Thank you Telltale Games for sending us review codes for all eight episodes!
Minecraft Story Mode was initially released as a five-part series, but has since been expanded with the Adventure pass DLC. Like many Telltale games, Minecraft Story Mode is a point and click adventure game with many quick time events. The choices made in the game impact the characters' lives and even their feeling towards you. At the end of every episode, the choices you made are compared against others who have finished it as well.
The asking price of $24.99 for five episodes bundled into a “Season Pass” is reasonable for the excellent storytelling and character development. The season pass terminology is confusing since that term is reserved for having access to all content in games generally speaking. The $15 needed to conclude the cliffhanger ending in chapter five is a bitter pill to swallow for many gamers and quite a few people have spoken their minds on this matter in the Steam store reviews. Other than those complaints, the game still has mostly positive reviews.
Episode six picks up where five left off with some of the Order of Stone members in an unusual world with two moons and tons of zombies. They find an invitation to go to a mansion and decide to check it out instead of hanging around the zombies. Upon their arrival they discover that they were not the only ones invited and are accompanied by many popular Minecraft Youtube personalities including: Joseph Garrett as Stampy Cat, Stacy Hinojosa as Stacy Plays, Dan Middleton as DanTDM (The Diamond Minecart), Lizzie Dwyer as LDShadowLady, and Jordan Maron as CaptainSparklez. As charming as these new people are, they start dying mysteriously and the group must work together to find out who is behind these murders.
While it wasn't a game breaking glitch, I thought that it was strange that Jesse's portrait in the mansion only showed the male version of the character despite my character being female.
In episode seven, the same Order of the Stone members are back in the hallway of portals. Their fruitless effort of exploring portals to find the correct one home is taking a toll on them. Petra is frustrated and Jesse lets her pick the group’s next destination. They wind up in an automated world that is being run by a computer named PAMA. The computer’s initial purpose was to optimize the world, but instead it’s taken it over. The Order of the Stone must intervene to get the assistance from the Old Builder who can help them get the Atlus to guide them home.
Getting the Atlus in the final episode is easier said than done. In order to win over the other Old Builders, the Order of the Stone members must win the gladiator style games that they’ve been thrown into. Many choices revolving around trust and forgiveness are provided in this finale. Can Jesse win over both the contestants and the judges?
Throughout these final three episodes some of the deaths are permanent while others just respawn without their inventory. There are examples of cheating and deception and revenge is an option. On a positive note, I don’t recall any language in the Adventure Pass episodes.
If you don’t mind the moral content in the main game, the adventure pass is worth getting. Like the other episodes, the additional ones are relatively short at an hour and a half each. I have completed the whole series in thirteen hours. The entire series will set you back $40, but it’s a worthwhile adventure for Minecraft fans.
Thank you Black Shell Media for sending us this game to review!
While I haven’t owned a Nokia 3310 with the popular snake game that Curvatron is based off of, I have played other variants of it. There are quite a few game modes and lots of relaxing electronica music packed into this $0.99 game. Even if you‘re not a fan of the gameplay, it’s worth picking up for the thirty-six .ogg files located in a conveniently named Soundtrack folder within the game’s directory.
The controls are very easy in this game. It’s just one button; the default key in the single-player mode is W to change the direction of the snake. With each press of the button the snake will flip in the opposite direction ninety degrees. The default key mappings can be changed in the game’s settings menu.
Though it’s not universal for all of the available game modes, the general rule of thumb is to not have your snake run into itself or touch any of the obstacles. As the snake collects more goal points, it’ll grow which makes avoiding itself more difficult. In the Evergrowing mode there are no check points, but the snake grows continuously and you’re scored by how long you can keep it alive before having it run into itself.
If you consider yourself artistic, you may appreciate the Creative mode which lets you move the snake across the screen without any penalties for having it run into itself. There are no time limits either so you can unleash your creativity while relaxing to the pleasant music.
The calming music is helpful for the Adventure mode which gets more challenging as you clear each of the thirty levels. After a level is cleared, the next one becomes unlocked. Your progress is automatically saved and remembered for later. While the Steam store page has Steam Cloud as a feature, my progress did not transfer from my desktop to my laptop.
The levels in the Adventure mode are the same every time, but the Classic game mode has randomly generated levels. The goal in the classic mode is to collect as many check points as possible before your inevitable demise. The game will keep track of your record so you can aim to beat it.
The multiplayer is fun and my kids and I enjoyed playing against each other to see who could last the longest. There are two ways to win in multiplayer. One way is to outlive the others who have collided to their doom. The other possible way to win is to have eaten the most dots before the time has run out. The worm who has eaten the most will have a gold ring around it.
Just like the Nokia version, the graphics are very simplistic. The snake doesn’t have any details whatsoever. The backgrounds change color so there is some variety there. On a positive note, the graphical system requirements are very limited and only need a screen according to the Steam store page.
All in all, Curvatron is a cute game with an awesome soundtrack. It’s well worth the meager $0.99 asking price. Chances are that you’ll still enjoy the music if you’re not a fan of the gameplay. As a fan of both, I recommend adding this game to your Steam library.
In the beginning a developer created Space Pirates and Zombies (SPAZ). A 2D game set in space with pirates and zombies and it was good. After a time, the developer said "let there be a sequel". And it was so. It was also set in space, added 3D graphics in a 2D universe but empty. And the developer said "let there be life". And it was so. The game universe was populated with captains of space ships, whom could do anything the player could do and would venture around the universe. And the developer saw it was good. And the developer said "let there be chaos". And it was so. Captains acted like pirates; while the zombie apocalypse appeared infecting those whom ventured too close to their borders, expanding their territory, consuming the game universe and it was fun!
There are two game modes; Storyline and Sandbox. Storyline provides a path for you to follow at your leisure and opens up the story via dialogue, which is currently presented by text-to-speech, which works nice though the full release will have actual voice actors. Sandbox is the same game, stripping out all the story dialogue and missions that you would otherwise encounter. In both game modes the zombie menace eventually appears and starts infecting captains and taking over the starmap sector by sector. Destroy this zombie threat, by taking down its home base, and you win the game.
You start out in the world map view, broken down into sectors with each sector having its own station and a mix of potential resources that can be scavenged. From there, you follow a tutorial which introduces you to the game mechanics, learning your surroundings and figuring out how to upgrade your meagre mothership before you become easy prey to more powerful captains. In the world map view you navigate via the mouse, clicking where you want to go and on whatever you wish to interact with, be that resources, other captains or stations, and so on.
Working through the tutorial you are introduced to the resources used, how to get more and how to upgrade your mothership. The resources are: Rez, Goons and Scrap. Each has their own specific use and needs; i.e. Rez is used as fuel for your mothership, Goons for crew and to make repairs and Scrap used for trading and building stations.
Rez and Goons can be harvested from the starmap view, from resources nodes littered across the universe. There is a limited supply but they slowly build up over time. Scrap can be salvaged from battles, along with spare parts to equip on your mothership. As you harvest and salvage you need to be considerate of whom these resources belong to as they will have a negative effect on your standings with other captains and is a sure way to make enemies quickly.
Fighting another captain will put you in a combat zone. Here you control your mothership using mouse and keyboard (SPAZ 2 also has gamepad support). Combat is fairly simple, if you want it to be, using the Battlewagon mode. Just steer your ship and manage your speed and shields, and the mothership will automatically shoot at any hostile targets. You can override this and take manual control of the aiming and shooting if you want, but given it’s all about DPS, it’s generally better to keep Battlewagon mode active as it is more efficient at how it deals damage.
How is it more efficient at dealing damage? Well, your weapons can cause damage to shields, armour and hull. Each weapon can have varying degrees of damage. There is no point in firing a weapon which only does hull and armour damage when the target has its shields up. Battlewagon mode will choose the most effective weapons to cause the most damage.
Combat is extremely satisfying, when you are not outgunned. You can destroy ship parts, which will fall off the ship, with satisfying explosion sounds and weapon effects. Drop the enemy’s shields and you can ram them to cause significant damage. The combat zone is littered with debris and hazards that you can use to your advantage. You also have a tractor beam which you can use to hurl debris at the enemy to cause additional damage.
At the end of battle, assuming you were victorious, you can salvage your ill gotten gains left behind by your victim. Your rewards range from resources to ship parts which you can swap or add to your mothership. You can also use your scrap to purchase new ship parts to upgrade your mothership with different and more powerful types of weapons.
As fun as it is, the early game can be frustratingly slow and boring as you slowly upgrade your ship by scavenging what little resources you can find. You are also an easy target to some captains who will happily attack you with vastly superior firepower. Bribing your way out and retreating is an option but a costly setback. The AI in combat is challenging, yet does have its flaws. The main annoyances of the AI are: hugging a space station that is about to explode and flying straight into hazards from area of effect weapons, causing major damage. Some of the original fan base has also been disappointed in how different the core mechanics are to the original game.
Given the open nature of the universe you can act in a good or evil manner towards its inhabitants, with the developers stating the game is meant to be played towards the latter. Funnily enough, the developers also commented that most players played more of the former. Swearing and blasphemy is present in the game (i.e. “fuck”, “hell”, “Bastard”, “Jesus Christ”, etc.) and occurs regularly. While captains automatically eject on death, Goons are lost and are also killed when making repairs to your ship and are effectively treated as the lowest form of society.
After spending about a dozen hours with SPAZ 2, I was surprised it was released as an Early Access title. Even though it may not have everything the developers want in the game it’s an extremely polished and fun experience. Since release, the developers have been listening to user feedback and have been consistently improving the core experience and adding new gameplay elements. If you enjoy your sci-fi and/or space games I’d say it’s an essential purchase, even while it’s still in Early Access. For everyone else, I’d recommend it if you are not overly concerned by the violent language and nature of the game.
Daniel Woods (@themudpig)
Before I go any further in this review, I do wish to note my own personal biases for this game. I really, REALLY, loved this game. I love the studio; I'm not a Patreon for them but I totally would be if I had the disposable income and I think I have a good relationship with one of the writers and the development team as a whole. Now watch as I get mass tweeted by them telling me how they actually don't think I am that cool. But whatever, I felt the need to point out I have a personal bias in favor of this game. It was basically my perfect game.
ACE Academy is the debut title from PixelFade Studio, an independent studio based in Toronto, Ontario. They funded this game through two methods: a Patreon and Steam Early Access (which is how I got a hold of the game). The developers have made it a point to keep in touch with their fanbase. For example, they changed Mayu from a non-romanceable to a romanceable character.
The story takes place in the not-so-distant future of 2049. GEARs, what this game calls its giant robots, were developed for military purposes and, much like military technology of today, eventually made their way to the civilian sector. They were used for commercial purposes and somehow found their way into the sports entertainment industry. This sudden boom of interest in GEARs created a new field called "Cenorobotics".
The protagonist finds himself transferring to ACE Academy after his parents are killed in a car crash. Now, in a new place with no friends, he has to find a team willing to deal with his outdated American GEAR so he can compete in the intramural tournament. As he begins to lose all hope, a group of pilots are just desperate enough to accept him into their fold.
The gameplay is rather vanilla as far as visual novels go. Read and click your decision, decide who you're going to hang out with, pick your girlfriend. However, as the old saying goes: “If it's not broke, don't fix it” and PixelFade has held strongly to that. Occasionally, you will be thrown into a match with competing teams as they use their GEARs to fight yours. The original combat system was, as they put it, "keyboard DDR." However, they since recreated the combat system by having the player choose through the usual visual novel choice selection on what your character is going to do combat wise. These fights are usually placed closer to the end of the chapters, which is how they break up their stories.
In this game, the stories are divided into four chapters. The first being more the introduction, the second is when you're getting into the swing of things, and also where you pick your girlfriend. The third is a few lovely dates with your significant other and some nice story chunks. The fourth chapter is the lead up to your team's final match and the story wraps itself up from there. I personally felt the final chapter was rushed a little; they could have easily extended it to beyond a fourth into a fifth chapter. Things seemed to go by a little too fast for my comfort, at least story-wise. During the final chapter there is a lack of unique backgrounds that feel a little off sometimes; I'd go to an entirely new restaurant and the café would look exactly the same as the school's cafeteria. However, in their defense, we only went to those new locations once. Also, there aren't any epilogue scenes, something I really enjoy about other visual novels.
Which brings me to a series of compliments they may not get. I chose Valerie as the young woman for me. She was very much into PDA, innuendos, and talked in a rather sultry tone. I chose her because I figured she would be the best chance to see if this game had sex. Surprisingly, it did not. There was a “Fade-to-black” scene, but it is later revealed that nothing sexual happened as Valerie is apparently very bad at describing what sex is like because she's never had it before. The game has a reassuring lack of sex that made me all the happier to play it.
They didn't use God's name in vain for a while, which I was really hoping they wouldn't because I was thinking that would be really cool. Unfortunately, they used God's name in vain, though thankfully, it was a rare occurrence.
There are more innuendoes and sexual comments than some may be comfortable with. Valerie wears a two-piece bathing-suit level cat costume for Halloween, which you can choose to buy for her. Certain comments are directed at Yuuna's breasts, and you can choose to wear fetish police gear for the same Halloween party Valerie wears a cat-girl costume to. I chose to be the Batman parody and thought it was a clever play on Batman and Catwoman. Sadly, that dialogue choice wasn't programmed in.
If you can deal with blasphemy, prime-time television swears, beachwear, the occasional bad typo, missing dialogue, and you really love your visual novels, I would recommend this to you. It is one of my favorite games of all year, and definitely among my top picks for visual novels.
Total War: Warhammer is the first non-historical game from the folks at Total War. It combines the gameplay and feel of Total War titles with the lore and setting of the Warhammer world created by Games Workshop. (For fans of the franchise, this is the Old World setting before the Age of Sigmar reset.) The player controls one of the many factions in the game and must use diplomacy, trade and military power to expand and secure their empire.
While the game is very similar to previous Total War offerings, I found the learning curve to be incredibly steep. Then again, I was playing the Empire faction which relies heavily on synergy and very precise tactics to find success. This is actually very similar to how this faction played in the Warhammer: Fantasy Battles game this is based on so in that sense the game was very successful at capturing the feel of the tabletop game. My friend tells me it's much easier if you play Vampire Counts because you can resurrect dead troops and add them to your army without needing to spend resources recruiting. Orcs are also represented here with their style being pretty brute-force based. Sadly, my beloved Bretonnia is not a playable faction in campaign mode (at least as of the time of this writing), but it is playable in multiplayer.
At one point one of my fresh armies was attacked by an Orc army of smaller size (Man, those things can move across the campaign map like greased lightning). Confident because of my experience playing other Total War games as well as Warhammer itself, I chose to fight and teach these greenskins a lesson. Well, it was I who got schooled that day. My army was all but obliterated. Clearly I need to climb higher on the tech tree and get better units or this campaign's going to be very, very short.
The game plays in two modes. One is the campaign map where the player can manage settlements, move armies and conduct diplomacy. This is the turn based strategy element. I disliked the interface here because instead of the map looking like an actual, flat campaign map it is rounded as if the player were up in low orbit looking down on the world. It was aesthetically very interesting, but it's hard to get a sense of the scale of the world around your settlements and as your empire grows it becomes harder to see how things are going at a glance.
To be honest, I also dislike the look and feel of the UI. Yes, it's very Warhammer-like and successfully captures the look and feel of the Warhammer fluff. My problem is that the Warhammer style is very Gothic and busy looking with lots of decorations and Roman numerals. Having been used to the simpler, cleaner UI of previous Total War titles I found this distracting.
What's interesting in campaign mode is that you can also see areas where the Winds of Magic are blowing strong, so if you have wizards in your army these are good places to try and get your enemy to fight you. The Winds of Magic do move around, so a wise general needs to know when to try and catch up with one and when it's better to wait.
As of the time of this writing, Warriors of Chaos and Beastmen now can be added through downloadable content.
The second mode is where battles are fought. Here, the player arranges their army on their deployment zone and when all is ready, the battle begins. The player can zoom around the battlefield anywhere their units can see in order to get different views or angles on what's going on. Sometimes the beginning of the battle gets boring as the two armies slowly cross the field to come to grips with each other, but the player can speed up time a bit which helps. Units will fight until they take enough damage that they become panicked and run away, though it is sometimes possible to rally them back into the fight. Unlike most other Total War games, individual heroes are not part of a unit, but can run around the field alone, and are devastating combat murder machines. It's still important to support them as they can be overwhelmed and killed if surrounded, but it's amazing how long they can last and how much damage they can do just on their own.
Moving units around the field is simple, and just like previous Total War offerings. Units can be selected individually or in groups, and their formation can be adjusted easily by right clicking and dragging the mouse across the unit's destination to set the number of columns in width. Attacking an enemy is done by right-clicking the target and a set of buttons located along the bottom of the screen provide a way to use special abilities and orders. Essentially, the gameplay is good because Total War gameplay in general is good. I haven't found much about this particular version that's an improvement over other Total War titles, so it feels like a missed opportunity.
By and large the regular units are blocks of infantry or cavalry, though some factions have access to war machines like field trebuchets or catapults. In the later campaign the player can also field wizards or monstrous creatures like wyverns or gryphons.
The multiplayer game is as straightforward as any Total War offering. The opponents are allocated a number of army points to build their force from, with a default army already assembled for those who are still learning that faction or who just want a quick fight. There are lots of playable factions available, including my beloved Bretonnia. It is something of a culture shock though for those who are used to the tabletop game. I can't decide whether it's awesome or cumbersome to have a unit of a couple dozen Pegasus Knights where I'm used to them flying around in groups of only three, or to have a triple battery of Field Trebuchets instead of just one or two in the back field. Units from the tabletop game are carried over faithfully here, so veterans will be able to easily understand how they work.
The graphics are good quality and will give your video card a workout. Again, the Warhammer aesthetic feels like a disadvantage here because the world looks so gloomy and sinister. This is strictly a matter of personal taste of course, but I like my environments brighter and greener. The other visual wrinkle I noticed in this game is that differentiating between units can be very tough at a distance. It's a problem when you can't tell a unit of heavy knights from a unit of light cavalry at a glance (especially as Bretonnia). The unit cards at the bottom of the screen also suffer from the Warhammer aesthetic. Instead of a simple image depicting the unit there's artwork showing the unit in action, but it's small enough that you have to look close to really appreciate it, which is something there's no time for in the heat of battle. I think a better selection of images would have been great here. The new arrangement of unit command buttons feels less user friendly than previous titles as well. Overall it just feels like a step backward.
Realtalk: Warhammer Fantasy Battles doesn't visually translate well into the PC environment. It just doesn't. One of the major characteristics of the tabletop wargame was the ability to push beautifully painted models around on the table and admire the artistry of the sculpts and hopefully the skill of the players. Hero characters tended to be elaborate, beautiful models that were just fun to look at. Unit sizes were small enough to distinguish individual troops and enjoy the artistry there was well. Total War: Warhammer takes all of that and turns it into a massive soup of huge units on the field. Even highly colorful units like Bretonnian knights just look like a drab bunch of guys on horses unless you zoom in so close that you can't fight the battle. Heroes are just little splotches with a unit banner running around the field and it's incredibly easy to lose track of them when battle is joined. A huge effort has been made here to replicate the Warhammer visual theme, but that's not a good thing. It just makes everything look drab, worn and visually busy. For all the graphics quality and polygons, the game just looks "meh" to me. Why do I bring up the tabletop version so much? Because this game is really aimed at the Warhammer fans who always wanted to play Warhammer on the PC. That's what they're going to compare this game to and measure it against.
I didn't experience any graphics problems in either the campaign or battle modes other than some performance degradation.
The sound effects are adequate though not terribly memorable. Human voice actors provide the voices of characters and the in-game advisor which is always preferred over digitized voices.
I didn't experience any crashes or glitches so overall it was a good experience from a stability standpoint. The most frustrating part is that selecting units during battle felt a bit finicky. The player can click right on the unit's banner in order to select it and that can be a little tricky when the unit is moving or when it's bunched up among other units during melee combat. There was also a tiny lag between my clicking the mouse button and the unit actually responding, which can be a real problem when the battle is heated up and things are happening fast. I had a tendency to try clicking faster and often I just wound up selecting the wrong unit or selecting then de-selecting the one I wanted. I'm not sure whether smoother game performance would have helped on a more powerful machine, so this may not be the fault of the game itself.
If you've ever played any form of Warhammer game you know what to expect from Games Workshop titles. Brutal combat and violence are the primary items to be aware of. Games Workshop games like their violence graphic and bloody, though that's mitigated in this game since you generally won't zoom in too close to what's happening during a battle so everything is seen from a distance.
The next big element for these games is magic, which is usable by all factions to some degree. The magic system in Warhammer makes no distinction between arcane and clerical type power so a wizard is no different form a priest. Speaking of religion, each of the factions has some sort of god or pantheon of gods, none of which has anything to do with the Bible. Some of the gods are benevolent, some apathetic, some evil and cruel. The nature of a deity reflects upon the faction that follows it. For example, the patron god of the Empire faction is Sigmar, an ancient warrior and former Emperor. The Chaos factions may worship one of four chaos gods who represent different aspects of corruption: violence, plague, deceit and extreme pleasure. This doesn't directly affect the game beyond the available units and abilities for each faction, but it is an essential element in the fluff.
While all factions have some access to monsters and mythical creatures, some can use demons of various types.
The game doesn't enforce any particular moral approach and so the player is free to be a tyrant or a benevolent ruler during the campaign. The game is open ended, so it can reflect a wide variety of play styles. That means it doesn't force the player to do anything particularly unethical, but it also allows for the possibility of some underhanded actions. The game is about conquest though how the player brings that about is an individual decision.
As a fantasy setting for adults the language is PG level. Mild swearing like one might hear in a sitcom are in this game, but it doesn't push any envelopes.
Total War: Warhammer is a good option if you enjoy strategy war games with a fantasy twist or if you really loved Warhammer Fantasy Battles. If you're just interested in a Medieval strategy game you're better off playing Medieval II:Total War which is cleaner, smoother and more tactical. It isn't a bad game it just feels like a better option would have been to release a Warhammer mod for Medieval II rather than retool the UI to prioritize the aesthetic over usability. I probably won't play much of this game unless Bretonnia becomes available to play in campaign mode, myself. That makes me sad, because I have eagerly been awaiting a game like this for years. If I suddenly felt the urge to fight a Medieval battle on my PC right this minute, I'm more likely to open up Medieval II than Warhammer.