Let’s take a look at … – The Dungeoning

My default favorite game type is RPG rogue-like platformers, so I didn’t hesitate to review Nick Donnelly’s The Dungeoning, which was released in April of last year. Despite the mixed reviews on Steam, I was determined to give this retro-style game a fair shot.

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This game is exactly what you’d expect from something of this genre- a procedural dungeon map with ghosts, bats, and other creepy crawlies, with chests and boxes to open, potions, and basic weapons to upgrade. Upgrade your character with the experience you get from kills. This is all very straightforward….and then there’s perma-death. Extremely frustrating, but that’s the reason I love these types of games.

The game tosses you in head-first. There’s very little instruction besides some pop-up tips that occasionally show up in the lower right of the screen. No real storyline. Music was nothing exciting.  Graphics are retro and simple, but I liked them immediately. Controls were not as intuitive as I’d liked (I often manage to use potions instead of wielding my sword). Of course, I died almost instantly right off the bat. The few achievements I earned in my following runs didn’t synch with Steam until about two hours of game-play in. For an achievement Nazi like me, that’s a big no-no.

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I decided quickly that I hated the game. It was boring and quirky and didn’t have much charm to it.  The controls (which I refused to even look into rebinding- I like testing the game as-is) and achievement issues bothered me. There wasn’t anything unique about this particular game that would make it more interesting than some of my other favorite rogue-likes, such as Rogue Legacy with its hilarious traits or Binding of Isaac with its black humor or Ascendant with its unique graphics and weapons.

I then realized something. I kept playing it. I couldn’t stop. Despite the lack of anything unique in this game, I found myself going back to it to try again. I still die often, but quickly made it to level nine after being stuck on level six for too many runs. I learned more about the way to react to baddies and how to upgrade intelligently, and my achievements came rolling in. Oh no, am I addicted? I think I am! Who cares about the music- I muted it and put my own on. Yeah, there isn’t anything unique about this particular game, but it does what it should- gets you hooked and makes you want to do better than your last run.

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So, I don’t hate the game. I actually LIKE it. It continues to frustrate me, but for other reasons. Level nine took it from difficult to insane- too many enemies around me to survive. It’s hard to live if you get swarmed and don’t have enough potions and items to heal yourself. I figure this is something else I’ll learn to overcome as I keep trying over and over.

Overall, I don’t think this game really deserves its mixed reviews. I give it a thumbs-up. If you just want a difficult perma-death rogue-like to play, pick this game up. Worried about it being worth it? It’s only £4.99/$6.99, or wait for it to go on sale. I’d definitely add it to your collection. You might find yourself itching to do one more run, one more run, one more run….

TL;dr – The Dungeoning is a very stereotypical RPG rogue-like platformer with perma-death, but don’t be fooled- you’ll be just as addicted as any other game with more bells and whistles.

Rating 7/10

Purchase – Steam £4.99/$6.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Sproggiwood

Let’s start by saying this game wasn’t quite what I expected. I downloaded and installed Sproggiwood happily, excited to give it a try after very favorable reviews from a friend and because it happens to be my favorite type of game- an indie roguelike. “Awww, what adorable cute graphics!” I thought, thinking this would be one of those relaxing puzzle-type games. Boy was I wrong. Cute? Certainly.  Relaxing? Um, unless you enjoy being wildly frustrated, no, it’s not relaxing. But it is definitely a GREAT game….even though I had to attempt even the first map way more times than I’d like to admit.

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Freehold Games released Sproggiwood in October of 2014. This turn-based, story-driven roguelike is loosely based on Finnish mythology, telling the story of humble Cloghead. This unsuspecting farmer, who lives in a land ruled by the god of time Raako, is recruited by one of Raako’s mischievous guardian spirits, Sproggi. Sproggi is concerned that the inhabitants of the land will eventually resort to war and wants Cloghead to get civilization back in order. There’s a problem, though- the arrival of the mushroom species. Cloghead needs to control this sudden unwelcome addition to the already chaotic situation.

Gameplay is divided into levels in the form of procedurally-generated maps. Each map contains chests to open, potions to stash, coins under leaves and in pots, items that will slow you down, and of course plenty of enemies, including a boss at the end of each map. This game is turn-based, and each one of your movements or attacks is a turn. Each enemy type has an attack style and set amount of hit points so you must plan accordingly. Some even have effects after they are killed. Several play-throughs of each three-part map could be required to figure out how to manage the set of enemies you’ll find.

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Leveling, health, and stamina management are typical for this type of game. Health potions, stamina potions, and shrines can be found around the map if you’re lucky. Each time you level, you are presented with a set of abilities that you can unlock or upgrade at an appropriate character level. Each character has different sets of abilities, so you might find yourself having a favorite. Melee characters seem to have an edge in this game.

Pot and chests can also offer weapon and armor upgrades, as well as other random bonuses, both active and passive. After the first time you find a new item, it can then be bought in the shop found in the home screen of the game before you start a new round. This helps you start off beefier than if you were to go into a map with the default starter items. You can also buy “Civic Boosts” upgrades to permanently raise your base stats.

The home screen offers a view of your town and offers the ability to “decorate” it by adding buildings, trees, and landscaping. It has zero impact on the game but gives you something to do when you need a break between frustrating runs. After you beat levels, new characters show up in your town, so you might as well give them a nice place to live!

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The graphics are cute, colorful, and laid out well, with minimal yet appropriate sounds and music. I played this game on my PC through Steam (£10.99), using a controller to play and keyboard to decorate my town, and the key bindings are very intuitive. Sproggiwood is also available through the AppStore (£7.99) and Google Play (£7.74).

Tl;dr – Sproggiwood is an addicting, story-driven, turn-based RPG with adorable graphics, procedurally generated maps, many ways to upgrade several characters, and lots of challenges.

Rating – 9.5/10

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Steredenn

Blast your way through never-ending enemies and tough bosses in this brand new early-access title from Pixelnest Studio. Steredenn is a shoot-‘m-up that is both gorgeous and addicting; with big, colorful, pixels laid out in beautiful retro-style space atmospheres, overlaid with a wide variety of enemies blocking your path.

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You are a ship with a simple task: survive the onslaught of space pirates. You begin with a basic weapon that can shoot constantly as you weave around the screen, trying to annihilate all other ships in each round.  Bonus points are awarded for destroying all enemies on the screen before they vanish to the left and then more points for not taking any damage. Some ships will drop any of 34 other new weapons that you can pick up and use as you see fit. The game allows you to swap between two weapons at a time, so you have to be smart about what you pick up and which you use in certain situations. But think fast, because it’s easy to become quickly overwhelmed and lose the battle.  And yes, you have to start over from the beginning.

There are three modes of play: normal, arena, and challenge. Normal is typical game play to see how far you can get past waves of enemies and 10 bosses in 20 environments. Although this game is called a roguelike, there is no RPG element to this game. Your only hope of getting better is simply learning the mechanics and the attack styles of your enemies, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each weapon type. If you’re the type to be obsessed with beating your old high score, you’ll love this game even more. Arena is a mode where you can battle bosses that you’ve beat in normal mode, allowing you to set and beat previous win times. “Challenge” mode is currently grayed out in my account, possibly to be added as the developers work on the game.

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The soundtrack for this game is one of the first things I noticed and enjoyed. High energy, and perfect for the action; it never gets old no matter how many times you have to start over. I’m picky about music in my games (I often turn it off completely if it annoys me in the least), but I love the style they chose, a mix of electronic and metal.  Check out a sample here:  https://zandernoriega.bandcamp.com/album/steredenn-original-soundtrack

This game is still being refined, but it is very playable, and I only had one small issue so far. After defeating a boss, my next round of play had no enemies, just space rocks. This was a one-time glitch, though, and Pixelnest encourages reporting of any bugs so they can perfect their game before official release.

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Steredenn is now available in Early Access on Steam for $9.99 (or your regional equivalent), with a 10% discount for early adopters, and will also be available for Xbox One. They are aiming for the official release in July or August. Interested in more? Check out their dev-log at http://steredenn-game.tumblr.com/.

Tl;dr: Steredenn is an addicting early-access shmup with gorgeous retro environments and fast-paced never-ending combat set to fun, high energy music that will have you wanting to “try one more time” over and over again! 9/10.

 

Let’s take a look at … – Convoy

Convoy is a squad based, tactical combat roguelike-like from the small team at Convoy Games. Development originally started in 2013, saw a successful Kickstarter campaign towards the back end of 2014 and is arriving on Steam today for £9.99 or your regional equivalent. Let’s take a look.

The goal of Convoy is to find various spare parts required to repair your broken ship. They are scattered throughout a dynamic world, filled with random encounters and events, and it’s your task to safely make your way through and complete your objective. To help achieve this you have a convoy of vehicles at your command, and it’s through them that you will complete the task at hand.

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Your Convoy consists of a main vehicle, MCV (Main Convoy Vehicle), and a number of supporting units. You only get one MCV, and you need to make sure it doesn’t die or it’s game over: I’ll touch on this a little later. Supporting units however can be picked up throughput the game as you build up a bad-ass convoy, capable of surviving the harsh world around you.

The vehicles in your convoy can be upgraded, with better weapons and stat upgrades available from the various camps found scattered throughout the world. These can be found on the game map, where the majority of gameplay takes place. Through interacting with, and taking part in, the random events you’ll encounter whilst travelling you unlock bolts and loot. Bolts are the game’s currency and will be used to purchase your upgrades.

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The game map is where the bulk of the decisions are made, and your game’s direction is decided. Here you move your convoy around the map, manage your objectives and can see information on your cargo, currency and fuel. When moving around the map you will run into random events that prompts a text dialog in which you have to choose how to respond to the situation. These text-based interactions have multiple outcomes, and your choices in them are crucial.

Respond to a passing convey incorrectly and they’ll spin-around and fire at your ass. Each encounter can lead to a beat-down, and given they are random you are constantly on edge. You also don’t have the ability to view the map without moving to that location, there no free-view. If you want to explorer an area you have to go there and play to hell you don’t run into anything that could overwhelm you.

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The other major component to convoy is the vehicle fights. If negotiations with an enemy fall short, or you’re just in the mood for a fight, you move away from the map, and get right down into the action. With direct control over each vehicle in your convoy, you have to fight off the attacking enemies. This is a nice system, and adds some real action to the generally decision-based gameplay, but is not without its flaws.

Your main MCV is centred, with your supporting units surrounding. Enemies approach from all sides, and you have to fend them off while keeping your MCV alive. You can move each vehicle individually, and they move in a very nice, smooth way to the target location over a period of time. There is a tutorial available that shows how to use this system, and in there the smooth movement of your units feels great. In the fast-pace of combat however I thought it felt sloppy and unresponsive at times. Sometime you want to get your unit out of the way fast, or to the other side of your MCV in a hurry and often that doesn’t happen and you find yourself waiting for the unit to gradually move into position.

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In these fight scenes you are driving constantly to the east, and various obstacles come at you which you have to avoid such as terrain. If you don’t get out the way in time your unit is instantly destroyed, and it’s in these situation where the slower movement really becomes apparent. Sometime you just can’t get out of the way and it makes the death feel a little … unfair.

There is a tactical mode available when in combat that allows you to pause the action, whilst still being able to command your units. This gives you some breathing room when things get a little manic and you need a moment to strategize.

Convoy isn’t a forgiving game. With a death resulting in the end of your game, and resources such as gas been precious, you have to plan each move carefully and think about all possible repercussions. I get why this is fun, and it does put you on edge at all times knowing failure is a wrong answer away, but I feel it’s a bit too much. I feel it’s at a point where it’s to its own detriment and it gets in the way of some gamplay.

With gas been a precious resource, and the fact that random encounters happen often, I felt like exploration was too risky to enjoy. There is a whole world around you but it’s just too dangerous to head into it and see what’s going on. You have to stick to the objectives and get the job done. You can’t view the map without moving your convoy, so you have to just wander aimlessly. If the game promoted exploration then this would be fine, but it doesn’t; you seem to be punished for exploring.

I think the risk vs reward is off. For example, you see a mission so head over there. It takes you a short distance away from the nearest camp. You end up in a fight which you couldn’t avoid. Afterwards you try to head back to camp to repair, but end up in another unavoidable fight and that’s game over. You can’t afford to take chances and explore, which for me is where the fun would lie in this. It’s incredibly punishing, and that was on the easiest difficulty!

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I see what convoy is, and I understand why it’s punishing as it wants your decisions to be calculated and deliberate, but I felt the risk vs reward and heavy punishment gets in the way.

On my first attempt, on easy, I died within 10 minutes. A couple more runs and I started to understand that exploring and taking risks seems to be the wrong way to play, but for me that’s the fun way to play. In order to stay alive for any amount of time I had to play so conservatively that I wasn’t having much fun. More just making sure I was making the right moves.

What it wants to do, it does well. So if you’re a fan of this genre you’ll most certainly enjoy the challenge. For me however, it was a bit too much and made me feel too restricted.

Tl:dr – Convoy is a punishing roguelike-like strategy game where each move has to be calculated and deliberate or it will most probably lead to your downfall. What it wants to do it does well, so existing fans of the genre will relish the challenge. For me, I found the punishing gameplay forced me to play conservatively and restricted what I wanted to do.
Rating – 6.8/10
Purchase – Steam £9.99 or your regional equivalent