Cult of the Fiver | April 2015

Did you notice we skipped a month there? Instead of Cult of the Fiver, I was swamped with game demos and impressions from SxSW. Now that THAT backlog has been cleared, let’s dig into some new cheap games! This month’s inductees into the cult are Valiant Hearts: The Great War, Road Not Taken, Vertical Drop Heroes HD, Wrack and The Weaponographist.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Cult of the Fiver: Valiant Hearts - The Great War

As World War I rages through Europe, a small family is divided and forced to take sides in the conflict. Told through comic book style art and puzzle-solving adventure game style gameplay, Valiant Hearts focuses on the intertwined story of a few unwilling participants in the war, and the choices they make in order to survive and protect the ones they love.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is worth your $5 because… unlike many modern adventure games, it actually has puzzles and isn’t just about dialog trees with other characters. However, the puzzles are never so obtuse that they can’t be solved logically. The story is well done as well. The art style manages to balance the seriousness of war with the fact that this is just a videogame.

But don’t pay full price for Valiant Hearts: The Great War, since… it’s a fairly simplistic game on the whole. If the story doesn’t grab you, chances are you’ll find the whole thing boring. It’s a bit drawn out and slow moving at times. There are multiple quick-time-event sequences that can be irritating to get through.

Other Coverage: Pre-Cult on TAY

Store page(s): Amazon w/Uplay (doh!) DRM | Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • There are collectible items strewn around, but just mashing the “pickup” button as you walk will get you most of them. Some are hidden, usually you can find most of these by heading the wrong way when a level starts.
  • Once you have access to the dog, you can make him flip switches and head into areas that are otherwise inaccessible.
  • You can usually only carry one item at a time, and bringing an item from an earlier area never factored into any puzzle as far as I could tell.

Road Not Taken

Cult of the Fiver: Road Not Taken

Deep in the woods is a village. This village sends its children into the forest to collect berries that are believed to have life-extending powers. However, the dangers of the woods often mean that many children never return. As the village Ranger, you are tasked with saving as many children as you can, by manipulating objects in the forest with a magical staff. Fall in the forest or fail to save the children and you’ll never return “home.”

Road Not Taken is worth your $5 because… it’s a very unique take on the puzzle game genre, made by the same company that produced the mobile game Triple Town. The story has a very somber and desolate tone that is contrasted sharply by the cartoony visuals. The core puzzle game mechanic is interesting, and becoming good at it is vital to your survival.

But don’t pay full price for Road Not Taken, since… it’s brutally difficult, and a lot of the time you’ll be at the mercy of random things outside of your control. Death is especially punishing, and unlike a lot of modern games with permadeath mechanics, there’s not a lot of progress to be made when you die.

Other Coverage: Pre-Cult on TAY

Store page(s): Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • Remember that the goal is saving children. Everything else is secondary.
  • You don’t have to open every door between rooms in order to win. In fact, some rooms you don’t need to visit at all.
  • You can make a fire by matching fire sprites together to make an axe, then using the axe to chop trees and get logs, and then match the logs together. Having a fire warms up a room, lessening the penalty for moving while carrying something.
  • You can give up after finding half of the children, and besides taking a pay hit, there’s no other downside. Half your energy carries over to the next year, so sometimes it makes more sense to abort if the final kids are hard to find.
  • Remember that you can throw parents to children as well as vice versa – sometimes it is easier to move a parent to where the child is then to carry the child to the parent.

Vertical Drop Heroes HD

Cult of the FIver: Vertical Drop Heroes HD

Vertical Drop Heroes HD is a vertically scrolling 2-D action RPG in the same vein as Rogue Legacy. Fight downwards using a combination of randomly generated weapons and skills. There are 10 levels, each capped off with a boss. Can you survive to the end and discover the temple’s dark secret? Probably not. But throw enough heroes at it and eventually you’re bound to succeed!

Vertical Drop Heroes HD is worth your $5 because… the core action RPG elements are generally fun, and the simple concept is executed well. There’s a decent amount of grinding, but you feel like you’re getting more powerful and the investment in time is paying off.

But don’t pay full price for Vertical Drop Heroes HD, since… it only retails for a couple of bucks more normally. It’s also a bit simplistic, and a bit frustrating when you get killed by some BS attack that is unblockable and undodgeable. The art and music are both flash game quality, which is not that much of a surprise since this is a remake of a flash game.

Other Coverage: Pre-Cult on TAY

Store page(s): Amazon w/No DRM | Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • Pacifism orbs can be upgraded to give massive XP and gold bonuses. They can make grinding for better upgrades go much faster, so make sure you invest time in them.
  • It’s possible to run a level twice, once for pacifism orbs and a second time to get XP from kills. It takes longer, but you’ll end up pretty darn powerful.
  • If you try to hit a square that has more than one enemy in it, you’ll only hit one of the enemies. However, all of the enemies can still hit you. Thus, jumping into a square full of bad guys is a fast way to die!
  • The final boss can be one-shotted with Polymorph.

Wrack

Cult of the Fiver: Wrack

Aliens are invading, led by a megalomaniacal scientist and it’s up to one man to stop them from getting hold of some really advanced… technology… thing. Fight lizards, robots, and bosses with a variety of classic first-person shooter weapons to save the day!

Wrack is worth your $5 because… it’s an old-school Quake style shooter that focuses on skill and combo kills. Trick jumps, big guns, secret areas, and gibs galore.

But don’t pay full price for Wrack, since… it’s a bit on the short side, and there isn’t as much variety in weapons and enemies as I would really want. Some of the weapons feel a bit underpowered.

Other Coverage: Full Review

Store page(s): Steam

Quick Tips:

  • The sword is really powerful, especially against robots, although using it is pretty risky.
  • The big robots will slam the ground, doing damage unless you stay off the ground when they’re pounding it.
  • Strafing while running forward gives you a tiny speed boost, which can get you to areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.

The Weaponographist

Cult of the Fiver: The Weaponographist

Doug McGrave, legendary demon hunter, is walking through the woods when he manages to piss off a powerful witch. Now he’s cursed, and forced to fight hordes of demons and save a village – all for free. The nerve of these witches! The curse has knocked him down to level 1, stolen his weapons, and continually weakens him unless he’s killing demons.

The Weaponographist is worth your $5 because… it’s packed with unique enemies and crazy weapons. Unicorns that shoot rockets and pogo stick jesters, for instance. The constant need to grab new weapons and fight different combinations of enemies keeps the game feeling fresh through its 5 dungeon levels.

But don’t pay full price for The Weaponographist, since… actually, the asking price is totally reasonable. It’s a well done and inexpensive game.

Other Coverage: Our Twitch Stream | Full Review

Store page(s): Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • Know where your next weapon is, because weapons are constantly breaking. Punching stuff is a losing proposition.
  • Magic is powerful but usually pretty rare. Try to conserve it for maximum effect.
  • Every enemy has an attack pattern – master it, and you’ll find your fights get easier.

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