Sea of Legends Kickstarter Preview [Dicebreaker]

Read the full preview at Dicebreaker

When faced with the choice of spilling my pirate captain’s blood over an altar in order to gain supernatural powers over the dead, or looting the shrine for mere gold, I’m taking the blood path every time. For the cost of a temporary wound, I’m rewarded with powerful relics that render me immune to the skeletal conquistadors rapidly spawning around the archipelago amidst the gold-burying, relic-hunting, port-raiding pirate adventure board game Sea of Legends.

Read the full preview at Dicebreaker

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

The honeymoon for nostalgia-fueled Kickstarter video game projects has long since passed. Older games and genres from the 80s and 90s inspired a treasure trove of multi-million dollar projects, to varying degrees of success. Despite the digital gold rush, I never expected one of these Kickstarter fruits to bear a new ToeJam & Earl game, let alone it be quite good.

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove is the fourth game in the bizarre but strangely memorable 90s series. But it’s also a triumphant recreation of the 1991 original, which has all the early trappings of a solid roguelike dungeon crawler, that happens to star a pair of funky aliens. While some gameplay elements are quite frustrating, Back in the Groove is dripping with 90s charm, lots of replayability, and fantastic co-op.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

How At the Gates Nearly Ruined Civ 5 Designer Jon Shafer’s Life [PC Gamer]

Read the full article at PC Gamer

At age 21, Jon Shafer was asked to be the lead designer for Sid Meier’s Civilization 5. It was a dream come true for a young designer who had been creating mods for Civ, just a few years before. Within three years of shipping Civ 5, though, he’d quit lucrative jobs at Firaxis and Stardock and suffer the crushing reality of being an isolated programming prodigy with ADHD, trying to make his dream game. It all came crashing down in 2015. “I had nothing left, financially, physically, or mentally,” he wrote. “The last shreds of creativity and productivity finally slipped between my fingers.”

Since 2015 Shafer has been slowly building his life back up from ruin. He spent six hard years on his passion project At the Gates, finally finishing and releasing it this January. Here’s how he got there.

Roxley Teases New Dice Throne Season 2 Heroes

You’ve watched my video review of Dice Throne and know that I’m excited about Season 2 of Dice Throne, which is launching on Kickstarter next week, February 14.

Publisher Roxley has been teasing pictures of the new and improved components for the new characters, and they are jaw-droppingly gorgeous (images below).

Huge new tri-fold game boards featuring the hero front and center, individual art on each ability box, color-coded dice, and artwork on all the cards. They look absolutely incredible. I’m actually worried the poor originals will look a bit dour in comparison!

Season 2 will feature three two-character expansion packs, each at a lower price point then the full six-character base game, which I guess we’re calling Season 1. Technically any of those Season 2 packs are stand-alone for playing 1v1 games. The Samurai and Gunslinger are included in the Battle 1 box. The others are Tactician/Huntress and Cursed Pirate/Artificer.

Dice Throne Season 2 hits Kickstarter February 14.

dice throne dice throne

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.

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.