahead. Options that you can afford are illuminated, but the exact cost isn't shown. Two, the characters' available equipment windows tend to get cluttered, and there doesn't seem to be a way to recycle or trash obsolete items.

    There is also a variety of support troops that can be used to accompany the Tech-Priests on missions, with the player being able to control the exact makeup of the team.

    Combat is, of course, the central feature. Battles are turn-based, with individual characters moving in initiative order. On a character's turn, they can move, interact with certain items in the environment, use abilities/equipment, and attack. Yes, I said 'and.' A character can perform any and all available actions, with the only constraint being the amount of available 'cognition,' which is spent to use certain abilities and weapons. Cognition can be replenished via a variety of means during battle, and a wise player chooses character builds and synergies to maintain a sufficient supply of cognition to use all the abilities desired during battle.

    The combat system is very tactical, and easy to learn though hard to master. That's the key to a great system. I found myself really enjoying the tactical options and actions during combat.

    I have to say, playing Mechanicus is the most fun I've had with a 40K video game since Space Marine. The upgrade system is simple, logical and doesn't need a bajillion different combat stats. Combat is simple and straightforward. There's two damage types: physical and energy. All weapons and armor operate by which of the two damage types they inflict or defend against. Characters have an armor stat for each, how much damage they can do of each type, and their hit points. I complain a lot about games that are overly complex with too much going on and too many stats. Mechanicus is what I've been longing for. Simple, yet not simplistic. You get a small toolbox, but you can do a LOT with those tools.

    The production quality of the game is good, and doesn't try to do more than it can handle. There aren't really cutscenes, just dialogue between characters in the game's story. Generally when these characters talk to each other, it's in warbles and sounds that represent the binary communications between Adepts of the Mechanicum, so to follow them you have to read the subtitles. As a software engineer, I did get a kick out of how some of their language is expressed as pseudocode. For example, They might say "Victory = required" to express how important it is to win a battle, or "++Anticipation" to express increasing excitement about something that's happening soon.

    Oh, and as a personal thank-you to the developers... THANK YOU for allowing manual saves in combat, in the map mode, and in between missions. The mission lengths are pretty reasonable, especially in the early game, but being able to save my place at any time is a real blessing. There's also an auto-save feature.

    Warhammer 40K: Mechanicus
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 96%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

    In terms of stability, the game is pretty solid. I had no issues running Mechanicus on my Windows 10 machine. No crashes, no hangs, no glitches. Hats off to the QA team and developers over at Bulwark Studios! The only technical issues I had were when trying to move the camera around the battlefields or maps; holding the mouse against the edge of the screen didn't always work. Sometimes it would stutter and stop, even when I wasn't at the edge of the battle map yet. I just got used to using the arrow keys to control it.

    The controls are pretty simple, with the interface being mostly mouse point-and-click, with supplemental help from the keyboard, especially for camera control. The tutorial does a good job of teaching the game and an there is an options screen for changing the keyboard configuration or for just reminding you of which key does what. Powers that have been used have a clear cooldown timer and the use of powers, abilities and weapons are consistent and intuitive. I did find that when things started to get into heavy close quarters, it was sometimes tough to click on just the right unit, but the camera zoom and rotate features helped to deal with that nicely.

    The graphics are good and clean. Even with the battle map zoomed out it still wasn't difficult to distinguish between my individual characters, nor was it hard to tell different types of Necrons apart. The tomb maps are very simple but don't feel cheap or rushed. They're perfectly functional without a bunch of clutter. I also liked that even when the camera is zoomed in fully, the Mechanicum and Necron character models look fantastic. They're highly detailed without being overdone.

    The music between battles sounds like organ music in a church, and during battles it's an odd sort of music that I can't quite describe, but it did suit the feel of the game very well. Sound effects were good and functioned as good audio cues for what happened on screen, though they didn't blow me away.

    Morality. Let's talk about morality. A game like this one is complex because it doesn't have much in some of the overt categories that normally trigger adult-type content, such as language or sexuality. Mechanicus is completely devoid of sexuality in any context. Language was very mild, with the rare d- word that I almost didn't even notice. This is typical of Warhammer 40,000 themed games. I'd be very surprised to find sex and language in a 40K game beyond a PG-rated movie.

    What Mechanicus delivers on however, is violence and occultism, being a 40K game. On the upside, the violence in Mechaicus is very mild by comparison with other titles in the genre. Characters fight and die, but there's almost no visible bloodshed (what else would we expect? It's cyborgs fighting robots... not a lot of blood there). When characters die they fall over and then dissolve, leaving no corpse.

    What's troubling about Mechanicus is the story and gameplay are completely immersed in the religion of the Machine-God, consistent with the Warhammer 40k themes. Dialogue between characters frequently cites scripture verses from works that serve as their analog to the Scriptures. The visuals, music and writing are meant to evoke tropes associated with the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages, but having nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus Christ. Of course, this religion, like that of the Imperium at large, is utterly xenophobic and teaches no moral values of any kind that any religion in real life would find familiar. They worship the Omnissiah for its own sake and not for any spiritual uplift. Human life is not considered particularly valuable. There's no sense that human remains discovered in the tombs mean anything more than clues about the Necrons' methods.

    As I said, none of that is unusual for a 40K game. That's just the setting. The Mechanicum is unique though, because their outlook on the body is that all flesh is weak and corruptible, which is why they do cybernetic upgrading. This is utterly at odds with the notion that Man was created in God's own image. They have contempt for God's greatest work, and that feels like blasphemy. When the game starts, the opening cinematic is a voiceover, and the first words it says are "From the moment I discovered the weakness of my flesh, it disgusted me." On the upside, this is all just fluff and story, and the player is not required to actually think in these terms to enjoy the game.

    The only other noteworthy item is the nature of the Necrons themselves. Their theme, being modeled after Ancient Egypt, has more of a vibe of magic and mysticism than simple technology. Still, it is just technology.

    So Warhammer 40K: Mechanicus, as a game, is incredibly fun. I found it to be the hardest game to put down in a long while. The missions aren't too short or too long, the customization feature isn't too simple or too complex, and the difficulty isn't too hard or too easy. Mechanicus is the Goldilocks of adventure/strategy games. It does have some morally troubling overtones, in terms of religion, but if you're used to the 40K setting this isn't going to be a problem for you.

  •  

    Developer ? Team 17 Number of Players 1-6 offline/online/LAN ESRB Rating ? E for Everyone (Violence, Mild Language) System Requirements IBM PC Intel Pentium 100Mhz and compatibles. 32Mb System RAM. 2x CD-ROM. Microsoft Windows 9x/ME. (Win2k/XP with v3.0.5.0 update) SVGA. 2Mb Video RAM. 1 CD per machine for Multiplayer Mode.

    Introductory Comments

    Worms Armageddon is a 2d turn-based strategy game that takes teams of cute, harmless-looking worms, and arms them with an arsenal of over 50 unique weapons and utilities, including bazookas, grenades, shotguns, and even exploding sheep. The goal is to take out the opposing team(s) by any means necessary.

    Game play

    The basic game goes like this ? 2 or more teams of worms take turns attacking each other. A simple concept, but one that requires strategy and skill. Knowing which weapons to use and when to use them is crucial, since each one is distinctively different. The landscape is completely destructible, and almost any weapon can blow holes in it. Weapons such as the Blowtorch and Pneumatic Drill are meant for digging through the terrain. The land is usually surrounded by water, and often one of the easiest ways to kill a worm is to simply knock it into the water. Aside from being able to blast each other to bits, the worms are also very mobile little creatures. They can jump in three different ways, or simply walk on their own, but with the use of teleports, parachutes, bungees, and other useful items, they can do a whole lot more. With the ninja rope, your worms can freely swing from place to place like they?re Spider-Man. You can make your own terrain using the game?s built-in editor, or basically any image-editing program. I?ve made several using MS Paint. You can also customize your own weapon schemes, choosing which weapons/utilities will be available, how powerful they will be, etc. All of this allows for some very interesting possibilities. People have come up with dozens of different user-made games to play, using custom schemes and maps. The most popular are games revolving around the ninja rope. If you choose to play online, you should be able to learn some of these games pretty quick.

    Multiplayer

    WA is a great multiplayer game. Up to 6 people can play together, either on a single computer, over the Internet, or over a LAN. This is where much of the game?s lasting appeal lies. It?s easy and fun for multiple people to play on one PC due to the game?s turn-based gameplay. If you have too many people, however, it gets a little crowded around the keyboard, unless you have a wireless one that can be passed around. LAN and Internet games work much the same. There?s a handy chat window that appears when you press the ?Page Down? key, and then goes away when you press ?Page Up,? so it doesn?t get in your way while it?s your turn. Hosting a game is easy to do, but not possible if you?re behind a firewall. There are usually other games to join though, so the inability to host isn?t too bad.

    Singleplayer

    No friends? No Internet? No problem! The singleplayer portion of the game is great too! You can choose to play a regular game against the computer, compete in deathmatches of increasing difficulties, train with different weapons, or attempt missions. The missions are the singleplayer game?s bread and butter. There are tons of missions to complete, but before you do, you need to complete training. Training requires you to efficiently utilize different weapons by shooting targets, collecting crates, or completing other goals in a limited amount of time. Missions usually require you to collect a certain crate or kill the opposing force with limited supplies. The different settings and equipment for each mission really do add variety though. Each mission gets increasingly difficult, and I have to be honest and say I haven?t completed all of them. By completing missions and other goals in singleplayer, you can unlock cheats and other goodies.

    Graphics

    Everything is pretty sharp and cartoon-like. It all fits the spirit of the game so well. The worms make different facial expressions depending on their situation. There are many different screen resolutions supported, going up to 1280x768 with the current 3.6 beta patch. You can also import your own graphics for level terrains, the flag that represents your team, and the gravestones that replace your worms when they die.

    Sound

    Explosions make a booming sound like they would in a cartoon. Many weapons have their own unique sound effects ? Sheep say ?Baaah,? Madcows say ?Moo,? Holy Hand Grenades sing ?Hallelujah,? etc. Worms often say funny things, depending on their voice, or soundbank. You can choose from a big list of voices and victory music, or you can import your own.

    Appropriateness

    There is obviously violence, though it is all cartoon-like. Optional blood effects can be unlocked. When a worm dies, it blows itself up and is replaced by a customizable gravestone. Mild language is rare, though present in a few of the soundbanks and mission briefings. I?ve encountered d---, a--, and h---. There are some suicide attacks, as well as exploding animals and old ladies. All of this is comical though. There are also a couple rather morbid terrain sets, including one called ?Hell.? Anything else you see or hear online is because of the people who you?re playing with, and there?s not much you can do about that. There is an optional language filter you can use in the main lobby, but unfortunately it doesn?t work for in-game chat. All in all, I wasn?t offended by any part of the game itself, though I would have left out the language.

    Closing Comments

    I should thank my brother-in-law for introducing me to the Worms games. It quickly became one of my all-time favorite game series. I can easily recommend it to just about anyone. There is very little to be offended by, and it is incredibly fun. You should be able to find them pretty cheap these days too. Armageddon is sold separately, and included in the Worms Triple Pack in the US, which includes two other great Worms games, (Worms 2 and World Party) as well as a demo of Worms Blast. If you haven?t played any of the Worms games, I suggest that you do so today. Armageddon has probably the largest online community, and new content and bug fixes are being added all the time, thanks to Deadcode?s work on the patches. You can download the demo at the official website, and see if you like it before buying it.

    Overall

    Gameplay ? A Graphics ? A Sound ? A Appropriateness ? C+

    Final Score 92.5%

  •  

    System Requirements
    CPU: 350Mhz OS: Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP HDD: 100MB Video: 16MB Direct3D Compatible Sound: DirectSound Compatible Age: Everyone

    Grab your raft and bazooka and head for the water. There are many colored blocks heading towards you and you need to destroy them all! You must shoot all the blocks with the same colored ammo. You will have to aim quickly and accurately because you\'re timed! Also, if you miss you will have a weight or a safe dropped on your head. No pressure! So choose your character and let\'s play! The demo offers two characters, and the full game will offer nine. Each has their own special abilities and unique personalities. In the demo, you can be Buggy B a worm with a raft, paddle and a lot of courage. Or you can be Calvin a sheep with a motorized raft and his desire to be a super hero when he grows up.

    Game Modes

    The Demo offers single and multiplayer play. For multiplayer you use the same machine with different controls or keys. You can play against the computer as well. Most of the game play is in the puzzle mode. This is where you have a limited amount of time to destroy all the blocks. There is usually a trick or two that will knock more blocks off per shot. Other game modes include a Tetris style mode where you have to knock out colored layers of blocks before you get crushed. The last game style is death match. In this mode you still have to avoid being crushed, but you can bounce bullets off of the divider between you and your opponent. Sometimes the barrier opens up enough to take a shot at the other player.

    Enemies and ammo

    There are many different kinds of blocks and you have a variety of weapons available to you as well. Usually the blocks start off a certain color, they can either be destroyed by hitting with the corresponding ammo or altered by a different color bullet. There are dead blocks that you set their color by hitting them. There are also bouncy blocks to ricochet off of. For weapons you get your standard bazooka and color coded ammo. You can also get dynamite and grenades, laser beams and shot guns will also be available to help you get the job done.

    What to expect in the full game

    The full game sounds very promising. There will be sixty challenging puzzle levels and eight multiplayer modes. To help you beat the levels, there will be twenty weapons and gadgets to use as well. Finally you will have nine characters to choose from, each having their advantages.

    Appropriate?

    From a Christian perspective this game is pretty clean. There is a little violence when the safes and weights smash you after you misfire. You can also attack the other player in death match mode. The violence is very animated, no different than cartoons. This game is rated for everyone and I would have to agree with that.

    Overall experienceEase of use

    The game was easy to install. When you run it, it will prompt you for the resolution. You have the option to use T & L (Transform & Light). The graphics are very colorful and has a console feel to it. The music was very fitting. It was tropical at times and dance style the rest of the time. When your time starts getting low, the music will speed up to add the appropriate pressure. The sound effects and voices were cute and fitting as well. For controls you can use the keyboard or joystick/game pad. The controls take some getting used to, and you can customize them. The game ran very stable, I didn\'t experience any lock ups or glitches. My only complaint is that this game is very hard. I am sure the full version will have easier levels and more game modes. But for $19.99 it is a real cute game.

    Final Ratings

    Graphics B+ Game play B+ Sound A Interface B Stability A+ Offensive Content B+

    Overall 88% B+

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Worms Reloaded
    Developed By: Team 17
    Published By: Team 17
    Release Date: August 26th 2010, May 17th 2011 for Mac
    Genre: Turn Based Strategy
    Single/Multiplayer up to four players
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    MSRP: $19.99

    Thank you Team17 for giving us this game to review!

    I have to admit, even though the series has been around since 1995. This is my second time playing a Worms game. And with such a long running series I shouldn't have been surprised with how much fun the tried and true gameplay is 15 years later. However, the cartoon graphics tricked me into not taking the game very seriously. As it turns out, there's a lot of strategy involved when killing worms.

    The objective is simple. You must annihilate the other team of worms before they wipe you out.  To defeat the other worms you have to drain their hit points with weapons or knock them into the water to drown them.

    With its over the top weapons and bright colorful graphics this game reminds me of the Looney Toons cartoons where Road Runner and Wile E Coyote try their zany attempts to blow each other up.  Even though there is violence, it’s very light hearted and not bloody or gory by any means.  The screams the worms make when a mine is placed on them still cracks me up like a kid watching Saturday cartoons.  (Yes I’m in my 30’s and I realize that there are cartoon channels and they’re not limited to Saturday mornings anymore).

    Highlights:

    Strengths: Fun and challenging game play; extremely customizable.

    Weaknesses: The user interface is nice but not intuitive when it comes to configuring your weapons.

    Moral Warnings: Senseless violence, swearing but it’s bleeped out.

    The weapon selection varies on the campaign mission you are playing. The staples include bazookas, mines, dynamite, grenades, frag grenades, shot guns, ninja/grapple ropes, jet packs, parachutes, and teleporters.   Some of the weapons are carried over from the previous games but there are some new ones thrown in for good measure.  All in all there are over forty weapons to dabble with and try out.  Some of the more powerful weapons include the Holy Hand Grenade, Armageddon, Air Strike and Super Bunker Busters.  Exploding ferrets, sheep and buffalo add even more variety.

    Many of the weapons are pretty straightforward to use.  For example, dropping a mine or a dynamite stick on a foe doesn't take much skill but the other weapons are a bit more complex.  When you're using the bazooka or throwing a grenade you have to consider the trajectory and the amount and direction of wind (which changes every turn).  The shotguns are easy since they have a line of sight but the uzis are hard to aim since the recoil is nasty.  Magnets are great for repelling or drawing near metal objects but they have a learning curve to figure out the controls needed to change the polarity.

    The single player campaign has thirty missions with an additional five that can be unlocked by purchasing them in the store area.  For each level you complete you earn coins; the better you do in a level the more coins you can earn.  Besides the additional campaign levels you can purchase new hats for your worms to wear, new grave stones for when they die, and you can purchase the ability to use new weapons.  Most of the levels pit you against an opposing team of worms but an occasional time attack challenge is sprinkled in for variety.

    Multiplayer is a blast and you can play privately and invite your steam friends or play on ranked servers.  I didn’t have any trouble finding anyone to play with.  Whenever I started a ranked server it had a person join within seconds.  There are various modes including Crazy Crates where you get air dropped random weapons of mass destruction.  Fort mode had you attacking the enemy's fort while defending your own.  There's a ninja rope race mode as well as a bazooka and grenade only option.   You can customize your backdrop, starting arsenal, forts and worm appearance.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay: 17/20
    Graphics: 9/10
    Sound: 9/10
    Interface: 4/5
    Stability: 4/5

    Morality Score - 91%
    Violence: 7.5/10
    Language: 8/10
    Sexual Content: 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

    There’s a lot of customization and the possibilities are endless.  You can create your own sound banks for your worm team and I have seen Portal 2, Duke Nukem, StarCraft and South Park sound banks available from the gaming community.  You can create your own maps and levels as well.

    Joining multiplayer games via Steam is easy to do.  Like many Steam games there are thirteen achievements that you can earn.  I have earned achievements for killing six worms with one attack, winning a level only using grenades, using the Holy Hand Grenade and drowning 200 worms.  Another Steam perk is that it saves your progress on the Steam Cloud so your save follows you no matter what computer you use.

    Although there have been many patches I have not experienced any problems running this game. Each turn typically has 30-45 seconds and when you use the weapons it subtracts from the time.  Occasionally I have seen the enemy team use a gun and not have the time subtracted so I had to wait for the timer to run down.  Other than that minor glitch, I have no complaints.

    The voice acting is top notch with a wide variety of built in personalities including mobsters, gangsters, cranky veterans and Star Wars homage.  The weapons sound effects are fitting and the explosions are spot on.  While I remember the menu music I don't recall the background music so if its there, its forgettable.

    The 2D graphics are extremely well done. The various themed back drops are colorful, funny and captivating.  Some of the themes include sports, construction, winter and a cheese planet.  The worms have various looks and expressions that make them likable.  The physics seem pretty accurate and the aim bots are deadly with their precision.  They occasionally mess up but don't count on it!

    While the bright colorful backgrounds and funny voices lure my kids to my computer while I play the game, I would exercise caution before buying this game for a child.  It's obviously violent but in a cartoon fashion not much different than you would find on cartoon shows on TV.  Whenever there is an explosion you'll see a comic book "Boom!" or POW! and so on.  The gangster themed worms called Space Cadets use some slang and actually swear but they bleep it out.  I don't know why they bothered in the first place.

    With that said, this is an extremely fun turn based strategy game that has tons of replay value.  After you beat the main single player campaign you can try your hand at the tougher War Zone missions.  Multiplayer is bound to bring endless hours of enjoyment and with an asking price of $20 this game is well worth the money.  I have seen it as low as $10 on sale; at that price it's a steal.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Worms W.M.D
    Developed By: Team17 Digital Ltd
    Published By: Team17 Digital Ltd
    Released: Aug 23, 2016
    Available On: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
    Genre: Action, Strategy
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ (Cartoon Violence, Crude Humor, Language)
    Number of Players: Single player with local and online multiplayer
    MSRP: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Team 17 for sending us this game to review.

    Worms W.M.D is the latest installment of the 22 year old Worms series. It has been a mainstay in PC gaming since the late '90s. Instead of iterating on a long running series they decided to simplify things and return to the Worms Armageddon format. This is a classic worms game where you control a team of subterranean soldiers to do battle across creative 2D maps. All of the classic weapons and environmental hazards are there and new vehicles are added. There's a crafting system that's been added so you can craft weapons on another player's turn. Although a story mode is lacking there are plenty of missions and challenges to blast your way through.

    The graphics and artstyle remain as they have always been. The cartoony worms are bright and expressive. The maps and backgrounds are colorful and creative. There's a big variety in the types of maps and themes. You can even customize your maps and import pictures into the backgrounds. Upbeat music, whimsical explosions, and grunting worms are all present. The voice acting is limited to one liners due to the lack of story mode, but there's an impressive number of sets that you can unlock from playing the game.

    One new feature in this game is that you can now go inside buildings and collect materials for crafting. When inside a building, you see the inside. When outside a building, you see the outside. Even if another player damages one of your worms hiding in a building you'll only see the damage numbers pop up.

    Worms W.M.D.
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Iconic strategic gameplay; Vehicles; Able to craft weapons
    Weak Points: Lack of story mode; AI turns take too long
    Moral Warnings: Foul language; Weapons used by player; Christian imagery used for violence

    There's a lot of single player content in the game. The campaign mode and challenges offer a good number of missions, each with additional objectives and achievements. There's also tutorials and advanced tutorials to really test your mastery of a specific weapon. Let's not forget custom games to play with other people or AI. I don't know if they were trying to make the AI more like a human player or what but the AI controlled worms will take their sweet time before moving to their location, awkwardly targeting, and then snapping into perfect position to hit you from across the map.

    The biggest addition to this game is the crafting system. Here you can scrounge the map for materials (or get them in supply drops) and then craft any weapon you have materials for. You can craft during your enemy's turn, which is great because I found AI turns to take entirely too long. Along with crafting the standard weapons, you can also craft variants of weapons. The game shows you this feature exists and then moves on but, once I actually delved into the weapon variants I was impressed. There are a lot of fun killing machines to be created in there.

    Vehicles were also added to the game and I absolutely love them. They add a great dimension to the game and are just fun to control. Their high power is balanced by the fact that someone can jump in and steal it after your turn is over. The Mech and Helicopter are my favorites; they can both fly and have powerful weapons.

    Worms W.M.D.
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 81%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    The online play is both functional and active. Both of those traits together are somewhat rare for a year old, niche game. At the time of writing I was able to join a few 4-player games rather quickly and I got thoroughly annihilated. The vehicles really add a lot to this as well. I thought that matches would devolve into swapping vehicles back and forth but that doesn't really happen as people tend to move the vehicles to remote locations. Also the people I played against were incredibly accurate with the bazooka.

    Worms W.M.D, like the previous games in the series, are extremely violent games wrapped up in a cute, cartoony veneer. There's no blood or gore but when worms run out of health they commit suicide, usually by explosion, and leave a gravestone. Some of the one-liners that the worms spout contain foul language and sexual humor. One of the weapons is the holy hand grenade, which is a yellow and white grenade with a cross on it. It's meant as a reference to a Monty Python sketch, but it's still a Christian symbol used for killing.

    Worms W.M.D is an excellent return to form for the series. It's clear that Team 17 listened to their fans and went back to a classic entry. While I'm happy they chose this route, I just wish they hadn't jettisoned a story mode and more involved voice acting along the way. The additions of crafting and vehicles really add to the overall gameplay. If you like classic Worms games from the start of the series, you'll love this title.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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