Temtem (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £27.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, the games that try to give us the Pokemon experience on PC. The hunting of cute creatures, the training of cute creatures, the, er… Well, let’s skip over one of those points to the charm of gym leaders, the worlds, and the cartoonishly villainous antagonists. Yeah… And Temtem, in Early Access right now, is one of those, and is also… An MMO.

I already like this guy. You just know he’s a field researcher, with stories like that.

That’s right, a massively multiplayer game, in which you can, at times, interact with other trainers. Suffice to say, I am an internet hermit, so I shall most likely end up talking about that on the next Early Access review. For now, though, let’s talk about interesting differences, nice touches, aesthetics, and, of course, how it feels to play.

Pretty much from the beginning, there were interesting things that quickly became apparent. Now, before we talk about that, the way it usually goes for the new folks: You are a monster tamer, catching monsters in some form of digital storage (cards, in this case) after weakening them enough, and using them to fight other trainers, most of whom will pick a fight with you first. The wild temtem only exist in bodies of water and tall grasses, for the most part, and, once a fight begins, you engage in a turn based battle, which is where the first differences crop up.

Note that both kinds of breeding values are actually shown on the Temtem’s character profile. And the leaf is the number of times it can breed.

Some things stay the same. Your Temtem all have types, and those types are strong against one or more types… And weak against others. But here’s an important difference: Once you run out of stamina, the resource each Temtem has for using moves, it’s not “Oh heck, that move’s useless now.” No, you can do one of two things, both of which have different risks. You can rest that Temtem for a turn, which means you’re losing out on damage, but get stamina back… Or you can still use the move, but take the overflow of stamina loss to your hit points, then have to rest a turn. If you have healing items, and that move makes a win that turn likely, odds are high that one’s going to bring you the higher reward.

Even better, once you have a Temtem caught and registered in your codex, the game will colour code the target ring around the Temtem a bright green (for super-effective), or a dark red (for weak.) Value differences, people: They make a lot of difference. It’s by no means the only set of changes, which make for a more streamlined, nuanced experience, but it’s definitely one you notice straight away. Finally on the interesting and positive differences front, there is Temtem Essence, effectively, a full party heal and revive that can be used once, until you return to the nearest healing station. Cool.

Aesthetically, the game is cartoonish in nature, with cel shaded 3D models, nice, orchestral style music (I do love the cheery violin number you first hear when travelling the first route), and the writing… Well, from the moment you look at the Fire starter, and you hear the professor mention he won that starter in a pub brawl, you know the writing’s going to be a little more mature, and I appreciate this step. So… There’s a fair amount to like. What’s not so hot?

Omigosh yes, I don’t have to memorise type pairings anymore (except for those times I haven’t caught one yet.)

Okay, it’s only a few things so far, and I’m sure that, later in Early access, the devs will handle some of them. Balance wise, the first area is a little tough, and I had to rush back to the healing console a few times before I got to the first town, because some of the trainer fights (for example, the fight where there’s a level 11… I already forget the name, but it’s a bigass piranha.) are somewhat tough. Not unbeatable, for sure, but there’s some you’re definitely not coming out of without a Temtem being knocked out. Which neatly leads into another minor niggle… Unless you’re talking to everybody, you may not realise which of the three consoles you come across are the healing one, the storage one, or the vendor. It’s not a big problem, as experimentation quickly shows which is which (it’s the left one for healing), but it is an annoyance. But, on the other hand, it’s a definite improvement that there’s no unskippable speech, and the animation for healing is pretty quick. Very nice quality of life thing, right there.

You just know these guys are gonna try to double team you. Thankfully, only two Temtem are on the field at any one time.

Finally, the things that are interesting, but whether they please is to taste. Firstly, that some Temtem start without offensive moves when they’re caught. That one usually resolves itself relatively quickly, but in your first area, levelling up requires them to be in a fight to get experience, for at least one round. And secondly, that evolution levels are not “This level, full stop”, but “This many levels after the level you caught it at.” Personally, I found it an interesting touch that doesn’t overly affect my experience, but others may get turned off, so that has to be mentioned. There is also the fact that any one Temtem only has a limited number of breedings in them, and, when bred, the child has the lower breeding limit of the two parents. That one can, potentially sting.

Anyway, overall, I’ve had a pleasant time so far, now that the rush of the first few days has gone down. It has quite a few quality of life features (more than I could explain in my usual review size), interesting mechanical changes from its spiritual inspiration, a nice aesthetic, and, of course, playing with your friends. I can appreciate this a fair bit.

The Mad Welshman is a hermit, it’s true. But in his time in the mountains, he learned well the art of swearing at a monster-capturing device to make it work better. A valuable skill.

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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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Digimon Stories: Cyber Sleuth Complete Edition (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £34.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Digimon, Digital Monsters, only certain ranks of Digimon are the Champions, as it turns out, doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. But that’s besides the point, we’re reviewing one I missed, because the budget’s never great: Digimon Stories – Cyber Sleuth, Complete Edition. Bit of a mouthful, but I appreciate that it is. Even down to the “Timesaver” bonus content. Whuff.

Okay, it’s time for the Devilma- What do you mean, Devimon doesn’t have the same theme song?

So yes, the general idea: It’s the future of our world, virtual reality that doesn’t make you motion sick (or need to move physically) is a thing, people quite literally “go on the internet”, and cyber crime still exists… Except using Digimon, which humanity, as a whole, seems to be unaware are actually living beings, albeit in digital form. And two protagonists, along with their friends and mentors, discover Great Events in the offing, as they gain the friendship of Digimon, and the Digital World and the Human World entwine and bleed into each other all the more.

It’s dramatic stuff, and I appreciate how the main plot’s kept me coming back, what with corrupt corporate businessfolks I love to hate (Well, no, I just hate, to be honest), Digimon of various personalities, such as one that simply wants friends, but goes about it in precisely the wrong way (and other, darker individuals), and, of course, friends, characters, their own stories. Nice. It’s also aesthetically pleasing, mostly, with a mostly clear UX. We’ll get into that mostly in a moment. But how does it play?

Not only are these two cute as hell. Not only are these two magical girls in the vein of Bayonetta or Panty and Stocking, but cute… You can get them as Digimon, and embrace cute. Doooo iiiiit.

Well, beyond the basics, which are a little more involved than Pokemon (You have two sets of types to consider: Vaccine/Virus/Data/Free, and element types. And yes, both of them factor into damage, so if you have precisely the wrong matchup, prepare to have that Digimon knocked out very quickly indeed), the devil’s in the details of which story you’re playing in the game: The Hacker’s Memories, or Cyber Sleuth. The Hacker’s Memories involves different kinds of battles, and seemingly no use for the Mirror Dungeon part of the DigiLab (where you do various things starting with Digi- to Digimon, such as Digivolution, the changing of a Digimon into a different Digimon, or back to give a little more of a level benefit. A thing that’s required for certain kinds of digivolutions.) Meanwhile, Cyber Sleuth has more of a real world map. But both involve… Look, I would be here for a very long time if I were talking about mechanical differences, and the Digivolution process, so let’s talk about how it feels… And the negatives of the game. Positive wise, we shall leave it so far as “Mostly good aesthetics, mostly good UX, a fair bit of depth and complexity, without being overwhelming, and puzzle areas that didn’t make me want to tear my hair out at the roots.

Feel wise, I’m feeling myself drawn into the story and its characters, enjoying the boss battles, and finding the world interesting. It dripfeeds the lore, only as it needs to, and, for the most part, doesn’t go “Hey, did you know about ‘World thing?’” unless it’s genuinely something the character wouldn’t know, or is unclear about. Good! The random battles… Exist. Maybe I’m overlevelled a lot of the time, maybe it’s just that way once you get any sort of decent team, but it’s only either when I’m in a new area, or am just starting out that I don’t seem to be one-shotting Digimon that I’m not weak against. So… The random battles feel a little like busywork as a result, especially due to the digicapture system (yes, a lot of things being with digi- . Deal with it.)

Team Monster +1, in that rare crit, the “Somebody is going to become very very dead” triple link-up!

See, you have to beat up a certain number of Digimon of a species to get enough data to hatch one yourself. And then more data, up to 200%, to make sure your Digimon is the best of its kind it can be. This can be eight fights with a digimon of a type (25%-30% each.) It can be ten. And it can be 14 fights. I haven’t found anything below 15% Data from each fight yet, but… Yeah, getting Digimon can be a grind. And some, you have to either feed in the Digifarm a lot, or have along with you in fights, to raise their CAMaraderie to the level you need. Rare Digimon can take a silly number of levels, plus special items to make, but… That’s rare ones, I’m okay with that.

What I’m less fine with is the type-match colouring when you select an enemy to hit, which is Red (Good damage, but not necessarily great damage, because, as you recall, there are two sets of type matchup.) which is fine… White for normal, which is fine… And blue for bad, or, more accurately speaking… Cyan for bad. These last two colours are very close together, to the point where even a fair few folks who aren’t colourblind can’t tell them apart, so… Bit shit, that. And no, there is no colourblindness option. At all.

It is no spoiler to say that this… This is the face of evil. Believe me, she gives away how gleefully evil she is from the first time(s) you meet her.

Equally, there are two minor niggles. The dungeon animations, or animations where your group is both running and bigger than 2, get weird, because the monsters can easily get caught up on you (stilling their animations, although it doesn’t restrict their movement), and are always pointed toward you when they’re running, which looks janky as hell. It’s not a dealbreaker, and nor is the fact that audio options don’t seem to take effect (or can even be set) until you start a game or continue it (the first time you play, you set them, and can change them in game.)

Overall, I’ve had a fairly good time with Digimon Stories, and it’s probably one of the games I’ll actually new game+ , in my large backlog. As a monster collecting game, it’s solidly designed overall, its story is drawing me in, and, apart from these problems, I’m having fun, and would recommend it to other fans of RPGs, especially those who are into the monster collecting gig.

I’ve appreciated having two months in a row where I’ve had nice monster collecting games. Now if only I had the free time to play them…

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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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SD Gundam G Generation Cross Rays (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £39.99 (£54.98 for Deluxe Edition, Season Pass £19.99, Extra Dispatch Missions 1 £4.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

No, that isn’t a word salad up there in the title. Or, rather, it is, but it’s a meaningful one. It is, indeed, Super Deformed (Bobblehead Gundams fighting, basically), It is part of the G Generation series (The first to hit the PC, in fact), and you do, indeed, Cross both Rays (in the beam weapon sense) and, occasionally, Rays (In the “That’s their first name sense.”) Simple, no?

Damn bloody right I’ve got a Hyakuri on my Sortie team!

Well, that still doesn’t really tell us anything, and it only tells fans of Super Robot Wars something when I say it’s like that, so… It’s a turn based strategy game, with some customisation, lots of units, 13 campaigns covering the Wing, Seed, 00, and Iron Blood Orphans series and some of their spinoffs, like Seed Astray, lots of characters… And a system that encourages a certain style of play… Namely, that if you weaken multiple enemies, a single Gundam could kill up to three of them at once. Oh, and you can also link your Gundams of the same team in a single, devastating multi-target attack.

Or you can fluff a 78% chance, and swear at the wasted energy, the resource that only really renews without docking back at base for Warships and Story Gundams, maybe taking a hit yourself into the bargain. UWAAAAAAGH! –Splode.

This is 5 of them. And only a few of them are short.

And I definitely don’t feel guilty for this taking a not insignificant portion of my review budget, because, as mentioned… 13… Goddamn… Campaigns. At this very moment in time, 13 hours in, I’ve gotten 29% of the things to get (Which… Isn’t actually as far along as I’d like. Especially since I haven’t yet got my two favourites available in this game, the Gusion and the Hyakuri), and have finished most of… The first missions.

Yeah, be prepared for each of even the first missions to take… A while. And doing well, getting those sweet, sweet extra missions? Unlocks… A harder part to the mission, which will test your endurance and tactical skill. You get some neat unlocks though, whether through that, developing higher levelled mechs into different mechs, combining designs, adding abilities to your characters… More of which you can unlock… There’s a lot to it.

Although sometimes, what results from developing mechs can be a distinct downgrade. Gundam. Zaku. Gundam. Zaku… GUNDAM.

Aesthetically, well… Gundam has always been known for some good tunes, and some high drama in its voicework, and this game is no exception. A dramatic sting happens with every phase change (from you, to enemies, to different groups of enemies if there’s more than one…) There are theme tunes, attract movies, the top down forced perspective stuff is mostly clear and alright, the battle animations are great. You can skip them once you’ve seen them, to save time, but… Don’t skip animations just by weapon, as different units use those weapons in different ways. One Gundam will have a proper Beam Rifle, one will use two Beam Pistols, and, in a particularly silly animation, one will slap two Beam Pistols together to make a bigger Beam Pistol that they fire. It’s very pretty.

Now, not all is roses. The UI text can get pretty damn small sometimes, which isn’t great accessibility wise, there’s some “Your mileage may vary” in the fact that the game is using moments from the series completely, so there’s a lot of dialogue and narration between missions (You can skip this, but for those who don’t like to, be warned, it goes on a while a lot of the time), and in some series, you’re going to get severely hamstrung if your Sortie mechs are, for example, all using Beam weapons in IBO, where nearly everything resists Beam Weaponry.

I LOVE CANNONS!!!

Say goodbye to that 4K damage, friendo, you’re only doing 1.5K tops against a Graze. And you will feel shame at not being able to damage what’s effectively a mook with ease. On the other hand, IBO units do pretty well in Beam heavy series. Muahahaha. Finally, yes, there is grind. Some units can only be gained by either maxing out meters, or developing them from other mechs, which requires levelling them up. Thankfully, this grind can be lessened by doing “Dispatch” missions, which take your group out of play for a certain time (From 2 and a half to 12 hours), but… You don’t actually have to be playing the game to run that timer down. Actually a pretty reasonable way of handling it!

But, here’s the thing: Overall? Hot damn is this value for money, with some moderately alright tutorialisation, to the point where you’ll very quickly get some tricks to shoot down units by the score, even Warships, and look cool doing it. For Gundam fans, well, hey, you’ve got a Gundam SD game you can play on PC (Super Robot Wars when, Bamco?), and for turn based tactical strategy games, you’ve got something you can sink your teeth into. Definite recommend here!

The Mad Welshman notes with some amusement that his sortie team is now several levels higher than… Well, anything except major story Gundams now.

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