REVIEW: Warhammer 40,000: Regicide

maxresdefaultYes, yes, I know I just did a preview on this game, but Hammerfall just released the full version today. That’s right, Warhammer 40,000: Regicide officially left Early Access on Steam and went to launch, releasing more companies and adding the rest of the Regicide campaign.

As I stated before, the game has the classic chess mode with Warhammer 40k infantry units as the ranking chess pieces (see the previous post on those), and then it has a hybrid Regicide mode. I mean, the game is insanely fun in Regicide, if not also utterly frustrating. To me, nothing will beat the roll of dice, and that includes RNG algorithms, which is what the hit chance is used with in this mode. I found myself questioning time and again how my Space Marines have a 64% chance to hit and always misses on the roll, while the Orks have at most a 58% chance and always hits. On top of that, some units can attack more than once on the Ork side, which I found pretty damned unfair, especially when I’m playing through the campaign and all of my units can only attack once! Now, each mission you complete give you experience toward your Regicide account (you need one to play the game, but it does give you the option of signing up when you first launch the application) and to your chess units.

Every mission also has a primary objective (the win condition) and a secondary objective (optional but gives you bonus XP, therefore I always go for those) but the secondary objective becomes nigh impossible to achieve unless you have insanely good luck. Starting from around the end of the first act, the secondary objectives start becoming a hindrance based almost entirely on luck rather than actual tactical capability, especially when the secondary objective requires you to not lose a single unit in the whole battle. Thus, by playing on your caution, the AI wastes no time to focus on one of your units to ensure that you don’t get Objective Two finished. The more times I started over, the more frustrated I got with the RNG system. I kept questioning how it’s possible for my Marines to keep on missing while the Orks keep hitting on a far less hit chance. Answer: complete, blind luck.

There are some positives to the game. As in my previous post, the blending of tabletop game with chess is a fresh idea and using the sci-fi Warhammer universe is the perfect fit for it. The customizability of your player abilities is also a plus, allowing you to adapt to different play types (whether you’re playing Space Marines versus Orks or vice-versa). Before facing off against an online opponent, you can head to the Armory page to set your abilities how you see fit, but some abilities are locked until you reach a certain level on your Regicide account. There’s some incentive to play the game more and more. However, the game’s balance seem to lean a little in favor of the Orks, as far as I can tell as I have yet to play with their units in head-to-head mode (I want to finish the campaign first, but I will admit, I rage-quit from how cheap the RNG was when it came to landing shots; I will finish the campaign soon). I hope with future patches that the Orks are more brought into line with the RNG system since the Orks deal more damage anyway (despite the Space Marines having arguably better equipment). Until then, slither to this game and play the Dickens out of it, but with a bit of caution.

Verdict: 8/10 (Sink Your Fangs)

+ Regicide is an awesome game mode, fresh take on chess || + Customizable player abilities to aid your troops || + Leveling system is an incentive to keep playing

= Only two races (Orks and Space Marines) but hopefully more will be added

RNG seems unfair at times || – Secondary objectives harder to accomplish early in campaign

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REVIEW: Her Story

Her_Story_LogoIt’s actually been a while since I’ve played any sort of game with full motion video in it (aside from Command & Conquer: Red Alert, but that game has FMV cutscenes; I’m talking about a game that heavily involves FMV as a focus in the gameplay…think Night Trap from the Sega CD days). I noticed, however, that while going through the Steam store at the time, I noticed a newly released indie game that had a lot of good reviews overall: Her Story, developed by lone developer Sam Barlow.

Her Story is about the player, who peruses an old police computer that has a fragmented database with over 300 video clips of an English woman. This woman is interviewed seven times by the police about her husband’s murder, but due to the damage to the database, only the clips where the woman is talking survived. Searching the clips by keyword, your job is to find all of the video clips in order to restore the database and find out the exact details of the crime.

Simple? Yes. Easy? Not by a long shot. As many clips can be found by simple keywords, often you’ll find that you need to be specific with keywords in order to narrow down clips that you still need to find, as the computer interface only allows the first five clips to be viewed if your search turned up more than five clips at a time. It seems like an easy task at first but things start getting tough when you start to run out of ideas for keywords to search with, especially when some keywords pull up a lot of clips that you have seen before. It can be very frustrating but the payoff is very nice, as many of the more important clips reveal more to the story. However, this leads me to my first piece of criticism: there are too many clips that have absolutely no bearing on the story whatsoever. I mean, the game get insanely tedious after a few hours because of the multitude of clips that are simply there for filler. I will admit that I had to split game sessions up because of how bored I got after a while trying to search for new clips. If there were far fewer clips to go through, that would have been fine, and I still would have gotten a lot out of the game. The tedium of searching through dummy clips, though, didn’t really add to the gameplay very much.  The story itself has a number of interesting twists. As you go through the more important clips, you’ll find some interesting things about the woman in the interviews. The biggest twist comes at the very end of the game, which is what makes the payoff so well.

Her Story was a pleasant experience to play through with a well-written story, but the boring number of clips to go through forced me to play in sessions due to the rather large number of irrelevant clips. Beyond that, I recommend giving this game a spin. Unfortunately, it’s only good for a single playthrough. For the very low price of $5.99, Her Story is found on Steam and directly from the game’s website, and for $4.99 on the iTunes App Store (for iOS).

Verdict: 8/10 (Sink Your Fangs)

+ Compelling and engaging story with interesting plot twists || + Simple yet difficult gameplay

= Only good for a single playthrough, but the story leaves a lasting impression

Too many irrelevant clips || – Game gets boring trying to guess new keywords after a while

RETRO REVIEW 2/3: Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 (Soviet)

Soviets16x12_Red_Alert_3_3632Okay, part two of this three-part review for Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, this time with the Soviet Union. As the game’s intro showed, Anatoly Cherdenko (played by Tim Curry) used a time machine to erase [REDACTED] from existence, thereby creating a new timeline, one in which the Soviets flourished rather than disbanded. Additionally, without theories on nuclear fission, nuclear weapons are never created and history takes a different turn. You can see my previous review for a summary on the Allied campaign and their perspective.

In this campaign, you are the newly appointed Commander of Soviet forces by Premier Cherdenko, much to the dismay of General Krukov. After a few test battles where you defend Moscow from invading Allied forces, Cherdenko send you on a counter-offensive against the Allies, first securing the Soviet shipyards at Vladivostok from the Empire. After a successful campaign against the Allies, including the capture of a top-secret lab, Cherdenko is supposedly attacked, and reveals the supposed traitor as General Krukov during one of your battles against the Allies. After killing Krukov, you are sent to assassinate the Emperor of the Rising Sun in an offensive move on Mount Fuji. When this is done, Cherdenko sends you to Easter Island to plan an ambush for the Allied emissary under a false pretense of ceasefire. After everything you’ve done for him, he tells you that your services are no longer necessary, as he claims you know too much and are, therefore, a threat to his reign. You are forced to rally your troops and destroy Cherdenko’s volcano fortress, along with his new weapon, the Vacuum Imploder (never got to see it in action, as I destroyed it before it fired). Dasha, your comms officer, tells you that Cherdenko faked his own assassination attempt in order to blame Krukov and remove him from the picture. She also speculates that Cherdenko is responsible for Dr. Zelinsky’s disappearance after your offensive on Mount Fuji (Zelinsky, played by Peter Stormare, tried to warn you that they messed with the timeline in the first place and everything is not as it should be, feeling guilt for how the world turned out). With Cherdenko gone, you turn your attention to winning the war by destroying the global symbol of capitalism and the Allied nations: The Statue of Liberty. Succeeding, the campaign ends with Dasha congratulating you as the new Soviet Premier as your statue is erected in place of Lady Liberty, and you step out onto a balcony from the Kremlin (I assume) to address the people assembled in the square.

I still have one more campaign to work through (Empire of the Rising Sun) before laying down a final, overall review of the gameplay between the three factions. We’re getting there! Slither on, my friends.

RETRO REVIEW 1/3: Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 (Allied)

CnC AlliedI’ll have to keep this one rather brief, as I have two more campaigns to get through before laying down a final assessment.

Last week I was finally able to finish the Allied campaign for Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 by EA Los Angeles. The premise of this Red Alert game was interesting, although I haven’t played either of the two previous Red Alert games. The Soviets go back in time, kill [REDACTED], and change the course of technology forever, thus creating a whole ‘nother timeline. Because nuclear theory never got off the ground, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were never bombed and Japan built up its forces in secret while the Allies and Soviet Union were at each others’ throats. The Japanese renamed themselves as the Empire of the Rising Sun, with advanced technology that could defeat Allied and Soviet units with relative ease.

In the Allied campaign, you are the new Commander of the Allied forces and you have to deal with the Soviet threat until the Empire makes a surprise appearance. Knowing their level of technology, the British leader of the Allied military tasks you with temporarily allying with the Soviets to bring the Empire to its knees. You succeed, but the newly elected American President suddenly goes rogue, making for Mount Rushmore in order to fire a secret laser cannon aimed at Moscow (it was built into one of the heads). You’re forced to head him off and kill him, while the President ended up to be right, as much as his actions were unnecessary at the time. Anyways, you’re forced to stop the Soviet leaders from escaping into space at the end of the campaign. The story ends with the Allied Commando, Tanya (Jenny McCarthy), and your comms officer, Lieutenant Eva McKenna (Gemma Atkinson), dressing up in black and white dresses, respectively, for a night out with you (assuming the player is a male commander).

Of course, the stories are all different based on the perspective of the three factions you play. I’m certain things will be different as I go through the Soviet and Imperial campaigns (coming soon in later retro reviews). For now, the use of FMV (full motion video, essentially live action cutscenes) is still retained as both tradition and homage to the now-defunct Westwood Studios, the original developers of the Command & Conquer series. EA closed down the developer when they bought out Westwood.

The multiplayer functionality no longer works. See, it was run through GameSpy, which is no longer in service since they shut down back in 2013. Since then, there’s currently no word if the game will ever be added to GameRanger for multiplayer services.

The game itself is pretty good, but I’d have to make a complain about the AI spamming a certain enemy type that some would see as kind of a dick move. For example, in the final Allied campaign, the Soviets will tear you apart if you don’t build up a strong anti-air group. This can be frustrating, as the Soviet Twinblade deals more damage and has more hit points than the vehicular Multigunner IFV for the Allies. Thankfully, the adaptability of the IFVs allows you to use a group of standard anti-air IFVs together with some with Engineers on board, effectively making them vehicle “medics.” The game is fairly well-balanced, but the tendency of the AI to play like a total dick with unit spamming at points can leave one frustrated.

Overall, the Allied campaign was good, but I still need to finish up the Imperial and Soviet campaigns to really make a comparison between all three and to put up a final verdict. Until then, keep slithering, my friends!

REVIEW: Always Sometimes Monsters

ASM logoI had Always Sometimes Monsters in my Steam wishlist for sometime now. Of course, as with ever other game I review, the premise caught my eye: your boyfriend/girlfriend left you and the game explores just how far you’re willing to go to get them back. Vagabond Dog brought a great adventure RPG to the table, one that I had somehow overlooked the past few months (ASM came out in May 2014). It was done in RPGmaker, an indie engine that allows you to make that JRPG you’ve always dreamed of. Except in this case, Always Sometimes Monsters has you play an average Joe. No money, no job, no significant other. You get an invitation to your ex’s wedding, to which you immediately set off on a cross-country journey. The game offers choices that drive the story (as with Telltale Games‘ titles and the previous game I reviewed, Psy High) but it seems that the choices are sometimes veiled to converge on one of only two outcomes.In my playthrough, I made choices based on how I would make them. Unfortunately, my college roommate and best friend married my ex and I went off a sad, pathetic loser. However, I questioned the game’s lack of choice in spilling everything that happened right when you’re able to object. I surrendered my one chance at picking my life back up in order to bail my friend out of a casino debt, to which I wish there was a choice for you to tell your ex that at the wedding. Instead, the only choices you’re given are to either shut up and let him/her get married, or object and make an ass out of yourself.

The first time I ran through it, she completely blew me off and got married anyway. The choices you make are far and wide, but I wish it was more diverse than making forced decisions. If the game was trying to reflect how the real world operates, then it does an okay job, at best. The world isn’t nearly as linear as Always Sometimes Monsters portrays, but that’s evidently the feeling you’re left with after just the first playthrough. On top of that, usually JRPGs have a pause before making a major decision; not the case here. While skipping text, I found myself making decisions without showing me all the options because the choice box pops up immediately when a decision question is asked. I wish the developers paid a little more attention to other JRPGs that do this so that the frustration level would be kept to a minimum.

The game does offer LGBT relationships, and this is how they work. In the beginning, you play as the host of a party. His wife tells him he’s allowed only one drink for the night, and that drink you share with almost any one of the guests inside will determine who you play as in the game. I ended up picking the Asian-looking dude who had a bottle of bourbon (I think, if I remember correctly). You then switch characters to the eventual protagonist and head out back to the patio to select your significant other, whether girl or guy. I picked a girl with sunglasses and long brown hair because she reminded me of someone I know in real life. The two of you sign a card, which determines your names for the game, and proceed inside to begin the story. I’ll keep this brief and say that Always Sometimes Monsters was an alright adventure game, but the lack of choices made the game feel heavily forced in a lot of situations when the world is so nonlinear in that sense. It’s great for a few playthroughs, but otherwise not really that much of a stand-out game. Try it for only $9.99 on Steam.

Verdict: 7/10 (Bite It and Leave It)

+ Models real life || + Choices drive the story of the game

= LGBT relationships are an option

Some choices offered were very narrow in diversity and felt forced || – Game had only two choices for final outcome || – Real world not as linear as the game tries to present

REVIEW: Psy High

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Once again, I picked up a new text-based adventure-RPG (ish) game from Choice of Games. A long time ago, I bought the entire trilogy of their superhero-themed Heroes Rise, which I liked. This new one, Psy High, tells your story about being a high school junior who returns to school with a magic power (once again, being able to choose whether you’re a dude or chick, and whether you’re straight, gay, or bi).

The game takes place in Kingsport, Massachusetts, which is also the name of the fictional town from H.P. Lovecraft. Kingsport is based on the real town of Marblehead, MA, located east of Salem. At Kingsport High, you kick off the story with your hobby-job of being the school’s private investigator, in search of a girl’s stolen iPhone. It’s revealed in the beginning that you, along with about a quarter of the student body, developed certain abilities during that previous summer, yours being clairvoyance. Should you choose to exercise your power, you also develop telepathy in a limited form, as you’re unable to read another person’s mind if they’re also being affected by magic (whether by an outside influence or their own powers, in the case of magic-users). You soon discover that something’s off at the school. The teacher that everyone scared of is also in charge of the detention room, which holds a deeper mystery.

You can also have several different romances. You start with your crush (Tyler if it’s a guy, Taylor if it’s a girl), but your best friend, named Alison, confesses that she’s in love with you later on. As the game allows choice of orientation, if you play as a girl, you can either start dating Alison when she confesses her love to you or go out with Taylor from the get-go. As always with RPGs that I play, I always put myself in the game as if I was there, and I make my choices accordingly. I will say that even though I’m not too keen on homosexuality to begin with, I still ended up accepting Alison as my girlfriend despite the fact that she has two moms. I mean, come on, if my closest and best friend had two moms and said that she was in love with me, I would go out with her.

No matter what your personal opinions are, the whole point of Choice of Games’ stories are all about that: choice. Your decisions, like Telltale Games‘ Telltale Tool engine, influence the direction of the story (although the Telltale Tool is much more in-depth, but I digress). As with Telltale’s games, though, the stories aren’t without fault. I did see some proofreading issues in some spots (especially with the sponsored games, which are apart from the in-house games) and also felt like some decisions were forced. However, I think this was a minor issue, as Telltale’s games also do that to tell a specific story.

So, overall, I liked Psy High, although it wasn’t as in-depth as Heroes Rise was, partially due to the fact that HR spanned three games to PH’s one. You can find Psy High on Steam or on Choice of Games’ website for $2.99.

Verdict: 8/10 (Sink Your Fangs)

+ Your decisions drive the game || + Good writing

= The game allows LGBT romances, but entirely left to the player to either explore or ignore

Lack of visuals may be a turn-off for some || – Some decisions feel forced to drive story

REVIEW: The Talos Principle

Featured imageI first saw Croteam‘s first-person puzzler on Steam several weeks ago, seeing the title card as The Talos Principle. WithInterest captured, I went to the game’s store page for the Public Test version of the game. It was free, so I decided then and there to download to my library and fire it up. The game plays in a manner very similar to Portal, the popular puzzler by VALVe Corporation. Instead of using a portal gun, however, you use only your two hands. The premise of The Talos Principle is somewhat very simple, but the game explores more of the story, weaving an intricate web of philosophy.

You play as a robot, waking up in a beautiful world littered with Greek-style ruins (which happens to be called The Land of Ruins) and a booming voice from the heavens introducing himself as ELOHIM. The Christian influences are quite apparent here, as some denominations agree that God’s name is indeed Elohim, but I digress. ELOHIM directs you to complete a series of puzzles scattered throughout the vast world scattered over three areas, the aforementioned Greek Land of Ruins, the Egyptian-themed Land of Death, and the Medieval-style Land of Faith. While completing the seven levels in each world, you interact with these computer terminals with files related to the history of the game’s setting, even coming into contact with an automated system called the Milton Library Assistant, simply known as Milton.

The gameplay mechanics are very responsive, and the puzzles are very cerebral in their solutions. You start with the basic Jammers, camera-looking devices on tripods that disable any electrical device they’re pointed at, be it a static barrier, floating mine, or even a powerful fan. You’ll soon unlock more devices mandatory to solving the later puzzles, including the Connector, which splits and redirects light beams, the simple Block for propping up devices or using as a platform (like the Aperture Science cubes), and the Recorder, a device that lets you prerecord actions in the puzzle, essentially creating a virtual clone needed to solve the more difficult puzzles. There are times where you get stuck, so the game has a reset feature where holding the X key causes you to press and hold a button on the back of your hand, literally rewinding the level to the beginning of the puzzle you’re trying to solve. The same thing happens when you die by any circumstance, whether falling off a cliff marking the boundary of the level, getting blown up by a floating mine, or getting shot to pieces by an automated turret. I did have gripes with the game on some of the puzzles, as some of the setups did seem insanely difficult to solve…until I realized that I wasn’t thinking creatively enough, to my frustration (an error on my part, not the game’s…a touch of brilliance). The goal of each puzzle is the same: figure out how to get to the end of the puzzle and collect a Sigil, a tetromino that looks like any of the pieces from Tetris. You use these Sigils to unlock other areas in the game, as the lock mechanisms require you to fit a certain array of Tetris pieces perfectly on a quadrilateral board.

The Christian themes are prevalent in the game, with the cathedral representing the Land of Faith, the seemingly all-powerful entity known as ELOHIM acting as God, and Milton…you’ll probably get who Milton is most like when you interact with him. There are also messages left behind by other people left in the form of QR codes on white paint, sparking indirect discussions about the world, the meaning of the puzzles, and the mystery surrounding ELOHIM and the Tower, a colossal structure that you’re forbidden from climbing. Additionally, finding the bonus audio logs and files in the computer terminals scattered throughout the game reveal the truth of the world in which [REDACTED]. The game has three distinct endings, one of which is only discovered by solving all of the bonus levels and puzzles beyond the standard sets in the game.

As I may have stated before, the game’s main theme explores the philosophy of humanity, what it means to be human, and whether existence merely makes humanity out to be not much different from the synthetic machines humanity has created. Here the discussions are left entirely to the player’s choice of words. I looked at the discussions from a fairly balanced viewpoint, as I personally believe blind faith is just as dangerous as being overly skeptical of the world. The game’s deep exploration of these concepts was rather stimulating, intellectually speaking, and I found myself very satisfied with the result I ended up with. The high praise from critics, I think, are well-deserved, as The Talos Principle lived up to my expectations based on what I played through with the Public Test version of the game. For the moderate price of $39.99 (currently 10% off as part of Steam’s Holiday Sale, making the game currently $35.99), I highly recommend playing through Croteam’s puzzler gem. The developers of the Serious Sam series have come through with a spectacular title if you’re a fan of Portal or puzzle games in general. Give The Talos Priniciple a definite look and you won’t be disappointed.

Verdict: 9/10 (Devour It Now)

+ Intricate storytelling || + Excellent mechanics || + Inventive puzzles that make you think

= Some puzzles have you get creative to find the solution

Some of the more difficult levels can be frustrating