Here's our quick peek for the Steam release of Kill the Plumber. A 2-D puzzle platformer where you play the villains of the Mushroom Ki~er the Not-Mushroom Kingdom and get their revenge on a certain fireball spitting and pipe jumping plumber. The game is currently $3.99 on Steam (165.95php) and is 20% off for it's first week of release. Get it while it's hot! http://store.steampowered.com/app/420070/
In this golden age of indie gaming, the roguelike has made a big comeback with titles such as The Binding of Isaac, Pixel Dungeon, Nuclear Throne, and Risk of Rain. The newest contender in the randomly-generated arena is Dungeon Souls, a fast-paced, top-down hack-and-slash dungeon crawler that meshes a lot of great ideas from those titles and has proven very difficult to put down.
Even though the game's randomized dungeons and large variety or power-ups means some playthroughs can be easier than others, I haven't been glued to my screen for such a difficult game since the first Hotline Miami.
Our story involves choosing from a pool of fallen heroes and helping them in their quest for Soul Orbs that can free their entrapped spirits. Dark enough for you? By reviving them on the menu screen, you set them on the path to finding themselves again via traversing a series of deadly labyrinths.
Good variety for character building
The precise gameplay relies on accuracy, knowledge of the class you're playing, and intelligent stat and build choices. Careful spacing and quick reflexes are rewarded, and smart use of secondary abilities is essential to surviving the chaotic hordes.
Classes can be divided into close-ranged (Barbarian, Warrior), mid-ranged (Thief, Necromancer) long-ranged (Archer, Wizard, Cleric) and variable-ranged (Nightblade). While some characters are locked into one initial secondary attack, most can unlock one of two special abilities by default, and can choose to either unlock the other one later or boost their existing one.
Each of the seven classes has a sort of Area-of-Effect attack, such as the Barbarian's ranged Thunder Axe or the Archer's Rain of Arrows, and a special ability unique to that class. For instance, the Cleric can heal, the Thief can turn invisible and invincible for a certain period while attacking, the Wizard can teleport while stunning opponents, and the Necromancer's Blood For Attack skill boosts your default damage by 50% at a cost of 2% HP per attack.
There's a big difference between each of the classes' default builds and while each has their merits, every player will have their favorite. The Archer and Barbarian are excellent for anyone just starting out. The Thief is a bit more advanced, trading range, health, and defense for lightning-fast movement and attack speed, the Nightblade can switch primary weapons between a Barbarian-like axe and a bouncing charm, and the Necromancer has a unique and challenging play style, since he has to juggle draining his own health to boost damage with recovering it by summoning Skeletons, who return 20% of his health on their way out. Classes also 'evolve' past a certain point, though the changes are cosmetic.
Progression through each floor is straightforward and as follows: you seek out several glyphs (between 4-6), and fight your way through the enemies that spawn from and nearby them. Once you've activated every glyph, a demonic entity named The Redeemer will appear on the map, seek you out, and siphon your health in a rather terrifying animation, so it's time to hop in the portal into the next floor. This effectively prevents the player from too much level grinding. Because of this threat, it's useful to locate which glyph is nearest the portal marker and save it for last. The shiny drops include coins and gems (which you can spend on upgrades), potions (to heal, provide buffs, or regenerate), and keys (Silver and Gold, for respective chests).
On each floor you'll find a Shopkeep, and this gentleman is an oasis for the player. He'll offer you three different items, and you'll be crossing your fingers hoping for a powerful upgrade. However, you only get to pick one of them before the merchant whisks away to the next floor and leaves a potion (what a nice guy!), so it's essential to choose wisely.
The upgrades are generally really helpful and come in every flavor. Some are permanent buffs to stats such as damage, magic, health, agility, movement speed, critical rate, cooldown time, etc. Others are more creative, including a Spike Ball that rotates around your character providing both offense and defense, a Twin Blade that has a 30% chance to double your damage, a Berserker Ring that can initiate a berserk mode after you take a hit, or items to modify your attacks to, say, launch an enemy or cause poison/fire/stun damage.
There are also uber-powered rare items, such as the Laser Staff (20% chance to fire a laser) and the King's Crown (20% max health, 20 damage, 20 defense). My personal favorite has gotta be the accurately-named Pacman's Glove (stronger knockback). Enemies drop gold liberally, but later upgrades do kind of burn a hole in your pocket. However, that sweet cash does carry over after death for use immediately in your next run.
As for the enemies, they come in many varieties. Sure, you've got your garden-variety bats, flaming demon bats, walking skeletons, and zombies. But there's also scythe-swinging minotaurs, broadsword-wielding wights, gargoyles, exploding gels, winged beetle spearmen, hard-to-hit evil flies, mustached yetis, hooded summoners, disgruntled snowmen, and the like. And there's also a whole host of traps to look out for, such as Indiana Jones-style boulders, moving spikes, and stationary energy, arrow, and fire traps.
Bosses are king, challenges keep coming
It's the bosses that are the real challenge in this game, however, and it took this player many tries to get through each one following the first, especially since the arena can often change to be littered with spike traps or magic turrets. The Skeleton King and Gigantum Slime aren't too tough of customers if you play your cards right, but the fellows that await at the end of the Ice Cathedrals are a bit of a skill gate. The final boss is a damage sponge, and since you're fighting in an enclosed space, if your character is not up to snuff and you don't have fast enough reflexes, you're gonna have a bad time. However, after the boss, you get a chance to play through the game again, only on a more difficult mode and with newly unlocked characters. Because the challenge never ends, experienced players can continue to push their limits by keeping the party going for over a hundred floors. With multiple classes to unlock, play as, and evolve, there's a ton of replay value.
Technically, Dungeon Souls wears its retro aesthetic admirably, with colorful attacks, items, and lighting effects standing out from the background. One of the things you notice quite early is that for a game with a file size of only 40MB, it's got some pretty nifty lighting effects. Most of the background will be shrouded in darkness, with your character emitting a sort of necro-luminescent glow to brighten the way. This also means you can get easily ambushed if you're not paying attention.
Also, perhaps due to file compression and/or advanced dynamic lighting, the game does get hit with slowdown even on good systems at very high levels of play. Older PCs such as mine can be hit by slowdown as well. Even at minimum settings, I experienced slowdown globally on my 2009 Windows 7 Vaio during the dungeons, while bosses ran at normal speed, which was disorienting. I know that I'm not alone in experiencing uneven speeds of play and framerate drops thanks to concerned posts on the Steam community page. One fix that was recommended but I did not get the chance to test was setting the game's allotted memory usage on the Task Manager to high.
If I have one major complaint about the game, it's the soundscapes, first and foremost the low-res sound effect samples, which can sometimes be piercing. There are a lot of explosive traps and heavy enemy attacks in the later levels that are best tackled with the volume lowered. The music, while serviceable, is also nothing to write home about.
There's a few minor issues as well that stand in the way of this being a perfect game, and one might hope that they might be addressed since developer Mike Studios has been on the ball since day one, and has been publishing updates almost every week. One is the unclear explanations for certain abilities and items, as well as no visible Critical Rate for your hero on the pause screen or main menus. Other minor standouts are slightly blurred textures, as well as a lack of variety in the environments, since cosmetically there are only three different areas.
However, for most people, these issues are not deal-breakers, and if you can most probably run the game just fine with a decent graphics card. Mike Studios have also promised dual-analog controller support in the future. It’s a welcome addition for those who struggle with the keyboard and mouse.
In conclusion, if you like your roguelikes tough, frenetic, and with a large degree of both randomness and customization, Dungeon Souls is a very worthy addition to the growing pantheon of the genre's rebirth. The game's stability and variety is improving day-to-day, with a plethora of promised features still to come. Hopefully there will also be DLC someday.
Dungeon Souls is available now on Steam Early Access for $9.99. Give it a shot!
We didn't like the idea when it was announced last week, and it looks like those affected share the same feeling on having to pay for game mods. Valve announced the removal of the new payment feature in a Steam Community post.
"We're going to remove the payment feature from the Skyrim workshop. For anyone who spent money on a mod, we'll be refunding you the complete amount. We talked to the team at Bethesda and they agree.
We've done this because it's clear we didn't understand exactly what we were doing. We've been shipping many features over the years aimed at allowing community creators to receive a share of the rewards, and in the past, they've been received well. It's obvious now that this case is different.
To help you understand why we thought this was a good idea, our main goals were to allow mod makers the opportunity to work on their mods full time if they wanted to, and to encourage developers to provide better support to their mod communities. We thought this would result in better mods for everyone, both free & paid. We wanted more great mods becoming great products, like Dota, Counter-strike, DayZ, and Killing Floor, and we wanted that to happen organically for any mod maker who wanted to take a shot at it."
Bethesda also updated their blog post and released a statement on the matter.
After discussion with Valve, and listening to our community, paid mods are being removed from Steam Workshop. Even though we had the best intentions, the feedback has been clear – this is not a feature you want. Your support means everything to us, and we hear you.
Last week, Valved introduced a payment method for creators to charge players for the content they create for their game. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was the first game to implement the new feature. The charge was made optional, giving the creators the choice to charge players any amount or give it for free.The feedback was mostly negative.
What we think: We see the reason to why they introduced this feature, but how it was implemented shows ways to abuse the feature and overall affect the modding community in a negative way. Valve tested the waters with Bethesda and it looks like they will have to go back to the drawing board if they want to try anything like this again.
If they really want to support modders to earn from all their hard work, a simple donate button would be enough to do just that. Or they could just leave the modding community alone and let them do what they do best.
What are your thoughts on paid mods? Is it a good idea and needs to be looked at in the future? Or let game mods stay free?
If My Heart Had Wings was a difficult game for me to start playing. But I’m glad I did. I’m no stranger to visual novels, and for the most part, I can’t say that I’m a fan of the genre. I generally tend to prefer stronger gameplay elements in my games. Occasionally however, one comes along with such an excellent story that you don’t mind the minimal gameplay elements, just because you want to see what happens in the end. If My Heart Had Wings is such a case, where a strong, well-written storyline overcomes the genre shortcomings and can appeal even to non-fans of the genre.
If My Heart Had Wings is a romantic visual novel. Quite a popular genre in Japan, not so much in the West. The gameplay is limited to clicking through dialog with accompanying scenes, with choices scattered about here and there. Ultimately, your choices do end up taking you on a specific “route” which leads to different endings. It’s very similar to the old Choose Your Own Adventure series of children’s books from the 80’s.
Since the gameplay tends to be so limited, Story takes precedence, and the game relies on its writing and visuals to suck you in. If My Heart Had Wings shines for the most part, and I found myself engaged for a majority of the game. The story centers around Aoi, a young man recently returned to his home town, and his participation with the Soaring Club, a high school club where club members make gliders to fly. Along the way, you meet various young women with whom you can choose to engage in romance with each girl leading you down to a separate ending, giving the game some level of replay ability.
The visuals, music and voice acting are crisp, clean, and expressive. The text, for the most part, is edited and reads well, although I did find the initial exposition of all the characters to be somewhat dragging, with lots of internal monologues that seemed just a little overdone at times. Thankfully, the game really picks up after a point, and it’s worth muscling through some of the earlier dialogue to get to it.
One small caveat was that there were also times where the writing simply didn’t match what is happening on screen. This was likely due to localization issues, as when originally released in Japan, the game contained several hardcore sex scenes which were edited out for the Western release. In a lot of cases, this seems to be where the irregularities tend to occur. For example, reading the text describing a girl’s eyes, when the camera and spoken Japanese are clearly focused on her breasts. However these parts are rare and few between, and actually had I not known that this was originally an eroge game I probably wouldn’t have noticed these areas.
As far as the girls go, they tend to follow typical anime tropes, and the selection of potential romances are all textbook waifu material. The childhood friend, the older senpai, the disabled tsundere. Thankfully the writing is strong enough to carry these tropes throughout the game, and there’s a lot more to the girls than their initial appearance. To be perfectly honest, I’m not generally one who enjoys romance stories, and I ended up squirming at some parts, but thankfully it’s that extra story behind these characters makes it palatable. Even if I was not romancing a particular girl, it was interesting to discover more about each of them, their motivations and lives, dreams and desires. And when you do decide to romance a particular girl, the characterization goes even deeper.
The story is a character driven one, and it’s the high point of If My Heart Had Wings. The central theme of the game, that of loss and the coping and recovery that follows, is a very strong one that I think just about anyone can relate to at some level. Each of the characters in the game have lost something, be it physical or emotional. The game explores a lot of the changes and dilemmas that those losses can inflict upon a person, ranging from simple things like having to give up something you love doing, or perhaps in just trying to act like a regular normal teenager. It’s insightful and empathic and makes you really care about the characters and relate to what they are going through.
The binding aspect that brings these characters really together is the Soaring Club, and the dream of flight. As a fan of aircraft myself, I was very happy to see how the game is able to capture the simple beauty and wonder of flying, and the game does a wonderful job of showcasing the sheer anticipative joy of the idea. For most of the characters, the Soaring Club acts as their way of coping with their respective losses, all for different, but all valid reasons. Admittedly, the game doesn’t do a very good job at actually explaining how flight works, and the game’s explanation of the physics of flight are all wrong, but again, I was willing to overlook that just because the story itself was so compelling.
The game is reasonable in length, it took me about 9 hours to get through my first play through. Thankfully, the game features a forward feature, so my subsequent play through to view the other paths and try other romances went on for about half of that each. Overall, If My Heart Had Wings is a great coming of age story that doesn’t do anything particularly new or different for the genre, but what it does, it does well. This isn’t a story epic in scope, but it is a very personal one that speaks to all of us in a little way. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by: Willem Den Toom Platform: PC
- Strong and Heart-warming slice of life story - Great visuals and sounds - Easy to understand interface
- Doesn't do anything really new for the genre - Some odd translations / scenes due to localization - Can sometimes get draggy with exposition and internal monologue
P.S. This game also features a duck with a top hat. You can’t go wrong with that.
The second countdown has ended and Valve has announced the highly rumored Steam Box with the name "Steam Machines". This system will come in multiple forms from different manufacturers, all using the Linux-based SteamOS. They have a prototype, and Valve wants to send the prototype to 300 Steam users for testing purposes. Check out if your eligible.
It's pretty easy to be on that eligible list, but your pretty much going against millions of users that want to be within the lucky 300. But trying won't hurt, here are the steps:
Before October 25, log in to Steam and then visit your quest page to track your current status towards beta test eligibility
1. Join the Steam Universe community group 2. Agree to the Steam Hardware Beta Terms and Conditions 3. Make 10 Steam friends (if you haven't already) 4. Create a public Steam Community profile (if you haven't already) 5. Play a game using a gamepad in Big Picture mode
Valve didn't talk about specs or anything but they did mention in the reveal that these "Steam Machines" are completely upgradable and open.
There's still one more announcement left for Valve's three-part reveal and my guess is either a new source engine, a game exclusive to this box, or the box's controller.