The Flame in the Flood Preview

Flame Review size

“A rogue-lite river journey through the backwaters of a forgotten post-social America. Forage, craft and evade predators”

The Flame in the Flood caught my attention a few months ago. A kickstarter from the art director of the Bioshock series, as well as a team of veterans from Bioshock, Halo and Guitar Hero. Not a bad set of experienced creatives to have on an indie project.

The gorgeous art style, the graphics, as well as the soundtrack – I was sold on the trailer alone. It did the job of catching my attention pretty well.

I’ve recently been enjoying my rogue-lite/rogue-a-like games, as well as playing the early access game ‘The Long Dark’, another survival game.

The Flame in the Flood combines these 2 genres very well; the art style and soundtrack suit it brilliantly. Survival games can seem daunting at first. The style of The Flame in the Flood just takes the edge off for me, makes it a tad more approachable.

As it stands when I played, TFITF is early access and only has “endless” mode available, with story mode coming soon.

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You find yourself stranded in the wilderness with nothing but the clothes on your back, luckily for you a dog dragging a backpack finds you and you’re off on your way to survival! Or most likely certain death.

Your canine companion helps with finding resources around the various islands (think back to Fable helpful mutt). He means well, but barking at everything and even the gear you discard gets a bit annoying, but who can stay mad? He’s trying to help……. I think?!

Survival comes in the form of watching over your character’s vital hunger, thirst, health, warmth and fatigue. In order to keep everything ticking over you forage for whatever you can and use various resources and materials to craft weapons, traps, food and medicine. Sounds easy enough? As each play through is procedurally generated, you might not find what you need straight away. My first run through I tried standing toe to toe with a boar (Don’t!) and came off worse for wear with broken bones and lacerations. As I couldn’t find anything for a splint or to help heal my lacerations they got infected and left untreated you do indeed die.

My second run through I came across the resources to not only snare a boar but made myself a splint, then I died of exhaustion, after all of that!

 

My current playthrough is turning out much better and I’m even managing to plan for the worst. I’ve got more penicillin than a chemist and I’m jerking rabbit and boar like a pro! It’s safe to say the difficulty does start increasing the further downs the procedurally generated river you go, twisting and turning along the currents. I say difficulty; I mean more things trying to kill you.

Wolves start appearing in packs and I’ve started having to weigh up risks of scavenging against taking on more than one predator. There are other aspects throughout the game to start considering, your raft being the other point of your focus. You can dock up at repair islands and make repairs or improvements to your raft. Parts of my play through seem to be scarce and few between, bits and pieces can be crafted but nothing made quite just yet.

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For a preview in an early state, The Flame in the Flood looks great, the art style is gorgeous and music/soundtrack is fantastic, it suits each environment and period of either dread, fear, fight or travel well. I’m really looking forward to what the story mode brings. As it stands right now, it doesn’t have the longevity on its own, but I’ll use the endless mode for a taster of what else is to come.

TFITF would suit any gamer, it’s easy to get to grips with after a few deaths, you learn a bit more as you go and form solutions from where you went wrong, like a good rogue-lite game should.

If you’re not a fan of survival games this shouldn’t put you off, the crafting elements, visuals and soundtrack are great. It’s genuinely harrowing in parts, whether you’re crawling with a broken leg after getting away from a wolf or being thrown about on your raft.

To my surprise (given its early access release) I have experienced no bugs. The Flame in the Flood is well worth checking and I’m really looking forward to coming back to this one as it updates and nears full release. As it is, it’s unusual, it’s beautiful and oozes creativity.

Subterrain: Underground Base Apocalypse – Early Access

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5 days, 5 hours, 9 minutes… (On Hardcore mode) that is how long it took for me to die… it was not a painless ‘in your sleep’ death, it was a fist through the face, shattering my skull style death, from a creature that could only be described as the Incredible Hulk, on steroids.. 5 days, 5 hours, 9 minutes of life… and I enjoyed every moment of it…

Subterrain: Underground Base Apocalypse is an Early Access, Sci-Fi survival game from the South Korean developer Pixellore.

It is played from a top-down perspective, and controlled with a keyboard and mouse; currently there is limited control pad support.

In Subterrain, you play as Dr. Albert West, a scientist residing in the first permanent colony on Mars in 2050. As the story begins, you have been locked in a containment cell for just over a year- for murder. You recollect the events of the last few weeks, a guard throwing you your last meal, a tin of beans, before telling you of an imminent transfer. Minutes after being told this your door starts to slide open, a power failure leaves you stuck in a room with no obvious way out. From your cell, you can hear chaos outside… and then silence.

A week later you are still in your cell, your meagre tin of bins now empty. Now is the time to find out what has happened. Working your way out of your cell and to the train system you witness horrifying scenes, dismembered bodies, and strange mutated creatures litter the corridors.

Unlike most survival games, where you are given all the time in the world to gather resources, construct bases and weaponry and generally explore your surroundings, Subterrain slightly breaks the mold.ss_018e9588e55f3c3f8577f506882ffde4f6fc04b2

The longer you play, the more the “Minerva” virus mutates, making the mutants faster, stronger, and generally more of a pain in your backside. The variety of creatures in the game at the moment is on the relatively small side, spiders, giant spiders that shoot green snot at you, floating eyeballs, zombies, super zombies, super incredible hulk zombies, and spitting zombies, but the developers are constantly tweaking and adding bits and pieces, so this may improve at a later date.

At the heart of the game is Central Control, the only safe area (well… mostly safe) from here you have access to various rooms including:

The Research lab, where you can analyse and improve equipment and weaponry found in the world

The Engineering Lab, where you can find the 3D & Bio printers, with which you can create useful items (such as Co2 tanks, med kits, bandages, weaponry and armor’s)

The Mine, where you will find the mining equipment needed to gather ores from beneath Mar’s surface.

And the Biosphere, where you can grow food.

In contrast to Central Control, these labs are not safe, and will need to be cleared out, or carefully navigated to get to the equipment each section holds.ss_223fdcb914a4f0d0aa8030646d25e40166138ac3

As well as the Mutants you will be fighting against the atmosphere, in many of the areas the temperature and oxygen generators are broken and will need to be repaired before you can safely (well.. relatively safely) explore.

Central Control also houses the power plant for the colony, this will degrade over time so again, time is not on your side as you try to escape the colony before the power goes out and you are overrun.

Outside of the labs you will need to divert power to the other areas you wish to explore, courtesy of the train system. As you work your way through Subterrain, you will find data pads with small details of what has happened on the colony. And occasional hints as to where you can find items of importance.

In this fight for survival you will also have to keep an eye on your hunger, thirst, sleep and even toilet needs – yes Dr. West quite happily tells you/thinks out loud to himself that he needs a “dump or a piss”. Food will need to be eaten, drinks will need to be drunk, bleeding will need bandaging, and broken bones will need setting.

As you get into fights you raise the risk of getting infected with the Minerva virus, at which point you will need to find pills to fight the infection, if the rate of infection gets too high you will start losing health and will eventually die.

The art style is lovely to look at, and the games audio manages to capture a feeling of isolation, your vision is obscured by the dark, with only a flashlight (or glow stick) to light your way, creatures loom out of the dark, bodies slowly exposed as you get closer. An eerie silence apart from the occasional groan from a mutant leaves a feeling of unease

Eden Star: Destroy, Build, Protect | Preview

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Eden Star, from developers Flix Interactive, is a Sci-Fi survival game currently in Early Access on Steam.

Dumped on an alien world with nothing more than a pistol and limited ammunition for defence, and a Hi-Tech multi-purpose space glove, the MATA-Tool, for resource gathering and construction. Your only goal is to create a base and survive.

Eden Star is a survival game, but not a procedurally generated one, no – in Eden Star your world is the same as everyone else’s, the only difference will be how you construct your base and position your defences. Personally I like this approach, while procedurally generated maps can add to the longevity of a game; a handcrafted map will always look and feel more natural.

Surviving the harsh landscape of Pharus 7 will require your Eden Kit, this remarkable piece of kit will form the foundation of your base, this will also provide a shielded area to start building a home and act as a power supply for your initial defences. During the day, it is relatively safe to wander the landscapes looking for resources to expand your base with. At night, however, the area outside your shielded base becomes flooded with radiation, attempting to navigate the lands will lead to a slow but inevitable death.

So what do you do at night if you cannot leave your base without the fear of dying? You stay and defend your base of course, night time in Eden Star acts more like a tower defence game, you construct a mixture of auto turrets, missile launchers, energy turrets and laser fences to defend your base and Eden Kit. The more days you survive, the more the native life takes an interest in the Eden Kit, which adds a nice touch.

Resource gathering is a fairly simple affair, as you wander around the floating islands of Pharus 7 you will find tree’s, rocks, and mineral deposits, which can be harvested by looking at the aforementioned resources and pressing the right mouse button. As you run around the landscape your HUD will tell you what can be harvested from the area, by pointing your cursor at that strange looking rock formation in the distance you can tell instantly what can be collected.

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Your MATA tool is a very versatile piece of equipment, as well as resource gathering it can be used to create a kinetic blast to push away enemies and to pick up and smash the creatures around like rag dolls before launching them over cliffs (I spent a lot of time doing this…). The MATA – Tool can be upgraded, provided you have the resources, to make it collect resources more effectively, to deal more damage with the slam attack, to repair the damage your base has sustained over the night, and even add a Gauss Cannon for a little more offensive capability.

Around the map you will stumble across Hives, these Hives are important as they contain Teslinium, this is needed for upgrading the MATA-Tool, and powering your Eden Kit to allow you to respawn after death. Protecting the hives are Splinter Mites, relatively weak opponents on their own, but quickly become a handful if they manage to gang up on you. There is also the Ika, a flying creature, they have a habit of appearing above you and generally startling you into falling off a cliff face… maybe that’s just me…

Not all of the creatures wandering around the world want to pick your flesh from their teeth though, in fact most are easily spooked and run away the moment you get too close, well except for Swamp walkers.. They will stand their ground, eyeing you up until you get too close and give you a gentle tap with their whip-like tongue.

Eden Star is a gorgeous looking game, built on the Unreal 4 Engine, it also has a very impressive physics engine, trees topple, and rocks explode and crumble in a reasonably realistic way.

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I like Eden Star, but I have a few gripes and niggles.

At this stage of development, the game feels empty. After you have constructed a base with defences good enough to withstand a night of assault from the native wildlife…. there is not much else to do except gather resources, or find another Eden Kit and build another base.

The Hives… difficult to take out, vital to continue playing. Pistols do not do a lot of damage; assault rifles do a tiny bit more, and the Gauss Cannons a bit more than the assault rifles.

The best way I found to take them out was to wait for the creatures to spawn, and then slamming them repeatedly into the Hive.. but this took a long time, too long for me to find enjoyable.

I would say that this is an Early Access game to keep an eye on, a few balance fixes, the addition of Multiplayer, and a bit more content will make this a superb survival game.

Lee Rand Writes

I play what could be construed as a disturbing amount of this genre of game and my gosh, there are many on the market these days. Why am I telling you this and more importantly, why on Earth am I crashing in on Gary’s cracking little preview here and talking about myself (again)?

Well, I bought the game because I cautiously felt that this game looked like it stuck out from that pack of roving sneaking survival games crowding the current Early Access market. Thankfully in many respects it does.

As Gary has stated above, all that is lacking is the next step, more tasks to do, more missions or objectives. As it stands, this is a really refined game in terms of not just graphics, but physics and action as well. Eden is slick, fast-paced, and great to look at and play. The polish is actually already there, now all it needs is the world to be expanded upon.

The combat is fast and frantic and adds a refreshing arcade feel that I haven’t experienced before in this genre. There’s no spit and bit fat gob full of polish, not just in terms of the engine being employed here, but the skill with which the engine is being utilized.

Empyrion – Galactic Survival Preview

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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.

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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.

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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).

RimWorld Preview (The Game That Made Me Kill My Pets)

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Let’s get to RimWorlds dirty, sordid and sleazy heart right from the start: RimWorld made me lose sleep, RimWorld made me mentally ill. Hell! RimWorld made me murder my pets!

Actually, what the hell is Rimworld? Am I trying to groom you all with some perverse porno bestial murdering snuff game!? Well of course, if I could I certainly would…. But no, RimWorld is seductively twisted in other ways, whilst being wholeheartedly wholesome in others.

RimWorld is a survival simulation colony building game. DON’T RUN AWAY! It’s a bloody good one and has more in common with the likes of Theme Hospital than it does with the countless DayZ survival clones crowding the market at the moment.

I will avoid bogging us all down with how it all works and try my best to explain it in simple terms, thankfully RimWorld does the same in the way that it plays, it’s a compelling deep and complex game, but a joy to play and easy to grasp (it’s also a bastard to put down).

Three survivors from a crashed spaceship are left marooned on an alien world. It’s your job to set these unfortunate folks  on the right track; set up camp, build a home, create a colony, scavenge,  hunt,  farm, research technologies,  trade with passing space traders, fight off marauding space bastards. Damn! I said I wouldn’t bog you down. I’ve only just touched upon the tasks and trials that your trio of survivors will be burdened with, but trust me it’s not rocket science. (Actually, there is rocket science, as your merry band of brothers and sisters attempt to research it as a way of getting off this hell hole).

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So… You begin the game, you choose a ‘narrator’, and this sets the difficulty. There are other choices, free mode or campaign. Your pixelated trio fall down on the planet surface and you’re off. Live, survive, food and shelter are you aims right now.  The game will prompt you as to what needs to be done, ‘Colonists need beds to sleep in’ ‘Build a shelter’ etc. are the type of messages that appear. These act as a tutorial in the early stages and prompt you as your colony grows and evolves.

Now in writing this I fear I’m erring towards sending both myself and our wonderful readers to sleep by over explaining the whole shebang. When I first took on the privilege of previewing this game I knew I was challenging myself and stepping outside of my comfort zone; a game full of depth and stats could have easily caused my brain and soul to melt. To my surprise and joy though RimWorld is exceedingly accessible. It does have the depth, it has the stats for lovers of all things nerdish, but it is playable from the off. I watched 10mins of tutorial video from a slightly irritating Youtuber (are they all annoying, or is it just the ones I find? Or… Lord forbid.. It’s probably me, huh).

Seriously my fellow gamers, don’t be put off by RimWorld’s complexity. After a number of fails, I was on my way to actually having a colony on the go, but even my tragedies were fun. One of my first successful attempts, I had managed to get my colonists to set up solar panels and start producing power. I then got clever and started getting my pixel chums to add batteries to store some power for nighttimes and the frequent solar eclipses. ‘I have power, I can now rule the galaxies.’ This was the voice of my deluded ego, until it rained, causing fires and explosions and my entire colony burnt to death (you can stop laughing now!).

Each subsequent attempt at creating a successful colony ended in failure, but every new go I was learning some of the games nuances and mechanics, without having to watch more screechy voiced Youtubers. This was my world, these were my stories and I was completely absorbed, but something was missing – an emotional connection with my colonists.

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‘I know, I will name my next lot colonists after my pets, that way I will care for them more.’ Genius right? Oh my goodness. Things were going well, until blight hit our crops, until electrical storms raged for days, until marauding raiders came and injured my cat. We had also managed to capture a raider and were keeping him prisoner in the hope of converting him to our cause with kindness, feeding them and treating their injuries with the sparse supplies that we did have. Then another fire, then more sickness, then with all my colonists in their hospital beds another raid and both my dogs and cat murdered in their sleep.

Then my horror.

Once in a blue moon a game can come along and totally consumes a gamers whole being. RimWorld has been one of those rare experiences for me. I’ve put a lot of hours into this game the past couple of weeks, sneaking games in before bedtime, dreaming of the game throughout the night and having cheeky little fumbles upon waking up and whenever I have the time.

What I also haven’t mentioned is this incredible little Sci-Fi adventure is the work of one man – Tynan Sylvester of Ludeon Studios.

Updates are as frequent as one man’s work will allow and I will undoubtedly be playing this for a long time as I build up a living breathing and growing community, I will write another piece in the future as the updates change the landscape of RimWorld.

At first glance the entrance fee to this gig may seem steep, but really this is an exceptional feat. Support this game, this concept, this developer. Games like this are rare and deserve our support.

Just don’t kill your pets, a safer bet would be your parents.

Pro’s

Fun with Real Depth

Completely Absorbing

Fascinating Game in Which YOU tell the Story

Cons

It Made Me Kill My Pets

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60 Seconds! Review

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60 Seconds! is a quirky survival management sim (Wait, don’t run away just yet!) that allows you to control a family as they entrust you to help them survive a nuclear fallout in their home’s emergency shelter.

Firstly, you’ll be thrown into a 60 second window where you can run around your home and collect survival gear such as food, water and key items like a Gas Mask, Radio, weapons and entertainment – each playing a unique and random role in the second part of the game. During this 60 seconds you also have to rescue your inept family who simply go about their daily life in the face of the impending doom and need to be physically moved to safety to give you the additional body that helps in the later game  where you plot your long term subterraneal survival. Falling short in this part of the game is not an option. You need to supply your family with minimal food and water for a number of days at the very least while the initial fallout settles and it becomes safe to start venturing outside once again to scavenge for supplies.

Once you’ve reached your fallout shelter safely the game changes pace and you interact with the family diary on a daily basis – from here on in the game is extremely simple in design where you’re making and breaking a day through menu choices rather than any direct interaction – making key survival decisions and trying to get through to the point where the government is in a position to rescue you. You’ll be deciding who to feed or give water too each day while weighing up the risk of using gear to go out of your shelter to plunder the local town for supplies. You’ll need entertainment or a radio to stop members of your family going insane staring at the four silver walls of your tiny shelter.

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You, your wife, daughter and son can all go on expeditions out of the shelter with varying results. Each member of the family is given a few lines in the daily diary letting you know exactly what is going on with them – Hungry, Happy, Sad or Insane, these quick snippets will inform your decisions for the day. Perhaps they’re losing their marbles and you need to use your playing cards to keep their mental state at a manageable level or the three days you’ve kept them from water is starting to take its toll. You’ll need to learn to be brutal very quickly to ensure at least some of your family survive. Sometimes this means sacrificing members of the family knowing that fewer mouths to feed means the rations last longer. As long as the children have a single adult to make decisions the game continues but if you lose both adults the kids run wild and the game ends. Unfortunately, for little Timmy, this meant he was often the most expendable and first I used on expeditions as I could afford to lose him without fussing too much. Rationing becomes key but is extremely stressful when you’re short on water and someone is out on an expedition yet, after three days, they haven’t returned. In all likelihood this means not only are they not coming back but also their failure means your families life is coming to its inevitable end.

Events occur randomly each day and keep every single game a fresh and new experience. Although there is a finite amount of random encounters you don’t stumble upon the same ones too often although I did find myself reliably able to work the system after a few hours and seeing a lot of responses repeated. You’ll meet traders who will steal your equipment if you refuse to trade, your daughter could turn into a mutant who is excellent at traversing the radioactive wasteland and yet likes to wander for days at a time or maybe giant, mutated cockroaches could find their way into the shelter. How you deal with these situations is down to you and your diary will detail the ways in which you can handle them by giving you a number of pieces of equipment you could utilise in different situations. Sometimes you’ll decide against using the equipment while others will have both positive and negative implications. I once decided to use my rifle against giant rodents. Then the next day began and I found the rifle had exploded when used so when looters came around four days later I had nothing to defend my family with and lost most of my water and food supply.

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You can also play each of these modes – Scavenge and Survival – independent of each other. I found this good when I wanted to improve an area of my game. Although this didn’t have any direct impact on the main game I found practicing the scavenge  part of my game vastly improved my survival end game because I was reliably carrying more loot into the start of the game because of the repeatable practice.

60 Seconds! is a fantastic experience that tries to alleviate the stress of an end of world management survival with levity. Although this humour doesn’t always hit it is still fantastic to play through each time. I was always panicking while stockpiling at the start of the game and then constantly cursing my poor skills when I was punished later on. The game feels strong in both halves and constantly reminds you that, although a cartoonish shell with dark humour, you are constantly making decisions that could lead to the death of your family. The game doesn’t overstay its welcome and I found games could last anywhere between five and forty-five minutes depending how successful you are, enabling you to have a couple of runs in a short period. Unfortunately the game will live and die on whether you hit the same daily diary entries too often and while I only just started to see this happening towards the end of my time with the game it would be good to see constant additions to this system through updates to enable players who want to keep coming back the opportunity to see fresh content periodically.

Pros

Stress filled 60 second collection game at the beginning

Looks fantastic and could be one of your favourite evening cartoons

The survival management sim is solid

Cons

Not enough variety in the random events

Not enough descriptions available for all key items and what they actually do

Score: 7/10

Reign of Kings PC Preview

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Picture in your mind, the sprawling landscape of Skyrim. Tundra gives way to pastures of green grass which then slowly transforms into a field of ice and mountainous paths. Now imagine hacking at a tree with a wooden axe in Minecraft, collecting blocks and building whatever your fevered brain can imagine. Now smash them both together, take out the terrible enemies, and add in combat from Mount and Blade with all its decapitations and amputations.

This is Reign of Kings. And it is superb.

You spawn on a beach as a newbie. Sporting a thong (male and female alike) and after going through a pretty impressive character creator you are warned that your face will always look like this… unless you create a potion of facial change (lol what?) The only indicators you have on your HUD are 3 coloured bars, representing your current hunger, thirst and stamina. A quick rummage through your loincloth reveals a couple of bandages and a wooden stick made of driftwood. This stick becomes your main form of attack and defence, it can also be used to harvest resources. It’s then up to you to not die. Sounds easy? It’s not. You may be lucky enough to encounter similarly attired players, but as this is a live MMO, a la Day Z, those who are well equipped will make short work of dispatching you. Sleeping out in the open is also not advised, you can be easily bludgeoned to death during your slumber and when you log back on, you’ll find yourself back in your loincloth wondering why you are 50 miles away, bereft of all your hard earned equipment.

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Trees and bushes offer little for those in search of a good meal, berries may keep you hydrated, but offer poor nutrition. Animals flee at the slightest touch of your clumsy beat stick. Wolves will eat you in the face. Other players will stab you in the face. Starving will make you want to eat someone else’s face. Happily, unlike Day Z, you cannot take a munch of Long Pig. But starving takes a long time. So it helps to get established quickly.

In its current build, the game is not without its faults, there are numerous graphical issues, the combat is very hit and miss (literally!) and the developers are still getting used to the server economy and respawns. But stick with it.

 

Pros:

  • Glorious map design
  • Intuitive game mechanics – borrows heavily from other survival games
  • Big fricking catapults
  • You can become a King!

 

  • Other player characters can be dicks – there is not a massive amount to do
  • Top tier equipment and weapons can be achieved quickly
  • No real reward for becoming King
  • Graphical issues need fixing

 

Overall verdict: Successful patching will make this a fan favourite, the anti-cheat system is well on its way to stopping hackers. It will need a WHOLE load more objectives and missions to make it truly wonderful

This War of Mine Review

Logo_ArtworkThis War Is Mine

PC

11 Bit Studios

One of the best things about the internet nowadays is how easy it is to scream abuse at someone who doesn’t share your opinions.

Seriously.

Imagine what kind of world we’d have to struggle in if you couldn’t tell someone how wrong they are about the music they like, the sports they watch or the video games they enjoy. Oh, it would be awful. They’d never learn, would they? The dumb-dumbs. Wallowing and thrashing around in their own ignorance, foolishly keeping hold of their ill-conceived ideas. We should get them to wise up.

Who knows where it could end? Men could start wearing shirts we object to. Did we lose a war?

Talking of war, here is a video game about it. It’s called This War of Mine and it purports to teach us about the real horrors of war for the people who are caught up in the fighting, but are not necessarily combatants. This is the story of the regular folk; teachers, journalists and the elderly that suffer in war too. Oh and sports stars. And women. Men too, actually. Now I come to think about it, war is pretty awful for everyone involved.

TWOM_Screen_PAX_02TWOM is a survival game. You begin with a ‘party’ of three, made up of ‘real’ people who find themselves caught up in some dreadful war in a ravaged European city. The game tries its best to trick the mind into believing in the pseudo-reality it constructs. Your characters have a photograph in the corner, and believable reactions to the events that surround them. They get tired and hungry, they suffer depression and anxiety, they struggle with the moral consequences of their actions just as you are asked to do.

Moral choices abound in This War of Mine. Since everything you have must be scavenged from other locations, every successful trip you have comes at someone’s else’s expense. You can meet other people in your excursions around the city, some openly hostile, others tentatively friendly. Here’s a guy with a sick parent; will you trade him some medicine, even though he has little to offer? At first, when you feel flush with resources and goodwill you might be inclined to help out but how long can your generosity hold out? Should you save a guy you don’t know when one of your party is sick? Or could get sick?

The format of the game is as follows: By day, your group members conduct jobs around your derelict dwelling, trying to make it fit for habitation. You can construct beds and chairs for rest, stoves to cook, workshops to craft tools and weapons. You are even able to build a distillery to make alcohol for trade. Periodically, people might visit and then you’ll want to send your most skilled barterer to the door to try and weasel a few extra morsels of food in trade for your dwindling supplies. You can also listen to the radio but sadly there’s only news reports. No K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70’s for you.

TWOM_Screen_PAX_04Night time is a different affair. You can select one of your party – let’s say Pavel, since he’s the athlete, strong and brave – to go out into the city on the hunt for materials to survive. At first, your scope is small and you have few scavenging options available to you. Root about in the early locations and try not to get murdered by any soldiers you see, that’s your best bet. Eventually you gather some resources and return home and hopefully on subsequent trips you can return better equipped and explore further until a location is exhausted. Sometimes you’ll want to trade with NPCs, sometimes your mistrust of their motives will lead you to shoot them in the face and burglarise their home. Either way, it’s a choice you made and one that you’ll have to live with.

Don’t feel too bad about what you do to the NPCs however, you can’t go outside for more than 5 minutes without someone trying to break in and steal your precious belongings. Sometimes they just go away and sometimes they steal all your food and mortally injure one of your group. But hey – that’s how awful war is and if you’d built better defences maybe it wouldn’t have happened. Or maybe it would. And maybe one of your party will just decide that they’re going to commit suicide because the horror is all too much. You know, these are all things that I’m sure make valid commentary on the psychological trauma of war.

TWOM_Screen_PAX_06And now, ladies and gentlemen, for my big but…

I hated This War of Mine.

I played it for some considerable time ahead of review and rarely have I felt so downbeat and crushed after engaging in a spot of my favourite pastime. This game can be a truly miserable experience for the player, particularly when a promising run ends in sudden and ignoble doom.

I would venture that This War of Mine is objectively a good product. It has a convincing art style that functions well, its minimalism suiting the tone. The music is chilling and haunting – extremely effective in conveying the sense of bleakness that the game wants to engender. Controls are clear and – for the most part function well – although there is an argument to be made that for a game that is grounded in realism, there is a lack of options presented when it comes to solving problems. For example, you can’t talk to everyone you meet to explain why you’re there, offer comfort or threaten, which leads to some frustrating NPC interaction. The simplicity makes sense but some players might find it unpleasantly restrictive.

This War Is Mine is another example of video games working on the boundaries of what people perceive to be a game and demanding the right to be viewed as art. It can be called art since it is no doubt effective at causing an emotional response from anyone who plays the game – and whilst it might be argued that the message around war has been delivered with more subtlety and style elsewhere, little beats the power of the video game for putting the audience at the centre of things. If it makes your finger hover over the action button for even a fraction of a second as you wonder, ‘is this the right thing to do?’ it has succeeded in engaging you far beyond what could be achieved by a mere novel or film.

I will end on this note however. You have a right not to enjoy art. You have a right not to engage with it. I strongly doubt I will ever play This War of Mine again because it provoked reactions from me that I found uncomfortable. You might well decide that this isn’t what you’re looking for from a game that might take up your whole weekend – that might leave you feeling a whole lot worse than when you went in. I don’t blame you, and you are not wrong.

 

Karlos Morale

Score 9/10

This War Is Mine is out now for PC at £14.99 and it’s a much better survival horror game than The Evil Within

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

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.