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Full Steam Ahead: Ruby and Mew Explore Gaming’s Hidden Gems

RubyClaw

Challenge Seeker, Completionist and Rule Designer
🌱Featurer
Writer
Screenshotter
Team Omega
Pokédex No.
22
Caught
Jun 9, 2019
Messages
1,987
Location
Kanto Route 1, 1% encounter rate (Israel)
Nature
Calm
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Fire, Psychic
Greetings everyone! Welcome to "Full Steam Ahead": Ruby and Mew Explore Gaming’s Hidden Gems.

Yours truly and my good buddy @mewstein have been searching for new ways to get our creative juices flowing and make something fun and casual while at it, so we came up with an idea to open our little gaming club! As we regularly recommend different video games to each other, we thought why not share our thoughts and experiences with the different games we play with you beautiful folks? Most of the games we’ll be talking about will be various indie games you can get on Steam as these are our current favorite games to play, but they might as well be Triple-A games, Nintendo games, or oldies from our childhood if the muse takes us down this path. Still, we’ll do our best to make our reviews/recommendations relevant so if any of you viewers will be interested, you could purchase them and try them for yourself. One of our personal goals as gamers and in this club is to try many different games from different genres, and not limit ourselves (and also as much as we can, buy on budget). Games are art, you can have a favorite style but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy others.

We also encourage you guys to participate in our little club as after every post we’ll be leaving a question for the other one about a gaming related topic (usually), which you guys can also answer and give us your thoughts about. Our plan is to post every weekend, most of the time one post by RubyClaw and one by mewstein, and sometimes by just one of us.

Hope you enjoy!
Game on.

RubyClaw – Renowned Explorers (4.5)
mewstein – Armello (4)
RubyClaw – Slay the Spire (5)
mewstein – Antihero (4)
RubyClaw - Monster Train (4)
mewstein - Crusader Kings 3 (5)
mewstein - Godhood (3.75)
 
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RubyClaw

Challenge Seeker, Completionist and Rule Designer
🌱Featurer
Writer
Screenshotter
Team Omega
Pokédex No.
22
Caught
Jun 9, 2019
Messages
1,987
Location
Kanto Route 1, 1% encounter rate (Israel)
Nature
Calm
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Fire, Psychic
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #2
For my first review let’s talk about a game that is a colorful mix of opposites and disguises and doesn’t fit neatly into any genre (which is my favorite “genre” of games, having no specific genre). A casual fun game that hides lots of elegant mathematical complexities behind the curtains, a strategy game that masks itself as an RPG adventure game, and a game that fuses together the epicness of exploring the mysteries of a 19th century fantasy version of our world with the silliness of over pretentious human achievements and bloated egos. Meet: “Renowned Explorer”!



Game Name: Renowned Explorers: International Society.
Year of Release: 2015
Price: 20$ (with all DLC $29.65) – up to 66% discount! (Always look for discounts in Steam).
Developer: Abbey Games.
Genre: Strategy, Adventure, RPG, Indie.

Before I’ll start talking about this game, I just want to mention it was developed by a small Dutch gaming company called Abbey Games which I have been following for a few years now, and are making some brilliant games (many of which will be featured in this blog in the future I suspect). If you haven’t heard of them, I totally recommend checking them out: https://twitter.com/abbeygamesnl?lang=en.

Now for the game itself. You get to play as a new member of a famous fantastical 19th century club of explorers (called Renowned Explorers as you probably assumed at this point), who is leading their own team of explorers seeking scientific discoveries, gold, and of course renown and glory! Members of this stereotypical imperial era explorers club range from classics like a French Fencer or a British cunning Butler, to the bizarre like a young Austrian Magician or a Brazilian Dancer, and the beauty of it is that every character has their own unique set of skills and backstory you get to uncover. Your team of three explorers also consist of a Captain who gives the entire team his extra perk, which adds a lot of replayablity to this game as every team you use is a vastly difference experience.



After you build your team and plan your expedition you set way to a destination of your choice (the first one is always forced upon you, but from that point on it is up to you whether you want to go the Pyramids of Egypt, the Islands of the Caribbean, the dark forests of Europe or many other exotic locations such as the Holy Land :P - Indiana Jones style). In these expeditions you have limited resources to use in order to scout the area and uncover new finds and treasures in this location using the different skills of your group. One of the most appealing traits of this game is that brutal battle is only one option and aspect of this game. It is no less important to make sure your team can find a diplomatic solution to certain problems or a cunning one, and that you team have other useful skills like survival, scientific knowledge, or roguish skills.

After you finish each expedition, you get to return home and rebuild your team buying new items for them and adding an entourage to your group. In each game you get to go on 5 expeditions and your goal is to get more renown than your greatest competitor and world-renowned a-hole, Rivaleux.



The DLC adds other interesting modes like the Emperor Challenge, but I suggest keeping that for after you finished the basic game a few times. Still, it adds even more replayability to the base experience.

If you put aside the colorful and amusing adventure theme of this game, at its core this game is actually a turn-based strategy game with a major resource management side to it. If we are speaking from a more mechanistic point of view, the game is technically divided into three sub-games:

1) The battle system which is a classical tactical turn-base battle with a twist mechanism of different moods affecting the battle. Very fun, not overly complicated, but takes a bit of time to truly master.



2) Your movement across the area where your expedition takes place and the decisions you make along the way. You need to make geographical choices on where to go first and how to build your team in advance to give you the most versatile solutions to the problems you’ll face in this part. You also get to make some interesting calls like what to risk, what rewards you prefer, and which strategy you prefer to follow. This is done in a very well-written story format where you are told what happens to your characters and decide what to do next from a set of options. The game isn’t text heavy, but it does require some reading to enjoy.



3) Managing your party between expeditions. This part may seem like the regular “visiting town after returning from the dungeon” of most RPGs and it really is if you play casually. However, if you are a fanatic like me and try to push your score to the limit this game hides very clever mathematical decisions you need to make when choosing which tech-tree to follow, which items to buy, etc. Don’t worry though, if you are in this for the adventure you can just go with the flavor you prefer instead.



So, it sum it all up, this game is a very unusual mix of strategy and adventure, flavor and mechanics. A game that allows you to enjoy the epic and goofy stories of a group of unusual explorers you learn to love and at the same time challenges you to strategically manage your team as best as you can if you want to push yourselves to the limit. In many ways this is combining two of my favorite aspects of gaming and the reasons I personally play games (as seen in Nuzlockes): an immersing story/lore + a challenge.

Final Score: 4.5 Claws. Great game, especially for folks who like the exploration theme or strategy games. Worth a try even if you’re not fan of either.

And finally for this week’s question: Share with me a childhood memory you had with gaming, preferably one of the earliest you can remember.

In my case the first PC game I played according to my parents/brother was the Sound Blaster software for DOS (that came out the year I was born, 1989). This program allowed for various musical fits like playing specific songs, but one of my favorite aspects of it was the “Talking Parrot Game”, a game in which you could talk to a microphone and the computer will repeat what you said in the voice of a parrot (a precursor to the gen 4 Chatot feature!). I used to sit in front of the computer for hours enjoying this silly little feature when I was about 2-3 years old.

My first vivid memory of a computer game is from much later, from when I was around the age of 5 I believe. I remember coming home from kindergarten, opening my family computer, writing in DOS “C:\\HEROES” (didn’t know more than a few words in English, but these were among them :P) and enjoying this wonderful beautifully drawn strategy game, perhaps it is there that my love for strategy games started.

Will be happy to hear your stories, both viewers and of course mewstein next weekend.

And I’m handing the console to you @mewstein !
 
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mewstein

Johto League Champion
Team Omega
Pokédex No.
289
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
738
Thanks Ruby! What started with your Slay The Spire recommendation several years ago led me down a rabbit hole of kingdom conquering, zombie slaying, and landscape building which probably caused a noticeable uptick in Steam’s profits.

Speaking of rabbits, on to the review!


Welcome to the beautifully rendered Kingdom of Armello. A lush habitat populated by mystic bears, war-like wolves, conniving rats and armoured bunnies, all with only one thought on their minds: Regicide.



Game Name: Armello
Year of release: 2015
Price: £15 (with all DLC £54) – but on sale until May 24th for £5!
Developer: League Of Geeks.
Genre: Board Game, Turn-based, Strategy, Indie.

Created by Australian games studio League Of Geeks, Armello is a turn-based strategy game where you compete with a wide range of woodland critters to get your paws on the crown when the King finally pops his clogs. And you won’t have to wait long - His Royal Highness has been infected with a deadly plague known as The Rot which gradually saps his life over a number of turns. Not before turning him into a crazed, hulking combat-monster though…



There are a number of different ways to win the crown - beating the leonine fiend in mortal combat; using Spirit Stones to purge him of the Rot (and his life force unfortunately!); or by playing the political game, gaining prestige so that you’re directly next in line for the crown when the King finally succumbs to his infection.



In a typical game of Armello you’re given four tasks to complete in order to earn Prestige and various treasures and character-buffing trinkets. The tasks require your character to travel around the kingdom and overcome a test against one of their stats (Wits, Body, Fight etc.), and you may encounter a peril or two along the way. Completing the fourth task grants you access to the King’s Palace for the final showdown.

Direct combat with other characters can boost your Prestige, but only if you win so pick your fights wisely! Your character may have a trait which grants them Stealth at night for example, giving you the upper hand after dark. Combats are resolved by rolling dice, and usually the more you can fling at your opponent, the better chance you’ll have of leaving a dent. Cards also play a role in Armello strategies too, and can either be played outside of battle to gain an advantage, or burnt during battle to secure a good dice roll. There’s quite a lot to learn when first getting into Armello, but it really pays off and scoring your first victory makes you feel like Arceus incarnate.



How would I rate Armello? 4 out of 5. The game is very polished and rewarding to play, but once you’ve beaten it with every single character, victory comes a little too easy. Maybe adding a few different environments to play in, a variety of end-bosses and harder difficulty settings would scooch it’s score up to a 5. Just beware of the Armello section of Reddit if you’re not a furry...

Now on to Ruby’s Question Of The Week: Share with me a childhood memory you had with gaming, preferably one of the earliest you can remember.
The first games I played were the standard Pinball Wizard, Solitaire and Mine Sweeper which came with whatever primordial version Windows was in at the time. My Dad also bought a handful of vaguely educational games such as Sim Town (the original), Zoombinis etc. - I didn’t own a Gameboy Colour until I was about 12, just as Pokemon was kicking off! I suppose my fondest memories were creating stories about the tiny little people that lived in my Sim Town - I just found watching the little buggars wandering around on my screen, going about their lives, to be absolutely fascinating. My computer time was rationed by my parents so in order to remember the layout of my town I decided to print out the map of it. Unfortunately I selected to print at the highest resolution possible (i.e. a single house would be the size of an A4 piece of paper)... hundreds of pages later the printer was out of paper, ink and probably about to catch fire. My Dad hid the printer cable after that.

And now my question: Would you buy a game with unfavourable reviews if a friend recommended it to you?
My answer is - it depends on the friend. I’d be suspicious of any game with a lot of bad reviews, and unless my friend was a real gaming connoisseur or shared my exact taste in genres, I’d probably avoid it. It also depends on why the reviews were bad - a poor pvp experience wouldn’t bother me since I prefer playing AI opponents over real people but if the game’s unbalanced or very unpolished, it wouldn’t have much replayability value for me - so generally I’ll do my research before hitting the Buy button.

Your turn, Mr. Claw!
 
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Spectacles

Rule Maker
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
139
Caught
Jun 24, 2019
Messages
578
Location
Pennsylvania
Nature
Jolly
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Fairy
Pokédex Entry
It hides deep inside caves where no light ever reaches it and remains virtually motionless there. ~Pokemon Crystal, entry #52
I love and hate this at the same time because these are exactly the type of games I deliberately avoid because dear lord I cannot afford another hobbby. But these games sound so cool!! I can't wait to see what you guys come up with in the future, and I love the discussion questions!

For RubyClaw's question, me and my siblings were all gamers growing up, so I have a lot of very early gaming memories. The most prominent in my mind was the time my little brother saved over my Yellow game-my first ever Pokemon game where I was almost about to beat the Pokemon League for the first time- and I beat the everloving snot out of him.

For mewstein's question, the answer is probably not because I barely have time to play the games I definitely like so there's no way I would sacrifice time to play a game I might not even like at all!
 

Bowser's Family Vacation

Johto League Champion
Writer
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
301
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
2,073
Nature
Rash
Pronouns
She/her
Pokémon Type
Dragon, Cool
Pokédex Entry
"Am I Mario's babysitter? Are you going to call me every time that guy blows his nose, or what?"
On a similar note to Specs, I also don't have time to pick up new games.

I'm also a computer n00b, so I don't know why I'm following this blog, yet I am. 👀
 

Memento

The Princess of Darkness
Writer
Screenshotter
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
202
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
598
Location
St. Louis, Missouri
Nature
Timid
Pronouns
She, her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ghost
Pokédex Entry
She is known to spend hours daydreaming about her stories.
I'll be keeping an eye on this, but here we go with questions!

Ruby's Question: I have a lot of early memories, but I'll narrow it down to 3.

#1 memory: I remember my dad getting this old Mario game (so old it didn't have Luigi, Peach or Bowser) for an ancient Game Boy. I played that game every day, switching off with my brother and my dad. I remember getting further than either of them. I never did beat the game, but it was so much fun for kid!me that I didn't care.

#2 memory (not as old, but still old): I got a Game Boy and Gold, which cemented my love for Pokemon games - and the Meganium line - forever. I played literally every day after homework and before bed, must've logged well over 500 hours on it officially. And the crazy thing was that before I lost it in 2015, it still played and saved.

#3: My dad bought an original Xbox and Halo for himself. My brother and I ended up playing more Halo than my dad did. We had to sneak the playthroughs, mute our language, but my brother and I usually played co-op with occasional multiplayer. My brother was always the better of us when it came to first person shooters: he loved being a sniper in Halo, and always won because of that, haha. (I preferred close quarters combat, so naturally, in an open-space game like Halo/COD, I'd lose. XD)

Mewstein's Question: Hmm...well, there was always a couple of games that I ended up liking despite not being hugely popular at the time. One of them was actually Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Red. Yes, it got a shit review from Game Informer, and a lot of people didn't recommend it. I was, like, "human turned Pokemon in Poke-centric world? Hell yeah!) Loved it.

Other games were Goblin Commander: Unleash the Horde (not a well-known title, but an exciting, fast-paced real-time strategy game), Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (a turn based system that I absolutely loved), and...well, that's all I can think of right now, haha~
 

Moon

Kanto League Champion
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
3995
Caught
Mar 9, 2021
Messages
163
Nature
Relaxed
Pronouns
They, Them
Pokémon Type
Ghost, Ice
Pokédex Entry
Because they're the two rarest types, they're the rarest pokemon. Yes, that's logical. No, there aren't other Ghost/Ice types. Froslass doesn't exist.
Share with me a childhood memory you had with gaming, preferably one of the earliest you can remember.
Hmmmm...that would have to be me as like a six year old playing a bit of my brother's Pokemon Red (not when it came out though) where my brother named the rival Jackass.
...that's the only detail I remember.
Would you buy a game with unfavourable reviews if a friend recommended it to you?
Depends on the friend and who created the game. But i know that if it's a pokemon game, I'm playing it.
 

RubyClaw

Challenge Seeker, Completionist and Rule Designer
🌱Featurer
Writer
Screenshotter
Team Omega
Pokédex No.
22
Caught
Jun 9, 2019
Messages
1,987
Location
Kanto Route 1, 1% encounter rate (Israel)
Nature
Calm
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Fire, Psychic
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #8
@Spectacles - Ah I feel very much the same, but this hobby has been with me ever since I can remember myself so I have no thoughts of ever letting it go (I’m sure nursery homes in the future will have some kind of console/computer for every residence, Gen Y will demand it!). Well in case you have some time open up or you want to spice your gaming experience with some new stuff you’ll always have this little list of recommendations waiting for you right here!
Ouch about losing that first save file, but playing games with your siblings is such a great childhood memory (I have tons of those with my brother, and still play with him a lot to this day).
Thanks for checking our little project out and hope you’ll enjoy it! (Also, I may have stolen the question format from our conversation, so thanks for that :)! ).

@Bowser's Family Vacation - Well still, happy to have you here! Perhaps we’ll open your appetite for trying new easily accessible affordable games or just share our own little geeky cultural with you! Either way hope you’ll enjoy.

@Memento - Hi! Great having you here. Those are some really cool and even touching memories, thanks for sharing! My childhood was much more PC focused and I didn’t have any console (until I bought my first 3DS a few years ago). I always envied other kids with their cool Game Boy color :)!

@Moon - Ah, Pokemon being your first memory sure sounds nostalgic, I also have memories of pokemon Red from when I was about 8-9 (when it just came out outside of Japan) and my brother downloaded it to our computer so I could play (we didn’t have a Game Body).

Answering mewstein’s question:

Would you buy a game with unfavorable reviews if a friend recommended it to you? – An easy yes. Reviews are important, helpful and interesting (ahem, not biased writing this in a review blog, ahem), yet they tend to be less personal. An opinion of a person I know, and more importantly knows me, is far more valuable as they have a much better chance to predict what I like or even just tell me of an experience that was meaningful to them, making me want to try it as well as a way to share an artistic or intellectual experience with them. I wouldn’t buy it blindly, but having a recommendation from a friend definitely increases the odds dramatically.

For today’s review I’m going to talk about one of my favorite games that came out in the last few years: It has mediocre graphics at best and some might even say poor, something you can barely call lore or a story, and a rather simple deck-building card playing battle mechanic at its core. But using these very limited resources and a lot of very intelligent design, a variety or cards and in-game mechanisms, and a fantastically planned ever increasing challenge, it manages to create something that is truly a master piece in my personal opinion. Let me introduce you to a Roguelike Deckbuilding game (yep, that’s a thing), called - Slay the Spire!



Game Name: Slay the Spire.
Year of Release: 2017
Price: $24.99 (50% when discounted).
Developer: Mega Crit Games.
Genre: Roguelike Deckbuilding

Before I’ll begin and talk about the game itself let me just clarify two terms for those of you who are unfamiliar with them:

Roguelike – a genre of games that is becoming more and more popular these days, who gained its name from a dungeon crawling game from 1980 called Rogue. The basic meaning of this term is that in every playthrough/run of the game you play until you lose, and there are no checkpoint to return to, what some people call Permadeath. Another feature of Roguelike games is that they usually designed to be short, and often something is achieved between each attempt (sometimes in-game bonuses that buff you after every run so you’ll have a better chance next time or stuff you unlock between runs, though always your knowledge and understanding of the game itself which improves). You play the game until you manage to beat it in one run (and sometimes by doing so unlock new difficulties for further content). Roguelike games became quite popular ever since about 15 years ago and are currently one of the most popular genres of indie games. They are often combined with some elements of RPG games though not always.



Deckbuilding games – exactly as it sounds, games in which you build your deck of cards as you play them. The role of the cards may vary between games, but the shared concept is the fact you get to decide what sort of deck you build as you play and not before the game as is the case with most card games, allowing you to change your strategy according to the different challenges you face and according to the random cards that you are offered.



Slay the Spire is a Roguelike Deckbuilding game, a combination of genres that may seem quite common on steam these days, though in many ways gained its vast popularity thanks to Slay the Spire who inspired many other games that followed and practically invented it.

The story of the game is rather secondary. You play as one of four characters: a warrior infused with demonic blood, a deadly huntress who uses poisons, a sentient robot who is a master of spells, or an enlightened blind monk who can use different battle stances, and find yourself at the bottom of mighty spire. Your goal is quite simple - you must climb the spire to reach its top in order to gain your freedom. There are 50 floors on the way, each representing a challenge and a decision, and it is up to you to do your best and show you are worthy and capable of making it all the way up. There are many little clues about the world of the spire, the creatures that inhabit it, and why you are trapped in it in the first place, but I’ll let you guys learn those as you go as it is part of the experience, and has little to do with the gameplay itself.

As you climb your way up the spire you face two main types of challenges: battles and events. In battle, your character gets to use their deck of cards and play an amount of card based on its energy each turn to both deal damage to the different opponents it faces, as well as block their attacks. Each character has their own unique style of fighting using more blocks, poisons, or spells than the other, and as you play you gather more and more cards that allow you to build your own strategy and theme for your deck and that particular playthrough. The battle itself is turn based and can be tricky and require quite a lot of thinking, but once you master it the challenge is really thrilling and satisfying once you defeat stronger and stronger opponents using many clever tactics.



The events let you choose between a few options and add both flavor to the experience and allow you to customize even more your deck. Along side events you come across campfires in which you can heal, stores in which you can buy relics (who have general effect on your deck and give you different bonuses), potions (one-time bonuses for the battle itself), as well as more cards for your deck.



The game is very well designed as it has many different strategies that you can use, different combinations of cards and relics that give you different interesting results, and overall, it is very wisely balanced and keeps you challenged at all times. But the best part of it is its difficulty. When you first play this game expect to die A LOT. Expect to lose again and again, to the point that might leave you a bit frustrated. You’ll learn from your friends or read online about how people got to the highest difficulties of this game yet you can’t even pass the first act and you’ll feel like you are just plain bad at it. But don’t despair, as from every time you’ll lose, you will learn, and soon enough you’ll defeat the first boss, then the second, and finally the final boss of the game, and you’ll be rightfully pretty proud of yourself. And then you’ll unlock the Ascension levels who make the game harder and harder every time. And every time you’ll be surprised by how much you can push yourself to the limit and still win. In many popular roguelike games you get this feeling by the fact that the game makes you stronger between every run using buffs you acquire that make the game easier. In Slay the Spire after you’ll unlock all the cards the game will only become objectively harder, yet you’ll become better and more skilled, memorize the different opponents of the game and learn their weakness, discover the effects of every card and relic and how to best use them, and simply become better. And the level curve is just perfect, pushing you every time just a bit further.



If I had to summarize this game in one word it would have to be – Challenge. Not because it is the hardest or most challenging game I ever played (even though it definitely pushed me to the very edge of my abilities in the highest ascensions levels of the game), nor because it is a game that abuses you for fun or makes you suffer to appreciate your success. Because of the exact opposite in fact. This game helps you take a carefully planned journey through challenge, making you appreciate every step of the way you make, until you truly become skilled at solving riddles and dealing with intellectual obstacles you never faced before. And for a computer game, that’s quite an achievement.

Final Score: 5 Claws. One of my favorite all times game, a game that practically invented its own genre, and using very simple resources managed to create a brilliantly designed game. Recommended for anyone seeking a challenge (Any Nuzlockers in the crowd?) and who is interesting in riddles/card games/strategy games, and especially recommended for anyone who is interested in game design as there is a lot to learn from it.


And for my question of the week:

What single game did you sink the most hours into?

I guess pokemon will be a common answer here, but not in my case. I’m not entirely sure but I think the main candidates are: Crusader Kings 2, XCOM, Civilization 4, Medieval Total War 2, Spore, Master of Orion 2, Slay the Spire, Warcraft III and Diablo 2. If I’ll have to guess one... Warcraft III I think? I played this game for hours upon hours, possibly more than 1000 hours, mostly online with my friends in Junior High and High School. And although this list does have some of my all-time favorite games in it, it also lacks a lot of them, and this just shows me there isn’t a clear connection between how much a game influenced me and how long I played it.

What about you guys/mewstein? Would be happy to hear your answer. mewstein, I’m passing the controller to you!
 

Moon

Kanto League Champion
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
3995
Caught
Mar 9, 2021
Messages
163
Nature
Relaxed
Pronouns
They, Them
Pokémon Type
Ghost, Ice
Pokédex Entry
Because they're the two rarest types, they're the rarest pokemon. Yes, that's logical. No, there aren't other Ghost/Ice types. Froslass doesn't exist.
What single game did you sink the most hours into?
that's easy. Pokemon Shield. I played through the entire story, the postgame, the Isle of Armour and even though I haven't finished it the Crown Tundra. My pokemon are a few levels away to level 100, and I don't actually play that many video games that's what made it so easy.
 

Spectacles

Rule Maker
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
139
Caught
Jun 24, 2019
Messages
578
Location
Pennsylvania
Nature
Jolly
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Fairy
Pokédex Entry
It hides deep inside caves where no light ever reaches it and remains virtually motionless there. ~Pokemon Crystal, entry #52
Oooh man. I would probably really like this game if I let myself play it. I remember having a Yugioh Gameboy Color game that I loved because it was so fun to get new cards and slowly build a deck that's uniquely yours. I remember I would make mine dragon themed. This game sounds similar but with even more cool features! As for the game I spent the most hours on, I would probably go with the obvious answer and say any given Pokemon game because I replay them so much. But besides that, probably Breath of the Wild. When I first got that game...hooboy. I was still working for a school and it was spring break so i had the whole week off and it was my birthday. My awesome fiance (who I have bestowed the forum name of Shades to match my eyewear motif) got me the game, and I was completely hooked. It's all I played the whole week...and then we got a massive snowstorm that closed schools for the whole next week, and to this day I maintain that it was devine intervention that allowed me to continue playing that game. It's the only time I ever played a game literally all night until the sun rose and the birds started chirping.
 

mewstein

Johto League Champion
Team Omega
Pokédex No.
289
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
738
@Spectacles - Great to have you with us for this little outing! Pokemon Yellow was my first Pokemon game too, and I’m pretty sure the only reason younger siblings exist is to be beaten into a pulp by your finest monsters. As far as finding time for gaming goes, I’m very lucky in that COVID has shifted me from working in an office to working at home - therefore my former commuting hours can be spent on more pleasurable activities instead. Having read some of your own blog, I have huge respect for your commitment and dedication to those in your care.

@Bowser's Family Vacation - Hopefully the antics of Ruby and myself will make this a worthwhile blog to follow! To be honest, before I got a decent PC for software development, I very rarely played any games outside of Pokemon (and a handful of Playstation games)...

@Memento - The Meganium line were the first starters I used in Gen II Johto too - although I preferred Bayleef’s design so didn’t allow my ‘leef to fully evolve. As far as obscure/underappreciated Pokemon games go, I have one word: Conquest.

@Moon Like you, I used to be of the Gotta Buy Em All mentality when it came to Pokemon games. However, I found the PMD series disappointing (sorry Memento!) and gradually moved more towards playing hacks when I needed a Pokemon fix. Fortunately Ruby does a good job of reviewing the new Pokemon games as they come out, so I can enjoy them voyeuristically through him.

Today I‘m reeeeviewing the situation Antihero, a game I discovered while searching for something with a similar boardgame-type playstyle to Armello. It was discounted to approximately three British pounds on Steam - an absolute steal in my opinion (pardon the pun).


Game Name: Antihero
Year Of Release: 2017
Price: £12 – purchased on sale for £3!
Developer: Time Conkling
Genre: Board Game, Turn-based, Strategy, Indie.

Antihero is set in an ominously dark and foggy Victorian London where you must master the arts of Skulduggery, Sneakery and Stabbery … yes, Stabbery not Strawberry as Google Docs wants to correct it to. You might be able to survive by mastering the art of Strawberry, but sadly 19th Century Greengrocer-themed resource management isn’t included in Antihero’s strategy. What is included is an impressive blend of exploration, objective control, character upgrades and, well, Stabbery.



As the Master Thief you get to control a gang of shady individuals such as urchins, thugs, gangsters and assassins. Coins and lanterns are the currency in Antihero, with coins buying more members for your crew while lanterns can be spent to progress your Master Thief's skills (movement range, damage output etc.) or unlock the more advanced classes of crook for you to hire.



The game has various missions for you to play through, and victory points are awarded for assassinating enemy gangs or raiding the Tower Of London depending on which scenario you choose. As such, you’re encouraged to adapt your strategy and resource-spending to the situation at hand rather than relying on the exact same strategy for every game. These added layers of complexity are where I feel the game really has the upper hand over Armello, each Antihero playthrough feels like a genuine challenge rather than just going through the motions to secure a win. Having said that though, securing an early upgrade on a bank or trading hall is a solid starting point for any Fagin-in-training wishing to become London’s answer to Don Corleone.



Aesthetically, while it doesn’t top the gorgeous 3D visuals of Armello, I really like the cartoony style of this game. The thugs who disappear “Orf to th’ pub” once their contract expires, and the smug-looking bishops who roam the darkened streets are two of my favourite NPCs (although why a member of the clergy would be pounding the mean streets of Hackney at midnight is anyone’s guess):


Don’t worry, the little hearts are hit points, not an indication of amorous intentions...

The voice acting sounds pretty genuine to my ears too - and living as I do 60 miles from London I’m fairly well versed in Cockney.

I’m going to award Antihero with a 4 out of 5. It’s a great game, one I can imagine playing by candle light with a nice refreshing glass of jellied eels to hand on a dark night once winter rolls around again...if you’ve never played games by candle light with a nice refreshing glass of jellied eels to hand, you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures (well, maybe not so much the jellied eels part). A typical game lasts between half an hour to an hour and a half, and can swing very quickly if either you or your opponent gain control of a bank or trading house. As far as improvements go, giving each playable Master Thief his or her own special ability (i.e. enhanced movement or attack damage) would increase replayability value for me as I get a certain satisfaction from beating games by exploiting a character’s strengths and weaknesses. A game with a Master Thief geared towards going after assassination targets would play out very differently to a Master Thief with cheap thugs and urchins, who could control large areas of the board, for example. All in all, Antihero is a solid choice if you’re looking for something well-made and a bit different.

Back to the present, and it’s Story Time:

What single game did you sink the most hours into?

According to Steam, the game I’ve played the most is...none other than Slay The Spire, with 170-ish hours at the time of writing. Based on a 40-hour week, that’s like a month’s worth of work! If only it paid as well… Also rapidly catching up to Slay The Spire in my Steam library is a similar card game, Monster Train - there must just be something about this style of game that tickles my endorphin pathways just right and keeps me coming back again and again. And again, and again, and a… you get the idea.

However, like most folk on this forum, the games I’ve sunk the most hours into over the course of my life are definitely from the Pokemon series. Sadly (or maybe thankfully) there’s no way to tally up an exact number, but I’m guessing it’s well into the thousands. Pokemon was a game I’d play on car journeys, plane journeys, while watching TV, while waiting for my housemate to vacate the bathroom, while waiting for Polymerase Chain Reaction programs to run in the lab… I even remember being glued to Pokemon Ruby while my long-suffering parents dragged me around Tuscany and attempted to instil an appreciation of Renaissance-period frescos in me during our holidays. I probably played Pokemon Ruby and Silver the most - I managed to complete the Pokedex on Ruby, and on Silver I spent hours on Route 38 searching for the elusive Shiny Raticate my sister found there (I didn’t understand how Shinys were generated at the time, and assumed they were preset Pokemon that just occasionally decided to show themselves).

My question of the week is:

What’s your favourite game based on a movie or television show?

Mine would have to be Jackie Chan Adventures: Legend of the Dark Hand. It was a side-scrolling GBA action game in which you Kung Fu’d your way through several levels of bad guys and bosses. Not my usual genre of choice, but it was well polished (especially for a TV show tie-in) with good battle animations and a very satisfying ‘THWACK’ sound when your punch or kick connected with the nose of an unfortunate villain. The cut-scenes looked like they were drawn by the show’s artists, and the music was pretty good by GBA standards too. Plus Jackie Chan Adventures was my favourite show at the time, so the game was always going to win me over… even if I couldn’t play as Uncle, Tohru or Valmont.

Over to you, Ruby!
 
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Moon

Kanto League Champion
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
3995
Caught
Mar 9, 2021
Messages
163
Nature
Relaxed
Pronouns
They, Them
Pokémon Type
Ghost, Ice
Pokédex Entry
Because they're the two rarest types, they're the rarest pokemon. Yes, that's logical. No, there aren't other Ghost/Ice types. Froslass doesn't exist.
What’s your favourite game based on a movie or television show?
I've never actually played a game based on a movie or tv show. I've watched movies/tv shows based on games, but not the other way around.
 

Memento

The Princess of Darkness
Writer
Screenshotter
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
202
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
598
Location
St. Louis, Missouri
Nature
Timid
Pronouns
She, her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ghost
Pokédex Entry
She is known to spend hours daydreaming about her stories.
Ruby's Question: I assume you're talking all games. Pokemon, it's Gold without a shadow of a doubt (as I said in my last post; that's the game I played most often as a kid), and yes, it was a lot of hours. If we're talking non-Pokemon, it gets a little bit trickier. Answer to that would probably be Dragon Warrior Monsters 2. That was a really fun Pokemon-like game (except instead of pokeballs, you had various kinds of meat to tame monsters with, not that it was guaranteed to work) that I must've logged more than 1,000 hours on. It's a really fun gaming series that I'd recommend to anyone who likes Pokemon.

Mewstein's Question: Hmm...that's extremely difficult. Honestly, I'd go with Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It had some damn near impossible challenges (tried using Gimli in a level that had you escape the Hall of the Dead that had mist that slowed you down. It sucked.), but I had a lot of fun co-op times with my brother, and we played a fair bit of it. Other than that, though...I can't say I enjoyed many games that are based off of movies/books. It's my honest opinion that most of them never turn out well.
 

RubyClaw

Challenge Seeker, Completionist and Rule Designer
🌱Featurer
Writer
Screenshotter
Team Omega
Pokédex No.
22
Caught
Jun 9, 2019
Messages
1,987
Location
Kanto Route 1, 1% encounter rate (Israel)
Nature
Calm
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Fire, Psychic
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #14
@Moon - Well the Gen 8 games are sure fun! Though I admit I never found the muse/patience/will to try the DLC as I after reading and doing a little research I came to the conclusion Nuzlocking it won’t be very interesting/balanced enough (though I might be mistaken? Anyone with a different experience?).

@Spectacles - Oh I loved playing Yu-Gi-Oh and have been really tempted to buy one of the newer Yu-Gi-Oh video games myself. Slay the Spire isn’t exactly the same sort of deckbuilding game as Yu-Gi-Oh, still I have a feeling you would indeed enjoy it. That sounds awesome, nothing better than totally investing yourself into a game and enjoying it for so long, and Breath of the Wild is a great candidate for that (even though, I’m ashamed to admit, I played it and enjoyed it myself, yet never got too far and quit pretty early for a reason I’m still unsure of). Wish I’d get the opportunity to do that sort of thing again myself one day and play over an entire weekend or something of this sort.

@Memento - Ah, indeed sweet childhood memories of wandering around Johto, it seemed so huge back then. Sounds cool, never heard of Dragon Warrior Monsters 2 but from I Read about it now and it sure looks fun.

Answering mewstein’s question: What’s your favorite game based on a movie or television show?

Hmm now let me be technical here, do you mean a game based on a specific movie/show or on a movie/show franchise? If the latter, then definitely Knights of the Old Republic one of my favorite RPGs of all time, and one of the best plots I ever got to enjoy in a video games (No spoilers! Just go and play it when you have the time. A great game, and you don’t even have to be a die-hard fan of Star Wars to enjoy it, though it doesn’t hurt to know this universe a little. The game mechanics might be a bit outdated though). Another great candidate would be the fantastic 1992 quest game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. LucasArts used to make such great games... but now you are making me feel old! But if I have to pick a game based on a specific movie/show? Well, here’s a weird answer - The Lion King. My favorite childhood movie translated into an extremely fun (And often frustrating) platformer game I played for hours upon hours as a child. I remember crying once after losing at the very end of level 6... Yep, that happened. Aladdin was also really fun.

Last week I wrote about the wonderful game Slay the Spire. Today, I want to talk about a game that was clearly heavily influenced and inspired by it, yet took the whole Roguelike Deckbuilding formula to a different direction, adding some Tower Defense and RPG combat elements into the mix and by that creating its own sub-genre. In this game (now listen carefully), you command a train full of demons and monsters who are trying to take the last remaining part of the burning pyre to reignite the frozen heart of hell while fighting an army of angels and their bird people servants! I present to you, Monster Train.



Game Name: Monster Train
Year of Release: 2020
Price: $24.99 (40% when discounted).
Developer: Shiny Shoe
Genre: Roguelike Deckbuilding

Let’s start with the backstory and lore as much like in Slay the Spire it is a rather minor part of the game, yet adds a lot of flavor if you are willing to dig a little deep and learn it through the clues, the flavor text, and the events the game provide you. It will also hopefully set you in the right vibe to understand the different the theme behind mechanisms of the game. Apologies in advance if I’m a bit off on some of the details as you fish them throughout the playthrough from various sources. The story is somewhat of a “Snowpiercer meets Diablo”, a combination I think no one could have predicted would be made into a theme, yet here we are. So, gather around as I tell you the tale of hell, how it came to be frozen, and how a train full of heroic monsters came to crossing its different rings full steam ahead trying to save it: It seems that in this fantastical world the creatures of heaven and hell once lived in relative harmony, having some sort of pact between them that created a status quo. Powerful gods, angels, demons and titans, each ruled their own realms relatively undisturbed. Then, at some point, a great demon engineer decided to build the Boneshaker, aka the Monster Train you are currently leading. This train helped the different realms to get to know each other better and created a new interconnected world. But after this initial golden age, it all pretty much fell apart. In an act of betrayal, the forces of heaven led by the mighty Seraph, decided to use this opportunity and interconnectedness of the world that was gained, and attack hell directly, eventually freezing it over as they extinguished its mighty burning heart. Luckily, some of the monstrous inhabitants of hell, commanded by you, managed to keep a small fragment of the burning Pyre of Hell as it is in fact the engine of Boneshaker, and are now making their way through the Frozen Rings of hell hoping to get to the heart again and thaw hell once more. Sounds crazy, but somehow this story is really fun to play through especially as you discover more and more bits of lore that explain this bizarre world (I suggest reading the cards’ flavor text as a great source). But as I said before, this is all secondary to the gameplay itself. So, let’s finally talk about the game.



As I mentioned, this game much like Slay the Spire is a Roguelike Deckbuilding game, though in many ways a simpler and shorter version of its spiritual predecessor. You choose two of the five rather exotic clans of hell that you want to use in your deck (Plus another on in the DLC), as well as a hero from these clans that will lead your train. You then have to fight your way through the 9 Rings of Hell, and for each these you first get a chance to improve your deck of cards and buff your train, and then you are off to face the next wave of opponents sent by the great Seraph himself to stop your train of monsters from reaching its goal and reigniting the flames of hell. If you manage to defeat each of these waves, including the Seraph itself as the final boss, you win the game, and unlock the next difficulty - called Covenant levels. There are 25 Covenant levels, and much like in Slay the Spire the challenge only increases as you unlock more and more of them.



The card playing aspect of the battle system is seemingly pretty simple, but holds a lot of complexity and opportunities for powerful combinations in it. Each turn you get to play your hand of drawn cards from your deck according to the amount of energy you have (much like the Slay the Spire mechanism), and you use these cards to either summon monsters that will protect your train placing them in the different floors of the train, or cast powerful spells against your opponents or to strengthen your own army. Each turn the enemies try to break your lines and move up a floor on the 4 floors of the train, while a new wave appears in the first floor. If the opponents manage to reach the fourth floor where the Pyre stands, they will fight it directly and damage it, and if the Pyre loses all of its health you lose the game. Classic Tower Defense style. Each wave ends with a powerful boss that comes to threaten your train and that you must defeat using all that you managed to set up in this round.



Each clan of hell has different playstyles they can use, and as you get to use two of them in each of your runs, you have the opportunity to combine a lot of wacky strategies. There are the Hellborn who are fierce demonic warriors who specialize in armor, rage and exploding imps, The Awake who are creepy haunted plants who are masters healer and build spikey defenses, The Stygian who are marine creatures who are masters of damage dealing spells and the arcane in general, the Umbra who are ancient shadowy creatures who specialize in feeding on each other and growing bigger and stronger, the Melting Remnants who are candle based creatures with powerful attacks and short lives as they burn away, and finally the DLC adds the Wurmkin clan who are ancient monstrous creatures who specialize in ancient spells and powerful shards which they channel to empower their own spells and units.



The main strategy of this game comes to play in the deckbuilding part of the game. This is your opportunity to buff some of your cards using special upgrades you buy between moving forward to the next ring of hell, remove or double some of the cards in your deck, gain access to new cards, and generally try to build a strategy that would be useful against the different enemies you will face. The gameplay itself also holds a lot of strategy as you use the geography of the 4 floors of the train to wisely survive the waves of your opponents while building the perfect setup for this wave’s boss, though as much as this part can be amusing and climactic here also lies a weakness of this game - As the math can get pretty ridiculous with some of the buffs doubling and tripling other effects, you can find yourself having to sit for a few minutes trying to calculate the best action if you want to get the best results from each situation. As this will harm the fun of the experience (as no one likes to do complicated math for their own amusement, well, almost no one) you often choose to estimate the best outcome instead, leaving you sometimes with the sense the you could have done better for the price of your time and amusement. Still, as you improve and become better at the game and gain a deeper understanding of all the different mechanisms, you also become more skilled at making these estimates which takes some of the sting out of this feeling (or perhaps it just me who is fanatic at getting the best outcome?).



Still, don’t get me wrong, this is a wonderful, very amusing and relatively challenging game, which can give you hours upon hours of enjoyment. You will often lose (though as much as in Slay the Spire), you will feel the challenge, and you will feel you overcame great difficulties using your improving skills. You will also enjoy the different bizarre clans and what they have to offer, and no game will be exactly the same as the one before it thanks to new items, cards, and combination you never tried before. Another great feature I haven’t talked enough about enough is the fact you can buff any card in the game giving it extra effects of better stats, something that adds a lot of flavor and some really interesting opportunities for cool new combos.

Final Score: 4 Claws. Great game, well designed, very amusing. A worthy addition to its genre (though as you saw I couldn’t stop comparing it to Slay the Spire, as it is still both very much influenced by it, and a bit inferior to it in my opinion in many aspects). I personally recommend playing Slay the Spire first, and once you finished it/had enough of it, move to this very fun game.

And now for my question for mewstein and you fine folks: What’s your favorite song from a video game? (or at least one you really like that comes to mind). Music in video games can be absolutely fantastic, yet songs in video games aren’t very common to be honest. I find it hard to decide between two very different answers: The first, “Still Alive” from Portal (with an honorable mention to “Want you Gone” from Portal 2). An extremally funny song, especially for someone just finished to game, I remember laughing so hard to the lyrics as I first heard them and the credits rolled, such a perfect ending for a perfect game. The second must be “Build that Wall” from Bastion, a game with magnificent music in general. Such a simple song yet that resonances really strongly with me.

Can’t wait to hear your pick. Turning the controller to you comrade mewstein!
 
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Moon

Kanto League Champion
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
3995
Caught
Mar 9, 2021
Messages
163
Nature
Relaxed
Pronouns
They, Them
Pokémon Type
Ghost, Ice
Pokédex Entry
Because they're the two rarest types, they're the rarest pokemon. Yes, that's logical. No, there aren't other Ghost/Ice types. Froslass doesn't exist.
What’s your favorite song from a video game?
I'm assuming you're saying it has to have lyrics, so Lifelight from Smash Ultimate, because it's good, and also it's the only video game song I've heard with lyrics in game
 

mewstein

Johto League Champion
Team Omega
Pokédex No.
289
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
738
@Memento - Ah, I recall your fondness of LoTR games - I’m glad they were at least better than the old PC Harry Potter games that came out when the movies were released. If you ever get into tabletop gaming, I recommend giving Games Workshop’s LoTR game a try. The models are fun to collect and paint too!

@Moon - You've probably dodged a bullet by avoiding games based on movies or TV shows - they’re rarely anything special.

First, a disclaimer: even after sinking nearly 70 hours into this game, it feels like I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Folks, if you want to get into Crusader Kings 3, I recommend you do it during the holidays (or while quarantining) so you can set aside a week and disconnect yourself from real-life responsibilities. Reigning over a kingdom is a full time occupation…


Game Name: Crusader Kings 3
Year Of Release: 2020
Price: £42 – purchased with a Steam discount key for £21
Developer: Paradox Interactive
Genre: Strategy, Simulation, RPG, War.

From Swedish developers Paradox Interactive, CK3 is a 4X strategy game. The 4 X’s stand for Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate, and with titles such as Sterallis, Europa Universalis and Hearts Of Iron in their catalog, Paradox seems to have 4X’d the empire-building strategy game market here. Since 4X games are open-ended and allow you to choose your own destiny, I find that they’re generally best played with a narrative mindset rather than just trying to beat the system by the fastest means possible. Each King or Queen has his or her own set of personality traits, and features such as the game's stress level gauge encourage you to get into the role of your ruler - your King or Queen will suffer negative psychological consequences and begin to behave erratically, develop vices and addictions, or even die if you repeatedly push them to do things that go against their nature. But it’s not all bad news - a quick trip to the whorehouse will not only cure stress but also potentially result in a few spare heirs just in case your first born falls victim to one of the many cruel fates the game can throw at them. How convenient...


Nobody suspects a thing!

A vanilla game of CK3 has start dates of 867AD or 1066AD and an end date of 1453AD. With my limited historical knowledge I’m not going to go into the significance of these dates, but just know that kingdoms in 867AD are generally smaller and less stable than in 1066AD, and Viking raids are a common occurrence. The world map includes Europe and sizeable chunks of Asia and Africa, and as more DLC and fan-made mods appear, you can expect more choices in starting date and starting location, such as Bronze Age Egypt (2500BC - pyramids!!) or even in the Tolkienverse’s Middle Earth.



With the when and the where sorted out, the next decision is who to play as. There’s a mind-boggling array of royalty to choose from, ranging from Petty Kings scrapping over chunks of territory in Ireland to powerful Byzantine emperors. RubyClaw has even survived a few encounters with Genghis Khan! Who you choose has a major impact on aspects such as religion, marriage, inheritance laws and who your allies are. A ruler loyal to the Pope is unlikely to have an Islamic Emir as his drinking buddy, for example (especially given the latter’s opinion of alcohol). But never say never, money and marriage are powerful bargaining chips, and in the CK3 alt-history universe pretty much anything is possible.

Another option when starting out is to play with the Ruler Designer, where you can tweak your monarch’s stats and appearance as you see fit. The CK3 section of Reddit has some great examples of people’s Monarch-sters:


I’m sure he has a great personality

Setting up your group of councillors is one of the final tasks before hitting the play button and letting history unfold. Your council will start off ready-composed of various landed nobles, with roles such as Chancellor (in charge of taxes), Marshall (in charge of troops) and Spymaster (in charge of stabbery and counter-stabbery), and the better your councillors’ stats are, the better they are at doing their jobs. Hiring and firing council members is a delicate affair - you could go down the Gotta Catch ‘Em All route and search your kingdom far and wide for folks with the best stats in their chosen field to fill the slots (a Spymaster with an Intrigue stat of 25 is more likely to intercept a poisoned cake plot than one with an Intrigue stat of 10...although the latter would probably eat the cake and serve their purpose regardless). However, some of your higher-ranking nobles might not be willing to vacate their cushy council seats, and go on to use their dismissal as an excuse to slip you the aforementioned poisonous pudding - especially if they have the Envious or Deceitful personality traits. Be careful who you fire...


The red or green numbers indicate their opinion of you. You might want to give Duke Eadwin a raise.

With all your immediate kingly (or queenly) duties dealt with, it’s time to unpause the game! Alerts and messages will pop up as the days tick by, informing you of various happenings in your kingdom. With CK3, once you’ve mastered the basics and run through the tutorial a few times, it’s best to approach the game with some sort of goal in mind - maybe you want to conquer your neighbour, found a new religion or breed a race of genetically pure superhuman giants, for example? Aiming for Steam’s CK3 achievements is a good way to see all the various aspects of the game in action rather than just attempting to paint the entire map with your colours and are handily listed here in order of difficulty: https://ck3.paradoxwikis.com/Achievement

But my favourite aspect of CK3 is the random stories the game will generate as the procedural programming behind the scenes does its thing. As Ireland, I ended up defending myself against the King of Sweden who retreated back to Scandinavia, promptly went mad and renounced all forms of clothing except for his crown. I’m guessing his naval fleet wasn’t the only thing that shrank during that episode.


Darling, I think you’ve forgotten something…

A little later, as King of Bohemia, I decided to go after the Steam achievement for maxing out my lifestyle trait tree. My lifestyle was diplomacy, so in order to win the hearts (and stomachs) of my allies I held many, many feasts. My poor King went from Diplomat to Diplofat and ended up with crippling gout and obesity, but at least everyone loved him for it … maybe not so much his horse. A slightly more heart-warming (and less heart-congesting) story is the tale of King Ethelbert of England. This was a shy-guy extraordinaire - his personality traits made him extremely stressed when negotiating with hostages, raising taxes, plotting murders...and his other stats were pretty mediocre too so he seemed doomed from the outset. Thankfully his brother Alfred, who had pretty much 20+ for everything, was on hand to lead his army, negotiate with diplomats and generally manage the kingdom, while Ethelbert hid under the Royal bed. I was so sure Alfred would suddenly murder his dopey brother and claim the crown, but instead like a true bro, he never took advantage of the golden opportunity dangling in front of him. I later found out that Brother Alf was based on none other than Alfred The Great - again, Paradox has done its homework when it comes to Medieval history.

This review is rapidly turning into an essay so I’ll just cover Death and Succession before signing off: In CK3, the reaper may strike at the most unexpected (and inconvenient) moment, taking the form of an assassin or some neighbouring King who’s bit of turf you were eyeing up. If your character manages to avoid a premature demise they’ll gradually age (Paradox Games does a great - if somewhat scary - job of aging the character models). Just don’t get too attached to your King or Queen unless you’re the sort of person that’ll enjoy the agonising emotional pain when they inevitably die. The game doesn’t end when your character snuffs it, instead you’ll continue as their heir, so it’s best to buff and prepare Junior as much as possible in advance (and quietly bump off any unwanted siblings who might force him to share the kingdom with them). The game really does end if you run out of heirs, but I haven’t had that happen, yet. Although my character’s epitaphs do get progressively worse as I begin to forget what I learned in the tutorial:



And now we’re at the end of this review, CK3 gets a 5 from me. There’s so much to this game, and I haven’t yet played fully though to the end date - I usually find myself pausing it so I can investigate the family tree of an interesting-looking NPC, or pondering on which of my grandchildren will be celebrating their Sweet 16 with a poisonous cake. RubyClaw’s played more hours than me so is more than qualified to share his own experiences on this blog at some point.

There’s not much I can think of to improve CK3, apart from sometimes the military maneuvers seem a bit glitchy, causing your army to dither outside of an enemy fortress rather than actually attacking it, or AI armies will wander aimlessly around the landscape rather than engaging in battle. Still, if the enemy troops are composed of Swedish nudists, that might actually be a blessing in disguise.

RubyClaw’s question of the week - What’s your favorite song from a video game?
I’m not sure I’ve played any video games which feature songs (unless the acapella in some of Crash Tag Team Racing’s tunes count). But if it’s music in general we’re talking about, I have a lot of love for the Act 3 boss music in Slay The Spire:



I really like bombastic, dramatic soundtracks and this one has so much going on in it.

The music from the Fireworks Factory level in the third Spyro game is another banger - as a child I ended up recording it onto a cassette tape so I could listen to it endlessly under the duvet on my walkman:



Decent music is very important in games where you could potentially go through the same level hundreds of times, so thankfully my favourite Rogue-likes have a great musical score.

Question for the week: How important are the story and characters of a game to you?
I’m going to be making some sweeping generalisations here (and I’m pretty sure Ruby’s going to have a lot of strong opinions of his own on this), but as time has gone on I’ve become less interested in RPG-style games, and shifted to ones that focus on strategy and mechanics with minimal plot. Even with traditional tabletop gaming I was always more of a fan of Warhammer-style wargames than DnD roleplaying, and one of the things which has made me lose interest in Pokemon in the later generations are the various plots and missions which distract from the main focus of conquering the league. Scrolling through multiple paragraphs of dialog while an NPC shares their life story does nothing for me (save a slightly numb finger from all that button-pressing). And the Alola mini-games pretty much killed Gen VII for me. But hey, when it comes to Pokemon, I’m not the target audience here - and I’ll still be getting on the Gen IX hype-train when BDSP finally drops. In the meantime I’ll head back to my Steam library and try to keep King Hrodulfr from dropping BDSM on his subjects...
 
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Moon

Kanto League Champion
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
3995
Caught
Mar 9, 2021
Messages
163
Nature
Relaxed
Pronouns
They, Them
Pokémon Type
Ghost, Ice
Pokédex Entry
Because they're the two rarest types, they're the rarest pokemon. Yes, that's logical. No, there aren't other Ghost/Ice types. Froslass doesn't exist.
How important are the story and characters of a game to you?
On a scale from one to ten, i'd say a seven. I really like learning more about the characters and the world that they're in. I like a good plot twist-for example, when I first saw all the banners on motostoke stadium for the first time and noticed one was the Team Yell symbol, I got excited that it would be a sort of Giovanni thing, but was pleasantly surprised when I learned Piers was a pretty chill guy. When I first fought Rose, I actually did really hate him and have incentive to fight him. And heck-the anime made my pity him and think that his goal made sense! I really like learning about the characters and their reasons for doing things, and also the world around them.
 

Memento

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Pokédex Entry
She is known to spend hours daydreaming about her stories.
Ruby's question: Everything or Nothing from James Bond's Everything or Nothing. It's really a shame that it isn't on iTunes, but it's a song that really gets you hyped for the game.

Mewstein's question: I'd say it's extremely important, but given that I usually play RPGs, of which rely on good plot and characters, I may be biased.
 

mewstein

Johto League Champion
Team Omega
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@Moon Fair point, I can understand this opinion if you’re invested in the game you’re playing. I suppose for me, having played Pokemon games on-and-off for years, all the stories, names and characters tend to blur into one. And some of the stories created by folk here on the forum trounce anything the writers at Nintendo could come up with!

@Memento I too used to be an RPG fan when I was younger, but these days I prefer faster-moving strategy games where I have to make decisions every moment in order to avoid losing, rather than going along with the flow of a story. But hey, your appreciation of a good narrative is part of being a writer!

No Ruby review this week - sometimes the work-life balance will fluctuate and make one of us too busy or tired to write our piece, and we’d both prefer to do decent-quality reviews rather than just posting something for the sake of it. This week, I’m in God-mode...



Game Name: Godhood
Year Of Release: 2020
Price: £22 – purchased on sale for £12
Developer: Abbey Games
Genre: Strategy, Simulation, God game.

From the Dutch creators of Reus and Renowned Explorers (which Ruby gave a very favourable review of earlier in this blog), Godhood by Abbey Games is a game designed to appeal to a gamer’s delusions of grandeur. What made that Jesus bloke so special anyway?! The aim of the game is to guide your team of disciples along the path to enlightenment, and stop the nearby tribes of heathens from worshipping false Gods (i.e. Gods that aren’t you). Converting the inhabitants of six neighbouring islands will grant you fully-fledged God status and win the game.

The first step is to create your avatar - there’s an extensive selection of heads, limbs, fangs, wings, horns and silly hats to browse and you can choose the colours of various bits of your anatomy (insert joke here). For the purpose of this review I hit the Randomise button and ended up with the fine-looking chap you can see in the screenshot.


The resemblance is uncanny…

Next it’s time to pick the central commandment for your cult. The options are War, Peace, Pleasure, Purity, Greed, Generosity or Madness and what you choose will determine how your followers will go about their sacred duty of convincing more people to follow you. A peaceful sect that promotes meditation and learning will probably make a different case from a war-like cannibalistic cult specialising in ritualistic sacrifice, for example. The general look and feel of your tribe, classes of warrior available and the rituals they can perform are all influenced by your central commandment. If you choose Madness, expect lots of tentacles. For this review I decided to go with Greed… as the saying goes, “Go with what you know”.



After collecting your stat-boosting starter relic it’s time to examine the village your followers inhabit. Godhood is set in a tropical paradise and heavily influenced by Aztec aesthetics - something you don’t often see in a game, and which lends a chilled, tranquil vibe to the playthrough. If only the music didn’t remind me of the theme of a certain movie that was also set in a tropical paradise… You can watch your villagers wandering around, collecting food, going about their lives, and you can instruct them to build temples in your village which will boost their stats.

On the subject of stats, your followers’ attributes are:

Might (physical attack)
Health (physical defence)
Cunning (physical evasiveness)
Charisma (morale attack)
Devotion (morale defence)
Knowledge (morale evasiveness)


Words can’t hurt me these shades are goofy

Attacks are either physical or morale, which is basically war with words. Your preacher might denounce an enemy’s God until they’re blue in the face, but if that enemy has high Devotion (granting morale defence), they ain’t going to take the bait. Abbey Games introduced a similar fighting-talk mechanism in Renowned Explorers, and I think it’s a great idea: why bother swinging an axe when you can taunt or flirt your way to victory instead? Your followers have a power rating from A to E, and gain experience each turn which allows them to ascend these ranks. They also get older each turn, become frail and eventually die… which you, as God, must see to, so as to make room on your team for younger fighters. As with Crusader Kings 3, Don’t. Get. Attached.

In a game of Godhood you get to perform three ‘God Actions’ on your followers per turn before sending three of them to participate in a Sacrament. God Actions can be spent on Rituals (where you give a follower an extra boost of experience), Dreams (a temporary stat buff) or on replenishing Fervour (the amount of energy a follower has).



With the preparation covered, it’s time for a bit of forced conversion! A Sacrament is basically a ritualistic battle in front of a crowd of onlookers who can potentially be convinced to join the Cult Of You. Your crusading warriors can either do this by preaching at their opponents with holy words, or hitting their opponents with holy sticks. As a God, you can’t directly control your fighter’s actions in these Sacraments, and instead must watch them doing their best to shout or bludgeon their foes into submission. This autobattling aspect of the game has split the opinion of reviewers of Godhood, and while it sometimes feels a little clunky, I think it’s a fun feature that makes Godhood stand out. Kudos to Abbey Games for trying something new.



If you win the Sacrament you get some gold and materials to further develop your village, and also gain access to new tribes to conquer. If you lose, your followers will lose a bit of faith in you. If they drop down to 0 faith, you evaporate and are resigned to only exist as a footnote in the thesis of an anthropology student who majored in failed world religions. I’ve had Game Over happen several times - Godhood can be unforgiving on the higher difficulty settings.

As far as rating Godhood goes, I’ve swung between 3.5 and 4 like an indecisive pendulum all week so I think I’ll have to go with 3.75. I admire the complexity of the game and I’m far from mastering it, I like the number-crunching involved in optimising the stats of my disciples and there’s a lot of options to customise the look of your tribe. However, the simplistic art-style doesn’t really appeal to me - I prefer a touch more realism (see Antihero), and I’d like the option to play in different locations such as Egypt, Greece or even Australia. Also sometimes the difficulty gradient can jump unexpectedly between Sacraments, and you could have a crushing defeat right after a two-hit victory. But hey, maybe I just need to Git Gud. Or should that be ... wait for it ... Git God?

Question of the week : Have you heard the good news? If you were stuck on a desert island and a magic unicorn appeared and brought you a PC (or console) with only one game on it, what would you choose?

I’m going to go with a PC with Monster Train, no question. Ruby reviewed that game earlier (which probably saved you from having me froth about it) but the challenge and replayability of it has had me coming back for more on a daily basis for the past couple of months. The sheer variety of combinations in both creatures and spells makes every run unique, and the feeling you get when your deck synergy comes together and suddenly you’re dishing out hundreds of points of damage per turn makes you feel… well, God-like.
 
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RubyClaw

Challenge Seeker, Completionist and Rule Designer
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Team Omega
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22
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  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #20
Sorry I missed this week's review mewstein and folks, as mewstein said it won't be uncommon for me to miss a weekend review once in a while as I want to do it when the muse has fully revealed itself to me (and real life allows it). Great review mewstein! I think I overall agree with your score, a game with lots of potential and a unique theme, but needs some more polishing.
 

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