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!

Codex of Victory

Another gem to come out of left field, Codex of Victory melds several different strategy game elements into a fairly successful formula. A low poly, semi-anime style romp, the campaign boasts 20+ hours of gameplay, of which I’ve experienced a handful of missions, but the core gameplay has made itself known.

Combining three core game modes, there are elements of Real Time Strategy, 4x, and Turn Based Strategy rolled into one game. The majority of your time will be spent on the field of combat, which will be different configuration each time, but will encompass the TBS and RTS portion of the game.

You’ll find yourself on a grid based landscape, where action points (or AP) will be spent to both build units and to perform actions with said units. You’ll capture additional points of interest to gain more AP, and with that AP you’ll decimate the enemy. From there, you’ll spend some time building your base along with upgrading your units between battles.

After sufficiently preparing for the next battle, you’ll jump on the mission screen and fly to the next tactical strike point, completing missions and earning resources to build more stuff along the way.

Clearly the latter two portions of the game cover the 4x strategic requirements by picking up new territories and plotting attacks for various resources. The latter two portions also remind me the most of games like XCOM, but still feel right at home mixed with the other portions of the game. Honestly I’m surprised it works due to the various directions the dev team decided to go in, but it does feel just right. It’s not overly convoluted, not overly focused on graphics or storyline, is easy to pick up and feels appropriately difficult. For fans of really any genre of strategy games, you’ll find something to like here. It’s a $15 price tag on Steam unless you catch a sale (current sale is for $12) and is definitely worth it, should you be looking for something easy to jump into for a cheap price. That’s my two cents, anyway.

Civ + Magic = Warlock

In case you are living under a rock, the Humble Bundle Store is having a sale. Well, actually they’re not the only ones, GOG.com is also having a sale, but they’re for different reasons. GOG is turning 6, while Humble is just using the end of summer as an excuse to discount items, and that’s great for anyone who uses the services. I’m highlighting the Humble Store Sale though, because as a part of the promotion they are also giving away a free game each Monday until the 22nd. Yesterday the free game was a title from 2012 called Warlock – Master of the Arcane. The time limit has expired for getting the game for free, but you can still get it for 80% off at $3.99, and by my count it’s worth that. Was even better for free. There’s still two more Mondays to go, so mark your calenders and get free stuff!

So what is Warlock all about? In short, just like this post title: Civ + Magic = Warlock. It’s Civilization in a high fantasy setting. Those of you who have played it, bear with me, there’s more to it than that. That’s just the easiest way to describe the game so just about anyone would understand.

For starters, the game setup. It’s basically what you would expect from a Civ game. Pick your character (in this case, Mage, but small variations on the same sort of leader theme from Civ), pick your world size, pick the difficulty, and that’s about it. Once the game is loaded, you’ll have a starting city, a territory ring around it, a couple of units to move around and a couple of buildings pre made. Rather than having the buildings as part of the main city, this game utilizes the hex spaces for building placement, so no workers are needed to build improvements. Improvements for existing buildings come in the form of building a more advanced form of that type of building. Units are created in the same way as Civ games. Resources you manage are gold, food, mana and research. The first two should be obvious, while mana is for casting spells and the research is used for researching new spells. Units come from buildings, not further research of technology. Spells can be used in a variety of ways, for healing or damage, buffing, etc. As long as you have mana you can cast spells, but it is a finite resource and also relies on a cooldown from what I’ve seen. So it’s a strategic resource to say the least. Look at this picture and tell me you aren’t instantly reminded of Civilization games:

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I know that there are multiple win conditions, but honestly it feels like a simplified Civ 5, if you include all of the systems from that game’s expansions. It really feels made for the type of Civ player I am, the warmonger. There isn’t happiness to worry about, so before I knew it I was building new towns and capturing neutral ones. That’s another feature that is different, where Civ has barbarians, this game has monsters of varying types and strengths. Their burrows/dens/etc can be captured for gold, so that is the same. The neutral towns serve the spot of city-states, but it doesn’t matter if you take them over, the other mages won’t bother you (at least, they haven’t to this point). The only interaction I’ve had with another mage was that he keeps demanding I give him gold, and for whatever reason there isn’t a way to negotiate these terms. You’re literally give the option to either pay up or declare war. There’s no “no thank you” decline option, or “yeah sure I’ll give you some gold in exchange for…” which is rather annoying. Thankfully once I declared war and didn’t actually attack, he made peace in a few turns.

So far I’ve just been researching and expanding, and clearing out the monster camps that spawn. I see myself just trying to kill everything in sight while continuing to build an empire, so I’ll let you know how that goes. As of right now, my empire has expanded to this point:

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I actually built the two to the right, and the one to the left was a neutral town that I captured. The red outline on the right is my rival, and I haven’t seen any others just yet. I had fun with the game from what I’ve played so far, but the lack of depth is a good and bad thing. Like I said, it caters to my warmonger side, and that’s all well and good, but some of the subsystems from Civilization 5 along with some of the polish would have been nice. However, for a change of pace 4x game, it’s rather good. There’s a sequel that released earlier this year, and I think I’ll pick that one up as well when the time comes. It’s on sale too for $14.99 via Humble, if you want to get both at the same time.

If you managed to get it let me know and we’ll get a multiplayer game going. I think it would be fun to try out.

#warlockmota #humble #4x #turnbasedstrategy