Spellsword Cards: Dungeon Top (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £12.39
Where To Get It: Steam

At first, I was a very trepid warrior indeed. I skulked through the dungeon, throwing myself at the enemy more out of blind terror than bravery, and wondered, as my skull was split by a goblin axe, why the people I commanded kept dying.

And then Jamie realised you could move and attack. Whoops!

This pair of cards is about to make my life rather difficult.

So yes, Spellsword Cards has, as you might imagine, cards. And a mana system. And loot, which just so happens to be cards to add to your starting deck… And enemies, each with their own deck. But these cards are most often minions, with a few spells, weapons and treasures into the mix. And fights aren’t just “Play card, hit guy with card, win if guy dead, lose if you’re dead.” They’re small, turn-based tactics arenas, in which carefully putting minions into play is the difference between life… And death.

Okay, so you do have to kill the other’s leader, and not have yours die, but there’s more to it than that, is what I’m saying.

Of course, you can pretty much expect death, and a fair amount of it. It is a roguelike, after all. Whether that’s from ranged enemies, the occasional wizard (I encountered one whose entire deck was “Fuck you, splash damage.” Beat that one down as quick as you can, he gets stronger the longer the fight goes on), or… The bosses.

He can attack all horizontally or vertically adjacent tiles at once. Plan around this, or you will die.

Let’s take the example of the Ogre. Oh boy, is he tough. He’s not unbeatable, but whenever he attacks, he attacks everyone around him, can do 5 damage to the Hero(ine) unless they have block on every other turn, and, every other turn, gets 4 Block. Add in that he will have slightly less than 3 times the max health you have, and… He’s a bit of a bastard. As to the second boss? Well, currently, level 2 is where the gauntlets not only come off, but make you slap yourself while loudly wondering why you’re still hitting yourself. An example enemy here would be Fire Titans, which cause burn every turn, and can do a chain attack when someone’s burning. Pack yourselves close, get mullered. Spread out, and his lava minions might murder you instead.

It does ease you in, however, and it’s got some interesting synergies going on, in both the main decks currently available as the Warrior, and the Sorceress. The Helm deck is mostly about building up overwhelming damage, while the Karim deck is about sacrificing units to buff or summon other units. As with other deckbuilding roguelikes, decks can become bloated… But apart from spells and potions coming and going before you actually need them (your hand gets discarded at the end of every turn), you can still work with the 3 cards you get each turn in some fashion… Even if it’s not the potbuster you wanted, it can still protect your hero, or do some damage to the enemy hero.

Proof that I even got this far. Because hey, I am good at videogames! Sometimes!

Accessibility wise, right now, my main bitch is that the main menu is too small. I know there’s a lot of items there, and I know folks love to have a good splash screen, but… It could definitely do with being bigger. Maybe fold some of those items like cheevo progress, the card library, and the rulebook into… A “codex” option, as a starting suggestion? Oh, and Tutorial into New Hero (the equivalent of New Game) In any case, if folks are curious as to what’s coming, the library does mention a third class (Rogue, because of course they’re going Warrior, Wizard, Thief), and 3 factions not currently in the game (Although only the names, so… I won’t be able to tell you what they do until the next review, be it early access or release.) Basically, a UI/tooltip/text scale would be nice, thanks. Status symbols are quite small, but there are tooltips, so… waves hand… That one somewhat evens out.

But otherwise, it’s a fairly easy to learn game, it has a good, inked visual style, fairly good music, the enemy decks are enemy specific, and currently, the enemies are easy to learn in each level, with a small selection of what’s in a level, and one boss per level (of the 3 currently in the game. No idea if that’ll be the lot.) Fair amount of replay value, interesting decks, lots of potential things to see in each one, and a good aesthetic make this one… Definitely one worth taking a look at, if you like small unit, turn-based tactics and card based roguelikes.

No, readers, there are no Dungeon Tops in this Dungeon Top game to my knowledge. It’s as disappointing to me as it is to you.

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Kelipot (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, the story of Cain and Abel. Two bears, both proud warriors, and one of whom is… No, this is the story of Cain and Abel. Cain definitely tries to kill Abel… It’s just…

Okay, alright, this is one of those procgen not quite metroidvania type deals, where some abilities are kept between runs at a castle, and others are only used or obtained during that run. And yes, the story involves a bear named Abel, whose brother, Cain, appears to have been corrupted by something, something that seems to have corrupted others, as Abel finds out when he and a doggy merchant are thrown into a world between worlds. And wouldn’tcha know it, Abel accidentally has the key to those worlds!

Except he isn’t, but he is, but he isn’t… Look, parallel worlds are confusing, alright?

It’s not a bad premise, all told, and the writing sells that confusion, the questioning and hurt that comes from seeing people you know and love become twisted. It also creates some interesting characters, although some are more fleshed out than others. As in… It’s pretty much Abel and the Merchant who flesh out over time. From what I’ve seen so far, at least. As to the game? Well, there’s a fair bit that I like, and a couple of things I’m… Not so fond of. But hey, Early Access, things are subject to change, including my opinion.

So let’s begin with what I like. The character designs are pretty damn nice. For example, Abel is a soft boy, for being a warrior, and that’s thematically fitting. Yet he still animates well, and while the enemies aren’t pushed back by normal blows, there’s nonetheless strength and speed in the swings. The secondary abilities, the passives… Most of them feel like powerups. The enemies are an interesting mix, and, once I’d learned to spot certain traps, I appreciated the tension in certain layouts. The fact that only some items and abilities stay from run to run is less fun, but there’s some compensation in picking one of the special abilities you earn (by finding in-run abilities you haven’t collected yet) for an extra benefit, such as being able to damage foes by jumping on their heads, having better healing, and that sort of thing.

Individual rooms can be complex, or simple, but they are nearly all populated by things that can, want to, and might just kill you.

I am less appreciative of the keyboard controls. Just, overall. The defaults feel a little confusing, and even with rebinding them to something I’m used to, I have problems. Controller is recommended for this one folks.

And similarly… I’m not exactly having fun with the bosses. Damage in the game is brutal, and bosses can quite easily murder the heck out of you with just a few hits, which, on the one hand, is similar to the enemies… On the other, you have to get through the enemies to reach the boss, and, while I didn’t have a problem with this in, say, Dead Cells, I feel like I’m having more trouble here.

Despite this, do I recommend it, at the present stage? Yes. It’s showing a lot of promise, some solid writing, a good aesthetic, and hell, you might have a much easier time of the bosses than I am.

The Mad Welshman dislikes when he’s having a tough time of it. Just… Overall, to be honest.

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Little Dungeon Stories (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £6.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Swiping left and right… Now there’s something with connotations. Do you swipe right, and lose a little Energy on a conversation that may or may not go somewhere, or do you swipe left, and lose some Humanity as you buy into a reductive system and make someone’s life a little worse? It’s a tough decision. Thankfully, Little Dungeon Stories not only adds the options of swiping up and down (occasionally), but it’s a much more simple affair. Keep your four meters higher than 0, go as long as you ca- Waaaiiit a minute…

Jazzek fumbled with his copy of PC Tools. “Gribbley gribbley gribbley.”

Okay, this is basically a roguelike, along the lines of Reigns, where you have four meters (Health, Energy, Humanity, and Money), and all you have to do is get to the heart of the dungeon. Simple, right? I mean, you have a minimum of two choices with every card you draw, and each one raises or lowers stats, or makes you equip a thing or sell it, or drinking a potion as opposed to keeping it…

Well, about that. You see, one meter will go down with every choice you make: Your Humanity. And sometimes, the choice isn’t whether you gain a thing or stat, or lose a thing or stat… It’s about how much you lose… From where. For example, when a spike trap happens, you could use 15 Energy, and maybe it would go alright. More often, though, it’ll then cost you 30 Health. Or you could spend 30 Energy you… Might not have.

This beggar, for example, was a lose lose for me in this specific context. Normally, I’d happily give some alms. But not having the income to help actually killed me this run.

It isn’t always difficult, but it definitely can be. Adding another random element, the fact your adventurers are always different, adds some replay value… At the cost of some runs being more difficult than others just due to the nature of the person. And you quickly learn that some paths… Are going to be difficult no matter what you do. Like the Library. If you have high intelligence, you can do a lot of things… At the cost of Energy. A fair bit of energy. Or you can craft a potion recipe, to make lots of potions next time you meet an Alchemist, or buy things from a Wizard… For energy. You’re going to be losing a fair bit of Energy in the Library. I hope you had a potion ready!

But, for all this, there’s a few reasons I actually quite like this one. First of all, it’s short. In less than an hour, I’d gotten the gist of the game, and had four runs, three of which ended disastrously (mostly with me lying on the floor of the dungeon, too apathetic to move forward or back… Just like a particularly bad day, honestly, except with more wandering monsters), and the final one somehow beating the bosses, completely not understanding what pillars or anvils did, and reaching the Dungeon Heart. Go me, and my largely oblivious himbo!

Awwwwh yeah…

Secondly, it’s pretty accessible. Text is clear, what an item is is clear… The only thing that’s not so clear is that the card text fades into the thing you want to do, so actually choosing a thing can be a little hard to read. It’s turn based, it’s simple movements, the music’s nice, the pixel art on the cards is nice… It’s a pretty solid game, and a good lunchbreak prospect. And, of course, it Does What It Says On The Tin.

So yes, this is pretty much a recommendation.

The Mad Welshman swipes left on this game.

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DemonCrawl (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Minesweeper. A logic game as old as Windows… Well, older than Windows, actually, but it was popularised (sort of) by its inclusion in Windows 3.1, right up until the present day. And the formula hasn’t changed. Like, at all. Click a square. Is it a bomb? No. Is it an empty space with empty spaces around it? Those empty spaces will auto clear, until, at the edges, there are The Numbers. The numbers that tell you how many Mines are adjacent. And from those, you have to deduce… Where the bombs are. Hit a bomb, welp, you die.

[Screams In Minesweeper]

Why am I explaining this, a thing known to many a person who just… Has a PC? Well, Demoncrawl is Minesweeper… But it’s also a roguelite, a game with progression once you lose, shops, items… And Hit Points. That’s right, you can fuck up more than once. Well, in Quest Mode. So long as the monsters (your new Mines) aren’t strong, and roll high on their damage, one shotting you. Or you’re sucking wind on hitpoints, in which case, welcome to Classic Mode in Quest Mode, sucker! But it’s okay, you can get magic items, and buy them, and there are strangers, people who’ll help you, and…

Look, it adds stuff to the Minesweeper formula, and it makes it still tough, and indeed some items (Omens) and status effects in dungeons make it tougher, but it also makes things more interesting. In a good run, I was collecting more gold than I knew what to do with, and when I had trouble, well, I had a magic bow, an explosive boomerang, a summoner of minions who would at least expose monsters, even if they didn’t kill them to make my life that much easier.

Oh… Dear.

On a particularly bad run… Well, let me explain the screenshot above. 3 curses in my inventory. One means there are ten more monsters on the board than normal, and there always will be until I get rid of it. One is “Chance of loot (at all) halved” … And this just after I’d gotten something that tripled my chances of a legendary item. And finally, “Levels always have at least one status, which is random.” And that random status? I lost an item on my first turn, and could have lost more. I was in deep trouble.

Somehow, I managed to solve it, and said “Fuck it!”, took a teleporter to a random level… And promptly died. At least I got a few tokens for buying new legendaries to drop, customisation stuff (mostly minor), and better chances at more tokens so I could buy them quicker. Oh, and a mummy avatar. I now have Resting Mummy Face. In EGA, no less. And all this is without mentioning other fun things in each level, like merchants, a very Audrey like plant that will give you things (in exchange for a lot of items), the Chaos Forge that… Well, adds chaos…

He later killed all of my kind. Just because I’d stepped on him.

To sum up, it’s an interesting take on Minesweeper that makes the game more enjoyable, has a fair amount of replay value and things to find, and I would recommend it for folks looking for a logic puzzly, rogueliteish time. Or one of the two and exploring the other. I’ve definitely enjoyed myself.

I am… Very bad at Minesweeper. It is embarassing.

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Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £5.79 (£7.09 for game and soundtrack, £2.09 for soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Adventurers are not the smartest of folks. They run heedlessly into dungeons, and then scratch their heads as they’re faced with… A grid? A small economy system? A… Puzzle? BRUNO SMASH. Bruno dead. Whoops, Bruno should have listened to the tutorial of Krumit’s Tale, a fun little puzzle and deckbuilding roguelite in which you try to efficiently clear out a dungeon, with the only major criteria being survival. Of course, if you survive and leave a lot of item tiles on the board, you get more opportunities to beef up your deck. And that’s so very tempting.

All these tiles will be lost… Like tears in the rain. Time to die…

The actual rules of Krumit’s Tale are pretty simple. With an enemy, you attack first, unless they’re ambushing or blitzing you (the lightning symbol.) Killing an enemy nets you 1 gold, and gold is used to buy abilities. I mention this before things like parrying, where if you have more armour the the enemy’s attack? They’re stunned for a turn, which, effectively, counts for either two turns of damage, or the enemy’s death, depending on how much they have left in the (heart) tank, because you don’t start with weapons or armour.

You have to buy them, if you have the option. Once all enemies are dead, you’ve won, and the equipment and ability tiles you have left on the board are counted toward your bonus points. You get a free tile, you pick a special ability out of four, and then you buy tiles and rubbish cards you don’t want anymore until your deck size is the current maximum. Then you do it again. Die? You’ve earned XP, which will, over runs, unlock you new abilities for the character you’ve played.

A dangerous foe indeed!

The devil’s in the details, of course, with each new enemy having something that complicates matters, but the base ideas are tight, simple, and easily understandable. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of. Which is good, I like me some tight design! But what about… Everything else?

Well, it just so happens that I like the aesthetic too. Visually, it’s a cartoonish style, with some interestingly grim elements, and lovely little touches like the M of Krumit’s fluttering above the candle flame of the L, and the animations of each character. Speaking of characters, both of the currently available characters have their own… I won’t quite say “charm” , but character works. Bruno is definitely a barbarian of a man, with a constant, low key gargling of suppressed rage, and similarly, Greybeard the wizard is toothily muttering his incantations. Their designs, and that of the monsters, are pretty cool, and the music? Suitably creepy. Nice!

Yes, this would be an ideal spot. I love sneks!

This, the difficulty curve, the clever little things you can do (If your inventory isn’t used up, it counts toward that tile bonus, friends!), and its sarcastic, sometimes grim humour works well for me. As far as deckbuilder roguelites go, it comes recommended, even in this early stage, showing promise and polish.

The Mad Welshman loves the description of W’aggu. Alas, he didn’t screenshot it. Go play the game.

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