The Swords of Ditto Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Many video game genres overlap and blend well together. Shooting and third-person action. Narrative-rich adventure with first-person exploration. RPG elements in just about everything. Yet in the paraphrased words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, just because you can combine genres doesn’t mean you should.

The Swords of Ditto is a cautionary tale. The concept seems solid: combine the basic structure of classic top-down, 2D Zelda within the framework of a challenging roguelike, creating a frustrating experience that relies too much on repetition.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

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The Class of 2008 – Defense Grid: The Awakening [PC Gamer]

This article ran as part of PC Gamer’s Class of 2008 series of retrospectives.

Read the full article at PC Gamer

“We wanted to make a beer game,” says Michael Austin, creative director and co-founder of Hidden Path Entertainment. “That’s a game you can play with one hand while holding a beer.”

Though Austin and his fellow veterans at Hidden Path had previously worked on several games, Defense Grid: The Awakening was their first self-published title. They released it in 2008, when the tower defense genre was still mostly mods for games like Warcraft 3 and a few smartphone and browser games. Austin saw a fellow employee playing Desktop Tower Defense, and became inspired. “I wanted to make a AAA tower defense game, since the genre had only been in mods and flash games so far. I wanted to make Defense Grid because that’s a game I wanted to play.”

Read the full article at PC Gamer

How a video game composer designed the indie RPG Tangledeep [PC Gamer]

Read the full feature article at PC Gamer

“Growing up I’d read articles and see pictures in Nintendo Power about behind-the-screen game development,” says Andrew Aversa, lead designer and programmer at Impact Gameworks, who recently released roguelike dungeon crawler Tangledeep. “I thought it was so interesting, but that fell by the wayside.” Though games were his first love, it was music, specifically game music, that captured his attention in his formative years.

Aversa is best known as Zircon, one of the most prolific video game remixers and professional game-focused composers in the industry. “In 2002 a friend introduced me to Music Maker 2000 Deluxe,” he says. “I had taken piano lessons as a kid and liked it, but once I could make music on a computer I got really into it. Being able to adjust knobs and sliders to create different sounds—I couldn’t get enough of it.”

Read the full feature article at PC Gamer

Into the Breach Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Pacific Rim meets Chess isn’t exactly the most common elevator pitch for indie games, yet it perfectly describes Into the Breach, the long-awaited sophomore release from beloved FTL: Faster Than Light developers Subset Games.

Into the Breach successfully retains all the fun roguelike challenges and tactical strategy of FTL while minimizing most randomized frustrations, creating a compelling tactical board game.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #7

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

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The first Hand of Fate was an interesting take on a rogue-like RPG using cards, but also had some really rough edges (and a straight up horrible final boss fight). The sequel is not only a vast improvement but a great game overall, providing a meaty campaign with wildly different missions and expanding the games of chance beyond cards (read my full review at PC Gamer).

The deliciously acerbic Dealer returns, but his antics take a backseat to the much improved story telling. Each story chapter presents a self-contained story with challenging objectives, from escorting a helpless farmer, to gathering resources while avoiding enemy patrols.

The chapters are still laid out as a series of cards that you flip over, with each card presenting choices, games of chance, or a battle (and often, all three). The new games are a lot more fun than the frustrating card shuffle of the first game, including rolling dice, stopping a card wheel, and stopping a pendulum-swinging laser.

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Combat is the least improved factor, and still mostly a Batman-lite affair as you shuffle from enemy to enemy mashing attacks while blocking and countering their strikes. Often I was facing a dozen or more enemies at a time, which can be exhilarating, but also incredibly frustrating. Controls and camera are still a bit clunky, though weapon abilities and combos work much better, and the different weapon types all feel very different from each other.

The new companions were probably my favorite element, adding a much needed boost to combat as well as some really nice story moments. Their tales were unlocked through a progressive series of cards and challenges, and the ending sequence goes as far as to borrow from the companion-driven climax of Mass Effect 2.

Hand of Fate 2 is an excellent sequel that successfully builds upon the neat ideas and concepts of the first game.

Read my review for PC Gamer!

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Many of my favorite games stick with me over the years not because of finely-honed combat systems or impressive visual effects. Often it’s the story and characters that remain the most memorable aspects of the those cherished gaming experiences.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows has one of the best stories I’ve experienced in years. It’s an epic tale about heroic sacrifice, forbidden love, political betrayal, and self discovery set within a richly realized world of urban renaissance and ancient mystery. Masquerada’s tactical combat is serviceable, but it’s the story and characters that demand you experience this unique RPG.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

My Top Ten Games of 2016: #1

 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 Pokémon GO
#9 Skylanders Imaginators
#8 Stellaris
#7 Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
#6 Fire Emblem Fates
#5 Overwatch
#4 Pokémon Sun and Moon
#3 XCOM 2
#2 Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

#1 Stardew Valley

top five 2016

Once again my top game of the mid-year remains on top at my end of the year list. Once again it’s a delightful indie game I sunk dozens of hours into. Once again it’s a…. farming sim? Wait what?

It’s fun to say indie games come out of nowhere even though with the proliferation of Kickstarter and Early Access that’s rarely the case any more. Stardew Valley very much came out of nowhere (from a one-man dev) and quickly became my favorite, and most surprising gaming love of the year. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2016: #1”