Turn Based Strategy

  • Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth (Vita)

    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

    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.

  • Valkyria Chronicles Remastered (PS4)

    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

    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.  


  • Warhammer 40K: Mechanicus (PC)


    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

    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.

  • Worms Armageddon


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


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

    Final Score 92.5%

  • Worms Blast (Preview)


    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.


    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+

  • Worms Reloaded (PC)

    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).


    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.


  • Worms W.M.D (PC)

    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.

    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.

  • XCOM 2 (PC)

    Game Info:

    XCOM 2 
    Developer: Firaxis Games
    Publisher: 2K Games
    Release Date: Feburary 5th 2016
    Available on: PC
    Number of Players: Single player for Campaign up to 8 players for multiplayer online 
    Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
    Rated: T for Teen: Blood Use of Tobacco and Violence
    Price: $59.99 
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    The famous science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote:  "Two possibilities exist: we are either alone in the universe or we are not  both are equally terrifying", that quote has never been truer than in the universe of XCOM.  If you have ever played the original XCOM game titled XCOM: UFO Defense  then you know how much fun it was.  However, if you're like me and got the remake, that works too.  

    The story of XCOM 2  takes place twenty years after the events of XCOM: Enemy Unknown.   Instead of winning the war against the alien threat, the leaders of Earth have surrendered and XCOM the praetorian guard of Earth is defeated. It seems that all is lost right?  Wrong!  XCOM may be down, but not out after being rescued by Centeral Officer Bradford who was the Commander's right hand man in the first game. The player resumes the role of being commander of XCOM, except this isn't your ordinary XCOM,  this is a rebellious fighting force  instead of the first line of defense against alien invaders.  On the surface the aliens seem benevolent providing advanced medicine and are even revered as saviors from the stars. They  even go as far as spreading lies that XCOM struck first; which is a lie if you played the first game in order to follow the story.  There is a mention of Elders of course, but that is a nod to the Ethereals  from Enemy Unknown. Though they don't make a physical appearance, they do appear in ghost form. 

    Throughout the game your objective is to reclaim Earth from the aliens and the ADVENT coalition. Now these aliens are far more nastier than their Enemy Unknown counterparts by a long shot.  XCOM 2 is a turn-based strategy game.  It's  like playing a game of chess except it's against aliens. You can use the turns to either get into cover, fire your weapon of choice, overwatch, or use the specific soldier class abilities against the aliens.  But beware, if you make a mistake and if you lose one of your troopers it's permanent, so the first rule in XCOM: Stay in cover!  The game is a bit violent, but you are defending Earth against the entrenched aliens.    Fortunately the violence is turned down to a Teen rating  whereas  Enemy Unknown had a rated M rating for strong language and violence. 

    XCOM 2

    Strong Points: Amazing story, new classes, new aliens  a new base and choosing which class you want your soldiers to be in
    Weak Points: Lagging frame rate sometimes the enemies are glitchy at times but that's excusable
    Moral Warnings: Violence, Aliens specifically Elders which have god-like status, Zombies when Sectoids  resurrect fallen comrades or fallen XCOM operatives  

    The graphics, for an XCOM game are a work of art; imagine if Ridley Scott was a game developer instead of being a film director.  A lot of care and patience have been put into the game.  And it shows like you wouldn't believe, from the sterile ADVENT cities, to the rugged terrains of the woods, and even the Avenger itself which is a former alien supply ship now your base of operation in the game. Though XCOM Enemy Unknown had decent graphics, XCOM 2 blows its predecessor out of the water.    

    The music is spectacular; my personal favorite in the game is the Avenger theme. With the synthesized  music  mixed just right,it has a robotic tone but at the same time it feels like a mix of Hans Zimmer's music of the Dark Knight from the Christopher Nolan trilogy and Vangelis' music of Blade Runner. Tim Wyn the composer of the soundtrack of XCOM 2 was brilliant in composing the music, but I like  the Enemy Unknown composer Michael McCann better.  Interesting to note Tim Wyn helped compose the music for Enemy Unknown as well but decided to fly solo which is understandable. As for the mood of the soundtrack it sets the tone perfectly and it makes you feel like you're part of the action.

    XCOM 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

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

    Morality Score - 77%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 6.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    Each time you board the Avenger (which is your base in the game) you get a chance to meet some of the new characters like Dr. Richard Tygan a former ADVENT scientist who serves as Dr. Vahlen.  You'll also see Lily Shen, the daughter of the late Dr. Raymond Shen, who is determined to take Earth back from the aliens.   The new XCOM is different then Enemy Unknown because you're a freedom fighting force not a government supported paramilitary organization so choose your battles carefully.   

    One amazing thing about XCOM 2 and its predecessor that I nearly neglected to mention was customization of your soldiers. While XCOM Enemy Unknown was limited XCOM 2  expands on customizing your troopers even going far as to customize them after your friends and family.    You  can even add mods to XCOM 2 there is so much you can try out for free to download.  There's even DLC as well like the Resistance Warrior pack which comes with the game (if you got a hard copy of the game like I did) Anarchy's Children and coming soon Shen's legacy which adds more face paint, masks, tattoos, cigars and cigarettes.   There is multiplayer in the game, but sadly I haven't played it yet. Once my youngest brother has the game him and I can test our skills on the field.  I can't play multiplayer offline since it doesn't work like that. 

    Here's the million dollar question: Did I beat the game?  No I haven't, being a perfectionist I always had to try again and want a different result since I can't abide the idea of losing my squad.  I forgot to mention that if you fail the game, XCOM is defeated for good. That's the bad ending, try not, to let the Avatar project reach the danger zone, this is a race against the clock!

    Is XCOM 2 safe to play morally speaking?  In my mind absolutely, I recommend it to people who love Turn based strategy games and science fiction.  But if you're new to the whole Turn-Based Strategy game genre give XCOM 2 a try.  You might be surprised on what you see. 

  • Xenonauts 2 (PC) (Preview)

    Game Info:

    Xenonauts 2
    Developed By: Goldhawk Interactive
    Published By: Goldhawk Interactive
    Released: June 20, 2018
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1 offline
    Price: Free combat demo, different Kickstarter tiers for different levels of access.

    In the recent years, there has been a surge of turn-based strategy (TBS) games hitting the market, but there was once a time that there wasn’t too many to choose from. Back around 2010, there weren’t many coming out. It was during this time that Goldhawk Interactive’s Xenonauts was first released. It was a decent game, though it did have some problems, but it was one of the few TBS options you had at the time. It also played more like the original X-Com than Firaxis’s then recently released XCOM Enemy Unknown. Now, Goldhawk Interactive is working on Xenonauts 2 which is supposed to be like a remade Xenonauts with altered setting and a better engine. At the time of writing this, Xenonauts 2 is currently on Kickstarter seeking funding and has already achieved two times their goal. They also released a free combat demo which is what we will be checking out.

    This demo contains one mission. Each time you play, you will get the same map and the same units, but the aliens do appear to spawn in different areas. I have played this mission about four times and each one has felt different. Sometimes, all eight of my units will survive, and others I’ll surfer heavy casualties. I do appreciate how each of my attempts felt different. It made me more encouraged to play through it multiple times. I also like how they released this little demo to the public so you can test out what the game has to offer before you give it some money.

    The bulk of this demo is the ground combat and it feels pretty solid so far considering that it is for a Kickstarter. It plays pretty similarly to the original X-Com and the first Xenonauts. You still have your time units (TUs) which you use to move around and shoot and you still have some of the extra things Xenonauts added into the formula like suppression. You also have some new features such as being able to queue up a move and check your shots from that position. Another new feature is full camera rotation. With the engine being changed over to Unity, and the game now being 3d instead of 2d, you are now able to rotate the camera which is really nice after coming from a single, stuck isometric view.

    Combat is still as lethal as it was in the previous game. Just one shot from an enemy is enough to fell a soldier. The enemies present in the demo still have a longer sight radius than your soldiers have so you can still expect some shots from the dark. Don’t let this get you to thinking that your people are helpless though. This demo, while it does pre-equip your units, does give you a decent selection of the starting weapons. When I normally play these types of games, I stay away from the shotguns, but since I had to use two soldiers with them I got to test out something I normally wouldn’t. It is nice since I will now probably try using them because they seem more effective than I remember them being. It is also nice being able to test the grenade launcher which is a new weapon type for the Xenonauts series. Overall, for a lot of things being the same as the first game, there is a decent number of things to try out for the new game.

    Xenonauts 2

    Strong Points: Challenging combat; great atmosphere; nice 3D graphics; free demo so that you can test it out; unique sounding setting.
    Weak Points: Demo is not the most optimized; game might be too challenging for some; not many options present.
    Moral Warnings: Game contains a lot of violence; corpses persist; damaged units leave behind pools of blood; enemy will actively try and kill civilians; aliens.

    As mentioned above, the game has moved from 2D to 3D. While the art in Xenonauts is really good, I‘d say most things look a bit better in Xenonauts 2. It also helps that things have a little bit of animation attached to them. For instance, the units have a little bit of idle animation and the rotors on the dropship are slowly rotating casting a moving shadow on the ground. Another cool thing is the setting. The setting for this game is still the Cold War, but one that has lasted until the 2000s and there is a nice mixture of old and new. For instance, the cars look like an old station wagon while the buildings have LCD monitors.

    The lighting is very atmospheric. The mission present in the combat demo is a nighttime mission so you have a lot of interesting lighting going on. You still have a little bit of light coming from the moon which is casting shadows from the various structures. You have a couple different buildings which are nicely lit by some interior lights, but there is one garage type structure which has no lights on, which is almost pitch-black inside. I really like the way lighting works so far and I’m looking forward to getting some flares to be able to chuck around and see how they do. One final nice art detail is now your bullets leave behind a little smoke trail. It’s a very nice little detail that I wouldn’t be expecting to see at such an early state, but it really adds to experience.

    There isn’t much to say about the sound right now. While it is present, most of it is from the first game. Now, none of this is really bad, but none of it is anything new and I’m pretty sure most of it is placeholder. I at least know the music is placeholder since they have talked about bringing in the same person to make music again for this game. I’m really looking forward to that since the music in the first game is really good. It’s not the kind of music you’d normally listen to, but it is great at making tension and helps to define each of the different types of missions. If they kept the same sound effects that would probably be okay too. The only one that sounds a bit off is the human death sound, but most of the time when a human is killed it is by a plasma gun so that might make them sound a bit different. Overall, everything in the demo sounds good, but I’m just not sure how well it will represent the final product.

    Xenonauts 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 88%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The stability of the demo I’ve found to be quite high. I haven’t experienced any crashes or bugs. Other people have reported some issues so be advised that they do exist, but they do seem to be fairly rare. My main issue so far is with the graphics setting. This game doesn’t have fully set up graphics options. Currently, there is just the basic Unity thing with basic options like fantastic, low, etc. My computer is pretty decent, but if I go anything higher than the lower settings the game starts to slow down a bit. It is most noticeable when it is the enemy’s turn when the camera normally won’t pan over to the enemy so you can actually see it do its action. It’s not that bad of a thing since I can just play one of the lesser settings, but it isn’t a great first impression if you immediately go and jack up your graphics to the best setting. I do hope this is something they look at fixing at some point since the game is very pretty so I’d like to be able to play it at a setting to best view it.

    So far, there isn’t much to judge for the morality of this game. All you have is the little bit of combat present in the demo which, while being a big part of these types of games, is not the only focus. As for what is present, the game can be a bit violent. Now, this is pretty abstract with it being a TBS game, but you are going to have people dying. This style of game is almost impossible to play without suffering any casualties. That doesn’t just include your soldiers either. There are missions with civilians on them and the aliens will actively try to kill them. Anything killed, unless they are really exploded, leave behind a corpse on the ground. Units shot also leave behind pools of blood. Another moral thing to consider is that the enemies you are fighting are aliens, although this time around they appear to be more alien looking than human, like they were in the first game.

    Xenonauts 2’s combat demo, while being a tad small, works really well as a preview of the game. I’ve played some of the previous versions of this demo that has been released over the past year or so and I’m really amazed by all of the stuff they added in. A lot of the stuff present in here is really art focused and serves as a nice showing of what all they were able to improve by changing engines. At the time of writing this, Xenonauts 2 is currently running its Kickstarter campaign and has already secured well over its funding goal. This free combat demo is available both on its Kickstarter page and through Good Old Games for you to try out. I’d highly recommend heading over to one of them to try it out for yourself and see what you think. That should be a good way for any parent to see if this game is good for their kid or if it is the type of game they themselves might want to play.

    - Paul Barnard (Betuor)

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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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