Iceberg Interactive  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Iceberg Interactive  RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network Starpoint Gemini Warlords Review- It's A Long Way To The Top https://www.gameskinny.com/1e4vs/starpoint-gemini-warlords-review-its-a-long-way-to-the-top https://www.gameskinny.com/1e4vs/starpoint-gemini-warlords-review-its-a-long-way-to-the-top Thu, 25 May 2017 12:04:05 -0400 ThatGamersAsylum

Starpoint Gemini Warlords is a space flight sim, RPG, 4X strategy game developed by the Croatian-based studio Little Green Men Games. It serves as a sequel to the previous two Starpoint Gemini titles. However, Warlords seeks to add in 4X elements, which drastically increases the game's scope. 

The game starts out with you taking up the reins of Tara Higgs during a brief tutorial prolog. Shortly thereafter, you are allowed to create your own character. And well, that’s about it for story since the build I am playing is the early access beta-build. The final release, however, features the full story/campaign mode.

Once done with the tutorial, you are thrown out into the world to fend for yourself. And when I say fend for yourself, I mean it in the purest sense of the phrase. While part of my struggle stemmed from an unfamiliarity with certain aspects of the genre, a significant amount of my struggles were due to the game itself.

Anything I say that betrays the fact I know what I am talking about has been hard-earned knowledge.

The game does a really poor job of explaining much about itself. There is a 35-page "Quick Start" guide, which, while moderately helpful, was also out of date on some key topics, such as classes. There’s also several in-game tutorials, but while these are helpful, they are also tucked away in the “Geminipedia,” which took a while to stumble upon.

One Genre Too Many?

If the combination of so many, complex genres doesn't make it immediately apparent, let me soothe any worries: there is a lot going on here. And this can make SPGW feel a little sloppy in some regards.

For instance, the space flight simulation inherently has action oriented combat. But this betrays the fact that most of your impact on the world will be through your fleet and not through your actual combat exploits.

Despite being able to make an impact in combat, you are ultimately just another cog in the larger machine when it comes to combat. This is made exceptionally clear by the fact that you will often be battling multiple enemies on multiple fronts.

This is made worse by the fact that the part of the game you spend the most time interacting with -- the space sim part -- is not the core of the overarching gameplay loop -- the 4X part. In fact, they're only loosely connected. Little of what you do in the RPG and space sim aspects of the game -- which largely focus around upgrading your ship -- really feel meaningful because there are so few uses for that ship which actually further the larger war effort.

There is one activity you can do with your ship to impact the 4X loop -- boarding and capturing enemy ships. Once you do this you can either add them to your fleet or scrap them for materials -- the resource used to make your own ships. This was an epiphany. The sort of epiphany that completely changed the game for me.

I went from solely depending upon a small stipend of materials received at intervals to being able to actively accelerate my progression. But I just learned this absolutely essential mechanic through trying out all of the various options available to me.

A little direction would have gone a long way.

A lot of people might say,”Oh I don’t want tutorials jammed down my throat!” and “Games like this are supposed to have a steep learning curve.” But tutorials don’t have to be ham-fisted and while the steep learning curve is inherent, it can be lessened. XCOM: Enemy Within explained its similarly complex systems without ever feeling overbearing, which consequently helped lessen the learning curve.

On top of that, SPGW already has a slow build up to the larger 4X elements of fleet management, trading, etc. which would make it easy to slowly introduce new concepts as the player expands his influence, gains resources, etc. If nothing else, the beginning of the game needs rebalancing.

This leads me to perhaps the biggest problem I had with the game -- pacing

I know RPGs and 4X games are inherently slow progressing genres, but the amount of grinding on display in this game is absurd. Just building up enough resources to be able to make your first push to capture an area can take an extremely longtime.

I spent hours upon hours playing through procedurally generated missions -- more on that later -- to earn money to build up my ship. I then got into a small fight and lost a couple ships, which took hours to recuperate since materials takes so long to build up.

This was all prior to learning about capturing and scrapping enemy ships. But even now that I have heavily invested in the research and perks that allow me to board and capture enemy ships more easily, I still can’t reliably capture enemy ships. Even now losing a couple ships from my fleet can leave me in the red for an hour or more. Once I finally captured an area using vastly superior fire power, I quickly faced retaliation from a nearby zone that nearly decimated my fleet.

It’s worth talking about the procedurally generated missions for a moment since you spend so much time doing them. I do think this is the best implementation of procedurally generated missions I’ve ever seen; although I'm not sure that's saying much.

While there are some duds since RNG leads to some odd twists-- I once had a convoy escort mission last for about 10 minutes once with nothing happening along the way-- I’ve also had a ton of unique experiences from seemingly identical missions.

For instance, Seek and Destroy missions allow you to put your coercion to the test, which can force enemies to surrender prior to battle. Once I even captured a destroyer that I had only a 2% chance of capturing, which felt great. It’s still in my fleet even now.

To make all of this slog worse, after each mission you must return to your base so that you can pick up a new mission (Why the hell do I need to go to a mission board when we have intergalactic travel?!). This results in you going to and from your base A LOT! Thankfully, there is an autopilot feature in the game. All you have to do is click a location on your starchart (map) and your ship will automatically fly there. It’s actually really handy.

However, There are Some Great Things About SPGW

I do have a few more thoughts to add that don’t fit into the larger narrative. The art is really nice, especially the ships, although I found it easy to confuse the front and back of many of the vessels. I also hope to see the particle effects for some of the abilities gain a little more oomph, but that’s nothing huge.

I also had no notable bugs during my time with the game, which is great. In fact, the game ran really smoothly and that was on a less than optimal rig. I’d also like to give a shout out for great controller support. Although it currently says that the game only has partial controller support, I can confirm that the complete game is playable with a controller.

The option to have the game pause while in the context menu or starchart was another nice touch that helped you customize your experience. You can also decide whether you want the map to be slowly revealed as you play, or completely revealed from the beginning. It’s always easy to complain about wanting more options, but some of the options on display currently are really useful.

I may have had some major to moderate gripes about this game, but I also enjoyed it a great deal. There is something great about flying around in space destroying other fleets on your own while getting your hands dirty and developing your own empire that is just so attractive to my inner nerd. While that helped me hang on through the rough early hours where I literally couldn’t tell the ass of my ship apart from its face, it eventually stepped aside to an awesome, rewarding experience.

While I hope they add more ways for you to affect the world as a pilot, I truly did enjoy the combination of genres. Whenever you make a crossover like this, you sacrifice bits and pieces of the constituent genres to create something entirely new. And that's true here too. The real question, however, is whether this game made something that was better than, or at least as good as, the genres it was inspired by.

Personally, I don't think there's an easy answer to that question, which is why I don't give this game a 7 lightly.

I also don’t want you to think I am knocking it for not having a story mode. That being said, I do think that the addition of a campaign, and the mission structure that goes along with it, could potentially greatly help with this game’s two biggest problems -- teaching the player and pacing/grinding. I think that with time and future updates (or through the modding community which the devs have more than vocally supported) this game could very easily become a 8 or 9. I’m definitely looking forward to what the devs are able to pull off in the near future.

A review copy of Starpoint Gemini Warlords was provided by the developer.

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Conarium Preview: A Haunting Expedition into a Lovecraftian Madness https://www.gameskinny.com/utnpg/conarium-preview-a-haunting-expedition-into-a-lovecraftian-madness https://www.gameskinny.com/utnpg/conarium-preview-a-haunting-expedition-into-a-lovecraftian-madness Fri, 19 May 2017 16:32:35 -0400 ESpalding

I have always been a fan of HP Lovecraft and anything inspired by his writing. So I was thrilled to get to preview a new game by Zoetrope Interactive, an indie studio from Istanbul, Turkey. The game, coming soon to Steam, Xbox One and PS4, is psychological horror adventure called Conarium. It draws a lot of inspiration from one of Lovecraft's novella called "At the Mountains of Madness".

You play as one of four scientists who are on an Antarctic expedition explore the limits of the human consciousness and to go beyond it with the help of a mystical device called the Conarium. Something disastrous happens which knocks you unconscious.

You wake up alone and with no recollection of what transpired. To avoid giving anything away, I can only say there is a particular reason why you can't remember anything -- but as you journey through the base and explore the temples and caverns you come across, you start to piece together what has happened.

An Eerie Aesthetic

The look of Conarium is fantastic. I suppose you could say that it looks like anything that is inspired by Lovecraft -- dark, detailed, and full of shadows. It also leaves quite a lot to the imagination. In some places, it tricks your mind into thinking that there is something there that really isn't.

There are certain things that you will certainly find familiar if you've played other games in this genre. There are statues of Cthulhu-esque monsters, reptilian skeletons, and images of the Elder Sign all over the place (the Elder Sign is a protection charm, made of a roughly drawn star shape with an eye at its center). 

So Atmospheric It Drives You Insane

The theme of madness runs deep into Conarium. The moment you see something creepy or something you can't explain, you are sent into a maddening stupor. Your vision blurs and you can't move as quickly as you would normally. This brings a fantastic edge and sense of vulnerability to the game. Rather than just the player getting scared ( which believe me, it will happen), the effects of what you experience have a prolonged grip on your character, which brings a different dimension to the madness. This means that you need to try and avoid being scared -- but you won't always be able to.

Conarium also boasts an extremely haunting soundtrack. While there isn't much in the way of music, what there is is very subtle and atmospheric. You get all the eerie sounds of being in underground caverns, coupled with strange whispers and odd whooshing sounds. While this sets about creating the atmosphere, the real thing you need to listen to is the storytelling. Some serious thought and research are obvious here, and have coalesced into an experience that is worthy of being called Lovecraft-inspired.

Aside from all the sights and sounds and how well the game has been made, you can't forget that you are trying to piece together memories and events that you have forgotten. Occasionally you come across puzzles that need to be solved and clues to be studied to unlock secrets. Death itself also plays a big part in the game. When you die, you get transported to another area -- which in turn unlocks more secrets and clues.

It is clear that the developers have done their research and created a game that anyone who is a fan of Lovecraft and other eldritch literature would love. The story, the setting, the atmosphere...all of it is really on point here. Conarium follows in a long line of games of this genre, but all things point to this particular title being a very strong contender as one of the best. I am really looking forward to playing the full game once it has released on Steam. I have high, insanity-inducing hopes for this game!

Conarium releases on Steam on June 6th. But make sure you check back with GameSkinny for more Conarium coverage!

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Dawn of Andromeda Review: Another Foray Into the Depths of Space https://www.gameskinny.com/o5y01/dawn-of-andromeda-review-another-foray-into-the-depths-of-space https://www.gameskinny.com/o5y01/dawn-of-andromeda-review-another-foray-into-the-depths-of-space Wed, 03 May 2017 14:23:53 -0400 Justin Michael

I love space. Growing up, I used to watch NASA launches, build model rockets, and I earned my high school volunteer hours working with children at our local planetarium. So I'm a sucker for a good space-themed game -- especially strategy games. With hundreds of hours spent playing games like Galactic Civilizations II, Endless Space, Sins of a Solar Empire, and Stellaris, you might just say I'm crazy about space games.

When I was asked to review Dawn of Andromeda -- a 4X, real-time strategy game getting ready to leave Early Access on Steam -- I was more than excited to see how it would stack up against the competition. I mean, after the "Very Positive" reception of Stellaris by the Steam gaming community, it was really only a matter of time before we would see a contender to the throne. So, let's dive in and see what this game brings to the table.

The Basics in Dawn of Andromeda

Much like other games of the genre, DoA gives the player a number of preconfigured races to choose from -- each with their own strengths and weaknesses. You can also build your own custom races if you want to, which is generally what I end up doing. 

So we pick/make our race, set a number of other parameters like galaxy size, resource rarity, space pirate spawn, and etc and woosh! We get whisked away to the beautiful galactic view screen. Up until this point, I've only played on the small galaxy setting -- which has somewhere around 50 systems in it -- but it still has a vast "space" feeling to it.

The start you picked for your civilization determines what you'll begin your game with. In my case, I went with the "Homeworld" start -- which gives me a center of government and a starting scout ship to begin mapping out the neighboring systems.

I generally set the scout to auto-explore and basically forget about it, like every other space game. Now, something I have noticed about ship movement in the game is that all of the ships tend to follow an invisible path -- which has caused some traffic jams when you start building up larger fleets to show those rude pirates that you don't need their protection because you're a war-mongering bad ass who eats nails and broken glass for breakfast.

Unfortunately, you're a bit limited in terms of defensive structures, as you can only build a few defensive stations around your planets. The game is still Early Access, though, so there is room yet for some additions like minefields or maybe even planetary weapons platforms to make invaders think twice.

The Gripes

As you progress through the research tree -- something I'll talk about a bit more later on -- you'll unlock a number of modules and weapons upgrades for your fleet, but it all comes down to basic rock/paper/scissors in terms of damage. There really isn't really anything unique about the upgrades that you research; they're essentially lighter weight/higher damage versions of the previous iteration that are slightly more expensive. 

Another gripe that I have involves ship-related combat. So, you roll up on these pleb pirates who have been talking crap about you, trying to extort your space monies with their pathetic insults. You roll up tough -- 10 ships deep (#SquadGoals) -- and then both sides just sit there, shooting at each other... completely still. 

No trying to dodge/strafe/flank, just sitting there static firing and taking hits like were back in the Napoleonic times with fixed bayonets and muzzleloaders. I feel like this would have been a good time to follow suit with Stellaris and have the ships moving, trying to flank and dodge volleys like civilizations evolved enough to be space-faring should be doing. 

Aside from that, let's revisit the tech tree I mentioned above. Currently, the tech tree is a bit on the lackluster side, especially in the areas of war tech. As I stated, weapons and defenses function on something like a rock/paper/scissors system where certain weapons are good/bad against a particular defensive measure. 

The Good

In terms of research and economy, there are a few cool bits of tech that go along with the interesting way that the government is run in the game. As you research some of the areas of the tech tree, you'll unlock Empire Policies. These policies can be used to manipulate different aspects of your society and, depending on what you picked, it shapes your empire's government type. Your government type can help or hurt you based on the council advisers that you picked in the beginning of the game, which adds another layer of depth to the decision-making process. 

One of the coolest aspects of the game is that not every civilization is at the point of being space-faring. During your exploration of the galaxy, you'll stumble upon a number of less advanced races that you can influence and possibly build alliances with -- increasing the strength of your empire by bringing them into the fold. You'll also have to contend with the AI trying to do the same, which can become interesting if you're both trying to convince the same civilization to join your side. 

Graphically, the game is beautiful. The ships look great and the weapons effects are about on par with other games of the genre. I'm running the game on high graphics with solid framerates on my GTX 760, which is over the recommended GTX 660 specs on their steam page. The music is also great, riding that line between relaxing/engaging without feeling overpowering.

TL;DR

Dawn of Andromeda is a great addition to the 4X space strategy genre. It boasts great graphics and enjoyable music as well as gameplay mechanics on par with other games of its kind. There are a number of alien races, victory conditions, and levels of depth to keep you busy for some time.

If this sounds like a game you'd like to play then pick it up on their Steam page currently retailing at $24.99.

Note: A copy of this game was provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.

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Empathy: Path of Whispers Release Date Announced https://www.gameskinny.com/co4tf/empathy-path-of-whispers-release-date-announced https://www.gameskinny.com/co4tf/empathy-path-of-whispers-release-date-announced Wed, 03 May 2017 09:00:01 -0400 ThatGamersAsylum

Empathy: Path of Whispers has been confirmed to release on May 16 for PC via Steam and other platforms.

For those unfamiliar with the game, Empathy is a first person adventure game in the vein of other so-called walking simulators, such as The Vanishing of Ethan Carter or Firewatch. As such, you can expect a heavy emphasis on story with puzzles thrown in intermittently throughout the journey as well.

The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. The events that caused this apocalypse to transpire seem to be uncertain and have left behind an odd effect. That is to say, the emotions of the world's previous inhabitants still exist everywhere. Interacting with certain objects can trigger ghostlike apparitions to appear. Through them, you see the emotions and events that imprinted upon these objects. It even seems you can interact with these apparitions, as the player is shown to point and shoot a gun at the end of the Steam trailer.

Empathy: Path of Whispers seems to be full of intrigue and mystery, whether that be from the "residents" or the events that sent the world into ruin. While I can't speak for the final quality of the game, I can say that the trailers have peaked my interest. I look forward to learning more about this title and recommend that you keep it on your radar as the next interactive story darling. If nothing else, we'll learn if that's the case in a couple weeks.

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