Thoughts on Battle Islands: Commanders

I’ve mentioned playing Clash Royale a time or two. It was one of the first games I played that does what it does (and does well) but whenever a new type of genre emerges, you can rest assured other developers will run with the concept. Genres from recent memory are MOBAs and the Hero or Class-based Shooter (Quake Champions looks like a pretty cool new iteration on that). I’m not sure what people are calling the Clash Royale type of game, but it’s real time strategy meets card collecting, and it’s pretty addicting and fun. Minion Masters is the last game I came across that reminded me of CR, and I’m still regularly playing CR on my phone as well. Minion Masters has been trucking along with development and it has a fair bit of character and mechanics that set it apart from CR, to the point that I wouldn’t call it a clone. Battle Islands: Commanders on the other hand, is exactly that. But is that a bad thing?

I was browsing through the Playstation Store the other night and decided to take a look at the free to play section. I’m already playing a few titles (SMITE, Paladins, Warframe from time to time) on PS4 that are F2P, and for the most part I am very satisfied with them. As such, I stumbled upon this title and apparently it’s based on an already existing franchise called Battle Islands. I’d assume BI is to BI:C what CoC is to CR. And that’s fine. I’m sure the game world this one is based on is likely a Clash of Clans clone as much as this game is a clone of Clash Royale. I’m not really saying that the game being a clone is really a bad thing though. Honestly, this is Clash Royale (albeit horizontally aligned rather than vertical) with a WWII military skin on it. If you like CR, you’ll probably like this game, as pretty much every single concept is present, and it plays identically. I played on my PS4 because that’s where I happened to see it, but it is also available on Steam. It is free to play no matter the platform.

The game consists of various menus that any veteran of the genre should be easily familiar with. The meat and potatoes takes place on the above screen. Instead of towers, you have bunkers. Instead of a castle you have a warship. Otherwise the standard two lanes of combat exist, and you will play cards that spawn units with various abilities or perform actions like shooting missile barrages from off screen on a targeted area. These are obvious swaps from the fantasy creatures and spells from CR. For what its worth, the animations, the unit variety and the gameplay is on par with CR. It does seem to hitch a bit sometimes from lag, but I have that problem with CR at times as well. From what I’ve played of it the amount of chests that you will unlock from playing, and the costs to upgrade cards feel fair. There is a cash shop of course, and this is mostly used to upgrade cards, or buy chests that will also give upgrades, or to get currency to hurry up unlocks. These are all the same concepts used in CR. From the Steam reviews, it seems that the majority of negative scores point at the fact that it is “pay to win” and in a sense it is. However, just like every other competitive F2P title, you will earn the same power over time without dropping any cash. You’ll just get there faster if you do spend a bit. I see no problem with this.

 

Standard fare. Chests will give a variety of drops + some supplies and gold. Gold can be used to rush chests, and supplies are used to perform upgrades, and also buy cards from the shop that rotates cards out daily. You’ll earn stars from battles, and after 10 stars you’ll get a supply drop chest. Wins also come with chests, and they all take time to open. Cards start at level 1, and through gaining extra copies you can level them up. These numbers grow exponentially, and the costs go up as well. CR vets will understand this right away. Your overall account level is affected by this, in that each time you upgrade a card, you get some points to eventually level up your account which comes with the benefit of a stronger bunker and warship.

 

Overall I like the game. Is it a copy? Yes. But it’s reskinned and just different enough to warrant playing. Will I get significantly involved? Probably not as much because CR is with me in my pocket where ever I go. But for a couple quick rounds in between other things while I’m at home? Sure, why not?

Mini Impressions: Humble Monthly May

Another month in the books, and here we are with a new bundle of games in our Humble Monthly Subscription. This month also marks a year since I started using the service, and I believe that was fairly close to when the company started providing it. I know I missed a couple of months at the very beginning before deciding to see if it was worth the cost. I feel like over the course of the year I was able to check out a large variety of games, including titles that I wanted, some that were still expensive to buy otherwise, and some that I had never even heard of. Some were early access, some were full release, and some were AAA titles that I wouldn’t have expected to get at such a value. Some of the games made me wish I hadn’t bought them already (great titles I already owned have been included over the past year) and others made me glad that I never bought them for full price. Overall I feel that the service is a boon, being around the same price as a Netflix subscription for a handful of decent games each month. I always find at least one that is worth the $12/month entry fee, so any others are a bonus. I only started reviewing the bundles each month (my opinion on these titles that is) a few months back, but I’m sure some of you might think that it seems like I’m always bitching about some portion of the bundle (probably am) but I honestly feel like it’s worth the money. I always have gifts lying in wait for gamer friends, some I gift for no reason, and some I have others stashed for a rainy day. Games that I’m not interested in or already own go into this pile. Others get played and I share those experiences here, while commenting about owning such and such game or having no interest in another. I’m overly honest that way. Still, I would recommend this service because overall each game is pennies on the dollar compared to their MSRP, there are some neat surprises from time to time, and giving the extra loot away feels pretty good. Your mileage may vary.

Let’s get on with the games, shall we? The list this month:

Dirt Rally
Inside
This is the Police
Undertale
Metrico+
The Turing Test
GoNNER
Super Rude Bear Resurrection

Early unlocks for the month were Dirt Rally and Inside. I played both and have opinions. This is the Police, GoNNER and Super Rude Bear Resurrection were the titles that appealed to me this month, so I’ll be able to comment on them as well. I did not install Undertale, Metrico+ or The Turing Test as they all feel like games I wouldn’t enjoy, and I’d rather save those keys for friends. Speaking of which, if you check out the list at the bottom of this page you can check out the games that have been included in past bundles and if we’re friends and you see a game on there you might want, drop me a comment. If I have the key still I’ll send it your way.

Dirt: Rally

I hadn’t played a game in the Dirt series before. Apparently it dates back to the turn of the century, but I hadn’t really even noticed until the third game was out. At some point, Humble provided a free key for Dirt 3, which I redeemed but never played. Ditto for Dirt Showdown. Rally came out last year, and Dirt 4 is on the way this year. Apparently it’s a thing. I really wanted to like it too. The game ran great and looked beautiful. I enjoyed the fact that the career mode felt like playing Gran Turismo, where you start out with a shit car, make money, upgrade it, and eventually buy better cars and qualify for more difficult events. However, in Gran Turismo this is all done on asphalt. Rally racing appeals to me, I’ve watched events and one of my favorite cars of all time is a Rally car (WRX STi), but playing this game didn’t do it for me. I’ll be uninstalling this and I don’t think the predecessors will be getting much time out of me either.

Inside

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Inside took me completely by surprise. I had never heard of it, and it doesn’t look like my type of game. But it was gripping right from the start. A beautiful art style with great depth of field, yet still played on a 2D plane. It is very atmospheric, and there is no dialogue to the point I got in the game, so the story unfolds before you in a way that says it all without saying anything. I really enjoy this one and look forward to seeing more of it.

GoNNER

I have no idea why the title of this game is stylized the way it is, but I have no control over that now do I? A rogue-lite platforming shooter, it has a very strange art style and direction. It looks interesting enough in it’s minimalist way, but can sometimes become confusing. It appears that you can buy different upgrades between deaths, and though it wasn’t too challenging, it wasn’t something that I could see myself putting much time into.

This is the Police

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another game I was on the fence about. Looking at the screens on Steam, I figured it could be a fun little management game. It’s heavily story driven to start off, with a comic book like introduction, and some dialogue decisions to make along the way. The meat and potatoes of the game seems to be managing which officers you send out to handle crimes. Depending on who you pick depends on the success rate, and it seems like even making the “best” choices still resulted in loss of life — civilians and officers mostly. Half the time the perps get away. The management aspects were sort of limited, but I honestly didn’t play it that far. Those of you into management games might have better luck and find more enjoyment in it, I should have passed.

Super Rude Bear Resurrection

SRBR seems like the type of game that has a story behind it. Perhaps there is an original version of this game somewhere and this is a sequel of sorts? Reboot? Remaster? In today’s age, who knows, and though it’s a simple Google search away I don’t really care. I like this game. I’m not huge on platformers anymore, but this feels like the sequel to Super Meat Boy in the best possible way. The game plays similarly enough, the familiar mechanics are there. The graphics are surprisingly good, and done in a way that feels good but still has that cartoon feel-good aspect. The words aren’t coming out so well because it’s late, but hopefully you catch my drift. If you like old school tough platformers, this one is for you.

Overall this was a fairly solid month. The early unlock for June is a game called Stellaris, which is made by the same guys as Crusader Kings. I have CK2, which was gifted to me at some point and I simply couldn’t get into it. A more intuitive tutorial might have been helpful. It looks pretty good nonetheless so I’ll be giving that a whirl soon enough. Until next month, it’s been swell.

Thoughts on the SMITE Tactics Beta

Hi-Rez studios got its start over a decade ago. Many of you will recall a game called Global Agenda, and might even remember their reboot of the Tribes game, Tribes Ascend. It’s doubtful any of you played or cared about the above titles, neither did I. But along came the game that changed my mind about this company and their product: SMITE. Those who have followed my history with the MOBA genre in particular will know that I try most but only really dug into a couple. My obsession with League of Legends has given way to a love for SMITE, and I’ve played it seriously for about a year now. Hi-Rez hooked me with this game, but suddenly they started announcing new titles, and my interest was piqued again. Soon I was playing Paladins, and looking forward to the company’s expansion of the SMITE universe with their Tactics and Rivals games. The latter sounded like it was going to be a mobile title (of which they have one already called Jetpack Fighter), but it seems that development of that particular game has been put on hold. Tactics however, has been advanced to the closed beta stage, and I happened to receive an invite.

SMITE Tactics is a title that will appeal to those of you who like CCGs and strategy RPGs. If you’ve ever played the game Duelyst, you’ll understand the concept quite well. I didn’t think about it til right this instant, but it is also identical to Shardbound, which I wrote about last week. It’s card based. You have a deck, you have a leader the deck is based around. It’s true to SMITE and its own particular brand of lore, and many of the iconic Gods are present. The cash shop seems fair, the currencies are familiar. It’s something you’ll completely understand if you’ve played any of these types of games, but will appeal to you on another level if you already happen to enjoy the SMITE world. If you are unfamiliar with SMITE or this style of game, here’s a video of a couple rounds of my gameplay:

Overall I enjoy this game and Shardbound more than I did Duelyst, but to be fair I didn’t give the latter much of a chance. I enjoyed what I saw but I like the art direction and feel of the other two titles. If you’re interested, I’m sure open beta is around the corner, and it will likely be a Free to Play title upon release. It’s only available on PC, but if their track record is any indicator, it will likely end up on consoles as well.

Mini Impressions: April Humble Monthly

Another month has passed and another new bundle of games has been unlocked from Humble Monthly. The early unlock for April was The Witness which I already knew wasn’t my thing so I gifted that copy away to my sister. The remaining bits of the bundle unlocked earlier this month, and I finally had a chance to check out some of the pieces of the puzzle. I didn’t play all of the games but I still have thoughts to share, so let’s take a look at the list:

Black Mesa
Kingdom: New Lands

Layers of Fear
Tumblestone
Event Zero
Slime-San
Jawns

I’m not sure why, but I basically never play any of the Humble Originals. They’re always DRM free copies and I just don’t install games that aren’t via some sort of launcher. I don’t know why that is, but you can bet that I didn’t play Jawns for this reason. Same goes for prior months. I also didn’t play Event Zero which is one of those narrative games that bore me. Slime-San falls into the same uninterested category, as it was a pixellated platformer and I’m just not that into platforming these days.

Layers of Fear looks interesting. I get more of a Amnesia or SOMA vibe to it, but I haven’t played either of those titles despite owning both. If I remember correctly SOMA was in a bundle a few months back. Having just completed Resident Evil VII, I thought it might be worth jumping into right away to keep up with the creepy vibe, but I have yet to jump into it. Still on my to do list.

Black Mesa is a remake of the original Half-Life that is supposed to add some modern convenience along with better graphics to the beloved title. However, it’s still in Early Access and apparently the tail end of the game is not present just yet. I had my eye on this one for a while and wish to play it, but I think I’m going to let the developers finish it before diving in.

Now, on to the games I actually did try out. Kingdom is a cute little side scrolling base management game that came out a while back. I remember friends talking about it and I almost picked it up myself a couple of times. The bundle came packed with both the Classic version of the game, and the expansion “New Lands,” Though having experimented with them both, it doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot of difference between the two. Let me show you what I mean:

Kingdom Classic
Kingdom: New Lands

I mean honestly, do you see a difference? All I noticed was that my character went from having light skin to dark skin, and now there’s some clouds. I’m sure it’s one of those types of expansions that adds new stuff, I did notice that the tutorial was more fleshed out in the latter game. Both install and play seperately though, despite not being a sequel. They both had their own Steam cards and whatnot too, so it’s probably more like a directors cut or additional bits added in. You guys that have played more of the game could probably clear that up for me. Overall, it’s a fun little time waster but not a game I’d spend a load of time with.

Lastly, a little puzzle game called Tumblestone. It’s got match 3 elements, but you match bricks that are already existing, and don’t add to it. You also have to clear bricks to get to bricks behind them, so each puzzle has one or more ways to solve it, rather than being more like traditional match 3 games where you can add extra bricks and then clear them later. It seems alright as far as puzzle games go but nothing super engaging.

That’s it for this month’s games. The early unlock for next month was Dirt Rally, and if you’ve been paying attention, both Dirt 3 and one of the other titles in the series were free on Humble Bundle’s site over the past few months. So plenty of rally racing to be had. Apparently the 4th game in the series is coming out soon as well. Inside was the other early unlock (two this month, which is different) and it looks like a little platformer with some cool art direction and a mysterious story. I’ll check these out and get back to you next month. Until then.

Early Access Gem: Shardbound

Games that combine multiple genres into one are becoming a trend, don’t you think? We’ve had plenty of CCGs developed over the years, both in physical and digital form. Tactical, turn-based games are also nothing new, with various iterations spanning multiple generations of consoles and PCs. We can come up with many examples of genre-bending or melding just in the last few years, with standouts like MOBAs and the new Hero Shooter genre taking center stage. The free to play model itself has also gone through various iterations, though the lockbox has taken precedence, and despite these differing costs to speed up progress, typically you can play the full game without spending anything at all (at least with the fair developers).

Enter Shardbound. A free to play title that has a cash shop, that is a combination of CCG and tactics, that sounds like it would be a little on the weird side but works fairly well. In the above picture you can see a bit of everything, and that will allow me to explain. So, just like Hearthstone and other CCGs, you’ll have a deck of cards to take with you into battle. You also have a Hero unit. This unit will have its own special ability, along with being a representation of your life total. They start with 25, and if they die it’s game over, no matter how many minions you have left standing. Like Hearthstone, you’ll get one mana per turn. More like Magic: The Gathering, cards have various effects and you can play from your graveyard. Like Final Fantasy Tactics, Shining Force et al, you’ll be using turn based tactics to eliminate the enemy. That’s the main gist of it. The tutorial will do a better job explaining things than I just did, but if you’ve played any of the games I’ve mentioned here you will likely understand things rather quickly.

Deckbuilding looks like fun. You’ll use a hero and their color cards (think class specific cards) and then flesh out your deck with various neutral cards. I rather enjoyed the purple deck, being graveyard focused. Some of the Heroes feel better than others, but their decks tend to make up for their own shortcomings. As of now the game is in Early Access so it has a bunch of temporary artwork and is definitely not complete but it is very playable in this state.

The game provided me with 30 chests right off the bat. In them, I received cards of different rarities, and that seems just about the norm. Buying chests seems a little steep and probably unnecessary at this point, but the welcome pack comes with another 30 chests for $5, so that’s not bad. I’m sure you will have ways to earn or craft the cards as well as the game is further developed.

 The interface is nicely done. Rather than having a series of menus, the devs decided it would be cooler to have your character represented by a space ship, and a series of floating islands represent the various menus. You have a home base of sorts, where you can train, build you deck, buy stuff and form a “house” which I assume is just like a clan. From there you fly to other “shards” where the PvP battles take place. I did well in my first couple of fights but there is definitely a learning curve as to how all of the mechanics work. Overall though, I think this one is worth checking out!