Posted in Game Review

Game Review – Everdale

Everdale is the latest game from Supercell, unlike other games from the developers, it does not have any battle elements, just good vibes! This time, Supercell has taken a different approach where the entire focus is on collaborative worldbuilding.

Not everybody likes the idea of their precious city being attacked, Everdale’s target audience is for people enjoy the building aspect and enjoy the social elements of city-building games but not necessarily in a competitive way. Everdale is able to provide a full city-building experience without any attacking or competitive mechanics, and it also allows you to do all your building with other people with real-time online cooperative play with others.

In Everdale, you get to manage your villagers. Your job is to ensure that they are working, getting fed, harvesting resources for projects, and crafting items to trade. Once you have gotten into the groove of the village, you join a valley with nine other players. Each player has their own town, and together they combine to form a team, sharing resources to build and expand. There are no wars or looting, only friendly collaboration.

When it comes to launching the game globally, Supercell will take as much time as they need to get something right, and if a game still doesn’t feel like it the game isn’t going to work after a long period of beta testing in selected countries, they aren’t afraid to just kill the game and work on something else. I personally enjoy this Supercell’s unique take on this genre, and hopefully in the meantime more players can check out this game and see what it has to offer.

Posted in Game Review

Game Review – Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact is a free-to-play adventure RPG  that isn’t afraid to copy features and ideas from other games, most notably The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. There’s an enormous world to explore that’s filled with secrets, puzzles, and hidden loot. However, Genshin Impact doesn’t just thoughtlessly copy and paste these ideas. It expands on and tweaks them to fit really nicely into an adventure RPG that is incredibly fun to play.

For a F2P game, this game probably has the most hours of free content you can enjoy. Like any RPG, there are a lot of different mechanics for players to take in, but Genshin Impact introduces them one at a time to not overwhelm new players. As a result, it will take the players some time to unlock all the game features, which will become available to the players as they progress. This can seem a little frustrating, but it also allows the player to take the time they need to understand the mechanics they already have access to before going deeper into the game. That being said, it is a bit annoying that players have to reach level 16 before they are able to play co-op.

Each character wields a type of weapon and element, and even those characters use the same types of weapons have unique combat styles. Four different characters can be switched in and out at will to chain some sick combos and combine elemental attacks. There are many different enemy types which also control the elements forcing players to adapt to different situations and memorize their enemy’s attack patterns. However, due to the simplicity of Genshin Impact’s leveling system, combat rarely feels like a challenge but never gets old, creating the kind of gameplay loop that works on all platforms.

Every single character you pull or are given for free is playable. This is probably the most F2P friendly part of the game, even if you are unlucky and pull nothing good, the characters Genshin Impact gives you are sufficient for you to clear the game content that has been offered so far. Shiny 5-stars are strong and will definitely make the gameplay easier but there is nothing stopping you from progressing in the game with a good roster.

With a 0.6% rate to pull a 5-star weapon or character, the gacha rates in this game can be very frustrating for the players. The constellation system is a mechanic that further improves the skills of your characters and weapons, and the only way to unlock constellations is by pulling duplicates. Sadly there is no way of farming for constellations as even if you pull a 5-star character or weapon, which means you will almost never be able to max that character or weapon you want and enjoy its full potential.

Randomness in stat growth and drops make for hours and hours of artifact farming as you hit the late game. Artifact farming will probably be the thing that you will have to do the most as you hit late game and it will most likely get tedious in a short span of time given you actually have to grind over and over again without an auto function in the game.

There’s also very little interaction during the gameplay itself and it feels like a solo game most of the time. You won’t be able to chat with your friends unless you join them in co-op. There is no guild system so it can get a bit lonely at times. Even the co-op is extremely limited to what you can do together. For the time being, most content that you can do co-op can be bulldozed through doing solo as well. Most of the challenging late-game content appears to be solo only.

Genshin Impact is a great game game that everyone should try. It’s especially more fun if you go into it without knowing anything about game as it plays off as a very well designed single-player game from the start. There are still some problems that the masses fail to notice as they are still enjoying the abundance of content in the game. In the end, Genshin Impact is still a gacha game and suffers from many of the similar problems that other gacha games have. I do hope that the game developers address all these issues before the masses of players get to late game.

Posted in Game Review

Game Review – Fall Guys

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is an adorable and silly battle royale game. Most of the time I’d like to goof around, take reckless chances, and try to grief other people before crossing the finish line. But as the end of the final round approaches would start suddenly taking things seriously as hell.

The game begins with 60 players rushing through an obstacle course in a chaotic mob of jumping and diving bodies. Only the first 40 or so across the finish line qualify for the next round, which is randomly chosen from a pool different levels. Each level eliminates more players until the final round, where there will be one winner.

There are different types of levels. Races are the most common, the courses may have giant spinning fan blades to knock players back, ramps covered with slippery slime, spinning balance beams or vanishing floor tiles, or giant pieces of fruit tumbling down the course. Fall Guys relies a little too heavily on these races. They’re a good way to cut the crowd in half at the start of the match, but once I’d been through each of them a few times I learned to run the same routes and hope for the best.

There are also some levels divide players into teams to achieve a goal, and these team games are among the best in Fall Guys because they provide opportunities to sabotage the other team. In Egg Scramble, teams fight over a pile of eggs in the center of the map, grabbing as many as they can and depositing them in their team’s basket, and then trying to steal eggs from the other teams’ baskets before time runs out. In another game teams push a giant ball down an obstacle course to the finish line, and you can run ahead to block your opponent’s balls. The downside is that in team games, if you don’t have friends with you in the match, you’re strictly relying on a group of random players you can’t communicate with. You can be having a great run but lose just because the rest of your randomly selected teammates can’t get it together.

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knock is best in small doses, an hour of play a day is enough before I begin to tire of all the similar mini games, but that hour is usually great fun mixed with some delicious tension in the finals.

Posted in Game Review

Game Review – Legends of Runeterra

Legends of Runeterra takes the champions of Riot’s popular MOBA League of Legends and adapts their playstyle and abilities into a game where your goal is to build decks and play cards to reduce your opponent’s nexus down to zero. Due to its generous reward system that gets rid of card packs altogether, Legends of Runeterra is truly a free to play game where your games are dictated by your skill rather than how much you spend.

In Legends of Runeterra, players build their deck using regions, a deck can contain up to two regions, each region has its own strength. There are currently seven regions to choose from. Each player brings a deck of 40 cards and faces off against an opponent. Initiative is passed back and forth, allowing each person to play units to the board, cast spells, and choose how to attack or defend. You win the game by reducing opponent’s Nexus from 20 down to zero.

The most unique part of Legends of Runeterra’s is the champions. All the champions in Legends of Runeterra are from League of Legends, and they’ve adapted their playstyle to fit inside the rules of a card game. Yasuo, for example, strikes enemy units whenever they are stunned or recalled, similar to how he strikes his opponents when they are knocked up in League of Legends, making him a great fighter. Each champion will level up after meeting certain conditions, often gaining more power and new abilities. Knowing when to play the champions and how to keep them alive is especially rewarding because you just know your opponent going to try to kill them. With champions in play, Runeterra feels like a true battle of wits, each player trying to outsmart or bait the other. The champions also added flavor to deck types. An aggro deck is often loaded with low cost and high damage followers that try to close out the game quickly, champions like Jinx and Darius are great at finishing your opponent off. A control deck is often loaded with spells that stun and force cards back into your opponent’s hand, a champion like Yasuo who can deal damage to stunned or recalled units is great at taking control of the board.

Legends of Runeterra has a feature called the Oracle’s Eye that lets you see what the board will look like after a certain attack phase or spell has resolved. Not having to doublecheck your math or worry how a certain chain of abilities and spells plays will play out can save a lot of time.

Most card games can punish players for not spending all your mana in a given turn. In Legends of Runeterra, however, up to three points of unspent mana are preserved for the next round to be used exclusively on spells. And for that feature, players are not harshly punished by a bad opening hand, instead of one player snowballing due to bad luck.

Legends of Runeterra sets a new standard is in its economy and rewards. Booster packs are gone entirely, and replaced with weekly vaults and several free battle passes that gives crafting materials, cards, and wildcards, which can be exchanged for any card of a corresponding rarity. Being able to pick which cards I want to add to my collection is refreshing. Players can easily build a few decks that feel powerful and highly competitive instead of cobbling together whatever I can. 

Expedition is Legends of Runeterra’s draft mode. Like most draft modes, the entry fee is a few dollars, a draft token you earn from weekly chests, or crafting shards you get for unlocking duplicate cads. But Legends of Runeterra’s Draft mode lets you play twice per entry, building a new deck each time and then using whichever run was better to determine your rewards. Winning all seven games can net you a lot of cards and a lot more crafting resources enough to draft a second time.

It’s exciting to play a card game where it feels like a true test of knowledge and strategy instead of who is playing the most expensive meta deck. Legends of Runeterra is a great choice in the CCG genre where how competitive you are is often related to how much money you spend.

Posted in Game Review

Game Review – Hearthstone

Hearthstone is a strategy game developed by Blizzard. Hearthstone was the game that made the genre explode in the digital space. Hearthstone’s major success is in keeping the core mechanics simple enough for new players to pick up, while leaving more than enough complexity to keep you hooked up.

In Hearthstone, two players face off in turn based combat, and each player begins with 30 cards in their deck, plus a selected hero that each have unique powers. The goal of the game is to break through your opponents’ defense and destroy their hero.

There are ten classes to choose from, each class is from World of Warcraft. Hearthstone does a good job of giving each of its classes a distinct flavor, which carries over to their play styles and deckbuilding specializations. Warlock relies on making sacrifices in exchange for more powerful minons and spells. Mage has a diverse and powerful choice of spells. Priest is really good at stealing your stuff and buffing minions. When you’re just starting out with an intimidating new multiplayer game, these clear identities go a long way to helping you figure out what kind of deck you want to play.

In Hearthstone you have to buy packs to build a deck, and if you want access to all the best competitive decks, the best way to do that is to spend money. Taking the free to play route is definitely possible, you can earn some gold through daily quests, and extra from grinding ladder and arena, but you’re paying with time, and it’s a long grind. While there has been an increase in free packs with each new set, and card awards at the end of every season, these do little to offset the effect of a content release schedule that has grown steadily faster over the years. The main thing that the free to play people will miss out on is variety. You can definitely reach legend with a budget deck, but how long until you get bored of playing that one deck? It can certainly be frustrating to get matched against decks full of legendaries when you are stuck with one deck.

Ladder is Hearthstone’s constructed mode, it allows you to climb the ranks with ‘constructed’ decks of your own making. You climb by gaining stars, which you’re awarded one of each time you win a game. Gain five stars and you’ll move up to the next rank. Usually a star is taken away when you lose a game, but these days there are rank floors that you can never fall below. There also win streaks, which can boost your progress up the ranks when you win three in a row or more.

Arena is a Hearthstone’s draft mode, it has a cost of entry: either 150 gold or $1.5. You draft your deck by picking from cards offered to you three at a time, then face off against other players who’ve done the same. You play until you either lose three times or reach 12 wins, and at the end there’s a prize depending on how many wins you racked up. Arena is a good way for new players to learn about all the cards in Hearthstone.

Hearthstone also features multiple single player modes which weren’t present at launch, some of which you have to pay for. In them, you get to build your own deck a you progress further. These are both very fun, pairing a well designed difficulty curve with a flavorful atmosphere. However, these AI battles are quickly exhausted, leading you inevitably back to multiplayer.

Hearthstone asks you to make big decisions on a constant basis. So many that you begin to develop your own internal logic for approaching turns, which over the course of hundreds of games becomes your own personal playstyle. For the players who discover they don’t particularly like trading much, instead preferring to rush down their enemy, aggro decks are for them. And for those who’d rather control the board removing everything their opponent plays, control decks are the way to go. And for those who’d want to pull off some flashy one turn kill combo, combo decks are the perfect match. Hearthstone manages to provide plenty of options to help you find the style that suits you best, which is a huge reason why this game is a major success.

Posted in Game Review

Game Review – Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale

Meterofall: Krumit’s tale is a roguelike deck building game that takes you on an exciting adventure to battle and defeat evil creatures.

In Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale, there are five characters you can start a run with, all of which have unique items, abilities, and perks. You have to make your way through each dungeon in the form of a 3×3 board. A new random tile drops down onto the board each time you clear one, either by defeating enemies or acquiring items and abilities. You basically have to defeat the creatures using items, spells, and abilities that you acquire throughout the dungeon. Once all the enemies are defeated, you have the opportunity to pick additional perks, add new cards to your deck, swap out cards, and then move on to the next dungeon. Whenever your run ends, you also earn experience for the character you play as, which can lead to unlocking even more cards to use with them in the future.

Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale is very much like other roguelike deck builders, working with each character’s unique playstyle to build a deck and complete each dungeon. Where Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale really distinguishes itself are its dungeons. Each one is a box filled with a combination of tiles, representing enemies, items, spells, and abilities.

The combat system in Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale allows you to use weapons to increase damage, and armor to block. You can stun the enemy if your armor is equal or higher than the enemy’s attack, which prevents them from attacking for a turn. Enemies can be given statuses such as burn, freeze, and poison, and some have special abilities and armor. They key to beating a dungeon is building a solid deck and managing your gold and health.

Every character in Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale has their own playstyle, which makes them interact differently with dungeons. For example, Bruno is a warrior, he is focused on using equipment, such as weapons and armor in direct combat with his enemies. And Muldorf, a necromancer who summons powerful minions to fight for him. Each character in the game completely changes the way you play the game, which creates a decent learning curve and a decent amount of replayability.

If all of that weren’t enough, Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale also features different game modes, and daily challenge that has a different set of modifiers which tweak the rules of the game in radical ways. Playing these different game modes can shift the gameplay significantly, which ensures that you will never run out of things to do.

Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale manages to create a gaming experience that’s unique and challenging. Its gameplay is composed of simple rules, and engaging action. The game seems to be a lot more puzzle focused than other games in the genre making it a worthwhile addition to the genre.

Posted in Game Review

Game Review – Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon is a 2D turn based roguelike game. The game can be brutally difficult and infinitely frustrating, since Darkest Dungeon focuses on the slow deterioration of your team members mental and emotional states as they progress through the dungeon.

Darkest Dungeon is a game about management and difficult decisions. You have to pick your 4 man squad with care and make sure to take enough supplies to last the entire trip, even if that means you can’t carry a lot of loot back. You have to intimately understand each of the areas, with the enemies you’ll fight and the obstacles you’ll come across, and prepare accordingly. For example, skills that inflict bleeding is not really useful when you are fighting mostly undead enemies, but if you’re in an area with mostly human enemies, then skills that inflict bleeding could be the key to winning the battle.

In terms of combat, allies and enemies are lined up and take turns to attack. Positioning is very important, ranged and melee skills can only be used from certain positions, and your positioning getting mixed up as a result of skills or whatever else can mess up your ability to do damage and heal. Additionally, when most enemies are killed they’ll leave behind corpses, which are nothing more than obstacles in the way of other enemies. They have to be cleared out if melee heroes can’t reach the enemies in the back, and Stress-inducing enemies tend to be placed all the way in the back, so it’s important to take them out as soon as possible.

Battles can be stressful, but since they are turn based, you can take as much time as you need to figure out your next move. It’s important to take note of the skills you can use, as well as how likely you can kill an enemy quickly. Once you learn what each hero has to offer and figure out what their strengths are, you’ll find battles very satisfying.

All of this comes with a tough initial learning curve, that can be very frustrating While you’re trying out new classes and getting a feel for different areas, you are very likely to fail missions and have your heroes permanently die. Darkest Dungeon is not an easy game, and it is not afraid to punish you for a lack of knowledge. While there are some tutorials available, you still have to figure out the ins and outs of the dungeons on your own to increase your chances of survival.

While Darkest Dungeon is usually tough but fair, you can get screwed over sometimes. While it does feel like the game and your management skills really shine when you’re put into unexpected and difficult situations, at times these challenges can feel a bit unnatural. Oftentimes, Darkest Dungeon doesn’t feel that way, but there are times the game just seems to throw you into dangerous situations just to remind you that you are playing a difficult game.

Darkest Dungeon rarely feels unfair, and proper preparations and knowledge of what you’re getting into will generally get you through to the end safely. While the loop of entering dungeons and slowly building up resources and hero levels might seem repetitive, it’s really more addicting, as you eventually make your team strong enough to defeat difficult bosses.

Posted in Game Review

Game Review – Slay the Spire

Slay the Spire is a deckbuilding roguelike dungeon crawler. Slay the Spire has four playable characters: The Ironclad, The Silent, The Defect, and The Watcher, each with a unique deck and strategy. You play cards to execute attacking and defensive moves against your enemies. In each, the object is to strategically play your hand in the optimal way in order to defeat your enemies before they kill you. After each win you get to add a new card to your deck to expand your tactical possibilities alongside your character’s experience.

Outside of cards, you can find consumable Potions that give you temporary boosts, but the really exciting pickups are the Relics. They can be found in chests and from beating bosses or special elite enemies, and they offer permanent advantages. Some are as simple as a permanent attack boost, while others will do things like randomize the cost of every single card you draw. The more you have, the crazier things get. Many of them have drawbacks to go along with their perk, like Relics that increase the mana you have to play cards at the cost of not being able to heal or gain gold, adding to your pile of difficult decisions.

The enemies range from creepy slimes to giant bird cultists. Each one is a tricky puzzle to solve in its own right, The enemies don’t play cards of their own, instead they fight by inflicting damage, applying status effects, or buffing themselves each turn. And you can almost always see what the enemies will do next, which gives you the opportunity to strategically plan your moves to counter their plans.

The enemies are randomly distributed along a simple but amusing dungeon map broken into three main acts, and they get harder and more diverse as you move higher up the Spire. Despite that randomness, it didn’t take long before I started recognizing most of them, which starts to make runs feel a bit too similar.

Which path you take up the spire is a fun test of your ability to weigh long-term goals against short-term needs. Like the decisions you make deckbuilding, learning when to detour is a skill, and different strategies are viable.  Random events also line the path, and while some pose interesting choices, some of the random events have some choices that are clearly better than the others.

Slay the Spire has captured the essence of what makes a card game great: the joy of building a deck and optimizing it as much as you can. It encourages experimentation, gives you time to make mistakes, and will challenge you to a great extent as you navigate your way through floor after floor of interesting fights.

Posted in Game Review

Game Review – Eternal

Eternal is a card game that starts 2 players at 25 health and each player plays cards to reduce the opponent’s health down to 0. This happens in all the standard ways one would expect from a card game, mainly through the summoning of creatures with which to attack and by tossing out various other spells. But there is a catch in this game, creatures can only directly attack the other player, who may choose to block.

There are 5 sigils of power: Fire, Justice, Primal, Shadow, and Time. Each sigil corresponds to a particular style of play and a certain host of abilities. Finally, the creatures and spells have a variety of powers, there’s not a lot of board clear effects. Minimum deck size is also 75 cards, which is a lot higher compared to other CCGS. As a result, Eternal comes off as a more considered, more in depth game, and matches are often still quick and intense.

Eternal takes the interface one step further by adding simple animations to battlefield effects. Flying creatures would hover over the board. Creatures with infiltrate have a shadowy pattern than periodically flashes over them. Exhausted creatures have their portraits darkened out. And there are also a lot more other easy to recognize symbols that quickly allow you to observe the board at a glance.

Eternal has two currencies tracked when you play sigils: power and influence. If you play a shadow sigil, that gives you one power and one point of shadow influence. On the next turn you play a time sigil, and that gives you an additional point of power along with one time influence point. At this point, you are able to cast two, one power shadow spells. You only need to have enough influence yo have access to playing it, but the power cost comes from the total of all the sigils you’ve played to this point. The result is a much more forgiving system that gets you to the actions faster.

Too often, free-to-play games with microtransactions make you grind a lot to achieve any measure of success. In Eternal, the reward chests you get for your daily quests give you plenty of free coins, The better the grade of chest, the more coins, cards, and packs you receive. Chests can also randomly upgrade into their next tier when opened, which is always a good feeling. You can even unlock multiple chests for quests and various other rewards, further accelerating your gains. Plenty of quests aren’t tied to victories, so you can complete lots just by playing and having a good time rather than worried about losing.

I never really got a good sense of the Eternal world. According to the developers, the Eternal world is supposed to be a combination of swords and six-shooters ala the weird West. But it’s really hard to get a sense of that from the game. Without a a huge world to draw upon, that limited exposure is felt. The mechanics of this game are solid, but if you care a lot about the lore in a game then you might be a bit disappointed.

Eternal is a game you should pick up if you even moderately enjoy card based games. It’s free to play friendly, you can easily build a good deck within weeks of playing. Eternal certainly shows us that there’s room in the digital card game genre for more variety.

Posted in Game Review

Game Review – Clash Royale

Clash Royale is a real time strategy game where you can have a deck up to 8 cards each of them having cost Elixir to use which builds up over time as the battle progress.  The goal is to knock the enemy king and princesses from their towers using your deck to defeat your opponents and win trophies.

The this game has some pretty interesting concepts, the game is simple, intuitive, and fun. You drop units in, and they follow their behaviors without any other command. Where you place units can be important, but not as much as the lower-level strategy of managing your deck, elixir, and current cards in relation to your opponent’s situation. You become knowledgeable about the game at a level where you feel comfortable diving in. Before long, you’re joining a clan, experimenting with decks, and getting sucked into the metagame. This happens so fast, you won’t know what hit you. And because games only take 3 or 4 minutes, you can feel like you’re getting a lot done in a short session. Compare this to many popular multiplayer games, where they can feel overwhelming for too long. Even something like Hearthstone has a steep barrier to entry today. Clash Royale limiting certain cards to a tier of the game helps a lot to make sure that you’re not getting an information overload at any point.

The elixir system is also very interesting. It’s this subtle thing where you’re always battling to counter opponent moves and to get enough damage in on your opponent without spending too much in the way of elixir. Counter a 4 elixir card with a 3 elixir card and you have gained a small advantage with your limited resource.

This is a genuinely competitive game, no doubt about it. The way you build your deck is important, and you have to plan a strategy. The difference between this and other games is that you have such a lower barrier to entry than other games. An 8-card deck is easier to deal with than a deck with 30 cards. It also makes it easier to keep track of what your opponent has, especially as decks cycle around. The monetization in this game isn’t too different from other CCG, instead of buying cards, you get to unlock collect multiples of cards from chests and upgrade them with gold.

One problem I had playing the game was that some of the opponents you face as a new player are much stronger than you. In this case when you are being matched with someone who has higher card levels than you, there is a very slim chance for you to win. When new players are playing a game, if they are feeling like they had no control over the game, they are likely to put the game down. In Clash Royale you can be playing against bad players for months until you reach a point (about 5000 trophies) where its more skilled based.

Lastly, it takes a long time to get enough cards and gold to upgrade your cards, players are getting stuck in a certain amount of trophies because there are times when you can’t progress more with your card level, and this break the point of PvP games, you are not improving as a player, and you are not learning anything new.

While the Clash Royale team has done a good job of creating a unique and interesting game, they still have to find a way to improve the new player experience in this game. If they are able to fix those issues, I can still see myself playing this again and again for the next few months, maybe even years.