Roguelike Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Roguelike RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Dice Legacy Review — Is That It? Wed, 08 Sep 2021 13:56:04 -0400 Fox Doucette

Dice Legacy bills itself as a roguelike — the title, intentionally or not, evokes Rogue Legacy — where instead of hiding the random number generator behind the curtains, it turns that RNG mechanic into the main character. The dice are not only the random element that drives gameplay but also your army of peasants and soldiers fighting terrain, weather, and hostile forces on a bizarre, ring-shaped alien world.

The premise quickly falls apart once you actually start playing the game, however. Anyone with even a slight modicum of experience playing roguelikes or even games in general can quickly pick apart every narrative conceit here, seeing the game for exactly what it is — a straightforward, vertical-scrolling barebones resource management and strategy game rather than the roguelike it claims to be on the virtual box.

Dice Legacy Review — Is That It?

Your pawns are a set of six-sided dice — five at first, although that quickly grows to a maximum of 12 — which you roll in order to determine which kind of move the die can make on its turn. It could be building, gathering resources, exploring the world ahead, conducting research, engaging in battle, trading, or performing religious functions depending on the type of die rolled and the result of the roll itself.

There's a class system in place here, too. You start the game with orange peasant dice, capable of those first three functions listed above plus combat. Build the school and you get green citizen dice, who in addition to researching can also farm and build. The military academy gets you blue soldier dice, whose prime function is combat, but they're also capable of building.

The market nets merchant dice — their primary function converting resources into gold through trade, but they also explore and interact with “camps” on the map to turn potential enemies into trading partners and can do a bit of resource gathering as well. And finally, the temple nets priest dice whose function is that of healer and morale booster for the other dice on the board.

Later, late-game buildings can mix, match, and combine those basic types into hybrid dice, but the core functions you can roll on the faces of the dice are the limit of what those dice can ultimately do on the board.

This establishes a basic gameplay loop. Like any good RTS, you build a base, gather and use the resources provided on the map, forge ahead to find the enemy, then destroy the enemy base, a formula that's been enshrined in gaming canon since Warcraft: Orcs and Humans codified the genre way back in 1994. Once again, as much as Dice Legacy really wants you to believe it's a roguelike, it resembles one only superficially. Randomly generated resource locations do not a roguelike make, not on their own.

There are just a few critical flaws that prevent Dice Legacy from actually being good.

The first is that the gameplay loop is far too simple. I put about 12 hours into the game, one terminated playthrough to get to grips with how things worked followed by three playthroughs that became progressively less interesting for how easy Dice Legacy is both to pick up and, ultimately, master for anyone with a reasonable degree of experience playing RTS games. Granted, I've been playing them for 27 years (since the aforementioned Warcraft), but this game has even less depth than early Warcraft.

The second is this type of RNG is never really something to focus a game around. Maybe some people are into that — after all, pencil-and-paper RPGs wouldn't be what they are without a bag full of variously shaped dice — but in general, there's a good reason why dice rolls are usually hidden from the player's eye.

Even in tabletop, a good game master rolls the dice but then narrates to the players what happened in an in-universe tone. Abstracted randomness tends to be less immersion-breaking than literally seeing it play out in front of your face.

The third is that the “challenges” in Dice Legacy are less roadblocks and more speed bumps. Every time you roll a die, it loses 1 HP out of 16, but it is trivially easy to heal dice, with multiple ways put in place to restore those HP. Even combat, where a die that gets wounded in combat is killed if it gets wounded again, is solved super-easily through the apothecary building the game makes available from the start.

Along those same lines, the Dice Legacy has a summer/winter seasonal cycle, and winter is supposed to be a perilous time when you can't produce wheat (the basic food resource) and dice have a chance to freeze, taking them out of action until they thaw out in warmer weather.

The trouble is that it's easy to unfreeze those dice using the in-game ale resource, there's a policy you can implement to keep the farms working year-round, and generally, what's supposed to be a challenge is just another resource sink.

And the fourth is that despite the game trying to vary up play a bit with a few unlockable extra scenarios — changing the starting dice or a couple of the game rules — it's just a different coat of paint on the same car driving down the same road toward the same destination. You'll get bored long before you see everything because bluntly, once you've seen the gameplay loop once, you've seen everything.

It doesn't help that the difficulty levels are of the standard "how much do you want the computer to cheat" variety rather than the "AI gets smarter" variety, never a good sign.

Dice Legacy Review — The Bottom Line


  • Stable, apparently bug-free experience
  • Clever concept
  • If you like rolling dice, this is the best thing outside of a Craps table


  • Almost no replayability once you've grasped the basic concept
  • Too simple to pose much of a challenge
  • Building a whole game around randomization is needlessly frustrating

Dice Legacy is just too shallow and too reminiscent of other, better games. It's just far too simplistic to have any kind of real replayability, and since your first playthrough will be done in four or five hours at most, that leaves little to play for.

Sure, the game does try to extend its replay value by offering different starting conditions and rule restrictions to try to get you to play it again, but it's the same meta every time with no real variation. There's no shortage of good roguelikes out there. Crack those open instead. You'll have a lot more fun that way.

[Note: Ravenscourt provided the copy of Dice Legacy used for this review.]

How to Unlock Hades' Locked Doors Wed, 18 Aug 2021 12:07:06 -0400 John Schutt

On the western side of the House of Hades are two doors, both initially locked. At the north end of the hallway is Hades’ bedroom, the personal chamber of the lord of the Underworld. At the south end, a smaller door that he forbids you to enter. This latter leads to the administration chamber.

Both doors play an integral role in the story of Hades, and you’ll need to open both to complete the campaign completely.

This guide will tell you how to unlock both the door to Hades’ bedroom and the administrative chamber and give a brief overview of what you can do in each chamber.

How to Unlock the Administrative Chamber in Hades

There are two steps to unlocking the Administrative chamber. The first is progressing the story until you can actually rest in Zagreus’ bed. You’ll see a glowing objective point near the bed at this time, and rather than rejecting rest, Zagreus will actually go to sleep. This will trigger a flashback sequence.

You’ll learn a lot of narrative goodies in this first flashback, including what the chamber looks like and its general function. Once you’ve learned all you can, Zagreus can return to his bed and wake up.

Initially, the door will remain locked, but after a run or two, you’ll unlock the Administrative Privilege contract at the House Contractor. The price is steep for early-game: two Diamonds, rewards you only get from the second world boss, or the Wretched Broker for various other endgame currencies.

What’s Inside the Administrative Chamber

The chamber holds innumerable scrolls and two large shelving units.

The green shelves are Zagreus’ Permanent Record, which catalogs the weapons, Boons, upgrades, and other equipment he’s used in all his escape attempts. You’ll see both a bar graph and a numerical value for each item, letting you know what builds you favor and which give you trouble.

The red shelves are the Security Log. The Log details every escape attempt’s result (death or escape) and what loadout you finished with — your weapon, Boons, and all of that. You’ll also see whatever modifiers you attached with the Pact of Punishment and the total time each run took.

The Administrative Chamber’s most important function is narrative-related. You need access to complete almost all of the House of Hades NPC questlines. Without the door unlocked, you won’t unlock NPC House Contractor contracts and thus complete their individual stories.

How to Unlock Hades' Bedroom and What’s In It

Unlocking the big doors to Hades’ bedroom will take you much longer than the Administrative chamber. For starters, you’ll need to beat the final boss eight times, then speak to Achilles. Zagreus will convince him to give up the key to get in.

You won’t have full access to the bedroom until you complete ten runs total, at which point the room is free to enter whenever you’d like. There’s even a resource sink waiting for you for endgame grinding, though using it serves no purpose beyond throwing your hard-earned Darkness away.

That’s it for the locked doors in Hades. Check out our guides hub for more!

Hades: How to Heal Guide Mon, 16 Aug 2021 12:24:47 -0400 John Schutt

Hades can be incredibly unforgiving, especially early on. The game offers no equippable healing items. You start with a weapon and your skills, but you’ll need to find heals throughout your run in the Underworld.

Thankfully, there are many ways to get your health back if you know what to look for, which upgrades to take, and how to strategize your way through a run. If Hades feels generous — a rare thing — you’ll be gifted one or more free heals. Don’t count on them because the next run isn’t likely to be so friendly.

How to Heal in Hades

Even though you don’t start a run with any way to heal, there are more than a dozen ways to get your health back while making your way through the Underworld. You won’t have easy access to all of them early on, so expect your first few runs to end violently.

Healing Shop Items

Most rooms in the Underworld can spawn a shop fountain filled with the purple water of the Styx. There are several different types of healing offered at these small shops, the most common being: flat amounts of health back, the ability to spawn healing items on kill, and increased healing on entering a new room.


Charon, Boatman of the Styx, sometimes sells healing tacos and with a side of fries. Don’t ask. Buying it for 50 Obol provides a percentage of your health back once purchased. There are buyable upgrades that make breakable pots also have a chance to drop the healing tacos, though these will only regenerate ten health per meal.

Centaur Hearts

Centaur Hearts will permanently increase your health by 25 points and heal you by the same amount. You can find these as room rewards or purchase them from Charon.


Every time you visit the dead king Sisyphus, you have the option of receiving healing items once your conversation ends.

Healing Fountains

Initially, the only healing fountain you’ll find sitting in the room just after a boss fight. These heal you for 50% of your maximum. By visiting the House Contractor, you’ll eventually be able to add healing well rooms to each level of the Underworld, though these are expensive and not guaranteed to spawn.

Dark Regeneration or Chthonic Vitality (requires upgrade)

The Mirror of Night offers two healing abilities. You’ll only have access to one of them, Dark Regeneration, at the beginning of the game. This initial power grants you up to 3 health whenever you enter a new room, regardless of the dangers in the room or lack thereof.

Once you spend 300 Darkness at the Mirror, you’ll unlock a special conversation with Nyx in the House of Hades, and she’ll unlock a second set of upgrades.

Chthonic Vitality is the alternate to Dark Regeneration and gives you the ability to heal every time you pick up crystals of Darkness. You can upgrade the power to give back up to 60% of the Darkness’s value in health. Put another way, pick up a 10 Darkness crystal, get six health back, and so on.

HydraLite Gold

In Elysium, you have a slight chance of coming across an NPC named Patroclus. One of the items he offers is Hydralite Gold, which restores 30% of your health every time you enter a new chamber, up through five total chambers visited.

God-Granted Boons

Many of the gods’ boons give you ways of regaining health or increasing the effectiveness of your Death Defiance.

Infernal Troves

On the same platform you find Charon Wells, you might run across a large treasure chest. Using these Infernal Troves activates a time trial. You'll need to kill all the enemies that spawn, and the faster you do it, the higher the Trove's reward. One reward can be up to 150 health, though your likely to get around 100 or so at best.

Death Defiance

This MIrror of Night ability instantly revives you with base 50% health when your HP reaches zero, up to three times when fully upgraded. There are ways to restore uses of Death Defiance throughout a run, either at shops, Patroclus, or through god boons.

That's it for all the ways to heal in Hades, as you can see there are plenty of methods.. provided you know what they are. If you found this guide helpful, take a look at some of our other Hades guides here on GameSkinny.

Hades Door Symbol Guide Mon, 16 Aug 2021 09:37:54 -0400 John Schutt

Whenever you clear a room in Hades, you see one or two doors with symbols above them. This symbol dictates the reward you’ll fight for in the arena beyond the door. There are two categories: Artifacts and Boons.

Boons come from the various Greek gods assisting Zagreus during his escape attempts. Artifacts are either currencies, weapon upgrades, or ability improvements. Which you choose will depend on the strategy and build you’re going for in our current run.

Artifacts in Hades

There are eleven artifacts in Hades, but you’ll only be seeing nine of them frequently. Diamonds, Ambrosia, and Titan’s Blood are exclusively boss/endgame rewards during an Underworld run. There are ways to get them in larger quantities, as we go over in our Titan’s Blood and Ambrosia guides, but you won’t be finding them in large amounts otherwise.

We’ve detailed the remaining eight artifacts below, in the same order as they're shown above:

  • Darkness: The base currency for the Mirror of Night, you’ll want as much Darkness as you can get your hands on early in the game. It’s usable for House Contractor and NPC mission progression as well.

  • Centaur Hearts: These items increase your total health by 25 points and heal you by that much, for a net healing amount of 0.

  • Chthonic Keys: You’ll use these items initially to unlock new abilities at the Mirror of Night. You’ll also spend them at the House Contractor and the Merchant in the House. Late game, they’re used to reroll Boons during a run.

  • Daedalus Hammer: These hammers offer a choice of three upgrades to your current weapon. Almost all of them are upgrades to the weapon’s capabilities but may not immediately jive with the build or playstyle you’re going for.

  • Gemstones: These jewels are used exclusively for upgrading the House of Hades at the House Contractor.

  • Nectar: This delicious beverage’s primary purpose is to improve your relationship with NPCs. An upgrade also causes picking a bottle up to increase one random Boon you currently have equipped.

  • Charon’s Obol: Coins usable only at Wells of Charon (the purple basin’s randomly spawning in rooms) and at Charon’s Shop rooms.

  • Pom of Power: These zesty fruits upgrade the effectiveness of one of three of your equipped Boons.

Boons in Hades

Whenever you come across a door with one of the Olympian god symbols, you’ll be able to get your hands on a Boon; powerful abilities keyed to that god’s portfolio.

Each god and their keyed ability types are below, in the same order as shown above:

  • Zeus: A damage-dealing set of powers themed around electricity.

  • Poseidon: Primarily damage-focused abilities based around the pushing of enemies around a map.

  • Athena: Defensive abilities themed around reflecting damage at enemies or straight-up reducing it.

  • Aphrodite: A mix of damage and debuff powers that increase your abilities and lower enemy defenses.

  • Artemis: Abilities focused on critical and burst damage.

  • Ares: Pure damage potential through saw blades or delayed burst.

  • Dionysus: Damage-over-time and confusion abilities that rely on stacks to function to their full potential.

  • Hermes: Upgrades that improve Zagreus’s speed and movement or the rate at which you accumulate money.

  • Demeter: Damage-over-time and slowing powers keyed to Ice and frost stacks.

  • Chaos: Straight upgrades to core character abilities like Attack/Special damage, Cast count, and other improvements. You must survive a set number of rooms with a random debuff to get the upgrade.

That's it for what you need to know about doors in Hades. Check out our other Hades guides here on GameSkinny.

Devolver Digital is Bringing Loop Hero to Nintendo Switch Wed, 11 Aug 2021 14:29:40 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Devolver Digital's Loop Hero is coming to Nintendo Switch. The publisher announced the Loop Hero Switch port during Nintendo's August Indie World presentation (which came alongside the Axiom Verge 2 shadow drop from Thomas Happand said it will launch sometime this holiday season.

Loop Hero is about... well, a hero trapped in a loop. But it's a multi-layered, endless one, and the actual loops you create to help the hero reach their goal.

You'll use random sets of tiles to help move the hero along their path and, hopefully, give them some handy power-ups along the way.

They'll need all the help they can get. Loop Hero is a challenging game that's not too keen on forgiving mistakes.

It's also a unique one, a game we called clever and beautiful, with hidden depths that effortlessly blends difficult battles with intriguing background about the world before disaster changed it forever.

We've also got plenty of Loop Hero guides to help you on your way once you get started.

Eldest Souls Review: Made With Love Thu, 29 Jul 2021 14:36:55 -0400 John Schutt

Eldest Souls makes no excuses for its Dark Souls influences; it revels in them. A boss rush game devoid of trash mobs of any kind, the team at Fallen Flag Studio focused almost solely on building some truly great boss fights. And since bosses are one of the big draws for any Souls-like game, it certainly wasn’t a bad call to make.

There’s also the genre’s trademark storytelling on display here; it's opaque, mysterious, and littered about the world rather than spoonfed to the player. Couple it with high quality (though not award-winning) pixel art and good music, and Eldest Souls makes for a tightly built game that’s worth your time.

The main issues arise in the gameplay, which is sadly the worst place for them to appear. Some wonky hitboxes and a few questionable design choices hamper the experience. The storytelling and world also aren’t as engaging as you might find in more narrative-focused Souls-likes.

None of this is a dealbreaker, but it did make for some frustrating moments during my playthrough.

Eldest Souls Review: Made With Love

As a boss rush game, the only enemies you fight in Eldest Souls are bosses with big health bars. There are no standard enemies, and the world is essentially empty except for one save point per area, several NPCs, and key item pickups scattered about.

Bosses, then, are generally good. There are 10 of them all told, and each is unique in both design and mechanics. Some use familiar aesthetics — ice, darkness, shapeshifting, and so on — but all of them have a few tricks up their sleeves. Good thing, too, because no boss has more than three attacks or so per phase, and they’re not hard to avoid once you know the dodge timing.

Each boss plays into its aesthetic quite well, using something as simple as “the darkness boss” and turning it on its head in new and exciting ways. Eldest Souls also plays with the mechanical expectations Souls veterans expect. Sure, the ice boss uses ice attacks, but it uses the arena as a weapon, too.

Like this, almost all of the bosses have some sort of arena mechanic, whether they be area-of-effect attacks, bullet hell projectiles, or something even meaner. Sometimes the arena gets in on the action, acting as a hazard or otherwise changing to make the fight more difficult.

Each boss fight is also unique enough that what you learn in one won’t necessarily translate to another. You will better understand how your build functions in a fight and the most optimal way to use it before relearning for another fight.

You’ll sometimes be able to learn about an upcoming boss based on the area they occupy. The ice boss lives at the end of an area frozen beneath a deadly frost. The animal boss lives deep in a corrupted forest. Sometimes the game gives you no clues, banking on the surprise of, say, a boss who uses light in a forgotten castle.

Learning the fights themselves doesn’t take too long; thankfully, the real challenges come from mastery, as with any group of good Souls bosses. The process is made much easier because the game provides a restart button, putting you right back into the action if you die. You can choose to go back to the area node to explore or take on another challenge.

It’s a nice feature and one that makes a lot of sense in a game without mooks to pester you from “bonfire” to “boss fog.” Having an instant-restart option also adds a bit of that “one more run” feeling you get out of a rogue-like. One failed attempt can quickly become 10 or 20, and unless you’re being bodied, you’ll have learned something with each death.

That knowledge won’t, necessarily, relate to how you play an encounter. I found the gameplay ultimately came down to spamming a specific set of actions and peppering in a special ability whenever it’s off cooldown.

With that in mind, the gameplay of Eldest Souls needs to complement every boss fight in some way. In many cases, parts of it only get in the way. There are three core issues that can make the moment-to-moment experience in Eldest Souls more tedious than enjoyable.

No Souls-like I’ve ever played got hitboxes right all of the time, so some of these issues I can forgive. One of the later fights sees a hitbox linger for more than a second after the attack animation finishes. In the same fight, an area of effect attack interacts oddly with the player character’s hitbox, making damage occur in an area larger than the attack animation itself.

At least for me, the bigger issue is the way boss hitboxes halt all momentum from the player. Rather than preserve forward motion as you move into a boss, like in a Miyazaki Souls game, if you run or dodge into an enemy in Eldest Souls, you just stop.

If one was occurring, your character’s animation also ceases, and suddenly whatever movement you had planned goes out the window.

Dodge invincibility frames don’t disappear, as the game still counts the dodge as having happened, so you can use this annoyance as part of a strategy in tight spaces. However, more often than not, the sudden shift of momentum put me on the back foot and sent me to the restart screen.

Many boss hitboxes also extend slightly above their pixel model or are otherwise deceptive to what they look like on screen. This exacerbates the collision issue and makes some arenas — many on the smaller side already — more dangerous to navigate.

Thankfully, these same janky hitboxes also make the bosses easier to hit. You’ll be able to do damage from ridiculous angles and distances. Your character’s sword also seems to extend about 50% longer than the model itself, which I’m sure helps.

Dodging is paramount in Eldest Souls. The primary difference in this game is that the stamina bar is divided into three chunks, and you can’t dodge unless at least one of them is full. Your stamina recharges significantly faster if you dodge through an attack, but if you’re caught with no charges, you'll take damage unless you can do some fancy footwork.

I understand why the dodge charge mechanic exists as a risk-reward mechanic that encourages intelligent use of the ability, but two problems exists.

One: some situations demand multiple dodge uses, meaning you’re likely to be down a dodge with no way to get it back besides waiting.

Two: your character moves at a snail’s pace by default, and for most of the game, that will be their only speed. Eldest Souls is a fast-paced game, and it grinds to a snore when you can’t dodge. Dodging, therefore, becomes more than a survival tool: it’s a basic movement ability.

Upgrading your character in Eldest Souls doesn’t mean increasing your health or stamina or a pool of stats. Instead, there are three skill trees keyed to activated abilities, each of which modifies your character in some way, though mostly in how they deal damage.

At the higher levels of these trees, your charged attacks have effects of their own, which is good because your basic attacks are worthless. Charge attacks are further emphasized because they grant lifesteal, giving you back a portion of the damage you deal as health. Your sword glows bright red when charged, and it attacks faster and hits harder, so it’s easy to know when you’re using basic attacks.

Thanks to this reliance on charged attacks for DPS combined with an early game item that instantly refreshes the charge on use, I found myself eschewing most strategy and just wailing on bosses until they died. It wasn’t until very late into the game that I had to stop to dodge or rethink how I approached a fight. I could, in short, hit my head against most fights until I won.

Even though the gameplay was a bit more sour than sweet, the art, music, and story of Eldest Souls help make up for it. The game is beautifully drawn, though the player character is little more than a colorful collection of pixels. My only quibble is in the cutscenes. Even rendered at 1080p, the individual pixels are big enough that whatever they make up become something of a jumble.

Boss and area designs are incredibly well-realized, and each space has its own personality. It’s also clear from the aesthetic and level design that this world is long past its prime. The NPCs will tell you as much, but they’re merely driving the point home.

The music fits the world well, too, and each boss theme plays off of who they are, were, or represented. None of the tunes will win any awards for musical achievement, but they serve their functions to a T and set the mood well.

Last, the story is, in a word, opaque. You'll need to read the various notes and item descriptions scattered about to understand the basics and then do some interpretation to arrive at a conclusion.

If you’re familiar with how Souls-games tell their stories, there’s nothing unfamiliar about the approach. As for my opinion on the story, it’s interesting, though I didn’t find it as engaging as others in the genre.

Eldest Souls Review — The Bottom Line


  • Awesome boss fights that all feel unique and satisfying to overcome
  • Beautiful pixel art that creates a world worth exploring
  • Good music and Souls-like story that ask just enough of the player


  • Several gameplay decisions get in the way more than they help
  • Samey combat that demands less than it should
  • Janky hitboxes

Eldest Souls is a game with great bosses that’s somewhat held back by spotty gameplay design decisions. Its aesthetics are solid, and it’s clear the development team put their heart and soul into making the best boss rush Souls-like they could.

They succeeded beyond most expectations, crafting a world wracked by ancient cataclysms and occupied by beings of terrifying power. It’s also a world you’ll want to explore despite its small size, as the challenges and mysteries buried at its heart are captivating enough to demand investigation.

For fans of the Souls-like genre who want to test themselves against the gods of a forsaken land and uncover the world’s secrets, Eldest Souls provides.

[Note: Fallen Flag Studio provided the copy of Eldest Souls used for this review.]

Rogue Lords Hands-On Preview: Darkest Dungeon Meets Classic Horror Fri, 25 Jun 2021 09:59:28 -0400 StevenGreen

Between the indie hit Darkest Dungeon and the dozens of similar strategy titles available on platforms like Steam, there is no shortage of difficult turn-based RPGs on the market. But for those looking to play something akin to Red Hook's popular title with a classic horror movie filter, Rogue Lords from Cyanide Studio (Styx, Call of Cthulhu) could be something to sink your teeth into.

While it's true that difficulty is often relative and can be either a positive or negative factor based on whoever's playing, Rogue Lords looks to find a balance between difficulty and accessibility. With a cartoony art style and unique mechanics, its gameplay so far, thoroughly enjoyable and noteworthy despite some difficult sections. 

I was able to go hands-on with the recent Rogue Lords beta build on PC ahead of the game's fall release, and here's what I think of it so far. 

Rogue Lords Hands-On Preview: Darkest Dungeon Meets Classic Horror

Lilith, Baron Samedi, and The Headless Horseman fighting two privateers.

Rogue Lords casts you as the Devil. After being driven into the depths of Hell from whence you came, you find yourself atop the black throne poised to incur payback and justice on the demon hunters of Van Helsing. To do so, you'll fight through the forces of good with a variety of classic horror movie monsters and fairy tale villains at your command.

The beta I played consisted of two levels: the prologue and a section set several hours into the game. The prologue unsurprisingly gets you up to speed, letting you familiarizing yourself with the map and movement. Your posse of monsters moves through foggy areas, discovering various paths and locations in the game's procedurally generated levels. These ultimately lead to a boss encounter at the end of each location which featured stringer enemies than normal.

As you move about the world, you'll engage in combat, buy abilities and health from vendors, and interact with classic horror characters like Dr. Frankenstein in narrative portions, all of which build up your characters' attacks and powers while leading you on your very own path towards world domination. 

With your pre-selected team of three, you'll fight your way through enemy units to learn new abilities or gain additional aid on your journey. For this pre-release playthrough, we were given the ability to try out three of what appears to be several available team members: Dracule, Bloody Mary, and the Headless Horseman. Each character has its own set of abilities and attacks, each embodies your standard archetype of tank, healer, etc.

A gaunt Dr. Frankenstein in a black cloak alongside dialog choices.

Combat consists of turn-based attacks where you spend action points to perform moves and abilities. Actions for opposing units are displayed to help you plan moves ahead or use abilities that negate some of the incoming damage or avoid attacks altogether, for example.

After a character's abilities have been used, they can't use them again unless they take the time to reset with a separate power-up. It's a mechanic that adds to the strategy as you use up some of your character's abilities while potentially saving others for later. 

While most of this type of gameplay can be found elsewhere, the unique thing about Rogue Lords is that you have the ability to cheat, just as the Devil would. You can lower the health of enemies, change the odds of passing certain checks, and even heal party members in exchange for your own health.

See, your team of three playable characters can never perish; instead, they get incapacitated. Once this happens, you, as the Devil, take damage directly. Deciding whether to use your precious health resources to increase your success is your call, but it could spell potential disaster down the road. 

Overall, Rogue Lords looks to be the type of experience those who liked Darkest Dungeon or similar experiences will want to check out. The featured characters from classic horror make it a unique one, and the additional Devil mechanics totally change up the strategy on offer. 

Rogue Lords will release later this year with all of its horror trope goodness with releases on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. 

Returnal 1.4.0 Update Patch Eases Difficulty, Fixes Trophies Mon, 14 Jun 2021 15:39:51 -0400 Jonathan Moore

The latest Returnal patch is live now, and it makes the roguelike shooter just a bit easier while fixing some of the issues players have had with the game's trophies. On top of these fixes, Housemarque has also added additional locations for certain scout logs, tweaked some of the DualSense haptics, and provided performance enhancements. 

Notoriously, certain scout logs needed for the Returnal platinum had been previously hard to come by. The game's RNG elements mean that certain logs (and Xenoglyph ciphers, as well) don't appear in every run. However, some players, including myself, were forced to grind for hours to find them. According to Housemarque, that grind will now be a little less intensive with patch 1.4.0. 

Changes to how trophies are counted have also been implemented, allowing for some trophies to retroactively pop for certain areas and activities that "cannot be replayed." There's also now support for replaying certain sections of Act 1 and Act 2 to acquire trophies that were previously locked after completing specific sections. 

Additionally, one of the biggest criticisms about Returnal (aside from its ungracious save system) is its difficulty. Returnal is an unforgiving game; both its boss fights and the enemies haunting its biomes up to those boss fights can be maddeningly tough. Housemarque said that it has made "difficulty adjustments in all biomes for a more balanced gameplay experience." 

The full Returnal 1.4.0 patch notes can be seen below, courtesy of Housemarque

  • Platinum: Added support for replaying certain Act 1 & Act 2 Trophies

  • Platinum: Added support to retroactively award Trophies which cannot be replayed

  • Platinum: Added additional locations for Scout Logs 9, 34, 35 & 46 to appear more often

  • Platinum: Fixed an issue where 1 Cipher was sometimes unobtainable for Biome Survey Trophies

  • Platinum: Fixed an issue where some Activity Cards displayed an incorrect count

  • UI: HUD labels for items are now hidden when Selene is firing a weapon

  • UI: Fixed an issue where 2 actions could be mapped to a single button after switching controller presets

  • Cinematics: Fixed a rare audio sync issue in the secret ending

  • Audio: General mix improvements across the experience

  • Audio: Improved surround sound setup support across the experience

  • Audio: Added more DualSense haptics across cinematic moments for deeper immersion

  • Audio: Added DualSense haptics when using the Icarian Grapnel

  • Audio: Improved the dynamic range recommendations system

  • Audio: Allow users to override the dynamic range recommendations

  • Audio: Allow users to change audio output from the game menu

  • Balance: Various bug fixes to certain artifacts, parasites, consumables, and when certain malfunctions can occur in the early parts of the game

  • Balance: Players no longer receive parasites as rewards when players avenge their corpses

  • Balance: Enemies, Weapons, and Bosses - difficulty adjustments in all Biomes for a more balanced gameplay experience

  • Fixed an issue where Hyperion may drop the Key out of reach

  • Fixed an issue where Ophion may become invisible if the player uses a Reconstructor during the fight 

  • Fixed weapons not being found in Biomes after scanning but not collecting them

  • Fixed an issue where Selene could jump impossibly long distances 

  • Fixed multiple issues where Selene may become trapped in a room

  • Fixed a rare freezing issue when teleporting in Crimson Wastes

  • Fixed occasional frame rate drops when using the Electropylon Driver

  • Performance improvements, crash fixes, and multiple minor bug fixes

If you've yet to pick up Returnal and are wondering what it's all about, consider checking out our review, where we called Housemarque's roguelike shooter a tightly designed roguelike with some of the best gameplay the genre can provide, and it's the first game since Demon's Souls to provide a reason to own a PS5." If you're playing Returnal and looking for a little help, consider heading over to our Returnal guides hub

Wizard With A Gun Asks What Would Happen If You Gave a Wizard a Gun Sat, 12 Jun 2021 19:18:32 -0400 David Carcasole

Wizard With A Gun is a brand new multiplayer sandbox survival game from developer Galvanic Games just shown off during Devolver Digital's E3 2021 showcase. The trailer reveals the bright and intricately detailed visual design of what looks to be an interesting isometric world, full of gun-toting wizards. 

The game is currently set to launch sometime in 2022 and will be coming to PC and Nintendo Switch. You'll set off on your journey solo or with friends in online co op, collecting resources along the way and fighting for your lives against the magical dangers around you.

Wizard With A Gun is a roguelike adventure that will feature randomly generated biomes, a breadth of loadout customization options, and what the developers call deep crafting mechanics.

Outside of that, we don't really know much else about Wizard With A Gun. The gameplay part of the 1:54 trailer shows off a good bit of combat, some resource gathering, and some of the game's crafting elements, including those for your gear and base structures.

Wizard With a Gun is currently available to wishlist on Steam. Galvanic Games has previously developed Gurgamoth, Rapture Rejects, and Some Distant Memory.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground Review — A Challenging Romp Through the Mortal Realms Wed, 26 May 2021 18:25:31 -0400 Luke Shaw

Rejoice, fans of tiny tabletop warriors. Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground is one of the first full-fat Age of Sigmar video games adaptations and… it's pretty good?

Ok, it isn't without its rough edges, but as a fan of Age of Sigmar, I am glad that Games Workshop's prog-metal-album-cover fantasy game finally gets an outing on consoles and PC.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground Review — A Challenging Romp through the Mortal Realms

Storm Ground is a turn-based strategy game that plays out on a series of hex-grid arenas in the Mortal Realms, Age of Sigmar's planes of magic style setting. Each campaign involves you taking control of one of three factions on offer, and tackling a series of increasingly difficult challenges.

The three forces are Sigmar's resplendent Stormcast Eternals, lightning forged warriors from the realm of Azyr; the cruel, spectral Nighthaunt from the realm of Shyish; and the corpulent, corrupted Maggotkin, worshipers of the plague god Nurgle.

Each of these factions is led by a unique hero, and has three campaigns set across the realms. The actual structure of the game is fairly interesting, so let's break it down.

The first campaign, and the most straightforward, and your first few missions are tutorials. This introduces the game's hex-based combat and the two basic units of the Stormcast Eternals: stalwart tank units called Retributors and ranged artillery units called Castigators.

Combat is high-risk, high-reward. Most units have a basic attack and an ability or two (with heroes often having two or three), as well as passive abilities that proc in certain circumstances. As an example, Retributors will buff the defense of adjacent units. Every unit also has the expected attack, health, defense, and move characteristics. 

Storm Ground does a mostly good job of conveying information before you commit to an action: move into range, and the UI will show you that enemies can target you. Hover over an enemy to attack them, and it will show you how much damage they will take — and how much you'll take in return.

It's helpful because combat is particularly lethal. Armor will mitigate some damage, with a percentage chance to entirely deflect damage, and it's sorely needed. Attacks can easily melt your units, and you're frequently outnumbered and outgunned. If one of your units dies in combat, they are dead for good. Lose your hero, and the campaign is over.

Except, of course, this is a rogue-like of sorts. Every time you die, you get back up and try again.

You're able to keep three of your units (represented as cards through the in-between mission loadout screens) and any wargear equipped to them. It's an interesting wrinkle and reflects both the lore of Age of Sigmar and the way you'll take your favorite units off the table in one game and put them back on for another round.

Once you've completed the initial mission, you are free to pick between two missions, each with different rewards, such as new unit cards or wargear and equippable skills. Chests hiding in out-of-the-way places in each mission can be picked up for extra awards, and equipping skills that synergize with your heroes and units, such as extra damage when a unit kills another unit, let you diversify your Warband.

These upgrades come with a price, though, and as you stack equipment on units, their summoning cost increases, another wrinkle in Storm Ground's design. While your opponents will appear in waves, you will only start with your hero, limited to spawning on set hexes.

You start with three aether, your summoning currency, and each turn you get one more, allowing you to summon units. Stormcast summon adjacent to their hero, making strong defensive castles, while Nighthaunt and Maggotkin must generate spirit wisps and corruption hexes to summon from, allowing for tactical play.

Adding perhaps one layer too many to the game, abilities cost energy and have a cooldown. Energy is generated from your third or fourth turn, again increasing per turn, but this structure locks powerful abilities behind them.

It goes without saying that combat in Storm Ground requires careful planning. Lining up swift killing blows, trading units only when you absolutely have to, and using area of effect attacks alongside abilities to manipulate movement, gain high ground, and block terrain to funnel enemies into chokepoints is all part of every fight.

Nighthaunt and Maggotkin have it tougher than the heroic Stormcast, too, as they rely on debuffs and map control to gain an advantage over their foes.

It can be pretty overwhelming at times, and there are a handful of missions — especially the final mission in each campaign — that can feel insurmountable until you've worked out a playstyle and strategy. I was hammering my head against the end of the Nighthaunt campaign for a while, as some high-level enemies are incredibly tanky and hit hard, but the game gave me a few solutions to work with.

Ultimately, I ended up having a particular combo that made one unit of ranged Chainghasts grow exponentially stronger each time it killed an enemy, and I spent the battle chipping away at small units until they could take huge chunks off of the boss. It was satisfying to put in practice, but having to start from scratch over and over was often demoralizing.

On the opposite end, early battles can be quite basic. Having to wait on placing units and putting your strategies into play as you pick missions and hope you get the right unit as a reward can be a bit fatiguing.

It's also worth noting that the UI itself can also be a bit cluttered, with basic icons and information hidden away in unit descriptions. This wouldn't be a huge issue, but actually getting around the UI is sluggish and frustrating. It's the biggest negative for the game, with no quality of life options for speeding up moves. Animations are canned and often awkward, but the inability to skip them, especially on reruns of early missions can be frustrating.

Visually the game is every inch an Age of Sigmar game, with each arena a little microcosm of Warhammer excess, nestling in greater dioramas that really get across how grand and bizarre the realms are. Though the mechanics here are the meat of the offering, the set dressing is certainly great.

Storm Ground isn't the most visually well-polished you'll play, but skulking around the branches of a colossal tree in Ghyran or reclaiming a Nurgle in Chamon, the realm of metal, really reinforce that wild fantasy vibe that Age of Sigmar has.

The voice acting also matches the setting. The phlegm-filled utterances of the Maggotkin as they denounce the "golden fools" of the Stormcast, who bellow back in zealous proclamations of faith, aren't high theatre, but they're 100% scenery-chewing Age of Sigmar. They had me chuckling along.

In short, it's a world of immortal heroes and villains, so it's fitting that it plays out with that very particular sense of Warhammer humor and pathos.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground — The Bottom Line

  • Bold visuals
  • Over the top dialogue 
  • Punishing but satisfying turn-based combat
  • A wide range of units, equipment, and skills make for diverse strategies
  • A lot of content on offer, with nine campaigns at launch
  • Lacking some visual polish
  • Very clunky UI
  • Difficulty can often feel stacked against you
  • Roguelike nature can make progression a slog
  • A number of crashes and technical issues with the UI, as well as units and AI bugging out

After clearing each of the three basic campaigns, there is the option to explore longer, more varied campaigns that require you to conquer two realms, offering you a chance to play with new heroes. There's a lot on offer here, but I'll admit its roguelike structure feels daunting and even outright tiring given how brutal and punitive the game can be at times. 

Storm Ground has some rough edges: janky animations, a handful of crashes, and a brutal difficulty curve. There are some quality of life issues as well. Hunting out powerful units, wargear, and skill combinations is compelling, but it is unfortunately too random because of the loot card nature of rewards. And the way you need to discard all but two of your favorite units when you fail a campaign can sting.

But I keep coming back to a simple fact: it's an Age of Sigmar game. It's not perfect, but it conveys the attitude and atmosphere of the setting. The factions convey their unique mechanics well, and that's a big plus in a Warhammer game. It's a promising first step into the Mortal Realms, but not one I'd recommend to anyone but the most diehard fans of Age of Sigmar without a wealth of caveats.

[Note: Games Workshop provided the copy of Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground used for this review.]

Returnal Update 1.3.7 Patch Notes Detail Latest Fixes Wed, 19 May 2021 16:40:57 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Housemarque's roguelike bullet-hell shooter Returnal released on PlayStation 5 on April 30, and the developer has been hard at work issuing updates and patches for various fixes since. Update 1.3.7 is poised to push Returnal into a new cycle on May 20 with a few small tweaks. 

The Returnal 1.3.7 update will be an automatic one that goes live at 10 a.m. EST. Be sure to finish up any runs before that time, as Returnal will close to download and install the update. Because of Returnal's save system, that means most progress on current runs will be lost. 

So what does the Returnal 1.3.7 update fix? Here are the patch notes per Housemarque: 

• Fixed an issue with Deceased Scouts not appearing as often as intended.

• After having one of their Deceased Scout corpses scavenged, players will no longer receive a negative-effect parasite on startup.

• Fixed an issue where the Ophion boss might disappear after a player uses the Reconstructor during the fight.

• Fixed a rare audio bug causing loud noises during combat.

• Fixed a small number of issues where players might become stuck in various rooms.

• Fixed several issues where the player might encounter a black screen during the credits or whilst playing.

• Multiple fixes for rare crashes during gameplay.

Update 1.3.6 released back on May 8 and fixed pre order suits from locking players out of certain areas, as well as a few stability issues and healing problems. 

This latest patch likely isn't the last one for Returnal; that's just the nature of development. Returnal is, for the most part, a very stable game. Will future updates add a more forgiving save system or nerf those damnable drones in the Derelict Citadel? Only time will tell. Stay tuned. 

[Source: Housemarque]

Returnal Review: Discover What Lies in the Deepest Reaches Fri, 07 May 2021 10:58:03 -0400 John Schutt

Returnal, like any good roguelike, pits you against seemingly insurmountable odds. Then, atop a mountain of your own corpses, you’ll triumph, only to be faced with more and more trying challenges as the game goes on. Add in a Lovecraft-inspired aesthetic, tightly designed roguelike mechanics, satisfying combat, and a mostly gripping narrative, and Returnal is a game worth your time.

Returnal is also the first game in all of the PlayStation 5’s software library, outside of, say, Astro's Playroom, to make real use of a lot the system has to offer. You’ll experience consistent haptic feedback and have different firing modes depending on how far you depress a trigger. The 3D audio is beautifully paired with top-notch sound design. Load times are the shortest they’ve ever been, and the game generates its random environments without a single hitch.

There are a few foibles here and there, from the occasional bit of over-written exposition or frame stutters during long play sessions. The lack of a save and quit function is unforgivable when Demon’s Souls solved the mid-game save problem in 2009. There’s also the occasional pacing issue and mechanical disconnect between going through levels and fighting bosses.

Don’t be dissuaded, though. If you’re a fan of the roguelike genre, or even just weird, cosmic horror science fiction, Returnal provides in spades.

Returnal Review: Discover What Lies in the Deepest Reaches

Returnal takes place on the alien planet of Atropos, where Selene, a scout of aeronautics company ASTRA, seeks out a mysterious White Shadow transmission. It soon becomes clear there is more going on here than just a signal transition, however, as Selene soon finds herself trapped by the planet, unable to stay dead when killed.

The reason for these roguelike elements is either cryptic or left intentionally vague. What you do know is the levels shift each time you begin a new run, called a “cycle” here. The randomization is more akin to something like Bloodborne’s chalice dungeons than the more granular procedural generation in a game like Dead Cells.

Rooms pull from a table of prefabricated pieces, with some more bespoke spaces for scripted encounters or loot and other upgrades. You’ll grow familiar with the basic layout of the rooms as you play, with your biggest guessing game being how they’re arranged, not what’s in them. Even then, you can make good educated guesses about where the merchant room (called a fabricator) will be or where you’ll probably find the boss, the latter of which are denoted by red doors on the map.

Never Defenseless

You’ll start every cycle with a simple sidearm. It’s useful but unremarkable. As you move through each biome, loot chests and boss-type enemies drop upgraded weapons. Each weapon you come across has a Proficiency level that determines its effectiveness the more you use it.

Higher Proficiency weapons can also have additional upgrades. You’ll reach Proficiency 25 or so by the end of the game, with up to four upgrade abilities modifying how the weapon functions. You’ll unlock new upgrades from new weapons you find during a cycle by killing enemies and filling the upgrade bar.

You’ll also improve your character by using Artifacts — per run items that grant a powerful bonus under specific circumstances — and Parasites, which confer both a random benefit and detriment. Lastly, you’ll have a growing selection of consumables and the ability to upgrade your health by picking up healing items scattered about levels.

The gameplay loop of finding new weapons, unlocking additional Artifacts, and improving and altering that cycle’s character is surprisingly satisfying. The system lacks the sheer depth you’ll find in Hades or Dead Cells, but it is quite a bit more detailed than a purer roguelike experience. There are very few permanent unlocks between cycles, making every resource precious.

The unlocks you do find take two forms. The first is Ether, a consumable currency for purifying Malignant items and containers, as well as powering Reconstructors. There are also various types of Xeno-Technology that open up new areas of the map either to additional materials or previously walled-off levels.

You’ll find a flow as the game progresses, collecting weapons, upgrades, and Obolites, the standard currency dropped by enemies and scattered about the maps. Then, once you’ve cleared a level once, you’ll have access to the next level without needing to fight the current level’s boss again.

Take Your Fight to the Cycle

It doesn’t take long to find a good rhythm in Returnal. Fighting your way through the first levels, making it to the boss, failing a few times, then overcoming them, only to start the whole process again in the next biome, the next cycle.

Each cycle also reveals more of Returnal’s story through visitations from the past and various Xenoglyph writings. The narrative is purposefully opaque, leaving much to the imagination for most of the game’s runtime. Even at the end, answers can be hard to come by, though there are some things the game makes fairly clear I won’t go into here.

Thankfully, every cycle is unique enough, and the moment-to-moment gameplay enjoyable enough, that you won’t mind the occasional disruption for story.

The tale itself takes on some heavy stuff, and it does so with care and a lot of attention given to the weight of the decisions that lead each character to this point in their lives. It’s not perfectly told, as the writers can sometimes be a little too proud of themselves, making the writing feel overwrought and needlessly grandiose.

While the exposition can get in its own way, the worldbuilding does not. Everything is on point: from the way the levels are built to the alien environments of Atropos to the godlike beasts that lurk in the shadows. Throughout the story, events only grow stranger as reality seems to bend further and further toward a breaking point.

Don’t Fear the Cycle

Returnal will test your sanity as much as it does Selene’s thanks to a high level of difficulty that only ramps up deeper into the game. Each new biome introduces enemy types with new attacks, new patterns, and new effects. The amount of visual effects on screen, most of which can kill you, also increases exponentially as you play.

It’s a testament to the PS5 that the game doesn’t chug or hitch during these intense moments, as even some PCs would have trouble pulling off so many particle effects at once without stutter or frame drops.

However, some of the arenas you fight in don’t always feel appropriate for either the enemies you fight or the density of the enemies inside. When you run across the rocket launching drones in groups of 10 or more, in a space too small to accommodate all those missiles, you’ll know what I mean.

Your deaths are usually your fault despite the level of randomization. Returnal has a fair few tutorials, but these mostly involve mechanics your character does, not that the world does. You’re as liable to die because of a pit or enemy attack you’ve never seen before as a miss-timed dodge or because you messed up this mechanic or that one.

It can be frustrating too to find yourself at the mercy of an offscreen enemy or needing just one more second to kill the trash mob throwing missiles at you. It’s rarely a lack of preparation that will get you killed because once you know what a fight will take or how to handle a certain kind of enemy, they aren’t themselves the threat. It’s the possibility of being overwhelmed that’s the real problem.

Big Boy Fights

Boss fights are in a tough position in Returnal because they have to be both unique one-on-one encounters and also provide that threat of being swarmed. Boss attacks, therefore, take up a metric ton of screen space. The visual noise in the fights can be terrible, and you’ll spend half your time trying to make out what’s going on as you will damaging the boss.

Bosses are also comparatively easier than going through levels, as after a few fights, you know what each attack pattern is and how to deal with it. This is true of other roguelikes, of course, but because of the lack of build variety in Returnal, you end up going through the motions more often than you do experimenting with new ways of dealing with the boss.

Each fight is, like the worlds they capstone, unique and asks something new of you, usually building on the mechanics you’ve learned to that point. The fights all have three phases, and this tends to alter the fight in some way, either through new attacks or mechanical changes. It would have been nice if some of the bosses turned gameplay on its head rather than simply increasing the challenge a bit.

A Human Touch to an Alien World

Despite the bosses falling somewhat short in the gameplay department and the story feeling precious from time to time, Returnal’s core conceit is remarkably human for the world where it takes place. This fact is both its greatest triumph and largest problem.

The game has to toe the line between alien, Lovecraft-inspired action roguelike, and subdued, darkly emotional narrative adventure. The pacing is all over the place as a result. One moment you’ll be adrenaline-fueled. The next, you’re taking part in a slow-paced walking section with weird narrative devices.

Returnal all but requires this shift of the player, too, if they want to understand fully what’s going on and why. Then, even if you do everything the game asks of you, some answers simply don’t exist. That’s all well and good for a game paying homage to Lovecraft’s mythos, but there are actually too many answers to questions here.

While there is plenty of room for interpretation, because the game’s story is ultimately one about Selene and not the strange world she’s been dropped into, Returnal loses some of the mystery as it chases the familiar.

Returnal Review — The Bottom Line


  • Amazing roguelike gameplay with a satisfying loop
  • Great world-building in a Lovecraft-inspired narrative
  • The first full PS5 game to truly put the system through its paces
  • Pacing issues of both the gameplay and story variety
  • Occasional frame hitching and a lack of expected gameplay features like saves
  • Lots of visual noise and randomization sometimes breaks the balance

Returnal offers a tightly designed roguelike with responsive controls, a well-realized world, and a solid roguelike gameplay loop with minimal but significant upgrade paths and plenty of challenge. It also makes generous use of the PS5 hardware, perhaps the first full game on the console to do so (Astro's Playroom somewhat counts, but it's also more a large tech demo).

The gunplay is also exquisite, even for someone more used to shooting on a mouse and keyboard than a pair of control sticks. There is a fair bit of visual noise, and some of the random arenas aren’t ideal for the more annoying enemy types or enemy density.

While compelling at times, the story suffers from pacing and clarity issues and doesn’t know exactly which side of the cosmic horror fence to land on. The focus is clearly on the roguelike elements and excellent moment-to-moment gameplay, with good reason, as these are the game's strongest suits. The sound design is also top-notch, and the music is appropriate if not memorable.

If you’re looking for an experience that really takes advantage of the latest console hardware, Returnal offers it and a lot more. Does it justify its $70 price tag or the purchase of a PS5? That’s debatable, as I don’t consider Returnal a killer app the same way I would a Bloodborne or a Breath of the Wild. That doesn’t take away from the sheer quality on display here and the fact this is a game made with the future in mind, in-game or in the real world. Whatever that is.

[Note: The writer purchased the copy of Returnal used for this review and was reimbursed for their purchase.]

"The Devil Is In The Details" In Rogue Lords, a New Turn-Based Rougelike Thu, 06 May 2021 20:56:04 -0400 David Carcasole

Rouge Lords is a new rougelike from developers Cyanide Studios and Leikir Studios where players step into the shoes of the devil, cheating their way to world domination. 

Rogue Lords features turn-based rougelike where players have the ability to bend the rules ever so slightly by actually breaking them in half. Return debuffs to your enemies, take down their health bar to secure victory, and do whatever it takes to achieve power.

A new gameplay trailer can be seen below, and details more of what players can expect ahead of launch. 

The trailer shows off the different abilities players will have in Devil Mode, which flips the switch of power in their favor. While in Devil Mode players can alter the rules of the game, even going so far as to lower enemy health bars so they die the next hit. The catch is that every time this is done, it also lowers the essence of the devil. Let essence run out, and a run is over. 

Along the way, players will also get to forge relationships with other NPCs and keep their own party powerful through different powers to defeat waves of foes.

Rogue Lords is currently slated to release on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch later this year. No firm release date has been shared. Stay tuned for more. 

Returnal Update 1.3.4 Patch Notes: "Save Games are Safe to be Played Now" Thu, 06 May 2021 16:31:36 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Returnal update 1.3.4 (1.003.004) is live now, and it comes on the heels of patch 1.3.3, which caused players as much headache as the game's third biome, Derelict Citadel. The patch notes for update 1.3.4 say that most save games aren't at risk of corruption now, though some won't be salvageable. Changes also include fixes for a trophy bug and "keyboard exploit." 

Where update 1.3.3 essentially destabilized Returnal, causing various crashes to occur and error messages to pop up, including the dreaded CE-100028-1 error, Housemarque said update 1.3.4 "reverts to a previous stable build (1.3.1)," while making a few tweaks along the way. 

The biggest bit of news here is that players don't have to worry about losing progress or running into save errors any longer. Housemarque pointed out in their patch notes release that "all save games are safe to be played now." 

The caveat here is that Housemarque has acknowledged that some save files can't be recovered; they're permanently lost for some players that downloaded update 1.3.3. They outline three different methods for those affected by patch 1.3.3. The studio advised: 

For those who suffered issues with their save game after installing Patch 1.3.3, please see the scenarios below for the latest info after our investigations:

  • Some game saves will have become corrupted with Patch 1.3.3, but maintained their file size. Players with those save games are able to safely continue their progress after installing Patch 1.3.4, without the need for using a backed up save game.

  • Unfortunately other save games will have been effectively "deleted" by Patch 1.3.3, with their file size reducing to 0KB. These save games are not directly salvageable by Patch 1.3.4, without a backup save game available.

  • In those cases, please try using a backed up save from PS+ if available, after installing Patch 1.3.4. With an intact save game from PS+, players can safely restore and continue playing with Patch 1.3.4 installed.

  • Depending on the console settings, the cloud save may have been overwritten by the "deleted" save game noted above. If this is the case, progress will remain unsalvageable, even with Patch 1.3.4.

Alongside squashing the save game bug, the update also fixes issues with trophies and external keyboards. Dexerto points out that some players have had issues since launch with Returnal's trophies popping. And NME previously reported that other players have found ways to activate the game's cheats using a keyboard. 

Returnal is already a brutal game, even more so than some of Housemarque's other titles, such as Nex Machina and Dead Nation. We're currently making our way across Atropos and will have our final review very soon. Until then, if you've already crash-landed on the "ever-changing alien planet," consider checking our growing set of helpful tips and tricks

[Sources: Housemarque, Dexerto, NME]

Returnal Could Receive Updates to How it Saves Progress Sat, 01 May 2021 13:10:00 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Housemarque's new roguelike, Returnal, is out now on PS5 and includes several mechanics found in the developer's previous games. In many ways, it's the culmination of everything Housemarque's been working toward over the past decade with Resogun, Nex Machina, and Matterfall. Alongside precision dodging, bullet-hell combat, and unique, upgradeable weapons, Returnal brings over another staple of those games: the lack of a manual save function. 

Like many other roguelikes, Returnal sets you back at the beginning when you die. While it does keep some of your progress, such as key story items, dying means you lose the weapons and mods you've acquired, your artifacts, and your consumables. This is the nature of the genre, but runs in Returnal can be very long -- upwards of several hours for some players.

It took me 45 minutes to get through the first biome, for example, and I had to quit my first run in the second area, Crimson Wastes, ultimately giving up on my progress because of a few other, more pressing priorities. Again, the nature of the genre beast, but nonetheless demoralizing. 

Because of those run lengths, some players have begun asking Housemarque to patch in a proper save function for Returnal. And the developer has said they are listening. First spotted by Eurogamer, Housemarque replied to a Reddit post about players' inability to save Returnal and come back to a run later. 

"We hear the community and we love you all. Nothing to announce now, but keep playing and enjoying the challenge as you can!"

As pointed out by Eurogamer, Returnal does feature a pseudo-save system via checkpoints. These are made possible by a device called the Reconstructor, which can be found randomly in Returnal's procedurally-generated levels. There's no guarantee one will appear in a player's specific world -- or that they have the patience to uncover it across multiple winding paths. On top of that, players need to have farmed enough Ether to use the Reconstructor, which only allows for one checkpoint per run. 

Whether Housemarque ultimately includes a normative save function in Returnal remains to be seen. The developer didn't yet officially commit to including one in future updates and patches, though they are certainly contemplating the idea, it seems. 

Returnal has received mostly positive reviews from critics, garnering an 86 on Metacritic across 89 reviews and a "Mighty" on OpenCritic across 92 reviews. We'll have our full thoughts on Housemarques roguelike next week, so stay tuned. 

[Source: Eurogamer]

Scourgebringer PS Vita Review: Finishing Strong Sat, 01 May 2021 09:00:01 -0400 David Carcasole

Scourgebringer, developed by Flying Oak Games, has been out in the wild since October 2020, but it has only just this month migrated onto PlayStation platforms, including the one platform where it feels most at home: the PlayStation Vita.

Scourgebringer is the other deeply challenging roguelike that's made its way to PlayStation consoles since early April, and Flying Oak Games delivers an experience well worth mentioning alongside the best of roguelikes on any console.

On PS Vita, however, the developer takes it a step further with clever use of the platform’s features, making Scourgebringer on Vita an absolute must-own for anyone still rocking Sony’s handheld phoenix.

Scourgebringer PS Vita Review: Finishing Strong

It’s amazing how a change in environment can affect our experience with something. Even though Scourgebringer released in October 2020, and I enjoyed the game on other platforms, the difference between my first experience of it and my experience on Vita is almost like night and day.

Scourgebringer suits the PS Vita’s form factor so well, and though it’s definitely the smallest version of the game, nothing feels small or understated about it.

The many colors of Scourgebringer pop beautifully on my OLED model PS Vita, and the screen size feels just right, rendering each room without losing any important environmental storytelling details or minimizing important text. It's an important element to consider, since, like other roguelikes, Scourgebringer’s story is discovered over the course of multiple runs and fed to the player through droplets of dialogue from past explorers.

The jumping-off point is that you, Kyhra, are tasked with saving your people from certain death and putting an end to what seems like biblical levels of judgment. Once you enter the monolith, though, that’s when the mystery truly begins. 

The story, however, is ultimately not the focal point of Scourgebringer. The gameplay is the star of the show, and it shines brightly. Scourgebringer is by no means an easy game, but the combat is so addicting it’s difficult to ever put it down.

Throughout the game, you constantly receive random buffs and item drops either from NPCs, by clearing a room full of enemies, or by completing challenges within the different levels. As with every roguelike, Scourgebringer has a number of important and not-so-important buffs. Here they're called blessings, and each run is greatly affected by what you have available to you. You don’t need the best blessings to make it deep into Scourgebringer, but some make things much easier. The only constant to remember is, you can't get hit -- ever. 

And this is where Scourgebringer’s challenge starts to show. Almost every room you explore in the monolith is chock full of well-designed demons, devils, robots, bugs, and all manner of creatures hell-bent on killing you dead.

You start the game only able to endure six hits before you die and start again, though you can increase it to a max of 10 by unlocking higher starting health through the skill tree. It's vital to unlock certain skills early on like Lethal Club, which lets you send enemy bullets back at them. Thankfully, the most important skills are near the beginning of each branch, and even if it's unlocked, you can still read the skill's description, so you can have an idea of where you want to invest your skill points.

Despite the challenge, Scourgebringer is hardly frustrating because I was genuinely having too much fun to care. It helps that the upgrades you receive make it feel like the game wants you to succeed, and supportive NPC characters providing the odd pep talk, as well as plenty of status buffs, don’t hurt either. 

Kyhra’s mobility is Scourgebringer’s key. There’s a certain precision required to master Scourgebringer’s gameplay. Whereas I initially thought controlling Kyhra's dash might slow down the speed of combat, clever and timely use of their gun and fury attacks keeps the pace fast and fluid, creating an immense level of creativity in how each combat encounter plays out. 

All of this sounds great, but what makes Scourgebringer unique on the PS Vita?

Flying Oak goes the extra mile on Vita with how well they use the platform's toolbox. The back touchpad is used for Khyra's gun and fury attacks, and swiping or tapping your fingers to activate them is extremely intuitive. Though something like that may seem like a small change, it’s this change that makes Scourgebringer a must-own for anyone with a PS Vita; it's an experience unlike any other. 

Scourgebringer PS Vita Review -- The Bottom Line


  • Excellent combat and core gameplay loop
  • Clever and intuitive use of the PS Vita's features and form factor
  • Wonderful pixel art design and engaging soundtrack


  • This particular experience is only available on a niche platform, one that most won't be able to acquire
  • The occasional frame dip traveling across rooms

If the wonderful design, intuitive controls, engaging combat, and addictive core loop weren’t enough to make Scourgebringer a fantastic roguelike, there are a few other aspects that give the game an invariable charm.

There’s a large focus on blood within the story and world of Scourgebringer. Blood is your currency, blood acts your skill points, and the blessings you get are from blood, all working in concert to give the impression that Scourgebringer is in some way influenced by Bloodborne. And the music that cracks like a bolt of lightning in every room is reminiscent of the intensity of the Doom soundtrack. Whether or not Flying Oak Games took inspiration from these titles, they feel like intentional nods from one game to another, and it's very charming to see.   

Altogether, there is a lot to love about Scourgebringer. On the PS Vita, there’s even more to love because like so many other indie games, it feels at home on Sony’s handheld. The ease with which combos can be created and how multipliers work to keep the game's frenetic pace is unmatched thanks to the controls on PS Vita non-existent on other consoles. 

In short, Scourgebringer is the latest game best played on PS Vita. If this is the last game to release on the PS Vita, the console has surely gone out on one of its strongest notes it possibly could have.

[Note: Flying Oak Games provided the copy of Scourgebring used for this review.]

Tainted Grail: Conquest Leaves Early Access This May Thu, 29 Apr 2021 15:40:17 -0400 David Carcasole

Tainted Grail: Conquest is a deck-building roguelike RPG from developer Awaken Realms, and it will officially launch out of Steam Early Access on May 27. It initially released in EA last June.

The announcement of the full launch also comes alongside the news that the game's final pre-launch update has been released on April 29 and is available for free. The update includes new story content, multiple gameplay additions gameplay, a visual overhaul "with over 30 new 3D enemy models," and overall general quality improvements to keep the game running smoothly. 

Awaken Realms have also released a new trailer to go alongside the release, which can be seen below:

Tainted Grail: Conquest is a mixture of genres blended together for a very unique gameplay experience. It is inspired by the hit board game also developed by Awaken Realms, Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon. Players explore the cursed island of Avalon as they deal with an ever-changing map, a wide variety of enemies, and the dark mysteries that hide within the island. 

If you're eager to dive into the world of Avalon ahead of full release, Awaken Realms has made the current Early Access version of the game 20% off on Steam. Be quick, however, as the sale only lasts until May 6.  

Returnal Trophy List Reveals 31 Trophies, Including the Platinum Mon, 19 Apr 2021 18:27:19 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Returnal is here. The latest rogeulike shoot-em-up from Housemarque released on April 30 exclusively for PS5. Ahead of its launch, it appears the Returnal trophy list has appeared online.

There are 31 trophies to grab in total on the Returnal trophy list, including the platinum, seven golds, five silvers, and 18 bronzes. Several trophy-tracking sites, including PowerPyx, have listed the trophies in full and have full guides already. The trophy list has feats that run the gamut from beating certain bosses and progressing through the story to nabbing collectibles and hitting max level for some abilities.

There aren’t any trophies for completing Returnal on various difficulty levels, as there are for previous Housemarque games like Nex Machina, nor are there any for completing areas without taking damage, as there are in Matterfall. That's because there are no difficulty settings in Returnal

The full Returnal trophies list can be seen below. The descriptions are fairly innocuous, and they don’t provide too many hints to the importance of certain bosses or story beats, so there’s no need to worry about spoilers.

But if you’d rather not risk it at all, turn back now knowing that the Returnal platinum doesn’t appear to be too difficult (though it’s possible some of the “easier” sounding trophies could be harder than we anticipate).

Here's the full trophy list: 

Name Type Description
Helios Platinum Collect all trophies
Atropian Survival Bronze Learn the basics of survival on Atropos
A Shadow in the Fog Bronze Defeat Phrike
Ascension Bronze Defeat Ixion
Trial by Judgement Bronze Defeat Nemesis
Silence the Song Bronze Defeat Hyperion
Inner Darkness Bronze Defeat Ophion
Second Chance Bronze Returned by an artifact
Cryptic Messages Bronze Scan the Xenoglyph
Cryptic Translations Bronze Unlock all translation tiers of a Xenoglyph
Surgical Precision Bronze Perform 5 successful Overloads in a row
In-Field Training Bronze Complete a daily challenge in Simulation mode
Hardened Shell Bronze Achieve 200% max integrity
Risk Assessment Bronze Finish Calculated Risk
Adrenaline Spike Bronze Achieve maximum Adrenaline level
Irreversibly Contaminated Bronze Have 5 parasites simultaneously
Eternal Return Bronze Die for the first time
Alternate Fates Bronze Retrieve 10 Scout Logs
Welcome Home Bronze Complete the first Home sequence
Failed Escape Silver Complete Act 1
Last Drive Silver Complete Act 2
Adapting to Circumstance Silver Achieve weapon proficiency level 30
Sins of the Mother Silver Complete all house sequences
Visions of the Past Silver Complete a Xeno-archive set
Past the Ruins Gold Finish Overgrown Ruins survey
Ascending the Mountain Gold Finish Crimson Wastes survey
Through the Forgotten City Gold Finish Derelict Citadel survey
Echoes of the Past Gold Finish Echoing Ruins survey
Frozen in Time Gold Finish Fractured Wastes survey
Submerged in Memories Gold Finish Abyssal Scar survey
White Shadow Gold Finish Act 3


The Returnal trophy list gives fans an idea of about how long the game is, with each survey likely being its own level across the game's three acts. There will also be five bosses to defeat, logs to collect, and deaths to die.  

[Source: PowerPyx]

Returnal Hostiles Trailer Introduces Atropos' Many Threats Wed, 14 Apr 2021 14:23:41 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Housemarque amps up the horror in the latest Returnal trailer, this time focusing on the enemies hell bent on sending Selene back to the start of her rebirth cycle. While Atropos is home to a range of creatures, one thing unites them: malice.

First up is what seems like a standard foe, the Mycomorph. It's a fragile-looking being composed of interwoven plant matter that attacks with overgrown tentacles. The Titanops is deadlier, an enemy faster than its bulk would suggest and one that ends its prey with a giant, bladed arm and yet more tentacles.

Selene will also encounter the Automaton, which is what the name suggests. The Automaton appears lifeless but possesses a maleficent sentience that drives it to attack with both guns and claws.

The Gorgolith appears as a combination of stonework and scorpion, using its tail to fire high-powered lasers. Another enemy Housemarque showcased is the Ixion. It's a boss-type monster, though little else was mentioned about it.

Perhaps the most frightening enemy Selene will encounter, however, is herself. The Scout enemy is a distorted, vicious version of Selene she'll encounter on more than one occasion. 

All these creatures are vicious and determined to destroy Selene, so expect to restart her journey plenty of times. Of course, that, making good use of Selene's upgrades, and experiencing Atropos' shifting nature are all part of the experience.

The Binding of Isaac: Repentance DLC Review — Once More Unto the Basement Tue, 13 Apr 2021 12:32:43 -0400 Jordan Baranowski

The Binding of Isaac is a pretty incredible story of indie game success. Originally released in 2011, it was part of the indie roguelike boom, but its combination of seemingly limitless variations alongside its charming, scatological style and deep cut Biblical references helped it stand above the rest.

Ten years later, and The Binding of Isaac: Repentance is yet another full game-sized DLC that provides dozens more hours of this deceptively difficult bullet hell game.

Repentance doesn't add anything particularly game-altering to the formula; it's not going to win you over if you don't like this style of roguelike. What it does do, however, is add huge amounts of content to the already massive base game (and other DLCS) that is The Binding of Isaac.

On top of that, there's some even more hardcore endgame content, including a series of new, game-breaking characters to unlock. Not bad for $15.

The Binding of Isaac: Repentance DLC Review

If you're totally uninitiated, let's catch you up real quick. 

The Binding of Isaac is a top-down roguelike that has some elements of old-school action and bullet hell games. Also, glancing at a few screenshots might remind you of exploring dungeons in the original Legend of Zelda. You move between rooms, collecting items and fighting enemies, eventually reaching a boss and descending to a new floor.

It's a simple concept that anyone who has played video games can learn in a hurry.

Things start to pick up with the roguelike elements. As you delve further and further, enemies and bosses get insanely difficult. You must scale yourself in order to stand a chance, and some of the combos you find throughout your runs are ridiculous. You'll put together combinations that make you practically impossible to kill, and you'll shred through even the most difficult of bosses. On other runs, a few mistimed movements mean your health will be taken down by a single foe.

On top of all that, there's a bonkers story that straddles the line between "This has to be a joke" and "Is it?" You are a child named Isaac (or one of his other Biblically named friends), and your mother is slowly driven insane. One day, when she tries to kill you, you flee into your basement. Or, maybe not. There's a ton of backstory and lore going on here, and lots of little hints at the true nature of what's happening.

Which brings us to The Binding of Isaac: Repentance. This DLC is, at its heart, taking a recent fan mod and sprucing it up for an official release. The big draw here is the endgame content: there is a new "official" final area, including new bosses and endings. There are also two brand new characters and a "tainted" variation of every character in the game, many of which offer completely new playstyles and wildly powerful abilities.

Essentially, Repentance brings the game's playable character count up to nearly three dozen.

The Binding of Isaac: Repentance also completely reworks co op mode. Instead of additional players joining as the co op "babies" from previous versions, Repentance allows up to four people to join in as actual characters. This changes The Binding of Isaac in a huge way, and the screen becomes extremely chaotic.

Finally, there's just more of everything: over 100 new items and enemies, new bosses, new environments, new challenges, achievements... there is a ton of new stuff in Repentance.

That's always been the joy of The Binding of Isaac, though. There is so dang much that even after hundreds of hours of play, you're likely to find new combinations and interactions, unlock new items, and find new ways to slam your head down in frustration after dying during a particularly late-game boss. Things are made even more unfair in Repentance, but the fun comes in finding your own perfect builds to counter the game's steep challenge.

Luckily, not everything new in Repentance is confined to the late game. You start encountering new enemies and environments from the very beginning, though getting to most of those new playable characters takes some serious slaying skills. Unlocking tainted characters and successfully challenging the new final bosses is no easy feat and should provide a challenge to even the savviest of Isaac fans.

It isn't hard to recommend Repentance to anyone: hardcore fans of The Binding of Isaac probably are already sweeping through it. If you've never played Isaac or it's been sitting dormant in your library for a while, grabbing some new DLC and giving it a whirl will suck you right in. 

For $15, you'll add dozens of more hours to an already spectacular game. What's not to love?

The Binding of Isaac: Repentance DLC Review —The Bottom Line


  • Great endgame content
  • Tons of new characters are a challenge to unlock and offer new twists
  • New elements are scattered throughout, giving new enemies and items in even the earliest areas
  • New challenges and co-op offer variations to tackle


  • Ultimately, it's just more. If you didn't already like The Binding of IsaacRepentance isn't going to change your mind
  • Much of the biggest surprises are extremely late game  a large chunk of players won't ever reach it

Reviewing something like Repentance is difficult: it's just more content for an already great and long-lived title. Maybe the reworked co op is a draw for some that otherwise wouldn't give it a second look, but that's about it.

That said, The Binding of Isaac: Repentance is more of a good thing, and we all know that's generally what we want from a roguelike. It's a no-brainer if you're already a fan. If you've already moved on from Isaac, your mileage may vary.

[Note: The reviewer purchased the copy of The Binding of Isaac: Repentance used for this review. GameSkinny provided reimbursement.]