Steam Early Access Program  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Steam Early Access Program  RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network New Population Zero Trailer Reveals Shift to B2P Fri, 21 Feb 2020 13:46:32 -0500 Ty Arthur

Previously planned as a free to play release, upcoming exploration MMO Population Zero is now switching gears to a paid Steam Early Access distribution.

Creative Director Denis Pozdnyakov commented on the pivot away from in-game transactions to a full paid release:

The decision to change the monetization model from F2P to a one-time purchase has been made after a series of thorough discussions within the team and core community. The shift to B2P will allow the studio to continue the work on the game without fears of ‘pay to win’, as well as allowing us to release new game content that really enhances the gameplay.

Developed by Enplex Games, Population Zero will feature a heavy focus on the survival side, as players have seven days to build up before the planet becomes too deadly to survive.

After that point, each character's DNA changes radically and it all begins again. Account-based progression rewards remain after the seven day window, however, and players move forward with important knowledge from previous lives.

Enplex Games today announced fans can explore the world of Kepler on May 5, 2020 and the Steam wishlist page is now live. 

Are you looking forward to this survival take on the massively multiplayer genre? Sound off in the comments below, and stay tuned to GameSkinny for more news on Population Zero as it nears Early Access release.

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened Now in Steam Early Access Fri, 21 Feb 2020 12:27:08 -0500 Ashley Shankle

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened isn't just right around the corner, it's right here. Well, in Early Access form.

The third main entry to the action tower defense Dungeon Defenders series is entering its Early Access period on Steam today, swinging onto the platform with patch 0.9 (the game isn't too far off from its full release state).

Though it's not complete just yet, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is hitting Steam with 12 maps and four playable characters, giving players a host of scenarios to build and fight on via its multiple modes.

The game will receive additional characters after its full release in Q2 2020, along with a release on the Nintendo Switch. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners will have to wait until later this year to get in on the action.

You don't have to wait for full release to get in on the multiplayer, either. The fun in Dungeon Defenders has always been getting a group of friends together and getting new and exciting loot, and players will be able to do just that right out the gate.

Are you thinking about picking up Dungeon Defenders: Awakened while it's in Early Access? Let us know in the comments below, and look forward to further updates to the game as it pushes through EA into multiplatform release.

Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! Entering Early Access January 2020 Tue, 06 Aug 2019 17:34:57 -0400 Ashley Shankle

Virtual chefs get ready. Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! is opening up on Steam Early Access in January 2020.

Changing things up from the physical restaurant locations in the first and second games, Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! will task players with running a food truck across a war-torn America in the year 2042, daring to take on the Iron Cook National Food Truck Championships.

If the change in setting has you nervous, take heart: the game will feature the recipes found in the second game, as well as a healthy heap of brand new recipes to whip up on the road. It's sure to be extremely stressful, as it was meant to be.

The official Cook, Serve, Delicious! website has a few of the new dishes listed, looking just about good enough to eat. Bibimbap and banh mi? Yes, please!

This series certainly isn't the only restaurant sim option out there — looking at you, Cooking Simulator but you won't find any other that so painfully (and temptingly) puts you through the menial restaurant task gauntlet.

It'll be quite the wait for Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! though, and in Early Access no less.

Early adopters of the second game in the series will remember the grumblings over the second title's issues around release and developer Chubigans's efforts to add features and fixes in the months after. The Early Access route is the right one for this arthritis-inflicting food truck.

Barotrauma Impressions: Unique Roleplaying in An Unforgiving Ocean Mon, 03 Jun 2019 14:55:40 -0400 Ashley Shankle

Every once in a while, a game comes around that you can't help but love despite its faults. In spite of all the frustration you experience with bugs or mechanics, you somehow keep coming back and bashing your head against the wall because the base of the game is just that fun.

Barotrauma's like that.

I've put some good time into Barotrauma over the past couple of weeks, playing with friends, getting us killed, and actually surviving a few missions. It's been a great time, and even with friends, things have been a delightful disaster.

Those who have played games like Space Station 13 or Town of Salem will be more familiar with what's required in Barotrauma than those still uninitiated into the exciting world of multiplayer semi-roleplaying games, where one naive newbie or clever traitor can ruin the whole mission for everyone involved.

Somewhat lifting the idea from Space Station 13, Barotrauma shoves a handful of players (and/or AI) into a submarine on Jupiter's moon, Europa. It then demands they play their role to keep the sub operable. Each role plays differently from the last, but just about all of them play some key role in maintaining the submarine and its crew.

There are a handful of roles to play, including:

  • Captain: The captain navigates the submarine and watches the sub layout monitor to look for hull breaches, leaks, and poor air quality.
  • Engineer: The engineer overlooks the reactor to keep the sub fueled and the reactor at a safe temperature.
  • Mechanic: The mechanic is tasked with repairing machines and equipment across the sub, as well as fixing leaks and operating the fabricator (crafting).
  • Medical Doctor: The medical doctor handles aiding crew members who have sustained damage.
  • Security Officer: The security officer mans the guns outside the submarine and are adept at personal weapon combat.
  • Assistant: The assistant just sort of does whatever it wants.

Each role has its job to do. The Captain is best left to their station to keep the submarine on track and the Engineer has to spend a fair amount of time at the reactor. However, the other roles have more freedom to wander the sub and do as they choose.

Every Barotrauma player will naturally gravitate toward a particular job. Since I hosted for friends and the AI can't be trusted to navigate the submarine, the game kept tossing me into the Captain role.

I've gotten pretty good at playing Captain, but I'm terrible at Engineer and Mechanic. My friends have gotten to be reasonably good Engineers and Mechanics, which are arguably more important than Medical Doctors and Security Officers. Assistants are just sort of there, but beware Assistants in lobbies that have the traitor setting toggled on.

Most of my time in Barotrauma has been tense. The planet's oceans are full of peril, from monsters both large and small, intense currents that can easily turn an easy trip into a harrowing one, and a maze of depths to traverse. Most of the stress comes from other factors, though. Your crew may drive you nuts.

Because of the delineation of tasks amongst the crew, you have to trust your fellow crew members to take care of their responsibilities. You have to trust your Engineers to keep the reactor running, you have to trust your Mechanics to actually repair stations and dive into flooded compartments to deal with leaks, and you have to trust your Medical Doctors to use the right medicine and not to inject you with hallucinogens.

Shout out to my friend Dave for injecting me with something to make me hallucinate fires, floods, and monster attacks. 

This need for trust basically relegates Barotrauma to a multiplayer game. You can play it singleplayer, but the AI leaves a lot to be desired. While you can switch which character you're controlling in singleplayer, it's clear the game is not made with that in mind. The AI's meant to help, but not meant to be relied on in times of true need.

Trust is also what makes multiplayer a scary concept for some, because you have to trust other players to know how to play their roles and to do so without purposefully screwing up the mission. That's a tall order, but surely it will happen. I know it will as the core of the game is too engaging not to garner players who want to actually succeed. Though it will surely have its fair share of those who don't.

If all this sounds good but sort of makes you nervous, you can try the trusty Assistant, the role with no purpose but to follow others around and try to learn skills and become useful. I suspect there will be plenty of Assistants wandering around in full clown outfits, honking horns, and playing the guitar just for fun or to learn the ropes, but that's part of the fun. Not everyone has to be in full work mode all the time.

Aside from all this, Barotrauma also has an in-depth submarine editor that is as overwhelming as it is impressive. It's something I want to get into but just haven't had the time to yet.

The game also has a character editor, which allows you to edit character appearance and animations. Character editing is easier than submarine editing, but it's not necessary and will likely mostly be used by players who prefer to roleplay.

This all sounds and is great, trust me it's a heck of a lot of fun. The biggest downside for just about anyone is the amount of bugs present in Barotrauma at the time of writing.

The AI has a few pathing bugs, so it can't be trusted to fix leaks in full. The AI will also decide it doesn't want to take orders anymore, and it will stall for an entire mission. Ace.

Additionally, the monsters of Europa's depths aren't the most clever bunch. You'd expect them to attack your sub, and they do... by rolling into it. They gnash their teeth and chomp, but they just sort of bump your sub into submission. I wish I had a good screenshot of this, but the only ones I have are of some of the bigger monsters, and those are best left for you to discover and freak out about yourself.

Hopefully, enemy behavior gets a tweak with release or soon after. While the tension is still high when you're being bombarded by a monster the same size as your submarine, the effect is dampened quite a bit by how goofily they just bump into the sub until they get blown to bits or you sink.

Lastly and this is a big one sometimes missions spawn with rock formations that are not conducive to finishing the mission at all.

More than once, the primary objective has been totally obscured by rocks with no discernible path to navigate or even swim to, making it impossible to fully finish the mission. Once my crew even had the sub spawn stuck between rocks and the starting station, making it impossible to move at all.

Despite these frustrations, I would still recommend Barotrauma to certain sorts of gamers in its current state and will recommend it in a heartbeat when it's more fleshed out and the edges smoothed a bit. It really says something when someone as asocial as myself is willing — and even looking forward  to playing online with others.

June 5 can't come soon enough, hopefully with a new build and a flood of new players.

Risk of Rain 2 Early Access Impressions: Simply a Huge Amount of Fun Tue, 02 Apr 2019 10:47:03 -0400 Jason Coles

Risk of Rain 2 stealth released via the Gearbox PAX East panel last week. It was a little shocking to see a sequel to a little indie gem being shown off on such a public stage, but also immensely refreshing.

Risk of Rain was made in GameMaker Studio and published by Chucklefish. It was also a fully 2D game with a lovely pixel art aesthetic and some astoundingly good music. The sequel is different, but not in any way that detracts from it. 

This time, it is a fully 3D game developed in Unity. Having seen some footage of it a year or so ago, I was a little worried. After all, seeing a game you love taken in a bold new direction is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. What if in the process the heart of the game is lost, what if it loses that special something that made it so enjoyable?

Sunny All Day

Well, it turns out that adding that extra dimension has turned Risk of Rain 2 into an outstandingly good experience, and it is still only in Early Access. The sense of scale in the levels is truly vast. There are still secrets tucked away at the end of hidden paths, it's just that this time, you need to be willing to try and scale the side of a mountain to get to them. 

It is still the roguelike game it has always been, too. Your aim is still to shoot, hit, or use special abilities to defeat enemies as they try to overwhelm you; most of the time, you're doing this from a third-person perspective.

At lower difficulties, the combat is enjoyable; it's a matter of just trying to collect the items you need to be overpowered and lay waste. At higher difficulties, it becomes a bullet hell that requires every iota of focus you can muster just to survive.

Although, if you stay on easy long enough, you will eventually reach the dizzying heights of the "Hahahahahahahaha..." difficulty.  

That's because the difficulty in Risk of Rain 2 is fluid. The difficulty you choose at the beginning of your run merely dictates the speed at which you will progress through the actual difficulty. For example, if you choose Monsoon difficulty at the beginning, you can expect to reach the final difficulty setting far quicker than is comfortable.

It is a system that inherently asks you to weigh which is more important; is it better to grind out money to open chests for the chance to get better items, or is it better to simply rush through to keep the combat manageable?

Each run is likely to end with you dying and having to start again, but that is all part of the fun in a roguelike, after all. 

Cloudy With a Chance of Spaceballs

At present, there are six characters to choose from, though only one is available initially. You unlock the others as you go.

While other games may have characters with slightly different stats, Risk of Rain 2 has entirely different playstyles built into each of your choices. 

Take Mul-T for example, a building site robot who has two weapons instead of one, and who can hold two usable items at once, instead of the usual one. Instead of relying on one playstyle and being exceptional at it, they are better suited to adapting to the current situation.

Long-range fights can be fought with your slow-firing but very powerful sniper weapon. Close-range battles call for your inaccurate machine gun. No other character is this adaptable.

This type of adaptability makes your choice important, but it also makes the game feel fresh when playing as another character. 

Raining Cats and Dogs 

Risk of Rain 2 is already a truly stellar sequel to an already outstanding first attempt. It feels polished, the gameplay is potentially unending, and the co-op gameplay is flawless, the latter of which is perhaps the thing that elevates the game to such heights.

Simply join a friend's lobby before starting a game and off you go. You can even play with a team of four for a more chaotic experience. Unfortunately, co-op is online only at present. 

The fact that all of this exists within an Early Access game speaks volumes about what to expect going forward. It is quite simply a huge amount of fun, and when you consider the stream of content that is no doubt rushing toward us, it is well worth getting into Risk of Rain 2 now. 

[Note: A copy of Risk of Rain 2 was provided by the developer for this article.]

Breathedge Early Access Impressions: Fart Jokes, Survival, and the Great Void of Space Wed, 26 Sep 2018 15:25:28 -0400 Oscar Gonzalez

There's little doubt survival games have grown in popularity in recent years. With the likes of Ark: Survival Evolved, The Forest, and Subnautica making waves, the serious struggle of surviving the elements, as well as man and nature itself, has turned into a compelling genre in gaming.  

Then there's Breathedge

Recently released into Steam Early Acces, Breathedge is a game that takes the survival game formula on turns it sideways. Instead of worrying about a zombie apocalypse, cannibals, or of the frigid wilds of Canadian wilderness, players will do what they can to survive in space. 

OK, sure. There are survival games in space, too, like Osiris: A New Dawn and Take On Mars, but unlike other games in the same subgenre, Breathedge throws seriousness to the wind by adding in a hefty dose of comedy to make for an interesting change of pace.   

A Space Story

Developed by RedRuins Softworks, Breathedge is what happens when someone plays Prey and thinks it needs more fart and pee jokes. Currently in Steam Early Access, the game puts players in the shoes of a Russian astronaut carrying his grandfather's ashes into space for a star-studded funeral.

Of course, as space is wont to cause, an accident invariably happens and the player will try to survive out in space -- and that's where the seriousness ends. 

After the intro involving two mobster robots that could have shown up in any episode of Futurama, players find themselves in a leaky airlock. The first option is to plug the tube using a prized chicken, but unfortunately, the chicken has another "hole" in it, causing air to escape.

This leaves the second option as the only viable alternative: plug the hole with chewed bubble gum. 

Once out of the airlock and in the "station" proper, pictures and other interactive items help give some background on the player's character, the grandfather, and this strange future where condoms and lead paint are required to improve everything from your spacesuit to your oxygen tanks.

Don't Die, Comrade

In typical survival game fashion, hunger and thirst will be two of your biggest enemies in Breathedge. Both will tick down as the game goes on, while oxygen will deplete once you step into space. When either of the three drops to zero, the player's health starts ticking away and could ultimately lead to the "Comrade, You Are Dead" screen.

Oh, and there's radiation to consider because space. 

However, it's something you'll have to deal with because stepping outside into the void of space is where Breathedge really takes off. RedRuins captured the beauty of outer space with nearly pinpoint accuracy. It's beautiful and expansive, serene and still.

Well, up until the point when warning sirens blast through that serenity, screaming that you're running out of air.

Oxygen plays a big role in Breathedge, hence "breath" in the title. Early on, players will have to time their trips outside appropriately or else they'll find themselves running out of oxygen. It makes for a unique addition to the survival game formula as running out of air can cause a quicker death than going hungry or thirsty.

It requires a bit more planning and can lead to tense moments of rushing back to base on a quickly depleting clock, something you'll quickly get used to because space is where you'll have to gather the resources needed to survive and build tools. 

The more resources you gather, of course, means the more tools and equipment you'll have available to build. Building more equipment means the ability to improve oxygen reserves or build oxygen stations in space to explore even farther away.

There are a dozen or so areas to scavenge that contain more resources and blueprints for new equipment, so exploration is always pushed further and further out. The farthest area currently available for exploration is a ship that will officially end the first chapter available in Early Access, but there are surely more to come in future updates. 

Floaty Controls 

The controls in Breathedge are fairly basic since most of the actions involve clicking around to pick up items or collect resources. However, movement can leave a lot to be desired in this early stage in the game. 

Get too close to a floating resource and you can knock it away. Far away. Move a bit too fast and you can whiz on by an object or landmark, forcing you to whip back by and a (hopefully) slower speed.

There's a certain amount of finesse needed with the controls to get the timing just right. It adds a certain "reality" to the game, but with all of the game's other "unrealistic" elements, it can be a bit grating. 

(Un)Intuitive Inventory Management

There's also a lack of intuitiveness in regards to inventory.

In Breathedge, there are a lot of items to collect and only a limited amount that can be carried on your person. After a while, players will have to make use of the container located in the main room or simply leave the junk all over the floor.

Like other survival games, this type of "inventory management" is likely part of the struggle to survive, but there could be some changes to make it a better experience for the players -- can we get another locker, please? Or, you know, a backpack? 

Along with all the resources you need to carry around with you, there's also a need to make multiple tools. Every item or tool you plan to use, from a drill to a key, needs to be equipped in one of your four item slots -- so there's a lot of opening up the inventory screen to get the tools needed.

Since tools have a durability number attached to them, once they break, players will have to pull up the inventory screen and equip the item again. Although there's a shortcut you can take, any method comes off as a bit on the tedious side. 

In Space, No One Can Hear You Fart

Breathedge's big selling point is the humor.

I felt it was a bit gauche, but without the humor, this constant gathering and building of tools would become incredibly mundane. It's a much different approach from the doom and gloom of most survival games.

Most of the humor will come in the form of item descriptions, such as the Accelerator that uses bodily gases to propel you faster in space. Or, for example, a dead, floating astronaut can be found chained to a bed while in the middle of some kinky act before an accident threw him into outer space.

Other jokes will occur via the spacesuit computer as it describes impending doom, provides an endless amount of bad advice, and has players complete a mission that requires to build an item aptly called "Crap Imposed by the Developers."

In the end, it makes life and death a bit less serious. 

The Verdict (For Now)

If you want a game filled with humor then Beathedge has plenty. It's enough to make the repetitive tasks seem not so banal (that is if they hit you just right).

Those interested can find it on Steam for $15.99. RedRuins Software said in a recent update that chapter two will release by the end of 2018. 

SCUM Preview: The Most Realistic Open-World Survival Yet Tue, 10 Apr 2018 11:57:31 -0400 Felicia Miranda

At a passing glance, SCUM might appear to be just another gritty open-world survival game in the same vein as DayZ and H1Z1, but if you take a deeper look, you’re sure to find that its most striking feature also happens to be what sets it apart from the competition. When the developers, Gamepires and Croteam, talk about “unprecedented levels of character customization, control, and progression,” they are only preparing you for what most definitely will be the most realistic open-world survival game I’ve seen.

The basic premise of SCUM is that you’re a prisoner on a reality show about survival, and each participant has a device located on the back of their head called the Body Control Unit, or the BCU. This tracks practically every bodily function that you can think of, including things like heart rate, metabolism, vitamin and nutrient intake, and even seemingly trivial things like the number of teeth your character has (lose too many and you won’t be able to chew solid food). Although the option to disregard all that stuff is there, SCUM opens the door for some very thorough and, dare I say, fascinating survival micromanagement.

Each player must create a character before starting a campaign. Unlike traditional survival games, this process isn’t purely superficial. Some people may prefer to randomize their character, but if you enjoy spending a good hour or two on building the perfect avatar for your game experience, then you’ll enjoy all that SCUM has to offer.

Things like fat and muscle mass determine how many calories and how much exercise you’ll need to keep your character at their current size, and with proper (or improper) maintenance, it can eventually impact your character's body and stats. Age can influence skills such as endurance and intelligence, while flaws like alcoholism can give your character skill bonuses but at the expense of suffering from withdrawals if you drink too little and liver failure if you drink too much.

Skills also play an important part in staying alive in SCUM and have the propensity to impact each other. For example, using rifles in the game will naturally level up your Rifle skill, but sniper mastery requires some points in intelligence. It’s important to note that this game isn’t all about shooting guns. While skills like cooking might seem pointless to have, talented chefs can conjure up stat-boosting entrees that can give players the upper hand in combat.

The ultimate goal of survival mode in SCUM is to last long enough to remove your BCU and escape, which I’ve been told by the developers is much easier said than done. This mode is playable solo or in online multiplayer with up to 64 players.

The above video from lemmingzappa on YouTube shows off a new mode that was revealed at PAX East 2018 called Cargo Capture. This mode is geared more toward players looking for that quick-paced multiplayer shooter experience many have come to expect. It spawns you and a group of teammates in a pre-game lobby where you can run around and get familiar with the surroundings, similar in style to the starting areas of Fortnite and PUBG. A countdown takes place before moving you and all of the other players onto a map where you’ll find a group of tables loaded up with weapons, clothing, handheld explosives, and other combat accessories. Once players are armed and ready, they head to a part of the map with a crate that they must capture before the opposing team does.

As someone who’s a big fan of the survival genre, I found the survival aspect of SCUM far more appealing than Cargo Capture mode, but it was still enjoyable nonetheless. There’s still a lot about SCUM that is yet to be determined, but I do believe the potential for something incredibly fun and unique is there. Players interested in SCUM will be able to get it on Steam as part of the Early Access program in the second quarter of 2018.

Re: Legend to Be Published By 505 Games Thu, 15 Mar 2018 12:40:17 -0400 Erroll Maas

505 Games has announced that they will publish upcoming co-op monster-raising RPG Re:Legend. Additionally, it was revealed that the game will launch through Steam Early Access later this year.

Re:Legend originally gained traction through the Square Enix Collective and later became the most successful crowdfunded game campaign in Southeast Asia. In Re:Legend, players will arrive on Vokka Island in the land of Ethia, where they will have to start a new life and figure out a way to restore their lost memories.

Re:Legend will mix farming and life simulation mechanics with monster raising and co-op gameplay. Players will be able to build up their village through farming, fishing, crafting, and other activities while also exploring the world, taming and breeding monsters known as Magnus along the way.

Re:Legend is planned for a June 2018 release on PC, but it is currently unknown whether this will be the early access version or the complete version. The game is also expected to launch for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch at some later point.

5 Bugs that Continue to Plague ARK: Survival Evolved Sun, 04 Mar 2018 11:26:45 -0500 Nilufer Gadgieva

Ever since ARK: Survival Evolved has hit Steam Early Access, it's been a wildly glitchy game, much to the disappointment of players everywhere. While some are to be inevitably expected from a majority of games as complex as ARK: SE, others are just plain frustrating and need a fix from the devs. 

Here are five of the most common bugs the ARK: SE community is tired of complaining about. 

1. Start-up screen crashes 

Possibly the most common complaint out there, ARK is continuously crashing for a majority of players upon start-up. They heat up their PCs for some good dino-lovin' fun, only to have it freeze and go down before the game can begin. Some have hypothesized the Windows 10 system being incompatible with the game as the cause of the crash. 

2. In-game screen crashes

As if start-up crashes weren't terrible enough, the game also crashs for many people running it at high resolution. Now, the solution to this might be fairly simple. Oftentimes, running a game at high resolution can fry your system if it's not tough enough to withstand it, especially for those playing on laptops. If an over-heating system is not the case, it's most likely one of the game's perpetual curses. 

3. Glitching through walls and objects

An endless array of gamers have complained that vicious dinos and tames have been drifting through walls in the game. This isn't just annoying, it disrupts the playability of the game and is extremely frustrating for most as it compromises their tames. Players also report falling through worlds and glitching through other objects in the game. There has been minimal response to fix this mainly graphical issue and it appears to be embossed in the game itself. 

4. Frustrating building system

Less of a bug than a runny part of the infrastructure, the building system in ARK is less than perfect. Building anything at all seems to be a major hassle for gamers who are used to a smoother crafting system. Individually plotting and constructing with very little sense of insight is both time-consuming and annoying. While there has been high demand from the Steam community to implement improvements on the building menu and make it more potent, the developers have yet to make an update. 

5. Inventory lag

With repeated overuse of the inventory, a large number of players experience a lag when opening and using the inventory. Some claim this is due to the processing of the CPU and GPU of your respectable rig, while most say it's due to server congestion at times. Apart from that, the inventory can be managed with patience.

With developers juggling a variety of bugs and complaints from players all across the world, some of these are probably inevitable for the complexity of the game.

What are some of the worst ARK bugs you've encountered? Leave us a comment below! 

Star Traders: Frontiers To Hit Steam Early Access Tue, 07 Nov 2017 17:29:56 -0500 Luke Luby

Star Traders: Frontiers, the upcoming sci-fi RPG from developers Trese Brothers, has been announced for Steam Early Access. With the announcement comes a new trailer, which you can see above.

Describing the premise of Star Traders: Frontiers, Trese Brothers has said:

"You are the captain of a starship venturing through a massive open universe. Customize your crew and take command at the helm of your very own ship as you explore an galaxy torn apart by internal strife, alien threats, and political intrigue."

The RPG is set to have a number of features, including:

  • Explore a rich, open universe: Discover endless procedurally-generated galactic maps, meet unique characters, and take on enemies to conquer the galaxy! 
  • Become an intergalactic captain: Take on the role of a spy, smuggler, explorer, pirate, merchant, bounty hunter, and more (21 jobs total)!
  • Customize your own spaceship: Choose from more than 300 upgrades and build your very own vessel to venture across the vast reaches of space. 
  • Assemble and tailor a loyal crew: Assign talents and equip specialized gear for every spaceship crew member.
  • Experience an ever-changing narrative: Decide to make friends or foes with other factions and influence political, economic, and personal vendettas.

In the game, players get to choose their path by assembling and commanding their custom crew and spaceship in a constantly evolving galaxy torn by internal strife, political intrigue, and alien threats. Describing the lore behind the game, Trese Brothers have said:

"First there was the Exodus – when survivors of a great war left the ruins of the Galactic Core behind in search of a new home in the stars. Scattered worlds were claimed on the fringe of the galaxy. Each pocket of survivors held on to an isolated set of worlds while trying to rebuild under the great law of Shalun."

You can find Star Traders: Frontiers' pre-release Steam Early Access page here.

Tangledeep is Coming to the Nintendo Switch in 2018 Thu, 05 Oct 2017 10:52:53 -0400 adelgirl

Tangledeep is a rogue like dungeon crawler that takes place in a world where people live in underground villages. There's only one way back to the the world above -- the labyrinthTaking the role of a character who has some memories of the surface world, players must travel through the labyrinth to discover what the surface holds. And soon, they'll be able to do that with the Switch. 

Developer Impact Gameworks has announced that Tangledeep will be ported to the Nintendo Switch sometime in 2018. There is no release date set at this time, but more information should be coming in the future. 

Currently, Tangledeep is available to play on PC through Steam's Early Access program, and you can read our preview of the game here

Tangledeep was originally put on Kickstarter on March 21, 2017. Just a week later on March 28, the the project was funded. When the Kickstarter ended in late April, the project had raised $32,157 from 1,211 backers. 

Have you played the Early Access version of Tangledeep? What did you think? Excited for this Switch release? Let us know in the comments!

Hanako: Honor & Blade Early Access Review -- Lovely But Lacking Tue, 03 Oct 2017 10:51:19 -0400 Kieran Desmond

Hanako: Honor & Blade is an online, class-based fighting game set in 16th Century Feudal Japan. You choose to play as one of two warring clans in 12v12 online multiplayer battles to decide the fate of the nation. All of this serves as a metaphor for the real struggle of life and death, and the fight against illness and disease that we and our loved ones face everyday. 

Developed by +Mpact Games, the concept for Hanako and its themes originate from the loss of team lead Matt Canei's mother. Hanako's design and atmosphere immediately convey the passion that has clearly been poured into this project in an attempt to translate the sentiment of tragedy into art.

For transparency, I'd like to state that I encountered a fair few bugs and glitches while playing the game -- but being that the version I played was a closed alpha build not yet released to early access, this is to be expected. As this game is an early build, take this review with a pinch of salt as +Mpact Games still have a while to go before Hanako's full release.

After loading up the game for the first time, I was unable to progress from the main menu. This wasn’t because of any technical issue with game, but because I found the scenery to be hypnotically beautiful. The tranquil scene depicted a bridge crossing over a calmly flowing stream and in the background a single Japanese cherry blossom, with petals dancing as they fell to the ground. And all of this overlooked by sunset soaked mountains -- I was excited to see more. 

Unfortunately the core gameplay loop is far less satisfying than it is to simply explore and take in the scenic maps in which the game's battles take place.

The history of why the two clans, the Hanako and Yamai, are at war is told in a one page comic strip that, while wonderfully illustrated, doesn't have the emotional impact that Hanako's lore should have given the personal connection the team has with the themes they explore. There's a much deeper dive into the story on the Hanako website, but the separation undermines the game's attempt to portray such an extensive metaphor.

Although Hanako was influenced and designed based on the loss of a loved one, there's little in the game that actually explores the connection of disease and war. If there wasn't a paragraph in the 'Our Story' page that directly references this connection, it unfortunately wouldn't be apparent to the average player.

Each match begins with you selecting which clan to fight for -- the Hanako or the invading Yamai. After choosing who to side with, you decide which of the three classes you'll play as. The classes are the same for both factions, with Hanako warriors fighting in red whilst the Yamai are a green pallete swapped version. The classes essentially boil down to strong and slow (Naginatashi), all-rounder (Kenshi), and speedy support (Ninja). The Ite archer class was unavailable to play during my session, but it will be released sometime after the game launches into early access. 

After choosing to start as a Kenshi fighting for Hanako, I expected to be instructed on what the game type was or if I had an objective of some kind -- but all that was offered was some text at the top of the screen that read "Current Objective: The Temple" followed by a countdown timer. Having no idea what to do, (which became a common theme throughout my limited time with Hanako) I ended up just following a couple of my fellow reds to a small area filled with battling players. I jumped into the fray and was immediately killed.

This is where the game's biggest flaw became apparent -- the chaotic combat. The spaces in which players are meant to contest are just too confined for the amount of players +Mpact Games wants to accommodate. In the matches I played there were 11 players, broken into teams of 6 and 5, and +Mpact Games have said that Hanako is designed for 12v12 matches. This seems completely crazy to me, as most of my time playing was spent among a crowd, mindlessly swinging swords and having no idea what was going on.

The fact that the character models are just pallete swaps of each other only adds to the confusion. Once the chaos takes over, it's very difficult to differentiate between friend and foe. I saw my teammates wildly swinging blades at each other on multiple occasions and I caught myself doing the same almost as often as I was fighting the enemy team, which becomes incredibly frustrating.

Outside of the crowded combat situations, I did have a couple of fun 1 on 1 duels where I was able to appreciate what Hanako was trying to accomplish. I was killed in all but one of those encounters -- but in each one I was able block my opponent's attacks and counter with my own. The important thing is that I never felt that the deaths were cheap and undeserved like they were when participating in group combat, where it became all too common to not know who killed me or how.

This also gave me an opportunity to try out the special abilities exclusive to the Kenshi class in a fair fight. Abilities in Hanako work similarly to an MMO.Once used, they go on cooldown for a limited time before becoming available again. The trailer does a good job of showcasing these abilities as powerful and generally badass -- but perhaps does too good of a job. In reality the Kenshi's abilities felt underpowered and not very special, as they're just more sword attacks.

The Ninja's abilities, on the other hand, felt different and interesting enough for it to become my favorite class -- the highlight being the ability to jump back and throw a handful of kunai at your opponent. +Mpact has planned for a skill tree to be available at some point during the game's time in Early Access. This will allow players to earn XP from matches and swap between different abilities. Aside from earning XP and leveling a skill tree, there doesn't seem to be much more to Hanako -- and there's no real reason why I'd choose to play this game over anything else.

Ultimately, Hanako's mesmerizing art style and atmosphere aren't enough to compensate for its overcrowded and hectic gameplay. And whilst +Mpact has attempted to convey the metaphoric battling of illness, it falls flat when the only obvious evidence of such a message is that they insist it is in there. The average gamer with no prior knowledge of the background of the game wouldn't get to experience the emotional symbolism that +Mpact games has hidden in this online hack'n'slasher.

Hanako: Honor & Blade launches on Steam Early Access on October 9.

[Note: +Mpact Games provided a code for Hanako: Honor & Blade for the purpose of this review.]

Pixel Gladiator Review Tue, 05 Sep 2017 13:09:03 -0400 Erroll Maas

Pixel Gladiator, an indie tower defense game by Deadly Pixels, is set in a distant future where brutal gladiatorial battles are the highest rated TV program in the entire universe. The player has been sent to an abandoned planet as one of the show's participants, with the goal of surviving as long as possible, while defending themselves and their base from dangerous alien creatures as billions of viewers watch for their entertainment.

Survival is Pixel Gladiator's main game mode, where the goal is to earn as much money as possible by defeating endless waves of enemies while also defending and upgrading the base until defeat, which happens when enemies destroy the reactor at the center.  

In addition to survival mode, there are three different arenas to participate in: Desert, Air,  and Underground. All three of these arenas consist of 10 waves of enemies and one boss, and each arena is different. In Arena I (Desert), there doesn't seem to be anything special -- but it's a useful stage to practice on if survival mode feels too overwhelming. Rocket Boots are recommended for Arena II (Air), with a base of three separate platforms that have to be jumped across and the introduction of flying enemies, while Arena III (Underground) features stronger enemies.

Between waves, the base can be upgraded with walls, turrets, and other weapons, which are necessary for the continued survival of the player. The player's held weapon can also be changed once enough money to purchase a new one has been obtained, although it takes a while to get the best weapons since players will find themselves focused on fixing and upgrading the bases defenses between the earlier waves.

Once the player gets past a number of waves, stronger enemies will start to appear. When the stronger enemies show up, players likely won't have enough money for better weapons yet -- so certain situations can be a real struggle if base defenses haven't been fixed or upgraded accordingly. The amount of money gained from killing enemies is increased on camera areas, so it's more beneficial to stay close to the center of the base even though you run a higher risk of bringing the enemies close to the reactor.

At first the gameplay can feel slow, but gets a bit faster after a few waves once the difficulty increases.

Survival isn't the best mode to start out on for new players -- and although the game is rather basic, it lacks any kind of tutorial. It's more beneficial for players to start with Arena I (Desert) first to familiarize themselves with weapons and upgrades and master thembefore trying their hand at Survival Mode. From there, after participating in a number if rounds of Survival Mode, players can try their luck at the more advanced Arena II (Air) and Arena III (Underground) stages. Once players have been able to complete all three arenas, Survival mode should be a breeze by comparison.

Although the gameplay is decent, Pixel Gladiator's other elements are rather weak. The art style and music don't stand out -- and although they aren't terrible, they don't do much to enhance the experience. The game also has no controller support at the moment, which isn't a glaring flaw due to the basic controls, but it would be nice if the game at least had the option.

Pixel Gladiator is currently in Early Access, so it's more than likely the game will improve over time -- but as of right now, the game hasn't reached its full potential. Players could get the same amount of satisfaction (or perhaps more) from a tower defense flash game they can play on their internet browser or phone for free.

If you do want to check it out, though, Pixel Gladiator is available on Steam for $4.99.

[Note: A copy of Deadly Pixels was provided by the developer for the purpose of this preview.]

For the King Adds Free Roam Adventure Mode Wed, 30 Aug 2017 09:55:46 -0400 Skrain

As a fan of the strategic RPG For the King, I've been following the game for most of the year now. And developer IronOak Games has been teasing a free roam adventure mode for quite a while. As of last week, it has finally been released.

Adventure mode in For the King removes the narrative storyline and allows for exploration at any pace with a very slow gain in chaos. Chaos can still be countered and lowered (thankfully), even without story elements. All towns and markets refresh their stocks, and quests at the beginning of each new morning. All dungeons are dynamically leveled based on the number already completed by the player and their party. And each time players begin a new adventure, their start location will be completely randomized. 

How to Access Adventure Mode in For the King

Currently the Adventure Update is only available in the xbranch version of the game; however, anyone can participate in this beta. All you have to do is navigate to For the King's properties tab in your Steam library, and opt into the experimental xbranch beta.

This is a beta version, so keep in mind that there will be bugs -- and adventure mode will be susceptible to changes in the future. You can help out IronOak games by submitting a bug report if you happen to run across any particularly nasty issues while playing.

Currently only the easiest difficulty is available -- but it's better than nothing, and a nice change of pace from the main storyline.

For more info on this game, check out our For the King review and stay tuned to GameSkinny for further updates! 

Tangledeep Has Awesome Roguelike Roots Sat, 19 Aug 2017 13:21:31 -0400 LuckyJorael

When I was a kid, one of the first games I played was Moria. It was a Tolkien-esque version of the classic Rogue game, wherein you choose a race and class and explore the infinite depths of the Mines of Moria, finding equipment, spells, and tons of hostile monsters along the way. I have fond memories of dying over and over again, restarting each time with a new character, hoping that this time, I'd finally find the Balrog and win the game.

Tangledeep evokes that same feeling of near-death tension, exploration, and resource management. Except the delving aspect is flipped: the town you start in is deep below ground, and you need to take staircases up to eventually find the surface. This inversion isn't anything revolutionary, but it keys you in to the sense that Tangledeep is taking the Roguelike genre and doing something different with it.

Tangledeep has a wonderful pixel art style that reminds me heavily of Secret of Mana and other games of that era. The style choice is refreshing, whether you're coming from huge AAA games like The Witcher or Roguelikes like Moria. The animations are minimal, but fit the style and give the game just enough life and movement to feel right. The first few levels are a mix of grass, stone, trees, water, and other features like mud and lava, but they don't feel monotonous. Bonus areas, accessed by alternate "up" staircases, might also change up the style so things don't get rote -- one memorable area was a crumbling castle ruin, complete with candelabras, tapestries, and faded carpets. 

Art style aside, Tangledeep really shines in its job system. You start the game by picking one of 10 jobs: Brigand, Floramancer, Sword Dancer, Spellshaper, Paladin, Budoka, Hunter, Gambler, HuSyn, and Soulkeeper (currently in beta). Each job has its own talents, abilities, and stat bonuses, as well as distinct playstyles. The greatest thing about the job system, however, is that you can go back to the main town, Riverstone Camp, and change your job. When you do, you keep all the skills you've learned in your previous job -- including the fairly important passive skills -- and start anew with your current pick. This allows for a huge amount of customization.

Want to up your critical chance to ridiculous levels or make sure you gain extra turns super fast? Combine the Brigand and Hunter jobs to increase your critical chance and CT gain. Want to evade, block, or tank every hit? Combine the Sword Dancer, Paladin, and Budoka classes' skills. In essence, Tangledeep really encourages you to play the way you want to -- while you survive.

Like all other Roguelikes, Tangledeep is hard. Like, "mismanage your health flasks or take on one too many enemies and you're dead" hard. Fortunately, if you don't like losing all of your progress, there are three difficulties: Adventure Mode, Heroic Mode, and Hardcore Mode.

In Adventure Mode, when you die, you'll lose your current experience, job points, and half your held gold, but you'll respawn at Riverstone Camp. In Heroic Mode, you'll suffer permadeath, but your banked items, gold, and town progress will be saved, so you can make a new character in that slot and benefit from your previous adventuring. Hardcore Mode means nothing is saved. Tangledeep tells you "all traces of your adventure are permanently erased," and the game means it.

If you choose Hardcore Mode, though, the game does something pretty cool. Out in the procedurally-generated dungeons, you can find tree seeds. Take these seeds back to town, and you can plant them. After some time, the trees will grow, and you can collect fruit or other items from them. Let them grow large enough, and you can harvest the tree for experience and job points. So, if you just died an agonizing death and need to restart, you can give yourself a quick boost at the start of your new game by harvesting a tree. It's a great way to reward you after a long adventure, even if you failed.

The gameplay in Tangledeep is very similar to every other Roguelike. Enter the next area, hunt down the monsters, find loot, rinse and repeat. This could get boring pretty quick if it wasn't for the variety of enemies and your own abilities.

Enemies are all different: lizards shoot out flames, crabs disarm you, mold-covered rats can pull you toward them. Each is immediately recognizable from the others, and you quickly learn how to combat each one based on their individual attacks. In addition to enemy types, each enemy might spawn in as a Champion, which gives them special abilities beyond their normal ones. Several I've fought constantly summoned lightning bolts around them at random, while others teleported around. One even spawned what looked like stone spiders when I tried to run.

There's a lot more for me to explore in Tangledeep. Like my time with Moria, I've died more times than I care to count, but despite those failures, I keep coming back to the game. It's not any one feature or design choice that makes me like the game; it's the combination of all the things Tangledeep does well -- the art, the mechanics, the gameplay, and the challenge -- that keeps me coming back.

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more news and information on Tangledeep as it develops. 

For the King! An Early Access Strategic RPG That Deserves Your Fealty Tue, 15 Aug 2017 13:21:24 -0400 Skrain

King Bronner has been felled, and his once-peaceful kingdom of Fahrul is under siege by bandits, monsters, and chaotic otherworldly creatures. The Queen has sent out a desperate plea for all citizens rise to protect their homes and their lives against the impending doom that now lurks in the shadows. You stand now for your homeland, for your neighbors and loved ones, for Queen Rosomon, and most importantly For The King! 

For The King is IronOak Games' breakout title: a strategic party-based RPG that seamlessly blends elements from both tabletop games and rougelikes. Don't let the charming aesthetics of this indie game fool you -- the world is fraught with peril and hardship.

Without any spoilers on the plot, For The King revolves around the common citizens of the realm helping Queen Rosomon find those responsible for King Bronner's death and preventing impending chaos from destroying the once-peaceful Kingdom of Fahrul. Each adventure is contained in its own procedurally generated map, which makes for a new take on your quest every time you begin anew -- and you will quite a lot, as many expeditions are doomed to failure. 

Charming Appearance, Fresh and Unique Mechanics

With a fresh art style that stands out from all other indie games in Early Access, For The King seems to be in a place all of its own aesthetically. I can't consciously compare it with any other game I've played.

You start out with three classes to select for your party -- the sturdy Blacksmith, the surefooted Hunter, and the tutored Scholar. There are more classes to unlock in subsequent playthroughs, but I'll go into further detail about how you do that a bit later.

As you would expect, the Blacksmith is your strong bruiser, able to dish out and take damage. The Hunter a sly ranged dexterous fellow. And the Scholar your brains of the group. However, what abilities your party utilizes isn't class-based, but rather dependent on the weapons they have equipped. Depending on which bow the Hunter uses, he may snipe through armor -- negating its defensive values -- or he may use his shots to cripple speed and evasion. If given a lute, the Scholar can go from slamming enemies with concussive magic blasts from his default tome to stunning enemies with rhythmic battle ballads, or improving the speed of his allies. 

Expanding combat in an even more inventive way, each weapon has a series of what I'll refer to as "pips" that determine effects and damage. Examples include a bow that deals 9 damage if all three pips are successful, or 6 damage if only two out of three pips are rolled. What determines the chance of these pips are the base stats of the hero you're using. So a sword will use the wielder's strength to determine percentage of success for each pip, a magic staff will gauge the user's intelligence, and so forth.

This kind of system adds a layer of intrigue and excitement to the combat. And it makes you think a lot more while you play. If you're using a lute, for example, the weapon will gauge your Talent stat to determine whether you're able to stun an enemy, and you must successfully land all pips granted toward a specific attack -- otherwise it will fizzle out and deal only a trifling sum of damage. Similarly, a bow user must land all his attack pips if they're attempting to do something like debuff an opponent's armor value.

Time is Against You

Chaos is sweeping the land, claiming lives and changing the parameters at which you fight it. Surely you didn't expect to dawdle around the world like you've got nowhere better to be?

I certainly hope not, because in For the King you have a limited amount of time to engage in side quests, handle main quest objectives, and traverse the overworld of Fahrul. Disastrous consequences befall Fahrul if you fail to manage your time well.

Remember that word I used earlier -- roguelike? Well I meant it. And if you don't understand the significance of the term, you'll definitely find yourself on the losing end of this game. Losing is an important part of For The King. Without it, you couldn't unlock more classes, encounters, weapons, or other goodies. So plant your feet, make your stand, and send as many foes back to perdition as you can. But you will die in the process. However, from the ashes of your failures you will rise more powerful than before ready to unleash vengeance for King Bronner.

Learning From Mistakes, and Spending Lore

Lore is the meta-currency gained from your previous attempts at saving Fahrul. Fulfilling certain criteria awards you with lore to spend for your successive attempts. New characters, such as the musically talented Busker or the brawny Woodcutter, can be unlocked with sufficient lore -- expanding options for your party composition. Weapons can also be unlocked with lore, though it's not as easy as simply starting with them because you'll have to acquire them from side quests, lucky chests, or other means.

Mini-encounters, including a trainer who will increase your stats for a modest sum, can also be unlocked, revealed, or discovered in new playthroughs. Mini-areas are another lore unlock which can include new shops like the Night Market, or the Dark Carnival.

Whatever you decide to spend the equivalent of your past experiences on does not matter -- it will all help you toward achieving your goal at the end of Queen Rosomon's quest. As long as you learned from your past mistakes of course.

A Commendable Adventure, Even in Early Access

If you enjoy challenging party-based RPGs and aren't put off by a long-term obstacle, this game may be a good choice for you. It's got active developers, a sizable amount of content, and did I mention co-op? Yep -- up to three people can play at once, so you and your friends can share the roles of your three party members.

This is hopefully going to be one of 2017's indie game highlights. Now brace yourselves, focus on the impending task, and never forget why you fight For The King!

Preview: Rise of Insanity - Psychological Horror Done Right Mon, 07 Aug 2017 10:03:50 -0400 Damien Smith

Psychological horror has always been something of a rarity within the video game industry. While most developers aim for the more known and popular horror sub-genres like survival horror, every now and then we get a psychological horror classic such as Silent Hill 2 or Sanitarium. And now Rise of Insanity is stepping up to take a shot at becoming the next classic in the genre.

Rise of Insanity is a psychological horror game currently in Steam Early Access. It is being developed by indie developer Red Limb Studio. Despite its early stages of development, the game is already showing plenty of promise. With a gripping and intriguing plot, wonderful visuals, great atmosphere, and well-designed horror sequences, there is plenty for all horror fans to enjoy.

Enter the human mind

You take on the role of Dr. Stephen Dowell, a psychologist who lost his wife and son. The death of his family remains a mystery, and the police have had no success in their investigation. Were they murdered or simply just lost? The only suspect is Dowell's latest patient, who suffers from multiple varying disorders.

You must venture into the human mind, an ever-changing place where anything is possible. It is only there that you can find the answers about what happened to your family. But some places, a man was never supposed to go -- and your greatest fears will stand in your way. Only through overcoming them will you finally be able to gain the closure you so sorely seek.

The plot to Rise of Insanity is one of mystery and intrigue. As you progress, it begins to give you answers, while also introducing more. It is a story that keeps you thinking as you begin to make your own theories as to what is going on and what happened to the Dowell's family.

The game's well-written and expertly paced plot  keeps you gripped from beginning to end. And while the current build of Rise of Insanity gives you just a taste of what is to come, it is a satisfactory one that makes you excited for what the developers will add later.

There are a few typo errors throughout the game, along with rough English translation in some areas -- but aside from that, it is a story that does the psychological horror genre justice.

A well-executed horror "walking simulator"

There is no mistaking that Rise of Insanity is essentially a "walking simulator" that plays a lot like Layers of Fear. But don't let that comparison fool you -- its design and execution isn't quite as similar, leading to a very different gameplay experience between the two.

While Layers of Fear bored me to death within the first 15 minutes of playing it, Rise of Insanity thrilled me from beginning to end (of the current build), and a lot of this was due to how the game handles its horrors.

Layers of Fear felt more like a horror mansion ride you would find in a theme park, with things jumping out at you every five seconds. But here there are well-designed horror sequences that have tension and excellent build-up. Sure, it has its occasional jump scare from time to time, but they are generally well-placed enough that they don't become predictable or obvious.

As for the general gameplay, it's basically what you would expect from a "walking simulator". You explore each area, searching for clues and evidence to the mystery at hand while solving puzzles in order to progress to the next -- all while trying not to get a case of brown trousers when things get weird.

Rise of Insanity also has a unique little feature where you take control of a crow flying through a cave system. While it is a minor feature, it is an enjoyable one that fits in with the strange and ever-shifting world. And it shakes up the gameplay just enough to keep things fresh and interesting.

You can technically die in Rise of Insanity, and it is always through your curiosity or stupidity that this happens. Any possibility of death in the game is made fairly obvious, and it's always avoidable. But if you are like me, you just won't be able to help yourself in finding out what will happen.

Overall, Rise of Insanity is a "walking simulator" that does things right, especially in the all-important horror aspects. It is well-paced, resulting in a good build up of horror sequences and a careful balance between that, relatively easy puzzle-solving, and consistent exploration. 

A great atmosphere that grips you

One of the biggest highlights of Rise of Insanity is its atmosphere. Throughout the entire game, there is always a lingering sense of dread and unease. Never do you feel particularly safe, nor does the game ever give you a real moment of ease.

No matter the location you are in, there is always a dark and foreboding feeling. You know you are somewhere that you aren't supposed to be, and anything is a possibility. It really helps to absorb you into the game, giving you an even deeper sense of immersion.

Indeed, there is still some work to be done with the atmosphere in certain places -- but overall for an early build of the game, it does a cracking job.

Potentially a psychological horror classic

Rise of Insanity has all the potential of becoming an absolute psychological horror classic. Its plot is everything you could hope for in a title of this genre, its atmosphere is great and the horror sequences are all really well-designed.

It has been quite a few years since a game genuinely scared me, and there were parts of this game that did just that. It may not appeal to players who are looking for jump scares galore -- but for the more hardcore horror fans who want scares with creativity, it is sure to thrill and well worth its price tag.

So far, Rise of Insanity is off to a great start in Early Access. It has me gripped and I can't wait to see the conclusion of the plot. I really hope that the developers up the ante with the horror, while maintaining that great balance between scares, exploration and puzzle solving.

Rise of Insanity is available in Early Access on Steam at $6.99 for Windows and VR. It is currently on sale at 10% off for $6.29.

[Note: A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purpose of this preview.]

A Second Look at Blue Wizard Digital's Space Tyrant Wed, 02 Aug 2017 07:00:01 -0400 Damien Smith

After being very impressed with a pre-release preview of Blue Wizard Digital's 5X strategy roguelike Space Tyrant last month, I was excited to see how the game differs now compared to then. Not an awful lot of content was introduced in the past month, but the high level of polish and balancing makes an impressive difference to the overall feel of the game.

A Gentle Start Before a Real Challenge

When I last looked at Space Tyrant, the Galactic Senate were far more aggressive right from the beginning of the game than they are now. Previously, after completing a mission they would advance on two of the space zones at once.

Now, for the first few missions, they will only advance on one of the zones allowing players to come to grips more easily with how this mechanic works. For example, in the image above, they only advanced on the Twisting Nebula while previously they would have advanced on either the Hive Worlds or the Burrowed Fields as well.

While a small detail, it’s a welcoming one for new players to the game. Because the game features permadeath, having more passive enemies at the beginning allows those who are not so used to such mechanics to settle in, stopping what could otherwise be a frustrating experience.

Tougher Battles, Aggressive A.I., and Beefier Space Monsters

While the pre-release build was a lot of fun, there was some balancing to be done, and Blue Wizard Digital did exactly that. First is the battles between other fleets. Originally, these battles were rather easy to the point where it was actually difficult to become under attack by the larger fleet.

Now, however, you will see larger fleets defending more valuable planets and the deeper into the map you go the more resistance you’ll find. You will now need to keep a tighter balance between your varying fleets. Having one super powerful fleet and several low-level ones can quickly lead to trouble. This adds a new level of depth to the overall tactics and strategy of the game.

To further increase the difficulty a bit, your opposition is now more aggressive than before. Previously, you could leave your homeworld open for attack and enemies wouldn't really target it. Now, the risk of having your homeworld attacked is much higher, as enemies will advance as soon as they are close. Lose your home world, and you lose the mission and possibly even the game.

The enemy is also a bit more aggressive with their research than in the previous build. As they research technologies they become stronger, making them harder to defeat over time. If they advance faster than you do, you’ll start to lose your tyranny control and fall behind in technology. Keeping on top of this is essential now.

Monsters such as the Space Shark and Space Slug were improved as well. They were fearsome but not that threatening once you get a decent sized fleet. Now, they are a lot beefier than before and require a much larger and well-equipped fleet to take down.

They generally guard more rewarding planets for you to invade but along with that they also hold back enemy fleets too, as they are aggressive to everyone. They can be just as useful as they can be a hindrance, and in the right hands, they can be a really good tool.

There has been an increase in the difficulty of the game but that isn't a bad thing. It was a bit too easy, even for an average at best strategy player like myself. For tactical masters, the previous build could feel somewhat insulting as it offered zero challenge to them.

A Complete and Polished Feeling

Along with the gameplay and difficulty balancing of the game, there has been a significant increase in the overall polish to the game, giving it a complete feel. A tonne of visual improvements was added, like special effects and a whole array of new sound effects.

While not game changers, the improvements really make the difference between the game feeling like it is in an alpha or beta stage of development than being much further. If the game had more than three playable races, you wouldn't even think it was an early access game.

I love how the developer focused on this, as with these finer little details out of the way now, it leaves a lot more room for new content in coming updates.

One of the Most Promising Early Access Titles on Steam

There are several titles on Steam Early Access that are lacking in quality, and others that simply just become abandoned or the developers postponed development. This is Blue Wizard Digitals second title and it’s showing as much promise as its previous game did.

It feels polished to a degree that makes it seem further in development than it is, and most of all it’s an extremely fun and enjoyable strategy game that anyone can get into and enjoy. If you’re weary of spending money on a game that’s still in development, I can assure you Space Tyrant is a near-complete title worth playing right now.

A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purpose of this preview.

Preview: Tower of Time -- A Classic RPG with a Twist Sun, 30 Jul 2017 16:53:55 -0400 Damien Smith

While there has always been a handful of classic RPG titles coming from the indie scene, it was only after the success of Legend of Grimrock did we see a surge in old-school style RPGs of all forms. While most of these games on Steam are average at best, Tower of Time is one that that really stands above the rest -- and it's currently in Early Access. 

Developed by indie developer Event Horizon, Tower of Time is a CRPG that understands what it means to be a game of the genre. It has a gripping plot full of lore and interesting, likable characters. While gameplay balance was rocky at first, the problem has since been fixed with a patch. Tower of Time is truly turning into a most promising title.

The World's Last Hope

In Tower of Time, the world is slowly crumbling. Each year, the races struggle to survive. Crops fail, devastating weather conditions kill thousands, and disasters can happen at any point because of ground instability. The only hope of returning the world back to what it once was is you.

You follow the adventures of a group of champions and their lord as they explore a mysterious tower. The lord came across this tower at a young age. After approaching the crystal throne inside, he heard a voice and ran away. Now, he returns to the tower with his two loyal champions, Kane and Maeve. Hoping to find whatever it is that lays below to save the planet, you guide the champions through the tower, riddled with dangers and alien technology.

The entire game is based around this tower. While that may sound somewhat boring in comparison to large open worlds, it is anything but that. The world, the tower, and the tower's history all have great depth to them. The story is very well-paced and written, keeping you gripped throughout.

My only issue with the writing is the dialogue. I find Kane's, Maeve's, and Aleric's personalities are too similar. It is hard to distinguish who is talking without looking at the dialogue portrait. It feels like one person speaking the dialogue, as opposed to several unique individuals. 

I would have thought that Kane, a battle hardened warrior, would have a more passive aggressive nature to him. Instead, he has the same level-headedness as Maeve and Aleric, who had very different training, and different lives. 

While the characters' dialogue isn't a plot breaker, it is quite obvious as you begin to progress and see more and more dialogue. Fortunately, the rest of the writing in Tower of Time is as excellent as is the plot and the lore.

Classic RPG Gameplay

Tower of Time consists of two separate elements. The first is exploration: you venture the depths of the tower, uncover its mysteries, and find secrets and treasures. The second element is combat: you must survive against waves of enemies or bosses to either progress throughout the game or gain objects of power.

While exploring, you will progress through each of tower's floors. There are currently four. During this time, you will also need to interact with all kinds of characters such as deities, a strange voice, and the mysterious figure known as Tower. 

In addition, you will find many notes scattered throughout the floors that give you a look into the tower's history and what happened to its original occupants. Each floor also has side quests to complete and secrets to be found. Each gives the player additional and often extremely helpful rewards.

The exploration in Tower of Time gives it that classic feeling you would find in games like Baldur's Gate or the original Fallout games. Every nook and cranny of each floor has something new and interesting to show and tell. You will never be let down.

The combat has quite a twist. When a battle starts, a battle map will load. The map is random, with each one having different layouts and requiring various battle strategies in order to win.

Before the battle begins, you will place your champions where you want them. Combat happens in real time. The player orders the champion's moves -- telling them where to go, what to attack, and what skills to use.

Enemies come in waves. If you don't kill a wave quick enough, another will spawn. Quickly eliminating monsters is essential, otherwise, you'll become overwhelmed. Players can use the environment to their advantage, such as using walls or pillars as cover from ranged enemy attack.

Every champion has their own function in battle. Kane is a Shieldguard who acts as a tank. Maeve is the ranged DPS champion, Aleric is a support character and healer, and Rakhem is the melee DPS character.

Further adding to the depth of combat, the effectiveness of weapon types are all different. For example, swords have higher DPS but are less effective against armored enemies. Axes are slower but have better armor penetration. In addition, characters can wield two-handed weapons, dual-wield one-handed weapons or use a one-handed weapon and shield. Each of these has their own advantages and disadvantages.

Mix all these aspects of combat with each champion's unique skill sets, and you have one hell of a complex combat system. But despite its complexity, it is very easy to come to grips with. If you find yourself in a tight spot, you can slow time down to give you a breather and plan what to do next. It can really make the difference between victory and defeat.

As you progress through the game, you'll find portals that allow you to move among others you've discovered on the floor. If you need to backtrack, you can move through massive portions of a floor in an instant. This feature is extremely useful and an example of excellent and modern design.

There is no doubt that Event Horizon understands what makes a game a CRPG. They have added their own twist to the genre with Tower of Time's combat system, and it works really well. The combat is fun to play and extremely tactical. You will never get tired of adjusting your party depending on the situation and enemies at hand. Sure, there are still a few imbalances here and there despite the patch release -- but overall, the combat is extremely playable.

Item crafting and in-depth character development

Unlike most RPGs, the characters do not gain experience. After all, they are champions: the best that the world has to offer. Instead, you'll find ancient scrolls containing powerful and long-lost combat techniques.

These scrolls allow you to upgrade your town that sits above the tower. Different scrolls upgrade specific buildings, with each one catering to specific champions. 

Once a building is upgraded, you will be able to further train the champions catered to that building. You can go to the town at any time while exploring. Upon returning to the tower, you end up exactly where you left off.

Leveling up your characters grants them attribute points and skills points that you can use how you see fit. At first, your champions will only have three skills available. More will unlock as they level up. Each skill also has two additional upgrades, but only one can be applied at any one time, so you must choose which of the two would be best suited to your play style.

If you want to change your upgrades, you can reset your skills at no cost. This is extremely useful if you don't like how you applied your skill points. You can also change your tactics and skill sets to prepare for each battle. 

Tower of Time's leveling system is a real twist on the standard RPG character development, and it works tremendously well. You are never overpowered at any point, and you rely on tactics over grinding and sheer brawn. 

While the crafting system is simple, it can change the course of a battle. Crafting becomes somewhat necessary as you progress since enemies are getting stronger all the time. 

As you progress through the game, you'll find crystals in three colors: green, blue, and purple. These represent rarity: magic, rare, and epic. You need three crystals to alter the rarity of an item. 

Purple crystals have a dual purpose, and can also be used to enchant epic gear once you have enchantment scrolls. You can also dismantle any unwanted equipment in your inventory to gain extra crystals of equal rarity. 

My only criticism is that there's no way to combine unwanted crystals of lesser rarity. I would like the option to merge lesser crystals to make a higher one. For example, merging three magic crystals (green) to make a rare (blue) one. You tend to get an abundance of green crystals and eventually they become useless.

Tower of Time's simple crafting system is very effective and really makes a difference in the game. Overall, the character development and crafting system work very well with a whole lot of depth. 

A title that could redefine the CRPG genre

Tower of Time is a game that shows utmost promise. Aside from character dialogue, the writing is very well done and paced. The gameplay is excellent, with difficulty settings to cater for everyone. The character development is in-depth, and the crafting system is simple yet effective.

In addition, the soundtrack is absolutely amazing and the graphics are beautiful, especially for an indie CRPG. Sure, there is still some optimization to be done here and there with occasional frame rate drops and fairly long loading times -- but that is to be expected of an early access game.

A lot of Indie CRPGs don't understand what makes a game a CRPG. They don't attempt to change anything and keep what has worked in the past. Event Horizon, on the other hand, knows what makes a great CRPG. They are also attempting to try something new and evolve the CRPG genre. We could very well be looking at a title that could redefine its genre.

A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purpose of this preview.

MMO-Inspired Age of Heroes VR Launches on Steam Early Access Fri, 21 Jul 2017 16:17:27 -0400 UltimateWarriorNot

Grab your Vive or Rift controllers, because it’s time to play the new MMO-inspired Age of Heroes VRIt just launched on Steam Early Access for those who have VR rigs and are looking for an active MMO experience.

This title from Omnigames has players using their controllers (and entire body) to fight monsters through a wave-based system. The game promises players fours classes (Warlock, Wizard, Priest, and Ranger) and three different levels. It will also include features such as:

  • Multiple character classes
  • Character loot and progression
  • Raids with multiple boss fights, with each boss fight having different stages and mechanics to overcome
  • All heroes have full body avatars. Avatars will even respond when other players interact with you.
  • Single player and multiplayer modes with multiplayer allowing up to five players
  • Built-in voice chat

Body movement plays a heavy part in the game, letting you cast spells and dodge enemy attacks. According to Omnigames:

"In Age of Heroes, you need actually move your body like squatting or quickly side-stepping to avoid attacks and boss abilities. If you're worried about room size or other problems, you can set different game configurations to finish all these movements in a slight body reaction. It will be fun and feel real!"

Cooperative gameplay is stressed as well, thanks to its MMO-esque style. Players are encouraged to play the game in multiplayer, working together to fight monsters in locations such as the Hall of Death, Freezing Stronghold, and Fort of Horror. Players will also receive loot on successful raids, letting their avatars get stronger.

Omnigames promises more updates in the future after release, including new classes. The next class after launch will be the Warrior, which will give players strong defenses.

Age of Heroes was inspired by the raid mechanics of MMORPGs. So the team wanted to create a similar experience in VR. According to Omnigames:

“With Age of Heroes, we integrated the traditional role-playing features and first person boss battles into the VR genre to create an immersive and refreshing game experience.”

The title had a Kickstarter campaign to improve the game, but it only received $492 of its $10,000 goal and was promptly cancelled.

Age of Heroes VR will cost $29.99 when it releases on Steam, and will only be playable with VR equipment such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Will you be getting Age of Heroes VR? Let us know in the comments!