Road Rage Royale Rolls onto Steam

If you’re looking for a new vehicle based Battle Royale game then you might want to check out Road Rage Royale. This indie game just came out on Steam and was made by Neutral Oscillations Games in France. This is actually their debut title though their founder has been in the industry for the last 10 years. You may remember seeing Road Rage Royale on Kickstarter in May. It had a small, though successful campaign that raised €5,000. Since then they have been hosting weekly Twitch streams to keep people updated on the state of the game.

Road Rage Royale is a cyberpunk post apocalyptic coliseum tactical race car combat game. The object of the game is to take out fellow drivers and be the last man standing doing loops around the coliseum’s track. Each lap you take is unique as deadly obstacles could spawn at any moment.

The developers list Micro Machines, Lethal League, Street Fighter II, Nidhogg, Mad Max, and Fallout as just some of the inspiration behind this game. For me personally it reminds me of all those hours a spent using a cattle prod against my little brother while playing Road Rash on the Sega Genesis combined with those destruction derby games that were so popular in the early 2000s online.

You can find the gameplay trailer below.

If this sounds like your kind of fun check it out on Steam.

 

Source: Press Release

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Killsquad – Bounty Hunters in Space

Is it still a Diablo-like game if it stars space bounty hunters? Probably not, but Killsquad certainly qualifies as a loot-driven action RPG. The latest game from Spanish developer Novarama is a far cry from its most popular series, the family friendly Invizimals.

Killsquad is a sci-fi co-op action game where you can take on contracts solo or in a team of up to four players. Going in by yourself is far from the ideal way to enjoy Killsquad. In fact, it is detrimental to the experience and could give you the wrong impression about the potential of this game. Do yourself a favor and make some friends before playing. You’ll thank me later.

Killsquad Night Two Player Co-op

Bounty Hunters of the Galaxy

In my ill-informed mind, Killsquad was this story-driven co-op game where players would explore new planets and discover exciting new alien species, and blow them to pieces. That much I knew, or so I thought. Reality came knocking and it turns out, Killsquad doesn’t feature a proper campaign, and most likely never will. This is a game about loot and leveling up your hero, paving the way for more challenging and ultimately more rewarding contracts.

After subverting my expectations, for better and for worse, I was able to enjoy Killsquad for what it is; a fast-paced action RPG where loot matters and grinding is key. It may feel light on content during Early Access, but the core mechanics are in place and the wheels are in motion. While the theme couldn’t be more dissimilar, Killsquad feels remarkably close to Pagan Online, right down to the way that enemy waves appear out of thin air. Not my favorite mechanic, I must confess.

Killsquad features four space bounty hunters for you to choose from: Troy, Kosmo, Cass and Zero. While the selection is sparse, the heroes are diversified enough to suit most playstyles. My favorite of this bad bunch is Zero, a medical combat robot gone haywire. So much for empathy, as it is now a reckless murder machine, using its laser attacks to deal with any creatures. I’m also a fan of its ability to drop a MedPack, making it the perfect healer unit on the battlefield.

Killsquad 2-Player Co-op Zero and Kosmo

On the other hand, if you prefer to get up close and personal, Kosmo may be the right man… er, dead man for that. Wielding a massive sledgehammer, he isn’t afraid to use it to crack some alien skulls. Troy is the gunslinger and natural gambler, shooting his way to better loot. Finally, there’s Cass, the warrior nun, with her sharp sword and invisibility powers.

The grind may be strong with this one, but it’s not entirely unforgiving. You can stick to your favorite hero without second thoughts as you won’t be forced to start from scratch when you want to try the others. The support gear and prototype gear that you purchase from the shop is shared through all your characters, so you’ll swiftly find your brand-new space bounty hunter starting from Vector 31 or so. Weapons, however, are bound to each hero, so this is another aspect entirely.

Vector is the fancy name given to experience levels in Killsquad. This is a calculation based on your current equipment, which includes weapon, support gear and prototype gear. To make it perfectly clear, your overall ranking is the sum of the three gear parts divided by three, in case you find your Vector number not to be an exact reflection of your stats. It took me a while to discover its inner workings.

Killsquad Palace of Pain Co-op

Contracts Make the World Go Round

With no campaign to sink your teeth into, you must pick one contract from the available selection. Contracts rotate in real time and are currently divided in three tiers: Recruit (Vector 1-30), Veteran (Vector 35-90) and Spec Ops (Vector 120-150). There is nothing preventing you from accepting contracts above your pay grade, but don’t get too cocky or you may end up seeing your mission cut short.

Killsquad’s Early Access features 12 contracts spread across three different planets. It’s a skimpy selection that is enhanced with day and night missions, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a game in desperate need for additional content. Luckily, the maps are randomly generated, which means that you’ll face slightly different challenges. Sometimes you’ll struggle to find the right path, especially in The Palace of Pain, with a narrow pathway or two being harder to find than it should. Killsquad doesn’t feature character transparency, so it’s not uncommon to lose track of your hero or an enemy in the heat of battle.

The Palace of Pain is one of the planets filled with riches and bugs of various sizes. It’s not my favorite place, due to the industrial complex design that leaves me somewhat cold, maybe due to the endless steel walkways, or the succession of vast, empty rooms. I much prefer my trips to planet Kemmekh, where the neat sound of crystals shattering is like music to my ears. Planet Wasteland 7A is exactly what is says in the box, a devastated place with traces of a long-destroyed civilization.

Killsquad Wasteland 7A Battle

Apart from the randomized level design, Killsquad’s planets also feature a few neat touches. Environmental hazards are something you must deal with and  they come in different shapes and sizes. You have meteor storms dropping at the worst moments, or laser storms that sweep the screen and everything in their path. Both you and the enemies are affected by these hazards and taking advantage of them in an intelligent way will save you a lot of trouble and health.

Each contract unfolds in a similar manner, as the heroes earn experience up to level 10. In regular intervals you’ll unlock new upgrades, choosing a new skill from a few choices. Steadily you’ll learn the best skills for your playstyle and as soon as you reach level 10, the contract objective is activated. It may consist of destroying a boss, safely escorting a vehicle, protecting an antenna, destroying crystals, and so on. It all boils down to exterminating whatever gets in your way.

While Killsquad is described as featuring “short, adrenaline pumping missions”, these actually run for longer than I was expecting. I would say that your average mission length is around 30 minutes, with some of them going well past that. This isn’t an issue for me, but some players may be more interested in short bursts of gameplay. The addition of a few extra contracts that don’t exceed 10 or 15 minutes would be a welcome addition.

Killsquad Warrior Nun Hero

A Disconcerting Lack of Talking Raccoons

The DNA you collect during the missions is the in-game currency used to purchase a few specific items in the BioSystems Labs shop. If nothing tickles your fancy or you feel confident in your abilities, the acquired DNA will be converted to credits by the end of the mission. These credits will then be used in the main shop, where you gradually purchase better weapons and gear. Things get more expensive as you go, but in general the Vector level of each piece is superior to what you have previously acquired, so it is a good deal. This is the recurrent way for leveling your heroes and confidently taking on better contracts.

There is a secondary shop where you can purchase epic and legendary weapons. These come with significant attributes but also a heavier price. You need to grind additional materials and craft three special types of currencies if you want to lay your greasy fingers on one of those.

With my early game experience being mostly to blame, I had mixed feelings going solo with Killsquad. The pace was trite and the frequent need to destroy stationary mines to earn that little bit of experience made it feel a bit dull. It was an unexciting grind that slowly improved as I became suited for better contracts and more challenging foes.

Killsquad Vehicle Escort Co-op

Still, playing Killsquad alone is wasting the tremendous potential of the game. Playing with one friend is enough to lift the game to other standards, and the four-player mode is certain to raise the chaos and fun factor in equal measure. It gets so frantic at times that the battleground turns into a dazzling light show, and you’re left wondering how you managed to stay alive amidst all that spectacle.

Co-op is where Killsquad absolutely shines, making some of its shortcomings feel inconsequential. I didn’t care that much anymore about the repetitive enemies (30 at the moment), or the small number of environments. I was having fun handing out medkits to my partner, as he unabashedly dived headfirst into the chaotic enemy waves, while I took out the rest of them from a distance. We were having fun and boasting about our newfound abilities to survive in a deadly environment, against all odds.

I can’t fully recommend Killsquad for solo players, but it gets high marks if you plan on playing with a friend. As I said before, this is where the game truly shines. It was purely designed to be enjoyed in co-op and does quite a good job at it, too.

You should have a decent amount of fun in its current state, but Killsquad needs more content; more loot, more heroes, more planets, and more contracts, which it will certainly get in the future. I can only endure so many steel catwalks before I start longing for other, more alluring planets to scavenge. Isn’t there any lush tropical planet in need of a committed and reasonably priced bounty hunter?

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Dota Underlords – A Roll of the Dice

I hope that the future will prove me wrong but we may be on the verge of the birth of another gaming trend: Auto Chess games. Dota Underlords and League of Legends’ Teamfight Tactics are the hypothetical precursors of the genre, but this style of gameplay harkens back to the origins of mobile games. It’s heavily RNG-based, with luck playing a major part in your experience, while your effect in a match is akin to rolling a dice as the battles unfold automatically.

At this stage, Dota Underlords is a conundrum of massive proportions. It’s not that different from the dreaded hero collector games that you find on mobile, yet it gets praise for a depth that simply isn’t there. It works as a harmless game mode for Dota 2; as its own standalone game, it’s shallow and unrewarding.

Dota Underlords Round Start

RNG: The Game

Currently in Early Access, Dota Underlords feels strangely rudimentary. Valve virtually rushed it to the store in an attempt to thwart Riot Games’ Teamfight Tactics from taking the spotlight. The clueless tutorial is proof of this, teaching absolutely nothing substantial about the mechanics of the game with round after round of generic and useless info. Only after googling some tips I was able to understand what was needed to level up a hero.

Hint: you need to get three copies of the same hero to merge into a two-star hero and three two-star heroes to create a powerful three-star hero. It’s not about combat experience (kills, matches, etc.) as I initially expected it to be.

Dota Underlords isn’t a game that you can play to kill some minutes since a successful match can take up to an hour. You’re not facing a single opponent; instead you participate in an eight-player tournament where you face one rival at a time. A defeat will take some of your health, with each participant being eliminated as their health drops to zero.

Matches have the problem of being mostly decided by lady luck, as you take the heroes that you get from the shop. If you’re lucky enough to get a few heroes to fuse into two-star heroes during the early rounds you may have a shot at the top spots. Otherwise you’re likely to find yourself in a situation where it’s impossible to catch up with the other players. Spending gold to reroll the shop with no worthwhile upgrade showing up is a guarantee that the goddess of RNG isn’t by your side. No matter the heroes that you choose or their board placement, Dota Underlords is mostly about hero level with skill playing a lesser role.

Dota Underlords RNG Shop

You can also spend gold to upgrade your overall player level with each stage granting an additional hero spot on the board. This is essential as to not fall behind but I always make leveling up my heroes the top priority. Having a full team of one-star heroes ultimately amounts to nothing much but it’s all about balance… and luck.

There are other ways you can affect the performance of your heroes, thanks to loot rounds. During the first three match rounds you will face AI creeps. If you win you get to pick one item from a pool of three, and if you lose stop playing immediately because you’re bad beyond belief… I mean, the game chooses one item for you. For example, some items can be used with one hero while others have overall boosts that affect a specific class. Further loot rounds happen at round 10, 15, 20 and so on.

Alliances need to be taken into consideration as well. You must pay attention to the icons under each hero, as they represent their faction: Assassin, Druid, Mage, Human and many more. This is a system where having multiple heroes from a single faction on the board will reward you with some boosts.

Dota Underlords Ship of Doom

Am I a Player or Am I Being Played?

At the end of the day, Dota Underlords can be incredibly infuriating. When you win it feels unrewarding as it’s mostly down to luck, even if you’re unwilling to admit it during your first victories. When you lose it’s mostly due to a case of bad luck. Leveling up heroes, using items and creating alliances… everyone is doing it as well. You either have good high-level heroes, and hero balance is a serious issue right now, or your odds of winning are seriously affected.

If this was proper chess instead of Auto Chess, you know just like the classic Battle Chess series, each match would surely have several layers of strategy to it. As it stands it’s just a frenzied rush of heroes while tactical prowess sits at the sidelines, depressingly eating popcorn and shaking its head in disbelief.

Monetization is yet to rear its ugly face but you should expect an unhealthy dose of hero skins. This should add to the mess that happens on the board as the heroes aren’t that easy to recognize to begin with. That takes me to another worrisome issue, the clunky UI. It feels unintuitive and ugly, certainly not up to the standards that you would expect from a company such as Valve. Eventually you’ll grow used to it but that is not the same as appreciating its design. Teamfight Tactics’ UI looks extremely clean and polished in comparison while Dota Underlords’ interface seemingly designed without flair and with mobile devices in mind. This game is available for PC and mobile devices but that’s never an excuse for lackluster design.

Dota Underlords Bubble Chaos

When you perform well Dota Underlords grabs you and you feel tempted to keep playing, raising your ranking in the hopes that you’ll become skilled enough to turn into a respected player.  By skilled I mean having a broad knowledge of each hero’s strengths and a four leaf clover in your pocket. Dota Underlords has obvious eSports ambitions and additional features may eventually turn it into a richer game, or a proper game, one where your actions have real repercussions.

Right now Dota Underlords feels more like a weird emerging trend that is more frustrating than interesting. A game where your role is more of a spectator rather than that of a player. It’s akin to rolling the dice and hoping that you get the desired results. In my book this doesn’t count as a proper game, let alone spawn an entire gaming genre. Sure, it’s addictive but in a very exasperating and punishing way. I would never trade the challenging depth of Minion Masters for any Auto Chess game.

And boy, that shop bell really gets on my nerves.

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Conan Unconquered – A Ruthless, Barbaric Take on Real-Time Strategy

Conan Unconquered is the latest game – but surely not the last – featuring the ruthless barbarian. Since Funcom snagged the rights to develop video games based on Robert E. Howard’s franchise, we’ve had our share of bloody adventures. From MMORPGs (Age of Conan Unchained) to survival MMOs (Conan Exiles), the time has come for a survival RTS.

I’m not an expert in real-time strategy games anymore, but I’ve grown used to the genre pretty much since its genesis. Dune 2 may not be the game that spawned an entire genre, but Westwood Studios’ game was surely the one that made it mainstream. After that I’ve played a deluge of RTS hits that include Command & Conquer, Warcraft, Age of Empires, Total Annihilation and many more.

While it isn’t exactly a case of going full circle, it’s comforting to know that Petroglyph is at the helm of Conan Unconquered. Founded by former staff from said Westwood Studios, this company has a track record mostly comprised of strategy games and is now at home with this new game. A bloody, battered and brutal home, but a home, nonetheless.

Conan Unconquered Preview Blood on the Sand

Savage Rush

What is this thing that Petroglyph is selling as a survival RTS? Aren’t most RTS games about survival anyway, crushing wave after wave of player or AI-controlled enemy hordes and making a run for it when you find an open spot? They Are Billions immediately comes to mind and is one of the few games that often draws direct comparisons to Petroglyph’s latest project.

However, Conan Unconquered takes it a step further and completely focuses its sound real-time strategy mechanics around the straightforward premise of resisting the enemy onslaught. It’s not that far from a tower defense game, in that you have a short period of time to develop your stronghold and strategize before the next wave comes crushing everything in its path. Make no mistake, this is a challenging game with a barbaric difficulty level (pun not intended) that will make you tear your hair apart when you collapse to the last enemy wave.

This approach comes with both pros and cons. It feels somewhat restrictive and limited in its scope, making you feel confined to your stronghold and adjacent territory while there is a world out there to explore, albeit a small one. You must take your chances to destroy spider and scorpion lairs, not to mention those bloodthirsty ostriches, for some reason. Seek some valuable resources and increase your hero’s experience, only to return double-time or risk seeing your buildings razed to the ground.

You feel restrained, you seriously consider the risk and reward ratio in sending a decent army to explore the terrain. On the other hand, it is a deliberate choice and ultimately it pays off, especially for battle-hardened players in search of a challenge that always keeps them alert. One mistake too many and the battle is over, forcing you to restart from the first wave.

Conan Unconquered Preview Watching the World Burn

Conan Unconquered is challenging and it can get a bit draining as well, due to its design that favors trial and error. Lose the battle and prepare yourself for another set of waves, hopefully getting your stronghold in better shape for the final showdown. It is slow-paced as well, a decision that may not be in everyone’s tastes, as your hero slogs back to base just in time to watch it burn. It doesn’t quite detract from the gameplay, but it takes some getting used to.

Before you set your feet in the battleground, you must pick one hero unit, which is infinitely tougher than your regular cannon fodder and comes with a powerful ability. Will you go with the main man Conan, or do you prefer Valeria? Maybe you want to step into Kalanthes’ blood-soaked sandals, but for that you have to purchase the Deluxe Edition of the game. Wait, what?

Having one hero out of three locked seems like a tactic straight out of the worst examples of free-to-play, and Conan Unconquered is a premium game that shouldn’t keep its heroes behind a paywall. In the future, when the roster is loaded with assorted heroes, it won’t be the right thing to do, but will be forgivable; right now, it feels like a punitive shove in the direction of a more expensive edition for not much reason whatsoever.

Conan Unconquered Preview Javelin Soldier Battle

“You Hesitate… You Die”

No truer words have been spoken. Conan Unconquered is a game where second chances are few and far between and while your hero unit can die only to return a minute later, this cooldown period may jeopardize your efforts. Your hero levels up as he slays minion after minion, becoming a powerful warrior that can singlehandedly turn the tide of battle, but he needs the valuable support of Swordsmen and Javelin Soldiers, to mention just a few, with the latter being incredibly useful when it comes to hitting enemies at a distance or over a wall. Pathfinding needs some polishing, as they often engage in a frenzied and futile run through the mountains instead of simply approaching the wall and throwing their javelins.

That brings me to walls. Never, ever underestimate the importance of a judiciously positioned wall. Since the fail state in Conan Unconquered happens when your fortress is destroyed, well-placed walls can slow down the enemy and buy you some vital time to attack their forces. There is an intricate economy in place with a robust tech tree for you to despair over, but early beginnings usually require you to fortify your defenses. Later, things like a ballista tower are a barbarian’s best friend during those massive sieges, but good luck unlocking the mandatory structures to get what you were initially hoping for.

Conan Unconquered isn’t just about building structures and enjoying the view; there is an upkeep for most buildings and troops, with resources such as gold, food, wood, iron or stone to keep an eye out for. It’s a delicate balance and the destruction of a single hovel may throw your plans under the desert bus (bonus video game reference), setting in motion a chain of events that will see the obliteration of your economy and power. Let’s not forget about the micro-management that is necessary to put out those pesky fires, otherwise brace yourselves for a glorious spectacle of flames, as half of your stronghold burns to the ground in no time.

Conan Unconquered Preview Co-op Mode

As it happens with most things in life, Conan Unconquered is best enjoyed with a friend, or a stranger. The co-op mode pits you and another warrior against waves of savages, but with a few twists in comparison to the solo mode. While you get to build a shared stronghold, resources are split between each player, so you must be responsible for your buildings and your army upkeep. The upside of this is that exploration is now more tempting, as you and your teammate may agree on methods to scout the map and scavenge every nook and cranny for useful resources. The downside is that the game is now even harder, as the enemy waves are more numerous and more determined than ever.

Thanks to random maps and the unpredictability of a human partner, this is where Conan Unconquered truly shines. But this is also where the odds of a nervous breakdown are at their best, not to mention the likely ending of a friendship or two.

Conan Unconquered is ruthless, no matter how you look at it. It’s a fierce challenge that feels utterly rewarding when you manage to nail those beasts, but it’s rather niche and would greatly benefit from 1v1 multiplayer. Fighting alongside someone is fun, but it’s supremely more entertaining to challenge someone directly, while still having to occasionally fend off the assault of AI enemies. Conan Unconquered may feel like busywork at times, but it’s worth persevering through if you dive in with the right mindset.

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Lornsword: Winter Chronicle – Clash of Genres

It’s not easy being a hero, especially when you’re stuck inside an action and strategy mix where the fate of your people lies on your shoulders. Such is the basic premise of Lornsword: Winter Chronicle, the first game from developer Tower Five.

Founded in 2017, Tower Five is a French studio comprised of ex-Creative Assembly staff. Having worked on the Total War series for several years, the small team is now setting its sights on a different kind of strategy game, once again embracing merciless army battles but with a story-based focus and an ingenious twist to it – but more on that later.

The historical accuracy is thrown out of the window, giving room to a fantasy-based setting where anything is possible. Even dying and coming back to life repeatedly.

Lornsword Winter Chronicle Preview Desert Soldiers

A Hard Day’s Knight

The arid landscapes that introduce us to the world of Lornsword take me back to an era when the term real-time strategy wasn’t yet coined. It was Westwood Studios’ Dune 2 that made it mainstream and successful, with its endless war over the precious resource called spice.

While Dune 2 and even the Warcraft series are comparisons that aren’t entirely out of place when referring to Lornsword, they aren’t exactly the most fitting either. If there is one game that fits like a glove into the action and strategy design that Lornsword uses, then its name is Spellforce. Both games place you in the shoes of a fearless hero, commanding armies in a fantasy world where your goal is to constantly raze the enemies’ base camps to the ground.

My first hour with Lornsword wasn’t particularly noteworthy, as I wasn’t sure of what it was trying to be – is it a top-down story-based action RPG or a real-time strategy game stripped of any fancy bells and whistles? As it turns out, this was a lengthy tutorial showing players the fundamentals of the game’s hybrid genre. Sticking to it was the best that I could have done, as Lornsword slowly unravels its secrets and reveals layer after layer of intricate concepts and a tangled web of ingenious battle mechanics.

Lornsword Winter Chronicle Preview Defending Headquarters

Unlike other standard real-time strategy games, Lornsword prioritizes using a controller instead of your typical mouse and keyboard combo. This unusual approach takes some getting used to, but soon you’ll find yourself dashing through enemy lines and expanding your headquarters without worries, as it becomes second nature. It’s an action-based control system that ditches the often cluttered and laborious point and click control system in favor of a seamless approach.

Your general is remarkably tame when it comes to slashing his enemies with his sword, but he learns more than a couple of tricks during his journey. Without spoiling too much, I can say that running will soon become a thing of the past, a burden that only regular humans must deal with. Sunknights such as your very own Corun Lan Ka prefer to resort to blinking, skipping short distances and thus being able to get to places that are out of reach to the common soldier, such as small islands. This action consumes stamina, as does instantly teleporting to your headquarters or raining fire from the skies on top of your enemies. This is infinitely more powerful than your puny sword, but it won’t be enough to change the tide of battle all by itself.

Lornsword doesn’t leave fog of war out of the equation but puts a spin to it. Instead of terrain that slowly reveals as we explore, you have an ability called far sight. With this you can see remote parts of the map, checking your buildings and seeing what your men are seeing. This way you avoid spending time running or blinking to a place where nothing substantial is happening.

Lornsword Winter Chronicle Preview Protect the Base

Real-Time Sword and Sorcery

A great leader plays a large role in a battle, but he is nothing without his army. This is where the real-time strategy aspect of Lornsword comes into play. Your general can build and upgrade structures, adding fortification or turrets, and ultimately choosing what soldier specialty a building should focus on. All of this is done via an intuitive and incredibly simple switch system – each structure has a few ground switches and you simply activate the desired one.

Altars are crucial in Lornsword, acting as portals to a full-fledged world of elemental beings and spirits. Using the d-pad you can summon the different types of guardians pertaining to fire, water, stone and air. From stone golems to fire archers, thunder elementals or water priests, among others, these are not to be underestimated, as their might on the battlefield is second to none. Obviously, this is where gold comes into play, as each new tier requires a larger amount of your valuable currency. The returns are absolutely worth it, however, so don’t hesitate to upgrade any structure if you have the means to do so.

Summoning any group of elemental soldiers is another action that will drain your stamina. You will often resort to this tactic as these creatures are an undeniable force of nature (pun not intended), but it will hinder your movements in case you need to make a quick escape, for example. Returning to your headquarters and collecting those shiny orbs will reinvigorate both your health and stamina, so you need to get used to the continuous back-and-forth, either by foot or teleportation.

Lornsword Winter Chronicle Preview Dark Walkers

No good general would feel complete without a group of trustworthy men willing to die for the Emperor. As soldiers complete their training, they wait for your orders. You can give them a couple of basic commands using each building’s flag: the orange flag tells them to wait until they complete a hand of seven before marching on; the black flag orders them to defend the area, and lowering the flag orders each soldier to march and attack as soon as he exits the garrison. Always be on the lookout for the waystones spread across the battlefield as these mark the path that your soldiers will relentlessly follow.

But leaving these men to their fate is a bad move; you’re wasting strength in numbers. With a simple click you can gather up to 15 soldiers who will follow you everywhere without questioning – you can release them with the same ease, which makes them suddenly attack any enemies close by. Amassing a large army and unleashing it simultaneously with elemental soldiers can make all the difference when it comes to raiding enemy bases, especially those that have several guard towers and a fair number of warriors.

Nonetheless, the Zerg Rush strategy isn’t a given here, as you have to chiefly deal with resources such as gold and food. Gold allows you to upgrade structures while farms increase the number of houses that you can build. Losing the mines will decrease the pace at which you earn gold, but losing the farms is equally dangerous as you won’t be able to build any structures beyond the specified cap. Sporadically you’ll be confronted with varied objectives, including defending your headquarters for 30 minutes or destroying a camp in a limited time.

After slaying a few enemies and wildlings, you start to uncover the web of intrigue where nothing is as it seems. Nonetheless, you have your orders to follow and your leaders to obey. Suddenly, Lornsword turns from a linear game into one where you get to choose the mission that you want to tackle next, complete with a dialogue system that seems to work as a disguised difficulty setting – going with full forces or choosing a smaller, stealthier army is one of the examples.

Lornsword Winter Chronicle Preview Snow Village Hub

Everything is Better with a Friend, Even War

One of Lornsword’s highlights is the option to play with a friend in a drop-in and drop-out cooperative split screen mode. This takes me back to bygone times when online gameplay was still a thing out of sci-fi movies and couch co-op was all the rage. This is the best way to experience Lornsword, putting the emphasis on player coordination and shared tactics, as the gold and food resources remain the same throughout, as do the enemy numbers.

Developer Tower Five is testing a PvP split screen mode that is bound to make it into the game if it’s as fun as they are expecting it to be. I think this is vital for the game both as a selling point and for the sake of its longevity, but I’m under the impression that online connectivity would significantly boost its appeal when it comes to a certain segment of players.

Lornsword Winter Chronicle Preview Split Screen Co-Op

Visually speaking, Lornsword is clean, sharp, mostly functional but it can also be quite pretty in places. The top-down perspective is perfectly suited to the strategy elements and the tiny characters are nicely rendered and smoothly animated – above all, their ranks are easily discernible when you know what to look for. I do have an issue with the running animation, including the main character, as it seems too robotic and unnatural, as if it was simply a matter of fast-forwarding the walking animation. I did enjoy the little details including the pixelated trails that every unit leaves on the sand and snow (there is also a pretty forest environment), as well as the splashes of blood and the bright flashes from spells and fire.

Lornsword feels oddly familiar despite its clever mix of genres, and it’s all the better for it. It is heavily story-based, with a tale that feels rich and complex, and the control scheme is ingenious and easy to grasp. It’s not quite on a league of its own, but the clever mix of action RPG and strategy elements surely contribute to a freshness that is equally gripping and challenging.

Lornsword is now in Early Access and is out later this year on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

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Steambirds Alliance – Birds of Prey

There is something inherently evil with cats. How they seem to follow your every move, staring at you in uncomfortable ways, as if they have full control over your life. Pouncing from unfathomable places at just the wrong time with a loud meow that scares you to death.

I’m not the only one that thinks so. Birds also consider cats to be their mortal enemies… well, so do dogs and mice, which is further proof of the evilness that lies within these furry feline creatures. However, those will have to wait for better days as now it’s time for the birds to rise against their evil cat overlords in Steambirds Alliance.

Steambirds Alliance Preview Crab Boss Battle

Toucan Play at That Game

As you may guess, there is no shortage of wackiness in Steambirds Alliance, a game that nearly defies description. This is a 60-player co-op bullet-hell twin-stick shooter where birds make a stand against their eternal sworn enemies, cats, all of this from the comfort of different kinds of airplanes. It’s a clever mix of hard-as-nails shmups such as Ikaruga or DoDonPachi with Realm of the Mad God, the cult classic retro-styled MMO that Spry Fox co-developed. Now they are back with a new game that features less pixel-art and more birds on planes.

Steambirds Alliance begins with your feathered fighter on a plane, merrily flying around the rebellion’s sky base – all of you Avengers fans can think of this ship as the bird’s very own Helicarrier. Your starter plane will be your trustworthy companion during the first hours, but your progress will unlock other, better planes. These are the classes in the game, further offering other choices of weapons and strategies – some planes are even named Paladin, Medic or Assault, in case you had any lingering doubts about their roles.

Your pilot rank unlocks skill options that you can learn using skill points. I had a hard time getting to grips with the way that the skill tree worked, and I have no doubts whatsoever that others will feel the same. You need to pay close attention to each skill row, understand how learning a skill will sometimes replace other one, and work out how some skills are tied to a specific plane. For a game that tries to evoke the feel of old-school arcade shooters, this is an area that could benefit from a serious overhaul.

Steambirds Alliance Preview Buddies in Flight

Thankfully, permadeath is one thing that doesn’t carry over from Realm of the Mad God. Or should I say that it does, but with a twist that turns Steambirds Alliance into a more accessible, less nerve-wracking game. When your plane gets blown to pieces, your current plane level resets but you keep your hard-earned overall pilot experience level and unlocked skills. This approach makes progress much more manageable, while still providing a tough-as-nails challenge that requires tactical thinking and nerves of steel in order to slowly discover new, more robust planes. However, all the loot in your possession also disappears, so make sure to thread extra carefully when you have a sweet piece of gear that you don’t want to lose.

Your inventory is extremely limited, or at least in comparison to the colossal amount of loot that you’ll find in your quest. An option to auto-equip superior items is a godsend as it saves you the trouble, and it’s also nice that you can get rid of low-level items with the press of a button.

Your home base in the skies is the place where the bird alliance decides on its next target. In theory, at least, because it’s mostly a matter of entering the dropship that will take you to the open world battlefield. But before you take the fight to the cat army, you should make the most out of the available facilities. The Pilot School is where you can learn skills; the Storage is where you can safely store some of your best loot for later; the Hangar is where your plane collection sits tight, waiting for your choice; the Workshop is where you can craft new stuff; in the Store you can buy all sorts of things with gold or scrap, from special missions to upgrades and even emotes; and the Pilot’s Pub, where you can sip a refreshing cocktail… well, actually no – this is where you accept missions that grant you special rewards.

Steambirds Alliance Preview Boss Explosion

Wake Me Up Before You Dodo

By now you’ve probably guessed that Steambirds Alliance’s pace is frenetic and hardly lets you stop for a quick breather. As soon as your firepower is one to be feared and you climb experience level after experience level, the cat menace becomes more imposing with larger ships, more erratic movement patterns and countless projectiles of different shape and size. The pure definition of bullet-hell is a mere dozen or so experience levels away.

Controlling your plane is as responsive as you would expect from a game where twitch reflexes and split-second reactions are crucial. With a gamepad you can play Steambirds Alliance just as you would with your average twin-stick shooter, using the right thumbstick to aim and fire. If you choose to play using WASD, the mouse can be used to aim and shoot, but I couldn’t get used to the compulsory circular turret movement – against all odds, I prefer the more immediate gamepad feedback. You can also give your plane a small speed boost and believe me, you’re going to need it.

One of Steambirds Alliance’s claims to fame is that 60 players can fight the war together. With a few partners you can already get a sense of the chaotic, bullet-ridden elegance of the action, but I can only imagine when a few dozen players are taking on the same boss – it should be quite a sight… if you manage to see your plane at all. There is a handy option that teleports you next to another player so that you can jump straight into his fight, cooperating and hopefully reaping the rewards faster than going alone – this is a nice, straightforward way to motivate co-op play.

Steambirds Alliance Preview Sky Base

Somewhat unexpectedly, PvP is out of the equation. The focus is entirely on co-op and while Spry Fox seems adamant about keeping it that way, they have admitted that some sort of indirect player versus player feature such as guilds may eventually make it into the game. While I reckon that a full co-op PvE game is nice for a change, Steambirds Alliance just feels like the perfect fit for some epic high-altitude arcade clashes. I’m a bit torn on this issue, but I’d rather have a competent, fun co-op experience than having to deal with a tacked-on PvP mode to please the “masses”.

Transitioning between zones is seamless, with a huge sign warning you of the recommended player level, as to prevent any erroneous wandering through deadly areas. No biting more than you can chew, slowly but surely growing in power is the strategy that will take you places.

I positively admire the graphic style chosen for Steambirds Alliance. The tiny planes and smooth animation bring back fond memories of arcade classics such as 1942, SWIV, Banshee or Flying Shark. Everything is a bit crowded but that won’t stop you from appreciating the backgrounds that change for each zone. From rocky mountains to factories or rustic villages, it’s a testament to the developers’ abilities that these never get in the way of the shooting – if you failed to spot a bullet, it’s most likely your fault. And those boss explosions… now those are some truly eye-catching fireworks.

Steambirds Alliance Preview Shark Attack

I have to hand it to the cats for what they truly are; masterminds. You wouldn’t guess that these lazy furry creatures had it in them to create dozens of remarkable ships. It’s not just about the sizes and practical use against the bird uprising; it’s the way that some ships take inspiration from other animals and objects such as crabs, sharks, dogs, centipedes, trains and much more. You’ll come face to face with some clever ship design, particularly the bosses.

Steambirds Alliance probably isn’t going to replace your main MMO; nevertheless, it is more than capable of providing some frantic exhilaration. It is both suited for short gameplay bursts and long hours of relentless evil cat shooting. While it won’t set the world ablaze, it seems to have “cult classic” written all over it, just as it happened with Realm of the Mad God. It’s a chip off the old block… or should I say, a chirp off the old block?

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Pagan Online Early Access – Unlocking Your Way to Glory

We live in remarkable times. When you market your brand-new action RPG with citations such as “no phones involved”, you know that some serious damage has been done before. Pagan Online isn’t shy when it comes to tooting its own horn: “WASD controls”, they say; “PC game”, the official website proudly boasts. Could they be taking a stab at Blizzard and NetEase’s Diablo Immortal? Surely that’s just a coincidence, right?

But this is done in a lighthearted comedic manner, one that severely contrasts with the game itself. Pagan Online is a somber, grim and desperate hack-and-slash game inspired by Slavic mythology. It recently entered Early Access and unlike most games published by the World of Tanks creator Wargaming, this isn’t free-to-play; Pagan Online is a premium game and one with enough virtues to stand on its own.

It could, however, be free-to-play if Serbian developer Mad Head Games just so wished. Pagan Online has all the vital elements to make it work as such: character skins, pets, inventory space and unlockable characters. Thankfully, this can all be achieved through in-game currency and there is no cash shop in sight. Microtransactions should be outlawed in full-priced games. There, I said it.

Pagan Online Early Access Preview Anya Skin

Whip and Slash

If Indiana Jones and Harley Quinn had a baby girl, her name would be Anya. She is one of the three initial characters for you to pick in Pagan Online and I have no doubts that she will be the favorite of most gamers. Her extraordinary whip and blood magic abilities are just too tempting to ignore, turning her into the perfect killing machine for your first hours in this hack-and-slash game.

But don’t get too comfortable with Anya, as Pagan Online features an account-wide Legacy system where your experience level is the sum of each one of your heroes’ experience. By unlocking more heroes (eight in total as of right now) and progressing with each one you add to your shared experience level, ultimately reaching bigger challenges and better rewards.

This progression system isn’t necessarily new, but it is seldom used – Marvel Heroes is one of the games that uses a similar approach. In Pagan Online, some missions reward you with hero shards. You must get 50 shards to unlock each additional hero, but this comes with a twist that you may love or hate – shards are specific to a hero and apparently RNG-based, which means that you can spend a long time without getting the shards that you desperately seek.

Some of you will surely find this approach interesting, extra challenging and more rewarding, while others will prefer the traditional system where you simply choose a different hero and level up accordingly. I can find positives in both methods and I don’t mind a good grind, but no matter your preference, it’s strongly advised to give your main character a good run. Then, when you have a decent amount of loot for your main and for the other heroes – your stash is shared as well – you can try a secondary hero (Arcane Priest Lukian was my choice… I mean, my prize in the raffle). Equip him or her with good gear and after a mission or two you should find that your new hero is now level ten or close. Not bad for 15 minutes of hacking and slashing, don’t you think?

Pagan Online Early Access Preview Lukian Hero

Overall, I didn’t mind this approach and don’t see it as overly punishing, but I understand if you prefer your heroes available right from the start. And as for those extra shards that you get, they are used to unlock additional colors and cool skins, so it doesn’t go to waste.

Shards are earned by completing Assassination assignments. However, to enter these you need to acquire key fragments by playing other missions that vary in their requirements – you may be tasked with surviving waves of enemies, defend some object from invading hordes or destroying all enemies in an area. Progression is invariably tied to these different game modes, so you must regularly complete them, along with daily and weekly missions. Hunts are goals that you set for yourself to earn some extra gold – kill 20 spiders, collect 50 zombie eyes (yuck!) and other achievements of the sort.

I really, really hope that Wargaming isn’t doing this to add a hero selling system somewhere down the line. As a core mechanic it may not be suited to everyone’s tastes, but Pagan Online has a lot to offer, so I can see it being great value for money if you put the hours into it; but as soon as you can buy your heroes (knock on wood), you must kill the entry price for good or you’ll get bashed by your Early Access supporters. And despite my poor knowledge of Slavic myths, in no scenario whatsoever you could unlock a hero with a swipe of the credit card.

Pagan Online Early Access Preview Boss Battle Usud

To WASD Or Not To WASD

Pagan Online’s WASD controls aren’t exactly a common practice when it comes to action RPGs, where the tried-and-tested click-to-move method is universally accepted – the upcoming Torchlight Frontiers also goes for a similar mouse-driven control style.

But Pagan Online benefits from this decision as it brings a more responsive and thrilling feel to the gameplay, with superior dodging and aiming. Gone are the mistakes where you attack an enemy when you just want to move; it may feel a little unusual at first, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it and enjoy the spotless control that you have over your actions.

The core of Pagan Online is standard fare, with an isometric perspective and dungeons that are essentially made of corridors connecting larger areas where a procedurally generated battle takes place. I’m not too keen on the way that the enemies appear out of thin air, sometimes surrounding you with no chance to escape – using Torchlight Frontiers again as comparison, foes are clearly visible or approach you from easily identifiable spawn points. Pagan Online is an enemy spawn fest and you’d better get used to it as soon as you can.

Pagan Online Early Access Preview Phanteon Hub Anya

Pagan Online has often been introduced as an action RPG inspired by MOBA mechanics, but don’t expect any sort of ground-breaking fusion here. Your hero has a fixed set of abilities that you unlock as you level up and upgrade with Potency points, offering the fast-paced and widespread combat that you’ll appreciate the most as you discover and experiment with new heroes. But Pagan Online remains a hack and slash for Diablo fans, and not the kind of game that I would recommend for those who love League of Legends to death.

The Pantheon is the hub area where your heroes get some respite before heading into the next challenge. It is where you choose your next character, upgrade your abilities and craft your epic weapons of doom. Crafting plays a huge role in Pagan Online. During your adventures you will pick every sort of items, with recipes playing a vital role in gear upgrades. These come in different tiers and are tied to certain item levels, in addition to requiring the consumption of specific materials. Apart from collecting these materials in the battlefield you can also get them from the occasional card pack. Crafting increases your skills and Might score, which translates into the overall power of your hero and a great way to properly assess your chances when it comes to Missions and Assassinations.

Pagan Online is a PvE experience with a vast campaign (allegedly 50 hours) and three difficulty levels. The Early Access build doesn’t include co-op gameplay which is said to be a huge part of the game and I can see that happening. Competitive activities are another one of the teased aspects, although Mad Head Games has expressed its intention to steer clear of PvP, so this could mean anything – leaderboards are already present in the game, but it could be some feature in a similar style.

Pagan Online Early Access Preview Loot Everywhere

I’ll admit that I didn’t pay much attention to the story, as I was more interested in checking out the game’s mechanics and trying to turn Anya into a mean, lean whipping machine, something that remains a work in progress. But what I could grasp of the lore seemed overly serious and often despairing, with cavernous voice acting that suits the dark undertones. It’s a deliberate choice, obviously, as no self-respected hack-and-slash would place you in a world full of unicorns, rainbows and fluffy clouds. But it’s up to you to decide if it is worth listening to.

I, for one, really couldn’t care less, at least for the purpose of this preview. I liked Pagan Online for what it is, and that is a fast-paced, enjoyable and solid action RPG. For an Early Access title, it already feels immensely polished, without any blatant bugs or server issues, although I was slightly annoyed by the server lag when selling items. Pagan Online is a blast to play and if you can get your head around the way that the character unlocking system works, it offers plenty of bang for your buck. It’s a game where you can play for hours on end or just a few short sessions for extra loot, and co-op will surely take the game to an entirely different level. Not too shabby for a studio that built its foundation developing hidden object games.

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Breach Hits Steam Early Access in January

The multiplayer “dungeon brawl” of Breach looks to be about ready for prime time. QC Games has confirmed that Breach early access will arrive to Steam users this coming January, bolstered by player feedback during the game’s recent testing.

breach early access

“The reception we’ve received from everyone who’s played the game has been nothing short of amazing, giving us confidence that we’re definitely on the right track in our development of Breach,” states game director Gabe Amatangelo. “We look forward to taking the next big step of bringing Breach to a wider audience in January 2019 through Steam Early Access.”

As is often the case with these things, early access will be a paid affair, though the complete game will launch free-to-play. According to the game’s Steam page, the plan is to keep early access short and release the game by next summer, barring any major adjustments needed based on community feedback.

Until then, there will be an extended technical alpha test running between November 30th and December 2nd which will introduce the Chronomancer class to players. Testing is scheduled to begin at 1pm EST and will wrap up at 12am EST. There is no expected downtime for the game’s servers.

Naturally, the announcement comes with a fresh new trailer. That can be seen below.

Our Thoughts

It’s good to know that testers have been enjoying the game enough to push forward into early access. We’re looking forward to seeing how this piece of multiplayer gaming shapes up as we move into next year.

Source: press release

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Legends of Aria Gets a Steam Early Access Release Date

Legends of Aria is making a pretty significant step forward in its development. Citadel Studios has locked down a Legends of Aria early access launch date on Steam and all of the salient details that go along with the announcement.

legends of aria early access launch

Legends of Aria will arrive to Steam Early Access on Tuesday, December 4th. The game’s early access release touts a number of features including skill-based character progression from over 32 unique skills, open player-driven sandbox gameplay, and full mod and custom community server support.

The game is holding a promotion for those who pre-order between now and December 3rd, offering a seven day head start and associated Founder’s Pack bonuses depending on which package you buy.

In addition to the pre-order offer, there will be a number of contests in the run-up to early access. The first of these involves players answering the question “What role will you play?”, with additional entries available to those who sign up to the game’s newsletter. The prize: an ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8GB ROG Strix Graphics Card and a Lord’s Founder’s Pack, while two runners-up will receive Lord’s Founder’s Packs.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since we began this journey. So much has changed since then,” mused Citadel Studios founder Derek Brinkmann in a statement. “We’ve gone from making a smaller scale online RPG to making the large-scale full-on sandbox MMORPG we’ve been dying to play since Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, and EverQuest first made us all believers in the genre years ago.”

That full-on sandbox experience is summarized in the trailer below.

Our Thoughts

Last time we were in this game, we found that things were becoming more full and intriguing in spite of the game’s overall hands-off approach, so naturally we’re very excited to see the nearly full experience arrive to early access. We also hope that said early access isn’t lacking in features, though that doesn’t seem to be a problem with this one.

Source: press release

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Rend Arrives to Steam Early Access at the End of July

It would seem that the tests up to this point for Rend have been going very well indeed. Perhaps better than we expected. A Rend early access launch date has been officially confirmed by the folks at Frostkeep Studios, bringing the factional survival sandbox to Steam at the end of the month.

rend early access launch date

With a period of constructive and successful testing behind them, the devs of Rend are now confident that their game is feature-complete enough to ask for money to play in early access. Specifically, the game will set you back $29.99 on Steam according to the press release.

As one would expect, the devs at Frostkeep are pretty excited about their game making its next major milestone. “We have been developing Rend side-by-side with our players since we first announced the game and are grateful for the invaluable feedback they provided to help shape Rend into what it has become today,” said CEO and co-founder Jeremy Wood.

Rend officially makes its way to Steam on Tuesday, July 31st. A trailer can be seen below.

Our Thoughts

Clearly, things have been going pretty well for the folks at Rend, but now it’s time to see if their talk about not kicking the game out too early actually measures up. In any case, we’re looking forward to seeing just what this game has to offer survival sandbox and factional PvP fans.

Source: press release

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