Cult of the Fiver | September 2014

# Ys Origin

The Ys series is a long-standing Japanse action RPG franchise dating back to the late 80's. Ys Origin is a top-down adventure that follows a series of characters as they explore a demonic tower in search of some missing goddesses and the magic orb they disappeared with. Along the way, they battle enormous bosses, collect magical artifacts, and slash a lot of stuff but good.

Ys Origin is worth your $5 because... it's got a deep plot told from three different perspectives, but never veers into the complex and weird territory that Final Fantasy games tend to. The action RPG combat is fun, and exploring the environment feels comfortable and swift most of the time. The art is beautiful, and the boss monsters are usually sights to behold.

But don't pay full price for Ys Origin, since... the aforementioned boss fights are terribly hard and very repetitive. Unless you've spent a lot of time grinding, they are long battles of attrition. The combat eventually gets a bit dull, and the game tends to drag on despite being somewhat fun at first.

Store page(s): Steam

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State of Decay

It's the zombie apocalypse (oh noes!) yet again. While out camping, you and a buddy apparently missed the news that the dead are rising up and have a hunger for the flesh of the living. In addition to the standard "bash zombie in the face with plank" type activities, you'll also have to manage and upgrade your home base, and take care of a growing roster of survivors. You can switch between and customize each survivor to your needs, but be careful! If they die, that's it, they stay dead. (Well, unless they come back as a zombie...)

State of Decay is worth your $5 because... in an overcrowded genre of zombie games, State of Decay manages to bring some unique elements to the table. It mashes together XCOM style base building, Animal Crossing style village management, and sandbox/open-world style gameplay into a zombie game.

But don't pay full price for State of Decay, since... not all of the elements gel, and honestly the game feels rushed and unfinished. The ending just sort of happens. There are too many things to balance, and most of them are just not fun. For instance, managing your survivor's happiness levels is a total chore. Since almost everyone can potentially die, there's little to no character progression. The art in the game is kind of crappy, especially at night. I had several cutscenes where it was just a bunch of people standing around in a dark room with no way to tell what is happening. Many things take real world time to complete, which can slow the game's pace to a crawl.

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

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Shadowrun Returns

In the not-so-distant future, magic makes a sudden resurgence on planet Earth. A combination of technology and magic transform the world into a place where native Americans summon powerful spirits, megacorps rule with an iron fist, and the whole world is a hacker's playground. "Shadowrunners" are powerful mercenaries from all walks of life who do the work nobody else wants.

Shadowrun Returns is worth your $5 because... it's a fun game in a compelling world. The turn-based combat is fun. The story is interesting and engaging. The characters you interact with are interesting and varied. There's a variety of ways to approach many of the game's challenges, similar to Deus Ex.

But don't pay full price for Shadowrun Returns, since... the bundled scenario is kind of short. You can probably clear it in 5 or 6 hours. The game also has a few irritating UI issues. Some of the dialogs don't do a particularly good job of showing you information. The individual abilities don't always feel well balanced.

Store page(s): Steam | Humble

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Dragon's Crown

A Playstation 3/Vita exclusive, Dragon's Crown is an action RPG/sidescrolling beat-em-up hybrid. An ancient dragon is waking from it's slumber, and it's up to a team of adventurous dungeon crawlers to save the kingdom from total annihilation.

Dragon's Crown is worth your $5 because... it's a fun dungeon crawling, hack-and-slash RPG. The artwork is usually gorgeous, the combat is fun, and it's a blast playing on the couch with friends. There's a wide variety of classes to play as. The voice work is quite good, and the English translation is very well done.

But don't pay full price for Dragon's Crown, since... there are fairly few unique stages - just 9 in total, with two variations on each. The game asks you to return to these again and again to grind. The art style is very beautiful, but women in particular are portrayed with amazingly unrealistic proportions and in highly sexualized poses. The camera doesn't always track the action well, and all players must remain on screen at all times. This leads to situations where you can get pulled out of a safe zone during a boss' attack because your allies moved around. There's some frustrating "touch screen on a gamepad" elements as well.

Store page(s): Amazon w/Steam DRM

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Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space

When life on your home world becomes boring, you opt to buy a small spacecraft and search the stars for treasure! The Infinite Space series is a game all about speeding around the galaxy, uncovering new worlds, new treasures, and new enemies. When you've had your fill, return home and become a legend.

Weird Worlds is worth your $5 because... it's a fast paced, easy to learn, roguelike space exploration game. This is FTL's great grandfather. The game itself is simple - exploration is easy and fun. Combat is a 2-D realtime event that is also relatively simple to master. Taken together, they're relentlessly addicting. Each game plays out in 30 minutes or less, but the game exerts a strong pull on that little "one more turn" center of the brain.

But don't pay full price for Weird Worlds, since... it's not really a game you can sit down and play for hours on end. After a while, things start to repeat and the game starts to go a bit stale. If you've already played a lot of FTL, the backwards step in terms of story and combat are likely to grate.

Store page(s): Steam

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