Early Access – Infinifactory

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Infinifactory is a First Person Puzzle game currently in Early Access via Steam, the aim of the game is to assemble equipment in a factory of your creation, using a variety of special blocks.

Story wise, you are not having the best of days, you’ve been abducted by an alien race that doesn’t own any form of universal translator and are forced to build factories for your new masters.
Seriously what sort of aliens abducts someone without the ability to communicate in this day and age?

To start with these factories will simply ask you to move a block from point A to point B, after a few more levels, the instructions start to get more… detailed. It is still moving the block from point A to point B, but on the way attach another block, and another, until eventually you are starting with a single block and ending up with a shuttle, a drone, or even a completely furnished studio apartment. This is almost like a Rube Goldberg machine simulator.

ss3Over Infinifactory 30 levels, your selection of blocks expands to include conveyor belts, pushers, welders, lifters, rotators, sensors and eviscerator’s.

Yes, it is another block based game. Side note a previous game from Zachtronics was called Infiniminer.
“It’s a bit like Minecraft, but more limited and less popular. And thus, far superior.”
Fresh Meat TV series reference, in reality Infiniminer was one of the inspirations for Minecraft.

When you complete each level you are presented with your cycle and footprint score, what exactly they mean is not really explained to you, or if they were it was very easily overlooked. But essentially the lower the scores the better you have done, and the urge to go back into the levels and try and tweak your factories to get better and lower scores is strong. More so with the more elaborate requirements, can you remove that piece of conveyor belt? Would moving that pusher a bit to the left make the factory more efficient?

ss4Hidden about most levels are fail logs, recordings from previous abductees who have failed in their tasks, some of these are quite funny, others offer some insight into the way the aliens think and are a nice addition to listen to while thinking of how your factory layout should be.

The learning curve can appear to be quite steep, the easily annoyed or caffeine/nicotine dependants amongst us will spend an ungodly amount of time trying to work out what to do on some levels, but there were a few leaps into the air followed by a “hell yes” when the first completed product rolled over point B.

Zachtronics also offers a simple feedback form after each level, was the level too hard? Was it fun? Was it interesting? I haven’t seen this from many other games, usually feedback is asked for on forums/twitter/Facebook or on Reddit, so seeing it in game was a surprise, a nice surprise though as it shows Zachtronics is actively looking for feedback to make Infinifactory as fun and entertaining as it can.

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It will be interesting to see what sort of impact on the game this will have as it continues through Early Access to full release.

Zachtronics has even built a GIF recorder into Infinifactory to capture your finest creations and share them online with friends and family… if that’s the sort of thing you want to share.

Some people may find the £18.99 price tag a bit imposing, but this is probably one of the most entertaining Early Access games I have played for a while. I would say it is worth the money.

There is plenty of replayability, the roadmap for the game has additional campaigns planned and with the Steam workshop integration allowing custom maps to be created and downloaded Infinifactory should have a very long lifespan.

Cities XXL Review

CitiesXXL-05Cities XXL is a City Builder from Focus Home Interactive, an independent studio from France. Similar in gameplay to the Sim City games, but with the emphasis on creating and maintaining huge sprawling mega-cities.

Graphically the game looks good, from a distance the world looks alive, you can see the cars and trucks moving along the roads, traffic jams growing, and planes travelling overhead.
If you wished to, you could zoom all the way down to the street level where you can see the pedestrians wandering around and the traffic up close and personal, this is where it loses some of its shine, the traffic you see from the sky looks fine, but zoomed in it all looks rather basic. But it is a city building game so the majority of your time will be spent zoomed out and planning where your housing and industry zones should be placed.

CitiesXXL-02When you fire up Cities XXL for the first time you are advised to go through the tutorials, and as a tutorial should be, it is very in-depth. Occasionally some of the instructions were a little confusing “we need to finish the unfinished road” ok.. where is the unfinished road? I found it eventually but some sort of highlighting would have been appreciated.

After learning about Housing, Industry, Commerce, Traffic Management, Industry Satisfaction, & Metro Lines, just to name a few tutorial subjects I felt ready enough to start my first city properly.

When you hit the play button you are taken to a map of the world, here you will select a map on which you hope to start building the perfect city, I counted 67 maps to choose from, each map has its own difficulty level, each with its own stat’s including resource, fertile area’s and holiday levels.

I decided HopelessVille would be located in The Wetlands.

Once the map had loaded we had to set up a main road, a Town Hall, and a Utilities Centre to provide your small town with electricity, water and a few starter jobs to lure people into your city.

CitiesXXL-04Enter the Unskilled Workers.

Your Citizens are divided into 4 categories, Unskilled Workers, Skilled Workers, Executives and Elites. Each category has needs and demands for homes and jobs, and eventually the game becomes a balancing act to cater for everyone and keep morale and satisfaction high.
Too many homes and you end up with mass unemployment and your city starts to resemble a ghost town, due to the empty lots awaiting people to move in. Too many industry/commerce zones and you end up with empty Business/Industrial zones that could end up costing you money whilst waiting for more housing to be built, to attract new businesses.

The Citizens are very vocal with their wants and demands, they will tell you when they want more retail zones, when they are bored and want more leisure activities. As Mayor, you are obligated to fulfil all the demands thrown at you to keep the city desirable to prospective tenants and businesses.

CitiesXXL-03When HopelessVille reached 15,000 citizens they reminded me they had no security or education, it was time to build police & fire stations, with some schools thrown in for good measure.

At 20,000, I was told my roads were too congested, I fixed this by creating the most intricate one-way system known to man. Life was good.

But when it starts going wrong you have to act quickly, I hadn’t noticed exactly when my income had gone into the negative, it was costing me money to run the city instead of earning it. In a panic I destroyed buildings, I raised taxes, I did everything to try and claw back the positive income..

If you need to, you can setup trades between your cities, HopelessVille had no oil reserves to plunder for fuel, but Omnicorp, the AI city that is set up to assist new players, had plenty… however with a negative income no trade could be setup. The situation was indeed hopeless.

Inevitably the citizens left and the industries ground to a halt.. I had successfully run HopelessVille into the ground.

I found the process of building your city and trying to maintain and grow your economies quite fun. When it became obvious that HopelessVille was a lost cause I didn’t think “oh well that’s it for the night” instead I had the desire to start again and try to do better.

CitiesXXL-01Unfortunately, the trend did not improve.. Hopeless City & HopelessTropolis also went the same way; maybe I cursed them with my name choice?
At the end of the day, Cities XXL is a very competent City Building game, if you are a fan of the genre and haven’t played any of the others in the series you should enjoy it.

There are some issues though, some pop ups could be a bit clearer, and when trying to check on your citizens wants and needs the screen gets a tiny bit too cluttered for my liking.
Performance wise on my machine I had a few frame rate issues the larger my cities grew, or as I tried to place roads while zoomed all the way out.
Now I don’t consider my PC a gaming beast but with my specs (16GB Ram, i5 3570K Processor Overclocked to 4.5GHz, with a 660 Ti 2GB card) it should not be as bad as it was.
Poor optimisation? Possibly.
If you have played any of the others in the series, you will have seen most of this before with very minimal changes between this and Cities XL

Grey Goo Review

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According to Wikipedia, Grey Goo is:
“A hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario involving molecular nanotechnology in which out-of-control self-replicating robots consume all matter on Earth while building more of themselves”

Which is pretty descriptive for Grey Goo, a real time strategy game from Petroglyph, a studio that was largely formed from the remnants of Westwood studios, the creators of the classic real time strategy series Command & Conquer, and Dune 2. These guys know how to make a good real time strategy game.

Grey Goo is set on the catchily titled planet Ecosystem 9, where we are introduced to the games three races gradually over the 15 single player missions, 5 missions per race. This doesn’t sound a lot, but each of the missions took me around an hour minimum to finish (main missions that is, the tutorial/introduction missions were about 20 minutes in length).

Beta__Screenshot_11The first goal in each mission, no matter the race you’re playing will always be the same, to focus on building a base and to then start production of your army. Resources are gathered from numerous catalyst sites, each refinery (Beta and Humans) placed will spawn a resource collector to harvest the resource nodes, the further away the node the more harvesters are created. This enables you to have a steady stream of income coming in.

The 3 races have subtle differences and play styles.

The Beta, a group of refugees trying to rebuild their lives after almost being wiped out by “The Silent Ones”. Their aim is harvesting the catalyst needed to take them back to the stars. They are more of a jack of all trades race, good on the attack and also good with defence.

The Humans, who after exploring the galaxy and not finding anything, realised that war was pointless and so the golden age of peace and harmony began. After a probe detected the resource rich Ecosystem 9 they set out to collect the resources. They have the better defensive structures, and some nice looking tanks.

grey_goo_concept_08_2The Goo started life as an Earth made probe whose job was to discover the galaxy, and has eventually evolved into an unstoppable force, absorbing all that it comes across to replicate itself and spread further throughout the galaxy. The Goo are slightly different as they have no “base” construction units… their headquarters are living units known as the Mother Goo’s. They also have no factories. The Mother Goo’s create large and small Proteans which can be transformed into a variety of units. This makes them interesting to play for as long as there is a Mother Goo on the map you are still in the game. It also means that unlike the Humans or Betas the Goo bases are not locked to one position on the map, and can constantly move.

Each race has access to an Elite super unit. The Beta have the Hand of Ruk, a mobile floating factory capable of having 6 units garrisoned in its turrets to defend, and a small nuclear warhead launcher for attack.
Humans have the Alpha, a giant human shaped mech… think a 1000ft tall Iron Man (chest laser included)
The Goo can transform a Mother Goo into a Purger, a writhing mass of tentacles, to me this one seems the most powerful of the three… I’m quite fond of this one.

GGTRA_07_smStory wise, it is a pretty standard sci-fi story. The Betas fall under attack from an unknown enemy -thought to be the silent ones. The Humans come under attack from an alien race discovered to be of Earth origin, but end up accidentally caught in a fight between both alien species on the planet Eco9. The Goo just wants to absorb everything for the greater good.

As well as the single player game, there is also the traditional real time strategy stalwart “Skirmish Mode”, which allows you to setup custom games against AI Commanders and the Multiplayer takes you online to fight against other players. Or in my case show how truly woeful you actually are. Grey Goo comes with 8 maps to play Skirmish and Multiplayer with, while this isn’t a massive choice Petroglyph have included a very comprehensive map editor combined with the steam workshop (there was no maps uploaded at the time of the review), you should not have any problems finding new and exciting maps to play.

Grey Goo looks very good, Petroglyph went to WETA Workshop to help create the visuals, in between missions some very gorgeous CGI cutscenes explain the story away from the battlefield. The script does have some groan worthy lines such as “I want every last drop of Goo destroyed!!!” delivered by the Human Commander Lucy with the straightest face possible , but I found those added to its appeal

GGTRA_04_smOne thing I will say about Grey Goo, is that I found the difficulty could range from pretty damn easy to screw this *Rage Quit*.

Some missions seem impossible on your first few attempts, Mission 5 was a good example of this, within 2 minutes there was a sea of Goo crashing against my walls eventually dissolving them and everything in the base, but this leads to you rethinking your choices, what did I do wrong? Should I try a different combination of units? Maybe build this over here, put this unit there?….

And then when you realise the solution and blast through the section that has kept you raging for the last 40 minutes, and all is right in the world. Until you realise you can’t find the last Mother Goo and it starts over again…

It’s safe to say I enjoyed my time in the single player campaign.

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Grey Goo Launch Trailer from axisanimation on Vimeo.

Gravity Ghost Review

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Two FGUK writers get their hands on the beautiful Gravity Ghost, here are their thoughts……

Sean C‘s Thoughts

Gravity Ghost is full of whimsy charm, offering a relaxed atmosphere as you control Iona, the fairy-like spectre, as she glides across the universe collecting stars and flowers searching for her lost Fox. Gravity Ghost feels like it has sprung from the pages of your favourite children’s book, drawn with pastels atop a canvas of the galaxy. Each level is comprised of a number of planets. Some of these can be small and simply alter the gravitational pull throughout the level, then some could be glass and approached too fast and you’ll destroy them and yet again alter the pull of gravity.

s2While the game is simple, at its core it does offer considerable challenge as you make your way through to the end game. The physics take some getting used to and the floaty controls can offer a little frustration until you’ve mastered them. The addition of extra powers, such as the ability to become heavier and force yourself down to the planet, or the glide that floats you in a single direction. All the powers help with different properties and the need to simply react to more on screen as you figure out what each level expects of you. You’ll also come across simple levels where you’ll be required to play the “Marble in the Maze” game, which will require you to run around the world to control the direction of the marble to eventually work it through the maze and allow its escape.

s7The flashbacks of her life offer insight into the journey, while her interaction with the spirit-animals and the need to find her fox becomes the driving force behind the adventure. Each planet type has its own beautiful style that differs should you choose to terraform. The 2D nature of the game offers elegant simplicity that keeps you playing long after you thought you should stop. I sat through the game in two separate sittings and then went back in for a little more later. The game’s soundtrack (From Ben Prunty – Composer of FTL) is an excellent addition to the package and really helps to bring together the atmosphere. Although it gets a little turned around sometimes, the story at the heart of the game is of sadness, of loss and eventual triumph and everything about the package helped me feel every second of it.

Gravity Ghost is a charming little adventure and with no available fail-state, you can sit back and watch as you drift from planet to planet while offering a light challenge and an excellent palate cleanser compared to what else is on the market.

s15Gary Cook‘s Thoughts

First off let me start by saying, I am not a Puzzle/Platformer games player.. I’m more into First Person Shooters, Real-time Strategy, Simulators and the occasional Driving game.
But I will try my hand at pretty much anything that comes my way, and I have a soft spot for Indie developers such as Ivy Games, the creators of Gravity Ghost… so with that out in the open..

Gravity Ghost is a physics puzzle game, you play as Iona – the Gravity Ghost of the title. Due to an unknown tragic event, she is travelling through the game world searching for her friend the ghost fox. During her search she meets the 7 Guardians who task her with rebuilding the shattered universe and in doing maybe find the ghost fox.

s11For each level of the game you must run, jump, glide, orbit and terraform small planets to collect stars that open the door back to the galaxy map. Your first few attempts at the game will end up with you swinging wildly around the screen, as you try to work out how best to change your orbit to get that star floating near the top of the screen. Once you get used to the controls (all play styles are accounted for Keyboard, Mouse & Control Pad) you’ll be gliding about like a galactic dove.

Some levels task you with guiding a ball that’s attracted to you out of a spherical maze, I found these particular puzzles to be quite fun. Other levels give you magical abilities to turn one type of planet into another to help with the collection of the stars and flowers, yes flowers. Your magical abilities are fuelled by the length of your hair, use an ability and your hair length decreases, collect flowers and it grows longer.

There isn’t any violence, and no way to fail a puzzle, if you get stuck just return to the map screen and try again. That’s not to say the puzzles are simple, some of the harder ones did leave me scratching my head for a bit while I tried to work out where to go, what to change and at times how best to intercept the orbiting stars or pick up’s, but the sense of accomplishment when I finally worked out what had stumped me for 10 minutes was exhilarating.

s10This is truly a game to just chill out and unwind to after a long day at work, the papercraft-esque art style is absolutely brilliant and the soundtrack is from Ben Prunty – the composer for the FTL soundtrack and is as equally good, if not better than his last offering.

I found the story to be captivating and was genuinely touching, I just couldn’t stop myself from playing until the end credits were rolling.

My only complaint, game length. From start to finish it took me just under 2 hours to finish the story, but for the 100% completionists out there I’m sure it will take longer to get all the Steam achievements.

Gravity Ghost is a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it.

Pro’s:

Entertaining puzzles
Engaging and touching story
Simple to learn
Easy to pick up, hard to put down
Very atmospheric soundtrack

Con’s:
Bit Short

Score: 8/10

Immune – Early Access Preview

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Immune from Vidiludi Games & Entertainment, is an early access sandbox survival MMORPG. Set in an apocalyptic wasteland after an unknown disease has broken out, it has reduced humanity to scavenging masses and split the survivors into two groups, the players (us), and a bunch of gas mask wearing, gun toting psychopaths.. who occasionally wear Rastafarian cap’s (other caps are available) and of course there’s the ever present threat of zombies and mutants.

The game is played from a top down view, and movement is controlled by the arrow keys, E to pick up items and Spacebar to harvest/attack. To survive you can either fortify existing buildings (I only saw a handful of buildings you could not enter) or wall off a little patch of land to call your own. You will also need to gather food or grow crops as well so you don’t starve to death.

Immune_(PC___Mac)_-_01Gather resources to build items, wood is collected from trees, stone is found in patches on the ground and metal.. well metal seems to be pretty rare, in fact I only managed to collect metal from a backpack I found on the floor.. suspiciously close to a zombie sporting a rather fetching cowboy hat.

Use the resources to craft doors, fences, campfires, slingshots, wooden clubs, shovels.. you get the idea.

The crafting is a simple affair, no need to place items in the right place on a crafting grid, like Minecraft. Want to craft a wooden club? Collect 10 wood, select wooden club press craft.. it is that simple.

Currently the game area is limited to the upper left side of the map, with a lovely coastline, lots of green fields, an airstrip (no planes) and the occasional quarantine zone. Any attempt to go further to the east or south leads to big wall with “Coming Soon” written across it, not that the current play area is small, it still took me over 10 minutes to walk across this section of the map. And you’re not limited to just walking as there are vehicles! Currently the Jeep is the only alternative mode of transport in game and driving into the zombies and survivors is strangely entertaining. Plus it’s the easiest way to survive your first few run ins with the hostile forces.

Immune_(PC___Mac)_-_02Combat is another simple affair, find your enemy and click on him and head towards them while hitting the Spacebar, if you’re lucky you would of found a better weapon than a wooden club. which though better than your bare hands was still pretty weak.
My first few run ins with hostile NPC’s led to death by:
Zombie (wearing a Cowboy hat)
Survivor (wearing a Rastacap)
Zombie (no head wear)
Cow.. (or possibly a Bull… it was big, and cow like, I think it had horns)
Zombie (wearing a hard hat)

Immune_(PC___Mac)_-_03The version I’ve been playing is 0.4.0 Alpha, so there is still a bit of tweaking and game balancing to do, Control pad support would be a positive addition, I also found the tutorial tips can be a little vague at times so a little sprucing up to do.

I’m going to keep an eye on the development of Immune, I’m quite impressed by the state of the game at the moment and can’t wait to see how the game progresses.

Immune is Available from Developers Website Here.

Elite Dangerous Review

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Have you ever dreamt of jumping into a spaceship and blasting off into the unknown? Would you try and become the greatest trader or explorer the universe has ever seen? The greatest bounty hunter or combat pilot to one of the 3 galaxy super powers? Or become a pirate.. the pirate whose name strikes fear into every man, woman and child when it is whispered?

Then good news! Elite Dangerous just may be the game for you!

After a successful Kickstarter campaign back in November 2012, and just over 2 years in development, Elite Dangerous has been released to the public. Was it worth the wait?

First off, this is not going to be a game for everyone. Elite Dangerous is an Open World Space Flight Sim Sandbox game, it is brutal and unforgiving. A game that, like most flight sim’s, is best played with a HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) Joystick.. A game that if played with an Oculus Rift is supposed to be the closest to virtual reality than any game in existence.. I do not own a Rift.. But I do own a HOTAS stick.. admittedly I bought the Joystick solely for this game..

Elite_Dangerous_(3)After running through the training sections, you’re kind of ready to enter the massive world of Elite Dangerous, and it is massive… 400 Million star systems are in place to explore, fight and trade in.

There are currently 15 ships in game, with more on the way. Everybody starts in the Sidewinder, your main focus at the beginning of the game will be to upgrade to something more sturdy, customise your modules and weapons loadouts to how you want to play.

Want to explore? Load up on discovery scanners, Upgrade the fuel capacity, FSD drive and add a Fuel Scoop to siphon off the gasses from the system stars.. just don’t get too close or you burn up quicker than popcorn in a microwave..
Combat more your thing? Improve the weapons, power distribution, shields and bulkheads to try and survive the run-ins with pirates.
Or are you more of a trader? Rip out unwanted modules! Guns?? You don’t need guns, you need cargo space and jump distance!
Of course you can try and do it all, but you learn quickly that the jack of all trades master of none approach will get you killed quite quickly..

Elite_Dangerous_(33)Combat is a delicate balance of maintaining speed, keeping your shields powered up and having enough energy in your weapons to keep them firing, you will find yourself constantly adjusting the power distribution throughout the fight. Shields down? Divert power to systems.. but do you keep the remaining power in weapons? You need to defend yourself.. but if you do that your taking power from the engines and leaving you flying through space at a reduced speed..
Put the remaining power in Engines and you could escape.. but your weapons won’t recharge quickly.. My first combat experience involved my Sidewinder against an Anaconda (one of the largest ships currently in game…) it was like a butterfly running headfirst into a truck.. obviously I was the butterfly, and I was smeared over the windscreen.

Luckily I had the money to re-buy my old ship loadout.. if you die in one of the larger ships.. you run the risk of not being able to afford to replace it, and your modules. If that happens it’s back to the starter Sidewinder for you.

If you have plans to become a pirate be prepared for bounties.. and bounty hunters.

It’s at this point most reviews will tell you about the story of a game.. Elite Dangerous.. Doesn’t really have one. Well it does.. but you are not the main character, you are just a pilot trying to make your way to fame/glory/riches.

Elite_Dangerous_(31)As you visit stations and outposts, you can gain information about various goings-on through the Galactic News Network, or GalNet. Since launch there has been 2 civil wars, and one of the superpowers of the galaxy has banned the narcotic “Onion Head” leading to a surge in demand for the drug.

Now.. where do you fit in all this? Well that’s down to you, want to go and fight in civil wars? Go for it, become the next Onion Head drug smuggling king? Work your way up the ladder for either the Empire, Alliance or the Federation? The opportunity is there. Or you can completely ignore the civil wars and sector drug problems and head off to make your own story, everyone’s story will be different.

Elite Dangerous is a gorgeous looking game, you wouldn’t think space could be so beautiful, swirling gas giants, burning stars, giant space stations, the explosions as your enemy is reduced to a smouldering wreck. All look amazing.

But as I said Elite Dangerous is not for everyone, firstly there is no offline single player mode. Some people may find this off putting, but there is a solo mode, Just you Vs. NPC pilots/pirates/victims and the known universe to explore. You still require an internet connection to play (like Diablo 3). It feels empty though.. not that the online mode feels cramped, when you start a new game you are randomly assigned a starting area, and with 400 million game areas the chances of bumping into another Commander are low, in 4 hours I was scanned by 6 players, and had two run ins with hostile players.

But this is part of the joy of meeting other players, you never know what the end result will be, for example…
As I was approaching an outpost to offload some Synthetic Fabrics, another player entered the area at full speed, scanned my cargo, then slowly approached before killing his engines at the right time to gently *Boop* me on the nose.. then sending me a message over text comms “Shh… just take it” before jetting off into the blackness of space.. I never caught his/her name and did not really understand what just happened.. neither did I realise that the gentle bump had sent me off course and led me crashing straight into the control tower.. Unintentional griefing? A joke gone wrong? Either way a unique story.. and everyone will get a unique story of their own at some point.

Elite_Dangerous_(15)For an online game it is strange that at the current moment in time there are no group/clan options, you can start the game up in group mode, but that means you only play with the people in your group/friends list.
Teaming up in the main online mode can be difficult at times due to each zone being instanced, you may need to leave the area and come back in to see your friends and the communications between players is limited to talking to whoever you are targeting or whoever is on your friends list.

If you are heavily into open world games, and have the patience to learn the ways of the game (because going in for a landing too hard at the docking pad and exploding into a big fiery ball of death can be relatively common experience in the first few hours of the game) then Elite Dangerous could be the game for you.

Pros:

It’s Elite, online
Massive open world/universe/galaxy to explore
Freedom to play how you want
Stunning graphics

Cons:

Massive open world can feel a bit empty.
Not for everyone
Punishments can be harsh at times, 1 stray missile/laser blast can make an enemy of the local police force.
Constantly online requirement may put some people off.
Missions get slightly repetitive after extended sessions

Score 7/10