Empyrion – Galactic Survival Preview

9_2015-06-10-21_50_02_1

Let me break this to you gently folks… Hang on, I won’t even do that, I will be completely lazy and let the game blurb batter you around the head for me.

Empyrion is a 3D open world, space survival adventure in which you can fly across space and land on planets. Build, explore, fight and survive in a hostile galaxy full of hidden dangers”.

Yes my lovelies, I’m covering another survival and crafting sim. Now that I’ve revealed that little nugget, do you want to know something else? It’s out in Early Access via Steam. As I walk through the cyber Souk in my head, vendors tugging at my sleeves “here my friend, you want Zombies, you want crafting? I have it all at bargain price.”

The Proverbial Souk

I have nightmares of this Souk, 1000’s of vendors and I wander a myriad of markets streets, countless vendors selling shoddy unfinished games.

Fortunately, there’s a vendor in my nightmarish Souk that shines light on these streets, he’s selling Empyrion: Galactic Survival and every gamer with an interest in this genre of gaming really should give this one a look.

Take a sprinkle of dinosaur survival, a dash of Minecraft, a spoon of Elite Dangerous and a pinch of geek and you have this game.

You begin as a lot of games in this ilk do. Your ship has crashed on an alien world and you’re left to your own devices, but oxygen and food are scarce.

Survive. Survive is the name of the game and more than that, you need not just to survive, you need to get off this planet and explore the solar system and galaxy!

The breadth of ambition in this game is quite breath taking, have a look at the video that I will link at the end of this piece to see the roadmap in action.

First things first. I mentioned survival and after gathering my wits, I realised my crashed space pod was full of goodies, tools, materials and technology that will help begin my journey. Your pod also has a crafting section. Open this section up, fill it with the right materials and start crafting what’s called for.

There is a sense of urgency to all of this. Supplies in your escape pod are very low, only 2 canisters of oxygen, some basic food supplies, some ingots of various metals. There is a fair amount of time spent in these crafting menus, but tack up a queue of task and leave the machinations of the pod to do your work while you waddle off and explore.

2015-02-22-16_32_39-000993_1

Walking With Dinoaliens

As you start the game, certain important areas of the map are highlighted for you, mainly mining areas to which you can gather ore to create ingots and create a whole host of equipment and supplies to build a base, to build a ship to explore your new home and find more resources and eventually get off the planet to explore the stars.

Now I always fear that I over explain games or I have a dreaded thought that I’m not making any sense. So let me break it down and patronise not just you, but even myself.

  • Crash land with a wallop on a colourful and big bad beast inhabited planet.
  • Salvage what you can from your escape pod.
  • Craft essential goods and machinery to keep your big fat gamer belly full and oxygen tanks full (death hurts).
  • Explore your locality; avoid those freakishly weird alien things lurking around. Maybe kill the little beggars with some of the weaponry you may have crafted. You can even keep their remains, they may be tasty!
  • Look for mining spots to find valuable and much needed ores to provide materials for more crafting.

There’s a lot to do and it has to be said there’s a pace in this game. At first you’re against the clock to get your basic set up and make sure you don’t snuff it by making silly mistakes (such as running out of oxygen).

Then your eyes are on the bigger picture: Build a base, build a hydroponics factory for food, build food processors. There’s a lot to do already in the current build. I haven’t even touched upon leaving your own planet, exploring space.

8_2015-07-09-13_07_50

A lot of time spent in Empyrion – Galactic Survival is spent in the crafting menus and micromanagement. I should point out here that I’m ….. How shall I put it ….Slow! I’m also daft as a brush and kept on dying rather a lot, due to really silly mistakes (top tip! Don’t decide to go on a mining trip at midnight). I actually found my time crafting enjoyable as it has a slight puzzle-like element to it.

In my forays so far I’ve managed to get a base up and running, get food processors going. I’m sure in the later game of space explorations, micromanagement will be taken care of by the array of machines available.

My plans now are to be clever enough to build some modes of transport and explore, not just the locality, but space and beyond.

I have very high hopes for Empyrion. I play a lot of these survival/building/crafting type games, I have found this to be one of the more captivating games in the genre, certainly one of the most playable and already has huge scope and massive ambition.

It’s also on Steam now for less than £14 which is a steal(price set to rise on completion).

Pro’s

Engaging, absorbing, fascinating.

Cons

In its current build the monsters feel a bit low rent (think 1970’s Doctor Who).

Elite Dangerous Review

743487eab735997b4c15ef0b78679607_large

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Score 7/10

Frugal Gaming Preview – Habitat

habitat_Logo_NoBackground

As a teenager, the underneath of my bed was a black hole of my own creation.  Discarded cereal bowls and cups of tea, dirty tissues, old magazines and the obligatory missing odd socks all ended up in the darkness.  Turns out the 4gency’s vision of the future is pretty similar, just set in space rather than under a Ikea divan.

Habitat is a physics based sandbox building survival strategy game; bit of a mouthful, but at least it’s clearly its own genre.  Having developed a couple of mobile titles, the developer is stepping up a gear with this game.  Following on from the successful Kickstarter project, Habitat is now planned for release on PC, MAC, Linux and Xbox One.

Happy Tat                                

Starting with a small habitat, your mission is to grow and expand this last refuge of mankind by making good use of the things that you find, the things that the everyday folk have left behind, just obviously set in space, rather than Wimbledon Common.  It’s a nice idea and having been hands on the with Early Access build that’s currently available on Steam, it does seem to be coming along rather nicely.

Nowhere near feature complete; at the time of writing Habitat offers you a brief tutorial and the sandbox survival building mode. Starting off with the basic Habitat module, you are free to use what ever trash you find floating around to expand and upgrade your life-raft. Everything has a use, from old booster rockets, Soviet era tanks, to flame breathing militarised dinosaur heads, yes really. The nature of the games physics engine affects everything.  Want to move your tub along to explore the vast reaches of space? Then just attach a couple of rockets: One on each side of your habitat, both facing the same direction will happily boost you on your way. Fire just the left rocket and your turn right, fire just the right and you will turn left.  It’s simple yet clever stuff.

Those same rockets could also be used as weapons, detach them from the Habitat and fire them up, they will streak off like, well, a rocket. Attach some heavier ordnance and you’ve got yourself a decent weapon system. Other junk might increase your power output, or simply extend your habitat offering more points to tether more even more junk onto.  Its a nice unique system and messing around with various configurations can be fun just by itself for a time.

ExplosionShotWombling Free

Early access is all about solving problems and involving the community in development, obviously for the cynics out there it can also provide a vital stream of income to support continued development. 4gency are certainly seem to be making the most of their chosen path of development. The guys and girls are extremely active of the Steam Forums and constantly asking for feedback both on the game itself and the current Development Roadmap.  Its great to see a clear and well laid out plan, I would love to see this as a minimum requirement for Early Access games launched on Steam in the future, so hats of to 4gency for being so open with the community.

I have enjoyed playing Habitat so far, but it’s not without its issues.  The current control method, especially for the camera controls, just seems so unnatural and convoluted.  It can feel like a real chore using WASD to move the camera, I’m hoping that this will be sorted as the game develops. I’m so used to just using a mouse in games like this and it would definitely benefit from having keyboard controls being optional, rather than mandatory. Whilst I’m sure the controls will be fine tuned before release, my other issue might well remain. At the moment you can only build and expand your habitat on a horizontal plane.  Not being able to build vertically really seems like a missed opportunity and would have added a bit more depth to construction.

UIShot_5Despite some minor issues I’m looking forward to the release of Habitat, especially on Xbox One.  It really does seems like the sort of game that for me would be suited to playing with a controller rather than mouse and keyboard, perhaps this is the route of my issues with the current control system.  Whilst I haven’t got a clue what form the planned single player campaign will take, I’m hoping it will give some legs to the fabulous mechanics the developers have implemented. It’s still got a while to go until it’s full release but its certainly a promising start and I’m looking forward to playing some more of Habitat as features are added.

Habitat is planned for release on PC, MAc, Linux and Xbox One.

Early Access is available via Steam and can be found HERE

Starpoint Gemini 2 – Review

starpt_gem2_heroIt took me nearly an hour to find the fun in Starpoint Gemini 2, because this wasn’t the game I thought I was sitting down to play. Initially, I had presumed I would be playing an action flight simulator set in the depths of space akin to one of my old favourites X-Wing Vs. Tie Fighter. I had expected OK controls and some unwieldy enemies I would have to spiral around to defeat with my small arsenal of on board weapons in a very linear and predictable fashion. Oh boy, how wrong I was! As someone who enjoyed hundreds of hours of EVE: Online, I’ve always had high expectations for my space simulation games and Starpoint Gemini 2 brings so much of the same in-depth systems to a more directly controlled flight simulation that I could get lost for hours. The vastness of space never felt so large – or so full with packed opportunities for you to freely fly amongst the stars and determine your own destiny.

At the start of your adventure you’re able to decide what kind of Captain you are going to be; A Commander, Gunner or Engineer – each class providing different buffs for your style of play that will enhance the way in which you approach combat situations. You may decide you’ll take it easy and have your ship fire-at-will, and hope for the best with a single click of a button; an excellent choice if you want to concentrate on some tricky manoeuvring during combat to try and avoid incoming fire, and probably a must for anyone new to the genre or unsure of the controls. You may choose to go more advanced, and go completely manual controlled which offers a tight and yet frenetic experience.

7Although it’s simply on paper, you’re controlling your flight path and you simply click anywhere on your enemy to take the shot where you have clicked, (giving you the ability to target anywhere you think would deal the most damage) and continue on your way while manually managing system power levels. This was by far what I spent most of my time doing in Starpoint Gemini 2 – mastering the controls of the manual combat because you’ll never have a more satisfying feeling than flying tight past your enemy and hitting them with the most perfect barrage from the turret view as they explode in a beautiful emptiness of space. Or, of course, maybe you’re the sort of Captain who likes to injure his prey and then circle back around, grapple onto the enemy vessel and board them to loot their precious cargo. The choice entirely yours and the game doesn’t punish you for playing your way, but rather celebrates it by offering so many different choices throughout that enable you to ensure you’re powered up the way you want, and not by some predetermined dice roll you have no control over.

2The game offers something very few games have up to this point and doesn’t seem to realise it, or celebrate it too loudly – the trade system; this offers something for everyone. The trading even impressed a spreadsheet anorak like myself who sits sprawling notes for most games of this type! If you’re fed up of fast paced adrenaline pumping combat scenarios, then Starpoint Gemini 2 offers you the opportunity to take a slower walk in life and go earn something to trade for by mining local asteroids, towing back those rich rewards and looking for some profit. It’s unusual to see something so slow matched with what seems, at first, to solely be an action game, but is a welcome relief after a few hours of blasting through some skirmishes. The game allows you to take stock, maybe put on some TV, because you don’t need to focus solely on the game and earn some credits and XP while you’re at it. You could even be a trader and pick supplies up from one station and ferry them across the galaxy to another, for a nice lump of profit. Trading also brought me the most stress, as I constantly refused to sell as I was determined to find the best price and get back to that one station tucked right away, that offered a few more credits extra per item. This was where I had the most pleasure as I got that perfect trade and made the maximum profit.

Opposing factions and politics also plays a huge part in your adventure across the galaxy. Different factions police different items so, for example, if you’re transporting a banned item a faction has deemed contraband you better not hope your hold is searched in their territory and are made to jettison your hold or face longer term ramifications across the whole of their sector.

Because of the vastness of the game I’m certain I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s available to players however I know this game is huge – when I talk about a galaxy I mean an actual galaxy. You’re not splashing around in a kiddy pool at the edge of our solar system, you have the ability to travel far and wide and to play the game you want to play without the game really dictating too much to you.

3

Starpoint Gemini 2 is a near perfect space-simulation game, however I do feel there is a single hurdle some players won’t be able to get around and that’s the initial start of the game; you’ll spend a good 15 minutes simply reading prompts about the different controls prior to getting into the game and then the game effectively leaves you to do as you please, while you float around aimlessly to get your bearings. This could be a problem for some gamers who are coming in expecting an action game without much depth, that’s as much their problem as it was mine. I had no idea the depth I was walking in to. The fact it was hidden behind some written tutorials and an hour of floating around aimlessly was well worth it, and helped to teach me the intricacies and depth of the controls. If you’ve got a little patience and can get through the initial hour then Starpoint Gemini 2 has so much waiting behind the curtain to offer you.

Developee: Little Green Men Games 

Publisher: Iceberg Interactice

[wp-review]

Currently available on Steam, Starpoint Gemini 2 has so much to offer it could keep you busy for months to come.

Star Citizen – On A Wing And A Prayer

wc_rsi_logo000207

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.

WC_carrier_firing_dogfight_new000639

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.

wc_dogfight_cockpit000659

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

GoDFactory_1395070645

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.

Screenshot__IronSights_1406726620

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.

Cockpit_1_1398156840

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.

[wp-review]

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

 

Maia – Early Access Preview

lava

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/