Phantasmal: Early Access First Impressions

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Phantasmal: Early Access Impressions

Publisher: Eyemobi Ltd.
Developer: Eyemobi Ltd.
Release date: 30/04/2015

Set in the infamous Kowloon Walled City (an overpopulated, largely ungoverned Hong Kong metropolis which was torn down in 1994), Phantasmal is a procedurally generated, rouge-like survival horror game. The developers describe it as The Biding of Isaac meets Silent Hill, lofty ambitions indeed. So, are they on the right path? Is this Lovecraft inspired journey into madness heading in the right direction or is this another misguided step to terrify us with cheap scare tactics and underwhelming gameplay?

Well, the first signs are rather promising. Waking in the bowels of an abandoned building, your only hope if you wish to survive is to carefully navigate the maze-like corridors and empty rooms set before you. With your trusty flashlight in hand you, somewhat hesitantly, take your first steps into the darkness. It is not long before you realise that you are not alone. Strange, humanoid creatures shuffle mindlessly in the shadowy hallways and once alerted to your presence will hunt you down, pushing your sanity towards breaking point, forcing you to start all over again.

creeper attack

 

There are weapons you can use to keep these forces at bay. Wooden planks and lead pipes can be used to bludgeon these foes and there are also some basic firearms if need arises, but these should only be used as a last resort. Make too much noise and you will attract the attention of ‘The Sleeper’, a huge tentacle strewn beast that cannot be stopped and, once awoken, will stalk you relentlessly. If you are going to endure this nightmare, a stealthy approach is a must. Be aware of your surroundings, use the torchlight only when needed and when all else fails, run.

Whilst the core gameplay mechanics are in place, Phantasmal still has a way to go. The enemy A.I. is a little suspect and it’s often difficult to know if or when you will be detected. Sneaking through the buildings many rooms and passageways is genuinely tense, but it would be nice to know that you can fire your gun once in awhile without being so heavily punished. Even a minor mistake can result in your death, forcing you to start all over again.

Sleeper at elevator

I died a lot during my time with Phantasmal, learning each time that I did. Each encounter was different, but with a little time and a large helping of luck I was able to find my way only to be foiled once again. The procedural nature of this game is certainly interesting and will keep you on the edge of your seat. Whether it can produce some of genre defining set pieces to elevate itself from the crowd only time will tell, but it’s a genuine concern.

Eyemobi are hard at work and aim to complete the early access stage of development within three to six months. With a bit more graphical polish, some much needed balancing and some display and audio tweaks, Phantasmal may just be a descent into madness that some of us crave.

 

Reviewer – Ian P.

Convoy Review

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Grab your trucker hat and get the leather jacket.. We got ourselves a Convoy!

Developed by Convoy Games, Convoy is a squad based, tactical combat, roguelike game. And being a roguelike game, Convoy is a permadeath game, meaning you have 1 life, lose that life you start again from the beginning.

Imagine the world of Mad Max, 3 rival gangs roam the planet, fighting anyone who is not affiliated with them, a few settlements have popped up offering travellers a chance to trade and generally survive the relentless assault from the gangs, and in between all of this, is you. Your spaceship has crash-landed on this barely habitable wasteland of a planet, Omek Prime, and in an effort to gather the parts needed to repair your ship; you set out in a Convoy.

At the start of each game you select your MCV (Mobile Command Vehicle), and a pair of units to escort and protect it, as you progress through the game you can unlock a further 7 MCV’s and up to a choice of 13 pairs of units. And while you start out with 2 vehicles guarding the MCV, this can be expanded to 4 over the course of your game.

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Once you have made your choices, you are presented with the options to learn more about game world, lore and your objectives, of course there is also the option to skip these and get straight into the game, which is useful if you have played a few times.

The game world is laid out with hexagonal tile’s spread across the map; you will need to travel across the map looking for the parts needed to get off this hell hole. Whilst on your travels, you will run into random encounters, ranging from strange men in robes to radio broadcasts, traps and many more scenarios. The random encounters are well written and at times quite surprising with how they play out.

Combat is interesting, whilst you have no control over the movement of your MCV, you do have control over the various weapons systems you can install onto it, you do, however have total control over the escort units. During the combat portions of the game your enemies will appear from various places over the screen, you will then need to position your escorts into the best possible positions for the defence of your MCV and taking out the attacking forces, keeping in mind the maximum range of your weapons, positioning the escort to block incoming fire, and being mindful of the debris fields, pylons and canyon walls that roll past while you are fighting.

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With the ability to pause the game and issue move and attack orders, Convoy plays out like an intense game of chess.

Convoy is also randomly generated, meaning each playthrough will be different. The main and side objectives, the random events, and different outcomes in each game will change from playthrough to playthrough.

There are similarities to FTL: Faster than Light, both are roguelike strategy games, both feature pixel art style and relaxing soundtracks, and most importantly both are fun as hell to play.

8/10

Pro’s:
Randomly generated games, lots of replayability