Frugal Gaming Review – Flockers

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Back in May 2014, I took a look at an early build of Flockers. Team 17 had decided to release it via the increasingly popular Early Access program on Steam.  Generally, I liked what I saw and was hopeful that with more time, the developers could create the kind of magic that left so many of us with fond memories of Flockers muse; Lemmings.  Fast forward four months and the game has now been fully released on not only Steam but also Xbox One and PS4.

I’m not going to pad this review out as to be quite honest, very little has changed since my preview. If you’re interested in my previous and still relevant thoughts you can take a gander at the more in depth preview HERE.   More levels have been added and a general spit and polish has been liberally applied to all visible surfaces, but the basic premise of the game remains the same and it still feels rather underdeveloped.

flockers_level_scape_2Lemmings was originally released way back in 1991.  It tasked you with leading your band of furry critters from A to B by means of controlling their actions with 8 different abilities.  The Climber could climb.  The Floater could float down big drops by using an umbrella.  The Bomber was, well a suicide bomber. The Blocker was like a lollipop map who stopped your other lemmings in their tracks.  The Builder would raise a stairway letting you reach higher areas. A Basher, Miner and Digger filled out the abilities letting you dig horizontally, diagonally downwards or directly downwards.

So clearly lots of ways to control your Lemmings, the sequels added even more variety to what you could do, it meant that levels could often be solved in completely different ways.  The animations and designs of these moves and abilities really bought the lemmings to life and injected a whole lot of humour.  Fast forward 23 years to Flockers and Team17 have seen fit to offer you just 5 abilities. That’s real progress right there.

Over 60 levels are now available, with differing backgrounds, for point of reference; Lemmings had over 120.  Some of them are great, others feel unjustly harsh.  The lack of abilities and the structure of the levels themselves generally leaves you with only one route to the exit.  It all feels rather scripted, flat and forced. Online leaderboards and the ability to stream direct to twitch from within the game are both nice features and to be honest apart from the obvious graphical improvements that 20+ years bring, these 2 areas are the only real improvements over the ancient game that I’m comparing it to.

flockers_death_-_explosionIf you are in the unfortunate position to have never played Lemmings you’ll probably get more out of Flockers than anyone else. Even then it feels rather lacklustre, uninspired and plain boring.  The sheep are undeniably cute and will most certainly appeal to younger gamers, who knows it might even lead to a few more vegetarians in the world, without a doubt that will be the only legacy that Flockers leaves behind.

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Flockers is available on PC via Steam and Xbox one and PS4 both at retail and via their respective marketplaces.

Frugal Gaming Review – Hero of Many

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Win or Lose, Sink or Swim

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five-score years ago, a great Frog, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Underwater Equality Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of white tadpoles who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of bigotry.

But one hundred years later, the White Tadpole is still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the White Tadpole is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the White Tadpole lives under a lonely lilypad of poverty in the midst of a vast pond of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the White Tadpole is still languished in the corners of aquatic society and finds himself in exile in his own waters. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition”

Attributed to Kermit T Frog on 24th June 2013

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Play The Game, Fight The Fight

YOU THERE! stop playing with your tail! It will drop off if you carry on fiddling with it!

Right then lads, at ease.  For those of you new here, my name is Major Zitz, formerly of Battletoad Command.  It’s my job to get you sorry lot ready for the most important and desperate mission of this god forsaken war.  I won’t jelly coat it, it’s going to be rough.  For you veterans who have returned from the Ouya, IOS or Android theatres , I’ll be looking to you to take the lead and help these new recruits as we open a new front on Steam.

For the tadpoles, your insertion behind enemy lines will be via flying frog.  The currents are looking choppy, so if you end up scattered, hold up, hide and wait for your Frogspawn commander to find you.  Once you’re reunited with your unit and commander, follow instructions to the letter and protect them at all costs.  The black menace will be everywhere and you will be the only thing protecting  your commander.  I know you have a tendency to eat each other, but save it for your enemy.  Any incidents of white on white, and you’ll be court marshalled.

As for you Frogspawn, I need you calm and calculated. You will be the brains of this operation and its success rests roundly on your gelatinous mass.  Meeting up with your team of fellow poles is of vital importance.  You’ll be extremely vulnerable without them.  They’re an eager bunch, but they will need your guidance and self control.  You’ll have a long stream ahead of you to get to your final destination.  The currents with be perilous, and the black tadpole army won’t be your only obstacle. Your strength in numbers will help you, but at times discretion may well be the better part of valour, let’s not forget that the tadpole who runs away, turns into a frog another day.

The survival of our very species lies with you, the brave Tadpoles and Frogspawn of this unit.  Trust in each other and you will get through this.  Time is fun when you’re having flies and, if you complete your mission and make it back in one piece you’ll have all the flies you could possibly imagine.

“Even though large tracts of our pond and many old and famous streams have fallen, or may fall into the grip of the Black Tadpole and all the odious apparatus of Frog rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight on Ouya, we shall fight on the iPhone and iPad, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength on Android, we shall defend our lily pad, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on Windows, we shall fight on OS X , we shall fight in the Steam Store and in the iTunes chart , we shall fight in the Google play store; we shall never surrender.”

Attributed to Slippy Toad – First Pond Lord of the Admiralty  15th September 2015

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La La La La

Hero of Many, is a port of a mobile game that’s just been released on Steam.  It takes you on a epic aquatic journey through a dangerous world.  It plays brilliantly, looks absolutely beautiful and if you are anything like myself, you will lose hours to this game. The general and well founded dislike for mobile ports on PC could be well and truly banished if more games like this started making an appearance.

Exciting, challenging, thought provoking ( well to me at least, this review was going to be about sperm or immigration before I settled on tadpoles). The game is engaging and utterly enjoyable. Trickster Arts have taken an idea that’s so simple and executed it with aplomb.  I love it so much I’m now considering digging a pond in my back garden.

SCORE: 9/10

PC Version Reviewed

Hero of Many is now available on Steam and can be found HERE

It’s also available on iTunes, the Google Play store and OUYA

Developed and published by Trickster Arts

Frugal Gaming Preview – Forza Horizon 2

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With the Demo being made available to download just last week and the 3rd of October release date looming, Frugal Gaming’s MrBaddog and PridedLlama both share their thoughts about one of the biggest Xbox exclusive titles set to launch this year.

MrBaddog writes

The original Forza Horizon was one of the finest examples of open world racing to date. A fictional Motorsports festival played host to some of the most breathtakingly beautiful racing ever realised. From its open rural landscapes to the constricted canyons, rarely had a Motorsport game been so visceral. Tearing through a busy highway, circumventing traffic to the tune of ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’ by The Hives, is there any better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

Fast forward to today and the long awaited sequel power slides onto the Xbox One. Moving away from the original Colorado setting, the Horizon festival has thundered into Southern Europe. Tight city streets, sprawling vineyards and perilous Cliffside roads await those in search of infamy. Arriving on a ferry at the wheel of a throbbing Lamborghini Huracan, stamping on the throttle, tyres screech as they are very nearly ripped from the rims, you disappear in a cloud of smoke and goosebumps, the sense of raw power is almost tangible.

The beauty of the surroundings is astonishing and the attention to detail is staggering, the world created here feels alive. Flora and fauna sway in the wind, towns are heavily populated with decor, not that you may notice when you are hurtling at 200 mph bumper to bumper with other competitors. Couple this with the lavish care which has been spent recreating each of the cars and you have one of the best looking racing games ever created.

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Road surfaces genuinely feel different to drive upon. Whether you’re sliding through fields and dirt roads or burning along the tarmac, the cars handle convincingly. It is an awesome feeling when you hit the bend just right and you slip around the corner at breakneck speeds. Take care when the rain comes, the car will squirm and slide as you fight the elements for control. It is all perfectly balanced and incredibly satisfying.

As this is only a demo, there are a limited amount of races for you to enjoy. There is a stunning cross country point to point race which will have you tearing through the countryside and then there is a tight and twisting circuit race. Also available to try is the new ‘bucket list’. Find the Koenigsegg and you will be challenged to ‘drive like you stole it’, which essentially means drive as fast as you can past a predetermined speed camera. Events make a welcome return, the one on offer here will have you racing an aerial display team. These are great fun and add to the overall festival feel. There is very little to do with regards to the online side of things. A free roam mode is available so you can have a little taste, but much more has been promised come full release.

If you enjoyed the first title or you’re a fan of open world racing, Forza Horzion 2 looks as though it will keep you entertained for quite some time. With its improved graphics, wonderful handling, dynamic weather, varied races, extra challenges and an enhanced multiplayer there is a lot on offer. A truly epic racing game may just be on the horizon.

gamescom-press-kit-05-wm-forza-horizon2PridedLlama writes

I hate this time of year, grey skies that are forever gloomy and not a glimpse of the sun for weeks.  We have got a long wait ahead of us for Summer to return, but Playground Games might just be offering us a winter sun deal far too good to pass up.

Forza Horizon was both a commercial and critical success.  Whilst Turn10 Studios doggedly stick to their tried and tested, if somewhat increasingly stale formula of exclusive track based racing, the original Horizon flipped the whole thing on it’s head and added a much needed injection of personality and fun.  Horizon 2 looks set to expand on every aspect that featured in the first open world title, and befitting of a game developed primarily in sunny old England adds dynamic weather with very British rain.

The whole game is much more European affair this time round, and it’s all the better for it.  Gone are the rocky and dusty roads of Colorado, replaced by sparkling Mediterranean tides and lush Tuscan panoramas.  Quite simply it’s a perfect fit not only in the pretty department but also in the driving.

No longer confined to just the roads, the environment and setting is more important than ever.  While established franchises continue to lean heavily on Americana, what Horizon 2 and it’s locals brings to the table is altogether more refreshing.  Twisting coastal roads, open highways and quaint villages abound, but its off the beaten track where things get even more interesting and fresh.

Opening up the fields and dirt tracks has upped the drivable area in the new instalment by 3 times the size when compared to the original.  While a point to point race might start on pristine tarmac it won’t be long until you’re bumping and swerving farms and fields at breakneck speeds.  It takes the whole franchise a step further away from it’s Motorsport roots and offers a real challenge if like me you are used to dropping all the assists.  It’s exhilarating in a way that Forza Motorsport 5 just never got close to matching.

700 events, nearly 150 music tracks, 7 radio stations and over 200 licensed cars.  Add to that truly breathtaking environments and vistas gorgeously rendered in full 1080p not to mention Sean Maguire! Yes Sean Maguire in 1080p too!  October the 3rd can’t come soon enough.  I still have a couple of little reservations, all the dev speak about 3 times the drivable area is rather ambiguous, and for all the near 150 songs they still don’t have a GEM106 equivalent but, the hours and hours of gameplay being offered in much sunnier climes will be the perfect Autumn antidote.  I’ve dug out the factor 50, ordered a new pair of sunglasses and I might even top up my tan whilst I wait for Forza Horizon 2 to release.  Actually sod that, I’m off for another spin on with the demo!

Forza Horizon 2 is developed by Playground Games and set for release on the 3rd of October on xbox one, an xbox 360 version by Sumo Digital is also set for release on the same day.  Both impressions were taken from hands on time with the xbox one demo.

Star Citizen – On A Wing And A Prayer

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If I was A Rich Man

Back in October 2012, Chris Roberts of Wing Commander fame returned.  Like the mythical Moses leading his tribe to the promised land of space adventure games, he gave thousands of geeks, both old and young alike, hope that the type of games we really wanted to play were just over the horizon.  Star Citizen was born! All he needed to realise this shared dream was money, my money, your money and the more of it the better.  Nearly two years down the line and over $53,000,000 later, I find myself increasingly unconvinced that he can really pull off the whole ambitious if rather bloated endeavour.

Having decided to release the game in modules, so backers could go hands-on with certain segments, sooner rather than later. Two elements are currently “playable”.  Just over a year ago the Hangar module was released.  Ostensibly nothing more than a garage for whichever ship or ships you have plonked down real word cash for, a year later it’s still rather a bit of a mess. Controlling your in-game avatar as you inspect your shiny future ships is, to be quite honest an awful experience. Controls feels sluggish, if they had been going for a ‘drunken stupor’ kind of control set up, then they have hit the nail on the head.  Then there are the numerous graphical glitches. Screen tearing, missed frames of animation, not to mention ridiculously laborious loading times, it’s all common place even running on high spec PC’s.  For a module that has been released for over a year and in development for much longer it’s a sad state of affairs, especially considering all you’re doing is walking round a pretty but empty room.

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Arena Commander is the biggest by far of the two modules available. Dressed up as a in-game simulator to hone your piloting skills, it gives you a chance for plenty of flight time. Currently, 2 dog-fighting modes are available.  Vanduul Swarm pits you against waves of AI enemies and a multiplayer mode was added about a month ago. On top of the combat, atmospheric racing has just been added in the last week. Both of these different game types are a visual feast, but at the minute that’s the main selling point. Ships control well and combat can be fun, racing is best avoided unless your ship is suitable. My Aurora really just doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to racing, this takes away any fun that could be had here. Other more suitable ships are available, but like everything in Star Citizen it’s going to cost you money.  The Arena module was scheduled to release back in December 2013, it didn’t end up in the hands of eager backers until June this year.  So in knocking on for two years since the project started this is really all we have.  Did I mention that you can’t even customise controls yet? Better still, even though I shelled out the cash for a pledge that included Beta access, I still had to stump up more money to access the Arena Commander module.

Whether the game is going to achieve its grand vision and ever expanding scope remains to be seen.  Ardent supporters will tell you that it’s still got another 18 months development at minimum to just complete the basic features. Without doubt it’s a valid point, but it’s the creators drive for more and more funding that has led me to set condition one throughout my ship.  Everything, and I do mean everything that I’ve seen so far really does seem to have been constructed and developed to convince you to part with more and more cash.

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Money, Money, Money

The Hangar module has recently been updated. Where my Aurora previously looked at home in its surroundings, it now looks positively tiny. A huge hangar fit for a huge ship or several smaller ones, just spend some more money. These ships will run you anything from around $40 to well over $200,  more and more ships are being added all the time. My hangar also includes a lovely fish tank, it’s currently sitting there empty.  It would look great with some alien fish in it. You’ve guessed it I can buy some, $1 fish, as many as I’d like.  Little things like this are everywhere. Add to that the recently added Murray Cup racing and the cynic in me just sees this as another grab for cash.  Buy faster more nimble ships? Money Money Money!  On top of all this is the constant, almost weekly stream of new promotional videos, featuring new ships with better designs. These adverts (lets be honest that is exactly what they are), are not really being produced to attract new customers either, it’s all about milking more and more money from an already generous fan-base.

I could go on and on about my issues with Star Citizen, the way it’s being developed and the constant clamouring for more money, but at the end of the day somewhere underneath all this is a game right in the middle of development and it’s a bit of a whopper. If Chris Roberts can pull it off, then the man really will deserve all the plaudits that will undoubtedly come his way.  A project of this size is unheard of for an independent developer, whilst publishers are seen by many as a bane to development, they do provide a constant reality check.  Without all the checks and balances that can come with being funded by a big investor, there is every chance that whatever gem of an idea Star Citizen started out as, might well be swallowed by spiralling budgets and pie in the sky unachievable ideas.

As unconvinced as I remain, I truly have got everything crossed that Star Citizen ends up being the game that so many people have wanted to play for so, so long. Nearly 600,000 people have bought into this project, myself included, and we are all willing it to succeed.  All we can do now is watch and wait, and continue to dream of what might be.

If you are interested about Star Citizen much more information can be found HERE at the Roberts Space Industries website.

 

Frugal Gaming Review – GoD Factory: Wingmen

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In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream

It’s a bit of a good job if you ask me, this game made me want to do it rather too often.  GoD Factory: Wingman is basically a space ship PVP action combat game, with a unique art style and an array of customisation via in game shipbuilding.  It sounds great and I was so up for playing this game after watching the trailer, getting hands on however, it hasn’t achieved all that it sets out to accomplish.

You’ll find no campaign here and no story either.  It’s rather a shame as the developers; Nine Dots Studios have already gone to the trouble of creating four compelling races whose ships you can pilot.  All of them are very unique and fleshing out the universe with back stories to these races would have added so much more depth to the universe they inhabit. Games without any real story seem all the rage at the minute, and whilst some of those allow you to forge your own narrative, the scope in GoD is far too small to allow that.  Even a short campaign to compliment the main focus of PVP would have worked wonders, for me at least.

So gameplay wise, GoD is a straight up 4v4 battle to take on your dogfighting opponents and also take down their carrier.  It’s got some good ideas, but it’s alarmingly void of game modes and options.  You have to select two of your ships before the fight begins, this gives you two different loadouts if you want to change your tactics and also a spare ship, in case you get a proton torpedo down your thermal exhaust port.  Apart from changing your ship, flying through the launch bay of your carrier replenishes your shields too.  Enemy carriers are taken down by the good old fashioned way of chipping away at certain hard-points. Lose a ship you can jump into the spare one or take a drone, a very basic ship.

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You Have To Believe It To See It

What GoD gets right, it gets very right.  The visual design is awesome! I hate that word, but it sums it up to a tee.  Ships are unique, looking beautiful yet deadly.  It took me straight back to childhood Saturday mornings, spent watching Star Fleet X- Bomber and the forces of the evil Commander Makara.  It’s clear that Japanese culture has had a big influence on the visuals of both the ships and the environment but here and there you’ll see glimpses of other cultural pointers right the way back to mythological Greece.

Notice I mentioned environment without an s on the end? It wasn’t a mistake, whilst the rocks and asteroids might be in slightly different positions you will essentially be fighting over and over again in the same patch of space.  I’m not a graphic artist, nor a game developer, but would it really have been that hard to add some different backgrounds? A looming gas giant or maybe a swirling nebula light years away?  Imagine playing Call of Duty, actually scrap that, no one should have to imagine playing Call of Duty.  Imagine playing Battlefield over and over on the same map, racing around the same track time after time in Mario Kart.  It would get really old rather fast as is the case with GoD.

On a brighter note, ship customisation is another quiver in GoD’s bow.  From fuselages, cockpits, wings, thrusters and much more, all can be changed around to make the ship of your dreams. The individual species vessels all look very different and varied.  From the utilitarian, yet sleek Human ships, to the more intricately Gothic almost organic stylings of the Guantri. It’s a great feature even though it’s somewhat held back by an over complicated unlocking system that finds you having to grind.  Nonetheless it’s a great inclusion that I’d love to see in some of the other space combat games heading to my PC in the near future.

Everything in GoD is so bleeding complicated.  I found this game as I’d been on the lookout for more titles to make my investment in a flight stick and throttle a little more frugal, and by God have they made a bit of a pigs ear of implementing controls.  It starts out fine, a basic tutorial led me through all the general stuff. It’s no Kobayashi Maru, but it does the job well enough. The problems started when advance manoeuvres were touched upon. Basically a sharp 90 degree turn in either direction, a 180 degree swoop to get you facing the other way and, for want of a better description- back-step thrust.  I’ll put aside the fact that I find these moves unneeded, but the way they are implemented is awful.  A keyboard has lots of keys, likewise a modern joypad has lots of buttons, my flight stick has buttons on its buttons.  To pull off any of these manoeuvres you have to press two buttons at the same time, it’s unwieldy and just plain bad.

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May the Farce Be With You

GoD Factory: Wingmen has ultimately left me feeling extremely disappointed.  I’ve played a lot of early access games that feel more feature complete than this.  GoD however is a full retail release on Steam and I’m reviewing it as such.  In its current state I find it very very hard to recommend, the foundation for a great game is there but it really is just that; a foundation and nothing more.  In the week or so since release there have been a couple of updates but nothing that changes the fundamentals of the game. If the developers continue to push out updates, then why it wasn’t released as an early access title is beyond me, I’d have much preferred to be writing a more constructive preview rather than this critique.  Games can and sometimes do change drastically after release, I hope this is the case with GoD. I’ll be keeping my eye on it and dipping my toe in now and again to see if it has improved. Who knows six months down the line I might be blown away, and if so I’ll be sure to update this review.

As it stands some great visuals and customisations do not make up for the lack of actual content in this game.  Retailing at the same price, Strike Suit Zero offers a great campaign and there are a host of F2P games out there that could give you a better PVP kick.  It’s easy to write about poor games when you don’t like or care for the genre, but I’m a complete space and Sci-Fi nerd. I will end this review with one word.  It’s how I’ve felt whilst playing GoD and it’s how I’ve felt writing this.

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GoD Factory: Wingman was developed by Nine Dots Studios, published by Bandai Namco and can be found on Steam HERE

 

Godus – Early Access Preview

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The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up

I’ll admit it, I’ve got a bit of a thing for Peter Molyneux.  I dare say that I’d be rather giddy if I ever found myself in his company.  Listening to his narrative walk-though of Godus on first booting the game up, was a rather pleasant surprise and whilst my “thing” with him isn’t sexual, I’d be quite happy if he tucked me in and read me a bedtime story from time to time.  Before my man crush gets Frugal Gaming blacklisted by 22cans I’d better move onto Godus itself, the latest game from the BAFTA winning, OBE titled, Grandee of British Game Development.

Billed as a spiritual reinvention of a genre that he helped create, Godus is a God game.  After successful reaching its funding target on Kickstarter back in December of 2012, the game has been in development since then and is still in early access on Steam.  With the Kickstarter page still showing an original  7 to 9 month development roadmap, ambitions might well have been set slightly too high.  So far, so Peter Molyneux.

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But before the bad let’s focus on the good, in a nutshell, the game is beautiful.  A really minimalistic  and to be honest, quite basic art style looks stunning running in high resolution on my PC.  It is a complete joy to look at with the earth made up of slightly different coloured layers, ramshackle beach huts, sparse white washed abodes, trees swaying in the wind and your little followers tending to their daily tasks, the art design is outstanding.  The sound design is also fantastic, from the followers alerting you when they have accomplished their tasks to the bob, bips and pops when belief springs up and needs collecting, it’s all absolutely charming.

I was hooked for a good few hours, the game seemed simple and yet engaging.  Belief is the main currency with which you enact your God like will.  Sculpting the earth, directly ordering your followers, to placing divine trees and calling down apocalyptic bolts all require belief.  It’s easy to get, more followers equates to more belief and with that in mind the first thing to do is start building more abodes for followers to breed in.  So I spent my first few hours sculpting and building, watching my flock breed, I really enjoyed it. I was pretty much mesmerized for the first few hours, I found it strangely relaxing and collecting the little pinks blobs of belief was just a bonus that let me sculpt more and in turn increased my flock.

As buildings took longer and longer for my followers to construct, I found myself sculpting the land more and more, and I began to regularly run out of my landscaping fuel; the pink blobby belief.  Another way of gaining more belief is to exchange gems, 5 gems will get you 1000 blobs of belief, in context 1000 belief doesn’t really let you do much.  A couple of minutes of sculpting at the most and directly ordering a follower around costs 100 belief for example.  You can see how quickly you can spend it. and here is where my whole PC Godus experience swiftly goes south.

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Peter And The Wolf

You see Godus isn’t just a PC game, in fact it feels like its made its way to PC as an after thought.  First and foremost Godus is a free to play game available on iOS devices.  Like any “good” free to play game, it’s all about the in game purchases.  Gems on iOS will set up back anything from £2.99 for 50 or up to £69.99 for 1400, to earn any useful amount of gems on PC takes a ridiculously long amount of time.  You can find them hidden in treasure chests that you can unearth as you sculpt away the land, or send your followers of voyages of discovery to earn them.  Both great ideas but neither will supply you with enough gems to stop the game from becoming a complete grind-fest.

Apart from being a good way of getting belief, which you can technically wait for your followers to generate.  I came to a point in the game where my followers were starting to get unhappy. “Don’t worry” the dulcet tones of Peter Molyneux told me “ buy a happiness fountain and all will be fine” 30 fucking gems? Are you kidding me Peter? Jesus would quite literally weep at the thought of grinding for that many gems.

Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Godus is currently a free to play game wrapped up in a £14.99 PC games clothing.  It’s completely unbalanced and absolutely no fun whatsoever to play after the first few hours.  The minute you really start needing gems you are basically fucked, and the grind to get even a few of these gems sucks out any, and all enjoyment Godus originally provided. At that point you might as well just uninstall the whole thing and go and play for free on iOS if you have such a device.

It’s either arrogance in the extreme or just a complete school boy error that any developer let alone one with Peter Molyneux’s experience could believe that this crossover model could work for a retail release. Facebook game? Sure, but for £14.99, I’m expecting a well balanced God game. I’m happy to work for the needed gems but Christ, I bet Chinese workers making iPhone’s feel more valued than I do after putting in nearly 10 hours to the current build of Godus.

Whilst I would love to recommend that everyone rush to Steam to buy Godus, the best I can do for now is suggest that everyone tries the free to play version on iOS.  It will give you a taste of how magical Godus on PC could be.  It’s still early access, constantly being tweaked and I’m truly hoping that a mighty fine oak of a God game can flourish from the tiny sapling of free to play crossover mess that’s currently available.

You can find Godus on any iOS device via iTunes and for PC on Steam, an Android version is also planned…… according to the Kickstarter.  So far, so Peter Molyneux.

Oort Online – Frugal Gaming First Look

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Oort Online could be the best thing to use Voxels since Minecraft, maybe even better.  There are so many block building games out there now, we’ve covered a couple here on Frugal, and to be quite honest most of them are absolute pants. I’m convinced that Oort might be something different, something better, and before you stop reading thinking it’s just another clone of the hugely successful Swedish export, just have a look at the trailer below.

First up it looks absolutely beautiful, where other developers are happy just to use plain old simple blocks, Wonderstruck are really pushing to make Oort a real stand out visually.  Having had the chance to go hands on with the game, currently played through my web browser, I was absolutely awestruck at how good Oort looks in action.

One of the biggest draws, for me at least is how easy is it to experience all the different worlds currently available in the early build of Oort.  Not having to put in server numbers or ip addresses, if you find a portal, just walk through it and you’re there.  Peering through these magical portals and seeing a living world on the other side is quite magical.  You can be standing in the sun on a woodland hillside, and right in front of you is a snowy mountain range, just step through and you’re there, no waiting, no loading times, and no messing about trying to log onto a different server.

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I’ve spent hours over the last couple of weeks exploring the strange lands and discovering what other players have been building.  It’s a truly immersive experience and the list of features the developers plan to add has got me rather excited for what Oort will end up becoming if funding allows.

Having decided to forgo Kickstarter, the Wonderstruck guys are self funding via their own website.  With no arbitrary goals to reach, the money pledged it already going to good use.  As the total increases so do different aspects of the game that the team will be able to develop.  At the moment Oort is hovering just over $80,000 and that covers the base game with multiple worlds, building and mining and also weapons and combat mechanics.  The next target met will add crafting mechanics and a recipe system.  A nice feature is that backers will be able to vote on the next feature to be unlocked for funding, it’s a much more organic, community focused and open way of developing games and I like it.

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$15 will get you a digital key for the game at launch, $25 and you’ll be able to jump onboard with the beta when it launches.  There are loads of Youtube vids out in the wild covering Oort and the devs have started doing regular streams via twitch if you want to find out more. Lots of crowd funded games ask for cash before having anything to really show, Oort on the other hand is playable right now if you back at a specific level.

Not everyone feels comfortable with the whole crowd funding scene, but there are more ways than splashing the cash to support Oort Online if you like the look of it.  Oort has flown through the Steam Greenlight process in pretty much record time.  In just 5 days it had enough community support and it’s now definitely going to be releasing via Steam. Even though the Greenlight Campaign is over you can still check out and follow the page and it’s a great way of showing support and also keeping an eye on Oort as it develops.

I was lucky enough to be given access to Oort to help with this preview, but I’ve still pledge at beta access level, thats how much I believe that Oort is going to be something rather magical.  As with all early access games, I’ll be doing a more in depth preview when the beta launches and a full review upon release.

Oort Online can be found HERE

The Steam Green Light Campaign HERE

 

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition Review

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We’ve Only Just Begun

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition, I guess Blizzard just couldn’t bring itself to call it Diablo 3: GOTY edition, ‘Remaster’ or just plain Diablo 3 HD complete.  Essentially the complete Diablo 3 package, you get the base game, ostensibly for free according to the promotional bumf, and the Reaper of Souls expansion all wrapped in glorious next gen goodness.

Its an enticing package, both for newbies to the game and also people like me who put a good 40+ hours into the vanilla Xbox 360 version back in September 2013.  A dungeon crawling, loot hunting, monster bashing, RPG hack ’n’ slash game.  The basic Diablo 3 was very well received on all platforms, nudging towards 90 on Metacritic.  The expansion that this release brings to consoles was also pretty darn good, our very own Karlos Morale gave it an impressive 9/10 on PC and he’s probably the hardest to please person I’ve ever known. Review HERE

If you’ve played Diablo before, chances are you already know if you are interested in D3:RoSUEE, but if you’ve yet to jump in then hopefully this review will give you an idea of what you’re letting yourself in for.

First up, the story is your usual load of completely forgettable cods-wallop.  Big bad evil, heroic protagonist, and annoyingly clichéd companions with annoyingly clichéd voice acting, but as with most games it’s a means to an end of getting your chosen character from A to B.  Whilst most of the narrative unfolds in game, Blizzard have done their customary fine work of making the chapter ending cut scenes a thing of pure beauty.  You won’t care one bit about the story, and the fact that the game only really gets going on your second playthrough does mean that these elements, and especially the in-game dialogue can drag but you won’t be going back just to hear the story unfold again, you’ll be going back for the pure joy of the gameplay.

barb-002-largeStuck In The Middle With You

The six classes of fearless warrior now available after the addition of the Crusader class really do offer fantastic variety.  From the long range Wizard and Demon Hunter, to the melee combat focused Monk and Barbarian, there is something for everyone. The Witch Doctor, who summons bestial minions and the tank like Crusader round out the options nicely.  Whichever class you chose, the high level warrior you end up with will be almost unrecognisable after a few hours.  Whilst abilities are unlocked in progression when you level up, you can’t use them all at the same time.  Take the Wizard for example, his basic attack is the magic missile.  Get your character up to level six and a skill rune is unlocked which adds rather a bit more punch to his primary attack. At level 13 it changes this attack into an icy glacial spike, up to level 31 and the next skill rune splits your attack into three. Only one of these runes can be active per power, so whilst each class might have 20 or so abilities, this increases to a crazy amount of different loadouts once you factor in that each ability can be customised.

Combat in D3:RoSUEE feels simply sublime, the jump up to 60fps from 30fps in this next gen version is like using some expensive fragrant lube rather than spittle.  Everything feels perfect and Diablo is well suited to being played with a controller. The left stick guides your chosen hero, whilst just about every other single button is used to activate an ability or attack,  you’ll be using just about every trick in your arsenal to battle the seemingly never ending hordes of enemies.  From zombies, giant bats, Ent like tree beings, trolls, spiders, angels, ghosts, Minotaur’s, the list of bad guys you’ll be facing off against is seemingly endless.  Whilst none of them will ever prove too much of a challenge on normal difficulty, the sheers number of things trying to kill you at anyone time might well overwhelm.  You’ll kill thousands of foes in your first play through alone, and one of the best bits about such wanton slaughter is all the lovely loot that the vanquished will drop.

Loot is king in Diablo, it will lead you to playing just that little bit longer than you planned on the off chance of more and better spoils to come.  From weapons, and armour, to shields and rings.  Basic level stuff will just boost your defence rating, but the higher level and thus rarer items will boost and buff your character in so many ways.  Boots that make you move faster, a ring that helps regenerate your health.  Its absolutely mind boggling the different combinations of active effects that wearing all these weird and wonderful things gives you.

reaper-of-souls-02-largeThe End Has No End

All in all, if you only play through the campaign once, Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition is a cracking game. Multiplayer both online and couch co-op is undoubtedly the best way to experience it.  It’s in the extra end game content that Diablo 3 really comes alive.  There is now so much to do right at the end of the campaign, that everything that went before can be merely considered an Aperitif to the main course.  Its quite possible to spend hundreds of hours with Diablo, an impressive feat for any game let alone one with a 20 hour campaign.  Adventure mode lets you continue the fight with bounties and rifts. Bounties let you dive back into the game to kill specific high level enemies or complete a certain objectives, complete enough of these and you’ll then be able to tackle some Rifts.  These are random dungeons cobbled together from campaign sections, your goal is to butcher enough foes so that a stonkingly powerful boss arrives, leading to more levelling and of course a whole lot more loot.

Nearly a year after first playing Diablo 3 on 360, I’m still playing and enjoying it with the Ultimate Evil Edition on Xbox One. I’m not one for remasters or remakes, but the added content that comes with this edition on which ever platform you chose genuinely adds a whole bunch of stuff to keep you going for a long long time. If you have already played it, the extra campaign act and all the end game extras are welcome and engaging.  If you’re new to Diablo then you’re in for a real treat. 6 months down the line I’m pretty sure I’ll still be playing it, not everyday or even every week but I’ll still be going after the end game bounties and more than likely starting from scratch to get a new character up to the highest levels.  Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition might sound like a mouthful but it’s a fine addition to any gamer’s collection.

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Publisher: Blizzard

Xbox One Version Played

Frugal Gaming Review – Abyss Odyssey

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Deeper Underground

The only thing more frustrating than a bad game, is a game that comes so close so being truly amazing and yet just fails to completely pull it off.  It’s with these feelings always at the back of my mind that I’ve found it really hard to review Abyss Odyssey, a side scrolling action adventure game by Chilean indie developer ACE.

The story is rather basic, but serves its purpose of setting up the ensuing rouge like action.  A chasm has opened up, and spewing forth are the realisations of a sleeping Warlocks dreams and nightmares. Taking control of a suitably battle hardened hero, your mission is to descend through the depths and destroy said Warlock.

That’s as interesting as the story gets and it’s gameplay, rather than a narrative that tries to do the job of bringing you back for more.  A deep if rather confusing combat system is full of highs and lows.  It’s all about timing, skill and learning your enemies attacks.  So close to being perfect, its the sort of control system that would seem more at home in a traditional fighting game rather than this sort of game, problems do crop up a whole lot more frequently than I’d like though.  At times there is so much lag between pressing a button and seeing the corresponding action on screen, that it seems unfair if not unplayable.  This issue does seem directly tied in to the frame rate, which is rather inconsistent to say the least.  After playing for several hours on 360, I was tempted to just buy Abyss on steam, hoping for better performance but after doing a bit of digging around it seems the issue is not limited to the 360.

Rolling In The Deep

Whilst you start your adventure as  feisty female Warrior; Katrien- as you progress you’ll be able to unlock a further two characters.  A slower but more heavy hitting Ghost Monk and a near naked Spear wielding Goddess.  Each character is definitely unique, with their own set of suitably special special moves, but the varied ways to play doesn’t stop there.  Defeated enemies drop souls, if you have enough Mana you are able to mark an enemy and take on its move set once you defeat it. So that leaves you with over 30 different combat routines to learn and master if you want to dive that deeply into Abyss Odyssey.

There is lots more I could mention about gameplay, but another frustration and equal joy is discovering all these little things for as you play.  The game doesn’t provide much in the way of hand holding or explanation, what is explained isn’t done so very clearly but it’s worth delving into Abyss with your eyes open and finding all these things for yourself.  The way the respawn mechanic is implemented is very clever, but I’ll let you discover that bit for yourself.

Levels in Abyss are short and sweet, all procedurally generated, and your path through them is also randomised.  From icy caverns to lush almost alien looking tropical subterranean gardens, they can be absolutely stunning, and often overshadow some of the excellent character design.  The enemies are equally as varied and beautiful.  From you standard skeletons, to more fantastical creatures and beasts, the developers have clearly let their imagination run wild, and when everything is running at a harmonious frame rate its really is a beautiful game, beating even Child of Light or the recent Rayman titles in the pretty stakes when it comes to 2D visuals. However as seems a running theme with Abyss, it does fall just short of perfection, the stuttering and sometimes shambling frame rate can be really jarring, it’s such a shame as it really can break the immersion that the artists have clearly laboured over.

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In Too Deep

Despite the issues, Abyss Odyssey is still a great game.  It’s a testament to what the developers have actually got right that despite the glaring problems it’s still getting a cracking score.  I can’t work out if the game feels slightly rushed or ACE have just tried to pack a little too much into what is essentially a very reasonably priced downloadable game.  One thing is certain, Abyss is completely unique.  It will frustrate as often delight but you will not find a gaming experience quite like it any anywhere else.

7/10

Abyss Odyssey is available digitally on Xbox 360, PS3 and Steam.

 

Masters of The Universe – The Return of the Space Sim

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It’s Hip To Be Square

There has never been a better time to be a nerd.  Elite: Dangerous, Star Citizen and No Man’s Sky are all set to make the next couple of years a truly magical period for anyone who has ever dreamed of exploring the stars.

If you follow either myself or our very own Ugly Geezer on twitter, you will no doubt have seen plenty of mentions of docking, hauling fish and lots of other geeky stuff.  We, along with a couple of other Frugal Gamers are fast developing an addiction to Elite, and I’ll be writing a whole lot more about both it and Star Citizen in the coming months.

But for now I thought I’d share a couple of other Space Combat games that might quite easily have gone unnoticed in all the razzmatazz of the bigger hitting titles that seem to be on course to truly resurrect the long dormant genre.

C Moon

wings logoFirst up is Wings of Saint Nazaire.  An indie game being developed just a few people, its a modern take on the much loved old school space shooters of yesteryear.  Utilising the unity engine, the team have forgone the modern obsession with polygons, tessellation and other techie gobbledygook and gone truly old school, with everything being based on 2D sprites. In action it looks amazing and sounds even better, the current soundtrack is a work of genius.  Out of all of the current crop it truly takes me right back to many happy hours spent playing the first X-Wing on my dads PC.

The video above gives you an idea of what the team are aiming for, better still if you want to see the latest build of the game you can head over to the website and try it for yourself right now.  Playable on Windows, MAC, Linux or straight in your web browser there is no reason not to try what already is a cracking little game.

Sophisticated Bitch

Enemy Starfighter has been brewing nicely and its playable at this years PAX PRIME.  It’s another game that has definitely turned my head.  Whilst not looking as showy as Elite or Star Citizen, it has an art direction all of its own.  More colourful and clean, as you can see in the trailer below it’s looking like another corker.

Asides from the ship to ship combat, it’s looking like you can expect to take control whole armadas, the only thing better than one ship is lots of ships right?  I’ve not been hands on with Enemy Starfighter yet but I’m chomping on the bit and it would be a great idea if they released a development build much like Wings, mentioned above. Oculus support is also being implemented, my resolve of waiting for a consumer release of the rift is getting rather shaky.

Make The Money

Galazy Quest ArtLast but by no means least is Galaxy Heist by indie studio Space Bear Development.  Currently in an early Alpha stage of production, rather than trying to be all things to all people, Galaxy Heist is focusing on ship to ship combat and fps boarding actions.  Multiplayer is clearly the focus here, teaming up with friends, pillaging and marauding though space really does sound like a dream come true and with the possibility of console versions this could be a great pick up and play game.

With Galaxy Heist coming along nicely and a planned Kickstarter launch towards the end of the year, its definitely one to look out for.  It they can capture the co-op intensity of games like Payday 2, add some fantastic Space battles they could well be on their way to a sure fire hit!

White And Nerdy

All three of these games are well worth checking out and undoubtedly I’ll be writing a whole lot more about them over the next year.  For  a genre that has seemingly been MIA for a hell of a long time, its great to be heading back to the final frontier.  Short of a full remake of the X-Wing series, I could not more excited about the next couple of years.  Forget your Xbox One and PS4’s, your Call of Duty and Battlefields, this is the next generation and long may it reign.

Wings of Saint Nazaire can be found: HERE

Enemy StarfighterHERE

Galaxy Heist: HERE