Let’s take a look at … – Plantera

Clicker games are a polarising genre. While some enjoy the mindless grinding and levelling up, checking back every few hours to see how things are going, others just don’t see the point and consider them nothing more than a spectacular waste of time. While I agree they’re a waste of time, I still fall firmly into the first camp having dedicated 260+ hours to them in total. I love a good clicker game, and VaragtP, created of other clicker titles such as Tap Heroes and Loot Hero DX, is back with a third. Let’s take a look at Plantera.

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Plantera is a clicker game that revolves around the growing of a garden. You start with a small patch of land and have at your disposal a range of different plants and animals that will generate money as they come to fruition. From apple trees to pumpkin patches, and chickens to cows, there’s a number of items that can be added, 16 to be exact, to your garden to generate cash.

It’s not all plain sailing, however, and there a number of animals out to get your hard-grown produce. Wolves will wander into the garden that needs dealing with, and crows swoop down and grab what fruit they can. It’s a fun little clicker that doesn’t require much in the way of strategy or maintenance but allows you to simply sit back, turn your brain off, and appreciate your whimsical little garden world for 15 minutes.

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There are three types of plants available; crops, bushes, and trees, and you can have one of each on every patch of land that you own. As the produce from your plants and animals matures, you can either click it yourself to harvest it or leave it for the workers that you have pottering around your garden. There are 12 plants in total, 4 of each type, and each time you place one the cost for another goes up quite sharply.

There are also 4 animals, each offering different incomes. You’ll start with the humble chicken, producing eggs every now and again, but work your way to purchasing a cow, and then you’re in the money from its milk!

You start with a small area of land, and the number of plants and animals you can have are tied to this. For example, if you have 5 patches of land then you can plant 5 trees and have 7 animals (I made these numbers up, but they’re close). With enough cash, you can expand your land upping this limit, allowing you to purchase more plants and animals. Buy plants and animals, farm them, upgrade them, buy more land … rinse and repeat.

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Plantera will continue generating cash even when you’re not playing, but not in traditional clicker style. There is an ability called ‘Alarm Clock’ that increases the amount of time that your workers will work when away from the game. I can only presume that without levelling this up if you left your game off all night, your workers wouldn’t do anything!

It’s very click intensive if you want to harvest your plants manually. One click will remove them from the tree although they do drop naturally with enough time, and a second click harvests it. I’ve been playing this at my office, and I’m almost certain those around me are fed-up with hearing me frantically clicking my mouse and I gather apples!

In terms of progression, the game so far has scaled quite well, although I do foresee some of the later achievements been a bit of a grind. There is an achievement for getting to level 100, and an achievement for having 100 of each plant type. Things are slowing down now and the grinding has started. These could take a while …

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Plantera looks great. It’s got a very casual, cute, and relaxing pixel aesthetic. The animals are adorable, and the fruit and plants are colourful and playful. It looks great when your garden builds up. The music as well … man, I love a nice relaxing soundtrack and Plantera’s music is awesome. Everything that the aesthetics convey the music mirrors perfectly.

I have no real qualms with anything to do with it’s aesthetic, the menus feel a little under polished compared to the in-game aesthetic I feel, but it’s not a problem. The game has toggleable fullscreen, a number of language options, and cloud saving, which is great. The only thing that’s missing is a volume slider. The game features only on/off toggles for music and SFX, which wouldn’t be too bad but the game music is crazy loud! Earphone users beware the first time you launch the game, although I’m sure this will be fixed shortly in a patch.

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Overall, and bearing in mind I’m already a fan of the genre, Plantera is a great little time sink. It has the staple mechanics of a clicker game, and the graphics and music bring a sense of whimsy where you can turn off and relax in your garden for a while. There isn’t a tonne of items available, and mechanics are simple, but for the £1.99/$2.99 that’s been asked you’ll certainly get your monies worth.

Tl:dr – Plantera is a fun little clicker that will let you turn your brain off for 15 minutes and enjoy the charm of your pixelated garden. With a small selection of plants and animals, mechanics are simple, but for £1.99/$2.99 it’s more than enough to get your monies worth if you’re into the genre. If you’re not, then this probably won’t be the title that changes that opinion.

Rating – 8/10

Purchase – Steam £1.99/$2.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – CMYW

CMYW is a fun little arcade shooter that fans of Asteroids and other retro-style space games will definitely appreciate. The goal is simple- shoot enemy ships, collect the resources they leave behind after exploding, and take these resources to your portal. While doing this, you must protect your portal and yourself from being hit by these enemies.

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CMYW features extremely basic and colorful graphics that are reminiscent of the old vector displays from the 70s. You command an old-school looking triangle ship that ejects a tiny little spaceman when hit. Likewise, enemies are simple polygons and the resources they leave behind after you shoot them are yet smaller polygons. Pair the graphics with a fun and high-energy soundtrack and the game is perfect for a space atmosphere.

The goal of the game is to defeat enemies, collect resources and get them to your portal safely. The farther away you get from your portal, the more the map zooms out. There is also a minimap that shows where all your enemies are and stops you getting lost in space. Some enemies carry special items that change your weapons or give you boosts, and as the game goes on the threat level increases.

CMYW offers both keyboard and controller options, both take some getting used to, but you can adapt to either with plenty of practice. I prefer the controller, and it took me awhile to get a hang of spinning, moving, and shooting efficiently without floundering around all over the map. I had the hardest time with spinning just enough to aim right where I needed to. I would prefer if we could re-bind the keys to fix my issue with choosing to move instead of shoot, but I think that’s the main challenge of the game- mastering the controls so you can rack up the highest score possible.

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 Game modes include single player, local multiplayer (up to four players), cooperative, and competitive.  Score hunters will appreciate the leader boards as well. Overall, I liked this game but grew frustrated by all the mistakes I kept making with the controls. It’s definitely gratifying blowing up all those enemies and collecting resources, and dying always causes a bunch of frustrated yelling and laughing before deciding to try one more time… one more time….

 Tl-dr I would recommend this simple but challenging game to anyone who likes arcade-style shooters, especially for the tiny $3.99 price tag.

 Rating – 8/10

 Purchase – Steam £2.79/$3.99

 Trailer –

Let’s take a look at – The Beginner’s Guide (Spoiler Free)

Thanks to better, more affordable tools, Indie development has never been so assessable. It’s easier than ever for people to take their idea and make it a reality. Access to various game engines, and the wealth of knowledge and assistance from the online community, have given us a plethora of games over the last few years that otherwise might not have been. Games that make us laugh, cry, and kill, but above all, they make us feel. While The Beginner’s Guide is fairly short, and lacks the sense of adventure we find in many games, it offers a look into the mind of a developer, and tells a deeply personal and powerful story that is unlike anything you’ve experienced before.

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The Beginner’s Guide was created by Davey Wreden, the mind behind The Stanley Parable.  I went in knowing a little about this game but it’s IMPORTANT that you do not read or research what this game is about before you play it. To have any part of the story spoiled will detract from the experience on offer. The game is a walking simulator, you don’t do a whole lot in terms of puzzle solving or fighting enemies, so spoilers are costly. Don’t let that deter you though, this game is really enjoyable.

Davey is the narrator during the roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes you’ll spend playing The Beginner’s Guide. He tells a story of a fellow “real life” developer and his attempts and journey through game design over a period of 4 years. It starts off simple enough to understand, but starts to take an emotionally charged turn where you, as the player, are starting to make your own deductions based on the levels you encounter, the environment and the narration. This is important as this game is all about interpretation. Yes, you will be given facts that are clear and make sense, but a lot of it is speculation on the player’s part. It’s fascinating because it’s a story of trying to understand a person through their art and creativity.

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You’re going to find a lot of reviews already praising this game for its powerful storytelling and pacing. It’s a game that makes you wonder, interpret and reflect on its protagonist. You may even reflect its meaning against your own life and experiences. It’s fascinating to see a game talk about a topic in such a personal way that you can’t help but draw parallels to your own personal feeling and experiences.

Some links that were provided to me really helped me understand this game and its meaning a little better. Not because I didn’t when I finished, but I wanted to know more. I’m not quite sure what to tell you here though. Do you watch the video and read the blog post first before you play? Well you certainly can, but I think it might give away the meaning of The Beginner’s Guide. If you watch it after, you may understand it all much better and want to go back to really pick up on every detail. I suppose it’s up to you, the player, but I honestly found this information extremely enlightening consuming it after I finished the game.

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Also, playing The Stanley Parable isn’t a bad idea as well because it may provide some insight that could be helpful…. and it’s really just a damn good game.  Really Good.

I’d recommend viewing these links after you finish, but it’s your call.

http://www.galactic-cafe.com/2014/02/game-of-the-year/

Click on* Playing Stories with Davey Wreden

http://livestream.com/accounts/6845410/gamesnow/videos/83818176

Tl:dr – The Beginner’s Guide has a strangely accurate but misleading title for those who have not played it.  It’s more of a story based game with no action and little puzzle solving. It’s a short game, clocking in at about 1 hour and 30 minutes, but is powerful and intriguing. You’ll spend your time learning something deep and personal about the main character in this game, and maybe something about yourself. Overall, don’t read spoilers and go in blind. It’s worth it.

Rating – 9/10

Purchase – Steam £9.99/$9.99

Trailer –

Indie Showcase … – Super Axe Boy

Super Axe Boy is a platformer from independent developer Matthias Falk. Featuring a mix of 2D and 3D gameplay, Matt hopes to bring something unique to the genre with Super Axe Boy, and has turned to Kickstarter to make it happen. Looking for €25,000, and with stretch goals extending to €60,000, the campaign has reached 20% of its goal with 22 days left.

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Super Axe Boy sees you play as Axe boy, a humble lumberjack. One day however the Earth is invaded by Beaverians … a race of sneaky alien beavers, hell bent on building an intergalactic burger franchise … I appreciate a weird and quirky story as much as the next gamer, I just hope it’s presented in the correct manner and isn’t just there to retroactively add some kind of forced meaning to the platforming.

Speaking of platforming, one of the most unique feature of Super Axe Boy is the mix between 2D and 3D gameplay. The following is taken from the games press page:

“Levels will switch back and forth between 2D sections (emphasis on: precision, timing, fast movement, countdown sections) and 3D sections (emphasis on: sense of freedom / branching-off level paths, exploration, puzzle solving, cinematic sequences).”

The game is also promising a huge variety in gameplay, a retro chiptune soundtrack, and a nice low-poly aesthetic. Check out the games Kickstarter video to see this in action!

Here’s the full feature list from the press page:

Features

  • Unique mix of 2D and 3D gameplay
  • Cool indie/chiptune soundtrack
  • Huge gameplay variety
  • Fresh axe chopping mechanics
  • Unique graphical aesthetic
  • A silly story (but hey, still a story)
  • Memorable characters

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There’s not much to view of Super Axe Boy yet, but fans of platformers might want to stick it on your watch list! If you want to support the project then head on over to Kickstarter! If you want to learn more about the game head to its official site here!

Let’s take a look at … – Razenroth

Razenroth is a top-down shooter with a bunch of roguelike and RPG elements thrown into the mix. Perma-death, random levels and a multitude of enemies will put you to the test as you try and find out what happened to your missing grandad. Developed by Enitvare and released on Steam late August, the title offers a lot for a low price of £3.99/$4.99. Let’s take a look.

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Razenroth starts with an opening narrated-slideshow that gives context to the journey that you’re about to undertake. Your grandfather mysteriously went missing and whilst looking through his old notes you stumble across something interesting. You find the name ‘The valley of Whispters’, and identify it as a possible location of your grandfather so you head off in search of him. Deep in the woods you find a wooden cabin with a single note that reads ‘Run Charles’ and your journey begins.

The intro does a good job of introducing the game, but I can’t help shake the amateur feeling it gives off. The writing isn’t bad, but has some awkwardly worded sentences. The art is also not too bad, but again gives of an amateur vibe. Since it’s the first you see of the game I think it would have benefit from some TLC, and more production value would go a long way here.

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Once the opening cutscenes ends you get right into gameplay. You start in what appears to be the abandoned cabin in the middle of the woods from the opening cinematic. There’s no introduction to your surroundings, and no hints as to what you should be doing. It’s up to you get stuck in and work it out for yourself which I liked. Razenroth is a top-down shooter, so the mouse is used to aim and rotate your character, the arrow keys are used to move, and the left and right mouse buttons use the magical abilities that you seem to have gained from a book in the intro.

The controls are somewhat floaty, and I’m not sure if I’m a fan of it or I simply go used to it. You character carries inertia, so if you run in one direction and release the key you’ll carry on moving for a little while. It felt a little like walking on ice the whole time.

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Though the graphics are in the same style as those in the intro, the in-game graphics feel to be of much higher quality and the game looks quite nice with its hand-drawn aesthetic. Killing enemies produces some cool blood effects, and likewise the use of your abilities creates nice light effects. One area that could have used more work is the UI. Same reasoning’s as my comments regarding the opening cutscenes, it just felt underwhelming in places.

The meat of gameplay is exploring the procedural woods you find yourself lost in, finding and killing everything to gain loot, and finding the various items and destructible spread throughout the map. As you kill monsters you gain EXP, and each level up provides you a skill point to increate one of your characters stats and buy abilities. This is where the RPG features lie. You can kit your character out in the gear you find through your travels, level up certain skills to suit you play style, and purchase different abilities to make yourself a more formidable force.

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Spread amongst the normal enemies are tougher enemies that have a skull above their head. While tougher, the rewards are much greater as they drop gear. Alongside these tougher enemies are also fully-fledged boss creates. These are accessed via finding their portal in you level. Step inside it and you’re whisked off to another area to have a one-on-one showdown! It was at this point that I learned that Razenroth features perma-death!

There is also no manual save, and the game will only auto-save each time you beat a boss character. Once you die that save is removed and you’re back to start at the beginning! If you do manage to defeat the boss you’re taken to an entirely new area, with a different environmental theme and aesthetic and your journey stars once more.

Razenroth started slowly for me, and it took a few runs to get into it, but once I did I really started to enjoy it. The only area in which I felt let it was production value, and it would benefit from some more overall polish. Maybe it’s just the hard-drawn aesthetic that gives me that impression? The game is also priced very fairly at just £3.99/$4.99 so is a great cheap pickup.

Tl:dr – Razenroth is a top-down shooter with rogue-like and RPG elements thrown into the mix. While slow to get going, after a few runs I found my stride and enjoyed my time. With repetitive gameplay, I’m not sure how long it would hold interest for, but for £3.99/$4.99 you’re sure to get your value out of it.

Rating – 7/10

Purchase – Steam £3.99/$4.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – I Shall Remain

Zombies, or more accurately Survival games, have been all the rage lately. Ranging from 2D platformers to open world sandbox games, they seem to be everywhere, and usually seem to be stuck in a steam Early Access infinite loop. I shall remain is luckily not in any Early Access form, and brings enough to the genre to makes it its own. While not entirely polished it does offer a rare experience in that it is an isometric Action Role Playing Game (ARPG), not the typical survival sandbox. Let’s take a look.

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You start the game in an alternative post World War II setting. Nazis have unleashed a terrible virus in United States soil which has started to turn its inhabitants into flesh eating monstrosities. It’s a story about two brothers and their quest to find each other and hopefully survive long enough to do so.

Taking cues from games like Diablo, you pick a class which will determine your playstyle throughout the game. You can run-and-gun, be stealth, be melee focused or choose to take a more dialogue-centric approach and open new conversations and options. The gameplay is well varied and offers a lot of choice. Even time you level up you have a choice between 3 types of skill upgrades that can affect the way your character fights.

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There are a good amount of weapons as well. Moving and attacking are all done with the mouse buttons, allowing you to take whichever approach you prefer to fight the endless hordes of zombies. Throw in common, uncommon, and rare weapons, and the level of interest in picking up tons of items becomes worthwhile as you may find an upgrade at any turn. I was able to find 3 rare items in a short time which constantly gave me something to look forward to. Each weapon has a durability factor and can be repaired or broken down into scrap to use for repairing others.

Considering this is a survival game you are in a constant battle with weapon durability, exhaustion, stamina, and even the virus itself. You are also infected in this game, and with no foreseeable way to cure yourself, you can only keep the virus at bay with serum. There are multiple status icons and bars on the main screen which you need to monitor to fight at your best or escape when things aren’t looking so good.

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Pretty good atmospheric music plays while you roam the city streets, scavenging cars and buildings for supplies. Multiple NPC’s come into play and offer quests or pieces of the story as you encounter them. You can even have a handful of them join you in your quests! Outfit them with weapons and watch as that large creature that has been giving you trouble falls in half the time when fighting with an AI controlled friend.

Most of the zombies in the game are standard fair and then you start to see that some of the monsters are different. Spitting toxic goo at you, running much faster than the others, raging when they take damage, or even large hulking beasts that will stop at nothing to destroy you.  Some of the enemies even have a different color in the sense that they are an elite or champion unit that has a better chance of dropping a rare item. Of course they are much tougher, but never pass on the chance to fight one of these as the rewards are great!

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The world is fairly large, and actually only gets bigger as you progress. Subway tunnels come into play as a fast-travel aspect, allowing you to cover more ground or backtrack in a faster manner. This can prove useful as you will be travelling all over New York City completing quests. It’s a big game around the 20 hour mark or more so you can expect to be busy for quite some time.

This game has a lot going for it and is unique enough to try if you appreciate dialogue-driven gameplay with a hearty dose of fighting and survival. Though the character moves a little slow, and the realistic effects of stamina can be frustrating, it’s never much of a problem unless you have to walk a large distance. The pace is pretty good and kept me busy. I even enjoyed the occasional quick event that would pop up with a limited amount of time to complete a task for bonus experience and a break from the main story.

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My only problems with the game were really its overall design of the interface. Items are tiny icons with no text over them to know what you are picking up. The screen feels very busy due to the HUD, and normally your mouse doesn’t appear to hover over anything: you need to pause the game in a sense to see what everything means. Especially when you level up or a skill increases. Icons will just appear, and unless you’ve memorized what they all look like you may find yourself pausing a lot in the first few hours trying to take it all in. Dialogue is kind of ugly too as a lot of the conversations were hard to read just on the format of how it appears.

Tl:dr – I Shall Remain is a survival game like no other on the market.  A combination of Diablo meets Baldur’s Gate with a post-apocalyptic setting makes the experience deep and fairly satisfying. Rare weapons, equipment breakdown, a constant battle against hordes of zombies and other undead abominations gives the player plenty to kill and run from. Only a few visual issues take away from the experience such as the HUD overlay and lots of icons with no effective in game way to determine what they are without pausing. Once you get through the beginning hours where the game can be fairly unforgiving, the pace evens out and becomes a pretty enjoyable experience.

Rating – 8/10

Purchase – Steam £10.99/$14.99

Trailer –

 

Let’s take a look at … – Alien Robot Monsters

I’ve always had a bit of a problem sticking with tower defense games. Sure, it’s fun for a little while, but then the game gets either too overwhelming or is too boring to keep my interest. Finally, a game worth my attention! Introducing Alien Robot Monsters by Kraftix Games, a game well-deserving of its 100% rating on Steam. This game is also available through the Apple Store and Google Play for you mobile gamers out there. Let’s take a look.

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Starting with a simple tutorial, this space-colony-themed game begins with the basics of building towers. Upgrades are explained and it’s quite easy to get into the game right away. It has a bit of an RPG-type upgrade system, where stars are earned based on how well you defend your map, and those stars can be spent on different types of global upgrades for your weapons, health, and troops. As you progress through the levels in the game, other towers are unlocked in a skill-tree style manner, allowing many layers of updates in your game. There are so many options to choose from, the game never gets boring, even while you’re out of scrap (the game’s currency) waiting for the next wave of alien robots to come through the lanes.

One thing I loved about this game was the combination of graphics and audio/voice acting. The 16-bit style graphics are bright and colorful and very detailed. I love seeing my tiny little troops walk out from their tower to defend their colony. Reactions to button selections upgrades are witty and funny comments from the soldiers themselves. Somehow the repetition never gets old, when that’s normally something that would irritate me about a game.

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The menu system is clear and helpful, allowing you to use your earned stars to help your become more powerful and survive longer. There are informative tree-style maps of the different towers and their unlocked upgrades. Enemies have informative screens as well, so you can decide the best type of tower to counter-act their specific skills and defenses.

When I found out I could download this game to my iPhone for free (with optional in-game purchases), I tried it out there too. Same game, great graphics, even on my small screen. This game is a steal at $5.99 on Steam, but if you want to get a feel for it first, download it to your smart phone and give it a try. I think it’s much more fun to play on a big screen so you can see all the details easily.

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Overall, I would recommend this game to anyone who loves tower defense games, and to gamers who feel like they can’t find a tower defense game worth their time. The combination of price, graphics, audio bits, and fantastic upgrade system make this game one of my favorites I’ve tried so far!

Tl;dr – Alien Robot Monsters is a fun tower defense game that won’t bore you!  Thanks to fun graphics, interesting upgrade systems, and a price that can’t be beat, this winner from Kraftix Games is one you should definitely get for your game library.

Rating – 9.5/10

Purchase – Steam £4.79/$5.99

Trailer –

Lets’ talk about … – The Witness sets a release date with second trailer

Almost 2 years later the second trailer for “The Witness” has finally dropped. Jonathan Blow’s next game will be out on 26th January 2016 and that date can not get here soon enough.

Blow, featured in the incredible ‘Indie Game: The Move’, created “Braid”, which in many respects started the indie Game Renaissance that we are in today. If this game is anything like this last, we are in for something extremely special.

Watch the Release Date Trailer below.

Let’s talk about … – Socuwan looks to Kickstarter for funding

Socuwan is an Indie MMORPG currently in development by Karl Wimble. The title has been in development for over three years, and is written using a custom game engine created using Java and Open GL. Promising ‘a slightly quirky and refreshing twist on your usual, run-of-the-mill MMO’, Socuwan is now on Kickstarter looking to fund the rest of development.

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Socuwan is touted as being by the community, for the community: that’s certainly the case. Over the last two years of development, the community have provided around three quarters of the game content, including models, animations, textures, sound effects and music.

This community orientation carries itself through to gameplay, with a cooperative killing system and worwide duelling tournaments. Playing together will be rewarded, aiming to thwart the typical MMORPG process of finding a quiet area to grind.

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You can find more about the game on its website, and here is a breakdown of some gameplay highlights:

  • Worldwide duelling tournaments
  • Co-operative skilling system
  • Player owned houses in the game world
  • No grinding
  • Unique combat system
  • Thousands of weapon combinations
  • A diverse and unique looking world which is created by the community

If you like the look of Socuwan, then be sure to head by the Kickstarter campaign. With 18 days to go, the campaign has reached 12% of its goal so could use some love! The developer also has a long-running YouTube series document the development process, so check that out here if you’re interested. I’ll leave you with the kickstarter video for the title so you can get a better idea as to what Socuwan really is!

Lets’ talk about … – Zealous make open call to indie game developers

Zealous, a platform for matching talented creatives with clients is making an open call to all Indie Developers for an up-coming event in January 2016. The huge event will host 100 artists, 55 speakers, and take place over 10 days.

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The invitation has been extended to indie game developers, CG artists, character designers and much more. Submissions are open unitl 30th September, so head here to apply! The event is designed to showcase the most exciting UK based creative talents alongside industry talks, exhibitions, workshops, filmmaking, gaming, demonstrations, get-togethers and gigs. If you’re a creative based in the UK you’ll want to check it out!

Here’s a feature-list of what can be expected from the event:

  • It’s free to participate and 51% of all tickets sold will go to the creative talents selected to showcase their work at Zealous X
  • An independent panel of exciting judges (full list to be announced soon) will be selecting the best 15 creative talents in each discipline to be showcased at Zealous X
  • Build lasting and valuable relationships across the creative sector • Selected works will be showcased on a curated exhibition at the Rich Mix
  • A day dedicated to short films and story telling
  • A day dedicated to interactive and gaming • 15 gigs across the festival
  • 15 performances across the festival, including cabaret, dance and spoken word
  • Promotion on Zealous’s online channels

It will be great to have so many different creatives under one roof, and showcasing their talents side-by-side. Creative project can be submitted at http://x.zealous.co/be-showcased/.