Thank you, Nordic Games, for providing a copy of this game to review!
In 1989, FASA Corporation released a futuristic tabletop roleplaying game called "Shadowrun." It served as an intriguing blend of cyberpunk and high fantasy. Troll computer hackers and elven mages could battle dragons and corrupt corporations on the mean streets of Seattle, Washington. For me and my friends, not only was the concept a cool one, it took place in our home state! One of my friends bought the sourcebook and created characters. Two of us got done before the others, so we decided, just for fun, our characters would engage in a mock battle. I tossed some dice to see if I could hit him with a shotgun, and he threw some to see if he could defend against the blast.
Then we consulted the book for several minutes, trying to figure out what the results could mean. Unfortunately, the combat rules weren't clearly laid out in the book. The results of our rolls went unknown, and we quickly lost interest after that.
Still, the concept of Shadowrun has always been one that I found interesting. It's nice to see it continue after 26 years. Now owned by a different company, Shadowrun enters the MMO field with Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown.
The game is played from a top-down, isometric approach. The player begins the game by choosing a race and class for their character. After that, a tutorial begins where the player needs to get their character out of a medical facility. Once the tutorial is completed, the player again gets into a character design screen, where clothing and other customization options are available. Once this is finished, the player is free to roam around a small district in Boston to interact with the denizens and discover quests.
Unlike most MMOs that I've played, though, the options for quests are severely limited. There is a story mode led by a troll broker named Smedley... and that's it. Although there do seem to be other options for adventure, there seems to be only one path to advance at the start of the game. Going on the quests in the story mode will allow the player to briefly visit other areas in Boston, but only for as long as the quest lasts. These quests can be completed alone or with the assistance of another character chosen from the rest of the Boston district. As a result of having only one adventure path, the game feels like a bunch of people playing the same game online, connected simply with a chat box. The feeling is rather disappointing – you aren't free to explore Boston like you would in more dynamic MMOs. One element that it does share with MMOs are the quests – largely "kill these guys," escort missions and fetch quests tied together with a thin plot that serves only as an excuse to go to the next job down the line. This is as disappointing as it is predictable.
One of the nice aspects of the game is a departure from the "gain experience, go up a level, gain more experience" approach of most role-playing games. Instead, in Shadowrun Chronicles, you gain "karma points" after completing quests. These karma points can be used to increase skills among several different trees. Specialization is recommended, as those who try to take a "jack of all trades" approach may eventually find themselves too weak to take on some of the challenges. A key part of a successful Shadowrun mission is knowing what each character's strengths and weaknesses are, and how to use them.
The looks of the game are mediocre. Characters don't move their mouths while talking, and some of the clothing options show considerable clipping as the characters move and interact. Some of the dialogue is voice-acted, but not the portions where the character can speak with merchants. Some of the in-game interactions are a bit odd as well. Occasionally, the game will zoom in to show a dramatic attack, but this isn't always the case (one time it happened when one of my characters cast a spell which missed). At one time it appeared that my main character decapitated an enemy thug... but my character was wielding a 2x4 with a nail in it. Maybe it was a sharpened 2x4? I don't know.
I have had the game lock up on me a couple of times. In one instance, it got to the point where it refused to acknowledge any of my commands. Except for one – bringing up the menu and quitting the game.
There are several things to watch for in terms of the moral aspects of the game. For starters, the language. This is frequently a concern whenever dealing with an online game, but within the game itself players swear frequently. "S**t seems to be the most common curse word, including being in the name of some of the default equipment. Although the Lord's name is seldom taken in vain, it seems that any other word is fair game by the other characters. In the Shadowrun universe, Catholicism was outlawed by the government, so in a clear case of writers not doing their research, this seems to extend to all branches of Christianity. The only religion in the game seems to be a form of shamanism. Magic use is common, including summoning creatures. Some of the characters can wear skimpy clothes, and thanks to the customization options, it's even possible to create cross-dressing characters. Despite that, there isn't any sexually explicit content or nudity. In the beginning tutorial your character is forced to kill two medical personnel even before you have control. Some of the loot that characters can obtain includes bodily organs (you can even devote skill points to do this) that can be sold or, in the case of cybernetics, implanted into your own body. Blood splatters are a common sight while on a quest. Finally, as a "Shadowrunner," your character is often opposed to the corporate-run government, and breaking the law is just another day at the office for these people.
In a sense, the feel of the on-line version of Shadowrun really isn't that much different than my fledgling attempts at the tabletop version all those years ago. It's a fascinating setting with lots of promise... but ends up feeling flat. Between the railroad plot, the quirky graphics and lackluster multiplayer, there isn't much substance to this game, and little reason to visit this dystopian future.
Thank you Aterdux Entertainment for sending us a review code for this game!
In May of 2012 Legends of Eisenwald was successfully funded on Kickstarter with nearly $84,000 raised. Since its funding, it has been beta tested by the backers and greenlit on Steam. Nearly three years later it's now available for everyone to enjoy. Gamers who like 3D RPG tactical strategy games like King's Bounty will find much to like in this title.
Legends of Eisenwald begins with a choice of a character to play. There's a slightly different story for a sword wielding knight, a cunning baroness that is good with a bow, or a mystic who is an expert in alchemy. The mystic is the hardest class to play and is recommended for seasoned gamers.
No matter what class you play, you will be at a disadvantage in each of the eight chapters in this game. You'll only have a couple of soldiers, if any, at the beginning of each chapter. Most of the inventory gets reset too. The number of soldiers in your army maxes out at twelve, but in order to have that many soldiers, you need to have a couple of castles under your control. Before you can besiege a castle, you'll need to have a decent army at your command.
Most towns have villagers willing to join your cause for a meager fee. They're inexperienced, but trainable to become powerful knights and archers. Healers and priests can be hired at Christian churches and pagan temples. If you have money to spare, experienced mercenaries can be hired for a daily fee at taverns and mercenary camps.
Money in this game can be earned by completing side quests, collecting taxes from property under your control, or defeating and looting the local enemy armies. Each area has its own local lore and rumors that can be learned by stopping at taverns and talking to people. Many treasures are waiting to be claimed by brave soldiers willing to search for them. They are often guarded by protective spirits though.
The battles are turn based and the units are placed in hexagons and can attack nearby opponents if they are melee fighters or longer ranged if using archery or magic-based attacks. The battles can be fought manually or auto-resolved if you're in a hurry or lazy like me. Armies with undead spirits need to be defeated by magic users who can harm them since physical attacks against them are useless.
Many, but not all of the side quests have unlockable Steam achievements for completing them. There are other Steam benefits including cloud saves, trading cards, and Steam workshop contributions. Not all of the contributions are fully translated into English though.
The development team, Aterdux, is located in Belarus and I have noticed that some of the text was still in Russian. Some of the dialogue boxes, especially during a gambling card game, were completely blank. Unfortunately, there isn't any voice acting so text is crucial to understanding what is going on. The background music is top notch and worth the extra money for the soundtrack and art book.
Graphically, Legends of Eisenwald is very pretty. The characters and army units are nicely detailed, but are noticeably recycled throughout the game. I was taken aback when I was conversing with a female thief who was identical to a castle baroness I was talking with a few minutes prior. At the very least they should be wearing different clothes!
There's a wide variety of terrain and your army will often stay on the paths, but there are many instances where you'll have to stay off of them. When walking around mountains and forests, the cross-able terrain is not very obvious. To make matters worse, there are some quests that require traveling to a specific pixel in order to progress. These quests can be frustrating, but fortunately they are few and far between the in-depth story arcs.
The lore in the game is well written and it's fun to gain power throughout the land while fleeing from enemies who can easily defeat you. Alliances will be made and broken and there are multiple paths available to achieve the same goal. The Catholic church has a lot of power in this game and I often visited their chapels for healing my wounded army units.
Sadly, the Catholic church is depicted as greedy and power hungry. Other religions including pagans and devil worshipers are also represented and required to interact with to progress the story. Since there are battles with the undead, violence is a given and necromancy is unavoidable. Taverns are the place to go for alcohol and rumors. Some of the rumors discuss incestuous relationships and other adult situations. Last but not least, there is some language and blasphemy. While Legends of Eisenwald hasn't been rated by ESRB, I would only recommend it teens or older.
Despite the rough edges and objectionable content, Legends of Eisenwald is a great game that mature gamers should look into if they like tactical role playing games. The entry fee of $29.99 is reasonable considering that there is fifty plus hours of gameplay to enjoy. Those who have pre-ordered or kickstarted the game, not only got it for a better price, they were also given a free copy of Discord Times which was the developer's first game. I'll definitely be keeping Arterdux Entertainment on my radar and look forward to more games from them.
You kids... you and yer new-fangled Playstation Vitas and Yer high-powered gamin' PC's. Ya don't know gamin' like we do. In our day, we had cartridges and floppy disks! We marveled at 16-bit graphics when they came out and thought, "man it don't get any better than this"—but ya scoff at what yer callin' stone age! Ha! Yer lookin' at the battle between Sony and Microsoft and sayin' it's a console war. Ya don't know what a console war is. Nintendo vs. Sega, now that was the Console War! Well... I suppose it's our own fault fer not teachin' ya when we had the chance. But that's not what yer here fer is it? Yer here to read a gamin' review, right? Well, sit down and make yerself comfortable. Ya might learn somethin'.
Back in the days of dinosaurs and Windows 95, there were these guys that later called themselves Dungeon Dwellers Design.
They'd already put out a few games, and their programming guy was getting burnt out rewriting one called 'Axia'. Well, to break the monotony, he decided to write a Tetris clone. He called up a couple of his musician buddies and an artist to draw up the graphics, and inside of a week, the game was finished. By 1997, it became so popular, any web search fer 'Tetris' brought up the game. Back then it was called 'Acid Tetris', and it was only a matter of time before the true blue Tetris company went after 'em fer copyright infringement over the name. Ya still with me kids? Good. Now where was I...? Oh yeah, mmhmm. Well, Dungeon Dwellers Design was made up of college kids, so it was a couple years before they could fix it, but in 2002 it was re-released as 'Super Acid Block Attack'. Same game but with a different title. Now Super Acid Block Attack is a DOS game, ya remember those? Well, DOS isn't really used anymore 'cept by us old timers, but you kids don't need to be left out. Just drop down a little app called DosBox, follow the instructions, and yer shiny new quad SLI rig will get turned into an old Pentium with just a few mouse clicks and one teeny little command. Now once ya got yer DosBox set up and have a folder fer yer games, drop down Super Acid Block Attack, extract it, and drop it into yer DOS games folder. When ya fire up DosBox, cd into into the directory, which should be called 'saba' and run setup.bat. Yeah kids, back in the day you had to type commands. Now the setup utility gives ya yer sound options. Since DosBox defaults to Soundblaster emulation, ya can either leave it to Autodetect or SoundBlaster Family, max out your Mixing Rate, enable Stereo sound, and make sure it's in 16-bit. When yer done, just select 'Play Game'. While yer loadin', ya see the Dungeon Dwellers Design logo and a funny warning that the game may cause 'severe keyboard damage' before it drops ya in the game.
You'll be dropped straight into a new game, but if ya need to change somethin', just hit the 'Esc' key to bring up the main menu and yer golden.
Here, ya have the option to start a new game, configure yer options, select from one of six music tracks, check the high scores, read the credits, exit, or return to the game. Go ahead n' check out the Options menu. It'll give ya the ability to adjust music and sound effects volume, and change yer keyboard controls. Sadly, there's no option to use a controller, but yo find out just how easy it is with a keyboard. Now the default keys are rather straightforward, but ya can change it to whatever ya want.
Rotate Left: 'A' key
Rotate Right: 'S' key
Move Left: Left Arrow key
Move Right: Right Arrow key
Quick Drop: Down Arrow key
Main Menu: 'Esc' key
Once yer finished here, hit the 'Esc' key to get back to the main menu, select yer music, and start yer game.
While in-game, the screen pretty much explains itself. On the left side of the playing window, ya have a small window showing the next block in queue, the high score, yer score, and yer current level. To the right of the playing window is a list of available blocks and a running tally of how many of each have already dropped. As ya move into the game, an animated smiley face appears to interact with ya. Sometimes it's happy, but as you continue rackin' up the score, it starts gettin' mad. If yer takin' too long to score, it'll act bored, but it'll drop an F-bomb when yer getting' close to losing the game.
Overall, Super Acid Block Attack is even more addictive than its Tetris granddaddy, and the six music selections, which include a catchy techno-type remix of the original Tetris theme keep it groovy(do ya kids still say groovy?) into the wee hours of the mornin'. At any rate, this game stands out as a classic example of pure gameplay and decent graphics that wouldn't have been outta place on the old Super Nintendo. If ya want a crack at it, ya can pick up DosBox and Super Acid Block Attack here:
Super Acid Block Attack: http://www.dddgames.com/saba/download.html
Well, I hope ya listen to the wisdom of this old timer and have a look-see. In the meantime, do me a favor and get off my lawn.
Thank you Focus Home Interactive for giving us a copy of this game to review!
In a dark & dystopian future, the three most powerful empires in the galaxy wage a bitter war over a mysterious energy source known as etherium; these mortal enemies: the totalitarian Consortium, the enigmatic Intari, and the swarming Vectide all seek to dominate this extremely rare resource by any means necessary. Adding to the tension, etherium is only briefly available for harvesting, once every thousand years, and only on six specific planets. In this far future, war and its causes haven't changed.
Etherium is an average 4X (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate), RTS (real time strategy) game, neither really good nor really bad. In it, players will battle for control over this coveted substance. There are two single player game modes: Conquest, and Skirmish. In Conquest, players will command one of the three factions as they fight to conquer the six planets where this resource can be found. Each planet has three sectors which must be controlled, and each faction starts off with control over one planet and a fleet. The campaign map displays the six planets, your factions technology level, and the locations of the various fleets. It also displays how many turns in the campaign are left. When the turns run out, the campaign is over, and the faction with the most victory points is declared the winner. These points are awarded based upon the number of controlled sectors, technology level, etc.
As the campaign progresses, players will attack enemy sectors and fleets while defending their own. Sadly, each planet has only three sectors, and so there are only eighteen maps in total. The A.I.'s strategy will rarely allow its fleets to move anywhere unless the fleet is severely damaged. Given this dogged stupidity, most of the campaign will be fought over one or two planets As you may imagine, this quickly becomes repetitive as you fight over the same few maps, again and again.
Etherium's core gameplay is fast-paced, and well balanced in a manner reminiscent of games like StarCraft. Whether in Skirmish or Conquest matches, combat usually begins in under three minutes. However, unlike StarCraft, there is precious little strategy as both sides race to expand their territory. Worse still, the A.I. is stunningly predictable. After the first few matches, it will become very apparent that your enemies have one strategy from which they will not deviate - ever. Such unswerving simplicity is disappointing, and manages to rob a great amount of potential from this title. Additionally, the game suffers from poor stability, frequently crashing to desktop, especially in Conquest mode.
Etherium also features a multiplayer mode for up to four people. Multiplayer utilizes the same eighteen maps as Conquest, while pitting two teams, of up to two players, against one another. Sadly, getting into a multiplayer match is difficult at best due to the game's very small community. On average, players in North America will wait at least an hour, though often more, before finding an opponent.
On a good note, the controls are responsive, and can be remapped. On a sour note, there is no guarantee that your preferences will remain after you exit. In fact, it is not uncommon to find that the controls have reset to their defaults the next time you run the game. This renders the ability to remap the controls irrelevant. And if losing your control settings wasn't bad enough, the graphics and sound settings occasionally reset as well.
Thankfully, the game is visually appealing, with graphics that are sharp and colorful, making it easy to distinguish between most units, even when the camera is zoomed out as far as possible. The maps are well rendered but uninspiring, and more akin to RTS maps of the late 90s than those of today. But, Etherium's maps do feature a handful of weather effects, like blizzards or tornadoes, which randomly strike. These effects can be fun to watch, and sometimes even create limited tactical opportunities for players to exploit.
Audio wise, the game's sound effects are pretty good, heightening the action, and providing appropriate feedback. Additionally, its electronic music manages to add the right amount of tension, without being over the top or terribly repetitive.
Regarding morality, Etherium contains no occultism, sexuality, or authority issues. The factions' back stories are well done, if rather dark and dystopian. Violence is typical for a strategy game: mechanical units explode while infantry are gunned down, though without blood or gore. The most serious moral warning is from the game's numerous instances of strong language, especially the abuse of the Lord's name, which is frequently used as a curse word.
Overall, Etherium provides a mildly entertaining, if paint-by-numbers experience. The factions are interesting, the controls are easy to learn, and the action is refreshingly fast-paced. The game can even be quite difficult at first, as players wrestle with its speed and unfamiliar controls. While it is not a bad game, for the price, there are numerous titles which do Etherium's best elements better, and often with: cleaner language, less stability issues, better maps, and a far more capable A.I. All in all, Etherium is a mixed-bag of good and bad.
Robots like girls. Girls like robots, but they don't like nerds. Nerds like girls and robots, but they don't like other nerds. And everyone loves pie... except robots.
These are just a few of the simple rules to know for the puzzle game "Girls Like Robots." You have to arrange a variety of colorful, blocky characters in a grid so as many of them are as happy as possible. Or, in some cases, as unhappy as possible. As you solve puzzles, you'll discover a storyline that involves cows, aliens, Abraham Lincoln, and a romance between a girl and her bugs. In other words, these square characters are united in a silly, nonsensical plot which join the different puzzles together into a cohesive narrative.
The game is controlled simply with the mouse – just point and click to place characters, or to swap seats, or what have you. Some of the bonus games require the use of the arrow keys. In any case, the controls are pleasant and responsive, making for quite comfortable gameplay.
The real challenge lies in trying to remember the personal interactions between all the characters, what they like or hate, and how to make everything fit together. Each puzzle will be rated based on how close you've come to meeting or exceeding the objective, and tokens will be added to your "bag of happy" based on how well you do. These tokens can be used to unlock different bonus games.
The colorful, cartoony graphics do well with conveying the affection they have for each other, with the animated faces appropriately giggling or grimacing. The background music is catchy, with a bit of a folksy, country twang, but not terribly memorable. My wife, who likes country music, thought it sounded nice. There isn't really any voice acting, other than laughs or growls of disgust.
The story is told in three acts, with several chapters preceded by short videos and the occasional tutorial to demonstrate a new element. But in addition to the story, there also are several bonus games that can be unlocked depending on how full your "Bag of Happy" might be, and these can provide hours of entertainment as well – especially for those with a competitive spirit. On Steam, leaderboards are available to compare your stats with other players.
From a moral standpoint, there doesn't appear to be anything to be worried about with this one. There is one odd scene with one of the square-headed fellows disappearing into a bush with a chicken, but since there's no dialogue, there's no explanation as to why this happened (he did just win a game of chicken bomb ball...).
So, to refresh your memory, let's go over the rules again. Girls like robots. Nerds like girls and edges, but not other nerds. Fish like everyone but robots. And you'll probably like this game.