Articles tagged with steam


 
 
Tower of Time

Aug 13
Posted by Ben at 15:25

I recorded a First Play gameplay video for Tower of Time last week, and spent most of it speculating, but failing to nail down, why it wasnít resonating with me. I wanted to spend more time with it, try to see if I could better put in to words my thoughts, try to write something actually Ďcriticalí rather than just spout vagaries.

Despite my hours with the game, despite my pages of note, and a video already behind me, Iím still not sure I can precisely quantify why I didnít click with the game. For those that donít know, and given that Tower of Time is an indie game still in Early Access on Steam Iíd wager that would be most people, Tower of Time is a western rpg with a few quirks with the combat. Its isometric viewpoint brings to mind the likes of Diablo and Pillars of Eternity, but its combat reminds me of the original Dragon Age. Rather than encounters taking place where you stand, instead youíre whisked away to one of the battle maps.

This takes a bit of time to trigger as your opponents trudge towards you, before you get a screen with a description of whether this will be a difficult battle, who youíre likely to face, and what theyíre weak/strong too. Thereís a couple of points Iíd make about this; firstly I think it needs to be speeded up, maybe an alert sound and straight to the preamble screen, thereís no need to stop your movement while your opponents trundle over. Add to that when youíre on the screen showing the enemies stats you canít alter your equipment to best suit them, instead you have to withdraw from battle, go to your character screen and set everyone up, then trigger the slow animation again.

Iíve no real complaints about the combat itself, although I do think itís one of the things keeping me at arms length. Tower of Timeís USP is that itís neither entirely dynamic like Diablo, nor to you stop time to set moves like Dragon Age, instead you slow time to a crawl, giving you enough time to drag your team around and set their next move. This means youíre always involved, you canít Ďpauseí the action and ease the pressure on yourself, but equally youíre not getting swarmed with your squad dotted around the battlefield while youíre left with no time to do anything about it.

Iím not sure if this is a problem as such, but I found myself playing almost entirely in slow motion, micromanaging moves and positioning; who attacks who. It sucks the pace out of the game, my own fault I guess, but it did mean combat encounters took an age. Thereís a few little niggles Iíd like ironed out. One is that on quite a few occasions instead of my clicking on an enemy to launch an attack, it would be misread as me wanting to move my character to them. Iíve also found that, while my ranged fighters will pick targets without me having to spell it out to them, when my melee fighters kill an opponent, unless theyíre attacked by someone else, theyíll just stand there, not attacking their nearest opponent, just contributing nothing.

The story is, I think, interesting, your character is actually a general who met a dormant spirit in a newly re-emerged tower as a child. Thereís something off with this spirit, clearly his motivations arenít your best interests, but now youíre tied to him, constantly being called to him. Youíve returned to the tower, and you as a player are put in the unusual position of being in control of a character who takes no active part himself, but is both controlling others, and being controlled. However, and this is where my issues are still a bit nebulous, I just wasnít engaged by it. The characters arenít defined enough, thereís a couple of interesting side stories, but nothing that I can really remember to write here.

Thereís also not enough to do. Tower of Time follows a very defined pattern and it needs more. Youíre basically walking from fight to fight, theyíll be the odd chest, some gold to pick up, and then the occasional story beat. Diablo manages with little story because it has constant battles and meaningful loot, Tower of Timeís pace is too slow and its battles too meaty for that, and thatís fine, but it could really do with some meaningful loot to make the non-battle sections more worthwhile

Still, Tower of Time is pretty well made for a game so early in development (currently on version 0.3.0.8362), and for as much as I played I didnít get close to the end. Not bad considering itís only £11
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Aug
09
Posted by Ben at 16:44
Described as a procedurally generated multi-player co-op dungeon crawler, Looterkings does look fairly unique

You and 3 friends team up as a band of goblins, attempting to reach the elven queen. The levels are procedurally generated so each attempt should be different. Your up against cartoonish fantasy monsters, and you're on the hunt for treasure and gear

Looterkings is currently in Steam Early Access, but it gets its full release in a few days, on the 11th August

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Aug
09
Posted by Ben at 13:08
In a lightning quick surprise (and leaked) announcement and release, Rez Infinite is available now on PC

Priced at £19.99 as standard, Rez Infinite is currently £15.99 as part of the launch sale.

The PC version of Rez Infinite supports VR, 4K, and has improved textures over the PS4 version
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Tower of Time
Gameplay Video
Aug 06
Posted by Ben at 16:32

We got sent a code for Tower of Time, the new (first?) game from Event Horizon. A name that's just begging for me to shoe-horn in a reference.

Tower of Time is still in early access, still seemingly very early based on the version number (0.3.0.8362), so bear that in mind with any bugs and some of my thoughts in the video below

In Tower of Time, and what you've missed in the sections preceding this video, you start off as a young boy who finds a hole in the ground. He wanders inside and finds a giant upside down tower. In there he finds a dormant spirit who calls out to him, and continues to do so throughout his life, eventually calling him back to the tower.

You then play almost a watcher roll, as someone invisibly controls your actions so do you control your heroes, soldiers you've sent in to the tower to fight for you. Viewing their progress from the surface above, almost as though (I'm really sorry) you don't need eyes to see.

The gameplay video below shows some of the early sections of the game. I'm going to write a full preview during the week. I want to see more of the game (I already have done), and better put a pin in my thoughts about the game. At the minute it's vague, I'm not connecting with Tower of Time and I can't place why other than meaningless synonyms like "it lacks punch". I don't dislike Towers of Time, I quite like the combat in fact, but I also want to better put in to words what the barrier is

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Fate/EXTELLA
The Umbral Star
Jul 21
Posted by James at 04:19

We donít usually review ports, but the Switch is so energising for even the most familiar of games, and what could be more familiar than a Warriors-style action game? Indeed, Marvelous has served up a Switch port of Fate/Extella, throwing in all previously released DLC to boot. Itís also landing on PC via Steam within the same week.

First things first: Mark has already reviewed the original PS4 release, so head over here for a detailed rundown regarding the gameís narrative and how it fits in following on from PSP game Fate/Extra.

Done? Okay, well, the gist of how Fate/Extella plays is simple: Think of it like a Fate-flavoured take on Omega Forceís own Warriors games, where it uses its disassociation with that series to do enough to take it beyond its setting within the Fate universe.

Beyond the expectedly rhythmic but button mashing combat, Extella is a Warriors game that focuses more on territorial control. Each battlefield is divided into sectors: Claim enough land before your enemy does and you get a stab at battling their Servant commander.

Itís within these higher-level proceedings that the real battles are waged, as you constantly need to ensure that youíre not putting all your eggs in one basket and attacking one sector for too long.

Reclaiming a sector takes time Ė to claim back land you must wipe out a few Aggressors first, who are basically big baddies that happen to also be damage sponges. Meanwhile in faraway sectors youíll often notice that ďPlantsĒ Ė enemies with the capability of spawning more Aggressors Ė constantly try and undo your progress, sending the foes to sectors youíve reclaimed, and those where your own fighters are struggling.



Do you spend a few more minutes reclaiming this one sector or should you drop everything to rush to a sector where a Plant is sending more enemies elsewhere?

Itís in moments like these, when Extella constantly ups the anxiety and throws you into situations where you never feel quite so comfortable taking on cannon fodder, where the game is at its best. Youíll often need to adapt and find an optimal route to travel around the map too, as later stages pile on the pressure by introducing enemy ambushes in some sectors, leaving you with no choice but to waste a few minutes cleaning up before youíre allowed to advance.

Despite placing a large emphasis on territorial control and continuous travel, itís hard not to feel disappointed by Extellaís rather safe and uninspired level designs that reside within each battleground. While thereís a pleasing amount of variety and scale to the backdrops, each sector feels disconnected from surrounding ones.

As a result you almost have to depend on the minimap just to get simple bearings, as scenery and structures are repeated so often that everything quickly looks the same. While the game is still playable like this itís evident that something has been lost. Youíre almost too disconnected from the action that youíre orchestrating, and the battles themselves would certainly come off as more engaging and memorable if each map was designed to feel like an actual place, rather than a series of small, identikit areas.

Still, the way Fate/Extellaís fights flow from a higher level provides enough fun in spite of the gameís shallow combat, and it does a lot to compensate for its shallow combat. Each playable Servant has an ever-expanding combo tree, but new attacks rarely feel like substantial game-changers compared with their level and equipped skills. Specials, while satisfying to use, reveal all their tricks far too quickly. It bears to be repeated: The lower-level proceedings lack depth.



The technical chops behind the Switch port lie somewhere between what Marvelous originally delivered for Vita and what was upgraded for PS4. When the Switch is docked, instead of opting for a significantly higher rendering resolution over the handheld's display, the differences are more subtle: Characters gain cel-shaded outlines and thereís noticeably better edge smoothing (antialiasing). There is, however, a drop in framerate from the game's PS4 cousin to a locked 30 frames per second. While the Switch has no trouble hitting this target consistently, making everything more than playable, it's hard to shake the feeling that the gameís fast-paced combat isnít as deliciously fluid as it could have been.

Meanwhile, Marvelousí inclusion of all DLC (plus one exclusive item) grants access to a few dozen character costumes, each with their own accompanying character portraits. As with the lore-heavy narrative and story, Fate fans will probably find a lot more to appreciate there. The PC version does not include any DLC but itís worth noting itís slightly cheaper to compensate.

Fate/Extella is a game of two halves. On one side it plays a rather satisfying game of territorial control Ė if this is what you like about Warriors-style games youíll probably get a lot out of it, even if youíre not well versed in all things Fate. On the other hand, the combat is shallow, and the gameís ties with the Fate universe are more entrenched than they were with the PSPís Fate/Extra. While Fate/Extella can easily seen as a love letter to Fate fans, itís also more inviting to the uninitiated than you might expect.

GALLERY:
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Hidden Folks

Jul 03
Posted by Ben at 15:20

Hidden Folks has actually been out for a few months, I canít say that Iíve seen a lot of talk about it, I guess you wouldnít for a hidden object game. For whatever reason Hidden Folk has repeatedly cropped up on my Steam suggestions during the summer sale, so finally I caved in and gave it a whirl.

The easy comparison is Whereís Wally (or Whereís Waldo depending where youíre reading this), Hidden Folks gives you a sizable image, busy and bustling with lots of distractions, characters and objects move, itís all animated in some way. Youíve got a list of characters or objects at the bottom of the screen and you need to hunt them down to check them off. For some youíll be able to just spot them, matching the image at the bottom to the character placed somewhere in the picture, for others youíll need to use the attached description to work out where theyíre hidden.



In the early stages Hidden Folks features fairly small Ďmapsí, zooming out will let you see most of whatís there, and zooming in will give you the detail. This is probably Hidden Folks at its most fun, itís charming and the game gets a chance to show that. The inventive puzzles, characters hidden behind, under, or in things, they can be showcased here and be fun, later on thatís not the case. The maps eventually become huge, ultra busy, with needle in a haystack levels of detail. Itís impressive, I wouldnít say no to a screensaver or a wallpaper, but it can tip the balance from fun to frustrating. If you compare the desert level to the later factory level, the factory is set out in compartments, if one of the hidden folk is obsessed with tyres, it probably means theyíre hidden near some tyres, so scout around the map for some. Compare that to the desert, with its almost featureless landscape, finding everyone can be a bit of a chore

That being said, itís probably for the best you donít have to find everyone. Find enough folks and you can move on to the next map, so there is an argument that a lot of the frustration I felt playing Hidden Folks was my own doing for not moving on until Iíd found everyone. Itís also probably worth mentioning that while Hidden Folks isnít a multi-player game as such, itís the kind of game that lends itself to a few people working together, certainly I hit a wall a 2nd pair of eyes helped me get past.



All this being said, Hidden Folks didnít take me that long, and returning to a map after being stuck for a while meant I solved it. It took me around 4 hours to find everything, but I suspect binging like that isnít the best way to experience Hidden Folks. At £6, less in the sale, itís not exactly bank breaking, and there is a level of charm and humour to it. Once you complete the game thereís the promise of more content to come. So, while itís hard to get too excited about a hidden object game, Hidden Folks is certainly worth a look if youíre after a change of pace

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Guilty Gear Xrd
Revelator 2
Jun 12
Posted by Ben at 16:41

The thing that always strikes me about Guilty Gear, and I guess Arc System Worksí fighters in general (even Battle Fantasia), is how idiosyncratic they are. For the most part, anyone with a passing knowledge of fighting games could sit down with a Street Fighter or a King of Fighters and do something, Guilty Gear takes a bit more time. Itís testament to the work put in by Arc that it doesnít seem insurmountable, in fact a lot of Guilty Gearís systems quickly start to make sense.

Guilty Gear does things differently, in terms of attacks thereís Slash and Hard Slash, but then punch, kick, and now ĎDustí. Youíll sometimes find specials do work across buttons, but not often. In short, each character has to be learnt, even on a basic level. Go beyond the basic level and the characters reveal themselves to be even more unique. Thereís characters whose attacks have to be set up, characters who can teleport, characters who counter, getting the best out of them is something you need to learn to do, itís not simply a matter of practice, you arenít always going to stumble on to these techniques. It does though mean that when you take the game online you arenít facing the same character over and over. The wealth of depth to the characters means that thereís no Ďflow-chart Kení, youíll see a variety, and every character will have someone who has learned exactly how to wipe the floor with you. Whether by luck or design, itís an impressive feat

Itís why the tutorials are always going to be a big part of any modern Guilty Gear review. They arenít perfect, but they do a good job of showing off the systems. You start with the absolute basics, moving and jumping to pop balloons, then quickly progress to not just attacking, but effectively attacking by comboing attacks together. These are simple chains, but then itís the next step, bursting so you can can land an extra hit or two, or dashing so you can keep a combo going. From there you can learn specific character moves, learning how to chain specials, even how to defend effectively. Itís here where I wish theyíd gone one small step further and had the option of a demo to show whatís expected of you, as thereís some I just wasnít sure where I was going wrong.

Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator 2 has a few modes outside of training, maybe a couple less than youíd hope, but enough. Thereís more periphery stuff like the gallery and figurine mode, nice little bonuses but not where youíre going to spend serious time. Thereís also the arcade mode, which has character specific stories and sets up the actual Story mode, which is like an in-engine anime, free from combat but quite well done. The online is handled fairly well, and I really like the lobby system. Itís a world you enter, and while thereís not a lot to do there, and itís a shame you canít spectate, I do like that you can sit at an arcade machine and wait for an opponent. They might need to broaden the servers sooner rather than later to keep them populated, although I didnít have too many problems finding a match. Not true of Ďrankedí, where I did struggle to find a match, but you can queue a ranked match up and get on with other things. I guess the real shame is that the PC version doesnít have cross-play with the PS4.

I had a few fights where there was a strange sense of dropped frames online. Itís not lag, and itís not dropped frames as youíd (potentially) see if the game was struggling, but it felt like inputs were being ignored. I had plenty of good fights, but I could see people who take online more seriously really cursing it.

I guess the only real criticism I have of Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 is that I just donít really like playing as a lot of the Guilty Gear characters, and the ones I do like Iím familiar with, exasperating the feeling that Revelator 2 is an incremental change, even over the 2 game predecessor Xrd Sign (my last Guilty Gear). Itís a good game, as good as itís ever been, but Iím not sure Guilty Gear has the luxury of being able to just throw more characters in to the roster and calling it a day, theyíre all too idiosyncratic for that. If youíre a die-hard then more of the same is probably enough, but know thatís what it is going in, if youíre new then itís as good a place to start as any.
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May
31
Posted by Ben at 15:56
Somehow it passed me by that the release date for Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 on PC was so close to the European (and Western at that!) console release, so used have I got to fighting games being released late on PC

To get Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 on Steam you're going to have to do a bit of work, but the short version is that you need Guilty Gear Xrd REV, then you need to buy REV 2 as dlc for the game.

The slightly longer version is that you can buy the game (from HERE) then pick whether you want versions of the game(s) with all the character dlc, costume dlc, audio dlc etc, or the cheaper option of the base game(s) with the option to pick up the extra characters as you see fit

There's a lengthy trailer below that goes in to detail on some of the changes for Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2

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Cyberdimension Neptunia:
4 Goddesses Online
May 29
Posted by James at 12:40

A few days ago the MCM Comic Con set up shop over at the ExCeL exhibition centre in London. As usual, Idea Factory International were amongst the exhibitors, bringing with them a the first playable English-language demo for upcoming PS4 and PC game, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online.

As youíve probably gathered from its lengthy title, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is both a new entry in Idea Factoryís flagship RPG series and its take on the MMORPG.

Simply put, weíre looking at a parody of the genre, where the four CPU candidates (think of them as anthropomorphised video game consoles) find themselves taking part in a beta test for a new online game. The gameís novel approach to a beta test revolves around how the four CPUs play it: Rather than witness them playing at their computers, which would make for incredibly dull entertainment, Neptune and company are literally in the game.

There was enough available to play in the demo to get a good feel of the gameís flow. Itís a predictable, but comforting one: You visit the Guild to accept quests, then pick a location to clear some quests, return to the guild, and then accept more quests. The main town square plays host to facilities where you can craft new weapons, buy and sale items, and generally cool down between expeditions to faraway locations.

These locations themselves arenít really anything to write home about Ė environments were rather repetitious in their design and as a result most players are likely to opt for relying on the gameís generously detailed minimap for navigation purposes. This isnít necessarily a bad thing, but considering the quality of the quests at hand Ė collect x items, defeat y enemies Ė expeditions risk feeling like an exercise in box ticking.

The gameís combat looks like itíll offer something more satisfying, however. Battles are active rather than passive, and heavily action oriented. Youíve got free movement of your character, a press of a button will lock on to an enemy, and another button brings up an assigned skill set Ė spells or attacks assigned to each of the four face buttons. Using skills depletes SP, but regular attacks regenerate it. Thereís a pleasing rhythm to skirmishes that see you alternate between low-power attacks and heavy-hitting skills, all relative to which enemies youíre fighting and what moves they might be using.

From a demo alone itís hard to tell how the balancing of the gameís mechanics will play out over its entire running time, but hopefully youíll have to think carefully about which characters to include in your party, which commands you give to your AI companions, and which skills to assign to each skill set.

Despite being a spinoff, Cyberdimension Neptunia is the first game in the series to be made using Unreal Engine 4, and the results speak volumes. Lighting has received a notable upgrade, and thereís copious amounts of motion blur and shadowing. Basically, environments look richer, a big contrast from the spartan locales in previous Neptunias. Unfortunately, other areas of the gameís presentation havenít received the same attention to detail. Character animation is stiff, collision detection is wonky, character models lack detail Ė this all contributes to a rather uneven, inconsistent when youíre jumping around and navigating the landscapes. But overall weíre looking at a welcome, and immediately noticeable improvement.

Tamsoftís previous efforts in the Neptunia series werenít anything special, often coming off as less creative, more derivative versions of existing games in the developerís portfolio. 4 Goddesses Online feels different. The setting and gameplay mechanics fit the seriesí narrative and RPG qualities in a more natural way.

With any hope Cyberdimension Neptunia wonít stick too close to comfortable tropes in the MMORPG playbook. The series is known for using self-deprecating humour to mock bad design, but itís significantly less funny when youíre the one playing through them. Fingers crossed that the finished gameís quests offer something more compelling than what was on display in the demo.
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Apr
19
Posted by Ben at 13:12
I have incredibly fond memories of playing Micro Machines 2 on the Megadrive, using 4 pads thanks to the two extra ports on the game cartridge itself, and playing 8 player races thanks to the pad sharing mechanic. I'm of a generation that is watching Micro Machines World Series with impossibly high expectations

It's with some relief then that Codemasters have released a trailer for the upcoming Micro Machines World Series, and it's actually looking pretty good

Race and Elimination modes are back, as well as a 12 player battle mode and online modes, and nicely, 4 player local split screen. Micro Machines World Tour is set to release in June on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Trailer below
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