Let’s take a look at … – Rogue State

Rogue State is a geo-political simulator that puts you in charge of a country as its supreme leader. The choices you make will affect your approval of the citizens of your country, the Parliament cabinet you work with, and even the opinion of other countries around the world.  Based on your actions you might deal with internal revolt, attacks from other states or possibly become the most powerful nation in the world.

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I’ve never really given one of these games a play-through before, so it was a bit difficult to get right in there as I would imagine most of these games are. My problem for a newcomer such as myself was the very limited tutorial. It covers the basics and then sort of tells you to experiment and figure it out on your own. I had to devote a decent amount of time learning this game. This can be problematic as there isn’t any form of control beyond menus and clickable options.  Unlike a traditional war game where you command units, you more or less place them where you want, and they will either win or lose depending on how strong your military is. It’s a numbers game really.

The game takes place in your presidential office where you visit various aspects of your governmental state. You can change tax policy, make phone calls to ambassadors around the world, start trade policies and make economic changes via sliders. There is also the aspect of building your ruined state to its former glory through different branches. Depending on what you prioritize you will either become a major economic force or a militaristic one. Remember to try to keep the majority of your citizens happy though or they will start to turn on you!

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What I did find interesting is how we as citizens of our own country always think that making decisions is either obvious or easy. Truthfully, the issues are much more complicated than that.  Appease one group and another starts to turn against you. This game did teach me that being a supreme leader is a lot harder than it looks, there’s no way to please everyone. Just try to do the best you can for your country and give attention to where it is needed.

You may some issue at first trying to figure this game out, but in the end you may find yourself a little more enlightened in how much power you truly have, or how powerless you are to the forces that surround you.

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Tl:dr – Rogue state is a geo-political simulator that is basic in its design but really has a lot of depth. Though the tutorial doesn’t offer much direction outside of some basic tools to get you started, the game can still be played and it’s best to learn from your mistakes and make note for your next play through. There was some eye-opening lessons to be learned from running a country, albeit in an unrealistic fashion via a video game. Even with all the power in the world, you can still be totally powerless against the forces at will. Rogue State is a niche game that can either totally engross you or frustrate you depending on what sort of games you have fun with.  It’s not bad, just totally different.

Rating – 6/10

Purchase – Steam £9.99/$12.99

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 talk about … – Rogue Legacy

I’m hooked on Indie games because they’re unique and cheap. Developers want to get their name out there, and to have a great game, it has to stand out from the others and not cost an arm and a leg like well-known franchise games like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed.  There are so many fun, creative games out there, and you can buy them for next to nothing.  As a PC gamer, I comb through the following places to find my next inexpensive purchases:

As a reviewer for this site, I am also lucky enough to have access to game keys given to us by developers who want us to review their products.

Some games aren’t that great or just don’t interest me. Some games are fun but I stop playing after racking up a few hours. However, sometimes I score the game that grabs all of my attention for hours and hours of play time, leading me to read forums, wiki pages, and guides for more info. Oh, and I talk about it. A lot.

At the end of April this past year, my Steam app on my phone notified me that something in my wishlist went on sale. I was delighted to see that it was Rogue Legacy, a rogue-like RPG platformer released in 2013 by Cellar Door Games that was both recommended to me and I was also warned about- apparently it is difficult as hell. $4 later, I installed this new game and started playing.

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I kid you not, I died within seconds.

Flabbergasted and a bit disappointed, I tried again.

Dead. Super quick.

I turned to my husband (also a gamer) in shock. I was starting to wonder if this was even worth $4. He just shook his head at me- he was used to me starting a new game at least once a week. Pretty sure he expected me to give up on this one quicker than usual.

I pressed on, though. Not sure why. I have very little patience, but something about this game drew me in. Slowly, I began to learn how to kill enemies, gaining gold so I could upgrade my skill tree, finding blueprints for equipment so I could get more passive protection and skills, finding runes to make the armor even better.

Within a few hours, probably between 10-20, I was fully addicted. The kills are so satisfying.  The traits on the characters (to be explained later) made me laugh. Grinding wasn’t a chore like it is in most games. In fact, after a death, I would have a hard time NOT going back in for another round.

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Now, 69 hours, 22/28 achievements, and 45 screenshots later, I’ve beat the game THREE times. I’ve maxed out every point in my skill tree, found and purchased every blueprint for every piece of equipment, and found and purchased every rune. After game, game+, and game+2, game+3 didn’t prove to be any more difficult, and I was forced to give up playing this fabulous gem. All I have left are 6 achievements that are insanely tough, if not impossible for me to earn.

Here’s the premise. You play offspring of your previous hero, fighting evil in a procedurally-generated map. That child dies in battle, then you choose between three of their offspring to take into the next battle. This is an RPG, but you don’t buff up one character- you upgrade the entire available set of skills and equipment. Carefully choosing your child each run is important. They will be one of several hero types (assassin, barbarian, etc) and come with none to a few traits. These traits are hilarious in some instances. Your child might have IBS (farting while jumping) or corprolalia (cussing after being hit), for example. Other traits are helpful, like better knockback, or no foot-pulse, which prevents floor spikes from being triggered. Some make your life difficult, like vertigo (the screen is flipped) or ectomorph (you’re skinny and enemies knock you back far).

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The map is divided into four main areas- castle, forest, tower, and darkness. Rooms can be empty or full of enemies. They might contain chicken drumsticks (health) or mana potions.  They might have coins, treasure boxes, containing runes, blueprints, or character upgrades.  You might run into special challenges, games or mini bosses. There’s even a room where you can change the game music. Each main area has a boss. Survive each area and defeat the boss, and the main door at the entrance of the map will light up, signifying that you beat that boss.  Defeat all four bosses and the main door will open. This will allow you to beat the two-part game boss.

Another way to beat bosses, which I haven’t been able to do yet, is in remix mode. After you beat an area boss, you can go back into that room and attempt to battle with a character the game has chosen for you. This is insanely difficult and despite how well I did otherwise in the game, I don’t last more than a few seconds with these guys. If I could, I might be able to get the rest of the achievements.

The game is simple to learn, but you will die, over and over and over again. But it’s ok- each upgrade will inspire you to try again. It’s insanely addicting. After you die, a screen will show up with all of the enemies you killed lined up. It’s fun to try and make the number more than last time.

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The graphics are cute, retro, and colorful. The music never gets old- I even downloaded the soundtrack. This game has full controller support and game play was very satisfying. The RPG aspect of this was extremely fair and even. The platforming is challenging but not something that will make you pull out your hair.  Replay value is great, and even at full price ($14.99), this game is worth the buy.  And guess what!  It’s also available on PS4 and Xbox One!

Tl;dr – This humorous, retro-style RPG rogue-like platformer is addicting and SO satisfying, with great replay value and a great price point, even at full price.  I can’t recommend it enough and can only hope that the developers might consider a sequel.

Rating – 10/10

Purchase – Steam £10.99/$14.99

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