Posts Tagged ‘indie’

Ironclad Tactics Review

Ironclad Tactics Featured

Ironclad Tactics Boxart

Developer: Zachtronics
Publisher: Zachtronics
Platform: PC

What happens when you mix the tension of the American Civil War with robots? Well, you get something like Ironclad Tactics. As strange as it may seem, developer Zachtronics have managed to pull off the unusual premise with their own brand of complex gameplay. Played as a tactical, turn-based card game it’s quite the unique title. Being unique isn’t necessarily a qualifier for a good game though, so let’s examine it in more detail.

Ironclad Tactics is played via decks of cards and a battlefield grid with opposing forces on each end. The player utilizes robots known as Ironclads, but also is able to use human troops and stat modifiers as well. All of these tools are summoned via the cards, which are pulled from the selected deck. At the start, there’s not much deck-building to do – you must successfully complete battles to unlock more.

Ironclad Tactics Screenshot

As turns progress, action points are accumulated. AP points are necessary to use any cards as each has its own AP score. Weakling Ironclads cost a measly 1AP while other, more powerful tools are far pricier. Keeping an eye on AP is important as it replenishes slowly. As each turn progresses, you gain AP back, but that also gives the enemy another turn to advance forward. As the decks draw cards randomly, moments of watching the AP meter refill can be intensified further by waiting for the “right” card to be drawn.

If you’re now interested in giving Ironclad Tactics a go then be prepared for some tough fights. This is one hard game. No, it isn’t as outwardly complex as Zachtronics’ previous SpaceChem, but it’s still tough. Without the right deck you just won’t survive. Similarly, puzzle matches (which require you to use a specific deck) can be difficult too as the decks are unfamiliar. Managing your troops against an onslaught of enemies is fun but expect to deal with a lot of retried stages unless you’re a maestro of all card-based games.

With that said, there is a lot of charm infused into the game, making it more than just a basic digital card game. All cards are rendered on the playing field in a cartoony fashion. Between battles, the story is told via comic panels. The art is gorgeously colored although the art style manages to create awkward faces for some characters. Regardless, it helps showcase the effort put into this product which is better than average.

Ironclad Tactics Featured

Unfortunately, likely because of low publicity, there are not many players online if you want to hit up an online skirmish match. The Steam Community forums reveal there are some, but you basically have to befriend them in order to give the mode a try. That, or make sure your friend grabs a copy as well. This isn’t the fault of the game though so much as it is a typical issue with any online component of indie games.

Ironclad Tactics is definitely not for everyone. First, you have to be interested in thinking strategically while playing. Secondly, you have to be able to grasp some basic card game concepts. The main thing though is being persistent and also willing to experiment with new decks. If you’re willing to do all that while playing a single game then go forth!


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
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Gamebook Adventures 6 – The Wizard from Tarnath Tor Review

Gamebook Adventures 2 - The Wizard from Tarnath Tor Featured

Gamebook Adventures 6 - The Wizard from Tarnath Tor

Developer: Tin Man Games
Publisher: Tin Man Games
Platform: Android, iOS, PC (Desura)

This post is part of the Indie RPG Bundle review collection

Many of us have “played” gamebooks in the past whether or not we called them by that name. Perhaps you played Choose Your Own Adventure stories or the Lone Wolf series. Whatever the case, Tin Man Games have been focusing on creating gamebooks for the digital audience and they do quite well at it. The Wizard from Tarnath Tor is the sixth in their Gamebook Adventures line.

The story focuses on your lead character, who begins the story stuck in a trap. You are saved by a wizard who then regales you with a tale about how he came to be there. According to him, he was a wizard from the great City of Tarnath. At least it was until it was destroyed in a rampage. This man asks for you to return to the city and fetch his wizarding tools because he senses that something evil has begun to take place there. And, of course, whether that is believed or not – that’s the journey you must undertake!

The Gamebook Adventure series pays great attention to keeping their games very book-like. Pages look realistic and page flips are animated as well. In a really useful move, you can also increase or decease the font size which is something that can’t be done with a traditional book. The Wizard from Tarnath Tor has a great deal of pages and choices to make along the journey.

As you might expect, it’s the choices that make these games the most interesting. After reading pages of text you are regularly presented with a new choice to make. Choices may reveal hidden objects, new dangers, or simply flesh out the adventure. Battles occur in turn-based fashion with dice rolls deciding the offense and defense of each side.

However, it seems something must have been amiss during its production because the writing does not stand up as well against The Siege of the Necromancer (the only other game in the series I’ve played thus far). No, it’s not necessarily the skill level because I was still curious to unravel the story. Instead, my eyes were regularly drawn to grammatical flubs. That, and the phenomenon of re-using the same word many times in a short span was also common. Even with these troubles, I still found the experience enjoyable.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Iron Soul Review

Iron Soul Featured

Iron Soul Boxart

Developer: BluBee Games
Publisher: BluBee Games
Platform: PC
Review code provided

The ideas behind Iron Soul are great. The game is a mix of 3rd person shooter and platformer in a sci-fi future filled with robots. Developer BluBee Games even name-dropped MDK as one source of inspiration for their title. With that being the case, they have some big shoes to fill. But it doesn’t seem to reach that lofty goal, or perhaps MDK is just not that fun in the modern era.

Players interact with the game through a robot by the name of H-25. H-25 is equipped with a laser gun (to start) and able to jump pitiful distances before obtaining double jump. With that said, the bot does look pretty snazzy in its cab-colored paint job. In the beginning, players are simply tasked with following orders from omnipotent voices – presumably, one is your creator.

Iron Soul Featured

One thing that Iron Soul gets right is the visuals. It’s rare to see independent developers create fully 3D environments but that’s exactly what they’ve done. Once you get out of the lab, things start to look quite pretty as well. Robot designs are a little silly though as your main enemies are orb-shaped bots that either walk on the ground or zip about in the air.

So what brings this game down from being great? Despite the serious work on visuals, the world itself is hard to traverse during platforming segments. Super Mario 64 was not the first game to attempt 3D platforming, but it was the first time it was done well. Iron Soul falls into many of the pitfalls of a bad platformer. It is hard to tell where H-25 will land! Thankfully, most platforming segments are brief, but they can be incredibly painful.

Firefights suffer as well, unfortunately. Perhaps in regards to keeping this game “authentic” to older PC titles, there is no automatic cover system in place. You can cover, but it requires pressing CTRL twice by a wall. This adheres you to it, allowing you to pop up for shots. With this half implementation of a feature it adds more annoyance to fights than there needs to be. After all, you just want to run into cover, not focus on making sure you’ve set it up right.

Iron Soul Screenshot

 

Shootouts are also usually not massive but they can be incredibly annoying as well. For example, an early boss fight features an enemy with an instant kill laser attack. It’s easy to dodge if you can see it coming. However, little enemies will scatter behind you, making you need to face them to shoot. Doing so turns your back to the big enemy though leaving you entirely prone to unexpected laser deaths. Overall, fights are more frustrating than fun, but at least health is plentiful.

This is such a shame because Iron Soul looks great. It just feels bogged down with the worst aspects of older games. There’s nothing wrong with chasing a hard, authentic experience (see another game with the name “Souls” in it) except when it will primarily alienate the players. With that said, Iron Soul may find an audience thanks to fairly good (and unintentionally campy?) writing that is marred by oddball voice actors. There’s something to the game that is intriguing, but you have to get through all the frustrating bits to see it.


Score: 1.5

1 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Indie RPG Bundle Giveaway!

Indie RPG Bundle

Indie RPG Bundle

Last week, we at Pixel Pacas decided to do something monumentally reckless. Instead of just posting about how cool the latest Bundle in a Box looks, we decided to review all of the included titles. The massive Indie RPG Bundle includes up to 13 games. Eight can be purchased for a minimum of $1.99. If you want to get the other games then you’ve got to pay at least the average.

But what if you’re lacking the funds to make this RPG-filled purchase? You’re in luck because we’ve been granted two codes which unlock the full bundle! Instead of hoarding them away, we are offering them to you folks.

Interested in nabbing the entire Indie RPG Bundle? Just let us know which game (or games) from the set most interest you! Feel free to look over the eight reviews we’ve provided so far to help you out. Then post a comment here letting us know your most anticipated titles!

The giveaway will end this Sunday (the 29th) at midnight PST. Bundle in a Box’s Indie RPG Bundle itself closes up sales next week.

Unemployment Quest Review

Unemployment Quest Featured

Unemployment Quest Boxart

Developer: Charles DeYoe
Publisher: Charles DeYoe
Platform: PC (Desura, Direct)

This post is part of the Indie RPG Bundle review collection

Chances are there’s probably been a time in your life when you’ve found yourself struggling for work. For me, the struggle is current and not something that should be desired by anyone. At the very least I’m lucky enough to have a place to call home until luck finally strikes. So maybe it’s because of my current state but I found Unemployment Quest to be quite a neat and unique title.

You start the game as a young guy who has apparently survived college but can’t find work anywhere around town or even at the mall. Some of his friends have found work and it seems only the main character is left out. Day after day, he must return home to his parent’s house to confront a supportive but disappointed mother and outright annoyed father.

Unemployment Quest Featured

So how does this factor into a video game form? You see, the player must battle those he wishes to give a resume to, and battle for increasing confidence (and gaining money). The fights are much like a typical JRPG and the art style meshes with this. It looks much like a 16-Bit game even if it has some different thematic elements at play. Leveling up helps a lot with fights but still doesn’t seem to change the mood of prospective employers.

In a way, I appreciate the commitment to making job acquisition an impossibility for most of the game. However, because of that, it seems silly that money is so easy to come by in the game. For a while you’ll be stuck broke, but soon enough there are treasure chests that start popping up with gratuitous amounts of money. Real life doesn’t work that way although I sure wish it did! Of course, the money is needed for buying new items a la every other RPG out there.

Once you get past the few iffy points like that, Unemployment Quest is definitely worth checking out. It’s cool to see the various ways the typical JRPG world was tweaked to service a story about the incredibly relatable task of looking for a job.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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The Wizard’s Lair Review

The Wizard's Lair Featured

The Wizard's Lair Boxart

Developer: Magicbane
Publisher: Magicbane
Platform: PC (Desura, direct)

This post is part of the Indie RPG Bundle review collection

Roguelikes, roguelikes, roguelikes! It seems like that’s all coming out of the indie scene at times. Of course it’s not, but there are certainly a great deal of them coming out recently. The Wizard’s Lair is definitely another roguelike, but it’s pretty fun, even if there’s little to differentiate it from the hordes of others.

In this game, you are a little adventurer heading through a multitude of dungeon floors. With no knowledge of the layout, the world around you is completely black. This fog of war dissipates once your character moves close, but by then, there might already be a swarm of monsters ready to burst out of the darkness. There’s little you can do at that point though other than to point your measly sword at them before being overrun.

The Wizard's Lair Featured

As is standard of the genre, once you die it’s game over. After that there’s no time to mourn. Simply pick up another game with a brand new character. There are a great many sprite characters to choose from although they don’t appear to change your skills. Basically, all skills and equipment are generated by finding weapons, potions, and scrolls in the dungeon. As your inventory is limited there is only so much junk that can be carried at any one time.

Visually, The Wizard’s Lair seems to fall in the middle of roguelike graphics stylings. After all, there’s only so much one can do with the highly recycled premise of dungeon crawling for loot. Actually, perhaps that’s not a fair assessment with other roguelike games such as FTL existing. In any case the graphics are serviceable. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any music. There are sound effects though (which can be toggled off if you wish).

There’s nothing wrong with The Wizard’s Lair but it’s not particularly distinctive either. The nicest feature to me was instant compatibility with a 360 game controller. It also is a very fast game, making it easy to run through a few levels during a break.


Score: 2.5

2.5 out of 5 alpacas


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Gamebook Adventures 2 – The Siege of the Necromancer Review

Siege of the Necromancer Featured

The Siege of the Necromancer

Developer: Tin Man Games
Publisher: Tin Man Games
Platform: Android, iOS, PC (Desura)

This post is part of the Indie RPG Bundle review collection

Before being part of a bundle, I have to admit I had never heard of Tin Man Games or their Gamebook Adventures series. However, after playing, I have found that The Siege of the Necromancer is an incredibly entertaining game and something I need to have more of in my life. Why is that? What exactly is a “Gamebook Adventure”?

If you’ve ever played with a Choose Your Own Adventure book then you’re likely familiar with the premise. In this title, you are presented with a long story, almost purely comprised of text (although images pepper some pages). As you read, there will often be choices presented which can lead to very different outcomes. The main goal is, well, to survive the adventure!

Siege of the Necromancer Featured

Gamebook Adventures 2: The Siege of the Necromancer starts you out in the middle of action. You and a band of a couple of men are seeking to survive rampaging goblyns. Things quickly go downhill, but you make it out alive. From there, you must explore and visit new environments on your travels. There are a great deal of helpful tools to find but, unfortunately, there are also a great deal of enemies standing in your way!

Battles are more interesting than the Choose Your Own Adventure books of yore because they actually play out more like a RPG. During a fight, you roll dice to set attack power or defense. Enemies roll as well and whoever has the higher roll will either be able to attack, or alternately, dodge an attack. It works out quite well and becomes tense as you watch the dice fall on-screen. Those who think the animation is too slow can also make it quick.

Beyond that, there are seemingly hundreds of choices to make throughout a single playthrough of The Siege of the Necromancer. Even after a successful playthrough there’s still so much left that you can easily give it another run. Put simply, the game is a ton of fun although most might not even consider it a “game”. It certainly makes me want to check out what else Tin Man Games has to offer!


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Northmark: Hour of the Wolf Review

Northmark: Hour of the Wolf Featured

Northmark: Hour of the Wolf Boxart

Developer: Rake in Grass
Publisher: Rake in Grass
Platform: Mobile – iOS PC – Big Fish GamesDirect, Steam

This post is part of the Indie RPG Bundle review collection

Strategy RPGs are pretty popular but card-based counterparts are a bit rarer to come across. Still, when there are already such excellent card games out there such as Magic the Gathering it can be really hard to create something different. Northmark: Hour of the Wolf accomplishes making a sound card-based title without hanging onto other card games’ coattails.

The game begins with an attempted assassination. The kingdom of Northmark is in a panic because of it and you’re the one selected to basically carry out all their duties. Travelling from town to town you will come across helpful people, shops, and tons of opponents standing in your way. The only way to get past them is via fighting, of course.

Fights are when the game shifts into its card form. Both players select their warriors (cards themselves) and can then apply upgrades to them, as well as how they should be armed for attacks. You can tweak the fighters via cards which upgrade their defense, attack, and a number of other things. Weapon cards are used to actually fight the opposing cards, and all relevant information is weighed in order to see what attacks are successful and how much damage they deal.

Northmark: Hour of the Wolf Featured

It’s a surprisingly complex system and one that isn’t described very well by the in-game tutorial. Still, it’s not too hard to get a feel for it after a handful of battles. Between story mission, you can even jump into some prize fights to help level up your character and get more money. Said money can be used to pick up more cards for your deck.

Northmark: Hour of the Wolf also has some excellent presentation. The art looks great from the character models to world map view. Then there are the card designs themselves which look like they could be from a tangible product. Honestly, it’s surprising just how polished it is. The writing is a bit of a let down in comparison, although it has some nice snark about it.

Fans of card games will probably enjoy this interesting RPG-ized title. On the other side of things, those without a familiarity of card games in general should probably proceed with caution.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon Review

Frayed Knights Featured

Frayed Knights Boxart

Developer: Rampant Games
Publisher: Rampant Games
Platform: PC

This post is part of the Indie RPG Bundle review collection

If you miss the feel of first person dungeon crawling then you might be initially swayed by Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon. It sets you off on a quest with four warriors as they trek around dungeons, collecting loot and facing monsters as they go. What makes this so different from other games of the genre? Well, for one, the crew are one odd bunch.

Perhaps the biggest way to differentiate this game from other RPGs is the effort done to give each character a distinct personality. Each of the teammates is unique and converse with each other regularly. Through these conversations players get to see how ineffective and ridiculous their team seems. Thankfully, they can perform their roles of attacking, using magic, or anything else effectively.

Frayed Knights Featured

That level of uniqueness is unable to penetrate the rest of the game beyond some enemy designs. If you look past these features, then you’ve got a mostly by the book dungeon-crawler. One neat bonus are so-called Drama Stars which can grant you aid when it’s most needed (ie: reviving a party member), but that’s not a major tweak. Battles can be breezed through if you hammer on keyboard shortcut keys. This is convenient but unfortunately other GUI elements are less user-friendly.

It’s easy to see what Rampant Games were going for when creating this title. Although there is a definite amount of effort evidenced by the title, it would have done better to be backed up by more entertaining gameplay as well. If you can handle the grind, then it might be worth adventuring with the crew of Frayed Knights.


Score: 1.5

1 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Empires & Dungeons 2: The Sultanate Review

Empires & Dungeons 2 Featured

Empires & Dungeons 2 Boxart

Developer: Niels Bauer Games
Publisher: Niels Bauer Games
Platform: PC

This post is part of the Indie RPG Bundle review collection

RPGs have come a long way over the years. Most coming from Western publishers now seem to favor wide open fantasies with less interest in strategical planning. Still, others, mostly in the indie scene, cling to the minute specifics that made the genre so endearing to begin with. Empires & Dungeons 2: The Sultanate takes an interesting stance between the two. It is both “old school” but simplified for the modern player.

Players will first be greeted with a map of the current stage. It always shows the location of your castle, the enemy castle, the enemy themselves, and objects of interest on the field. These include resources (iron, wood, etc) as well as dungeon entrances. In this top-down world view you primarily seek out resources or dungeons while also keeping an eye on enemy movements. Resources are used to further strengthen your home base and help generate more, stronger armies.

Empires & Dungeons 2 Featured

Of course, if you want to get money and honor, you have to venture into dungeons alone. Dungeons are also shown from a top down view that is strangely confusing at first. Once you figure it out though, you can venture into different rooms within. Usually, there are enemies to fight although sometimes there are merchants and others willing to barter for items. Perhaps the best feature in this mode is that if you die there is little punishment. The gold won on that dungeon trip won’t be collected but that is the only result.

Perhaps Empires & Dungeons 2 could be considered too simplistic? Much of the play is simply devoted to clicking around the map for resources or spamming attacks in a dungeon. Although this is definitely a turn-based strategy RPG it is surprisingly light on strategy. The visuals are also like to be off-putting to many gamers. In fullscreen mode (the only option), the play screen takes up less than half of my 1920 x 1080 resolution screen. The frequent typos were also distracting. Still, there is some attractive gameplay worth looking past them for if you’d like to spend time with a less stressful RPG.


Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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