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

Jagged Alliance: The Board Game Now on Kickstarter

In the last few years board games have become the new darlings of Kickstarter, raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars. A growing subsection are board games based on video games, with the latest, Jagged Alliance: The Board Game, hitting Kickstarter today.

The board game is being developed by German game developer Underground Games who are partnering with games publisher THQ Nordic.

“Making Jagged Alliance into a board game experience has been an ambition of ours since we first played the series over two decades ago,” says Jan Wagner, Co-founder of Underground Games. “To finally bring JA to board games and add to its great legacy, is a unique opportunity for us! We aim to make a game that is as challenging and varied as the digital version, keeping players on the edge as they make life and death decisions by the minute.”

Jagged Alliance: The Board Game is a cooperative 1-4 player tactical game featuring minis, modular maps, and multiple campaign books. Underground Games promises over 1000 hours of content through the replayable campaign and scenarios.

The scenarios and campaign books let you choose to play either a quick 45-minute skirmish map or a succession of missions in a full campaign.

The Kickstarter campaign is seeking 50,000 euros (about $59,000 USD). The cheapest pledge that nets you the game costs 59 euros (about $69 USD). If you want to shell out the big bucks you could become a lieutenant or even the other dictator boss in the game.

As always with Kickstarter games shipping is charged separately, with expectations ranging from $10 to $20.

The estimated delivery date is November 2018.

From glancing at the campaign I’m getting strong vibes of XCOM: The Board Game with the soldier minis and different missions. The Sector Maps looks to provide actual tactical combat that the XCOM game sorely lacked.

Despite loving the tactical strategy genre I never really got into Jagged Alliance, always preferring sci-fi or fantasy to modern military. But Jagged Alliance: The Board Game looks like a really solid, high quality effort to translate the video game into a very meaty tabletop production.

The creators of Battle Chasers on comics, RPGs, and almost being Chaotic Evil [PC Gamer]

Read the full article on PC Gamer

THQ’s demise in 2013 left a number of game developers displaced, including Vigil Games, creators of the Darksiders series. Two studios spun out of the ashes of Vigil Games: Gunfire Games, who are making Darksiders 3, and Airship Syndicate, whose first game, Battle Chasers: Nightwar, launched last week. It’s a combination dungeon crawler and JRPG, featuring turn-based combat, randomized dungeons, and a striking art style based on a late ’90s comic series.

Over Skype I spoke with Joe Madureira, Airship Syndicate’s creative director and CEO (as well as writer and penciller of the Battle Chasers comic), and Steve Madureira, the lead designer and animator for Battle Chasers: Nightwar—two brothers who have been making comics and games since they were teenagers.

Read the full article on 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

Interview with Ashes of Creation’s Steven Sharif [ZAM]

Read the full article on ZAM

Since the halcyon days of Double Fine Adventure just a few years ago, Kickstarter has faded as a legitimate source of revenue for video game companies. While some veteran developers and spiritual sequels can still find success on Kickstarter, it’s the last place one would expect to find a multi-million dollar MMORPG by a brand new studio.

Intrepid Studios has discovered an audience who is hungry for their upcoming title Ashes of Creation, an ambitious MMORPG that promises an impressive degree of player involvement within the politics, economy, and history of the world. The Kickstarter campaign surged to over $1 million after 36 hours. The campaign wrapped up last week with nearly 20,000 backers pledging over $3.2 million.

Read the full article on ZAM

Cosmic Star Heroine Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

We’re supposed to “reach for the moon” in our goals. That way if we fall short we’ll still land among the stars. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given that the nearest star is several light-years farther away than our moon. But the point is sound.

Zeboyd Games’ moon is represented by classic, beloved 90s Japanese RPGs such as Chrono Trigger, Suikoden, and Phantasy Star. It’s a big reason I backed the game on Kickstarter several years ago. To take on some of the best RPGs in gaming with an indie budget and two-person development team is a daunting challenge. While Cosmic Star Heroine falls short in some ways, it still lands among the stars as one of the best games I’ve played this year.

READ THE FULL REVIEW AT PIXELKIN

Thimbleweed Park Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review on Pixelkin

Nearly every hugely successful Kickstarter game plays on the nostalgia of gaming yesteryear. Pillars of Eternity and Baldur’s Gate. Torment: Tides of Numenera and Planescape: Torment. Yooka-Laylee and Banjo-Kazooie.

Thimbleweed Park’s campaign aimed its sights at a very distinct game style: classic LucasArts Adventures. The finished product not only succeeds at capturing the humor, gameplay, and essence from the era of Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island, but also stands tall with adventure gaming classics as a great game in its own right.

READ THE FULL REVIEW ON PIXELKIN

We Happy Few Early Access Preview [Pixelkin]

Survival-crafting games are a dime a dozen, but We Happy Few’s real joy is its immersive world and how it plays with conformity and hallucinatory drugs.

Read the full preview at Pixelkin

What if you had to survive in a BioShock-esque world without all those fancy plasmids and guns? Instead you’re armed with rotten food, pointy sticks, and one very special drug.

We Happy Few began life with a successful Kickstarter campaign before hitting Steam Early Access this Summer. The game combines survival-crafting into a unique setting rarely explored in gaming – the drug-fueled, post-war 1960s. This initial Early Access version features most of the gameplay sans story, and with only the one playable protagonist.

In this world’s alternate history, World War 2 went very, very badly for England. The Nazis successfully invaded and destroyed much of the country, leaving its population frightened and destitute. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying life right?

One little happy pill called Joy, and all your real world problems simply melt away. The people in the island city of Wellington Wells may harbor some deep secrets, but most of its drug-addled citizens don’t seem to care. Except for you.

READ THE FULL PREVIEW AT PIXELKIN

New Video – Pillars of Eternity Dragon Fight – Cail The Silent

My 2nd attempt at battling Cail The Silent, my first major dragon fight in Pillars of Eternity.

I don’t get the chance to really live stream or record very many gameplay videos or Let’s Plays these days. I did manage to sneak in a quick little video showing off my first major dragon fight in Pillars Of Eternity, a massive, old-school tactical RPG Kickstarted by Obsidian Entertainment in 2012 and released in March.

I’m really loving the hell out of Pillars of Eternity. For fans of the Golden Age of tactical computer role-playing games (late 90s, early 00s) and games like Baldur’s Gate, it’s absolutely a dream come true. Divinity: Original Sin, another phenomenal tactical RPG (and also crowdfunded) was my Game of the Year last year, and Pillars of Eternity is a strong contender for this year.

In this video I battle the fire dragon Cail The Silent. This is actually my second attempt at battling the beast, the first time I came extremely close but ultimately lost. My team consisted of my PC (melee chanter), Edér, Pallegina, Durance, Aloth, and Sagani, all level 8.

 

 

Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut

Shadowrun Dragonfall is the definitive Shadowrun cRPG experience with a meaty campaign and lots of crucial improvements.

I have finished another backlogged game via Rogue’s Adventures. You can read my latest Final Thoughts below and also on my gaming blog on Game Informer.

Developer: Harebrained Schemes

Publisher: Harebrained Holdings

Release Date: September 18, 2014 (Director’s Cut), February 27, 2014 (Original Expansion)

My first real brush with the Shadowrun universe occurred with 2013’s crowdfunded release of Shadowrun: Returns. I was mostly unfamiliar with the 80s cyberpunk-meets-urban-fantasy world having only briefly tried out either the old SNES or Genesis games. I grew increasingly interested in that world and gameplay during its Kickstarter campaign (which I didn’t back at the time) and ended up purchasing and playing Shadowrun Returns right when it released in the Summer of 2013. I also cheated a bit and added it onto my then-schedule of backlogged games for Rogue’s Adventures (you can read my Final Thoughts on the game here).

Unfortunately I only had time to play the main campaign. Even at release they were new user-made adventures and runs being developed but I’ve yet to dive into any of them. Harebrained Schemes released an official expansion, Dragonfall in early 2014 that fixed a lot of Returns’ issues and added an all new, lengthier, and more satisfying campaign. It was free to those that already owned Shadowrun Returns (being part of their Kickstarter fulfillment). Later that year they released the Director’s Cut version as a stand-alone game that further added new content as well as iterating on the interface and other improvements.

Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut is the definitive Shadowrun experience. Aside from the actual tabletop role-playing version, Dragonfall presents the best form of playing through the wonderfully diverse and exciting world of Shadowrun.

Dragonfall utilizes the same Unity isometric engine found in many of the most popular modern cRPGs, including Wasteland 2 and the recently released Pillars of Eternity, but it’s also the most limiting and weakest implementation of those games. While a slight step up from Returns, Dragonfall continues to present mostly static maps (everyone stands around waiting for you to talk to them) and only a very specific amount of scripted objects that can be interacted with. Most of the puzzles are limited to finding passwords for a computer, with nearly every scenario and situation involving heavy amounts of combat.

Thankfully the combat is where Shadowrun Dragonfall really shines. Like its predecessor it operates on a turn-based action point system, though its scope is also limited compared to its contemporaries (Wasteland 2, Divinity: Original Sin). With 2-3 points per character the action is more akin to XCOM where you can choose to move, take cover and fire off your weapon. Since it’s Shadowrun you get a ton of fun stuff to do, like flinging spells (both offensive and supportive), activating cybergear buffs and abilities, channeling Adept powers, summoning spirits, controlling drones, and hacking into the matrix. With a ton of varied abilities and an impressively clever AI that takes cover, moves to flank your team, and fires grenades when you bunch up, the combat remained fresh and fun throughout the lengthy 35hr+ campaign.

The single biggest improvement Dragonfall made was in your team structure and dynamic. Shadowrun Returns mostly told a personal story about your customized runner. A few story-based NPCs would occasionally join you, but mostly you hired from a pool of pre-generated runners for a fee. While it was fun to try out different combinations and set-ups, it never really felt like a team.

Dragonfall fixes all that and brings back the concept of an actual shadowrun team from the tabletop game. They’re featured heavily in the promotional artwork, consisting of Eiger the troll ex-military, no nonsense weapons specialist, Dietrich the ex-punk rocker tatooed shaman, Glory the heavily cyber-modified medic with a mysterious and dark past, and later Blitz the hot shot decker/rigger.

After the exciting opening mission, which begins with the classic run gone wrong, you’re given the leadership position of this ragtag crew that I quickly grew to love. Harebrained definitely takes a page out of other great RPG writers Bioware and Obsidian. Your crew has their own little base of operations and you’re free to walk around and talk to them learning more about their backgrounds and their hopes and fears a la every modern Bioware title.

You’re still free to hire additional runners to change the make-up of your team, but your own crew is free to take with you and they’re nicely balanced that I almost never felt the need to hire other random crew members. They also have their own skill trees where you can choose to improve from two different paths after every major mission, giving you further control and lending even more satisfying familiarity with your team.

Harebrained really does an amazing job with your team, and eventually they open up some interesting side missions that just involve them and your character. Blitz needs to score a big hit to pay off a big debt while Glory dives headfirst into her hellishly abusive past to hunt down the cult that twisted her. These character missions are some of the best in the game, focusing on particularly amazing story-telling and sequences.

Dragonfall commits the Baldur’s Gate II feaux pas of throwing up a large speed bump right when the main story is getting interesting. At an early avenue you’re forced to make money in order to continue on with the main story of a possibly resurrecting dragon. This middle section of going on missions to make money takes up the majority of game time, and while fun and very Shadowrun-appropriate, I still felt a major disconnect with the main story for much of the game.

Most runs have fun elements and quirks that make them memorable, from a powerful cyber-zombie that temporarily joins your team to investigating an abandoned research facility. Towards the end I was definitely antsy to get on with the main story, which teased the return of Firewing, a great dragon that was shot down years ago but who’s clues were mysteriously leading to her return.

The climactic final mission was all kinds of amazing, consisting of several huge areas, new tilesets and enemies and one of my favorite parts of any RPG – the chance to talk down the main villain using an extended dialogue session. It was incredibly satisfying and fun, and is much better integrated than Shadowrun Returns’ off the rails bug spirit finale.

Dragonfall doesn’t fix all of the underlying limitations that were present in Returns. It’s still incredibly annoying that you can’t manage your allies’ inventory (picking up items either goes to your inventory or your stash) and I mentioned before about the almost complete lack of puzzles and interactive objects (especially compared to the likes of other cRPGs). Dragonfall does make improvements where it can – now there are options to use your decker or your muscle in situations where your character lacks the needed skill but you brought someone that covers it. The interface is much improved and lets you see both your currently equipped weapons and your spells, items, cybergear etc with lots of nice keyboard shortcuts. Oh and you can also save anywhere now – a huge problem with the original game.

If you’re only going to play one Shadowrun turn-based RPG, definitely play the Director’s Cut of Shadowrun: Dragonfall. The meaty campaign is wonderful and the varied runs and core party members create a satisfying experience that echoes the tabletop adventure. The Shadowrun games are the perfect example of great indie games that I wish could be given more funding and time to create a truly stellar experience.

Based on my time with Dragonfall I quickly backed Harebrained Schemes’ second Kickstarter, Shadowrun: Hong Kong, which just wrapped up a few weeks ago. I’m thrilled that we keep getting these amazing little tactical RPGs, and the Shadowrun universe has become one of my absolute favorites in fiction.

 

Pros

  • Excellent and well balanced turn-based tactical combat
  • New core party members are a vast improvement over randomly hired runners
  • Fun and varied missions
  • Exciting and satisfying beginning and ending
  • Wonderfully thematic music and art style – Shadowrun world is fantastic
  • Top notch evocative writing, both dialogue and descriptive

 

Cons

  • Main Quest takes a backseat through the entire middle half of the game
  • Non-combat mechanics are still very limited
  • Still can’t adjust your party’s inventory mid-mission

 

Final Say: Shadowrun Dragonfall is the definitive Shadowrun cRPG experience with a meaty campaign and lots of crucial improvements.