Broforce Preview

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Broforce is a side-scrolling 2D run n’ gun shooter that jerks might compare to Contra but honestly its’ got more in common with a demolition derby than any of its fellow shooter bro-thren. Along with its pixelated aesthetic and action movie loving personality, what makes Broforce unique is its entirely destructible terrain and dozens of playable bros that you’ll end up switching between constantly.  Also there’s a LOT of explosions.

A lot of you have probably been trained to roll your eyes at the phrase “entirely destructible terrain” as you’ve been lied to far too many times by games like Red Faction over the years, but Broforce can shout this claim to the heavens without being struck by lightning because it’s completely true. We’re talking Worms level of devastation here, you’re encouraged to blow through stages in less than a minute but if you feel so inclined you’re  free to reduce the place to ashes; and even when you are heading straight for the choppa you’ll probably do that by accident half the time anyway. The stages of Broforce, all of which are set in Vietnam (in the current build anyway), feel very reactive in this way. Things blow up, catch fire and bounce around a lot, it all feels very alive; take what happens in Super Mario BROs. when you hit a block and it kills an enemy sitting on top of it, imagine that happening around 1000 times a second and you’re getting pretty close to how the average Broforce stage usually plays out.

The constant switching of bros is interesting in the midst of all this madness as well. Just like in Metal Slug there are prisoners you can save, but unlike Metal Slug these prisoners are actually captured members of the Broforce and are playable characters all of which are based on popular action movies. In multiplayer saving a prisoner will revive a dead co-op partner as the prisoner, in single player (or if all players are alive in multiplayer) you will automatically change to this character, which also acts as an extra life; losing a life also means you change to another bro at random. Basically, don’t get too attached to any one of the bros because chances are you won’t be playing one for more than 20 seconds at a time.

This is a different design mentality to something like the aforementioned Super Mario Bros, or Contra which people might lazily compare a game like this to. Those games give the player a completely pre-determined challenge with multiple solutions and ways to play…but still are thoroughly linear experiences. Broforce however changes the rules on you constantly, hell even Broforce isn’t sure what’s going to happen next, maybe an enemy will shoot a propane tank and blow up a whole section of the stage forcing you to wall hop your way to another route, or maybe you’ll save a prisoner and turn into Indiana Brones and his useless whip and get immediately ripped to pieces. It leads to a constantly engaging action experience that you can’t ever coast through because there is always something of importance happening.

Broforce_May_Update_-_Screen_2Now at time of writing Broforce is still in its Early Access stage and is still receiving regular updates. The most recent of which is the announcement that a new bro is being put into the game that allows directional shooting, whereas so far the game only had Mega Man/Metal Slug style forward shooting, along with extra secondary abilities that vary completely from character to character. I bring it up because at this incomplete stage of its development it’s a great example of everything that is great as well as everything that kind of doesn’t work about Broforce. In most games of this style something like the decision to go for directional or straightforward shooting would be a crucial one made very early on in development for the sake of the level design, but Broforce’s  organic balls-out action nature allows the team to just sort of flop it in there.

This is really cool in the sense that it gives the game near unrivalled variety in its field in the sense that all the characters play differently and the levels themselves are constantly changing shapes. It’s fascinating for an action game with such tiny stages achieve this level of organic gameplay and replay ability without resorting to something such as randomly generated levels. There is level design here, but you will have to attack it differently not just on every playthrough but on every attempt.

The downside to all of this comes from the chaotic nature of Broforce, don’t be mistaken, when the game is flowing and the action is coming hard and heavy it is fantastic, but there is a frustration element that comes with it. Of the probable hundreds of deaths I experienced during my time with Broforce I think I could probably perform a successful post-mortem on what actually killed me maybe…a dozen of them? More often than not something explodes and you jump straight to your next bro or jump back to the start of the level if you’re fresh out of lives. The action always restarts within a couple of seconds, and within a few more seconds you’re probably back to where you were anyway so none of this is a deal breaker. It is also easy to accidentally rescue a prisoner bro and change character without necessarily realising it or meaning to; so you experience some gamer whiplash when you get suddenly get switched from Rambo machine gunning through the stage at ease to say, the jerk who tosses dynamite two feet in front of him that explode on a delay.

Neither of these issues by themselves are major problems as they both play to the ever-changing flow of action in Broforce, but together they create a strange little psychology problem that dangles over the fun parts of the game. Say what you want about how fun the chaotic nature of the game is when its working, but there’s something weird with a game when you start to think “I’m enjoying this character, so I don’t want to rescue a prisoner because I might get changed to someone who’s useless at the moment, but I’m probably going to get killed randomly soon so I need to do it for the sake of the extra life so…DAMNIT!” It’s times like these where the two side effects of the insanity of Broforce start to rub together in a way that makes the game less fun.

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Overall, Broforce is shaping up to be a tasty action game which provides organic high intensity gameplay in bite sized levels which are perfect for speed-running. The only issue is it might be a little too insane for its own good, but regardless that’s all part of its charm. Going it alone on this one might require some caution as the flaws become more obvious when you’re by yourself and thinking about it too much. Hopping online (or local) with friends blowing through Vietnam or the stages you create yourself in the level editor will surely be a blast when the network features have a little more polish to them. Broforce is rebrommended…brocommended….recombroded…just give it a try sometime okay?

broforce_may_update_-_key_artA group of writers from Frugal Gaming were lucky enough to spend some time with the multi together here’s their thoughts on BroForce.

Karlos Morale

TOTAL CARNAGE! I LOVE IT!

An eye-blistering hurricane of ultra-violence, BroForce is the videogame equivalent of a Starburst sweetie. Enjoy a rush of fruity armageddon on your screen for the time it takes you to chew up a tasty treat, then a brief pause to unwrap the next level before you get to savour it all over again. Currently single-player has the edge for me, as the multiplayer suffers from the decision to force all the players to stick to the same screen rather than allow you to follow your character directly. It’s a little too easy to lose your action hero amid the death and destruction. If they can solve this problem then this game receives my unequivocal recommendation and highly-coveted personal thumbs-up.

Bwortang
Set your nostalgia levels to 11, for the best action 80’s game that never was.
Still in early access this adrenaline fuelled action packed
Indie title allows up to 4 Bro’s to deal out aggressive liberation.  Each Bro has their own special weaponry which is instantly recognisable and set to overkill, as you battle terrorists, the destructible terrain an the urge not to release your trigger finger in the fight for freedom.
With scope for more Bro’s, new levels an greater explosions, this ticks all the action retro I’ve ever wanted. I purchased this for £5.99 an it’s without doubt my  purchase of this year.

PridedLlama

If you have ever made a mix tape, have a love for action films and still play video games chances are you are a child of the 80’s. BroForce is jam packed with a whole load of 80’s references, clichés and everything it does oozes machismo. The online multiplayer is a bombastic, if at the minute slightly sloppy whole heap of fist bumping fun, and the couple of hours we played together past by in the blink of an eye.

Sure it has it problems, it becomes so hard to track you on screen hero at times, if your screen centred on your character or even just had a permanent marker above its head would go a long way to fixing this problem. The netcode is as janky as BF4 at launch, but admittedly BroForce is in beta, and will remain that way until the end of the year so there is loads of time to sort that out before launch.

Deathmatch at the minute appears to be local only but I cant wait to check this out once an online version is sorted, and with custom levels and campaigns, race mode and a whole plethora of other bits and bobs to fiddle about with, the game sure won’t be light on content.

UglyGeezer
It’s early access, any problems that have been covered above will easily be ironed out.
When it’s finished I expect THIS GAME WILL BE FUCKING FANTASTIC!

Out Now on Early Access Steam.
Developed by: Free Lives
Published by: Devolver Digital

 

Maia – Early Access Preview

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Commencing Countdown, Engines On

Back when your average PC’s came in 386 or 486 varieties, my two favourite games were X-Wing and Pizza Tycoon.  Whilst the crossover between the two may not seem apparent, Maia; a relatively new indie game manages to scratch itches that I’d forgotten I had and takes elements from both the long lost classics I remember so fondly.

The core elements of the game are Sci-fi, survival and simulation, and it hits these goals pretty well, even at such an early stage of development. First released about 6 months ago, Maia is taking shape nicely albeit at a relatively slow rate of pace due to the tiny yet clearly very talented developer.

JungleLandingMedNow It’s Time To Leave The Capsule If You Dare

The game begins with you and a few colonists trying to forge a homestead on sometimes inhospitable alien worlds, it’s down to you to direct them towards self sufficiency.  This is achieved not by controlling your minions directly but planning what should be built and where it should be placed from an isometric like viewpoint.  A range of place-able rooms, each with unique items to be built within their confines, from workshops with benches and drills, to hydroponics rooms with fruit trees, gives you some idea of what your colonist will need to survive.

There is not much hand holding here and whilst I generally applaud that in most games perhaps a little bit more is needed in a title like Maia. You see it’s not just a case of placing an item and letting your colonists get on with it. Need an atmosphere generator? Well first you need a work bench and for that you need a workshop.  Whilst it does take a little bit of time to figure out what is needed to enable other things to be built, I have started to get the hang of it.

So now I’ve figured out what I need to build, I now need to figure out how to get my colonists to do it.  They aren’t your normal mindless minions you find in most other games of this ilk and it’s not a case of Simon-says. I still, for the life of me cannot get them to build certain things, but they do have a mind of their own which adds a nice twist to the usual formula.  The AI can be rather spotty at times, which is to be expected in an Early Access Game but when fully realised I think it will be great and it’s going to add a lot to the game.

Major Tom to Ground Control

Maia both looks and sounds great.  Sound effects are suitably futuristic, the little bit of music you hear from time to time is great and I’m hoping that the soundtrack will be expanded upon further down the line.  Character models are looking good, especially the huge local beasties who will occasionally wander over to investigate what your colonists are doing to their new digs, and the general art style serves the game well.  Of course there are the occasional glitches here and there, but it’s nothing I would be worried about, the developer seems pretty on the ball when it comes to squishing bugs.

The driving force behind Maia is a chap called Simon Roth, he’s extremely active on the Steam forums and the way he engages with the players speaks to his obvious passion for the game.  He’s got a lot of work on his hands with Maia, although I’m not 100% certain, I’m pretty sure that he’s doing it nearly all himself.  This obviously leads to a slower development time that some might not wish to support but as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather be playing and supporting a game with one passionate developer behind it rather than a larger team simply there for the pay cheque.  At nearly £18 on steam, Maia in its current form might seem rather expensive, but you’re paying for what Maia will become not what it currently is.  I think if it continues to develop anything like it has over the last 6 months it will end up being worth every penny.

Whilst this preview is short and sweet, I’ll be writing more about Maia in the coming months as it continues to develop along with other Early Access Games I’ve covered.

Maia is currently in for Early Access on Steam and can be found here http://store.steampowered.com/app/252250/

 

The Forest – Early Access Preview

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We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday

Lost, Swiss Family Robinson, The Decent, Bear Grylls, Lord of the Flies and Wilson the Volleyball. If all of the things listed above draw a blank, then you have more important things you should be doing rather than reading this.  If however at least one of them sets some neurons firing, read on fellow adventurer, your journey is just beginning.

I like to kick back with a nice G&T when I fly, after the flight I found myself aboard in the opening scene of The Forest, I think I might need something a little bit stronger next time I travel.  Sitting and watching the in-flight entertainment with a young boy at my side, the shit, or probably a rather large avian hit the fan and my peaceful flight descended into chaos, quite literally.  I awoke to confusion and panic, the plane torn in half, the result of an awkward crash landing. Emergency exit signs flickered, sparks arced from broken cabin lights and a rather imposing, near naked native was towering over the unconscious boy.  As my vision faded and faculties began to fail, the child was spirited away, alone and afraid I passed out.

SequenceWip1748If You Go Down To The Woods Today

After stuffing my backpack with the remaining contents of the drinks trolley and grabbing a fire axe that was unceremoniously sticking out of the chest of a fellow passenger, I ventured forth into what only can be described as paradise.  My first crash found me near the shore of the strange land that would become both my home and battleground- and boy did that beach look good.  Seagulls gulled and giant Turtles flapped around.  The sun looked warm and the sea inviting.  The serene calm didn’t last long and like an approaching storm on the horizon, the locals soon made themselves known.

The first meeting with the locals was tense, both myself and the natives eye-balling each other at 50 yards, but neither daring to approach any closer. Their ranks swelled with new arrivals, the atmosphere was palpable and I felt that discretion was the better part of valour so I promptly ran away as fast as I could- screaming.  I ran and ran until my middle finger was sore.  Hoping I would be safe for a while, I munched on some energy bars I had picked up from the plane and spreading my belongings out upon the ground, I took stock and began to make plans.

TheForest_BodiesAltI’m A Lumberjack and I’m OK

Having been a fan of both Messrs Grylls and Mears, it was no surprise that I’d packed a survival guide in my hand luggage to help pass the time. I find nothing worse than waiting in a departure lounge without a good book, little was I to know at the time that the book would save my life.  Leafing through the pages I glanced upon several designs for shelters and decided upon a frugal hunting one to help protect me from the elements.

After marking out my design in the sand I headed off inland with a shopping list of logs, stones and sticks to build my new home.  Now I have from time to time indulged in a little bit of tree felling, but never did it feel as good or as satisfying as it did in The Forest.  My blows were strong and true and before long trees were toppling like dominoes as I left my permanent mark on this strange undiscovered land.  Several trips back and forth were required to collect all the materials required for my shelter, but boy was it worth it.  A thing of true beauty, built with my own hands.  I made a small fire and settled down for the night, with pride of my small accomplishments swelling in my chest, it wasn’t long before exhaustion overcame me and I drifted off to sleep.

SequenceWip1568And They Mostly Come At Night… Mostly.

Maybe it was the light from my campfire that attracted them, or maybe they had been waiting and watching in the trees all along, I’ll never know.  A strange noise awoke me and as I lay still whilst my senses were returning, I knew I was not alone.  In ones and twos they approached from the treeline.  Whooping and hollering in some harsh sounding foreign tongue, they came on like a pack of wild dogs.  Looking behind me escape was impossible, I was surrounded on all sides.  I drew my axe and stood my ground, my paradise it seemed, was lost.

As valiantly as I fought, their numbers proved too much, and with a blow to my head that felt like worlds colliding, I was sure it was the end.  I still don’t know to this day how long I was unconscious for, it could have been hours or days.  I awoke in darkness, my only companions- a splitting headache and the moaning and whistling of the icy wind.  Fumbling in my pockets I pulled out my lighter, and its spluttering light revealed a scene from a true nightmare.  Bodies everywhere, hanging from the ceiling and swaying in the breeze like a scene from some sick slaughterhouse B-Movie.  With every ounce of courage I could muster I moved through this macabre scene towards the source of the onrushing air.  A primitive butchers block, slick with blood glistened in the light.  What was left of some unfortunate soul still lying upon it, a huge axe still embedded deep in the flesh.  Grabbing the weapon and stealing my resolve I headed on wards in the dark, towards what ever fate had in store for me.

TennisTeamReality Is Merely An Illusion, Albeit A Very Persistent One

The Forest is a first person open world survival horror adventure game, and boy is it great.  Although it’s still in very Early Access with a few bugs here and there and just one major update under its belt, it’s shaping up to be an absolutely phenomenal game.  I remember seeing the first trailer some time ago and I was excited then and not only has it already lived up to that excitement, it’s not far away from surpassing it.

The horror elements are genuinely scary.  Local inhabitants can be downright terrifying, with some fantastic AI on show at times.  The building crafting and construction is some of the best implementation of ideas I’ve seen in a long time, other games thinking about construction ( yes I’m looking at you DayZ ) should take note.

The game world is a full and vibrant place, with animals and fauna everywhere.  Environments are great and getting better all the time. I can’t say enough good things about this game.  The developers are trawling through the forums asking for opinions and feedback which is always a good sign.  Apart from the fact that what’s already available is fantastic, the development team clearly have a well set out roadmap, the game itself features a countdown to the next update!

There are definitely still niggles here and there, it sometimes doesn’t run quite as smoothly as it should, birds might fly straight into your face, and a few textures need work.  But the developers are the first to hold their hands up to these and apart from the bigger content updates they have been regularly hot-fixing broken bits and bobs.

Sales have by all accounts started strong, and a community wiki has already sprung up with a guide to everything you’ll find on your adventures.  If any of this has tickled your fancy, I wholeheartedly recommend you check it out.  I cant wait to play more of The Forest and I cant wait for more content from Endnight Games.

Developer: Endnight Games

Publisher: Endnight Games

The Forest is available via Steam Early Access and can be found here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/242760/

 

 

Blockstorm – Early Access Preview

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BlockHeads

Another early access preview and another Minecraft clone? I can hear you groaning already! But unlike some of the other voxel based releases we have previewed here at Frugal Gaming, Blockstorm is rather good, in my opinion at least.
Now I bought Minecraft early and I’ve spent many a happy hour with the base game, but that’s as far as I’ve ever taken it. I have never tried any of the mods or been on other peoples servers, it’s all too complicated and time consuming for me. Whilst I know there are FPS mods for Minecraft, (hell I even saw a TitanFall game mode on YouTube the other day), I’ve never been interested because unless I can click one button to launch the game I’m just not interested. That’s where Blockstorm comes in.
Available now on Steam Early Access for a penny under £9, Blockstorm is Minecraft with guns, but that’s not all. Anyone who has played a FPS will be immediately at home with how the game handles and the game modes on offer. The usual WASD and mouse controls work very well, RMB to aim down iron sights and LMB to unleash whatever weapon you’re using. Whilst the shooty controls are tight, movement does at times feel a little bit slow, especially if you’ve come off the back of something like COD.
With hopefully more game modes on the way, the only ones available at the minute are Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Assault. Whilst the first two need no introduction, Assault splits the player into opposing teams, those who must assault or defend an area of the map. It’s without a doubt the most tactical mode and also gave us the biggest laughs and the most fun.
There are multiple load outs at your disposal, each set-up has a main weapon, a sidearm and explosives of some type. All the weapons look great, made up of the tiny blocks, cute and yet just as deadly as their real life counterparts. The twist here is that each weapon has a different weight, and whilst I’m not 100% sure at the time of writing, it does feel that the heavier your load out the slower you move. This is a great idea and although the weapons still need a bit of balancing, the play-off between lightly armed yet swift, or a tooled up but slow tank do add to the tactical aspect of the game.

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Being a voxel based game opens up a whole bevy of options during the fire fights. You can build and demolish nearly all of the blocks in the game. Want to play the sniper and pick off targets from a distance? Then find yourself a nice hidey hole and block up the entrance so the enemy can’t flank you. Having trouble getting into the enemy’s base in Assault mode? Why not tunnel to victory? It does add something not seen in any other FPS and can lead to some hilarious moments.
A fully featured level editor, the same piece of kit that the developers, Ghost Shark Games, have used to create the pre-baked maps that come with the game is available for everyone. Just think about that for a minute. An endless supply of levels limited only by your imagination and that of the community. Anybody fancy recreating Doom?
The creativity doesn’t end there either; the devs have also included the character editor that they used to create the multitude of pre-sets available, from Robot to Gorilla or a Chef. The inclusion of both these editors is a great idea, however they do take a little bit of time and effort to get used to. Some tutorial videos for these would be great, and whilst the developers have set up a wiki page for the game at the minute its empty. I’m hoping that as the both the community itself and the content it creates grows, the people at Ghost Shark introduce some way to showcase the new content and curate it to, let’s face it there is always an element of absolute rubbish to wade through when it comes to this sort of user created content.

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Being a completely multiplayer game, it seemed right and proper to get some of the Frugal Gamers together to preview Blockstorm. What was only going to be a 30 minute session stretched into something much longer. Here’s what these guys had to say!

Mark Kerry

Blockstorm offers a great combined experience- if you love Minecraft and love Call of Duty you’ll love this. The iconic Minecraft voxel style that has seen a rise in popularity since the hit game first landed, and the ability to dig your own nest along with an online FPS experience is really refreshing and makes for a different experience every single time.
One thing that really interests me is the level creator, an awesome feature in which you can build your own level, host a server and play with friends or random players that join. This is great as it gives you the freedom to explore your own creativity and then test your creations out against players from around the world!
Watch this space closely, I can’t wait to see this in its final release form.

Moaning Bastard Karlos Morale

OK it’s fun in multiplayer. I’m pretty sure that the guys will have poured sugar all over this title because we DID have a pleasant evening playing together – but the same could be said about most functioning multiplayer games. Blockstorm is as basic an FPS as it’s possible to get, chucked into a Minecraft-esque engine.
Blockstorm comes across an undercooked proposition in its current form. The biggest issue currently is the lack of options in terms of interactivity with the landscape, in terms of what players can add in a given game. You are currently limited to adding a single block colour coded to your particular team. A range of block types, possibly with different effects, would make for a more interesting and dynamic landscape to play the game in. With that in mind, the load outs are also shallow and offer little in the way of options – some more development of the weapons available to offer more significant advantages and disadvantages would greatly aid play variety. Currently there are clearly optimal weapons on a given map and no incentive to deviate.

Bwortang

Like finishing a jam doughnut without licking your lips, describing Blockstorm without calling it a Minecraft FPS was going to be tricky. This simple block-based shooter with it’s destructible and construct-able environment allows for several weapon load outs as well as a variety of characters ranging from Rambo to a chef.

Currently only 3 vanilla game modes are available in Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Assault (which is an attack/defend mode). Further game modes would be appreciated and I’m sure are in the pipeline. With a map and character editor the fun is only limited by the communities imagination, If they could migrate some Minecraft fans across and fill the servers with players on custom maps, in a budget price range they’d be onto a winner.

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Have You Got What It Takes To Beat The Cubes? Back To My Opinion.

Blockstorm is off to a good start and I’m definitely looking forward to playing more, however there are some stumbling blocks the developers need to overcome. Player base and price, and they are both intertwined.
Whilst I understand it’s very early in the games life, there are just not enough players on the servers. This morning there was one server with six people playing, at other times over the last week when I’ve tried to play there has not been a soul online. A multiplayer game without multiple players is not a game at all. This preview would have been virtually impossible if the other Frugal guys hadn’t jumped in and it’s such a shame because Blockstorm is a whole lot of fun, especially when playing with friends.
I do feel, at the minute at least, that Blockstorm is just quite simply overpriced.A little lower in pricewould be about perfect for me. People wouldn’t think twice about picking the game up for a few quid but £9 is getting towards the considered purchase price. A cheaper price would mean a lot more people playing in theory, which would immediately raise the value of the game, not to mention the amount of fun to be had, levels created, and the general buzz around the game would be much higher.

Blockstorm has got a lot going for it, I and a couple of the other guys had a lot of fun in our multiplayer games and I really want to continue playing. It’s a cracking idea that would appeal to lots of gamers. Console players would lap this up! But it needs to walk before it runs and those first steps need to be building and maintaining its community. I really hope that in a years’ time I’m still playing Blockstorm and a whole lot of other people are too.

Blockstorm is available via Steam Early Access and can be found here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/263060/

 

Tabletop Simulator – Early Access Preview

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Tabletop Simulator – Early Access Preview

“When there are no chocolate sprinkles for your ice-cream, that’s an irritation.

When there is no milk for your coffee in the morning, that’s a problem.

When there’s no game in your video game, that’s a disaster.”  A. Wise. – Gaming Journalist 1850

Leaving aside the whole host of problems associated in commenting on games as fundamentally unfinished as this one is, we’re here to talk about Tabletop Simulator and what it offers you for £10.99 of your misbegotten gains.

Tabletop Simulator is a physics sandbox title that aims to enable you to simulate many tabletop game types and customise them to your hearts’ desire. Tired of the limitations of traditional chess? Play without restriction of movement. Bored of the same old backgammon pieces? Swap them out for brightly coloured building blocks.

Play a game of marbles across Nicolas Cage’s face.

And herein lies the first and fundamental problem with the Tabletop Simulator; by placing the game in an online, consequence-free environment and stripping away all rules, most peoples’ response is to dick about with the freedom afforded them. Why play a legitimate game of chess with a buddy when you can spawn a ‘Beholder’ model onto the board to replace your king? How long are you going to resist the temptation to spawn a tower of Ogres directly into the centre of your poker game?

There’s a delightful rage-quit option that allows you to flip the virtual table you’ve created, sending your pieces flying through virtual space and gradually disappearing against one of the appallingly low-res backgrounds the game provides at the moment.

Sounds fun, yeah? But how long before that just gets tiresome for anyone trying to play an actual game? Well, the answer is, it gets pretty old, pretty quickly. All of the traditional game modes on offer are better played in a hundred other titles, most of which are considerably cheaper than this is, even at a relatively modest £11.

Chess-Wood

In its plus column, Tabletop Simulator has one big word – potential. The idea of being able to make your own games and boards to play them on, save board states and connect with other players on stable servers is brilliant. When I first saw the trailer for TS and read the Steam page blurb, my first thought was getting a truly 3D and interactive environment set up for an online Dungeons and Dragons game (yeah, because I’m a fucking nerd, alright?). Potentially, that would be amazing. Some of the other guys at Frugalgaming and I discussed what Warhammer 40K armies we’d like to try and recreate – our heads buzzed with ideas. Sadly, not one of those ideas were remotely feasible once we saw the software up and running in its current state.

Berserk Games have provided some fairly standard fantasy-trope models that you can use to play your own games with. Great, quite a range of creature models give a sense of a real encounter –  you can picture the scene, describing the environment to your players over Skype and showing monster and player movement using the 3D (and very attractive) models. But wait – there are no PC models! You’ve given us a skeleton, a werewolf and a dragon but no Warrior, Mage and Cleric models? To be honest, that’s just ridiculous. Sure, you could use a chess piece, red block or even a playing card to represent the PCs, but that sort of defeats the entire point of the exercise doesn’t it? The ’tile sets’ provided for you to build environments with are also laughably basic – at least in the version I played. One guy on Steam who was extremely positive about game wanted to show off a room he had made for role-playing. Trouble was, it featured a door, which wasn’t actually included in the models provided in the game so far. Draw whatever conclusion you like from that.

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To put it simply, Tabletop Simulator is all mouth and no trousers in its current form. Promising great freedom, it is currently impossibly limiting and seeks to get around this by putting the onus on the community to run with the system and develop things for the platform.

If you believe the development team, there are all kinds of exciting additions and features that are coming to the game – but they’re not currently included and there is no guarantee they ever will be. This is the danger of early access and why I simply can’t recommend you part with your money now, unless you have an interest in putting your free time and effort into creating things for the game you paid for. For all the potential, there is simply no reason to give any money to this studio – yet. All they have is a concept, a germ of an idea, which could be great but is currently more Virtual Boy than Oculus Rift.

A group of Frugal Gaming’s writers got together one night and tried to play some multi. Here’s their thoughts.

Purdy1981 

At the minute I’d struggle to call Tabletop Simulator a game, that would be like calling Nigel Farage a politician or Call of Duty exciting. For me at least, it’s just not true.  The fact that the developers originally sought funding for just £3000 speaks of their ambition, or more importantly their lack of it. The most generous description I can give this title at the moment tech demo, it almost feels like a school project. 3D models look nice and the physics, whilst still a work in progress, are getting there.

However there is no fun to be had here and what little you can do can be done more easily in real life, or if you’ve really got to play some of these things on a digital device then use your Google fu, free alternatives are available.

Poker

Dedwoods42

Tabletop Simulator is possibly the most accurately titled game I’ve ever played. It is precisely that – a simulated tabletop. There are game pieces from various popular games available for use (Chess, Draughts, some fantasy type miniatures) and, well, that’s it. It’s pretty, runs smoothly and I didn’t come across any crashes or problems, other than other players.

My small experience of multiplayer left me hurt and confused, as my attempt to play a civilised game of chess with another player was met with him/her throwing all of his/her chess pieces at me, typing ‘YOLO, lolz’ and quitting. Oh. Okay then. I suppose that the real application of Tabletop Simulator would be playing tabletop games with friends who live too far away to simply play with on an actual tabletop – and that’s great as long as everybody plays ball. I would have liked to see just a few more options to constrain gameplay – introduce simpler player turns, forcing only legal moves in chess… Just some control that could be introduced so as to make the network multiplayer viable. The game has a huge amount of potential in this respect – with a plethora of game types and pieces available – but no way to properly make use of them without like-minded, constrained individuals with whom to play.

A special mention goes to the ‘Fantasy Miniature’ models, which could comfortably sit among my collection of Citadel / GW miniatures without looking out of place. Big fan of those death animations too, those are cool. 

Solitaire

MakingUpTheNumbers

I’ve played board games, and role playing games, since I was a teenager. But then I was lured away by computer games. Years later, I’ve rediscovered the new generation of board games, thanks in part to some of the wonderful iPad conversions of old and new board games.

What Tabletop Simulator sets out to do is literally simulate the instrumentality of games, to create a virtual, 3D environment with a tabletop.

There are other “play board games with your friends over the internet”systems out there, some are very well established, and they’re free. But they don’t implement the full 3D environments that TS does.

So, TS is an interesting idea, fairly well implemented at the moment, but really, it’s only a start. Yes some may latch onto it, and invest the time to populate it with content, or use it as it is. But it’s really a time will tell situation.

Where TS starts to step beyond the basic virtual board and playing piece approach is with cards based games. With cards, TS implements shuffling a deck by picking it up and shaking it, having a hand that only you can see, flipping cards face down and face up. But you still have to supply your own rules. It doesn’t implement the rules of poker, bridge or whatever. But this is also where it starts to show it’s intended purpose, and perhaps the depth that will lead it on to bigger and better things. Because you can import your own cards into the game. If you took the time, you could scan all your favourite collectible card game desks into TS. So you could play Magic the Gathering in TS, though of course the proper MtG apps exist, complete with the rules implemented.

PC

£10.99 (Steam)

Berserk Games

 

@BenM123

Nether Interview- Let’s Talk WarZ Trolls, Microtransactions and Pink Pimp Suits

NETHER_LOGO_700x110

Nether Interview.

Frugal Gaming’s UglyGeezer meets the team behind Nether: Mark Davidson (VP of Nether Productions),  Kelly (Community Manager) , Chase and Travis Hernandez (both brothers, lead designer and producer to developer).

Nether first released via early access last October, finding itself topping the Steam charts. A game although still in development, it was instantly playable. An urban survival game that had community driven ideas at it’s very heart.

Six months in, Frugal Gaming did a community preview of Nether, to look at the massive changes that had been going on and see for themselves the changes to the game that had transformed nether into something completely new.

The Preview can be found HERE

The audio for this interview can be found at the bottom of this page. We would really like to thank those that took part in the interview, we hope you enjoy reading/listening to it.

Nether01

UG: Bear with my whilst I stumble clumberly over my notes:

The Phosphor Collective: HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Well, in fairness that laughing only happened in my head, I wanted the ground to open up and eat me. What follows did happen (Me saying made up words sadly did happen)

On with the interview………….

UG: Can you describe Nether for me? Tell us what Nether actually is?

Mark: I would say it’s arcade survival. It’s fast paced, it’s pretty hardcore, you lose everything every time you die. It’s a balance between finding people to work with and people trying to hunt you down. and the Nether’s of course.

Kelly: For me the atmosphere of the game is just amazing. The world really pulls you in, the sound is amazing. You hear a Nether behind you and you’re actually terrified because it sounds scary. The city looks phenomenal, so the atmosphere is just amazing.

UG: Can you tell us how you guys came together as Phosphor Games and Productions?

Mark. We’re a group of companies, Nether Productions and Phosphor Games. Phosphor are the developers and they’ve been working since about 2007. Started by the guys from Midway.

Chase and Travis: It was actually started by a group of guys who were all ex Midway Games staff who wanted to continue to pursue their dream, which was Project Hero. So when we came together as Phosphor Games we decided to make our own version of that game. So we’ve been growing as a studio, still trying to pursue that dream and keeping our minds open to other games. We are always looking to grow our portfolio, do new things and bring out a AAA title like Nether.

UG: Which comes on to my next question, I wanted to ask what the seed of inspiration was for Nether. So that goes way back to Project Hero?

Chase/Travis: As developers we’re always trying to branch out into something new with every title we work on. We’ve always been fans of multiplayer experiences, especially open world and specifically city stuff. A big part of Zero was the city environment. We think the cityscapes can bring interesting multiplayer pay-offs. So that was a big part of the design, a post-apocalypticbroken down city.

UG: I’ve never come across a game before that has been so community driven, since the early access release last year it’s been apparent that you’re connected to your fans and their wishes. Was that a conscious decision early on for you guys?

Kelly: Yes I think so. Even before the release on early access people had so many ideas and it was really cool to involve the community.There’s a lot of stuff in Nether that would have never been there had we not looked at community feedback. It helps with balance as well, they know the game.

Mark: I think when you get a great opportunity as well with Steam early access, other than free to play we wouldn’t have had that opportunity- where we can take a nub of a game and develop it from there.

UG: I personally feel the likes of early access/Greenlight/Kickstarter has been the most exciting thing in years for creativity in gaming, any downsides to that?

Mark: Especially with Greenlight, it means everything is up for grabs for the small guy now in terms of having a platform to get his/her games out there now, similar to the mobile market.

Chase/Travis: From a design perspective early access is a designers dream. You’re building a game for your players. One of the downsides we’ve run into is expectations versus what’s good for the game. Some players expect us to take the game in a certain direction, then we find out through research and testing that the other direction is much more engaging and fun. So sometimes you can get miscommunication in early access.

UG: With such democracy in the development, the vast amount of feedback must be daunting. How do you filter that? When suddenly everyone feels they’re a games developer. How do you get to hear ‘the quiet bloke’ with the good idea?

Kelly: It can be very difficult when sometimes one half of the community want something over here and the other half over there. It can be crazy.

Chase/Travis: It’s sometimes a combination of taking the brute force of the comments and seeing what’s the general consensus and sometimes digging trough everything and looking for those gems. It’s something we were really focused on, especially in the early stages. Sometimes we would find an obscure forum post and say “hey this is a great idea” and run with it.

UG: With so much new content in Nether now, with new areas of the map open, tribes are up and running, escort mission. How close is Nether now to the original idea?

Chase/Travis: It’s grown pretty organically. Some of the stuff that even came in later – like crafting, you see elements of it in the original design documents. Other stuff, like the tribes, none of us ever really saw that in the early stages. As we worked on the game, grew and saw what the community wanted it just came out and seemed like a great idea.

Mark: It wasn’t to address individual problems as such, but the whole kill on sight thing for the first couple of months was killing us. So tribes and a couple of other things we put in really helped address that.

UG: One thing you tried was the blood meter, but you took that out?

Mark: *Laughs* No we made a lot of mistakes.

UG: No, but you were trying ideas out and to me it showed a group of developers that were listening. I seem to remember the community asking for the blood meter.

UG: When the WarZ idiocy and accusations that you were the WarZ devs started on your own and the Steam forums, how did that affect you guys?

Mark: They’re just trolls and haters right? You just have to deal with it.

Kelly: Yep, they were just trolls.

UG: For myself as a fan of the game and a forum user, it looked like you were taking a battering. There was a tsunami of negativity and even some ‘grown up’ gaming sites were saying this rubbish.

Chase/Travis: It was actually an interesting experience for the dev team, we did just have to sit there and take it, because obviously we’re not the WarZ team. But it was good to see a lot of our players come to the front and defend us and tell people “these aren’t the WarZ guys, they do care, they do listen” It was really interesting to see and know that our community did want to see the game grow and improve. It’s nice to see players that actually support games, rather than the vocal minority that want to knock them down.

UG: Microtransactions. You have them in the game but for cosmetic stuff only. What are your plans with then in the future? Do they give you a stream of revenue to continue development?

Mark: We’re not really monetising very well. We knew from the WarZ stuff that pay to win would be a huge throwback for us. Right now the only thing that could be loosely termed as pay to win is the wingsuit, it would be nice to make that more cosmetic. We’re not that granular on the analytics of what people enjoy doing. We need to drill down into that data and see what it is people really enjoy doing.

UG: It’s not uncommon to pay for small cosmetic items in MMO’s, The Secret World as an example. I would love to play in a big pink pimp suit in Nether.

Chase/Travis *Laughs* That is an excellent idea.

Mark: One thing we are thinking of is skins for guns and making them unique.

UG: Where do you see the game in a year, 2 years? When will it leave Beta?

Mark: Right now we’re concentrating on bug fixing. We had a vision, around 2 months after release, we OK, we’re scrambling to fix these things the community has asked for. It became clear we needed a direction to go and that’s where the tribes came from. Then we had a 6 month roadmap and could polish what we had. The next patch for example is polish. We would like to take the game out of early access soon. there’s a blockage for some gamers with the early access label. We would like to take it to a larger audience and continue with the community driven direction.

 

Here’s the audio of the interview in full. Huge apologies for the sound problems in the early part of the interview, it does improve as it goes on and the audio problems do completely vanish. The same cannot be said for my gibberish made up words.

Flockers – Early Access Preview

flockers_logo

School of Flock

You would be forgiven for thinking that all Team 17 has done is create games that star psychotic invertebrates, who like nothing more than beating the living crap out of each other. Alien Breed and Superfrog are a couple of their other franchises, but these never found the same sort of traction that the wiggly little stars of the 20 plus games that bear the Worms moniker.

So Team 17 are back with a brand new game. Titled Flockers, the game puts you in control of a flock of sheep trying to escape the evil machinations of the Worms who have been using them as suicide bombers for the last 20 years. Very much like the cherished and sorely missed Lemmings, the game tasks you with herding your flock from A to B, whilst trying to avoid the spike traps, buzz saws and all other sorts of painful, comic, death dealing machines that lie along your path.

3

Breaking Baa-d

Released this week via steam early access, I’ve been lucky enough to get hands on with the game for the last week or so, and it’s shaping up quite nicely. With 25 levels available at the get-go, and a few, if at the minute limited actions that your sheep can take. The levels are well designed and land just on the right side of hair pulling frustration, which means you always want to give it one more try.

The targets set for each level at first seem rather generous, with only a few of your flock needing to survive to proceed to the next level. However getting even a lone lamb to the end zone can be a real challenge, if you’re a member of PETA the game might not be for ewe.

To achieve your goal of freedom, your sheep can perform a few different functions. Whilst you don’t have the traditional blocker that was seen in lemmings the sheep can huddle up into formations, so you can effectively block the flock, and also create a staircase of sheep that any herder from one man and his dog would be proud off. My only gripe about these formations is that once in position, the sheep just stand there. A nice little animation of them actually blocking the way or precariously balancing upon one another would be nice.

The other 3 functions you can perform are jumping, exploding and scaling high walls like Superman. These three actions look good when performed, the Superman sheep dons a cape and the jumper a woolly hat. I’m not quite sure why that one is relevant, maybe an actual knitted jumper would have suited better? The issue for me is that there are only the three actions, I’m really hoping that more are added as the games continues to develop. One of the biggest strengths of the original Lemmings games was the variety of actions that the green haired furry critters could take, and the problem solving options that opened up.

12

Baa We There Yet?

The game-play itself is enhanced by hidden golden fleeces in each level, I’ve not yet managed to reach one of these but it adds great re-playability, as it adds to your end of level score- which are nicely compared on end of level leaderboards. The inclusion of leaderboards is a great touch, my twitter feed has been full of Trial Fusion times over the last couple of weeks and whilst multiplayer wouldn’t really suit this game, the offer of bragging rights over your friends is fantastic.

A fully featured level editor is also included with levels being shared via the Steam Workshop. Due to issues with resolutions, at the time of writing I wasn’t able to try this out myself but a couple of home-made levels are already available. If you’ve got a sadistic streak then by all accounts you’re going to love this feature, and it will only add to the games long term value.

On a whole the game already looks and sounds great. The sheep themselves are little bundles of fluffy joy with great movement animations and a real personality to their sound effects, even when being minced up. The levels also look good, and although work is still underway to include depth of field techno magic, the basic assets look fantastic with two distinct styles already available across the 25 levels and a third on the way.

9

Flock and Awe

It seems to me that the idea for this game to be released via Early Access is to actively involve the gaming community in its development rather than the direct need for funding. This for me, is what Early Access should be about. The Developers themselves are pretty active on the games Steam forum and are shouting out for feedback. These are all good signs, and if you loved Lemmings or Worms for that matter you’ll find something in this game that will be right up your street.

Flockers is the first game that has been released this way that I can wholeheartedly recommend without any reservations whatsoever. In its current state it’s fully playable and offers some real head scratching challenges. The fact that it’s great for a quick 10 minutes of play or equally, several hour long sessions trying to beat your high score and climb the leaderboards, really speaks to the games strengths of simplicity of design and real hidden depths of its challenges. I’m looking forward to playing this game throughout its development and as a member of the community maybe helping to shaping the way it turns out upon full release.

Flockers is currently available via the Steam Early Access Program and can be found here
http://store.steampowered.com/app/260330/

Developed and Published by: Team 17

Block Story – Early Access Preview

Block Story Title

Block Story – Early Access Preview
PC
Developer: Mindblock Studio, LLC

Have you ever played the game where you have to try and not think about a pink elephant?
No?
Well it’s pretty simple; try not to think about a pink elephant.
It’s a tricky game, because the salmon-coloured pachyderm forces its way into your mind like, well, like an elephant.
A similar game can be played by trying to play Block Story and not think about Minecraft. As a voxel built open-world with items to craft and structures to build, comparisons are inevitable. However, as one of the statistically almost-insignificant number of people who has never played Minecraft for more than a minute or two, I am going to keep my focus on what Block Story does – rather than how it competes with its rival.
Whether or not you think there’s any room for Block Story in the market is immaterial – it’s here and you can pick it up for a pocket-friendly seven quid.

Blockstory 1

 

Now that’s out of the way, let me tell you about Block Story:
The world of Block Story is created entirely out of blocks. Blocks of sand, blocks of rock, blocks of tree etc. These can all be destroyed and harvested in order to make new items. So far, so familiar to anyone who has played this style of game before. The landscape is generated randomly before you head into the game and, once complete, you head out into the 1st person world that is yours to shape and re-shape as you see fit.
There are two quite distinct game modes here, one is an adventure which gives you an RPG approach to making your way in the world. The second is a creative mode that offers you instant access to all of the exciting blocks, bits and bobs that would otherwise take a donkey’s yonk in order to get. Both of these are a resolutely single player experience. The developer has plans in the future for a multiplayer release but it will be a separate title, not an addition to this one.
Adventure mode tries to spice up the ‘classic’ harvest and craft gameplay by introducing npc’s who are desirous of you to fulfil their questing needs. These are split into ‘gather me X numbers of Ys’, or ‘kill me A number of Bs’ quests. Hopefully, in time these will become a bit more fleshed and out and the folks you meet in your world will get a bit more personality. This aspect by itself could be enough to convince a lot of people to try the game since it offers something markedly different from other games in the genre.

blockstory_004
I was surprised by the amount of crafting scope the game has to offer during my play time, given that you can craft rings, weapons and armour as well as cars and boats – and it looks as though this will expand in the future. Crafting is done by arranging materials on a grid in order that they somewhat resemble the shape of the item you’re trying to create. Happily there is also a recipe book within the inventory that explains how everything is made so you know what items you need to work towards in order to make progress. Some recipes are locked off at the start but are unlocked through completing quests – there are plenty of blocks to play around with from the start however. Vendors inhabit your world, ready to trade you blocks that you might not be able to craft to begin with – it is a good feeling to lay down those first brick foundations for your new house on the beach let me tell you, even if that house is occasionally beset by the odd giant spider or ‘Barlog’ (yes, I know, I see it too) that’s climbed up one of my shafts. If I’d have known that was how it was going to go from the start, I’d have named my new world Australia and had done with it.

Blockstory 2

If I have one strong complaint that I hope the developers address during this early access phase, then it is definitely the strength of the monsters versus the amount of damage you are able to inflict. Given the number of quests that involve killing a number of beasts, it takes an unnecessarily large amount of damage to put one of them down. Given that combat is hardly one of the games strengths, it seems a curious decision to highlight this by making you spend a long time doing it. Still, balancing hit points is a minor issue and can be easily tweaked, right guys?
Block Story seems like it would be interesting to people who are looking for something a little different from their world-building games. It has enormous scope for you to craft the world to your liking – the developers claim that the world will go on forever upwards and downwards. I tried this, and dug down until I got thoroughly sick of the brick bashing noise. There’s some weird beasties down there and I didn’t find an end to it. Plenty of lava though.
If you felt like your Minecraft experience would have been improved by questing, dragon pets and boss monsters to battle, you could well do worse than check this out.

Blockstory 3
KIDS EXPERIENCE:
I gave this game to my 8 year-old daughter to have a play with and she gave the following testimony.

“Yeah, it’s fine.”
“…”
“Oh I like this bit because you can build a house and it’s sort of got built in stairs.”
“Dad, can I have a biscuit?”
“The water is stupid, it’s not like real water at all.”
“It doesn’t work, it’s broken you can’t… oh no wait… oh… huh.”
“Dad, can I play Block Thingy again?”
Make of this what you will.

Block Story is Available on Early Access Steam for £6.99

Nether PC Preview

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Nether PC

Developer: Phosphor Games Studio

Publisher:  Phosphor Games Studio

Frugal Gaming’s UglyGeezer takes his boys down some back alleys and shows them his new Nether regions, as the latest update of Nether opens up a large new chunk of the map.

So there I was, hanging on in there. My craving to wander in a wasteland, scavenge for food and avoid any local bandits. Nope, this wasn’t me on my way to do some shopping in my lovely peasant filled locale of East London. Oh no,  this was my hunger and wait for the DayZ standalone reaching the end of its tether in October 2013.

NETHER!

I saw it appear on the Steam Store and it rang some bells, I remember reading a preview on the PC Gamer website and I have to admit my gaming G-spot became a little moist.

So around Halloween time, 2013, I was almost giving up hope! The DayZ Standalone release was seeming to become as unlikely as an unlikely thing on international unlikely day. I took the plunge and paid (I think it was £20 at the time) for the Nether Beta. Here was Phosphor Game’s first mistake, calling it a Beta. The game was early access, the game was incredibly accomplished for an early access game and for all intents and purposes the framework for a very good game was there. But it wasn’t a Beta. A Beta to me implies the last stage and Nether at that point wasn’t.

In short- Nether is an urban survival game of Player versus Player (PvP ) and Player versus environment (PvE). The PvP aspect offers up all the survival elements expected from this genre; hunger, the need to find food, weapons and ZOMBIES! Erm…. no, not Zombies, let’s have some teleporting aliens instead in many shapes and sizes. These creatures are of course called Nether and hence the games name! Whereas PvP elements just offers that fact that often it’s much easier to kill another player for food and loot. There are idiots that will shoot anyone on sight, and for a lot of people this has been a problem. For myself, I learned how to sneak around and stick to the shadows.

Nether 2

I was actually completely enamoured. Nether played quite well, filled my survival craving and the whole concept actually worked. The urban environment oozes atmosphere, with one of the selling points being high rise buildings that could be entered and explored, bringing something new. I spent well over 60 hours playing in the city, mainly as a sneaky lone ranger, sometimes teaming up with friendly players.

Where Nether really veered away from the DayZ template was not just teleporting aliens and an urban environment, but central hubs (safezones) where you could take your looted goodies, sell and buy at a shop. It also has a RPG levelling up system and permadeath. Apparently, this was similar to the dreaded whore of gamedom….

WarZ!

ZOMG, lets have a drama!

Now things got really messy for Phosphor Games. To start with, a silly man who had the privilege to play a very early closed session, ended up recording a damning YouTube video comparing the game to WarZ. Then emerging from this cloud of brown guff, hordes of angry pitchfork wielding simple folk besieged the Steam and official Nether forums, proclaiming that Phosphor Games were in fact the makers of WarZ in disguise! They even had proof! The lawyer that applied for copyright on Nether was the same one as WarZ. The internet had tried and doomed Nether in a matter of weeks.

Common sense dictates these type of lawyers deal with hundreds of games and are essentially freelance, but who needs common sense on the interwebs.

I felt sorry for Phosphor Games. They had created something potentially special, they were undoubtedly wanting to reach out to their community and be led by what their community wanted  from the game, but instead they were being bombarded with these silly accusations and many gamers were foolishly believing them.Nether was a diamond in the rough and did need direction, Phosphor really listened to their community. Many loved the PvP, many loathed it and begged for PvE servers. How could you appease both sides and not ruin the whole concept of their vision. Well, Phosphor do seem to be trying ideas out all the time.

Nether 1

They did try a few ideas, one idea was a blood meter just using as an example. The more people you kill, the more blood on your hands, the more blood on your hands, the smellier you are and Nether would come hunting. It didn’t work out, a good few ideas haven’t. But it does highlight that this development team is listening and trying. There have been many problems, but the guys at Nether seem to have really been on the ball with addressing them and attempting making something unique.

There have been a few updates since my last foray into Nether. Now with new regions of the map  opened up, new clan systems introduced with territory domination and capturing implemented, escort missions already in game, collecting remains of Nether to craft. The world of Nether is now a lot more involved than scavenging around solely for food, avoiding bandits, or looking for victims.

So a group of us from Frugal Gaming decided to venture back in together for a couple of nights to see what we thought of Nether, nearly six months on from the initial early release and for some, their first thoughts on playing Nether.

Dedwoods42

DayZ has spawned many clones since its inception. This is something that we’re all aware of. Many have been awful cash-ins (*cough* WarZ *cough*) – however, one stands above the rest as something that has come into its own. Nether started as a humble DayZ-alike, but has developed into something entirely of its own. It’s varied enemy types, RPG-like experience and levelling system and genuine direction (my one big gripe with DayZ being how lost you can feel among the vast landscape with very little to do) are refreshing – with survival and exploration remaining the backbone of gameplay. It’s extremely enjoyable, and very different – and if you have the time to put into it and get some levels and experience behind you, it can be a very different and rewarding experience.

Mark Kerry

Nether is a great survival thriller and is quite Fallout-esque, in a present tense kind of way. You definitely need to play with friends to benefit fully (or even survive the first few levels of your characters progression!) as you will face not only the enemies of the Nether but also the trolls of the internet who will be higher level than you and will kill you just for fun. There are some really interesting ideas here all tucked away nicely in a gorgeous, decimated city waiting to be explored. This is definitely one to watch, what’s on offer right now is a taste of what to come, showcasing great potential – this game will keep you guessing!

PridedLlama

With my expectations low I was pleasantly surprised by Nether.  It’s as rough as a badgers arse but the foundations, ideas and mechanics that have been laid down are promising.  As a complete noob to the game, it wasn’t immediately the most accessible experience, but with a little hand holding things started to fall into place.  With the success of other online early access titles it would be easy for this one to slip through the cracks and never see full release, I really hope this isn’t the case. It made for a refreshing diversion to our regular DayZ sessions, and I’ll definitely be back for more.

Karlos Morale

The post-apocalyptic world is a familiar trope, but Nether manages to shape its own bleak future into a fun playground for the brave explorer. Graphically, the ruined city with hostile aliens and humans of dubious intention is evocative of Half Life 2. It’s pleasing to see how many of the buildings and rooftops are accessible to the player; knife-fights in and around dilapidated buildings could be a thrilling experience – especially when the unpredictable Nether creatures join the fight.

Bwortang

Nether has spawned alongside a number of survival horror games trying to make it’s name within the genre. A post-apocalyptic urban jungle, where death hunts you down either by the unpredictable creatures who inhabit the land or the even more unpredictable human survivalists. A safe zone can temporarily allow you to drop your guard but caution must remain high as you scavenge to source food and weapons to remain alive, teamwork is not necessary, but joining a tribe could increase your chance of survival considerably.

From my trial session I can see this game has a lot of potential and some well presented ideas, and if they can keep the momentum going with the community driven updates, it could be the benchmark in this increasing world of survival horror games, I’d fully recommend giving Nether a trial if the opportunity presents, and I look forward to seeing what the final product will offer.

Nether 3

My Final Thoughts.

Nether has evolved a hell of a lot these past six months, some of it confusing, some of it seemingly spot on. It’s hard to please everyone and of course impossible. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game be led by its community so much. Phosphor Games without doubt are listening to what people want and are trying new ideas out constantly. Massive updates have happened and more are to follow and new ideas being tinkered with all the time. There’s a danger in democracy, too many voices wanting different things, but their approach has been measured and thoughtful.

The game still has masses to fix, but unlike many early access games in this genre, Nether is more than playable. The price now is a measly £10.99. Any PC player that likes the genre would be mad not to give this a try.

Krautscape – An Early Access Preview

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As ever – be warned. Krautscape is still very early in development and as such expect more features and content to be added after this preview was written. Despite this, the game is polished and tidy, with absolutely no performance issues or crashes – although it is a little light on content at the time of writing and there are a few things that don’t quite work yet.

Krautscape is a rather refreshing take on the racing genre – throwing the free-form ability of flight into the mix and allowing the player in the lead to actively generate the ‘track’. It’s smooth, stylised graphics and unique premise set it apart from other racers currently on the market – albeit without conforming to the current trend towards soft body physics simulation and crashes. Steam’s Greenlight programme is to thank for it hitting Early Access.

I was interested in the concept of the game even before first playing, being an enjoyer of the odd racer – and the freedom of flight is a constant fascination.

When playing the game for the first time I’d highly recommend digging into the tutorials, as the gameplay can be extremely confusing without a little explanation.

Krautscape 1

You are then introduced to the features that set Krautscape aside from the crowd – piece by piece. First comes the standard driving. As all cars are (currently) identical, they all handle the same. Nothing special here, simple and serviceable. You begin to notice the art style – grainy and stylised, with rich colours and a fascinating minimalism. There’s nothing here to distract you from your goal, or sway your focus from the track ahead (or above or behind or below…).

Then comes track creation. This is where things begin to get interesting. As the race leader – you are charged with creation of the track. This is achieved through use of large gates – when you pass through, another section of track is generated with another gate at the end of it. Depending on your physical position on the raceway – centre, left & right, extreme left & right – different sections of track  pop into existence. To aid with this, the raceway is colour coded into sections, and the system is far easier to use than it initially seems. There’s something distinctly satisfying about a quick application of brakes and a sharp swing over to the opposite side of the track to that which your opponents were expecting, forcing them to stop and reconcile or fly off the track completely.

This would be the end of their race – were it not for the other of Krautscape’s flagship features. Flight.

The feather-like appearance of the top of the vehicles suddenly makes sense as, during the latter section of the tutorial, the game prompts you to hold (space, in the case of mouse and keyboard) and unfurl your wings. Momentum becomes extremely important, and the seemingly desolate world your track inhabits opens up; a playground of limitless space.

At first there appears to be no practical use of said wings other than swooping to correct a fall from the track – until obstacles are introduced. Hitting ‘boost’ sections on the track whilst in first place will throw you forward, also creating a wall just behind you. Other players can take the risk of boosting if they please – but there’s always the chance they’ll time their turn or swoop into the air badly and end up thudding into the wall. When the track snakes around (*seewhatIdidthere*) and meets itself, jumps will form to cross the pre-existing raceway that can only be crossed by a well-timed use of flight. Carry too little momentum and risk dropping off the track entirely with no way to recover…

Thus begins Krautscape.

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Dan! What, exactly, is it though?

It’s a difficult one to assign a genre to, really. To simply call it a racer is probably a little unfair, as the simple freedom and fun of flight often overtake the want to actually race – but that’s what it is at it’s heart. The focus here is definitely on competitive multiplayer (at it’s best with the maximum 4 players) – with no solo play to speak of other than the aforementioned training course and a free build practice mode. This would be absolutely fine (and indeed is when other players are found) however simple things like being able to play online with friends would be useful. There’s an option for LAN or splitscreen play – and even a way to utilise LAN to play online, but it requires typing in one another’s IP addresses (handily displayed on the screen whilst in lobby). Again, that would be fine – except that currently myself and Bwortang (also of Frugal) haven’t managed to get it to work. We were simply getting presented with broken menus and buttons that did nothing. All part of Early Access, but something to keep in mind.

That’s all well and good, but what REALLY makes it stand out?

There are three game modes available at present – Snake, Ping Pong and Collector.

Snake consists of the players racing to maintain the lead – with the player in first (as normal) creating the track. The twist is that the track is limited in length to just a few sections – so being too far behind can result in the floor coming out from under your vehicle. Points are scored by passing gates in first.

Ping Pong has a similar system – except that the length of the track is constantly increasing and players are sent back and forth along it, collecting points for passing gates in first.

Collector offers something a little different – allowing almost complete freedom of track creation as players battle to force the raceway towards collectible objects in the level. Flying, driving, falling – how you get there is up to you.

That, really, is what makes Krautscape enjoyable and sets it apart from it’s kin. Freedom. Moments of tense despair are created by the unpredictable nature of other players – you’ll be a hair’s breadth from a gate, only to have another player land atop you from an aborted divebomb – before both being flummoxed by a third player swooping through the gate from entirely the opposite direction.

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Early Access though, right?

Yes. This is something that really has to be considered with Krautscape. What content is there is very polished and functional – but there simply isn’t a great deal of it at current. This may be negated entirely if the player base picks up, but I had the occasional trouble finding one player to join – let alone three. To make matters worse – some things (like joining friends on multiplayer) simply don’t work currently, and there is evidence of unfinished menus etcetera. It’s a shame, as there’s plenty of potential there for a fantastic little racer that sits outside the norm and a lot of people could enjoy. Performance-wise, on my system (4770k @ 4.2GHz, 780Ti @ 1300MHz) the game runs well beyond 200FPS at 1440p with everything turned all the way up. I didn’t notice a single drop in framerate or crash during my time playing it.

All in all – this is going to be down to personal preference. For racing fans, I’d wholeheartedly recommend giving it a go for the £5.59 it currently is on Steam. It’s a bargain for what could be an exceptionally fun little game if some of the bugs are sorted out. If it piques your interest – there’s a good chance it’s worth your time. It may, however, pay to hold off a little and see where it goes as development continues.

Developer:  Mario von Rickenbach/Playables LLC 

Publisher: Midnight City

Available Now Via Early Access on Steam for PC and Mac