Steam Summer Slump

Yeah, so poor I can’t even afford to stop using stock photos.

So, I’ve been hesitant to write a new post lately… But then to the 3 of you actually reading this, do you care? Anyway, I WILL be back writing new gaming articles once the Steam Summer Sale has stopped grabbing every spare penny I can muster from the sofa cushions, and once I’ve actually got round to…well, playing games and disappointing family who hoped I would be able to do something with my degree.

So nyeeh, I’m not dead, I’m not *really* lazy, I’m just pre-occupied with this horrible “Real Life” (HALF LIFE 3 CONFIRMED!) stuff. And if anyone is complaining that there aren’t enough “HURHUR SHOOTAHS!” on the Steam sales at the moment, the acid pits are over this way.

Oh, and apparently Charlie Brooker is awesome. (I lost a bet, yet grudgingly agree).

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No new post? HOW DARE YOU! (Said no-one, ever).

Well… I was going to do a post today, regarding either The Walking Dead: 400 Days, or Cube World. However, Walking Dead came out at roughly 8-9PM over here, whilst the Cube World servers are still down so I can’t buy it. (Yes, I’m a normal, money-paying citizen with the rest of you. I don’t get games thrown at me for free). So all day I’ve been torn, the continuation of the excellent Walking Dead game from Telltale, or the VERY interesting looking Cube World from Picroma. Well, yes Walking Dead is nice and cheap, and guarantees as good a time as a person can have short of actual human contact (…). Yet, when taking into account budget, would I sink more hours and equally as much enjoyment into Cube World? Answer: Who the fuck knows?! Cube World still isn’t on sale after the server failures (Forgivable considering this is a game developed by a husband and wife team, who had no idea their servers were going to end up rammed more than a porn star), and I’m still wondering if I should hold off on the new Walking Dead episode till I replay the first season (Enjoyable as it is, this will be my third run through due to formatting my PC without backing my saves up. Yes, yes, idiotic me, waaah waaah).

Leave your suggestions below. I will eventually do a write up of both (An Alpha Alert for Cube World and a review for 400 days), but which should I get first?

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Alpha Alert: Prison Architect

PA1

I regret nothing.

I’m starting a new type of post that covers previews of current games that are in their paid “Alpha” stage. As such, I will only comment on the currently implemented features and game as it stands, and will not comment on any bug, no matter how screen smashingly infuriating they are. Unless they’re funny. Funny is always good. Hence: Alpha Alert. And I’ll endeavor to cover each game after a certain set of alphas have been released, as some tend to update very quickly, whilst others have a slower boiling point. Either way, I’m here to tell you whether you should or should not buy into a game in its current state. Once again, I’m not affiliated with any studio or other website, I don’t get paid to be a grumpy bastard by anyone. Nor am I currently in the role of “Person who gets sent games for free in order to review” (Although I wouldn’t complain…). So I’m living on bean on toast to help you decide whether an alpha project is worth doing the same for.

Prison Architect, guess what it’s about? Yes, I’ve bought my name into the game, call me a corporate shill all you want. But with Introversion being the developers (Also behind the likes of Uplink, The incredibly awesome Darwinia and Defcon, as well as the cancelled/hiatus-fodder Subversion), I couldn’t resist. It’s about time someone did a new “Tycoon” style game that didn’t get shanked in the kidneys as soon as that label turned into a cash cow. And now we’re onto Alpha 11, freshly off the (workshop) presses and into the eager backers hands.

Of course, the game is about building, managing and running your prison. Which plays out in a way VERY similar (not an insult by any means) manner to the Bullfrog games of old, with a nice pinch of Dwarf Fortress thrown in for good measure.  In this, you design the buildings in which your prisoners live, work and feed, whilst also assigning the appropriate staff (Guards, Chefs, Workmen and Doctors etc) to overview your sickeningly cute convicts. The felonious fellows in question being, of course, beyond your direct control and subject to their own needs (Knives! Drills! Escape! Muahaha!) and desires. It’s your job to keep them content and serve their time in peace.

Inevitably this can lead to minor fights, or even major riots on your first few tries (A personal favourite of mine involved my circle-handed inmates starting a riot because they didn’t have a set of clean y-fronts. This has since been fixed, and I cried shallow tears into my crooked gamer-claws) but the intuitive nature of the “Needs” (Viewed by clicking on an inmate, or hiring a psychiatrist for an overview of the population) means you can quickly figure out what to build.

Building itself has undergone a bit of work since the first Alpha last year, now presenting a smoother way of planning (A tool is included for drawing grids to plan out layout designs, and is a big time saver for symmetrical prisons) and building. other updates include the ability to assign jobs to prisoner. Previously, the “Workshop” room served as a placeholder for making quick cash, whilst the prisoners themselves never actually needed to use them. That’s gone now, with the workshop serving as the source of the worlds number plates (licence plates). On top of this you can assign your prisoners to work in the laundry (Fresh underwear, YAY!), Kitchen (Stabby implements abound) or cleaning room (….Can’t think of something amusing for that one…). Which admittedly takes a load off of your budget if you can’t splash on janitors of chefs, especially in the face a starving, filthy populace.

Feed, my minions!

Feed, my minions!

Impressively, each building requires some form or power or water system to function. All of which is modelled in a very geeky simulation. By this, I mean water pressure needs to be consistent (Big pipes have lot of pressure, small pipes only carry so far..), whilst connecting power from one generator to another causes a short out, leaving your prisoners in the dark (Ba dum tish). For larger prisons, modelling the wiring and piping of your empire is just as important as the layout itself, failure to do so resulting in dry toilets (I didn’t really want to check out if they still pooped in these…) or showers of nothing, resulting in cutesy pixel bum cracks standing under a shower head wondering why nothing’s happening. (Yes the pixel bum cracks are a thing. Avoid the obvious observations, thankfully that doesn’t happen here.

That’s just the overview of the game, sounds good, yeah? Well, each update offers new features being implemented. Introversion have wisely decided not to give a full release date, and have justified their current alpha price model. As such, the latest Alpha (11 at the time of writing) implements a few new features, whilst concentrating more on the bug blasting and performance enhancements. Among these, “Prisoner Release” is the big one, paving the way for future plans. It’d be nice to have a small pop up, maybe in the corner, that prisoner “Cocks” or so is being released (Yes, that’s a real name in the game, I laughed too but I have the sense of humour of a six year old) rather than panicking blindly because some little sod has walked out of the front gate and is giving me the finger on his way to freedom. Hearses have also been introduced, which is a blessing after last releases “Riot” update, now that the fleshy little meat sacks can clear out my bloody morgue, rather than stinking the place up for eternity.

I have also noticed a big performance increase at normal speeds when running a larger prison. However, during construction whilst at higher speeds a memory leak does occur on my machine. I’ve no doubt, knowing the speed at which the guys at IV work and nail down issues like this, that it’ll be fixed at some point. But there’s definitely an improvement to overall gameplay speeds in the larger maps, which is great now they’ve added in the ability to buy more land from either side.

Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend buying into the Alpha. I’ve heard many a complaint such as “Price is too high” (Hint: They want players interested in the game, who are willing to give them feedback. Plus, for £20, it’s more game than you’ll get in most places. At least it’s not Walletary Annihilation money we’re talking here), or “It looks like an iPad game!” (….Get out.) So yeah, I may be a bit grumpy about this game for it’s premise (Which has caused it’s own controversy that is talked about on sites more qualified than here.) not having been done nearly as well before, coupled with the fact my own prison on the Steam workshop only having two comments coupled with over a hundred downloads (Yes, I know it sucks, at least tell me as much you pussies). But, for a management game that harkens back to the days when those types were enjoyable. I recommend looking into Prison Architect.

You can enter the alpha Here (Which includes all the tiers, such as getting your name, or even your face into the game for me to lock into a room, as well as a Steam key), and is also available on Steam Early Access. The funniest bugs are also covered on Introversions twitter, for added hilarity.

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One Big Grumpy Family: Rogue Legacy

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So, Rogue Legacy then. Sod this game. Really. And not in a bad way.

You see, it’s hard to be a grumpy bastard when it comes to games that hook me like this one does. That’s not to say it’s perfect, and that it is the Messiah of the Gaming Grail or something, it’s just that I thrive on humour involving shit games (Heh, Colonial marines… HEHEHEHE). But having spent the past few days trying to finish the damn thing, failing miserably and yet still, STILL, returning for more punishment… It’s hard to come up with a logical reason to hate it. Apart from the loss of productivity I suppose.

If the name didn’t give it away, Rogue Legacy (if I abbreviate to RL, most will confuse it with Real Life… Fuck, I hope not.) is a roguelike (or “Roguelite” as Cellar Door Games like to call it) game, in which you have one life to attempt to finish a bastard hard RPG game, usually in a procedurally generated setting (Randomly generated. I have to state this as my mum is now watching this blog, shaking her head in disappointment, whilst understanding pretty much only 10% of what I’m saying. Hi Mum!) and crying into your keyboard when you fail. But Rogue Legacy takes it a step further with an element of persistence, in that every time you die, your money is passed to the “Children” of your family (Though quite where our intrepid idiots/heroes get the time to have families is beyond me. Still more plausible than most games I suppose.) who act as your next character. This money is then spent on upgrading your family Manor, which in turn benefits your future characters and so on and so forth. A surprisingly intriguing system when compared to the tried and true (and fucking boring) EXP system of most games. Each choice of upgrade requires careful consideration, Do I upgrade my health so I can survive further into the Castle and maybe make it as far as the forest? Or do I upgrade my weapon damage so I can turn the lesser monsters into gold pinata’s in one hit? Or maybe I want to upgrade all future generations of Barbarians (Cue Basil Poledouris soundtrack) into Kings and Queens of Barbarism, making them face smashing walls of pure awesome? (Guess which is my favourite class.) Each bares a bit of thought, especially early on.

The game itself is split into areas. At the start, you will stick more to castle setting, before moving to the more advanced areas, and absolutely bricking it when accidentally stumbling on an area too far above your current status. To help with this process, the game scatters journal entries from a previous explorer that provide a humorous, and ominous, hint to the challenges that lay ahead. After quite a few hours in (The screenshot above was taken on my last playthrough), I’ve only beaten 2 of the areas. Hence my scorn at this bloody game for absorbing my life. The replay value coming from the fact that each area is randomly generated every time you enter the main doors at the start of a new generation, with the obligatory payment to that scrounging bastard Charon, who will claim all of your gold (Less with upgrades thankfully) every time you enter. The game also gives you the option to replay the previous dungeon layout, with use of the Architect once you’ve unlocked him. But this comes at a hefty price.

During gameplay, it’s controlled in the fashion of a (admittedly good) modern 2D platforming game (I’ve heard comparisons to the better Castlevania games being thrown around, I’m not a platform fan so screw comparing it to anything I know. A surpising comment seeing as an earlier article featured similar gun-based gameplay….) with the obligatory “Oh fucking come on!” sections of mild frustration. But after a few upgrades where you’re blazing through earlier sections, laughing maniacally and swearing death upon the families of innocent NPC’s who get a quick hit on your nigh-invincible arse because they pushed you onto a set of spikes) it quickly becomes a thrill, and you find yourself eagerly seeking out gold in every nook and cranny (and chandelier, which the game ALSO makes fun of for utilizing the old “eating fresh-food-in-the-trash” mechanic).

The main appeal of this “roguelite” though, is the family system. Which, is admittedly interesting, yet is a bit bare. After each death you get a choice of 3 randomly generated children of varying classes (Or not if you get stuck with 3 fucking miners…) which also feature random traits. Each child will be assigned between zero and three (Apparently, I’ve never encountered more than two) traits, which can be beneficial to gameplay (OCD wins! Regenerate mana for every item you break) or detrimental (Seriously, fuck vertigo. I lost perfectly good whisky trying that out) to your game. Is it a very rough generalization of serious ailments people in real life suffer? Absolutely. Is it an interesting mechanic that could have been expanded upon? Certainly. Some offer extra challenge, whilst others offer extra benefit and access to areas that you would of otherwise been forced to miss, but it all adds to your decision for “who will be my heir?” (My personal opinion would of been to have the “Gay” trait restrict your heir choices to one or maybe two possible heirs. As it stands, it seems to serve no purpose game play wise).

So, is this worth playing, or even forking over £10/$15 for? Depends on your point of view, as with all things. Myself, I’m not THAT invested in Roguelike games (Except maybe FTL and a few others), nor am I that involved in the platform scene. Yet the replay value and pure “Just…one…more…generation…” appeal has hooked me, hours to price wise, more than games that cost twice as much. It’s a lovingly crafted game, with a few minor flaws, yet does it’s job and is a very worthy game in its own right. As I said, it’s hard to be grumpy about this game. Bastards…

Rogue Legacy is out now. You can try the demo and buy it from Here or Steam

(Buying from the developers is cheaper and also grants you a Steam key)

Edit: I’d also like to “thank” Adam Smith of Rock, Paper, Shotgun for mentioning this game at Rezzed in an off the cuff manner, a few days before posting his review, as well as causing me to look at this game and lose hours of my life to it.

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To Mun and back: Kerbal Space Program

First off, I am in NO WAY affiliated with Squad, or Kerbal Space Program, beyond being a customer like the rest of you fellow peons. I have to clarify this, purely for my unusually-less-than-grumpy stance. So to start, and keep my unnecessary swear quotient up: Fuck, I love it.

Few games these days hold a lasting appeal to my whisky poisoned mind, but anything space related tends to have a more permanent grasp upon my dark, hunched form. It started in “Ye Olde Dark Ages” of gaming with anything that held a black background and a wire frame representation of a vessel for travelling through yonder stars. If you don’t get the reference: GET OUT! (No, but seriously. GET OUT!)

And now we have Kerbal Space Program. A bastard hard (Unless you’re a real life astrophysicist or rocket scientist.) game that tasks you with starting a space program for your gullible little green wimps. I say “tasks”, but really there is nothing beyond the tutorials to drive you forward except your own imagination and desires, a consequence of this still being an Alpha game at this point of time. And by Jeb, what an Alpha. (I’m currently writing this as a preview, playing 0.20, although I have played since 0.13). Using, I hesitate to say it, a “Spore-like” snap interface to build your rockets, including solid state boosters, liquid fuel engines, fuel tanks and even the payloads, such as landers and satellites. Everything is based on “Real Science (TM)”, and so you must carefully weigh mass versus thrust (Or whatever the “Real Science (TM)” terms are, I forget and just have fun with it while I somehow learn beyond my grumpy capacity) in order to get into orbit. Yet this is just your first step. Orbit around the planet Kerbin (The in-game representation of Earth, complete with ugly little aliens like you lot.) is actually a relatively simple thing once you nail the basics, and next comes landing on the Mun. This, again is relatively simple, but can you land and return to Kerbin? Sure there is no penalty for wasting the lemming-like Kerbidiots, but still. Their adorable faces as they smile blankly whilst floating in the void inspires you to return them safely.

But what then? How about exploring a whole solar system? Or maybe building a space station? (My crappy efforts can be viewed here) Want to build an un-manned Rover to this games version of Mars (Duna)? Then do some sweet jumps off of its cliffs (Bitching guitar solo optional)? Sure, if you can figure out how! Yeah, the price tag may SEEM a bit steep at first glance, but try out the free demo, learn how to land with the basic parts they give you, get intrigued and buy the damn thing. As I said before, I’ve sunk hours into this game purely because of the wonder and majesty of space exploration that is present here, combined with semi-realistic representations (it IS an alpha still) of space travel.

Starting out can be both daunting and terrifying, both in the full game and the demo, but fret not, as the community has your back in several forms, including their extensive Wiki which features extensive Math things that make no sense to my feeble drunken mind. Alternatively, you can turn to the den of scum and villainy that is Youtube for their various Let’s Play and tutorial videos from the community (I highly recommend Scott Manleys videos for being helpful, funny, informative and not making me want to tear my ears off). Anyway, every screaming-Jeb-filled explosion is just another step toward progress I say.

You can get Kerbal Space Program from their site, or it is also available on Steam early access. The Demo is available on both.

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