Thank you Hammerfall Publishing for sending us this game to review!
Hammerfall’s Regicide is named after a fictional game that exists inside the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Presumably very similar to Chess, its name has been borrowed for this game. There are two versions of the game; classic Chess and Regicide, which is basically chess but with special abilities and the pieces can shoot at each other.
Now, when I say “they can shoot at each other,” I don’t mean to give the impression that a piece draws a little gun, goes ‘pew pew’ and makes another piece fall down. I mean they open up with anything from a fully automatic Bolter to a Rocket Launcher and turn the target piece into nothing but a red stain on the board. More on that later.
The classic Chess variant is basically the same idea as the old PC game Battle Chess, where the pieces work exactly like normal chess except that when one piece captures another, they fight it out. (The capturing piece always wins.) The difference now is that the pieces are drawn from the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Instead of a “black” side and a “white” side, the pieces are Space Marines on one side and Orks on the other. While the pieces do look authentic and capture the look and feel of the Warhammer 40,000 universe well, it can be difficult to tell which piece is which sometimes, and even that requires someone who is very well versed in the factions of Warhammer 40K. Sure, when the board is first set up it’s easy to know which is which by its placement in the line, but once the game is in full swing it’s easy to forget which piece is the King and which is a pawn. On the Space Marine side, pawns are regular Tactical Marines. The King is a Space Marine Captain, the Queen is a Space Marine Librarian, Bishops are Devastators (Space Marines with heavy weapons), Knights are Assault Marines (with jump packs) and the Rooks are Space Marine Terminators. On the Ork side, Pawns are Shoota Boyz, The King is a Warboss, the Queen is a Weirdboy, the Bishops are Lootaz, the Knights are Stormboyz and the Rooks are Meganobz.
Playing simple Chess in this mode is basically like playing any computer Chess game you’ve ever seen, with the moves being recorded using normal Algebraic Notation. The novice A.I. setting isn’t too punishing and I was able to beat it in my first game. I’m a guy who can hold my own in a Chess match but nobody’s ever called me awesome, so this should be a comfortable enough experience for new Chess players. There’s also intermediate, expert, master and veteran master difficulty.
The Regicide variant is more complex, with special abilities, a health and armor bar, and pieces can kill each other without having to capture. A player’s turn is carried out in phases, similar to the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game. First is the Move phase, in which a piece can move according to the normal chess rules. Pieces can also capture, just like in Chess. The second phase is the Initiative Phase, in which individual pieces can use special abilities, such as “There is Only War” which Increases the armor of a targeted friendly piece. Using abilities costs Initiative points, which are replenished each turn. When a player has spent all of their Initiative points, their turn ends. Some abilities also have a cooldown, and can only be used every fourth turn, fifth turn, etc. To win, a player must either achieve a checkmate just like in standard Chess, or kill the opposing King.
Gameplay is certainly different, as simply moving a piece to a “safe” square in no way means the piece is actually safe. In one test game, I was able to capture an opposing Knight with my Queen. I felt safe because it was behind the opponent's’ pawns and wasn’t vulnerable to being captured in the traditional Chess sense. This is Regicide however, and in the opponent’s next Initiative phase that Queen was gunned down. (It normally isn’t that easy to outright kill such a valuable piece, but it had been wounded in previous turns.) Pieces do have a limited range and can only attack targets within their line of sight.
There is a campaign mode, which provides some interesting variants in each game. In each mission, the pieces are set up in a non-standard arrangement similar to Chess puzzles. Obstacles like barricades are also placed on the board, preventing movement through them. There are also secondary objectives which add some extra challenges to the campaign matches, and a level system to give the player a feeling of working toward a goal and improving re-playability.
The artistic feel of the game is impressive, with Space Marine and Ork units faithfully rendered onscreen. The game board looks like a large chessboard set in a devastated outdoor environment as if the game were, in fact, a battle. While the quality of the graphics is good, the health and life bars can make it difficult to identify pieces. For example, the easiest way to tell the Captain(King) from a regular Marine(Pawn) is by a standard mounted on the Captain’s backpack. That’s obscured by the health/energy bars in Regicide mode. Yes, a Captain’s armor is more ornate than that of a Tactical Marine, but that’s hard to see unless you zoom in for a closer look.
An Armory screen is available from the main game menu to assist players in learning the pieces and their abilities. Additionally, ability/equipment loadouts can be chosen for Regicide mode. These loadouts can be changed between games for trying various strategies.
The player can choose to skin their pieces from different factions within their side. Space Marine players can be Blood Angels, Raven Guard or White Scars. (These are various chapters of Space Marines in Warhammer 40K... and no Black Templars ?! Travesty!) Ork players can be either Goffs or Snakebites.
The UI is serviceable but takes some getting used to. It uses a lot of design cues from handheld device interfaces in the menus and game controls. In game, the various buttons and controls have different looks depending on the type of action they perform. This isn’t a huge problem, but the colors of some of the controls, like the end turn button, can be hard to see against the background environment.
As is common for games these days, there is an Achievements system with achievements being awarded for things like promoting a Pawn, winning a game by checkmate in under 10 turns, or completing secondary objectives. There are achievements associated with the campaign mode as well as online multiplayer.
The sound effects are decent, with the Orks’ and Space Marines’ speech reasonably clear (if you can keep up with the standard Cockney accent used with Orks). No issues were noticed on the PC version. The background music is suitably grim and heavy, as is the norm for games taking place in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The weapon sound effects go well with the visuals though not especially memorable.
The graphics quality is good, but slower machines will have a very low frame rate during the action when pieces fight, as the camera moves in for a close-up view of the carnage. The game was tested on an aging HP laptop and was still playable, so users with better hardware should have a much smoother experience. No glitches or issues were noticed during testing.
Is the game appropriate? Not if you’re sensitive at all to violence. If you’re looking for a nice computer Chess game to teach the kiddies, you’d better move on. When the pieces capture one another, the fight is brutal and bloody. If you’ve played the Space Marine first-person shooter game from 2011, then you know the level of blood and gore to expect. Explosive bloody impacts, dismemberment, and violent combat are the characteristics of a fight here. When a Devastator Marine “captures” an Ork piece, he sprays it with his Heavy Bolter until there’s nothing left but a chunky red mist. (That sentence is either awesome or horrifying, depending on your point of view…) When pieces of higher value are killed the red stain remains on the board where they were for the rest of the game. (I know, they’re technically being ‘captured’ if we’re using Chess terms, but an Ork being burst open by a psychic blast from a Librarian has most decidedly NOT been “captured.”)
While there's no heavy occultism as such, the Queens are represented by Space Marine Librarians or Ork Weirdboyz, which are psychic characters (psykers) in the Warhammer 40K universe. Accordingly, their special abilities represent the use of their psychic powers. These powers aren’t very different from other special buffs and attacks used by other pieces, they just look a lot flashier.
Ethics is a tough thing to evaluate here, because ultimately this is just Chess with a twist. There aren’t really any questions of morality or ethics involved other than the choice being instead of black and white, it’s a hyperviolent alien race or an utterly xenophobic post-human race. That’s purely fluff though, and has no actual bearing on the game itself. Your mileage there may vary.
If you’re looking for a chess game and you like Warhammer 40K this one’s worth getting. The Regicide variant is fun and provides some interesting new challenges and problems. If you’re a fan of Warhammer 40K and aren’t really a Chess fan, you MIGHT enjoy the Regicide mode for its look and feel if not necessarily the gameplay. It is a little jarring to see an Assault Marine standing directly in front of an Ork and NOT trying to tear it to pieces, so you will be continually reminded that you’re still basically playing Chess, not Warhammer 40K.
*Thanks to Andrew Carrington for helping me identify the Ork pieces. I have a very Space Marine centered view!
Thank you New Blood Interactive for sending us a review code for this game!
In 2335, contact with the Ceti alien race was made and it was peaceful until the anti-Ceti human supremacist group, Terra Nova, attacked them twenty five years later. The war was devastating to both sides and it's up to a group of elite fighters, the Super Galaxy Squadron, to put an end to it. There are six bosses that need to be suppressed and fourteen ships with different stats and weaponry to do the job.
Each ship has a unique combination of power, armor, and agility. They also have different primary and secondary weapon attacks. A powerful hyper attack becomes available once the hyper meter fills up from power-ups left behind from defeated enemies. The primary and secondary weapons get stronger with random drops as well. However, when your ship takes damage, it will lose a power-up. Fortunately they float around for a little while and are not too difficult to reclaim. That is of course if they're not surrounded by incoming bullets, missiles, and laser beams.
I like how the difficulty ramps up in this game. While it is challenging, it did not raise my blood pressure while playing. It did shame me a bit though. I first went with a ship that had a lot of power (and a cool auto-firing drone), but kept failing miserably at the first boss. My seven year old took an interest in the game and went with the default ship and beat the boss on his first try. I was both humbled and disappointed that my son owned me and earned the first Steam achievement. By switching to the default ship I was able to get the final boss which takes less than an hour to do.
To extend the replay value of this game, you can try to beat it with each ship type or play the endless mode. In Super Galaxy Squadron your progress is saved to the level you are on. If you get defeated by a boss, you'll have to restart the level to try again. However, the checkpoint system, graphics, game modes, and difficulty levels get a major overhaul in the current beta of Super Galaxy Squadron Ex. The beta is free to try for current owners of the game. Instructions to join it can be found here.
The beta right now is limited to the first stage and an endless mode. It has better utilization of a widescreen monitor with health and hyper bars on the side instead of percentages and black bars on the side. In the regular game I wish I had the option of tilting my monitor to be vertical to utilize the entire screen.
More game difficulties have been added to include a casual, veteran and hell mode with a normal and hardcore option in each of them. Even the casual/normal difficulty is way more challenging in the beta than the original game. My son or I were no longer able to beat the first (and only) boss on our first try. We still had a lot of fun trying though!
The power-ups are clearer and the overall polish is improved in the beta. The chiptunes/rock soundtrack remains the same and is still awesome to listen to. The soundtrack is made by Random Encounter and can be purchased for $1.99 on Steam.
Out of the two versions of the game I like the leniency of the original, but I appreciate the improved interface and the ability to restart from the boss battle instead of the whole level in the beta version. I'll be keeping an eye on the beta version, but until it's released, I've reverted back to the original to hone my shooting skills. If you like Shoot Em' Ups, I highly recommend Super Galaxy Squadron. The price is a reasonable $7.99 and some of the proceeds go towards the Child's Play charity.
Once in a while whenever a historical game comes it can be worth your money and that’s saying a lot for my review on Empire Total War. Created by the Creative Assembly and endorsed by SEGA, Empire Total War takes you into the colonial era and America’s revolution.
The gameplay is a real time strategy game where you can control various arrays of soldiers from line infantry, to grenadier companies and cavalry units making the gameplay so memorable and it brings you to the edge of your seat making you feel like you’re part of the action. You can play as any country you wish for the Grand Campaign, or play a scenario where you partake in a specific battle from the time period. There’s even a story mode campaign entitled “Road to Independence” where each episode tells the story of America as a British colony from the 1600s and finally towards the Revolutionary War and America’s final verdict of being freed from British Influence.
The campaign Road to Independence as I stated earlier tells the story of the Colonization of America by British settlers, specifically the founding of Jamestown, the French and Indian war with the ups and downs of the British and at last the final conflict between James Wolfe and Montcalm at the Plains of Abraham where it made Canada British, and at last America’s revolution. As for difficulty it can be adjusted to easy or hard as nails so be careful on choosing your difficulty; unfortunately you can't change it mid through the battle you have to do it before you start the conflict saves the player a bit of trouble.
There is voice acting and narration. For example in the grand campaign you have a woman telling you on how to manage your income, try to satisfy the populace and managing your troops, basically it's like a giant interactive game of Risk the boardgame. Narrating in the road to independence campaign is top notch with George Washington telling his account in the French and Indian war to finally becoming General in the Colonial army during the American Revolutionary War.
There have been some difficulty in Road to Independence for instance when I tried to get to Episode 3 of the story it froze my computer I did try a few more times but gave up; but it’s a minor nitpick. In the options you can adjust your screen settings, sound and so on.
The background music is out of this world. One of the pieces called Bunker Hill keeps you at the edge of your seat and it builds suspense and makes you think “When will it end?”
As for graphics they are detailed and well done it’s pretty polished for a PC game and the soldiers are detailed even though they’re the same meaning they have the same facial expression and face but that's just a minor nitpick. For multiplayer you can play battles online against your friends not only on land but on sea as well.
Another game mode is Siege mode where the player or computer takes the fort as its headquarters and it’s up to the player or computer to take the fort or hold off the invader which by the way is an excellent mode to play and it helps get you into the feel of the game.
Morally speaking this game is safe to play although it doesn’t have nudity or language in the game. It does however have violence since it is a war game you got to expect to lose some soldiers in the process fortunately there’s no blood so when the soldiers are shot they fall over.
The game is a great way to introduce you to history specifically American history and it might fill in the blanks that you missed if you were snoozing during history class in school; bottom line buy this game it’s worth your time and your money and trust me on this you won’t be disappointed.
Thank you, Big Meanie PR, for sending us a pre-release build of this game!
Sombrero has been described as a mashup between Super Smash Brothers, Towerfall, and Capture the Flag. Set in an environment inspired by "spaghetti western" movies, the players compete against each other to complete various goals within the time limit.
For those that don't know, in the 1960s, Western movies – featuring cowboys and outlaws in the American West – were popular. Several Italian directors made these movies, the most famous of which was Sergio Leone. Critics labeled these films "spaghetti westerns" because of the Italian directors; they also helped launch the career of notable actors like Clint Eastwood. Sombrero does have some elements of the Western genre – namely the three settings and a few of the characters – but I don't know if the person who designed the game is Italian.
The player controls one character from a wide roster. Characters include Western tropes such as the sheriff and the "mysterious stranger," but also odd characters like a cheese wedge, an undead gambler, and an astronaut. Unfortunately, the differences between characters is purely cosmetic - every character acts exactly the same and has the same powers – a single jump and a shot that can be upgraded by capturing different power-ups, such as a cannon or a shotgun. It only takes one shot to kill your character, whether it comes from a single shotgun pellet or an exploding barrel.
The music is an interesting blend of Western and chiptune. The graphics are colorful, and sport a retro look. It can be hard to tell what's happening when things get frantic, but the arrows over the characters' heads make it easier to spot your opponents.
However, the controls are a bit disappointing. The game responds with keyboard commands, or with an Xbox-style controller. It was nice to discover that it recognized my Logitech controller, but since my controller lacks the extra joysticks, I was unable to make any attacks. I could move and select menu options, at least. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any ways to remap the controls, either on the controller, or on the keyboard.
The biggest disappointment lies in the gameplay. It can be fun to bounce around and try to shoot your opponent, or to collect the money bags, depending on the mode you play. But it can grow dull before too long. In addition, at this time the only option is local multiplayer – although a single player mode is reportedly in the works, there doesn't seem to be much point – or much fun – in playing a deathmatch by yourself. It would be good to have a computer opponent to play against – or practice with – when a friend isn't around to pick up the other controller.
Also, the lack of variety in the characters makes it seem like the choices are kind of pointless. At least Smash Brothers has characters with their own unique movesets, powers and abilities. In fact, this is pretty much the standard of the 2D fighting genre. I don't know if there are plans to give each character more variety to their moves, but I do find the idea of a 2D-style fighter in a Western setting to be a fun idea. Too bad it can't be found here.
I did have a couple of minor issues where the screen's resolution had weird results when changing between full screen and windowed mode. The game initially began as a small rectangle in the middle of a grey screen. I switched to windowed mode and changed the resolution, and all I could see was the upper left corner of the game screen until I quit the program. It took a bit of adjusting, but I eventually got it into a position where I could play the game and actually see what was going on.
When a character is killed, a cartoonish skull will briefly float over their body. There are a few other instances where skulls and dead bodies can be seen, but nothing terribly graphic. There doesn't seem to be any other moral issues with the game at this point, but things might change as the game gets further development.
Sombrero can be entertaining in small doses, but grows dull quickly. As it stands right now it has potential... but so far, that's about it. Potential. It will need to have more substance before it could really be considered a game worth purchasing.
Thank you Kalypso Media Group for sending us this game to review!
There is a land of sunshine, cute animals and happy smiling humans. In this land is joy, and love, and adorable things. But below the surface, there are none of those things. Below the surface of this good land lurks something despicable, something that hates all the gooey, cutesy things on the surface with an unquenchable rancor. That something is called "The Ultimate Evil." That something is you.
Dungeons II is a creative blending of its early progenitor: Dungeon Keeper, and a typical RTS like Warcraft III. Unlike both of those games, the story is driven by a British-sounding narrator who tells you the story as you progress throughout the game. He is also responsible for telling you what you should be doing. Are you taking too long to complete the first objective? He will be sure to remind you, in amusing terms, that you're lollygagging. Did you experience failure? He will explain your failure to you with a back-handed insult. The narrator drives the story forward with a stream of amusing and often fantasy literature/movie/game references which greatly amused me personally, but may be above the heads of those who aren't "in the know."
In general, the game play is very polished. When your forces are all in your dungeon in the underworld, the game plays almost identically to its spiritual predecessor Dungeon Keeper, complete with a giant hand which you use to pick up your creatures to carry around the dungeon, as well as slap them into working faster. You don't want your little snots and minions slacking off after all. Once you bring your horde to the surface world, the gameplay seamlessly switches to a more traditional RTS experience. Gone is the hand of Evil. Instead you drag-select a group, right-click to move or attack, and control your creatures just like you would do in Warcraft III or Starcraft.
For the most part, the game was very bug-free. I experienced one major bug on one of the maps, but it did auto-correct itself after a reload. I think it was a scripting error since the terrain didn't allow me to put my creatures where they needed to be to complete the quest objective. In the overworld, once your evil forces have routed all the humans and cute things in the world above, your presence corrupts the landscape, changing it in the twinkling of an eye from pretty and bright, to gloomy and blighted. I think that the game didn't trigger that change for me, so the area I needed to move my creatures to was blocked by the still-pretty landscape. Before the reload I spent quite a while roaming about trying to figure out what I'd done wrong so I could advance the quest. After quitting and reloading, the game automatically placed my creatures in the exact spot where I couldn't get them to go before. So aside from that small hiccup, the game ran smoothly.
As seems to be typical of story-driven RTS games, Dungeons II falls prey to a problem common to the genre. That problem is advancement. In general, RTS games like Warcraft III and Starcraft will deliberately gimp the player's ability to improve their units and facilities until a certain mission. Usually, this mission is near the final 1/3rd of the game's story arc. After this mission, the remainder of the campaign allows you unfettered improvement. This lets you use the best units available, upgrade them, build an army, and learn how best to crush your opposition.
Dungeons II felt like I only got to experience the full use of my creatures and dungeons for two scenarios, out of ten or twelve. This is far past the last 1/3rd, more like the last 1/5th or 1/6th. In that sense, I felt the game should have either been extended to allow more missions with unlimited access to my creatures, or should have accelerated the advancement to allow for more time with my really good creatures.
That said, there was much that I enjoyed about this game. The flavor in the game was a large part of my personal enjoyment of it. The amusing fantasy references made the game appear to not take itself too seriously, adding a very tongue-in-cheek feel to the game and making the fact that you're the "Ultimate Evil" seem almost comical instead of malevolent. I enjoyed the dual game mechanics in switching between the Dungeon Keeper experience and the traditional RTS experience.
Morally, there is much to be warned about. This game does have you controlling the forces of evil, including demons. There are spells that you can cast to kill intruders. You brew rooms full of barrels of ale for your creature's consumption. To upgrade your demons you must sacrifice a minion at a pentagram altar. (Though, somewhat amusingly, a sarlac monster from Star Wars ep. 6 appears under the altar to consume the sacrificial victim). And obviously in any RTS there is a fair amount of violence and the killing of humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, fairies, unicorns, and the like. The blood effects are very subtle.
Overall, I genuinely enjoyed the game, perhaps in large part because I recognized a good majority of the other fantasy references which added a ton of humorous flavor to my experience of the game. I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor of the game as well, and the game did offer a fair amount of entertainment as a combination of two of my favorite older RTS games. On a negative note, the game features controversial occult references and requires the use of pentagrams in order to advance and improve some of your creatures. The one bug I encountered was also a minor annoyance, but it was certainly not game-breaking or systemic.