My Top Ten Games of 2017: #4

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2
#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar
#5 Thimbleweed Park

#4 Cosmic Star Heroine

There are lofty goals and then there is aiming your sights at the greatest RPGs of all time. When Zeboyd Games went to Kickstarter in 2013 they conceived of an old school, 16-bit RPG that would feature the compelling story and combat of Chrono Trigger, the base-building, party gathering of Suikoden, and the sci-fi awesomeness of Phantasy Star. Who could say no to that (I certainly didn’t).

While Cosmic Star Heroine is somewhat hampered by its indie budget, it is a damn fine retro JRPG that successfully draws many of the best elements from all those inspirational classics.

The story stars Agent Alyssa L’Salle, a pseudo-space cop who discovers that someone within her own organization is up to no good. With the help of some memorable friends and fun newcomers she eventually joins up with the local freedom fighters, exploring multiple planets and uncovering more sinister details.

Other than a nifty twist toward the end the storytelling is the softest ingredient, leaning heavily on style and humor, which thankfully the game does very well.

Ten party members is a crazy huge number for a 15-20 hour RPG. Some are a bit more underdeveloped than others, but they all have distinct styles and themes, from the break-dancing, schmoozy robot to the bestial alien bounty hunter.

Combat resembles the Grandia games (as well as Zeboyd’s previous retro RPGs) more than any of the actual 16-bit RPGs. There’s a D&D-like initiative tracker, and everyone has more than half a dozen abilities you can equip and customize, as well as Shields that offer even more abilities. There’s also an interesting system involving building up Style and entering Hyper mode. It’s challenging but fun to work out the most efficient timing and unleash your most powerful attacks at the right moment.

In a perfect world developers like Zeboyd would be given twice the budget to create a larger, deeper RPG using their exact same design philosophy. What this two-person team (three if you include the stellar soundtrack) accomplished is nothing short of astonishing. Cosmic Star Heroine wonderfully (and appropriately) embodies the classic quote: “Aim for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”*

Read my review for Pixelkin!

 

*Yes I’m aware that the stars are much farther away than the moon. It’s still a nice quote damn it.

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My Top Ten Games of 2017: #5

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2
#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar

#5 Thimbleweed Park

I adore the adventure game genre. When I say ‘adventure game’ I’m specifically referring to point and click, puzzle-based games. There’s no question the Golden Age was in the 90s, during the reign of Sierra and LucasArts. I was firmly in the former camp instead of the latter, yet I fell completely in love with Thimbleweed Park, developer Ron Gilbert’s love letter to classic LucasArts adventure games. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2017: #5”

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #6

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2

#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Most RPGs need to sell me on story, or combat, or setting, or preferably all of the above. Battle Chasers: Nightwar puts it’s exquisite art front and center, and it’s damn good. From the developers of Darksiders and the artwork from comic artist Joe Madureira come an impressive little indie RPG that offers a compelling turn-based combat system, fun characters, and a lengthy adventure. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2017: #6”

A Hat in Time Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

While I lack much of the fond nostalgia for the 3D platforming genre, I was completely enthralled by A Hat in Time. Its bright, cheery art and music, witty dialogue, and grandiose level designs instantly catapulted Hat Kid among the upper echelon of the late 90s Golden Age classics.

Simply put: A Hat in Time is the most fun I’ve had with a 3D platformer since Psychonauts.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Direwild: Co-op Deckbuilding Dungeon Crawler on Kickstarter

I saw a lot of neat upcoming Kickstarter-hopeful games at PAX South earlier this year. One that always stuck with me was Direwild. It’s finally arrived on Kickstarter.

Direwild plays like a fun combination of Pokémon, a cooperative deckbuilder, and a tactical RPG.

Cards are made up of 130 creatures. Each creature card has modifying traits and abilities that can be added to other creature cards, letting you create a single super-creature through a unique crafting system.

I’ve loved other games that use a similar system of modifying cards, such as Evolution, where the same cards act as both units and enchantments depending on how and where you use them. You can read the rulebook here.

On top of charming, summon, and creating creatures, you also navigate a series of tactical battle maps, battle evil minions, cast spells, collect treasures, level up heroes, and fight your way to the final boss battle.

The game is designed as an ongoing campaign using all three grid maps, and includes tuckboxes so you can save your current game (ha!) and bring the cards into the next scenario.

Direwild is designed for 1-4 players, with an estimated play time of 60-90 minutes and an age of 13+, though the material itself is family-friendly. In fact the starting creatures are puppies and kittens!

It includes a double-sided map board, standees, 10 hero boards, tons of cards, and some dice and tokens. Optionally you can upgrade to a Premium edition to receive miniatures of the 10 playable heroes and five enemies.

direwild

The Kickstarter campaign has been up for about a week and is already a resounding success, reaching its very modest funding goal of $38,000 within the first two days. It’s a short campaign with only 14 days remaining, and already over 1,000 backers have nearly doubled the funding goal. The next stretch goal unlocks new minions.

The current minimum bid to receive Direwild is $59, not including shipping (US is $10). Estimated delivery is August 2018, though I’ve never experienced a Kickstarter project not receiving at least some sort of delay.

The Direwild Kickstarter campaign ends December 1.

Hand of Fate 2 Review [PC Gamer]

Read the full review at PC Gamer

My Fame score was too high. When I drew the Infamous card again, I was faced with a choice: fight my way out of an angry mob of peasants, or submit to a trial by fire. I opted for the latter and was presented with a rotating beam of light along a pendulum of moving blocks. When I failed to stop the marker on the right block, the Dealer cackled with glee. My heart sank as he drew Pain card after Pain card and my health dwindled into nothing. I should have murdered the damn peasants.

Hand of Fate 2 is, like the original, a world literally made of cards. The campaign is presented as a world map divided into 22 challenges, or levels. These challenges provide specific objectives, and rules, and dying fails the entire challenge. Each challenge places a series of cards facedown on the table, like a digital board game. You move your token from card to card with each one revealing a new encounter that could mean potential gold, food, loot, or combat.

Read the full review at PC Gamer

Battle Chasers: Nightwar Review [PC Gamer]

Read My full review at PC Gamer

Battle Chasers: Nightwar tackles the tedium of traditional JRPG turn-based combat by turning every fight into a tense interplay of meaningful tactics. Despite some frustrating elements and balancing issues, Nightwar provides some of the most satisfying RPG battles I’ve experienced all year—and looks nice doing it.

Read My full review at PC Gamer