Sunday, July 27, 2014

Risk of Rain Review


Well Choona, you're up. I'll be right behind you...

  • Developer: Hopoo Games
  • Publisher: Chucklefish Games
  • Release Date: 9 November 2013
  • Time played: 4 hours

As mentioned in an earlier blog post of mine, Risk of Rain happens to be one of the games I grabbed during the last Steam sale - at a very cheap price. I actually purchased a 4-pack and gave the extra copies to friends which is just as well since it allowed me to test the game's multiplayer :). I was attracted to the game since it was apparently developed using Game Maker, one of the popular game development tools available out there. Yes, this isn't the first time I've purchased and reviewed a game because it was developed using game development software; Gunpoint was the first to take that honour on this blog but Risk of Rain is probably the first one with multiplayer capabilities.

Besides wanting to play the game to see more examples of what Game Maker is capable of, I was also attracted to the game since it offers co-op play in a sci-fi setting and I haven't come across many games yet that has done it right.


Plot (4/5)
What's actually revealed at the beginning of the game isn't much. What seems to happen is that a spaceship travelling nearby a certain planet is sabotaged by an unknown assailant who teleports onto the craft. The spacecraft starts to break up as it enters the planet's atmosphere but your character manages to survive by escape pod. The game starts right after you've crash landed on the planet's surface. The native lifeforms aren't too happy about your presence though and it's not long before you're attacked.

So as you can see there's not really much of a plot to this game but you are able to collect diary entries that correspond to items or eventually find entries for your monster log which gives you some insight to the native wildlife. I'm assuming you find out the identity of the mysterious assailant from the beginning of the game once you complete Risk of Rain - but since the game is so damn hard, I've never got that far... yet.

Gameplay (3/5)
As mentioned, you play the role of a spaceship crash survivor in Risk of Rain. The first time you play, you only have one class unlocked called the Commando who is able to nimbly dodge his enemies and is very competent with guns. The aim for each level is to find a teleporter that will take you to the next level until you get to the final level (I assume, since as mentioned, I've never actually managed to get there!). Once you reach and activate the teleporter, an enemy boss spawns along with a countdown timer that indicates when extra enemies will stop spawning around you. Once the countdown timer stops your aim is to kill all remaining enemies on the level before proceeding. The longer you play the game, the harder it gets but the only way to level up your character is to kill monsters, and the only way to upgrade your character is to find money in order to purchase them. Consequently, there's a bit of a balancing act between getting to the teleporter as soon as possible and making sure your character is prepared for the enemies on the next level.

Overall I find the game to be fun especially if you're able to grab a few mates to play with you in co-op mode. I haven't had this much fun in a co-op action game since the old Diablo 2 days. Well, that's not entirely true, but good co-op games are hard to come by and this is one of the good ones, if not one of the most challenging since when one of your mates dies, he/she's dead for the entire level and when he/she respawns on the next level, he/she's at the same level he/she died with. And that's the only real criticism I have about the gameplay, the fact it's a roguelike. If you like roguelikes, if you like challenging games with procedurally generated levels, you'll love Risk of Rain. Otherwise, it can sometimes feel like a waste of time to the rest of us peons :).

Sound (3/5)
The game contains basic sound effects but they suit the game.

Music (5/5)
Risk of Rain has a really good soundtrack that contains soaring sci-fi synths reminding me of oldschool sci-fi movies of the 80s and 90s, and recent game soundtracks such as the Mass Effect series. At the same time it manages to sound like a game from the golden era of platformers too which definitely generates pangs of nostalgia. In fact, I'm quite tempted to pay the $6 to purchase it off Chris Christodolou's bandcamp page.



Graphics (3/5)
The game contains basic, low-res, retro-style graphics and it looks like old platformers from yesteryear. While that in itself isn't bad the fact your character is quite small means that if you're in a large firefight with lots of enemies and allies rolling around (who look almost identical to you) it can get confusing as to what's actually going on and where you're at.

Replay (4/5)
Since each level is procedurally generated you're bound to be able to get a lot of replay value here, provided you're a masochist and willing to punish yourself with the difficulty over and over again! Similar to FTL, getting further through the game and earning certain achievements will result in you unlocking new characters with different strengths and weaknesses that you can choose next time you play. There's also some incentive to fill things up like your monster log and there's always Steam achievements to hunt for too.

Polish (2/5)
There were a couple of things that annoyed me about this game. Firstly while I haven't encountered many bugs at all, I did encounter one quite early on that was a showstopper which I mentioned in my First Impressions post for this game. Basically it has something to do with the version of Game Maker used to make Risk of Rain (version 8 I believe?) and the fact it potentially bundles the wrong version of the Visual C++ runtime with the game causing all audio to stop working in your game. Thankfully, installing the correct version from Microsoft's website (in my case, the one for 64-bit Windows) fixes the issue but it's not an issue that's very easy to solve if you're a newbie with PCs.

The second thing that annoys me (and again not a very newbie-friendly issue) is the fact that online co-op play requires you to modify your modem's firewall settings in order to open the right ports to play the game. It's not the most elegant of solutions and it would've been nice to have integrated multiplayer with Steamworks, but you can't have everything I suppose. Fortunately, there's a middle-ground if you're willing to install a virtual LAN over the Internet solution such as Hamachi.

Score – 7/10

Risk of Rain is like FTL's younger platformer cousin with the added bonus of multiplayer. Like FTL, this game is difficult and it will take multiple playthroughs before you make any headway. Also like FTL, the journey can be heaps of fun especially if you manage to get some of your friends along for the ride. It's not the most polished of games out there but if you're willing to be patient with its shortcomings Risk of Rain is a game well worth checking out.

If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam.

If you like this game, you might like...

[ LINK: Official Risk of Rain website]

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Consortium Review


This is your boss. Try not to get on her bad side...

  • Developer: Interdimensional Games
  • Publisher: Interdimensional Games
  • Release Date: 9 January 2014
  • Time played: 4.5 hours

I must confess that the only reason I stumbled upon Consortium is that one of my favourite game composers of all time happened to work on its soundtrack. That composer is none other than the John Williams of game music: Jeremy Soule. In fact, there's even an achievement in the game named after him, check it out:


So after hearing Soule was involved I checked the game out and it claims to be an RPG where you get to make a lot of choices that affect the story. I love RPGs like that and I was imagining an indie version of Mass Effect or Deus Ex - or an FPS version of a Telltale adventure like The Wolf Among Us. So is Consortium really as good as any of these titles I've mentioned? Lets see shall we?

Plot (5/5)
Consortium is set today, right now, at this very second, with you as the protagonist, yes you. Not some wizard in a fantasy kingdom, or some space marine fighting on an alien world. You are the protagonist. At least that's what the developer wants you to think. Basically, the developer, Interdimensional Games, is not just any game developer but they've created a satellite of some sort that opens a portal into the near future - just enough so you can implant your consciousness into any person you wish in the future. From there, you're able to control the person as if you've possessed them (creepy, I know). So it's a bit like James Cameron's Avatar except you're time travelling as well as mind-controlling the natives. In the game's future, the world is more-or-less at peace and has almost become a utopia of sorts. The Consortium, which the person you've possessed works for, seems to be some future peacekeeping force that fly around in large aircraft/spacecraft which also double as Forward Operating Bases. Anyway, you arrive when some strange events start to occur in the world of Consortium and it's up to you to find out what's going on: whether you're co-operative or a complete douchebag about it is your choice.

If you can suspend your disbelief for a second concerning a satellite that can teleport your consciousness into the future, the game has a pretty interesting plot and the fact you're the protagonist means you actually get a choice of whether to role-play (i.e. conceal your true identity) or just be blasé and reveal to everyone that you're a time traveller from the past (you can imagine what kind of reaction you'll receive saying that though). The game has ridiculous amounts of background story and lore (a quick visit to the Consortium Discoveries folder that's included with the game reveals hundreds upon hundreds of pages of lore), so kudos to the developers for putting the time and effort in making the world a believable alternate future. I just wish I spent more time in-game during my first walkthrough reading about it. There's always next time I guess...

Gameplay (3/5)
So is the game like Mass Effect or Deus Ex? Well yes, and no. All of these games are games that incorporate a shooter mechanic in resolving combat (third or first person) and all of them have RPG elements (e.g. conversing with NPCs, conversation choices altering the plot, alternate means of resolving issues, etc.). However the combat in Consortium is nowhere near as good as it is in Mass Effect or Deus Ex. Combat just involves strafing around corners and running up and down corridors while spraying and praying that you hit the enemies. Since all combat in this game takes aboard the plane you're flying on, things can get a wee bit claustrophobic and there'll probably be times where you find yourself stuck which allows your enemies to land a few pot shots before taking you out for good. Like Deus Ex, you are rewarded with respect from some of your peers if you happen to subdue enemies via non-lethal means but it's obviously much more difficult and might involve you converting most of the resources on the plane into energy - energy you use as ammo for your non-lethal weapons.

Also, while I did enjoy some of the conversations you have in the game, and there's quite a bit of it, sometimes the conversation trees were a bit clunky. One time I had to scroll through several pages of conversation choices and since picking a conversation choice is timed, I ended up just hurriedly picking the wrong choice because I thought it would take me too long to scroll back up (and I wasn't even sure if I could do that). The timing of conversations is also annoying, your crew interrupting you in the midst of training drills which you can't stop if you're wanting to work towards achievements. Ignoring them while you're fighting also isn't an option since then they'll just think you're rude. Although some may argue that's the whole point (i.e. you can't please everybody).

Overall I felt the gameplay was somewhat lacking in the combat department and was a bit clunky with respect to conversations. Having an FPS with RPG elements though is fine by me though. In fact, it actually feels more like an FPS with visual novel elements due to the considerable amount of talking you'll do and the number of multiple endings and branches in narrative that are available.

Sound (3/5)
There's a mixture of good and bad voice acting in this game, sometimes occurring with the one character. For example, the pilot who I'm assuming is meant to have an Australian accent, sounds ocker enough most of the time, but there are certain words that seem to be off.

Music (4/5)
As mentioned earlier, the reason I heard about this game in the first place was because of Jeremy Soule's involvement. While the music in the game is great as you'd expect from Jeremy Soule, it's by no means his best work not to mention I think the music is too soft by default. Expect to hear the typical epic, orchestral work that Jeremy Soule is famous for.

Graphics (3/5)
The game has an oldschool feel with respect to its graphics, probably because it's using a modified Source engine although it actually looks more cartoony and less realistic than other Source engine games like Half-Life 2. That's all fine by me but what I didn't like were some of the animations and clipping that seemed to occur quite frequently.

Wow. This guy managed to sleep through all the gunfire.

Replay (3/5)
The game is quite short, only taking about 4 hours to complete although as the developers have mentioned, this is the first game in a trilogy not to mention there are apparently quite a few paths you can take in this game which gives it the same kind of replay that visual novels do.

Polish (2/5)
The game is unfortunately pretty buggy, and it's only today I read the game was even buggier when it was released, so I feel really sorry for those who played the game as soon as it came out. I actually managed to encounter a show-stopper bug at one point whilst dispatching an enemy crucial to the plot. Being the diligent RPG player that I am, I quickly looted the enemy's corpse for items. Shortly after I was told by the crew to loot the corpse for an item that would offer a clue - and then nothing happened, the game didn't progress. All this time I had the required item in my inventory but I guess me looting the corpse before the appropriate trigger had caused the game to get stuck at that spot, forever. I had to restart from an earlier save which was annoying since the battle took quite awhile to complete.

The game also has annoying moments where the screen gets garbled or fuzzy. I know they're doing it intentionally for artistic purposes (i.e. you're perceiving the world through a shoddy connection) but it would be nice if they didn't do that while you were looking at your inventory! Thanks to the blurry screen, you're not even able to tell what is in your inventory which means you end up not worrying about what you're carrying or bothering to find out what each item/weapon does. Not very good for an RPG.

Score – 7/10

Interdimensional Games has worked hard in bringing to us an intriguing alternate future courtesy of Consortium, but unfortunately it has been poorly executed resulting in show-stopper bugs, uninspired combat and a clunky user interface. This game isn't as great as some AAA FPS/RPG hybrids out there but it's not a bad effort by an indie development house.

If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam.

If you like this game, you might like...

[ LINK: Official Consortium website]

Friday, July 25, 2014

GOG selling selected adventure games for 90% off


SALE! SALE! SALE!

Good Old Games (GOG.com) is having a big sale on this weekend. Yes I know they tend to have a big sale on every weekend but I thought I'd make special mention to this one because:

  1. I'm lazy and
  2. They're having a sale on adventure games (I can't say point 'n' click adventure games since technically the Telltale ones are sadly no longer that)

So yeah there's some really good offers here, and I'd be in on the action too if I didn't already own half of the things already on sale. Some really neat bargains include:


Also in other news, GOG is now selling games for Linux as well starting with 50 of its games including Blake Stone, Gods Will Be Watching, Sid Meier's Colonization and Sid Meier's Covert Action. There's a mix of new and old so it's worth checking out if you're a Linux gamer, all two of you (I kid, I kid ;) - make that three).

[ LINK: Good Old Games ]