Author Archives: Zoe_E_W

Game review: Dwarven Dungeons (Android/Netflix)

When Netflix announced plans to release mobile games as part of the standard subscription service, I got a little excited that finally, I might find some curated games without ads, in-app purchases, or annoying gameplay meant to coerce me into buying items to speed up the game. I’ve now played 6 games, and with few exceptions, I’ve dropped them all the same day I installed them. They may no have ads or in app purchases, but they are all still set up to run almost exactly like freeware games. I expected a similar result for Dwarven Dungeons, mainly because it’s an idle clicker, and I tend to lose interest quickly in games that pretty much play themselves. Instead, I stuck with this game for around a week and a half before rage quitting and deleting it.

In theory, it’s not a bad game, and even makes some improvements on the idle clicker formula. The story goes that a great evil had invaded the homes of the Dwarf kingdoms, and now five brave warriors have volunteered to reclaim their lost homes. That’s the whole plot, and gameplay is similarly easy to explain. Each of the five dwarves is armed with a pick axe  and a weapon. The pick axe is for busting rocks, and the weapons are for the monsters rooming the halls of each dungeon. In order to progress to higher levels, the dwarves need to be leveled up with gold, minerals, new weapons and new armor, which are found in every dungeon by breaking open treasure chests. Lastly, in addition to weapons, each dwarf has an elemental spell that can be upgraded to extend its reach as well as multiplying the damage it can do. The dungeons are randomly set up with a number of rows that must be cleared, at which point you can choose to press a button to go to the boss, or keep mining for gold and loot to raise your team’s power levels.

That’s the whole game right there. It’s a dumb premise, too. This great evil you never face decided that the best use of all this subterranean real estate was to pack it full of rocks, the occasional monster, and random treasure chests full of loot only fit for his enemies. But hey, game logic rarely tries to make even a lick of sense, so let’s just run with it. Or crawl, mostly, because the pace of every dungeon dive quickly turns tedious. Continue reading

Game review: Salt & Sacrifice for EGS

Salt & Sanctuary was one of my favorite 2D games in a long time, so much so that I bought it again on the PS Vita and played through all the classes again after beating the game 12 times on the PS4 version. When the sequel Salt & Sacrifice was announced, I was ready to join the hype train until I watched the trailer, and then I commented, “Looks good, but hunting mages is kind of a big step down from fighting actual gods, isn’t it?”

When it finally arrived on the Epic Game Store, Salt & Sacrifice proved to have deviated wildly from being a Dark Souls inspired platformer to borrowing heavily from another genre. Most folks are comparing it to the Monster Hunter series, which I don’t know because I bounced hard off of two separate games. But the new formula is also a bit like the God Eater series, which I had a better time getting invested in. I’d also compare it to the free-to-play Suda51 slugfest Let It Die. Whether you can get into this mage hunting labyrinth will depend entirely on how willing you are to indulge the daily grind lifestyle.

The way it works is like this: first, you hunt a named mage with a specific set of themed skills. They start out with the elements you would expect, with a pyromancer and a cryomancer being your first options. Then the game adds a hydromancer and an electromancer before tossing in venomancer, aereomancer, necromancer, and so on and so forth. After you defeat the named mage one time, somewhere in their starting area will be a shrine to unlock a slightly stronger nameless mage hunt of the same kind, and finding a Tome of Fate in the area unlocks Fated Mage hunts, which are like randomly generated daily hunt lists.

“But why would I want to keep hunting the same mage over and over?” You ask. Well, killing each named boss unlocks a set of armor and weapons specific to their class. So you’ll want to harvest icky bits from each mage to make the equipment that strikes your fancy. Additionally, mages have the potential to drop Pyrstones or upgrade materials that take all equipment from “cute but useless” to “workable instrument of death.” There is, however a huge but on farming pyrstones coming later in the review, much bigger than mine and my hubby’s combined, and that’s a whole lotta but, let me tell you. But first, let’s cover the basics: story, setting, and controls. Continue reading

Game review: Control for Steam

“Oh, boy, another review from Zoe,” you say. “How much did she hate the game this time?”

Well, in a plot twist you may not have seen coming, I LOVED Control. I was dazzled by the graphics, the story, the characters, the gameplay; everything. Is it a perfect game? No, but those don’t really exist. Is it a great game? Yes, absolutely, and barring a few complaints, I’m putting this beautiful beast firmly in the “need to play again” category.

Let’s start with the plot. Your character is Jesse Faden, a young woman guided to the offices of the Federal Bureau of Control, a Men in Black government organization full of the finest conspiracy theories, to search for her brother. The FBC took him years ago, and Jesse is ready to search for him inside their home base. But she’s shown up just in time to catch the middle of an invasion from extra-dimensional aliens who have possessed most of the staff and are using the FBC headquarters as a staging ground to invade the rest of the planet.

Jesse is aided by a silent partner, a mental hitchhiker who she frequently talks to while running through the halls of the FBC HQ. At first, I thought she was talking to me in some kind of fourth wall experiment, but the real answer of who the partner is is slowly revealed, and it’s a great bit of storytelling. Continue reading

Game review Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech for PC

OOOoooh boy, this game, y’all. I’ll be honest, I several times thought about just walking away from it, but then I remember I needed to review something, and I’ve already dropped something like 40 mobile games for being utter shit. Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech isn’t utter shit, and for long spans it was even somewhat enjoyable. It’s a bog standard RPG story about friendships and family wrapped around a card game, and I do like card games.

But you know what I don’t like? Games that randomly introduce absolute bullshit mechanics to give them the illusion of challenge because they couldn’t think of anything else to do. I’m talking about enemies who can kill player characters with one hit, or others who can instantly recover all of their health, dragging an already agonizingly long fight to double or triple the time they take to finish. There’s monsters who can hit all party members for half their health, meaning the next turn has to be spent guzzling expensive health potions instead of playing cards. Half the time, they’ll just cast the same spell again. It’s almost like they only have two cards in their deck.

All right, let’s set that aside. First things first, here’s the story. The game starts with two friends, the wannabe knight hero Armilly and the aspiring mage/alchemist Copernica, wandering outside their village to search for the great MacGuffin, conveniently leaving them unaware that the Void army is burning their homes to the ground and kidnapping the Heroes Guild to make way for unleashing The Behemoth and thereby destroying the world. As usual.

Upon returning to town, they pick up their childhood friend Galleo, a recluse living in his mother’s basement who serves as both a tank and a healer while also acting as that one guy who’s always complaining about doing any of this crazy adventure stuff. Later on, the trio are joined by wandering ronin Orik, who has a mysterious connection to the villain of the story, and then by twins Tarah and Thayne, orphans who are presented as thieves, but mostly serve as backup mages and healers. Continue reading

Game review: The Outer Worlds for PS4

Fair warning: this review is a lot longer than my usual write-ups, and there are a few spoilers. If you want to avoid those or just wanted a TL;DR version, here goes: I didn’t like it. For the rest of you, sorry I got so long-winded, but this one really rubbed me the wrong way, and I feel a need to overshare.

There’s a very vocal contingent of gamers who insist that among the first person iterations of the Fallout series, only Obsidian’s Fallout New Vegas is worth a damn. The story is more interesting, the system of skills and perks are superior, and overall, the gameplay just feels better.

With all due respect, I strongly disagree on all counts. Fallout New Vegas was ridiculous in depicting its factions, quite frequently forgot where it was going with the plot and thus didn’t offer dialogue options to explore tangents, and copy pasted a lot of the same butt ugly character models. It created the worst Vegas experience, an empty city cut off by loading screens every two hundred yards, and was still prone to crash after progressing too far into the story. When I say crash, I mean freeze the console and corrupt the save files so badly that one must restart from the beginning. “Just use mods,” some folks say, to which I point out, the game is on consoles, and there ain’t no mods to fix that broken, graphically hideous, fumbling mess. What you buy is what you get, and it’s what gets reviewed.

So here we are with The Outer Worlds, which fans have heralded as Fallout in space, jeering that after the disaster that was Fallout 76, Obsidian has effectively out-Fallout-ed Bethesda. Admittedly, I haven’t played Fallout 76 because it looked like a bad deal right from the start, but I do know that The Outer Worlds is no Fallout. Continue reading

Game review: Monkey King: Hero is Back for PS4

Folks, my disappointed feelings toward Monkey King: Hero is Back are entirely my fault for failing to pay attention to what I was buying. See, a few E3s back, a Chinese company released a gameplay trailer for a game tentatively titled Black Wukong, and it looked amazing. So picture me in a Gamestop, sorting through used titles when I see a very unmistakable Sun Wukong on the cover of a game. I got all giddy, like a kid at Christmas who doesn’t yet realize they’ve got the wrong gift by mistake. Did I check to make sure it was the right game? Nope. The fact that it was just 8 Euros only made me think “Maybe it wasn’t received well here, where not too many people know Journey to the West.”

But no, this is in fact an adaptation of a CG cartoon of the same name from 2015, and like so many film-to-game adaptations, this one isn’t very good. I knew that less than five minutes into the game, but I figured I bought it, so I might as well see it through and finally have something to review. What followed was roughly twenty hours of stale hell with the two worst traveling companions I’ve ever had the displeasure of being saddled with.

I don’t know how faithful the game is, but I doubt it did more than pay lip service to the script before wandering off to do its own thing. The story is simple enough. Sun Wukong, aka Dasheng, is trapped for 500 years in an ice prison before being released by Liuer, a young monk who needs help to discover why monsters are kidnapping children from all the villages. Dasheng initially couldn’t care less, but is forced into fighting by Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, who promises to remove the chains binding his magic if he continues to do good deeds. Although the opening scene is set with a fully animated vignette, many other cut-scenes are shown in still frames or with minimal animation. I’m not sure what the point was, except possibly to save money.
Continue reading

Book review: I Am Behind You by John A. Lindqvist

A book review? Do I even know how to do this anymore? I’ll tell you what, let me do two short hit jobs on a couple of other books that I didn’t finish as warm up stretches before getting to the real review. Sound fun? Let’s begin.

First up is that book I mentioned reading at work that got stolen along with my bike. I said before that I had maybe 30 pages left and I wasn’t sure if I cared how it ended. With more time to reflect, I can now say I don’t. The book is The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer, and I know I said in reviewing The Host that I would read her work in any genre, a spy thriller featuring a romance between a CIA torturer and her victim was apparently a bridge too far for me. Sorry, Steph, but better luck next time. Oh, and hey, good on you for having twins in a book and not using the hackneyed psychic twin connection trope, unlike my next victim.

Book 2 on the hit list is Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Clone, er, Owen King, and I shit you not, I tried sticking with this book for well over a year and a half even through reading each chapter felt like crawling across a carpet made of thumbtacks and table salt. Leave it to King to come up with a premise where all the women get transported to a magical land where they can rebuild society over many months, hold social circles, and eventually decide they really need the D. Meanwhile, over in the man’s world, only a few hours have passed, and that short time is a fucking endless treadmill of “Man, men sure are shit, right?” Yeah, I get it. I got it after the first five examples, and after that shit got drainingly repetitive, not even the promise of an explosive man battle could get me through the last 100 pages. I still remember King saying he was retiring because his stuff was getting repetitive, and while I have a top ten list comprised solely of his works, I kinda wish he’d either get back to retirement, or get back on the kinds of drugs that made his earlier work more interesting.

Right, with those victims dispatched, let’s talk about I Am Behind You by John A. Lindqvist, or rather, let’s take a moment to appreciate what a shitty choice of English title this is compared to the original. The original title is Himmelstrand, which refers to the songwriter and journalist Peter Himmelstrand. Peter’s songs are part of the story, as well as the writer himself. So even if the original title is a bit meh, it at least fits the story. Meanwhile, I Am Behind You is just meaningless. There is never a killer behind a victim. No one is ever behind anyone, for that matter. I Am Inside You might have worked, but whoever chose the English title needs to reread the story over and over until they come up with something more fitting. I know, it’s a moot point since they already published a trilogy and tripled down on these garbage names, but a girl can dream, yo. Continue reading

Game review: My Friend Pedro: Ripe for Revenge for Android

I’m sure I mentioned in my last post that I was close to finishing a book to review here, and it wasn’t long after that when my bike was stolen, along with the thermic backpack I needed to work, and the aforementioned book. I’m debating buying it again because I’m not sure if I liked it so much that I want to pay for it twice. On the other hand, I did only have 30 pages left…

Anyway, this is a review for My Friend Pedro: Ripe for Revenge (I will be shortening the title to Pedro for the rest of this post), which just came out on Android and I believe also on iOS. It is published by Devolver Digital, whom I have a lot of respect for even if I have yet to find a single game from their collective of indie developers that has fully clicked for me. That’s also the case here, but I want to talk about the game’s better points before laying out why it didn’t always work for me.

For starters, you can download the game for free and play all the levels, provided you don’t die. Doing so will result in the game asking you to buy the premium version before bumping you back to level 1 with all the levels you’ve played locked once again. In theory, if you were a badass gamer, you might be able to play the whole thing for free. I am not, so after a few rounds of making it to level 4 or 6 and dying, I said, “Eh, it’s only 2.49 euros, so I’ll just go ahead and buy it.” (I believe it’s $2.99 in the US.)

(Edit: This was how the game functioned at the time of release, but now the free version allows for saving progress by watching ads. I can’t speak to how that works because the update came out after I had already gone in on the premium version.) Continue reading

Game review: Psychonauts for Steam

I need to apologize for the long, long gap in between posts and explain myself before I get to the actual review. You see, I’ve bought three games, and in all three cases, I bounced off of them hard before I could get anywhere close enough to write a review. I’m just about done with a book for review, but lately it seems like I only read at work during breaks. Otherwise, I can’t seem to make myself sit to read.

Because of the gap between posts, it annoys me to be making this a negative review, but it can’t be helped. Let me start by saying that I bought Psychonauts around six years back and found the controller support to be pretty bad. I tried playing with mouse and keyboard, but I had major issues with the camera controls, leading to me rage quitting very early into the game. Recently, I saw someone comment that the controller support had been improved, so I loaded it back up and started over. I almost wish I hadn’t.

I don’t have any nostalgia for this game, or for Double Fine. I’m coming at this as someone who’s heard endless praise for this title as one of the greats, and went in mostly flying blind. What I found was a mess that gathers all the worst habits of early 3D platforming and covers them in an oh-so-wacky wrapper. Continue reading

I’m going to talk about mobile games now

When I first got my Kindle tablet, and later my first Android phone, I imagined that I would have a new and near endless source of review material. In theory it’s a pool of free games so I can have a new review every week to fill in the gaps made by my lowered PC and PS4 game budget. (And by my frankly abysmal recent track record with reading books for review.)

It sounded good, in theory, but in reality I ended up deleting a lot of games within hours of starting them. Some were puzzle games that insisted on showing me what gems/candy/critters to match if I even hesitated for one second and gave no option to turn “idiot mode” off. Others built their platforms around watching ads for other games. (Some games have asked me to watch no less than ten ads per day just to pick up daily reward items that other games gave just for signing in.) If I delete something that fast, I can’t really review it, can I? No, that simply won’t do.

There are games that I didn’t delete, and I kept thinking to review them, except I didn’t want to recommend any of them. I’m playing them regularly, most certainly am getting something out of playing them, and don’t see a reason to quit. And yet, I hesitate to offer them out and say, “You should play these, too.”

I think it comes down to two reasons, which I will name and then illustrate with examples from each of the games that are still holding my attention even as they frustrate me with free mobile mechanics. For now, the reasons I hesitate to endorse these better examples of the free market are their shockingly high prices for cheap digital tat and their built-in methods of hindering progress just to drag out the whole experience. Continue reading