Without The Sarcasm https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com Insights. Analysis. Answers. Sat, 23 Jul 2016 17:16:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Kerbal Space Program (XB1) Review – Not Because They Are Easy https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/kerbal-space-program-xb1-review-mun/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/kerbal-space-program-xb1-review-mun/#respond Sat, 23 Jul 2016 17:16:47 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8335 Kerbal Space Program (often abbreviated KSP) is a rocketry and space simulation game that has been available in some form or another for the last 5 years. On PCs, Kerbal Space Program has been out of Early Access since April 2015. Now a console version of KSP is available for both PS4 and Xbox One. I got a review code for the Xbox One version, and after spending some quality time with a few Kerbals, I'm ready to weigh in. Stand by for launch - here comes my Kerbal Space Program Xbox One review.
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Kerbal Space Program (often abbreviated KSP) is a rocketry and space simulation game that has been available in some form or another for the last 5 years. On PCs, Kerbal Space Program has been out of Early Access since April 2015. Now a console version of KSP is available for both PS4 and Xbox One. I got a review code for the Xbox One version, and after spending some quality time with a few Kerbals, I’m ready to weigh in. Stand by for launch – here comes my Kerbal Space Program Xbox One review.

Kerbal Space Program is a complex, rather realistic simulation of the physics of rocketry and orbital mechanics. In it, your goal is to launch brave (and/or stupid) Kerbals into space and have them explore the solar system they inhabit. Depending on the mode you choose, Kerbal Space Program can be a sandbox for experimentation, or a more challenging space center simulation with research, budgets, missions, and other factors to consider.

Since Kerbal Space Program is such a huge game, I can’t really “beat it” before writing a review if I want that review to come out before the heat death of the universe. Thus, I stopped to write this review after completing all the tutorials and starting my own game, successfully launching a rocket that went to the Mun and landed safely.

Kerbal Space Program is divided into several different pieces. The two major ones are designing new spacecraft and piloting those craft to accomplish whatever goals you feel like making.

kerbal-space-program-xb1-review-spaceplane-hangar

The Vehicle Assembly Building and Spaceplane Hangar are where you’ll be designing your spacecraft. Craft can be assembled by snapping parts together, and then organizing those parts into stages that can be deployed during flight. There are a few starter designs in each building, but making your own is just a matter of snapping the various parts together in whatever arrangement works for you (and hopefully flies…).

3… 2… 1… Contact!

Once you’ve assembled your space craft, you can wheel it out to launch it. From here, you can take direct control of the craft, determining when to burn engines and what direction to fly. There’s a sort of autopilot that can assist you in keeping the craft pointed in certain directions, or just stabilizing the flight and keeping you from overshooting turns or spinning out of control.

From here, the sky’s the limit! Well, I guess the sky’s not really much of a limit, considering the fact that you’re strapping into a giant rocket…

kerbal-space-program-xb1-review-maneuver-planning

From here, the edge of known space is the limit! With a good knowledge of physics and orbital mechanics you can go anywhere you like. You can establish orbit over Kerbin (KSP’s Earth), and then set a course for the nearby moon (fittingly named the Mun), or any of the other planets and moons in the solar system. You can enter orbit around another planet or object, and land on it if you want to. Send your kerbonauts out to explore, plant a flag, claim a whole swath of otherworldly goodness!

kerbal-space-program-xb1-review-mun-landing

The physics might be daunting to new players – there’s a lot of terminology and precision required to understand it all. For instance, in order to get into orbit, you’ve got to max out your thrust until you’re going around 100 m/s relative to Kerbin’s surface. Then you’ve got to perform a gravity turn to get into an orbital trajectory. Next, at your apoapsis, burn prograde to move your periapsis up until you’re in a circular orbit.

Now you can add a maneuver node to intercept another stellar body. Burn prograde again to move your craft into the sphere of influence of the other object, and then when you arrive, burn retrograde to get into a tight orbit. From here, you can move your periapsis close to the surface, then burn retrograde to execute the reverse operation of the gravity turn to exit Kerbin atmosphere. Then, slow to a safe landing velocity and touch down, hopefully on your lander’s legs.

But that’s just the start! If you want to get home, you’ll probably have to do an orbital rendezvous with the engine you left in orbit before maneuvering back into Kerbin orbit, descending through the atmosphere, and deploying the parachute to stop yourself before you splat into the ground or water.

Oh, and keep an eye on your fuel. Chances are you’re going to run out and strand someone someplace in the cold, dark reaches of space.

You Lost Me at “Apoapsis”

kerbal-space-program-xb1-review-tutorial

If this all sounds a bit daunting, have hope! There’s a whole set of tutorials in-game that walk you through some of the more complicated maneuvers that make up most of the major activities in the game. In its early days, Kerbal Space Program was more about trial and error – you could spend weeks just trying to land on the Mun, for instance. These tutorials speed that process up considerably, and within a few hours you should understand the basic steps required to get there.

For “trial-and-error purists,” these tutorials may seem like they shortcut a lot of the challenge of Kerbal Space Program, and perhaps rob players of some of the feelings of accomplishment you get from finally nailing a tricky sequence of steps. On the other hand, these tutorials don’t do a perfect job of explaining things or holding your hand. Some of them I had to repeat a bunch of times before I figured out the parts I wasn’t being told, or before I was able to figure out precisely what the directions were telling me to do.

What’s Different in the Xbox One Version of Kerbal Space Program?

All of this is basically stock Kerbal Space Program. If you’ve never played it before, hopefully you get the basics of the game. What is probably interesting to most people is “should I buy the PC version or the Xbox One version?”

The Xbox One version is basically a straight-up port of the PC version. There’s not a lot of new stuff added that I could determine. The base feature set seems identical between the two. One notable addition is Xbox achievements, which is kind of surprising considering the devs don’t seem to think achievements in KSP are a good idea.

kerbal-space-program-xb1-review-achievements

This being a straight up port, Kerbal Space Program still seems optimized for higher resolution displays and keyboard/mouse input. Many of the tutorials pop up windows that cover most of the screen, and sometimes obscure important informational dialogs. The text can sometimes be small and fuzzy at TV viewing distances. Reliance on the controller for input is occasionally frustrating when trying to make precise movements, or when multiple actions are bound to the same button when pressed in different combinations/ways.

A lot of this can be worked around, for instance the popup text blocks can be moved by moving the cursor over them and holding the A button. Holding one of the bumper buttons down slows the cursor movement, which makes precise movements a bit easier. I figured a lot of these things out on my own, although there is a “help” function that shows the button bindings while flying.

Another concern is how often the Xbox One version gets updated relative to the PC version. Right now, the Xbox One version is at 1.1.0 where the PC version is on 1.1.3. That’s not nearly as bad as some games (Team Fortress 2, I’m looking at you…), but keeping it updated is going to be a long term problem. We won’t know what the patch landscape looks like until months or even years from now.

Yet another thing to consider is mod support. Right now there doesn’t seem to be support for mods in the Xbox One version of Kerbal Space Program, which locks a lot of community-created content out from Xbox One players. Xbox One has mods on other games – like Fallout 4, so perhaps this is a feature that will eventually be possible. However, I can’t find any official word on when or if this is planned.

kerbal-space-program-xb1-review-lander

Performance-wise, the Xbox One version isn’t without its share of issues. While flying, I often experienced a lot of frame drops and lag when switching to and from the map. I’ve had the game crash on me one time, and ran into a few glitches where stuff like auto-warping and maneuver settings didn’t work until I exited the game and reloaded. Given that Kerbal Space Program is a game that is still being actively developed, a bug or two isn’t that surprising. I can’t say it seriously negatively impacted my experiences. However, depending on the aforementioned post-launch patch support, it’s not clear what the timetable is for bugfixes.

Kerbal Space Program (Xbox One)
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:7/15/2016
Price:$39.99
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

Kerbal Space Program is an easy game to recommend to anyone curious about physics, rocketry, orbital mechanics, or anyone who wants to shoot off rockets and blow stuff up. If you’re seriously considering the Xbox One port, I have to assume you can’t play the PC version – so keep that in mind when looking at the score. The Xbox One version isn’t the best way to get Kerbal Space Program compared to the PC version, but if your options are “Xbox One” or “Not at All,” I wholeheartedly suggest picking it up.

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Zombie Night Terror: Living up to the Zombie Hype https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/zombie-night-terror-living-zombie-hype/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/zombie-night-terror-living-zombie-hype/#respond Thu, 21 Jul 2016 04:16:02 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8323
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Recently I got to sit down with Zombie Night Terror from developer NoClip, a game that previously got high praise from WOTS when we saw an early build at PAX. The game is now finished and released, and with more time to play it was quite and undead feast.

Zombie Night Terror Zombies

Undead Lemmings

The concept of Zombie Night Terror is Lemmings-style zombie mass management without as much focus on individuals. You will often “break a few eggs”, but that’s okay because zombies are surprisingly good team players when it is for the greater evil. “Undead Lemmings” as a concept is great right off the bat, as the vast timespan since the last Lemmings game I played make the experience ripe for nostalgia. I was pleased to see as an example that early in the game you unlock several forms of zombie “suicide” that are actually strategically beneficial – and I recalled 99 Lemming levels of the past where I would nuke them all just for the satisfaction of the popcorn explosions.

Zombie Night Terror Gameplay

Nature Finds a Way

Zombie Night Terror goes far beyond scratching old itches (and facilitating worker explosions) – it does a great job of rethinking previous tropes of “blockers” and “climbers” to make them thematically fit as zombies. Zombie jobs take the form of evolutions, which can lead to a temporary or permanent change in behavior. These mechanics get layered as the story progresses so that for example the “blocker” Overlords can also confer the ability to run fast or jump. This layering ends up creating multiple solutions to a lot of problems, which helps to keep the puzzle aspect of the game fun without oppressive difficulty. There are also challenges for each level which incentivize replay and exploring different solutions. At its core the evolution mechanic is awesome and the core of what makes the game fun. After the first few disemboweling Overlord transformations, you’ll be mutating zombies like its going out of style… and these zombies have excellent style.

Zombie Night Terror Challenge

That One Thing

Some sophomoric dialogue, and a decent dose of pixel art T & A seem at times a little unnecessary. In fairness, the game harkens to a B horror movie vibe which is absolutely full of the exact same thing. I think the reason it is more noticeable is that at times you repeat scenes several times while perfecting a strategy, or you might sit in place reading dialog bubbles while you wait for your slow shuffling zombies to make their way to the next point of interest. In these moments you may groan a little at female upper body pixel physics or cheesy one-liners… or you may feel like you are watching Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombie. If you eyeroll when watching the more indulgent portions of horror movies you may do the same at times in Zombie Night Terror, but if that sort of thing doesn’t seriously push your buttons the gratuitous zombie mayhem will usually put it out of your mind.

Zombie Night Terror
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:7/20/2016
Price:$12.99
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

You know all those Lemmings you killed? They’ve risen from the dead, and now they are even more awesome in Zombie Night Terror.

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DubWars Review: All About That Bass https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/dubwars-review-bass/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/dubwars-review-bass/#respond Tue, 19 Jul 2016 13:00:42 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8309
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DubWars Gameplay 2 While we were at RTX 2016, we stumbled upon a lot of indie gems for the first time. One example that really jumped out at me was DubWars, a twin stick shooter with a musical twist. Instead of controlling your weapon systems, in DubWars they are completely controlled by the sounds and beats of the games intense EGM soundtrack. The quick look we got at RTX left me eager to dive deeper into dual stick dub town, and now that I’ve had a little more time with it I can say it definitely lives up to the phat beats.

DubWars Swamp Level

An Epic Origin Story

Originally release for the Ouya developer Mura Interactive shortly thereafter held a Kickstarter that got funded in July 2013 as well as getting successfully “Greenlit” on Steam. When I look at the Ouya version and the later PC Demos I’m amazed at how far the game has come graphically during development. Some of the same awesome dubstep tracks have been with the game since the beginning, but the polished visuals do a lot to crank the experience to 11.

DubWars Gameplay

Being “One” with the Dub

While I’ve listened to the occasional Salmonella Dub or Odesza I would definitely not characterize myself as an EGM expert. Even still, I have a great appreciation for the genre, and seeing DubWars for the first time made me wonder why it feels under represented in games of any type. Regardless, if ever there was a game for EGM – it is DubWars. Each level features a track from a different artist, and even as someone not deeply steeped in the genre I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. During our chat at RTX, Jonathan from publisher Wobbl3, explained that connecting with and celebrating the artists is big goal of the game – and it shows. Each level starts out with a bio for the featured artist, and there is even an acheivement for reading them. This is a really cool way to discover new music, and DubWars lists all the details if you want to head over to iTunes or SoundCloud and hear more.

This guy is begging for a bass laser to the face

This guy is begging for a bass laser to the face

DubWars wouldn’t be much without awesome graphics and effects, but luckily this is where the game shines the most. The levels manage to be highly frenetic and still visually appealing at the same time. About five levels in I encountered “Tough Guy”, which includes a central rotating-laser-of-death and a spinning visual tunnelling effect similar to the Death Start trench run. Executing perfect evasions and firing back at just the right moment when the base drops feels epic and makes you feel that much more connected to what is already a really powerful soundscape.

DubWars Upgrades

Finishing the Set

There are a few things about DubWars that were a bit confusing at first. Upgrades are explained only with an icon that gives a rough idea of the kind of weapon it will improve.

Pro Tip Since at first you don’t know which weapons will be used most in a level, its a good idea to not spend too many Wubs until you’ve figured out what you’ll be using most.

The level select screen also doesn’t make it very clear how to unlock new levels, and at some point you may feel that you are stuck and can’t progress. In fact, there are “portals” that open at the end of certain levels, and it matters which one you choose if you want to unlock a different level.

These small things aside, the music and the experience will keep you coming back. Upgrades, difficulty tiers, achievements, and high scores all give you a reason for a lot of replays if the awesome soundtrack wasn’t reason enough.

DubWars
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:7/19/2016
Price:$19.99
Rating: - UNBELIEVABLE!
Our Thoughts:

If you like music games and have the slightest interest in EGM or Dubstep music you’ve got to check DubWars out. Using wub-wubs to defeat your incinerate your enemies is so entertaining you’ll be spraying bass-lasers for hours and hours.

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Top 4 Clash Royale Tournament Tips to Win Top Spots https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/top-4-clash-royale-tournaments-tips-win-top-spots/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/top-4-clash-royale-tournaments-tips-win-top-spots/#respond Sat, 16 Jul 2016 15:37:37 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8300
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Clash Royale Tournament As part of the latest update SuperCell added Clash Royale Tournament, and after a week of clashing it up we’re ready to share our Top 4 Clash Royale Tournament tips, along with some bonus pro tips along the way. Enjoy!

1. Finding a Tournament

One of the first things that can be kind of a challenge if you don’t want to create your own Clash Royale Tournament is actually finding a tournament to play in. At least as of SuperCell’s initial release it seems finding tournaments is pretty easy but they are all full. To some extent this unavoidable and secretly a good thing since the games popularity is ultimately good to keep the community thriving, but it can be a bummer when you just want to get a match. The trick that I’ve found works best is to just repeatedly mash the “magnifying glass” icon with no search terms, and keep trying to join the very first tournament you find.

Pro Tip You can leave a Clash Royale Tournament at any time by pressing the blue info icon on the leaderboard page and choosing “Leave Tournament”. If you spam your way into a tourney you don’t want to be in, just leave and try again. Ideally, try and find a tournament with a time duration and enough time left that you can get in enough matches for a top spot.

Tournament Rules

2. Tournament Rules

The Clash Royale Tournament meta is extremely different. To an extent, P2W players don’t have as big of an advantage since level caps are signficantly reduced. In reality what this means is that Rares and Epics that are maxed tend to face off better against Commons. The Royal Giant in particular feels much weaker, but other noteable Commons like Goblins and Zap will also be a known quantity that can’t win on level alone.

Pro Tip Clash Royale Tournament Rules also mean an especially long 3 minute Overtime. This tends to favor “beat down” decks that benefit from the 2x Elixir in Overtime, but it can also mean that “chip” damage from troops like Goblins and Fire Spirits can add up to a downed tower. With weaker RGs, defensive buildings like Inferno Tower and Hidden Tesla can help to prevent chip damage and possibly distract beat down troops while you build a counter attack.

Big Log Tournament

3. A Spectator Sport

A surprising amount of info can be gained by sizing up your competition before you wade into battle. If your Clash Royale Tournament is long enough, or if you’ve got some time to kill while you wait for it to start – look at your opponents decks and see what is popular. Pay particular attention to the “Cards won” stat on each players profile. If they’ve got a large number, chances are that they’ll be a contender.

Once things get started, try to spectate the folks at the top to learn their decks and how they play them. If one of the big guys is playing a combo you don’t defend well against, either make adjustments or try to avoid them.

Pro Tip While you are spectating one of the big matches, if you see a top player that you’ve got your eye on, wait till their match is over or almost over and then queue up. A surprisingly large portion of the time, this will guarantee you a match with them – giving you a chance to steal some big trophies.

Clash Royale Tournament Bracket

4. Hold em/Fold em/Walk/Run/Etc

An interesting nuance of the Clash Royale Tournament trophy system is that when you start you have nothing to lose, but the more you play the less you have to gain while your risk of losing reaches a maximum. Keep an eye on the time left, and who your chief competition is. If there is an opponent you don’t want to face, try to only match up when they are already in a match. When you are in the spot you are shooting for and you have a good lead on the next closest opponent, stop playing. Opponents will get anywhere from a few trophies all the way up to 40 for a big win, but if you have a 70-100 advantage you’ll be pretty hard to over take once time is short. This is not the bravest way to play, but hey – a win is a win.

Do you know any Clash Royale tournament tips that we missed? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Infinium Strike Review: To Infinium & Beyond https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/infinium-strike-review-infinium-beyond/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/infinium-strike-review-infinium-beyond/#respond Thu, 14 Jul 2016 20:00:34 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8220 Infinium Strike puts you in the captain's chair of humanity's last hope - the battlecarrier Freedom Strike. Aliens, man. It's always aliens. They've come to destroy us, like for reals. Us puny humans have mostly lost the war, but we managed to discover the secrets of a material called "Infinium" that has all sorts of nifty properties. With it, we're able to strike back (get it?) and perhaps deal a killing blow to the Wrog. If tower-defense games keep you up all night, you really should learn more about Infinium Strike. Lucky for you, we're just about to start my Infinium Strike review!
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Infinium Strike puts you in the captain’s chair of humanity’s last hope – the battlecarrier Freedom Strike. Aliens, man. It’s always aliens. They’ve come to destroy us, like for reals. Us puny humans have mostly lost the war, but we managed to discover the secrets of a material called “Infinium” that has all sorts of nifty properties. With it, we’re able to strike back (get it?) and perhaps deal a killing blow to the Wrog. If tower-defense games keep you up all night, you really should learn more about Infinium Strike. Lucky for you, we’re just about to start my Infinium Strike review!

Tower defense games are another broad genre with a lot of different gameplay tweaks that can make games feel significantly different from one another. Infinium Strike‘s take on this formula is that your job is to defend the Freedom Strike by outfitting its various weapon hardpoints on the fly, from salvage you find from destroying Wrog ships. Wave after wave of Wrog are incoming, and the only thing stopping them is Freedom’s defenses.

infinium-strike-review-cutscene

There are a lot of cool tactical options in Infinium Strike. In addition to choosing your defensive turrets from a set of around 10 different, unique options, there’s a lot of other elements to consider. For instance, as you level Freedom Strike up, you unlock various “TSF SuperTech” abilities. These abilities each have a cooldown, but are otherwise free to use. They can really save your bacon in a tricky firefight by taking the pressure off or restoring your defenses. Properly timing the “Super Salvage” ability is also key to keeping ahead of the power curve.

Additionally, there are “fleet points” that accumulate over time, which can be traded in to launch drones to help deal with stubborn enemies and incoming projectiles. If you let these accumulate, you can use them to upgrade your drones, making them cheaper and more effective. Knowing when to stockpile and when to deploy can make or break a Wrog invasion.

The turrets themselves each have a “sector” they’re capable of being effective in, and the Freedom Strike is divided into four quadrants. This means there’s technically 12 zones of engagement. Wrog ships warp in from sector 3, and move towards the ship until they reach their desired combat range. Some weapons can hit multiple sectors, while some prefer a particular type of ship. If two or more of the same type of turret are placed together, they do bonus damage. Strategic deployment of defenses is therefore critical.

infinium-strike-review-advanced-combat

All of this, blended together, makes for a very satisfying and deep tower defense experience. There are a lot of interesting tradeoffs to consider, and many different strategies to employ. To its credit, Infinium Strike’s UI does a good job of keeping you apprised of Freedom Strike’s status and what is going on in each sector. I never felt overwhelmed by the amount of information it provided, and getting into the groove with the various HUD indicators makes the game feel manageable.

However, I’ve got some complaints to level at Infinium Strike. One thing I’ll get out of the way is that the campaign is really rather short. There’s only 10 levels, although there are three difficulty settings. I guess you could say there are 30 then, but that’s a bit of a stretch for me. Every level basically boils down to “kill Wrog, upgrade the Freedom Strike, try not to die.” The actual objectives vary slightly, but they don’t drastically change the way levels play out.

infinium-strike-review-difficulty-levels

The other complaint I have is in the presentation. Don’t get me wrong – Infinium Strike looks fine. It’s just that there’s a lot of emphasis placed on moving the camera around to see the fight from various angles. The most useful tactical view is right off the bows of the ship, and there are quick camera views for each of the four quadrants. However, a lot of keyboard and controller real estate is dedicated to moving the camera around. When enemies are attacking from all sides and seconds matter, stopping for a pretty view of the alien cruiser that is shoving missiles up your butt is not high on the priority list. It’s a bit like playing a shooter and having an analog stick dedicated to moving the camera around to get a more cinematic angle on the action.

infinium-strike-review-cinematic-camera

On top of that, often you’re fighting mostly black enemies on a mostly black background. It can be tough to pick out enemy units at times, or to understand what enemies you’re up against until it’s a bit late to start reacting. Sometimes enemies or their missiles will move out of the default camera field of view. The variety of enemies also means you’ve got to try to learn each enemy’s attack pattern, the type of weapon they fire, and the correct anti-alien weapon to deploy. I found myself building the same turrets on all sides of Freedom Strike, once I found a combo that was generally useful against most threats.

Infinium Strike
Links:Homepage, Store Page, Free Demo
Release:7/14/2016
Price:$0.00
Rating: - Good
Our Thoughts:

Infinium Strike brings a lot of meaty choices to bear when dealing with the Wrog menace. It’s never frustrating to keep track of everything, despite the tactical depth. However, I really feel like the emphasis on cinematic camera angles and black-on-black enemy design detracts from the fun.

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Crush Your Enemies Review: What Would Conan Do? https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/crush-enemies-review/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/crush-enemies-review/#respond Wed, 13 Jul 2016 20:00:41 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8216
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Crush Your Enemies is one of a few games we saw at the Gambitious booth at PAX South, where the viking-helmet adorned team from Vile Monarch was on hand to ease us into the world of barbarianism. A couple months later, I scored a pre-release build of the game and streamed it. Now, the full version is available at the usual digital storefronts. I’ve had early access to the final release for a few weeks now, so I’ve done a lot of crushing! Now I’m ready to report on Crush Your Enemies in my full review!

Crush Your Enemies is a 2-D top-down grid-based real time strategy (RTS) game. The RTS genre boasts a wide range of sub-genres and there are tons of different ways for a game to make its own mark. Crush Your Enemies hews closest to games like Galcon with its core concepts.

Each level is divided up into square regions. These regions can be claimed by your team or your enemies. You can’t cross an enemy region without first claiming it, which takes time. Units are produced automatically at huts on special squares. The more barbarians there are in a hut, the faster it produces. However, the max stack on a particular tile is capped at 50.

When your army meets an enemy army on the field, they get to crushin’. Generally speaking, numerical advantages hold the day. However, other special buildings on the map can outfit your generic barbarians with more powerful weapons and equipment. Stepping on one of these immediately changes the class of an entire stack of units.

crush-your-enemies-review-complex-combat

The core of the game revolves around managing your various stacks of units, moving around the map, and trying to capture strategic squares and/or buildings. Keeping the right balance of units and classes is key to victory, and moving your barbs around to take advantage of territory adds to the strategic depth.

The art in Crush Your Enemies evokes a sort of 16-bit aesthetic. The relatively small size of each level, coupled with the low res graphics gives the game an initial impression of simplicity. However, Crush Your Enemies quickly becomes devilishly complex and deeply strategic. Fixed crossbow towers, archers, giant slugs, beer as a currency… there’s a lot of depth here.

The levels in Crush Your Enemies are arrayed in order of difficulty, with a plot that ties all the crushing together and periodic challenging side missions to undertake. The campaign is divided into two halves. Each half is quite lengthy, and each mission can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes to complete, depending on how anal you get about getting all the optional objectives.

crush-your-enemies-review-objectives

The plot is very stereotypical “manly man raaaar war!” – beer and violence and so on. It’s very appropriate to the whole barbarian theme, and it never takes itself all that seriously. The second half introduces a lot of additional mechanics, and throughout the game new riffs and ideas are incorporated. The end result is a game that doesn’t wear out its welcome.

crush-your-enemies-review-manly-men

In addition to a pair of single-player campaigns, there’s also a multiplayer mode where you can challenge your friends and see who is the better enemy crusher.

My main complaint with Crush Your Enemies is that it can often be tricky to manage and keep track of all the various stacks of units that are in play at any one time. The CPU is often moving several units at once, whereas it generally takes two or three clicks for me to get things moving on my end. I would like to see a “slow motion” mode where I can take a bit longer to think. (Thankfully, for times when you just need to wait, there is a fast forward option.)

In the second campaign in particular, the AI sometimes has a tough time coping with the resource management aspect of the game. For instance, if it is very weak, it will send all its troops to harvest meat, and leave none behind to recruit new barbarians. I’ve gotten into several occasions where I won a major skirmish against it, only to find that it was basically in a state where it couldn’t recover.

Crush Your Enemies
Links:Homepage, Steam
Release:7/13/2016
Price:$9.99
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

Crush Your Enemies is a terrific strategy game that proves that RTS games don’t need to be huge in terms of scale and complexity in order to be fun. The Steam version is a worthy addition to any library, but I personally think this is a great “on the go” RTS that fits perfectly on your phone or tablet.

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SteamWorld Heist Review: Grand Theft Bot-o https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/steamworld-heist-review-grand-theft-bot-o/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/steamworld-heist-review-grand-theft-bot-o/#respond Sun, 10 Jul 2016 01:20:02 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8291 SteamWorld Heist is the most recent game in the SteamWorld series from Image & Form games, a Swedish indie studio. I played (and thoroughly enjoyed) SteamWorld Dig, so I figured it was worth checking out Heist to see if Image & Form could do as good a job with Heist as they did with Dig. Heist feels more like a combination of XCOM, Worms, and Firefly. That's setting the bar high - does Heist clear it? Now that I've spent a couple dozen hours with Heist, I'm ready to pass judgement. Coming up next on Without the Sarcasm is my SteamWorld Heist review!
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SteamWorld Heist is the most recent game in the SteamWorld series from Image & Form games, a Swedish indie studio. I played (and thoroughly enjoyed) SteamWorld Dig, so I figured it was worth checking out Heist to see if Image & Form could do as good a job with Heist as they did with Dig. Heist feels more like a combination of XCOM, Worms, and Firefly. That’s setting the bar high – does Heist clear it? Now that I’ve spent a couple dozen hours with Heist, I’m ready to pass judgement. Coming up next on Without the Sarcasm is my SteamWorld Heist review!

SteamWorld Heist is best described as a tactical, turn-based strategy game. In terms of combat mechanics, it reminds me a lot of games like XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Wasteland 2. Unlike those games, though, Heist takes place from a 2D perspective. If you were just checking out a screenshot, you might even think it was some sort of robot battle platformer, but it’s completely not that at all.

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The other really major difference is that combat is more skill based and less luck based. In a game like XCOM, you can be standing right next to an enemy and you might only have a 80% chance to hit. Whether or not your soldier lands their shot is just a roll of the dice. In SteamWorld Heist, you manually aim your bots’ shots. There’s a little bit of “sway” in the aiming, much like when firing a sniper rifle in a first person shooter. However, you’re responsible for lining up the shot and when to pull the trigger. In some ways, combat in SteamWorld: Heist feels a bit like playing Worms.

While there are exceptions (rocket launchers, for example), most bullets can be ricocheted off of walls. Sharpshooter weapons even have a long-range laser sight that shows where your shot will hit and how it will bounce. This leads to some crazy awesome moments where you can tear up enemies who think they’re well defended with epic trick shots off of walls and cover.

The plot in SteamWorld Heist is very Firefly-esque. A band of well-intentioned “cowbots” finds themselves at odds with both the government and the pirates that rule the space near what is left of Earth. As they butt heads with each faction, they uncover threads of more sinister goings-on in their neck of space. In the end, it’s up to our heroes to save all steambot kind from certain destruction.

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Each crewmember in SteamWorld Heist is a unique character with different skills and weapon preferences. Some specialize in melee or close quarters combat, others prefer sniper rifles or heavy weapons. Despite the fact that they’re all grouped into broad classes, each ‘bot gets unique bonuses at level up that make them distinctive.

Clearing missions awards loot, “gallons” (water is the game’s currency), and XP for the ‘bots that participated in the mission. Loot can take the form of new weapons, new accessory items, or shiny new hats. There’s a wide array of each in the game, especially hats. Sure, the other two groups of loot actually improve your character’s stats, but who can say no to owning Cloud’s hair from Final Fantasy 7, or Professor Layton’s hat?

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The campaign in SteamWorld Heist takes a good chunk of time to complete. There’s somewhere on the order of about 60 missions, and several different difficulty levels you can switch between at will. On top of that, most levels are procedurally generated every time you play. On top of that, there’s a new game plus mode after the game is over.

The presentation of SteamWorld Heist is just as good as SteamWorld Dig. The same cartoony art style is in full effect, and the bots and their foes animate fluidly. The music is awesome, with tracks by Steam Powered Giraffe featured in the game’s bars.

Around this point in the review, I’d get all up in arms about whatever flaws were just too hard to ignore. However, I can’t find any major flaws in SteamWorld Heist. It’s just a great game. It’s easily the most fun turn-based tactical combat I’ve played in quite some time, and I play a lot of these games. The unique abilities of each character, plus the manual aiming and procedural generation of levels means that each new enemy encounter is fresh and interesting.

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In addition to the base game, Image & Form was nice enough to provide me with a Steam key for the Outsider DLC. This $4.99 add-on includes a new crewmember (Fen), along with a bunch of new items (MOAR HATS!), plus new missions that weave into the main campaign. It’s definitely worth a few bucks extra to add it to your SteamWorld Heist experience.

Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:6/7/2016
Price:$19.99
Rating: - UNBELIEVABLE!
Our Thoughts:

SteamWorld Heist takes elements of tactical strategy and blends it with skill-based combat. The resulting combination is (like the robots it features) more than the sum of its parts. On top of that, Steamworld Heist is polished to a gleaming shine. Do yourself a favor and play this game.

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Pyre Preview: The Next SuperGiant Masterpiece? https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/pyre-preview-next-supergiant-masterpiece/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/pyre-preview-next-supergiant-masterpiece/#respond Sat, 09 Jul 2016 17:34:09 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8278
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Pyre Logo While we were at RTX 2016 this year we got to spend some quality time with a demo of Pyre from SuperGiant Games. If you’ve read many of our previous reviews, you’ll know that we are big SuperGiant fans.

SuperGiant Changes

The concept for Pyre is quite divergent from Bastion and Transistor, and according to Michael from SuperGiant making games that are unique and have one word names are both goals of the developer. Pyre will be a single player experience with beautiful visuals like its predecessors, but that looks to be just about the end of the similarities.

Pyre Story In Pyre, players will take on the role of the “Reader” – a sort of “puppet master” that can control the games fighting sequences from afar by directing the other characters in the party. “Reading” is a rare talent in the world of Pyre, but it seems to involve more than just basic literacy. I can’t recall ever controlling a 3 vs 3 magic sportsball event just by cracking a book, but that is exactly what “reading” in Pyre entails and it looks like players will be doing a lot of it. In fact, these competitive “Rites” are central to the games plot as well – since they offer the games protagonists, the Exiles, an escape which they desperately seek. They aren’t alone, and freedom can only be won by repeated victories in Rites versus other Exiles.

Pyre Rites Gameplay

From Downtown!

SuperGiant explained that players will be able to choose from various characters throughout the game to craft unique teams and as we played the demo there appeared to be a pretty substantial skill tree for each of them as well. While I was waiting to play the demo, Michael and some of the other SuperGiant staff introduced the concept of the Rites through various amusing comparisons such as “Diablo meets NBA Jam” or “DOTA meets Rocket League“. I think that is pretty close to what it feels like, but I’d throw in Destiny’s Rift multiplayer mode, as another similar comparison. As the Reader, you control the Exiles and attempt to carry the “Orb” into the the opposing teams titular “Pyre”. Antagonist AI Exiles attempt to steal the Orb, or vaporize your Exiles, or both – and the action heats up pretty quickly.

Pyre Art

Familiar Feelings

While Pyre appears divergent from SuperGiants previous titles, there are common threads that make me optimistic about what the game will become. Even in this first look at the game, the visuals and art aesthetic are breathtaking. The world of Pyre is a magical place that I want to experience and study in the same way that I read every backstory in Transistor or played all the way through new game plus in Bastion. The introductory characters are already pretty intriguing, and SuperGiant explained that the cast of characters in the game extends significantly beyond those three. The demo leaves me hungry to dig in deeper, but for now I’ll have to just mark my calendar for “some time in 2017”.

Pyre
Links:Homepage
Our Thoughts:

Bastion and Transistor create big shoes to fill, but the SuperGiant team seems to be at it again with Pyre. The art and lore have already got me hooked, and while the Rite “mini-game” seems a little weird, I predict it will end up “weird good” and not “weird bad” once we have the full game to experience it. Without a doubt, we’ll be lighting a lot of Pyres in 2017.

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Con Report: Best of RTX 2016! https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/con-report-best-rtx-2016/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/con-report-best-rtx-2016/#respond Fri, 08 Jul 2016 13:48:26 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8236
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This year we expanded our con-going to include the Rooster Teeth Expo, or RTX. It’s a bit smaller than PAX and SxSW, and the focus is more on the Rooster Teeth personalities than showing off a lot of games. However, we still drank in all the con floor games we could hold, plus a few extra for good measure. Now we’re ready to announce our Best in Show and Editor’s Choice winners for RTX 2016!

About the Awards

Whenever WOTS goes to a con, we find games that really speak to us. We try to bring those to your attention by finding our favorites and featuring them. Our categories often change from con to con, depending on what’s popular and what we feel is deserving of recognition. All of the games on this list are ones that you should check out – they’re our hand-picked suggestions after weeks of research and our extensive experiences at the con.

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Together, we decide on a “Best in Show” for a particular category, and then if there’s a particular game one of us wants to highlight, we’ll give that an “Editor’s Choice” award. Our highest honor is the “Shut Up and Take My Money” award, which we give to the game that we have already decided we MUST own.

Best Strategy Game

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Winner: Pit People

The Behemoth | Home

agent86 Pit People takes turn-based strategy and simplifies it, without removing the “fun” factor that complex strategy games have. In fact, they’ve managed to inject a lot more fun into the formula, in my opinion. I’m looking forward to spending more time getting to know my sweet, delicious cupcake companions. And not eating them. Definitely not biting into them and savoring their heavenly frosting. Nope.

EBongo I’m a long time fan of The Behemoth. The fun art style and potty humor the infuse all of their titles just works for me, and it seems to be translating well to a new genre with Pit People. Tactical strategy games can feel inaccessible to more casual players, but Pit People has implemented some cool ideas and systems that make it much more approachable than typical entries in the genre, and I think that paired with the games irreverent nature really made it stand out for me at the con.

Best Game Art

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Winner: Pyre

Supergiant Games | Home

agent86 Okay, this one is easy. Whenever Supergiant shows off a new game, it’s a shoe-in for best art. Pyre’s environments are rich and detailed, and its characters are imposing yet beautiful. Pyre’s one of those games where the concept art and the actual game art look just as good.

EBongo Pyre’s stark contrasts and bold colors make it immediately eye catching, but the more I played the demo the more I felt at home with what I’ve come to expect in the excellent artistry of SuperGiant games. Player animations and special abilities in the Rites sell the entire concept, and overworld shots in the Oregon Trail-style wagon are delicious eye candy to consume. My eyes are hungry just thinking about it.

Best New Concept

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Winner: A Duel Hand Disaster: TrackHer

Ask An Enemy Studios | Home

agent86 Wow, TrackHer is by far one of the most innovative concepts I’ve seen this year. We’ve seen some games where you have to manage two characters on the same controller (see: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons) or even games where you’re playing two different games at the same time (a la The World Ends With You), but this takes the concept of “dual wield” to a whole new level.

EBongo There are times that I feel incompetent with zero sticks as a gamer, and Trackher asks so much more of me. Despite a daunting control concept, the game is amazingly fun and challenging in the way that makes you keep trying again to improve. Trackher is fun to fail at in early attempts, but I expect the real joy will come with reaching a zen like “half-mind” state where you are somehow omnisciently aware of happenings on both screens simultaneously. That’s the brass ring, but as long as I can beat agent86ix at it, that will be fine too.

Editor’s Choice (EBongo): DubWars

Very much a worth a mention, DubWars brings the joys of the Saint’s Row IV Dub Step weapon to a twin stick space bullet hell. As I watched agent86ix and others play it I found the music as enjoyable as the destruction. Getting to know the tracks and anticipate when the fat beats are going to launch screen-clearing death rays is sure to be an enjoyable extension of just enjoying the music on its own merits. Awesome concept.

Best Party/Mayhem Game

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Winner: Battle Sloths

Invisible Collective | Home

agent86 Battle Sloths was one of those games where a round blows past you without you even noticing. There’s a ton of crazy weapons fire going all directions, and just when you think you have a lock on a few slices of pizza, some jerk with a rocket launcher ruins the whole thing.

EBongo Much in the vein of Knight Squad, Battle Sloths creates great mayhem moments. The weapons are often over the top, but the concept of militant hoverboarding sloths isn’t exactly mainstream in the first place. You win some, you lose some – but the ecstatic satisfaction of eating stolen sloth pizza is hard to describe in words.

Editor’s Choice (agent86): Jack Jack

I liked Jack Jack’s attention to balance. Each of the veggies you earn has an upside and a downside. You can use them on yourself, or pass them to your friends to “penalize” them. Knowing what to use on which “friend” when adds a lot of strategy to an otherwise pretty chaotic game. You’re basically playing two games at once, and knowing when to pay attention to one or the other is crucial to victory.

Best Mobile Game

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Winner: Looty Dungeon

Taco Illuminati | Home

agent86 EB has been selling me on this game for months! Months! I think he’s just been talking about it to rub in the fact that it was iOS only for quite a while. But soon, I’ll finally have a chance to play it on my Android device. The tiny taste of taco at RTX was a mere appetizer to the amount of looty I plan to embark upon.

EBongo Looty Dungeon takes everything about Cross Road and makes it better. Encounters feel more fair and less random, character differences matter, and there are freaking boss fights! Quests, achievements, and a million playable characters (including secret characters!) mean your iPhone needs this game to avoid shame and embarrassment when hanging out with its iPhone friends.

Best Co-Op

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Winner: Mother Russia Bleeds

Le Cartel & Devolver Digital | Home

agent86 Stopping at the Devolver booth is always a good time investment. We’ve seen some great games there, but this time around Mother Russia Bleeds caught our attention. It plays a lot like Final Fight but with more syringes jammed into eye sockets. Then I jammed that needle into my neck, and became super powerful. Just like real life!

EBongo Coming completely out of left field, Mother Russia Bleeds was a surprising delight to discover at the Devolver booth. agent86ix and I went from slight confusion about our drug-crazed objectives to merciless bludgeoning anything that moved in a matter of a few minutes. I’m not sure of the exact ethics behind sucking green fluid out of a convulsing opponent to gain super-human strength, but hey… sometimes you gotta break a few eggs…

The “Shut Up and Take My Money Award” for Best in Show Overall

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Winner: Pit People

The Behemoth | Home

agent86 There’s always a game that makes me sad when I get home after a con, simply because I have to wait to play it again. At RTX 2016, it was Pit People. I consoled myself by writing down everything I experienced. Now you can be happy/sad along with me. I think what calls to me most about Pit People is the crazy humor. I love the narration in this game, as I did in Battleblock Theater. The self-aware, 4th wall breaking zanyness makes me laugh every time!

EBongo Looking at the progression of The Behemoth’s games, it’s possible that it the levels of humor may eventually become damaging to my internal organs at this rate. That’s a risk I’m willing to take, and Pit People already tickled me with enough laugh out loud moments that I want to play through those scenes again with other friends just to hear the jokes again. It is really hard to pull off humor this good in a game, and Pit People manages it on top of an interesting light weight strategy style and tons of the unit customizations and fart jokes that fans of their games now expect. I can’t wait for “the bear” to crash into our frail planet any longer… shut up and take my money!

Editor’s Choice (EBongo): Pyre

Only just edged out by Pit People, Pyre still had an incredible showing that has me itching to sink my teeth further into the games plot, pageantry, and upgrade systems. Is the combat system a little weird, yeah I think so – but it is weird an innovative not-like-any-other-game way that makes me want to see where this thing goes… and now. 2017 needs to get here ASAP, because I have a lot of Spheres that needs to be slammed into Pyres. Its where they belong.

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Pit People Impressions from RTX 2016! https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/pit-people-preview/ https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/pit-people-preview/#respond Wed, 06 Jul 2016 01:23:39 +0000 https://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=8223 Pit People, a co-op turn-based strategy game that is going into closed beta on Xbox One this August. We got a chance to talk to Megan from The Behemoth, as well as play a lengthy co-op demo of Pit People! Come check out what we learned!
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While at RTX 2016, EBongo and I spent a considerable amount of time at The Behemoth’s booth. Their latest game is Pit People, a co-op turn-based strategy game that is going into closed beta on Xbox One this August. We got a chance to talk to Megan from The Behemoth, as well as play a lengthy co-op demo of Pit People! Come check out what we learned!

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Pit People is a turn-based strategy game, which seems like a bit of a departure for The Behemoth. All of their previous games have been a bit more action oriented. However, Megan pointed out that each new game from The Behemoth has been a significant departure from their previous games. There are many fans of the turn-based strategy genre at The Behemoth, so picking turn-based strategy for their next game seemed like a natural fit.

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Returning from previous Behemoth titles is their trademark art style and crazypants humor. Will Stamper is reprising his role as narrator, and the writing is laugh out loud hilarious. I watched the intro cutscene before the con, and again during the demo, and both times I couldn’t stop giggling.

The Behemoth have always tried to make their games approachable and co-op friendly. With Pit People, they’re tackling turn-based strategy, a historically challenging genre. To reduce the complexity, Megan explained that they’ve made Pit People a game more about positioning. Your units attack on their own, based on where they are standing.

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An axe-wielding unit, for instance, might throw axes with a chance to stun if they’re one hex away from an enemy, but they can still do a weaker melee attack if the enemy is too close. Melee units will distribute their damage across multiple units if surrounded, but will focus fire if given just one target.

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During combat in co-op, each player has control of a squad of units that they can move around the map, and it does take some coordination to ensure you don’t step on each other’s toes. Megan said that the plan for Pit People was to support matchmade co-op in addition to playing with friends. On top of co-op, there’s also a 2v2 PvP mode in the works.

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Pit People has a bunch of quests to undertake and locations to visit. Already in the demo, we got a taste of a pretty meaty looking map. There are various side quests, arenas to compete in, and a main story to follow. From the looks of it, there are a ton of units, upgrades, and customization gear to be unlocked as you play.

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The demo we played took about a half hour of co-op gameplay. We started out with a basic sword-and-shield melee fighter, then recruited a princess who preferred to bludgeon enemies and was strong against helmeted enemies. After that, we traveled to what passed for a city in this bear-blood-soaked apocalypse. From there, we recruited a few others to our motley crew – a cyclops wielding throwing axes, some sort of conquistador that trapped foes and “recruited” them, and finally a cupcake named Gluten that dished out delicious frosting-based healing.

Pit People
Links:Homepage
Our Thoughts:

Pit People is The Behemoth’s first foray into the world of turn-based strategy, but already their approach looks easy to pick up and play while still retaining tactical depth. I loved playing co-op with EB, I loved the art, and I loved the silly, dark humor. The Xbox One closed beta starts in August 2016, so do yourself a favor and sign up!

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