Clockwork Empires – Early Access Preview

ce_text_banBack in March I became incredibly excited about Gaslamp Games’ Clockwork Empires after reading a preview piece; it promised a core system that had been developed for two years prior to moving onto actually building a game around the infrastructure they had created. Oh yeah, and Fishmen fighting redcoats because, well, why not? Perhaps, by nature of being early access, we are seeing something extremely early in its life and a little unfair to judge and perhaps it’s just too early to be available to the public. As of right now all you’ll get when you head into Clockwork Empires is a rather generic city builder set in a Victorian setting with the aforementioned Fishmen sporadically dropping in to make sure you are kept on your toes, rather than something fresh and new with a hint of Lovecraft to spice up your life.

You can see some of the in-depth personality AI has started to appear, but this is currently in small pieces of dialogue on character descriptions or icons that appear through the game. You’ll see your villagers deciding names for their own part of town – like their kitchen or the barn. You can see these quaint little touches happening and adds some fun to the constant slog to ensure your people don’t starve or are kept warm during long, torturous winters.

ce_mining_accidentClockwork Empires promises something akin to free will. Villagers will voice their displeasure at a monarch, or decide they are better served by going into the woods and joining a cult. In the most up to date build the majority of this is something you’ll have to dig to find and understand, the minutiae held in the depths of menus. Right now maybe that’s a good thing, as the few buildings you can erect won’t take you long and you’ll spend far too long micro-managing every little aspect, rather than setting the stage and letting your village grow with only the most minimal of interactions from you. This is where I’m hoping the game improves with updates, to allow you to sit back and enjoy what is actually being offered; rather than having you zoomed in all the time trying to manage the individual needs – something that, at the minute, is more of necessity than anything else – rather than spend time enjoying the world they are setting up.

The closest comparison I could come up with while playing was that of Peter Molyneux’s fictional land of Albion; I often found myself thinking of Fable landscape, as my villagers ploughed a field while watching the Fishmen climbing from the local lake to attack, as Red coats run to the rescue. It was these moments I probably enjoyed most. The actual atmosphere the game tries to create makes a nice change from most of the boilerplate world builders you run across. Clockwork Empires sets a tone and sticks to that and is all the better for it.

chaos_in_fishtownClockwork Empires is still very much in its infancy, but has laid some impressive groundwork and built up a lot of promise in a very short amount of time. While I’ve probably spent a lot of time in Clockwork Empires being frustrated by silly little bugs or quirks in the gameplay, I still found enjoyment in what they are trying to do – the soul of the game, the atmosphere and the beginnings of the character AI looks like it has the potential to completely change the face of simulation games going forward. While it’s hard to recommend you pick this up immediately due to the lack of polish and actual content (The Gaslamp Games site estimates they are only 25% through development) I’d say this is definitely something you should keep your eyes on for what comes in the future. If you’re looking for something similar you’d be better served in the short term picking up Banished rather than frustrating yourself with Clockwork Empires, but would recommend that everyone check out this game on full release to see what has come of the promises they made.

Frugal Gaming Review – Hero of Many

HoM_Poster

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

HoM_Screen_03

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

HoM_Screen_04

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