Wait – are we back in 1997? What happened? Did someone reach 88 miles per hour? If you’ll excuse my horrible intro (I never was good at them), Avernum: Escape from the Pit will totally convince you that yes, in fact, it is 1997 again and you’re playing games on MS-DOS (or Windows ’95, depending on how awesome you were). This is the third – yes, third - remake of the classic-yet-forgotten top-down RPG called Exile I: Escape from the Pit; its second incarnation goes by the name Avernum. Their creator, Seattle-based developer Spiderweb Software, were founded in 1994 – and have stayed there ever since.
Strange Loop Games are a funny bunch. While the majority of developers these days are using advancements in technology to improve lighting mechanics, draw distance, and texture resolution, Strange Loop are happy to sacrifice graphics in order to improve in-game physics. Vessel is a game that totally encapsulates that core value of the company – gameplay over graphics. With that principle in mind, we have a cheap, clever, and excruciatingly difficult liquid physics-based puzzler that, despite not looking as crisp as a lot of its contemporaries, still manages to pack a significant punch with its charming aesthetic style.
Oh man. A pirate RPG. With the Inquisition. What a fantastic concept. And the Kraken is an antagonist, no less. Could the premise behind Risen 2 be any more perfect? In all honesty, however, while the potential is there in buckets, an utter lack of polish and thought on the developer’s part seems to have bottlenecked this pirate-y sequel’s success. Some might argue that gritty edges are a trademark of Piranha Bytes’ games, but Risen 2 really needed to be a well-crafted labour of love from the developers in order to stand out from the competing ARPG heavyweights.
Here’s a scenario that I’m sure plenty of you, my dear readers, will be familiar with. “Oh, I’ll just play half an hour of Civilization before starting that ultra super important busy work that I have to do.” Know where this is going? Yep, it’s two in the morning and I’m starting this review, all because a half-hour session with the sole purpose of taking some screenshots turned into a six-hour marathon. But this situation has cursed many a Civ fan since each of us started our first journey through history, so what, exactly, does Gods & Kings offer that justifies its relatively large price tag? In Australia, we’re expected to fork out a whopping $50 for what is, essentially, DLC. Is it worth it?
Post-apocalyptic Sweden. Am I the only person who finds that to be such a strange setting for a game? Krater is a top-down action RPG from Fatshark, the studio behind Lead and Gold and the upcoming War of the Roses, and it’s set in, well, Sweden. Post-apocalyptic Sweden. I’ll say that again just to drive it home. Oh, and there is a large, suspicious home wares manufacturing company called IDEA. Despite being an enjoyable experience, however, Krater suffers from released-too-early-itis – it’s the next in a growing line of small games that have been released a couple of weeks too early for their own good.
It could have been so easy. I mean, a graphic novel about a zombie apocalypse? If any other studio had scored the rights to this adaptation, we’d have got a generic zombie shooter for sure. I expected a zombie shooter to come of the franchise. But, of all developers, Telltale Games was the one to take this project onboard – for the less learned of my readers, Telltale are the kings of the modern point and click adventure game. So, when I first heard that it was Telltale who’d be adapting The Walking Dead, I was both thoroughly bemused and thoroughly excited. A zombie point-and-click? Original, to say the least.
Oh no, I thought. A grid-based, cube-pushing puzzler. I’ve played countless puzzle games that force you to push blocks in specific patterns – and then, if you make one wrong move, you have to reset the level and do it all over again. One wrong move. I admit, when I first received MacGuffin’s Curse , I simply assumed that it’d be a charming, Monkey Island-esque point-and-click like Brawsome’s previous game, Jolly Rover. I admit that it does retain a number of elements from this genre – conversation trees, for one. But then I booted it… and… grid-based, cube-pushing puzzles? Oh no.
Do we all remember Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust? Different, wasn’t it? Icelandic post-rock giants Sigur Rós essentially abandoned all that had propelled them into the sights of pop music and adopted, ironically, a much more pop-oriented sound. The minimalistic beauty of Ágætis byrjun and the rich, thick musical layers present in ( ) were left behind for playful melodies, acoustic guitars, and (get this) tempos above 80 bpm! In a Sigur Rós album! Heresy! This shift was first noticeable to observant listeners in Takk… , but it was really Með suð that embraced their new mentality. And then they went on an indefinite hiatus. I mean, I liked Með suð, but I never wanted to see it become their swan song. This is the band that released ( ), the best album of the century so far (in my opinion, obvs), and they sign out with an album shows the band members naked on the cover? No thanks.
You’re walking down the road in a small village, sun blazing down, making the cobblestone path hot underfoot. You leave the outskirts of town, ready for adventure… and find yourself in the middle of the tundra. Or the desert. Or a lush, thick rainforest. In this procedurally generated sidescrolling platformer sword & sorcery RPG (yeah, I said it), you are wandering around the world after an apocalypse that not only destroyed the world of Environ, sending it into a quasi ice age, but also managed to take down the confines of space and time as we know it. All biomes imaginable seem to have been condensed down to within walking distance of one another, each containing distinct enemies, environments, and pickups (as you’d expect).