Cult of the Fiver | August 2014

##Metro 2033

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Nuclear winter has devastated Russia, making the air unbreathable and the chances of survival grim. Deadly mutants roam the surface and patrol the air. The survivors have banded together to form small camps within the underground subway tunnels. Not that things are rosy beneath the surface – political and ideological factions are colliding and the mutants are always hungry for a tasty human snack. When mysterious, otherworldly forces start to encroach, it’s up to one gifted soldier to make a perilous journey and decide the future of humanity.

Metro 2033 is worth your $5 because… it’s got sort of a Fallout post-apocalyptic feel to it. In Fallout, though, the survival-pack-rat-esque elements of the game are quickly pushed to the background as your character levels up and becomes ever more god-like. Metro 2033 manages to preserve the feeling of constantly being down to your last clip and having to frequently scavenge for resources. The Ranger difficulty modes make the game feel a bit more realistic, with bullets doing more damage and inventory sizes creeping even smaller than usual.

But don’t pay full price for Metro 2033, since… it’s got some serious rough edges. The filter mechanics are especially painful at times. Gas mask filters are required for survival on the surface. However, the game does a poor job of explaining how they work. You can’t always pick up new filters you find in the environment, and only one or two of the shops sell more. Having to move quickly and not being able to extend your time makes certain sections of the game really frustrating. There’s also a hidden morality system that determines what endings are available to you, which the game also never explains. There are stealth elements, but it’s the kind where once you’ve been detected once, every enemy everywhere will know precisely where you are at all times.

The $5 Deal: Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • Although you do need filters to survive on the surface, you can take your gas mask off for up to 30 seconds at a time. You can really stretch a limited filters by putting the mask on long enough to draw a breath, and then remove the mask immediately and go another 30 seconds.
  • On the level where you reach the central armory shops, across from the shops you can buy either a stealth suit (which reduces your visibility in shadows) or a suit of armor that makes you harder to kill. It’s easy to miss these, and you only get one shot at them.
  • All of the weapons can be found in the environment, so I wouldn’t waste your precious money on buying them.
  • The pneumatic bolt weapon is extremely powerful and usually a one-shot kill from stealth. You can recover the bolts, so it should easily earn a slot in your inventory.

Anno 2070

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The Anno series has long focused on commerce and city building between island nations. While most of the series has taken place during the age of sail, Anno 2070 takes us to the not-so-distant future where global warming has forced many once-proud nations to scrounge for resources amidst the waves. Three distinct factions – the Ecos, who value the environment, the Tycoons who desire profits, and the Techs who worship science – vie for limited resources on tiny islands to keep their populaces safe and happy.

Anno 2070 is worth your $5 because… it combines a lot of the more interesting elements of games like Sim City, Tropico, Cities XL, and other similar resource management games. It’s really polished, has a long campaign, and there are significant online scenarios to play as well. Managing your ecology adds a new wrinkle to the game’s delicate balancing act. Playing with the underwater bases and submarines and such is a lot of fun.

But don’t pay full price for ****Anno 2070,*** since… it kind of gets repetitive after a while. All the games play out essentially very similar to one another. The combat is super stripped down, so don’t go into it expecting anything significant in terms of RTS elements. The game has always-online DRM that is quite annoying at times.

The $5 Deal: Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • The + key on the keypad speeds the game up. I don’t remember anywhere that the game explains this to you, but it’s a HUGE lifesaver.
  • Settle other islands early and often. Whenever you need to grow a crop for which you don’t have the fertility on an existing island, grab a new one!
  • Every time you have a major population expansion, make sure you’re producing enough basic goods (ie, fish) for the new residents.

Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale

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Recettear is part action-RPG and part shop simulator. When naive Recette learns she’s in deep with a collections agency, she teams up with the business-minded bill collector Tear to revive her parent’s item shop. When not stocking items or haggling with customers, the duo tags along with adventurers to collect “teh phat lewts” in nearby dungeons.

Recettear is worth your $5 because… it’s a really unique take on the standard dungeon crawling action RPG. Instead of just blindly hacking and slashing, you’ve got to manage your shop’s inventory, sell good stuff to adventurers, take them on trips to level them up and get new loot, and then use that loot in various ways to improve your shop and your stable of adventurers.

But don’t pay full price for Recettear, since… each element is executed competently, but none really stand out. The action RPG combat could be a lot better. The store management stuff, likewise, is kind of lackluster. After a while the whole thing gets kind of old, and the aggressive loan payments hanging over your head don’t do much except increase your stress.

The $5 Deal: Steam

Quick Tips:

  • If you’ve got a big loan payment coming up and you can’t make it, spend all the money you can. If you “lose” you’ll just start the week over without your money, but with any stock you had left. No point in losing 99% of the payment when you can just plow that money back into stuff to sell for the next attempt.
  • Put stuff out for sale you want your adventurers to buy, and if they try to make an offer on something that is good for them, sell it to them for dirt cheap.
  • If your adventurers have crappy equipment, you can bring things from your shop along and swap their gear out. The downside is you’ll lose slots in your inventory that you could normally take loot home in.

One Way Heroics

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The Dark Lord is plaguing the land, while a corrupting Darkness is slowly reducing the world to a living hell-on-earth. It’s up to an infinite number of heroes working across infinite dimensions to stop the Dark Lord, and hopefully, end the blight of the Darkness.

One Way Heroics is worth your $5 because… it’s an excellent game that is terribly addictive. It’s easily the best roguelike I’ve played this year. I could go on for quite a while about how much I enjoyed it, but I already did that in another article…

But don’t pay full price for One Way Heroics, since… it’s not terribly well balanced. Once you find the overpowered combos of class, perk, and abilities, you’ll probably be able to demolish the game in no time flat. It’s still a lot of fun, though, and it’s less than $5 even when it’s not on sale. Pay full price – you’ll get your money’s worth!

The $5 Deal: Steam

Quick Tips:

  • There aren’t any cursed items, so feel free to equip stuff you find.
  • Hitting chests is a perfectly valid way to get the stuff inside.
  • Pack an axe, they’re good against walls, chests, and certain enemies like skeletons.
  • Shields are super important for almost every class. They significantly reduce the damage you take.
  • Every time you meet a chef, order food and consider buying one of their lunches.
  • Don’t bother carrying a lot of redundant weapons and armor around. You’ll find new gear frequently, and as you progress the power of the stuff you find will go up.

Battleblock Theater

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What should have been a pleasure cruise has gone terribly awry. Your boat of best buddies has run aground on an island populated primarily with homicidal cats who imprison people and make them perform for their amusement. A vicious platforming maze of deadly traps and precariously poised treasure awaits!

Battleblock Theater is worth your $5 because… it’s got a clever story told through a unique art style. The various weapons and tools you unlock can sometimes change the game in significant ways. It’s a lot of fun to play in co-op, assuming you’re both pretty patient and work well together.

But don’t pay full price for Battleblock Theater, since… it quickly gets frustrating and super difficult. The platforming here is nothing short of hardcore, especially as the game progresses. There are timed levels that are even harder than the regular ones. The platforming has a limited bag of tricks and doesn’t change things up often.

The $5 Deal: Steam

Quick Tips:

  • There is a suction cup gun that will allow you to make improvised stairs on many surfaces.
  • Often when you see a group of wall blocks in a corner, there are secrets hidden inside false blocks.

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