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16 Oct 2018

Golden Krone Hotel

If you have a fondness for the Halloweens and you like to cosy up to a fright night on All Hallows Eve, then I have good news for you.

The Golden Krone will be stalking your Hotel dreams tonight!

Golden Krone Hotel 1 is now available on Steam in Early Access 2 and this Gothic Horror Roguelike is primed to spook and delight you in equal measure.

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This pixel art traditional roguelike is soaked in blood and bathed in light, where you tip toe on a thread between vampire and vampire hunter, where lighting or the lack of it dynamically alters your tactical decisions, and illuminates or shades your path through the Golden Krone Hotel.

The shifting perspective between the lightbringer Human adventurer and the desperately needy Vampiric survivor, really plays out in the mechanics and provides a strong thematic foundation for the action to be lifted beyond the “usual” roguelike adventuring.

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So as you bob for your apples, suck down your pumpkin soup or devour copious quantities of black pudding, throw a few shiny coppers down on the game to book your room at the Golden Krone Hotel, and settle in for a night of terror-ific excitement!

To get the lowdown on Golden Krone Hotel and it’s development, listen to the developer Jeremiah Reid 4 talk with Darren Grey 5 on the Roguelike Radio Podcast Episode 138 6.

Or for a general look at Horror across the roguelike genre, check out Roguelike Radio Podcast Episode 140 7.

Or check out the recent Rock, Paper, Shotgun article 8.

Or check out the devs blog 9.

For a quick look see at the game in action, I would recommend Waervyn Plays:

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Footnotes:

Tags: Enthuse
16 Oct 2018

Cogent Mind

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The 7DRL that has been in mechanical incubation for a few years has finally arrived on Steam! 1

Cogmind is the story of the mini-mechwarrior ascension of hunted AI from a vulnerable naked Core to an armour plated, tech scavenged, weapon besotted, killing machine! The Rise of the Robot. Your mind to the cyber mind.

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The hardware heart beating at its core is a traditional roguelike that has been tweaked and tinkered with to provide an explosively tough gauntlet of survival.

Your prime directive is to escape the depths of this robotic prison, using only your sensors and ad hoc construction abilities, using salvaged components from slagged bots who got in your way.

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There is a lot to like in the basic premise of the game, but it shines in its Matrix-like presentation, in its effective delivery of information when building your escape “mech” and in the visceral action depicted with dramatic explosions and powerful realistic sound effects.

Did I mention that the sterile labyrinth environment is deformable, a couple of good rockets and you can pretty much cut your own way through the rock!

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The game is often pitched as a robot building game, but for me, the level of detail, variety and complexity on offer reminds me more of the design process required when putting together an effective Battle Mech. Subsystems such as locomotion being open to multi-legged, treads, wheels, hover or true flight, multi-slotted weaponry with a deliciously obscene number of options, and an array of utility tech that keeps getting more interesting and tactically useful as you ascend towards your freedom (and possible doom!). These subsystems require careful balancing with your build’s limits on weight, heat generation, core protection as well as power and matter resource management. The struggle for survival also takes a toll on the durability of all your components. The machine under your control is not one that takes part in Robot Wars. The machine is more like a sophisticated piece of military hardware such as a MechWarrior or Battletech frame, yet it is built from the ground up, according to your designs or playstyle.

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Since the quality of hardware available to you is dependant upon how high you’ve managed to climb in the complex, and you get zero experience for killing hostile bots, you need to assemble something that just works enough to get you to the next staircase up. But perhaps you can refine your build based on what you find, perhaps it evolves into something better, more sustainable… this more than anything keeps you chomping at the byte and propels the action forward.

All components have detailed specifications, and elaborate ASCII artwork to accompany the depth.

The game runs in both ASCII or tiled mode, and seemlessly weaves the same magic in both modes.

The game is soaked in lore, but not in an overtly obvious way, its hidden in terminals that can be hacked at risk to your anonymity. You can perform cyber-hacking wizardry that will clone your chosen components into blueprints that can be assembled at fabrication stations.

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The environments are varied and comprise of procedurally generated zones where a whole ecosystem of hostile and non-hostile bots go about their business whether that be patrolling the area, or cleaning up scrap parts, or fixing the zones infrastructure. There is plenty of diversity on offer in terms of what bots you’ll come up against, if you like their kit, you can kill and salvage (or even steal it).

It’s a tinkerers paradise. There is always something new to pickup and consider integrating it into your build. There is always something better, somewhere else. And the journey is a battle to out-configure the calamities you will face on the way.

The game delivers a beautiful action framework, lavished with interesting detail and engaging danger, where you can actively take part in an emergent narrative, with surprises galore!

My hopes are that the game will reach an extended audience of not just the diehard roguelike players, but also the tinkering dungeon crawlers and the mech building tactical players who want a deep and interesting challenge.

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This is most definitely a traditional roguelike, but it carries the genre into new exciting territory and its a wild ride!

Strap a couple of Particle Guns onto your frame and lets get the hell out of here!

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You can check out Cogmind here:

If you want to see what Cogmind is like, and learn its mechanics in an easy to follow Lets Play, I’d recommend Quill18’s latest run.

VIDEO 6

Footnotes:

Tags: Enthuse
11 Oct 2018

Caves of Qud Guide

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Recently, I’ve been fascinated with the weird world of Qud. Fully realised in the game Caves of Qud 1, developed by the nice chaps & chapesses over at Freehold Games 2. I’d bounced off the game early in its development, because I seem to have a fear of open spaces in roguelikes. I see a full screen of open space no matter how it’s elaborately decorated, and I see a screen, without tactical definition, without corridors or columns to use in my exploration and survival. However, I’ve been getting more and more excited about Qud as this year has rolled on, and particularly after watching the Roguelike Celebration 2017 on Twitch 3 with all its refreshingly enthusiastic community, pomp and circumstance.

So, I thought I’d do a piece to open the front door and peak inside the rich and verbosely stunning world, and perhaps let some of the sunshine and the stink of slime moulds float in…

Since I’ve followed Qud for a number of years, I know it was inspired by the tabletop RPG Gamma World 4, amongst other things. Whilst I’m not familiar with that gaming system, I thought I’d seek out any commercial fiction centered around the setting, to get me in the mood.

I found this title Red Sails in the Fallout 5 and it had some really good reviews, so I bagged it on audiobook and have been enjoying the exploits of these anthropormophic heroes, a mutant quoll scavenger called Xoota and a mutant lab rat scientist called Shaani.

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In Qud, Water is everything.

I’m no expert in Qud, I’m just an explorer beginning the journey and want to help others get a toe-hold into this exotic but dangerous world. Gather your waterskins and torches and lets get crackin’.

NOTE: Qud is in constant development and this guide may outline the basics, but the starting experience mnay have changed considerably from what is presented here.

1.0 Character Creation

Qud front loads the character creation with an overwhelming amount of choice and information. So to get you going without worrying too much about what is on offer, my advice would be go with something straight forward but interesting. I pick a Mutant, that is more physical in its mode of survival.

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Horns, claws, thick fur, night vision, good hearing, a poisonous stinger and a skunk or squid like ability to exude sleeping gas out of its pores. I boost strength and toughness, and a little in agility, and try to minimise the negatives on my more mental attributes (intelligence, willpower and ego).

Lastly I pick a sub-type class as Marauder, which gets Axe proficiency, butchering, and a charge in ability - good with the Horns.

If you have come from Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (DCSS) 6, I guess this would be a little like a Minotaur Beserker. But it’s not really. Because I have a poision stinger and some sleeping gas. So I’m going to call this a Raker. And thus I name him “Rake”.

Let’s pretend this is sort of what I look like, but with a huge poisonous Stinger tail.

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I think the hive-mind generated newbie advice is often to choose a True-kin human Paladin. They get a lot more bonuses and are possibly hardier. But who doesn’t want a stinger or sleeping gas?

You get a limited number of mutation points, but you can take on some mutant defects to swell that pool a little more, so I chose Analgesia which gives you an extra 2 points, and means you can’t quite determine your exact health state, but you have a general idea. I can live with that. I have horns!

Roll with what you fancy, but go steady on the fancier more mental mutations until you feel comfortable in the game. A good Raker will get you so far, so you feel like you’ve accomplished “something” before your demise. Whereas if you take on mechanism a little beyond your expertise, you might be looking at an early demoralising smack-down.

2.0 Welcome to Joppa, now indulge yourself a little

You enter the world of Qud in a peaceful place called Joppa. There’s plenty to look around and see, some people to talk to. Just get your bearings.

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Since you’re new, and you start with very little.. it’s time to be a bit naughty. Do a little light-fingery. Become a thief. Just to give you a leg up. A head start. A little boost.

There are three huts, with chests in. Explore them, open the doors, and make sure you CLOSE THE DOORS, before having a snoop through the contents of the chest.

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You may find some useful items, or it may all be rubbish. With the door tightly shut, stuff the items into your backpack. You’re going to do some questing for these kind folks, so you’re sort of just helping yourself to an “advance” of the rewards you’ll get later. Rake has horns. And gives off sleeping gas in excited moments. He can live with a little guilt.

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Grabbing whatever you can should help out, especially if there are artifacts on offer.

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With inventory bag bulging, lets take a moment to revel in the tile based glory. The two tone sprites do a good job of depicting the quirkiness of Qud, without going too far and spoiling the imaginative overlay you can bestow on the place and the peoples. If your sprite is white, you’re ok. My analgesic health state says “Perfect”. If it goes green, to yellow, to red, you’re in trouble, you should FLEE! Simples.

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Now lets bask in the other glory, if you’re a little ASCII Curious. As you can see Qud does ASCII justice also. If you like your roguelikes as Rodney intended, then et voila.

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3.0 Get some Quests

Time to talk to the town folk and see what you can do to help. The Red guard Mehmet will give you the Red Rock quest. This could be construed to be your starting quest. Accept it.

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Next up. In the bottom left hand corner of Joppa, there is a merchant called Argyve, he will trade and identify stuff for you. But he also has an immediate quest to seek two Artifacts. You may have looted some artifacts from the chests (naughty Rake!), this would be an ideal time to make Argyve’s day. Talk to him, and accept his Artifact quest. Give him an Artifact. You gain Experience!

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If you have another artifact, do it again. He will award you with more Experience! You may level up! This is a rather fine bonus to your start in Qud. Extra hitpoints, skill points and a mutation point! Woohoo!

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Talk to him one more time and he’ll tell you of another Quest for the Copper Wire. You can help him build the Weirdwire Conduit. Accept the Quest.

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In the top right hand corner of Joppa there will be a shrine to one of the worlds Sultans. Go visit it.

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When you read the Shrine, you’ll be bestowed with the knowledge of a sacred place for that Sultan and you’ll get a quest to visit it.

Have a quick look-see of the Quests..

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4.0 Check yourself

First things first we need to check yourself out. Make sure you are best suited to adventuring, before you set off into the wilds of Qud.

4.1 Inventory

A quick squizz at your inventory, so you know what is in your backpack. Luckily the inventory is sectioned into categories for your convenience. Make sure you have food, water, torches (if needed) and possibly ammo if you have any ranged weaponry that needs it. Also keep an eye on weight, you can only carry so much.

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4.2 Abilities

Most important to your survival is your abilities. Make sure you know what they are, and that they are hot-keyed for ease of use.

Move the cursor down to the ability, hit Enter, and press a number. D1 my charge ability, is activated by pressing ‘1’ on the keyboard. Important combat abilities slot in the low numbers, utility, buffs or escape skills slot higher up. Always know where your SPRINT skill is, I think the game defaults it to number ‘5’ for you. Some abilities can be toggled on or off, like my butchering.

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4.3 Character Sheet (Attributes, Skills & Mutations)

This is important to check now and then, because it gives your base attributes and mutation levels along with any resistances and progression you may have made. This is where you check your Skill points accrued, any Attribute or Mutation points to spend.

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Since we’ve levelled up, we can spend that Mutation point. Move the cursor over to the Mutation and hit Enter.

I arbitrarily decide, I want slightly better Horns. So I spend the point bringing Horns to a level 2 mutation with a 2d4 damage increment on the 20% proc. More gore damage the better when I charge at things. Boost whatever mutation you think will help you early on. Remember you’re still a little vulnerable even though you think yourself a level 2 experienced master thief!

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Since we have Skill points it may also be worth checking out the available skills to purchase and their costs for something to work towards when we earn more points.

This is your skill tree, with each main skill having specialisations and bonuses that often cost skill points and have certain attribute requirements (see items in red as being lacking, they can be skill point cost eg. 100sp, a prior skill in the heirarchy eg. Cleave, or a physical attribute eg. 23 Strength).

Since I’m a Raker, I’d like to boost my Axe skills by getting Cleave and then Charging Strike. So I need to collect some serious Skill Points 250sp to afford both. I have 70sp in the bank.

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4.4 Equipment

Have a quick butchers at what you are currently kitted out with. You can see all my equipment slots, and current protection and damage potential.

A quick rule of thumb cheat sheet (as far as I understand it):

Blue diamond     = Armour Value (AV)      - protection
Dim circle       = Dodge Value (DV)       - whether hit or not

Higher AV usually has a penalty to DV.

Cyan Right Arrow = Penetration Value (PV) - whether you penetrate
Red Heart        = Damage (as dice 2d4 = 2x4-sided die rolled) - how much damage you do

PV is compared to enemy AV. If PV = AV you'll do 1xDamage, if higher you may do multiples.

My horns and stinger have high PV. Which is why I’m a Raker!

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4.5 Faction Reputation

Make a mental note of who likes you. Dogs (and Goats because I’m horny - that come out wrong!). Green is like, Cyan is neutral and red is Hostile. The Children of Mamon REALLY don’t like me.

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5.0 Adventuring Time!

That time has finally come. If you slip off the Northern edge of Joppa, you will enter the world of Qud. At any point you can tap ‘-’ (minus) and zoom out to the World Map. A colourful sight to behold. You stand just outside Joppa in the bottom left hand corner. The Red Rock mines are just North of your current position.

The World view is fixed, Qud’s regions are mapped out, however each tile on this map can be several screens worth of procedurally generated landscape with a whole plethora of flora and fauna and other humanoids with which to interact positively or negatively.

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Let us press ‘+’ (plus) and zoom back in, to continue Northwards to Red Rock.

Wandering the lands you will stumble upon some strange creatures, some ambivalent to you passing through, some who are hostile to you and want to see you come to harm, or be their next meal. A handy tip is to always check an area with the ‘Alt’ key, hold it down to see only living entities and their intentions (green = not hostile, red = hostile). This one view alone will become invaluable in determining threats and finding your way out of overwhelmingly tricky situations.

Often its worth looking at the creatures and finding more about them, because information is power in the precarious pursuit of survival.

You pass a salty stretch of water, where a brooding rosepuff grows. You are amazed by the undulations of the spores into a rose plasma. Each plant or animal examined will often reveal their status, their difficulty and their relations with you. Who would want to disturb such a perfect example of mutated life in Qud, when it neither wishes you good nor harm?

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Remember to check water pools, most are brackish and salty and of no value (unless there is a way to purify them of their salt content?), but you may stumble upon a fresh source of water, and indeed it is a necessity for life and survival but also in the World of Qud, fresh water is a currency with which to arm and kit yourself out with useful weapons and tools.

Be mindful of the scarcity of fresh water.

I continue Northwards. And make it to Red Rock! I finish one step in my Quest there. More Experience!

The glowcrows are attacking the feral dogs as we explore the area, which highlights that the world of Qud is a living breathing vicious place to be.

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I start to explore the crimson sediment ruins, and I am chased off by a Horned Chameleon. I gird my loins and head down begin a charge at the creature!

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He is tough, but he cannot withstand the mighty bulldozing a charging Raker can deliver! My horns gore the creature into an early grave! Leaving only a spattering of it’s blood behind.

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No sooner have I recovered that I am irritated by an Irritable Tortoise! I give him a taste of my Axe to irritate him further.

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It bites me somewhat, nibbling me injured.

Instinctively I let loose a cloud of my sleeping gas, a musky smelling pheromone to ease it’s irritation.

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And when it drops asleep, I move away to assess the situation. The shelled monster nods in and out of consciousness.

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And with that, I level up again! Getting stronger, more attribute, skill and mutation points to spend to hone my hairy frame into a Rakish force to be reckoned with!

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I shall leave it there, with the Tortoise at peace, for now. With my Axe poised to end its irritability once and for all.

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I hope this little foray into the World of Qud 1 has piqued your interest for the endless challenges and possibilities abound. A desperately cruel and radiated world full of mutations and factions of hate, but also a beautifully poetic living world, where you truly are a part of it, trying to survive as best you can, with only Darwin’s help in understanding the selection pressures and the mutations you can mould yourself into.

Footnotes:

Tags: Enthuse
06 Oct 2018

Cosmic Star Heroine

Listen to the article as an audio sidecast over on the Clod of War podcast 1

Cosmic Star Heroine 2 is a journey back into the world of 16-bit JRPG’s, with a cybernetic eye firmly focused on the future of streamlining mechanics and story for modern players. The retro styled, turn based party adventure is deftly crafted to invoke nostalgia whilst providing the warm glow of admiration at just how enjoyable and smooth the gameplay feels. The 1980’s cyberpunk theme of the game rounds off the slick package, accompanied by a stirring emotive soundtrack by Hyperduck Soundworks.

Developed by Zeboyd Games 3, veterans of previous RPGs such as Breath of Death VII, Cthulhu Saves the World and four incarnations of Penny Arcade’s On the Precipice of Darkness. They kickstarted the game at the beginning of 2014 with a view to releasing at the end of the same year. A total of 6,400 people backed it for a healthy sum of around $132,689. This was obviously a title that the Zeboyd fans really wanted.

After a lengthy and troublesome period of development, the game was finally released in April 2017. I’m so pleased that the Zeboyd team managed to craft this gem of a game, and in such good shape. Since release on the PC the game is now available on most Playstation platforms, the PS4 and the Vita, with an Xbox and Switch version in the making. The epic cyber adventures of A’lyssa and her companions deserves as wider audience as possible.

Cosmic Star Heroine is a traditional JRPG with all the usual tropes and nonsense removed. It delivers an engagingly clever cyberpunk spy story, woven around a roster of endearing personalities and their unique futuristic skills. As the story develops a cast of eleven characters will come into play and you’ll be able to mix and match their strengths into a cohesive team of four.

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During combat the tactical choices available to you are refreshingly numerous, even at the start of the game, with only a few characters, you can experiment with their interlocking abilities, items, or programs.

Each character can have up to eight abilities in their skill slots pulled from their total number of skills acquired through levelling up. Apart from a basic attack ability that can be reused, most abilities have only a single charge and to use them again in battle you need to recharge them with a defensive ability. You have seven skill slots for customisation and a defensive slot for skill rechargers.

All characters in your party have access to a shared but limited item inventory. You collect items from loot chests during your adventures, and once slotted they have a single charge during any given battle. They recharge between battles.

As part of the equipment system, each character will have a shield and stored within that are programs. If the characters “Hackitude” stat is high enough to meet the program requirement, then they’ll be able to run the single-charge program. Programs also recharge between battles. A character can equip different shields to make available a selection of programs, however they need to be tech-savvy enough to be able to execute their code in battle.

Accessories are another piece of equipment and are generally slight stat modifiers or boosts to particular skills.

Weapons tend to be geared around each characters unique fighting style, so A’Lyssa will use better and better versions of the charged Cyber-Bo fighting stick, Chahn uses her pistols with her Gunmancy skill to summon multiple firearms and unleash a deadly hail of cyber bullets, and Dave the techie guy uses a tablet to hack. The weapon, skills, fighting style and the characterisation are so tightly woven that changing weapon types would dilute the special relation you form with the character.

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One of the more appealing features of the combat is that it simply opens into the area where you engaged the enemy. It does away with the tropey jolt to immersion, of being whisked into a separate almost unrecognisable area to deal with the battle. You actually fight, at the place where you initiated combat. There are no random battles, you see all enemies in the immediate area, and you can attempt to avoid them, or bump into them to engage.

Turn based combat is kept fresh and pacey, by interleaving two “boost” mechanics over the top of the skills/items and programs systems.

The first is called “Style” and it is a percentage representation of your increasing proficiency during combat, it grows the more moves you make. More Style means you inflict more damage and have a better chance at landing negative ailments onto the enemy. However, enemies gain Style as the battle progresses too, so the more protracted the combat, the harder it becomes. If your Style is 100% you are effectively doing twice the damage. If your Style is over 50% when your character takes a fatal hit, they shift into a “desperation” mode, where they can survive one more round and if healed (at a reduced efficiency) they evade death.

The second is called “Hyper” and it is a true staged boost, whereby each character has a segmented or pipped bar beneath their health, and on each turn they gain a “Hyper point” that fills a segment or pip. When the Hyper bar is full the character goes into “Hyper mode” (the character UI lights up glowing yellow) where their damage and ailment success doubles.

Since you know the turn order, and you can see the Hyper bar filling, you can plan devastatingly boosted attacks using the Hyper mode at the right time on the right skill.

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The gradual increase of a characters efficiency through Style and the cyclic planning of co-ordinating Hyper mode hits between characters really adds a lot of higher level strategy and satisfaction to the combat than just popping off offensive and defensive skills.

Some of the set peice action is choreographed well and drops surprises on you in terms of scale and presentation. One of my early favourites being your battle with an enemy who pilots a large multi-sectioned mech, and later you take part in a kaiju style mech/monster battle yourself.

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The pixel art is stunningly hand crafted with adorably animated cut scenes. One of my favourite character introductions, is that of Lauren, leading into an indie band concert, an emotive video and a battle afterwards. Memorable moments, cementing the ethos of the character with some good art direction.

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The planetary exploration never feels like a chore, exploring the area is worth while to find additional items to add to your arsenal. You’re always focused on the next storied objective, but you have time and space to admire, adore and immerse yourself in the pixel art cyber future.

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Soundwise its a real homage to 80’s cyberpunk electronica and it exquisitely sets the thematic tone for whole adventure. Hyperduck SoundWorks 6 have really composed a high octane future sound for the meatspace of our nostalgic past, and it is aurally beautiful and tragically poetic like tears in rain.

Cosmic Star Heroine is a real pleasure to play, evoking simpler times but enhancing our memories, with newer streamlined, less tropey, upgrades to our combat, to our characterisations, to our stories, to our expectations.

However, be warned, it will give you a unquenchable thirst for the Cyberpunk & SciFi future and you’ll spend the rest of your time searching for games that will satiate your tech-heavy dystopian craving.

For more insights into the game, check out Episode 58 of the Nintendo Duel Screen Podcast 7.

Footnotes:

Tags: Enthuse
06 Oct 2018

Hacked by Cylons

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock on console…

My Manticores Perses and Lancer were hacked by Cylon ships, so that their firing solutions were fried. Sitting ducks without much in the way of payback.

So Battlestar Athena had to step in, launching Viper squadrons to intercept the hackers, whilst she pounded the supporting Cylon ships.

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Perses had Athena in close support, so could drop to full defense and repair of sub-systems.

Lancer, however was on her own, so she upped the defense, and ran towards the Daidalos mobile shipyard, and rely on support from her turrets. Once the* Perses* was safe both her and* Athena* made a bee-line towards the Cylon harassing the Lancer.

The Viper squadrons were already engaged when missile barrages landed from Athena.

The game provides a replay of all the WEGO simultaneous turn based planning, and I was still getting acquainted to the mechanics in this early mission, but the replay is very “cinematic” (aping the style of the 2003 BSG TV Show), and the music is spot on!

I fretted and bumbled my way through, but in replay it doesn’t look that bad. Apart from a mis-step of firing a missile barrage through the path of the Daidalos!! Whoops!

Love the viper-side cam, and just seeing massive ships empty their cannons and missile bays on one another, whilst vipers swarm back and forth. This is the business.

#battlestargalactica #deadlock

Check out Three Moves Ahead Podcast episode #406 2 discuss the game.

Check out the guys on the Single Malt Strategy Podcast 3 talking about the game.

Footnotes:

Tags: Enthuse
06 Oct 2018

Curse of Yendor

When I saw Bob Saunders IBOL17 1 tweet that he was up to offering his new roguelike game Curse of Yendor 2 (in closed beta) for comment, I jumped at the chance.

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This title is a pixel art, straight up, fast playing, classic roguelike, with the added features of deform-able landscape. There are three classes, Warrior, Rogue and Wizard, and you have three higher powers to look towards for initial help (a Light Sorceress, A Dark Necormancer and a Grey Wizard). You can play it Casually, Normal, Hard or Insane. So the entire spectrum of play is already catered for.

The graphics are surprisingly good for pixel art, even when scaled up to 1920x1080, they certainly invoke a feeling of “retro”, if that’s a thing.

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The movement can be controlled by keyboard or mouse, and your 8 direction num-pad or VI keys are supported. The actual command set is stripped down and really quite memorable, although some keystokes can be a little off the beaten path with roguelike convention. if you’re stuck just press ‘?’ to have a full list displayed before you, to help out. Inventory and elemental spells are surprisingly streamlined.

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You have everything before you when playing. Mini-map, stats, equipped items, inventory and various actions and options available to you in a handy toolbar bottom right. I presume this is meant to cater for the later Android version of the game more than the PC version. Tool-tips over the handy bubbles would be nice.

It is bump to attack for the warrior, or use range weapons (press ‘s’ to shoot ranged weapon), or cast spells with the wizard. There are the usual trappings of a hunger clock, mana and health management along with XP and gold collection. There is also a collection of rare jewels, that can boost aspects of your characters play.

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There are traps and puzzles (lock and key, push etc) in the game that are not always obvious, as well as teleports to other locations and ways around these obstacles. The main hook that the game presents is the ability to deform the environment, to gain access to areas normally blocked off, and you can pick up picks with finite charges, and turn on (or off) the auto-dig as you move, to carve through the rock (harvest the crystals within for gold) and tunnel your way to another room.

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Traps can have devastating effects, with elemental forces acting upon your hero. Poisons, burning, freezing etc. In addition to the pick-based deformation, you can utilise your spell capabilities to torch woods and grassy areas, to freeze waters, and shake down walls with your earthquakes. So you may be trapped and in big trouble, but one of the main attractions of the Curse of Yendor is that you will ALWAYS have options available to you, and you don’t need to look at a Wiki page to make the decision.

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Everything is labelled and up front for you, and your attacks and effects scroll upwards in text above you. Even though the exploration and combat can be fairly simple on each level, you can be hit by several state effects and wander into a vicious area and find yourself in trouble. I’m the Light Warrior on fire, being smothered by Night-slimes.

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You can always find mana and health gems on the level, if you look hard enough and pace yourself. Along with XP scrolls and various boosts. As long as you consider all your options in every tight spot, you should be able to get out of most dangerous situations with cautious movement, inventive action use and keen decision making.

I think the biggest plus to take away from Curse of Yendor is that the environment that surrounds you is your biggest ally and your enemy - understanding how you can interact with it, is key to success in nasty tactical predicaments.

My advice, don’t cast your fireball spell on the lawn, near an orchard and a field of cacti. Things could get warm pretty quickly.

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Overall, Curse of Yendor is accessible, quick to play, doesn’t require a massive time and effort investment to become familiar with the mechanics and provides a tense and shifting set of tactical objectives, puzzles and surprises to keep any adventurer placated in between their favourite heavy duty roguelike obsession. It has more depth than most accessible roguelikes, it offers up more tactical options and decisions to be made, even with the streamlined accessible interface, and when it comes to environment deformation and manipulation there are very little competitors that do it so convincingly.

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The title is still in beta, and IBOL 3 is very keen to get testers to have a go and flex their skills in the game. From my playtime with it, I haven’t found any bugs, the experience is smooth and enjoyable, and the visuals on offer are really easy to process tactically, and very appealing on the eye.

I can see there are more depths to be explored, dug through and blown up with my earthquake spells - it’s certainly an upcoming roguelike to keep your eyes on.

Thanks to IBOL for letting me take part in the beta, and for being able to write about the experience.

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See here for more details:

CURSE OF YENDOR 4

P.S. The game was originally known as “Fetch-Questy!”, ‘The Curse of Yendor (beta preview)

Footnotes:

Tags: Enthuse
06 Oct 2018

Deadlocked Defense

I recorded another mission in Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock’s 1 replay feature. It’s a long one (14 mins plus), and the replay is quite disjointed and changes pace quite a bit because of the desperate defence I had to exert on the tactical situation. It might not be the most stunning replay, but it is the only document of the battle I have (why grab screenshots when a cinematic replay will do?).

However, this was one of the most tense battles I’ve had in the game, and it was all down to the fact that I was a Manticore ship down, and without Battlestar support, but I had to eliminate the Cylon threat from the area. I knew it would be tough. I didn’t know it would be down to the last shred of hull strength tight. Watch the video or not, let me try and explain the situation and how I spent a good hour and a half to two hours squeezing the last drop of firepower out of my battered ships.

VIDEO 2

I jump in to the system, I forget the name, something like Calculos, and we need to clear the toasters out.

I have the Diadalos mobile shipyard and two Manticore class corvettes, the Lancer and the Perses.

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Immediately I see two DRADIS contacts, with Cylon raider support. I have no heavy hitters. The two corvettes have 20 missiles and the impact cannon.

The Diadalos its turrets surrounding the station and it has a squadron of Vipers Mk.1 and a support squadron of Raptors.

The initial plan was to be very defensive, keep my Manticore’s back, make the Cylons approach the station and get a cross-fire going with all three of my assets focusing fire on anything that gets in range.

The Cylon Talon ships move in, these vessels look like cargo ships, but they have 3 side cannons that can effect a powerful broadside if you get in range. They also seem to be fairly well armoured, and can shrug off impact cannon fire - or at least roll left and right to shake any end to end cannon fire fairly ineffective.

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I circle my corvettes tightly to keep them under the protection of the Diadalos turrets. As the Talons get closer, I launch Red Squadron (Vipers and Raptor in support) to try and neutralise the incoming Raiders.

Two more DRADIS contacts appear, in drops Cylon Nemesis ships. These are the “hackers” from my previous AAR. 3

My Vipers start to get chewed up a bit by the Raiders and the incoming Talon fire. I try to cycle my Manticore’s missile barrages so that they alternate rather than blowing them in one go. I think there are about 3 turns between loading the tubes for the next volley. So I “flip flop” between the Lancer and the Perses trying to get fire on one target at a time.

The Lancer is hacked, but still manages to get a volley off. And we drop one of the Nemesis ships. There is a lot of altitude changing, bobbing and weaving to avoid being hit by the Nemesis rocket volleys. I’d assumed altitude didn’t make that much difference, but it really does when everything counts on getting out of the way or matching the enemy so you can land your cannon shot.

The AI is crafty, and knows to circle its Talons just outside of the Diadalos turret range.

Using missiles we manage to smoke another Nemesis. So we have two Talons and some annoying Raiders left.

My corvettes are a beat up. You can repair sub-systems if they take damage but ultimately you can’t repair armour (front, rear, left, right, top, bottom). So the game turns slow down a little because attacks become a geometry game of presenting your fresh armour to the enemy whilst making an effective attack. Altitude, orientation, positioning all become VERY important. This is where it starts to get really intense.

You can set the turrets (in sectors - front, rear, left, right) on the Diadalos to target Capital ships, Closest ships or Squadrons. So these annoying Raiders were in my left sector, I flip the turret switch to Squadron and the Diadalos guns whittle them down over time.

I set my Raptor squad to harass a Talon, and move my corvettes out to wear the Talon down with cannon fire aimed at the rear armour, and whatever I have left in my missile barrages.

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Soon after, retreating the corvettes back to the cover of Diadalos. Lancer is beat up big time.

It took me a while to realise the subtleties with corvette gunnery. The impact cannons at the front are mounted underneath the ship, so approaching at an elevation equal to that of your enemy, means your shots go under the enemy, add to that the accuracy wiggle of cannon fire and you’re expending a lot of fire without hitting the damn thing that much. So in their beaten state, I’m still having to experiment with my approach vector to the enemy to land any cannon shots. Higher than the enemy, but often trying to follow their anticipated flight path, so that if anything I get to “cannon strafe” them in the vertical plane. As said before these Talon ships seem to jiggle roll a lot, tacking left and right, to add to the inaccuracy situation. They have a knack of presenting fresh armour to you. Whilst emptying a broadside salvo that can cut through your remaining armour!

It now becomes a game of hit and run, all the while trying to maintain armour loss, presenting less damaged armour if incoming fire is on its way, and attempting to coax the Talon’s into breaking the Diadalos turret range barrier.

I found that if you dock your Raptors, their dumb-fire 4 rocket pods are re-armed. This can take up to 3 turns, one to recall to Diadalos, one to make the dock, and one to launch them again - but it does mean (if they stay alive) that I can bring some renewable armaments to bear on these damn hardy and elusive Talons!

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Although they are support ships, and they seem to have a Disarm function, that I couldn’t get to engage in this scenario (it may be something revealed in later missions), they are damn nippy and manoeuvreable, so can evade much of the Talon incoming fire. Good for hassling the Talons, and staying alive.

Trying to use my nearly crippled corvettes in actions together to dispatch just one of the Talons.

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We “force” it to stray too close to Daidalos and it gets a good pounding. Finally, one down, one to go.

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The video can’t stress how beaten up my ships are. Lancer has most of his armour down apart from his front and right still have some give. I’d say about 25%-ish on both facings. My Perses is slightly better, but very vulnerable on left and top. I pull them both back to the Diadalos and regroup.

Raptor rockets to the rescue!

Or at least to harass the enemy and whittle down what they can. I’m now using my Raptors as a lure. Talon fishing. And it works!

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We pound it as best we can. The Talon starts to get out of dodge. I can see it’s rear armour is very low. I’m at the point where I’m so stressed, I just want to finish this fight now. It’s imperative that I don’t lose either the Lancer or the Perses. Lancer is in much worse shape. Almost all armour gone. Only hull casing left.

But I think, “sod it!”.

I’m off in pursuit with both ships. All I need is a couple of good hits on its rear. If I can angle my approach according to the freshest armour ratings on my ships. Hopefully…

My (two) Raptors make a pass and unleash a fresh batch of 4 rockets into its rear end!

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And with combined Corvette and Raptor fire, we finally finish the Talon off!

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Wow!

Intense.

Now to the next mission, still have a couple of turns to await the arrival of my new Adamant Frigate…

So say we all!

BSG: Deadlock can be bought from Slitherine 1 or can be found on Steam 4. It is developed by Black Lab Games 5. It is also available on consoles, both PS4 & Xbox 1.

Footnotes:

Tags: Enthuse
06 Oct 2018

Equilibrium Of Divinity

With possibly one of the most uninspiring names for a turn based RPG, I was still intrigued by the promotional media available on this title and the level of depth that seemed to be on offer.

Let me list the important “attracting” factors:

So I thought “why not?”

Behold, Equilibrium of Divinity! 1

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Everything screams “homebrew”, but, once inside the game you can see this is a labour of love, and has a depth behind the streamlined interface. You start with an empty party, and can customise your 6 adventurers to your hearts content, saving off specific loadouts/starting skills as templates if you wish. You can swiftly embark, or you can precisely specify what starting equipment to take with you.

You can tailor the difficulty, and you have the option to turn “Ironman” mode on or off. This is basically party permadeath, with a single save - so no save scumming!

A quick embark gives you some food and potions, but leaves you without weapons so your combat effectiveness seemed lacking to begin with, until you had some resources gathered to build rudimentary weapons. This felt like a party based survival game on my first Ironman mode run through.

The procedurally generated levels are intricate enough to have you eager to explore them, but they are not overly complex and opaque, so once you’ve uncovered the “fog of war”, you’ll be able to get around pretty swiftly, and will already have your goals set for the next level - whilst you scoop up the remaining resources and bonuses.

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The movement of your party is smooth and animated which really helps in investing your concern for the adventurers. Traps, doors, enemies, alters of various effects and loot chests are all uncovered as you explore - roguelike style.

But when you come across an enemy, you enter a tactical combat screen reminiscent of the (Heroes of) Might and Magic series.

Here’s where things get interesting.

Each of your party, based on their stats and skills, have an initiative and they are numbered accordingly. The enemy also has an initiative, and it is displayed and interleaves with the adventurers turns, so the combat rounds are reconciled based on this.

You then step through each of your party and choose an action, whether to attack, defend, cast a spell, use an item, equip an item, shift party position in the formation etc. The actions and targets are laid out in a very visual way with coloured arrows (each adventurer gets its own colour).

The combat then plays out, when you Start the Battle and all actions and consequences are listed in a prominent combat log, below the list of enemies and their statuses. Whilst the animations are minimal, you are given the information in a pleasant and engaging way, and that “plan and see” cycle gets more and more intense as the rounds play through.

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You can assess your enemy at any point in the proceedings, but you often need quite a high Mythology skill to determine any information about them that might be useful in your decision making process. Here you can see the basics but anything about the Dwarven Militia’s abilities, Resistances, or Magical capabilities are masked because my party Mythology skill isn’t high enough.

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If you can tactically pull off the win, you should be rewarded with XP and some loot.

Your party collects the loot, and any resources it can scavenge from the level, even chopping down trees, looting berries from bushes, milking goats and cows or salvaging weaponry, hair and pelts off your foes.

All resources are valuable if you need to craft your equipment and survive your exploration. This is where the game takes you away from the fantasy combat and pulls you into a more desperate survival game. You need to kill things to get the raw materials, but also to get the XP to level up your crafting skills, to be able to make useful weapons, armour, tools, jewellry, potions or food. Your progress depends upon it, because you don’t start out with much in the way of equipment, even if you choose to spend the 50 gold coins before embarking.

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The loadout is remarkably easy to organise, although some inventory management needs to be done, depending upon which character in your party does the looting.

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The UI is very easy to grasp (which kind of leads me to think it might have been planned as a mobile game at some point). Left click a character to get to Crafting/Loadout screens, Right click a character to get to progression/level up controls for stats, weapons, professions, skills and magic. Very easy to use, but surprisingly deep customisation for such an indie title.

Here are the progression screens:

Weapons showing what has been spent so far, with handy notes on who is the most skilled character in this weapon (so you can spread weapon use/damage type around), as well as having auto-level checkboxes, with the maximum number of points or set a reserve you want keep for future tweaks.

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Professions, showing a similar UI setup, but conferring the crafting disciplines employed by each character.

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Skills, detailing the general areas of support interests that each character pursues. Mythology helping identify enemy types and their weaknesses. With bonuses like perception for spotting traps and hidden/stealthed enemies, or trap disarming and lockpicking for neutrilising danger and opening up them tough loot chests.

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Magic, a gloriously depicted magic school display where you spend experience points into disciplines to open up the layers of the spells available. The system seems quite flexible, and if you sacrifice skill points in other areas, you can adopt two or three magic schools to a certain degree, but from what I can gather, the level of expertise in a particular magical shool determines what spells and how many times you can cast them during battle. I don’t think the game adopts a normal “mana” based casting mechanism. It’s more limited activations/uses.

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With the complexities of each of these systems, the ability to customise your party pretty much how you want it, and the procedurally generated levels, I can see this game providing avid adventurers quite a lot of replayability and longevity.

Once you have fully explored and harvested everything you can from a level you get a summary that scores you and rewards you on how you have done. Before moving you onto the next harder level as you continue your quest.

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The story elements may be light on the ground, but there is enough here to keep budding Wizardry/HOMM fans coming back for more, and the game is streamlined enough for you to play it in short bursts and thoroughly enjoy the tinkering, exploration, harvesting and crafting side of things.

If you enjoy your tactical party combat and want a challenge that adds survival gathering and crafting into the mix, you can’t go wrong with this title. A shiny gem that flaunts its streamlined cheekiness!

If you’re interested in the game, its well worth checking out this VIDEO channel 2.

Or keep up to date with the devs Twitter feed 3.

Footnotes:

Tags: Enthuse
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