Without The Sarcasm https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com Insights. Analysis. Answers. Fri, 09 Feb 2018 22:46:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/wp-content/uploads/cropped-question-mark-512-1-32x32.png Without The Sarcasm https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com 32 32 41351423 A Case of Distrust Review https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/case-distrust-review/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/case-distrust-review/#respond Fri, 09 Feb 2018 22:46:39 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8810
Read more ›
]]>
A Case of Distrust is a 2D narrative 1920’s detective noir game from one-man indie dev The Wandering Ben, and published by Serenity Forge. Long-time WOTS readers will recognize Serenity Forge as a developer/publisher we’ve had success with in the past.

I honestly have no idea what it is about noir detective games that appeals so much to me, but there you are. Whatever the reason, as soon as I heard the premise for A Case of Distrust, I was sold. The trailer explains most of what you need to know – A Case of Distrust is a stylish game told primarily through silhouettes and text narration.

Protagonist Phyllis Malone is an ex-cop turned private detective. When a small time crook shows up at her doorstep with a mysterious threatening letter, Phyllis quickly finds herself embroiled in a web of intrigue in prohibition era San Francisco’s seedy underworld.

The case itself can be split into two parts – the first is an investigation into the mysterious letter, and the second explores an escalation in the case that leads to a murder. Each mystery is solved via a combination of hunting for clues in static 2D scenes, and through interrogating key individuals.

The 2D scene explorations are beautifully presented, although they’re generally pretty simple. It’s possible to overlook clues if you do a bad job of identifying the interactive objects, but the scenes are small enough that being exhaustive isn’t that difficult. There’s a lot of red herrings in the scenes, but there’s no real penalty to taking your time and exploring everything.

When it comes to interrogations, the closest game I can reference here is L.A. Noire. However, there are some significant differences between A Case of Distrust and L.A. Noire. In L.A. Noire, interrogations can go south if you haven’t done the correct research, or if you respond incorrectly to witnesses’ statements. In A Case of Distrust, it’s far harder to mess up. Late in the game you can accuse suspects, and I didn’t check to see if this angered witnesses enough to permanently lock you out of solving the case. Beyond that, though, you can ask anything you want and respond however you want during an interrogation.

Length-wise, A Case of Distrust clocks in at around a 2-3 hours for a single playthrough. I spent some of that time stuck for a while on the interrogations, where I wasn’t really clear on what I was missing in order to proceed. The game kind of nudges you to ask the bartender for help if you get stuck, but I never found him to be that useful outside of a couple of times I was required to talk to him.

During my playthrough I missed a few achievements, and it’s not clear to me if there are multiple ways for the ending to play out. I’m interested to see if there’s reason to replay, as I wasn’t quite “done” exploring A Case of Distrust’s 1920’s San Francisco. Given the way the ending left more than a few loose ends, I suspect that A Case of Distrust is intended to be the first episode in a Telltale-style series. I feel like the length and quality of the experience measures up pretty well with that as a benchmark.

A Case of Distrust
Links:Homepage, Steam
Release:2/8/2018
Price:$14.99
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

A Case of Distrust does more than you’d expect with its minimalist trappings. The cases captured my interest quickly with excellent writing and fantastic art. While it’s on the short side, and occasionally a bit frustrating, A Case of Distrust is nonetheless an excellent throwback both to the detective noir genre and the era of the classic adventure game.

Review Policy

]]>
https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/case-distrust-review/feed/ 0 8810
Staxel Preview: It’s Harvest Moon Minecraft. https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/staxel-preview-harvest-moon-minecraft/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/staxel-preview-harvest-moon-minecraft/#respond Wed, 24 Jan 2018 23:40:30 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8803 Staxel is a game by an ex-Chucklefish developer (think Starbound) that combines elements of Minecraft and Harvest Moon (or Stardew Valley if you prefer). Humble (of humblebundle.com) is publishing it. Aaaaaand that's all most of you will want to know. If you haven't thrown your wallet at the screen, you can buy it on Humble's Store or over on Steam. Thanks for reading!
Read more ›
]]>
Staxel is a game by an ex-Chucklefish developer (think Starbound) that combines elements of Minecraft and Harvest Moon (or Stardew Valley if you prefer). Humble (of humblebundle.com) is publishing it. Aaaaaand that’s all most of you will want to know. If you haven’t thrown your wallet at the screen, you can buy it on Humble’s Store or over on Steam. Thanks for reading!

… Wait. You’re still here? Huh. Okay, let’s dig a bit deeper.

From Minecraft, Staxel steals its voxel-styled graphics and overall world destructivity. Chop, dig, mine, break stuff, craft new items, and build your own structures. Multiplayer servers are already supported for co-op farming. However, the world as I’ve seen it so far is much, much smaller than a Minecraft world – the emphasis is not on exploration. There’s also no significant RPG elements – combat seems to be completely missing.

From Harvest Moon/Stardew Valley, Staxel steals the “you take over a dilapidated farm and have to restore it” plotline, plus the run-a-farm economy, a town full of NPCs, and some farm-related quests to undertake. Seasons pass and crops grow; meanwhile you can also raise livestock and improve your farm. The missing bits are things like significant NPC interactions (gifts, marriage, etc)

The state of Staxel at the launch of Early Access is still pretty rough. There’s a tutorial that helps some, but there are a lot of unexplained elements. Staxel is one of those games that really needs a wiki to explain everything, and I’m playing it before such a resource exists. The economy is such that it doesn’t really make sense to farm at this point, which is really quite weird for a farming game. A lot of the crafting is so daggone expensive and complex that I really never felt “competent” at creating new things.

Minecraft + Harvest Moon is such a peanut-butter-and-chocolate combo that it’s a bit of a surprise that there isn’t a blockbuster indie game out there that already tried this mashup. No doubt Staxel will do its best to evolve and fill this niche. It’s hard to say exactly what Staxel is going to turn out to be like when it’s “finished.” (If it ever is – is Minecraft finished at this point? Starbound even? These games seem to get maintained forever…)

A lot depends on the size and quality of Staxel’s community. There’s Steam Workshop support already in Staxel, so if aspiring modders want to build new elements for the game, they’re certainly able to. Given that Humble is backing it, chances are good that we’ll see Staxel reach a wide audience and become immensely popular. As with all Early Access games, though, there’s an element of risk to jumping in early.

]]>
https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/staxel-preview-harvest-moon-minecraft/feed/ 0 8803
DA:I: Why “Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts” is just The Worst https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/dai-wicked-eyes-wicked-hearts-just-worst/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/dai-wicked-eyes-wicked-hearts-just-worst/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 19:25:37 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8792 Dragon Age: Inquisition, but I've had such a tumultuous time with it that I really just want to write something about it to let off some steam. DA:I definitely has some high points, but last night I was playing the mission Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts and I just about threw my controller across the room because of how bad a mission it is. So consider this a "mini-review" (slash-rant) about game design and how this particular mission gets it so, so wrong.
Read more ›
]]>
It’s a bit late to write a full-blown review of Dragon Age: Inquisition, but I’ve had such a tumultuous time with it that I really just want to write something about it to let off some steam. DA:I definitely has some high points, but last night I was playing the mission Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts and I just about threw my controller across the room because of how bad a mission it is. So consider this a “mini-review” (slash-rant) about game design and how this particular mission gets it so, so wrong.

I’ve had a somewhat rocky relationship with the Dragon Age series over the years. I love me some western-style RPGs, and I love BioWare as well. I first played DA:O on my Xbox 360, but never finished it since the game hard locked my console about 4 times. I recently returned to the PC version of DA:O, and liked it enough to drop $20 to round out my collection with DA2 and DA: Inquisition. I could rant for longer than anyone cares to listen about the lazy design decisions of DA2. That particular game feels like a rush job from start to finish. But it’s not why we’re here. We’re here for Inquisition, and specifically one main plot mission.

The Plot is Meaningless

The backstory of Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts can be summarized as follows. One of the major countries in the DA setting is a “France stand-in” called Orlais. Orlais at the time of DA:I is undergoing a civil war. There’s the currently ruling empress, and she’s fighting with a duke that controls a lot of the army. There’s also this elven girl who runs a spy network or something and opposes them both.

“Team Good Guys” has reason to believe that the empress is going to be assassinated by “The Big Bad,” (both completely unrelated to any of these warring factions) so they get themselves invited to a big party to try and stop that from happening. The party is actually a cover for peace talks to end the war. It takes place at a palace, with members from all the factions under one roof.

My first problem with this quest starts even before the quest does. None of these factions has played a significant role in the game so far. I’ve never met any of these people before. The civil war has similarly not been a focus of the game at all either. The characters and the war are introduced in an exposition dump between two of my advisers before the mission starts. I’d be willing to bet that once the mission is over, I’ll probably never see any of these people again.

So why should I care what the outcome is?

During the course of the quest, this issue is compounded. As it turns out, all three of these bozos are assholes. They’re all backstabbing, exploitative, out of touch jerks who have personal vendettas with one another. It’s probably a pretty accurate representation of politics in general, but that doesn’t mean that it’s fun to play. I don’t feel invested in the results of this mission at all, even less so once I learn more of the backstory.

The Main Objectives are a Disaster

Okay, so the story sucks, no big deal, that’s 99% of video games, right? The gameplay in this mission is so, so much worse.

The entire quest takes place in the palace, which is not a very large zone, despite its very odd architecture. For some reason, it’s divided into maybe 5-6 zones. The palace is loaded with guests, but for the most part they all repeat the same snippets of dialog over and over. There were more people concerned about the “number of canapes that were being served” or “whether or not the servants could hold them all” than I could count.

The main thrust of the quest is building up and maintaining your reputation with the nobles in attendance. This “reputation counter” is represented by a number between 0 and 100. If this number falls to 0, it’s instant game-over. In order to convince the court to see things your way, you need this to be higher than 85 by the time the quest is over.

The effect of your actions on this number are mysterious and vague. Dialog choices can raise or lower it, but what works and what doesn’t is nearly impossible to guess unless you’re aggressively save scumming or using a guide. DA:I uses the sort of abbreviated conversation wheel that means what you see on screen is often not what is actually said, so it can be hard to even figure out what the appropriate response is from the information you’re given. Further, things that work with one race/class combo, or with one group of party members just don’t work with other combinations.

Much of the quest involves areas of the palace not included in the party, and for every minute you’re away from the party, the reputation counter decreases by one. It’s not always clear what zones are “safe” and what zones decrease your reputation, so you’ve got to move quickly through hostile areas and be careful not to linger looking for loot or side quest items too long. The lack of feedback and the pressure to speed through wide sections of the palace doesn’t help the pacing or the fun factor of this quest one bit.

The Sidequests Are Garbage

I mentioned looking for side quest items just now, and that’s kind of an important yet mostly meaningless part of this quest. There are something on the order of 60 “collectibles” to find. Fifteen of these are coins that can be tossed into a fountain for a small reputation counter boost. Finding these is a pain in the ass because you have to get relatively close to them in order to be able to track them and expose them.

Thirty more are “scandalous secrets” – many of which are circles on the floor where you have to eavesdrop on conversations nearby. The eavesdropping doesn’t always work – it’s random – so sometimes you have to eavesdrop on the same circle a bunch of times to get credit. The rest of the secrets are notes/books you can find and pick up.

Did you just spend a half hour combing the entire palace, carefully trying to avoid lingering in the reputation drop areas too long, lest you fail the mission or get a bad ending? Too bad, some don’t spawn until later stages of the quest. Even if you find every last one, sucks to be you. There’s no real reward for either of those collections! Surprise!

The final group of collectibles are statues. These statues are magical keys that can be used to unlock doors in the palace. There’s a limited number of statues, and it’s possible to miss some of them. There aren’t enough to open all the doors. Some of the endings to this quest require that you find and save the statues to open specific doors. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on plot-specific items.

All of this is not explained, at all, within the game proper. It’s very easy to miss statues or waste them on rooms that have sub-par generic loot and nothing else. One of the statues is up on the rafters above a room which makes it seriously painful to grab. Compounding this is the fact that the area is “off limits” and so you’re losing hard-earned reputation the whole time.

This Quest is the Worst

So let’s recap. Here we have a mission where:

  • I have no idea what is going on until 30 seconds before the mission starts
  • I don’t really care what happens during this mission
  • It’s mostly long and boring and full of politics that don’t impact me at all
  • All the side quests are irritating pixel searches that give little to no rewards
  • The outcome is decided by a bunch of forces I can’t know unless I cheat
  • Almost all of the mechanics are irritating at best and actively hostile at worst

Why is this in a video game again? What makes this fun or interesting?

]]>
https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/dai-wicked-eyes-wicked-hearts-just-worst/feed/ 0 8792
SteamWorld Dig 2 Review https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/steamworld-dig-2-review/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/steamworld-dig-2-review/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 16:01:43 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8781
Read more ›
]]>
I first encountered Image & Form’s SteamWorld series back in October 2014 when I played SteamWorld Dig for the first time. I’ve kept tabs on Image & Form since then, and when they released SteamWorld Heist, they managed to take one of my favorite genres (turn-based strategy) and make a highly polished and interesting game in the SteamWorld universe. Now, Image & Form has returned to craft a sequel to SteamWorld Dig, the aptly named SteamWorld Dig 2. Utilizing my well-honed journalistic skills of “begging for teh codez” I landed a review copy and spent the weekend digging as deep as I could.

The original SteamWorld Dig was a fun, but somewhat short, mining RPG – something like the cross between Boulder Dash (or some might compare it to Terraria for you youngin’s) but with a bit of a Metroidvania spin. Most post-Minecraft mining simulations are free-form sandbox affairs, but SteamWorld Dig was more linear and focused on making progress towards tangible goals.

The original Dig focused on Rusty, a mostly silent protagonist who uncovered a vast and sinister secret deep under the sleepy town of Tumbleton. Dig ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, with a visibly changed Rusty wandering alone in the desert. Dig 2 picks up where Dig left off, with one of the shopkeepers from Tumbleton (Dorothy) setting off to find out what happened to Rusty. The plot is still fairly lean, and I could probably summarize the whole thing in less than a paragraph, but it is a step up from the first SteamWorld Dig which was thin to the point of transparency.

SteamWorld Dig 2 adopts a very similar structure to SteamWorld Dig, but with improvements at almost every turn. The mine in Dig has been replaced with a larger, wider world map in Dig 2. My playthrough of Dig 2 clocked in at around 12-15 hours, which is more than double what I spent on the first Dig. A rapid transit system of tubes allows for fast travel between major checkpoints. The map’s not just bigger, it’s more varied as well. There’s way more variety in the enemy types as well as in the environments. Even the town and its inhabitants are much more colorful and animated.

There are also way more upgrades – dozens of options are available to customize your Dorothy. Gone are the consumable utility items like the ladder and teleporter, in favor of more permanent, meaningful choices. Mining gems and minerals yields cash, which pays for upgrades to your basic stats. Collecting artifacts and gears unlocks modifiers for your equipment, which can be respec’ed as often as you like in town.

With more flexibility and more upgrades comes more Metroidvania goodness. Even the most mundane of early areas contains secrets that can only be uncovered later in the game after finding the right unlocks. The map screen does a great job of highlighting areas you’ll want to revisit to do more in-depth secret searching. Dig 2 does a great job of training you on new mechanics, and it’s always clear if you’re ready for a particular challenge or not. Speaking of challenges, optional challenge caves are scattered about that test your skills to the limit, requiring both speed and precision in equal measure. These challenge caves are also packed full of secrets that only the most observant of players will detect.

By far, though, my favorite improvement in SteamWorld Dig 2 is the platforming. Dorothy moves smoothly right from the start, but as you slot in more and more upgrades, her motion through the mines feels almost effortless. Whether I was mining treasure to pay for upgrades or putting my robotic abilities to the test in the challenge caves, movement in SteamWorld Dig 2 was always a blast.

I will take a break from my lavish praise of SteamWorld Dig 2 to pick a few nits. There’s a small section of non-linearity to Dig 2, but it’s still pretty aggressively linear. If you go in expecting the freedom of something like Terraria to forge your own path, you’ll be disappointed. I find the setting of the SteamWorld universe quite interesting, but over the course of the 30-40 hours in three games I’ve played so far, I’m not sure I really have more than a few sentences to describe it. Aside from a few easy-to-miss achievements, there’s no reason to replay Dig 2, and there’s no New Game Plus mode either. None of these complaints really makes that big of a difference to me, and I knew what kind of game to expect as I’d already played SteamWorld Dig, so I classify them as minor gripes at best.

SteamWorld Dig 2
Links:Homepage, Switch Store Page, Steam Store Page
Release:9/21/2017
Price:$19.99
Rating: - UNBELIEVABLE!
Our Thoughts:

SteamWorld Dig 2 is the third consecutive awesome game I’ve played from Image & Form. SteamWorld Dig 2 takes all the great parts of SteamWorld Dig and refines them in a way that is nothing short of fantastic. I played it obsessively from start to finish. My only real regret is that I’m out of SteamWorld until I&F’s next release.

Review Policy

]]>
https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/steamworld-dig-2-review/feed/ 0 8781
Sundered Review https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/sundered-review/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/sundered-review/#respond Sat, 05 Aug 2017 17:08:24 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8758 Sundered is the second release from indie studio Thunder Lotus, who we have met on several occasions over the years. Their previous game, Jotun, knocked our socks off with its extremely detailed visuals and giant boss combat. Does Sundered clear the bar that Thunder Lotus has set with Jotun? Read on to find out in our Sundered review!
Read more ›
]]>
Sundered is the second release from indie studio Thunder Lotus, who we have met on several occasions over the years. Their previous game, Jotun, knocked our socks off with its extremely detailed visuals and giant boss combat. Does Sundered clear the bar that Thunder Lotus has set with Jotun? Read on to find out in our Sundered review!

Sundered is a action roguelite side-scrolling Metroidvania game. Some of those pieces really don’t seem to fit together – I reacted with incredulity the first time I heard the pitch. How do you have a game with non-linear progression gated by abilities while also being procedurally generated? Metroidvania games are often distinguished by their very carefully planned level designs, whereas roguelike/lite games tend to be more random and haphazard by design.

Sundered pulls this off by being smart about how it combines random elements and prefab locations. The overall world map layout is fixed, with various major rooms and arenas carefully placed to enable ability gates and boss fights. However, large chunks of the map are big, dynamic spaces that are filled in randomly between runs. From my experience, there are various “room templates” that you’ll see repeated between runs through these spaces, with other smaller connectors that join them together.

Now that we’ve resolved the genre dichotomy, we can move on to talking about the game! Sundered is very much in the vein of Symphony of the Night in terms of combat. You’ve got a melee weapon with a rapid strike attack, plus a dodge roll that grants invulnerability. There’s also a ranged weapon that pierces enemies and walls that you unlock, although ammo is limited.

Combat encounters are randomized, and they could occur at any point as you are exploring. Sundered throws a practically insane number of monsters at you at times. This is probably my main gripe about the game – it’s very hard to be strategic when there are literally so many enemies you can’t even see yourself sometimes. It can be difficult to determine if the spawns are infinite or if eventually you’ll manage to beat back the tide. Running away is often not an option – the enemies can traverse the environment faster than you, there are hazards to consider, and some enemies can even block your escape.

Most of the abilities you unlock as you progress through Sundered add additional movement options. Double jump, air dash, wallrun, etc. There’s also a massive skill tree that buffs your stats and increases your overall survivability. Buying perks from the skill tree requires shards that drop from enemies, so plan on killing a lot and dying a lot in the process. While the progression is satisfying, at times getting the shards you need means subjecting yourself to a bunch of repetitive combat.

Much like in Jotun, the real highlight of the enemy encounters in Sundered is the boss battles. Each of Sundered’s 3 zones contains a set of minibosses and a massive area boss encounter. The bosses play with your sense of scale and often challenge you to perform precise platforming feats while something huge (but extremely well animated!) is creatively trying to murder you. None of the bosses are downright impossible, but each failure means you’ve got to navigate all the way back to the boss room from the starting location, which can be a pain.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot, but there’s a BioShock “rescue / harvest” kind of situation going on, and there are special skills that go along with each path. Your decision also effects the final boss you encounter. There’s some replay value available there, but the path you choose is decided early and basically permanent. If you choose to see all the endings, you’re going to be playing 90% of the same game to see 10% that is new on each playthrough.

Sundered
Links:Homepage, Steam, PSN
Release:7/28/2017
Price:$20.00
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

Sundered maintains Thunder Lotus’ commitment to extraordinary art and detail – a commitment that few games, indie or otherwise, are able to match. Sundered manages to almost seamlessly meld two completely incompatible genres into a satisfying exploration experience. Grindy combat against overwhelming odds keeps it from being a “perfect” game.

Review Policy

]]>
https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/sundered-review/feed/ 0 8758
Galaxy of Pen and Paper Review https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/galaxy-pen-paper-review/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/galaxy-pen-paper-review/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 23:03:26 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8752 Galaxy of Pen and Paper is the latest release from Brazil-based Behold Studios, makers of fine entertainment software like Knights of Pen and Paper and Chroma Squad. We first met Saulo Camarotti at SxSW a few years back, where he was showing off a beta build of Chroma Squad. Saulo graciously provided us a review key of GoPaP prior to release, and I've been zipping around the galaxy questing like a crazy person since. Find out what I learned in our Galaxy of Pen and Paper review!
Read more ›
]]>
Galaxy of Pen and Paper is the latest release from Brazil-based Behold Studios, makers of fine entertainment software like Knights of Pen and Paper and Chroma Squad. We first met Saulo Camarotti at SxSW a few years back, where he was showing off a beta build of Chroma Squad. Saulo graciously provided us a review key of GoPaP prior to release, and I’ve been zipping around the galaxy questing like a crazy person since. Find out what I learned in our Galaxy of Pen and Paper review!

Judging by its title (always a safe bet!) Galaxy of Pen and Paper could be considered something of a sequel to Knights of Pen and Paper. That was a fun game. Okay, review done!

Seriously, though, if you haven’t played Knights, both of these games follow a similar formula. They both harken back to the glory days of tabletop roleplaying, where your party members were actual humans that were physically (or virtually) sitting across a table from you. The “game master” would come up with a story and a scenario to play. How that story plays out is heavily influenced by the players and how they feel their characters would act in the situations the game master sets up.

If you couldn’t guess from their titles, the settings are a bit different. Knights focused more on the “fantasy” realms of traditional Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying. Galaxy is set in space, and features a lot of influences and cameos from a wide range of pop-culture sci-fi icons. The references are everywhere, from things like Hitchhiker’s Guide and Doctor Who to Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan.

It seems to be a running theme with Behold Studios’ games that there are multiple layers to their narratives. In the case of Galaxy of Pen and Paper, there are events happening in the game’s “real world,” plus events happening in the game’s “game world.” For instance, sometimes the game is interrupted because one of your characters’ computers disconnected from the internet. Or the game master’s mom comes barging in during a boss fight, causing some wacky misunderstandings. While the game’s “real world” is often obviously more mundane, the two worlds have a tendency to mix as the story continues.

Combat in Knights had a real Dragon Quest vibe. Galaxy adds a few wrinkles, and the end result is more along the lines of Final Fantasy. PCs and NPCs take turns performing actions, and the last team standing is the victor. XP, cash, and occasional loot items are your reward for surviving, while death just means a quick trip to the medbay and some other minor penalties.

There are no random combat encounters in Galaxy of Pen and Paper. Any time you’re on a planet, you have the option of creating a battle with whatever local enemies you feel like pummeling. You can also structure your encounters into a wide array of quests, some of which don’t involve combat at all. The bonuses for quests are built in such a way that rewards trying a little bit of everything, which helps reduce the feeling of grinding until you burn out.

While I generally like the planet-based combat in Galaxy of Pen and Paper, it is occasionally rather slow. Enemies can have high HP and long animations that make whittling them down a bit of a chore at times. The difficulty also spikes and drops in weird ways. While you can make any regular encounter as hard or as easy as you like, the bosses are always at the same difficulty. It’s often unclear how powerful you need to be in order to beat the next boss. Usually the penalties for dying are minor, but occasionally a boss has been behind a long cutscene or a set of scripted encounters that take a while to plow through.

What’s a space game without space travel, though? Early in Galaxy of Pen and Paper, you unlock the ability to travel from planet to planet and system to system. There’s also space combat, where your ship is pitted against enemy vessels in a simple turn- and dice-based minigame. The space combat is just a little too simplistic for my taste, and aside from completing main plot quests, there’s not much way to improve your ship.

Galaxy of Pen and Paper
Links:Homepage, Steam, Google Play, iTunes
Release:7/27/2017
Price:$14.99 (PC), $4.99 (Mobile)
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

If you were a fan of Knights of Pen and Paper, picking up Galaxy of Pen and Paper is definitely worth it. Galaxy an upgrade to Knights in almost every way. Likewise, if you’re a fan of space sci-fi or old-school RPGs, Galaxy of Pen and Paper will treat you right. There are a couple of areas for improvement, but overall Galaxy is a ton of fun on PC or mobile!

Review Policy

]]>
https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/galaxy-pen-paper-review/feed/ 0 8752
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun Review https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/shadow-tactics-blades-shogun-review/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/shadow-tactics-blades-shogun-review/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 22:56:20 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8754 Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun took home our coveted "Best in Show Overall" award from SxSW Gaming 2017. Cons are a great place to get a quick demo of a game, and maybe a few impressions. Really, though, sinking your teeth into the full experience is the only way to truly know if a game is good or not. Luckily, with the console release of Shadow Tactics on the horizon, developers Mimimi Productions were nice enough to provide me with a review copy! Let's see if it lives up to my hype - read on for our Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun review!
Read more ›
]]>
You may recall that Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun took home our coveted “Best in Show Overall” award from SxSW Gaming 2017. Cons are a great place to get a quick demo of a game, and maybe a few impressions. Really, though, sinking your teeth into the full experience is the only way to truly know if a game is good or not. Luckily, with the console release of Shadow Tactics on the horizon, developers Mimimi Productions were nice enough to provide me with a review copy! Let’s see if it lives up to my hype – read on for our Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun review!

I may not be the hardest of the hardcore when it comes to stealth games, but I’m no slouch. My stealth game resume includes all of the Deus Ex games (including no-kill and no-aug achievements), all the Splinter Cell games (100% achievements on Blacklist, for instance), Assassin’s Creed (except for Unity, despite owning it, just heard bad things!), a few Metal Gear Solid runs, including 100% achievements for MGSV, indie titles like Invisible, Inc, Ronin, Gunpoint, and Volume… the list goes on and on, basically. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I have the T-shirt.

All of that is just so you believe me when I say: Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is effing hard. Trying to play it without getting spotted every 5 seconds makes it feel more like a puzzle game than an action game. I’ll spend hours trying to unravel a seemingly simple scenario where my team of ninja masters is up against maybe 5-10 guards with relatively simple AI.

“Hard” and “fun” have a complicated relationship. Many games that are punishingly hard aren’t fun for me. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun manages to be both hard and fun, though. One of the most important things Shadow Tactics does is it respects my time. Saving is fast, and loading is easy. Shadow Tactics will even remind you to save if it’s been a while – a timer starts to tick away indicating the amount of time you’ve been playing since the last time you quicksaved.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun also does a great job of informing you about what’s going on and where enemy weaknesses are. Enemy types are simple and straightforward, and it’s obvious who you’re up against and how they’re going to react if provoked. At any point, you can pull up the vision cone of any enemy. You can also place a marker that will tell you if a particular spot on the map is in an enemy’s field of view. As I played level after level, I slowly learned how to use all these tools to give myself an advantage.

Each of the characters in the game has different abilities, and learning how to use them is absolutely essential. Most of the time, you only have access to a subset of the character roster, so it’s also important to understand the various ways in which you can combine abilities to overcome complex enemy patterns.

There’s a really cool “Shadow Mode” that lets you queue up actions for each of your team to execute simultaneously. This lets you coordinate kills so that none of the guards have a chance to react, or to cause a distraction with one character while you’re actively controlling another.

The story in Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is very “pop culture historical Japan” – lots of ninjas and samurais and honor and rituals. There’s nothing super deep, but it’s fun, and provides an interesting backdrop to the throwing stars and samurai sword clashing.

Shadow Tactics can be as long a game as you want it to be. There are a total of 13 missions with 3 difficulty levels, plus a set of “medals” for each mission that will likely require multiple replays to unlock. The first run through each level took me a good couple of hours, although according to the speedrun goals, it’s possible to move much, much quicker.

I’ll try to pick nits about Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, but the truth is it is a very well done and highly polished game. Occasionally the camera does something I don’t want it to, but generally these incidents are rare. One of the characters has a pet tanuki that can lure enemies out of position or into traps, but making fine adjustments to his position are a bit painful since the reticle snaps back to his owner after you stop moving.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
Links:Homepage, Steam, Xbox One
Release:8/1/2017 (Console), 12/6/2016 (PC)
Price:$39.99
Rating: - UNBELIEVABLE!
Our Thoughts:

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is a masterpiece of hardcore stealth gaming. You’re constantly outnumbered and outgunned by enemies that react rather convincingly to your presence. It takes full mastery of the wide array of tools at your disposal to turn the tides. Success takes patience and cunning, but the reward is immensely satisfying.

Review Policy

]]>
https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/shadow-tactics-blades-shogun-review/feed/ 0 8754
Skills & Skill Points | C.A.T.S. Crash Arena Turbo Stars Guide https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cats-crash-arena-turbo-stars-guide-skills-and-skill-points/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cats-crash-arena-turbo-stars-guide-skills-and-skill-points/#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 22:40:20 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8737 C.A.T.S. - Crash Arena Turbo Stars are small boosts that can have a big effect on the way you play the game. However, they're hidden in a tiny menu and not really ever explained well in the game. Lucky for you, my C.A.T.S. - Crash Arena Turbo Stars Skills guide is here to fill in the missing information.
Read more ›
]]>
Skills in C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars are small boosts that can have a big effect on the way you play the game. However, they’re hidden in a tiny menu and not really ever explained well in the game. Lucky for you, my C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars Skills guide is here to fill in the missing information.

Skills in C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars can be accessed by tapping the little cat head silhouette in the upper right of the screen. Y’know, the one that kinda looks like a cat with sunglasses and a massive unibrow? That one. If you have skill points to spend, there will be a tiny number overlaid on the icon.

Earning and Spending Skill Points

Skills can grant a variety of passive benefits to your battles. More skills unlock as you move up in the Championship. Hitting certain in-game milestones awards you with points, notably moving up in the Championship gives you +1 skill point to spend.

Spending skill points is easy, once you find the menu. However, know that each rank of a skill increases the cost of getting it. My suggestion would be to apply your skill points broadly across many level 1 skills at first, before moving on to ranking up existing skills to level 2. Often times, the first rank of a skill is a bigger increase than going from rank 1 to rank 2.

The ‘Best’ Skills in CATS

The best skills in C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars is a very subjective thing. It all depends on how you play. Considering the many different ways to make the ‘best’ car from the ‘best’ parts in CATS, your style of play is likely to change over time as well. I suggest being careful about how you invest your skill points. Make sure you’re likely to need whatever that skill is in the future.

Unlocking All Skills

Given that there are so few skill points in CATS, you may be wondering: how do I unlock all the skills in CATS? Well, if you make it to the top of the Championship, you can reset to the bottom again (this is called “prestige” mode). You retain all your Skills and certain other stats, but you reset to the first Championship level and start again.

Over the course of multiple prestiges, it’s possible to unlock all the skills and max them out. But, it’s going to take a while!

That’s all for this guide – Return to the CATS Megaguide Index!

]]>
https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cats-crash-arena-turbo-stars-guide-skills-and-skill-points/feed/ 1 8737
Boxes & Crowns | C.A.T.S. Crash Arena Turbo Stars Guide https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cats-crash-arena-turbo-stars-guide-boxes-crowns/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cats-crash-arena-turbo-stars-guide-boxes-crowns/#respond Mon, 22 May 2017 22:40:14 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8733 C.A.T.S. - Crash Arena Turbo Stars, you need to earn an unlock boxes. Duh, right? But do you know what crowns are for and how to earn them? Have you been opening boxes super fast by watching videos? No? Maybe you should read this C.A.T.S. - Crash Arena Turbo Stars Boxes and Crowns guide. Just sayin'....
Read more ›
]]>
If you want more (and better) parts in C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars, you need to earn an unlock boxes. Duh, right? But do you know what crowns are for and how to earn them? Have you been opening boxes super fast by watching videos? No? Maybe you should read this C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars Boxes and Crowns guide. Just sayin’….

C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars: Boxes

Boxes are fundamental to the C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars gameplay loop. You use parts to build your car, that car fights other cars, and then you earn boxes with new parts to build a better car. So on, into eternity (or until your battery runs out).

There are a few different types of boxes out there. The simplest boxes are awarded from playing in the Quick Fight matchups. Every time you win 3 Quick Fight matches, you get a new box. However, you have a limited number of box slots, and these boxes take time to unlock.

You can skip the timers on the boxes by watching ads. Each ad takes 30 minutes off the opening time of the box. That means that if you’ve got an especially high tolerance for watching ads (and unlimited data on your phone, a charger, etc…) you can open ALL THE BOXES ALL THE TIME CONSTANTLY.

Pro Tip If you have multiple sources of entertainment (ie, a TV or game console, laptop, etc) you can always just let your phone/tablet watch ads. You just have to check in every 30 seconds or so. Even if you just start a new ad every commercial break during a show, you’re still drastically increasing the rate of box opening.

Other boxes are awarded for placement in C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars Championship or League play or can be bought for gems, but these boxes open immediately and do not require a box slot.

C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars: Crowns

Crowns in C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars are kind of a cool concept. You earn a crown for every 5 consecutive wins in Quick Fight mode. These crowns are then stuck on “standard” boxes in your box slots.

These crowns increase the level of an item in the box. Multiple crowns can be applied to the same box. It’s actually possible to get parts that are stronger than your Championship level with crowns.

If you’re wondering why you would want to play Quick Fight matches when your box slots are already full, look no further. Getting a quick 5-win streak in Quick Fight is a good way to “guarantee” at least one better item than you would have normally gotten. It can make the difference between a mediocre box of parts and a truly amazing one.

That’s all for this guide – Return to the CATS Megaguide Index!

]]>
https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cats-crash-arena-turbo-stars-guide-boxes-crowns/feed/ 0 8733
Best Parts & Builds | C.A.T.S. Crash Arena Turbo Stars Guide https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cats-crash-arena-turbo-stars-guide-best-parts-best-builds/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cats-crash-arena-turbo-stars-guide-best-parts-best-builds/#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 22:40:09 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8732 C.A.T.S. - Crash Arena Turbo Stars, you'll undoubtedly be wondering - "What are the best parts?" or "How do I build a better car that wins more?" That's where this guide comes in. In this C.A.T.S. - Crash Arena Turbo Stars guide, we'll talk about some common car styles, and how to properly equip yourself for maximum destruction.
Read more ›
]]>
Once you’ve mastered the basics of C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars, you’ll undoubtedly be wondering – “What are the best parts?” or “How do I build a better car that wins more?” That’s where this guide comes in. In this C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars guide, we’ll talk about some common car styles, and how to properly equip yourself for maximum destruction.

In my mind, most “good” car designs in C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars boil down into a few major categories. There are hybrid designs that incorporate more than one of these as well. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular categories, what parts are ideal for that category, and how to counter them.

Related Guides Need more parts? Check out our guide to boxes and crowns! Parts not awesome enough? Find out how to win in the Championship and level up your parts!

CATS Parts/Car Guide: Frontal Assault

The C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars Frontal Assault vehicle is all about getting up close and personal with the front bumper of the enemy car.

  • Best Body: Classic, Sneaky, Pyramid maybe Surfer
  • Best Weapons: Chainsaw, Stinger, Drill
  • Best Utility: Forklift, Boost

The general strategy here is to speed over to your enemy and ram them in the front as best you can. The weapons here are all constant damage, so the longer you stay in contact, the better.

Counter Strategy: A forklift can lift the front of a Frontal Assault car so that it isn’t in contact with your car anymore. Bonus points if you can flip them so that they’re entirely helpless! Boulders can also do crazy flips and get over a low car pretty easily.

CATS Parts/Car Guide: Ranged Fighter

The C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars Ranged Fighter is designed around… you guessed it… ranged weapons! The trick is to stay away from the enemy long enough that they take enough damage to overcome the slow rate of damage that ranged weapons are often famous for.

  • Best Body: Pretty much anything except the Boulder and Titan, which are both prone to tipping/flipping
  • Best Weapons: Laser, Rocket, Double Rocket
  • Best Utility: Repulse, Forklift, Backpedal

Here, you’re mainly focused on either staying at range or making it so that your enemy’s weapons can’t hit you. The Forklift is a workhorse here! You’ve got to be DOUBLE careful to avoid being flipped/pushed an angle, though, as you really need to have your weapons hitting the target for as long as possible.

Counter Strategy: Forklift is a common one, since especially with the laser it fires so slow that you can often deal enough damage between shots that you can overcome a significant attack or health disadvantage.

CATS Parts/Car Guide: BLADES OF DOOM

The C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars Blades of Doom build (mwahahaha) really revolves around the Blade weapon. It’s the only weapon that can do damage in a full area around your car – as long as you’re within range, you can deal damage even if you tip or roll!

  • Best Body: Boulder, Pyramid, maybe Titan
  • Best Weapons: BLADES! THERE ARE ONLY BLAAAADES!
  • Best Utility: Booster

The Boulder + the Booster is a level of insane above and beyond. It will flip around the arena, go over most body types, and spin blades of death all the way. The only downside is that it often ends up stuck on its back in a corner of the arena. If you can do enough damage during the initial push, or after the enemy returns to range, you can eke out a lot of wins!

Counter Strategy: The Titan can keep Boulders from ending up behind it, but the Titan often times gets knocked over and unable to fight. Since this build is all about getting close, a Repulse can really ruin its day.

CATS Parts/Car Guide: What are your favorite parts?

Surely there are some winning designs I have yet to test or encounter. What’s your most winning-est car in CATS? How did you design it? Let us know in the comments!

That’s all for this guide – Return to the CATS Megaguide Index!

]]>
https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cats-crash-arena-turbo-stars-guide-best-parts-best-builds/feed/ 1 8732