Thoughts on Stormbound

My mobile game kick continues this month with another title I’ve found quite likable: Stormbound — developed by Paladin Studios and published by Kongregate (which has hosted a ton of these bite-sized indie games over the years). This particular title grabbed my attention because it features some deckbuilding but also has some turn-based strategy mixed in. These sort of hybrid genres have been becoming more commonplace, but it takes the right mixture of elements to keep things engaging, and Stormbound manages to pull this off. You’ll start the game with a tutorial that explains the basics.

The battlefield is pictured above. This grid is where all the action takes place. Your base is the bottom triangle with the 10 on it, while the enemy’s base is the top triangle. Your goal is to summon creatures on your side of the battlefield and have them make the journey to the enemy’s base, eventually entering and destroying it. Your minions (and spells) come from cards, and you’ll only have a few when you start off. As you beat the tutorial and the game’s campaign levels, you’ll open more cards from different factions and be able customize your deck. Each minion will have different strength (number on the left of the card) and movement (on the right). Some have other abilities that trigger based on certain game states, like doing 2 damage to an adjacent enemy or giving strength to a friendly. The strength of a unit is represented by the number of soldiers that occupy that unit’s square, while the movement stat applies the turn you play the card: if it says 1, then the unit will immediately move to the square ahead of it, attacking enemies too if they happen to be there.

After the tutorial the campaign lies in wait to be tackled. There are four factions consisting of four levels each, so it’s not a very lengthy campaign, but each level you beat will give you some additional cards. After that, it’s up to you to battle against other players and finish daily quests to earn gold to buy more cards. Of course, this means there are microtransactions as well, but they don’t seem to be necessary to win some matches and make some progress.

Gold is the earned in-game currency, while rubies are the RMT. You can buy some single cards and books (essentially packs) for gold, and other options require the rubies but it doesn’t seem too exploitative. I don’t intend to spend any money on it, but it’s still something I like to cover when I talk about mobile titles.

At this point I’ve opened up a handful of cards from each of the factions, beaten a couple of the campaign chapters, and won a couple of PvP fights. Each faction has some uniqueness to them, but they feel fairly balanced. I haven’t done much with the initial deck given, as I don’t have enough faction cards to devote to just one. It’s unclear how much you can mix and match between them either. In the campaign I’ve used nothing but the neutral cards that I’ve opened up, and of course you only face one faction at a time so there aren’t cards from other factions mixed in from what I can tell. Perhaps you can use a mix of neutral and faction cards, but it’s not likely that you can use multiple factions at once. Either way, I’ll find what works and stick with it.

At this point I’m still in the learning stages, but I have enjoyed the gameplay enough to keep going. I’m surprised because usually I can’t find mobile games that appeal to me on a long term — in the past couple of years I’ve only really played Clash Royale, but now I’ve got four titles I’m playing simultaneously and daily. Either that means the quality of mobile games has improved lately, or maybe I’m just finally giving them a chance. Whatever the case I’m glad to have found a few titles that I take with me everywhere I go.

The Banner Saga: Series Complete

The Saga has been completed. I started the game the day or day after it released, and I finished it up on Saturday evening. Having played all three and imported my saves throughout, it was a sweeping tale that was personalized for me due to choices I made while playing. I must say I rather enjoyed it, and will be sad to not have another to play in a couple of years.

I ran through the first game back in 2014, after hearing about it via Keen & Graev, though I didn’t provide much in the way of description or screenshots.

I beat The Banner Saga. Apparently there’s more than one ending though, so I’m interested to do another play through, but not right at the moment. My ending saw Rook’s daughter getting killed by Bellower, and us sending her off on a raft in a Viking-appropriate burial at sea. The abrupt ending didn’t really have much of an explanation, though I read somewhere that this is the first in a series, so perhaps more will make sense later. Either way, it was a fun game and I’d recommend it.

Things changed by the time I got around to the sequel in 2016, I was definitely more mindful of taking an abundance of screenshots to chronicle my journey here on the blog. You’ll have to visit that post for a recap of sorts, though I hadn’t finished the game to that point. I didn’t make a followup post, just mentioned beating it later on that year. At this point, having completed the trilogy, I’ve got a ton of spoiler filled screens in the gallery below. You should probably avoid those if you are planning to play the game yourself, but I’d be interested to hear about differences in your story. I know that in the first game either Alette or Rook die, so I assume in this last game that survivor will be in place to meet their end as well. I’m sure other variables exist, I know I was earning achievements based on certain things. I believe being a Kickstarter backer or buying the at release DLC provided you with some amazing allies that you wouldn’t normally have, and they helped me complete the game so quickly (and with minimal losses).

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As I said before about this game, and its predecessors, its more of the same, but it is a good same. I loved playing through this title, but the only thing that was a bit disappointing was the amount of questions I have now that it is done. The end was rather abrupt and left us hanging. Its clear that things didn’t go as you would have hoped, and yet there was a sense of finality to it. I guess it just wasn’t the ending I expected, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, just different. I’d still recommend this trilogy to anyone who asked, it’s worth the asking price and I’m sure it will be bundled up nicely soon enough if you’ve never tried any of them.

Into The Breach

Sometimes a game randomly releases and you catch word of it without hearing about it prior. Into the Breach was one of those titles for me, but as the image above states it’s from ‘the makers of FTL’ (Subset Games) and that alone was enough to pique my interest. I added it to my wishlist and was surprised to find that on the same day my Dad randomly gifted it to me (thanks Dad!). I loved FTL and played the hell out of it a few years back, it really was one of the great “rogue-lite” titles I’ve played and partially responsible for my obsession with the genre. Because the tag has been so overly used as of late, it’s hard to say which sort of randomized content you’ll like but generally I enjoy the genre, its sub-genres and the variety that has spurned from it. That said this isn’t just FTL with mechs, no. Yes there are mechs, but this is turn based strategy. Tactical turn based strategy to be exact.

It could be argued that FTL had those sorts of elements, but it wasn’t really a TBS game. I’d say its strength was in its rogue-like randomization making each run different than the last. Here, you’ll start the game in your headquarters as a Time Traveler. You’ll have a squad of “Rift Walkers” that are your mechs, each having its own stats and abilities.

The starting isle has a training facility where you can learn the ropes. You’ll learn the ins and outs of combat here, and that is the meat and potatoes of the game. Progression seems to come in the form of unlocking other time travelers, color schemes and new teams of mechs to use during your runs.

The Battlefield looks like this:

The story revolves around these time travelers who are heading back to the beginning of an alien invasion (presumably on Earth). Your job is to lead your team of Rift Walkers into battle against the enemy forces. The set up is as such:

You’ll deploy your mechs on one side of the battlefield, and Vek will emerge from the other. Your goal is to avoid letting the Vek attack the buildings on the map, and they will set up to do so. You can use force to eliminate the targets, or use your abilities to push them away from their intended target, saving your buildings. Each map is set up differently, and perhaps this is randomized (that would make sense). You’ll capture back your territory, chunk by chunk, and some missions will have optional side goals that can be beneficial.

Eventually you will lose, but some bits of progression move you towards unlocking better forces and enabling longer runs at the game. I assume at least one of the squads will be locked until you complete a full run.

Overall, it’s a great little time waster. I’d recommend it, particularly if you enjoy tactical strategy, especially in bite-sized form. It’s $15 on Steam.

Thoughts on Tomb of Annihilation

Tomb of Annihilation is one of the other games I was gifted around my birthday, and I finally got around to trying it this weekend. It released fairly recently and I recall seeing it in my discovery queue on Steam and adding it to my wishlist. That was all I really knew about the title — it was based on a D&D campaign/board game, and it appeared to be fairly standard isometric RPG faire. It turns out that my original assessment was fairly spot on, but I would add that it is a turn-based strategy game, so I’d compare it more closely to something like Final Fantasy Tactics rather than Baldur’s Gate. Instead of freely roaming or clicking to move, you will be restricted to moving within a tile and then passing turn so that new tiles can be discovered. You move more freely as things begin to open up, but some cramped corridors littered with traps can prove to be time consuming. As you begin the game, you’ll pass through a tutorial as with most games.

This is pretty straight forward, but the tutorial does a good job of explaining the nuance of the game, which includes a set of phases between each characters’ actions. Villains move during their phase. One of your heroes will move per Hero phase. The Exploration phase happens after you end a turn with a hero, at which time if they are standing next to the edge of the current tile, a new adjacent one will be discovered. Lastly, the Encounter phase is a random dice roll after each turn that will either help or harm you. These can be avoided with Adrenaline or certain spells. You can only perform one move and one action per turn, or move twice the normal distance, so you have to think through your strategy as you go, and it becomes a pattern of rhythmic button clicking similar to the likes of Diablo, though much slower paced. Leveling up happens across all four characters, though you don’t have access to them all immediately. As you level you earn chests and materials to craft new gear for the crew. It’s nothing too drastic, and there isn’t any RMT factored in either, though the DLC packs give a nice chunk of gold and a few legendary items to make the beginning of the game pretty easy going.

After the tutorial you’ll head out on new missions. Some are story related, and others a little side quests. All follow the same fashion, you’ll open up the map piece by piece and complete objectives at which point the mission will end and you will return to the map. You’ll fight bosses along the way and things will get messy. If you don’t have the legendary items boost, I imagine you’ll have some difficulties with certain encounters. Each map comes with separate difficulties, so I imagine later on you’ll want to play them again on harder levels to get increased rewards. The map is fairly big, about two times the size of this photo:

The main quest appears to head south in a straight line, with the side quests (in blue) sprinkled about, though they appear to be completely optional. There seems to be quite a bit of area that isn’t being used, but that means one of two things: There will be some sort of additional content added to the game at a later date, or perhaps more is added later on as you progress. I guess there’s a third option too, where it just is what it is and that’s okay too. I feel like you’ll enjoy the game if you like this sort of turn-based endeavor, are a fan of D&D or simply like slower paced RPGs. If taking your time and strolling through this title doesn’t sound appealing, then maybe look elsewhere. Either way for the money being asked ($16, $12 on sale right now) it’s worth taking a look.

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!