Adam versus Steam Greenlight Archive

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Adam Versus Steam Greenlight Volume 10: Gravity Core, Evolutionesque TD, and Cubicle Quest

Here we are, the last post before the Page of Reviews goes on vacation for two weeks. Is there a better day to do an Adam Versus Steam Greenlight post? I think not.

First, a word for the newbies to this series. These are not reviews. I can not stress this point enough. In this series I pull three games at random from my Greenlight queue. I then answer the core question of Steam Greenlight: would you buy this game if it appeared on Steam?

With that said, let’s reach into the chum bucket and see what we get.

Gravity Core by Gravity Games

The Pitch

“Gravity Core is an Anti-Casual Braintwisting (sic?) Space Shooter focusing on combining the direct training of coordinative abilities with the fun of fighting in a modern space shooter accompanied by a psychotic artificial intelligence.”

The Trailer

 

My Thoughts

I suppose this is what happens when a rail shooter, a space combat sim, and that Japanese game show, Hole in the Wall have a threesome and somebody forgets to use protection. It’s an odd concept, yet I’m intrigued. I think there’s room for this game to be fun, but I don’t know how long that fun would last. The challenge of beating a global ranking isn’t usually enough to make me run the same level over and over. I’ll do it for Race the Sun, but only because that reminds me of Wipeout and it offers a new track every day.

With respect to Gravity Core’s abusive AI, I think it is treading into the realm of Portal and System Shock 2. It takes a special kind of writing to have a game mock its players without alienating them, as was the case in the aforementioned games. It’s hard to tell if Gravity Core has the tone quite right, but I’m nonetheless interested in finding out.

Verdict

Gravity Core gets points for being different from the pack. Ultimately, I think it has all the makings of a game I would buy on a Steam sale.

Evolutionesque TD by Levahound

The Pitch

“Evolutionesque TD!!!

Just what the name says, evolution…

12 towers at the moment! Each with 3 forms…”

(Author’s note: this is all the game has by way of a pitch or description. The rest of its promotional copy on Steam is a list of the various towers this particular tower defence game employs)

The Trailer

 

My Thoughts – which I shall express in the form of a letter to the developer

Dear Levahound,

The internet is a cold and merciless place, apt to sling venom and vitriol at people who have not yet mastered their craft. I say this principally because I admire the courage you show in putting your work out there. I also say this because there are a few things that tell me you are not ready for the big league just yet.

First, you haven’t written any actual descriptive copy for your game. Second, your trailer uses music that has nothing to do with the game. Additionally, I doubt you paid the appropriate royalties to use that particular piece of music. Third, the trailer itself appears to be made in windows movie maker. None of these things give me confidence in your final product.

You’re also competing in a sub-genre that is a dime a dozen. Despite the talent and effort you invested in this project – which is no doubt considerable – you have done little to make your game stand out from the pack. Thus you give me no reason to part coin from hand.  Furthermore, I don’t think there’s anything you can do to make me want to pay for this game, even if I am only looking at alpha footage.

Play more games, find something truly original, built it, and don’t release it until it is done.

Most importantly, don’t quit.

-Adam

Verdict

Pass.

Cubicle Quest by Ian Isaro Games

The Pitch

“Cubicle Quest is a game about how life can suck. Dead end jobs, repetitive obligations, irritating coworkers… Cubicle Quest takes all of those things and turns them into enemies you can fight in an old-school RPG.

Adventuring in Cubicle Quest doesn’t earn you levels and gold to fight some great ancient evil. Every quest has an impact on your character’s life, whether it’s getting a promotion at work, finding new friends, or figuring out what you want to do in life. Gain allies and personal strength until you take on the forces keeping you in your cubicle!”

The Trailer

 

My Thoughts

While I can appreciate the attempt at self-deprecating humour in the trailer, it didn’t land for me. Might I recommend replacing the text walls with a voice over for your next trailer. Similarly, I can see how this game might work for some people, but there’s nothing in either the pitch or the trailer that make me want to play, let alone buy, Cubicle Quest.

Ten years ago when I was fresh out of grad school and working tech support at a call centre, I probably would have loved this game. Now that I’m a little further along in my career, I don’t look at my work as something that is painful and alienating.

It’s also important to note that the subversive comedy of something like Office Space, which I suspect this game will channel to some degree, is a product of a different time. There are probably tens of thousands of people who would look at a 35-hour-a-week office job not as an oppressive thing, but the goal at the end of a quest. If a game wants to show me the tedious side of work, it needs to be something a little farther removed from The OfficePapers Please is a good example of this.

Verdict

Though a valiant effort, Cubicle Quest is a pass for me.

And so ends another episode of Adam Versus Steam Greenlight. I’m off for the next two weeks, though there might be a few guest posts to the Page of Reviews while I’m recharging the batteries and finishing up a few projects.

Have a great rest of the summer. Thank you, gentle reader, for continuing to read my ramblings and rants.

 

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Adam Versus Steam Greenlight Volume 9: Crossroads, Get Even, and Heart Forth, Alicia

Greetings, programs! Welcome back for another installment of Adam versus Steam Greenlight, the somewhat monthly feature where I pull three random games out of my Greenlight queue and weigh-in on the pros and cons of their marketing. Let me remind anybody who is reading this as their first ever AvSG post, these are not reviews. I’m evaluating the game’s trailer and its promotional copy to answer the essential question of Steam Greenlight, “Would you buy this game if it appeared on Steam.”

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get into things.

Crossroads Episode I by lev@n

Trailer not available.

Description not available.

What is available? A short story so poorly edited it made my eyes bleed, a few promotional pictures, and links to a Russian website and modDB.

My thoughts

From what I can gather, this is some sort of Source engine mod. As much as I admire the developer for trying to use fiction as a lead-in to the game’s narrative, I see that act as as a thing to be done late in the game’s development. There’s also the fact that poor writing, regardless of if it is found in fiction or marketing material, makes me question the attention to detail that will go into the code.

Verdict

Nope. Not going to happen. Thumbs down.

Get Even by The Farm 51

The Description

Eschewing the usual clichés and gung-ho settings currently inhabiting the FPS genre, Get Even subtlety removes the classic division between single-player and multiplayer experiences to unfold two linked stories. The game’s plot revolves around the memories of its central heroes which have a dramatic effect on how the game progresses. The route the player chooses to follow determines their personality as the game unfolds. The carefully crafted storyline mixes elements of thriller and horror with exploration of incredibly detailed 3D scanned locations and virtual reality systems means more than just interface for playing the game.

We create Get Even as a first-person action game equally focused on combat and exploration with some investigation and puzzling elements at the top. Players are using sophisticated weapons, VR and hi-tech gadgets, fighting in realistic locations but also exploring them in search for the information.

The Trailer

 

My Thoughts

Clever. I had something of a Philip J. Fry meme moment as I watched the teaser. Is it a game engine, or did they actually film this? The “what is real” tag line at the end was just smart enough to derail the burgeoning, “I don’t like Hollywood style trailers for video games” rant that I had brewing. Not to mention the fact there’s an obvious level of artistry that went into the trailer.

The concept for the game seems interesting, as well. Even though the promotional copy is rough at points, it’s driving at an interesting premise. I’m curious to see how they will blend single and multiplayer into a unified experience. Since we’re told that the “storyline campaign [will be] played against the most challenging enemies you can imagine: other gamers,” I assume Get Even will be taking a page from Darksouls in terms of player encounters.

Verdict

So long as a copy editor goes through the game’s dialogue, I would probably drop some coin on this game out of curiosity alone. I’ll give it a thumbs up for now, but the issue of writing as a measure of quality control is still in play.

Heart Forth, Alicia by Alonso Martin

The Description

At Heart Forth, Alicia’s core is an ode to the classics. Remember the electrifying gameplay of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the expansive worlds of the Zelda games, and the rich, engaging story of Xenogears? This game is crafted in the spirit of those great adventures of the ’90s.

The story unfolds amidst the repercussions of centuries worth of struggle, strife, and bloodshed between cultures, races and worldviews. But above all else, it’s an epic Metroidvania RPG that combines timeless 16- and 32-bit gameplay, modern mechanics, and a set of unique, intertwining stories to take you on a fantastic journey.

The Trailer

 

My Thoughts

I’m not sure if I would call Xenogears’ story rich and engaging, so much as a ponderous mind fuck, fueled by giant robots and odd takes on religion. Be that as it may, Heart Forth, Alicia looks like a game worth playing. Even though the indie market is getting a little bit heavy with platformers as the new-old genre de jour, this one has the good sense to stay away from words like “rogue like” and “zombie survival game.” There’s also a clear attempt to play the nostalgia card in both the game’s aesthetic and its description. Even a quick glance at the combat evokes some memories of Symphony of the Night mixed with a bit of Chronotrigger.

The only thing that struck as discordant was the sudden cut to an actual woman at the end of the trailer. Was it an attempt to be meta and resurrect the FMVs of the 90s?

Verdict

Thumbs up. Based on the pricing available through the game’s kickstarter, I could easily see myself spending ten dollars on this Heart Forth, Alicia.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. Two out of three make the cut, and one looks very promising. I dare say I’ll be following the progress of Heart Forth, Alicia in the months to come.


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Adam Versus Steam Greenlight Volume 8: Ancients of Fasaria, PeriAreion, Hover

Greetings programs. Welcome to the first Adam versus Green Steamlight of 2014. For the uninitiated, Adam versus Steam Greenlight is a mostly monthly feature where I pull three random games out of my Steam Greenlight queue and answer the fundamental question of Steam Greenlight, “Would I buy this game if it appeared on Steam?”

Keep in mind that the only thing I’m evaluating is the developers’ ability to produce an impressive trailer, write some decent marketing copy, and sell me on the concept of their game.

These are not reviews, so please keep that in mind before you send me angry emails about how I’m proffering unfair reviews, and how I am the worst thing since Stalin. On that note, let’s bring on the first contender.

Ancients of Fasaria: Battle Tactics

The Description

Ancients of Fasaria: Battle Tactics is a massive multiplayer strategy, rpg based upon the online mmorpg Ancients of Fasaria: Lords of the Forgotten Moons.

Features:

* Build your colony

* Research new technologies

* Build and level up your main character by engaging in combat

* Purchase and equip weapons and armor for your character

* Build up to 3 massive armies

* Compete against other members in PVP combat

* Build or join a clan

* Earn medals and ranking

The Trailer

 

My Thoughts

This is a joke, right? Is it just me, or does this look and sound a lot like Evony, or one of its ill-begotten clones. Its nature as a “Free to Play” game fills me with no shortage of reservations about the quality and type of game play Ancients of Fasaria will offer.

Verdict

Thumbs down. Somebody would have to pay me to play this game. Even then, I suspect I would hate it.

PeriAreion

The Description

Prepare for the ultimate test of survival in a strategy game with no enemies except the hostile environment of mars. Do you have the skill necessary to build and manage the first sustainable extraterrestrial colony, or will your colonists become mere footnotes in the history of human space exploration? Their lives and legacies are in your hands!

PeriAreion, a term meaning “closest approach to Mars”, is a single-player realistic space sim/strategy game. The goal is to establish a sustainable colony on Mars by mining minerals, constructing and populating a base, and dealing with the hazards of such a harsh environment. Like Oregon Trail in space, PeriAreion is about exploring a new and unforgiving frontier. All the science, modules, and environments found in the game are based upon current mars research and mission concepts.

The Trailer

 

My Thoughts

Setting aside the fact that I’m almost certain Periareion doesn’t translate to “closest approach to Mars,” the game has caught my attention. I like the idea of a Martian colony simulator if, and only if, the developers focus on making it a science fiction game with an emphasis on the science. That is to say, the first thing the colonists should be mining is water. The second is a building material that will keep out radiation.

Though the trailer touts the ability to explore the natural wonders of Mars, the graphics seem a little lack lustre and murky. I suppose we can chalk that up to a game still in pre-release condition. Though if the game is focusing on colony management, I’m not really sure why there would be a need to explore Martian vistas.

Verdict

Thumbs up. My hope is that this game will be smart and follow in the footsteps of Kim Stanely Robinson’s Red Mars.

Hover: Revolt of Gamers

The Description

Created and developed by 3 young independant developers, “Hover : Revolt of Gamers” is a free runner in a futuristic 3D open world.

Between the crazy Jet Set Radio, the interactivity of Mirror’s Edge and inspired by films like “The Fifth Element” or “Star Wars”, Hover let you play as a Gamer Team from another world, appalled at the dictatorship in their city.

Totally free in a large futuristic open world city and wearing a special high-tech suit offering you the ability to move around unlike anyone, you will have to impress all the Gamers of the City doing crazy Triks and “Parkours” in order to recruit an impressive team and enrole in more serious missions to overthrow the tyranny.

You will have to locate and infiltrate in the control centers of the anti-video games propaganda, free the citizens confined by the authorities, get back the consoles confiscated from the population, andfinally dethrone the new Mayor at the origin of this whole mess. Many security drones are patrolling city so be alert to the risk of being chased, and be prepared to shake off them.

Each Gamer you recruit in your team is playable and the experience gained can be used to upgrade their stats.

The Trailer

 

My Thoughts

I have said it before and apparently I need to say it again, this time in all-caps and bold face; IF YOU WANT TO SUCCESSFULLY MARKET A GAME, HIRE A COPY EDITOR SO PEOPLE DON’T JUDGE THE GAME BY YOUR TERRIBLE WRITING.

Multiple spelling and grammar mistakes in marketing copy makes me wonder about the quality of the game as a whole. Perhaps the developers are fantastic coders but only mediocre writers, which is fair. Yet there’s more to quality control than squashing game breaking bugs. No effort, or at best a poor effort, to proof read the promotional copy gives me no reason to believe the game will offer any more polish than what’s seen in the Greenlight profile. Combine that with the fact that Hover looks to borrow both story and concept from Mirror’s Edge without offering anything of its own, and I would have considerable reservations about buying this game.

Verdict

Thumbs down. While this might prove to be a good game, the lack of polish in the copy and a wholly derivative concept do not make me want to part coin from hand for this title.

And that, dear readers, is another episode of Adam versus Steam Greenlight. One out of three might not be the best outcome, but at least I found a single title worthy of an up vote.


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Adam Versus Steam Greenlight Volume 7

Welcome to the final Adam Versus Steam Greenlight of 2013. Damn, where did the year go?

For anybody new to this series, each month I randomly pull three games out of my Steam Greenlight queue; whereupon I publically answer the core question of Steam Greenlight, “Would you buy this game if it were available on Steam?”

As there seemed to be some confusion on that last point in Volume 6 of AvSG, let me reiterate that these are not reviews. The point of this post is to look at a game’s promotional material, and see if it evokes a “shut up and take my money” reaction. Hopefully, that clears things up for anybody who might think that I am attempting to review a game based on trailers and descriptive copy.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s bring on our first contender.

Earth: Year 2066 by Don Quixote Studio

The Description

Earth: Year 2066 (codename Project: Earth) is a first person sci-fi apocalyptic open-world RPG game inspired by such video games as Fallout and Half-Life 2.

You play as a survivor of a nuclear war between USA and China. You became a half zombie because of radiation. You need to get to the safe place, called “GOD’S HOUSE” to survive. Dangerous journey is waiting for you.

The Trailer

At the time of this post, there is no trailer for Earth: Year 2066. I’ve included the game play footage that the developer has offered to date.

 

My Thoughts

First question, what engine is this game using? Is this the Source engine? I ask because I want to know how impressed I should be by these visuals. If DQS built their own engine for this game, then what’s offered here rates as considerably more impressive than if they’ve layered Fallout-ish textures on an existing engine.

What is absolutely unforgivable is the pew-pew rifle’s sound effects. As I could barely handle that racket for the length of a tech demo, I can’t imagine enduring it over the course of a game. It reminds me of the gun effects from the terrible video game adaptation of TekWar.

Considering Earth: Year 2066′s inspirations, I’m feeling like the presentation is falling short of making me care about this game. If the current build is not yet in a state where it can show off character models, combat, crafting, and the like, then the descriptive copy needs to do more than talk about half zombification from radiation (what is the this, the Marvel universe?) and give me an all-caps destination. Ultimately, there’s nothing here to tell me why I should play this game instead of New Vegas.

Verdict

Thumbs down. However, I’d be willing to take another look at it once the development, and marketing, get a little more robust.

1heart by Chicken in the Corn

The Description

1heart can be described simply in four short points:

1. Beautiful and unique painted visuals.

2. High level of difficulty.

3. A plot full of surprises.

4. 90′s Gameplay with the addition of hidden objects.

In addition to the above:

Over 66 hand-painted locations.

Over 120 collectable objects.

Over a dozen original cutscenes

Over a dozen difficult and unique puzzles

Steam and/or ingame achievements

The Trailer

 

My Thoughts

“Hi haters and true indie gamers?” Really? That’s the binary? I understand the desire to create an inclusive tone, but I question if that was the wisest way to go about it. It invokes a little too much of George W. Bush’s overly simplistic “You’re either with America or you’re with the terrorists” dialogue for my taste.

Leaving that alone for a minute, the trailer for 1heart is impressive. There’s a nice balance between creepy and captivating in the art, and it hints at just enough of the story to make me want to know more. As was the case in the last game, the descriptive text isn’t doing its job of telling me why this game will be unique. Since this isn’t the first point-and-click adventure game I’ve seen on Greenlight, 1heart should oblige its potential audience with more than the usual boiler plate of game marketing.

Verdict

While I wouldn’t recommend other developers look to 1heart’s Greenlight page as a model for drawing a crowd, it piqued my curiosity. I’ll give it a conditional “thumbs up” knowing that I would wait for a steam sale before buying my copy.

Astral Terra: Adventures on the Planes by Tethys Interactive

The Description

Astral Terra is an Indie, fantasy-themed sandbox RPG in a beautiful smooth voxel world that’s generated on the fly and completely editable. No two players will have the same experience as everything from the skills you learn to the world you play in is fully unique and customizable. Gather resources for crafting and building, journey among the planes to find lost temples or libraries full of knowledge and power (scrolls and tomes) or just explore for the sake of discovery. From character progression with experience points, level and skills, to the terrain and environments, every inch of the game is procedural and editable. Shape your world and your character the way that YOU want. Fantastic creatures and epic adventures await you in this magical journey in a world limited only by your imagination – Astral Terra! Astral Terra is a small fantasy sandbox with RPG elements.

The Trailer

 

My thoughts

This is a tough one. The description hints at a final product that sounds really cool. Who wouldn’t want a procedurally generated Skyrim – assuming it cut out all the boring BS of Skyrim and made a game more like Morrowind. If only Astral Terra’s trailer presented a game that looked half as fun as it promises on paper. All I saw there was running and terra-forming, and then running some more. Also, there was a monster running into a wall while the player character ran in the opposite direction. Then, there was some building of houses and castles. None of those things really grabbed my attention, especially in light of all the competition among procedurally generated sandbox games.

Certainly Astral Terra lives up to its claim of being beautiful, but I’m not seeing anything that would keep me playing this game for the long haul. Personally, if I want to build things in a procedurally generated world, I’ll play Minecraft. If I’m feeling destructive under similar circumstances, I’ll fire up Guncraft.

Verdict

Thumbs down, for now. However, if ever there was a game I wanted to prove me wrong, it is Astral Terra.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. One out of three, not the worst AvSG, but not the best either. Make sure to come back on Friday for my “Best of 2013″ post, or possibly podcast if I can work a few things out.

 

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Adam Versus Steam Greenlight Volume 6: Green Moon, Interference, and Creeper World 3

Welcome to Adam Versus Steam Greenlight volume 6. This is my mostly-monthly feature where I pull three random games out of my Steam Greenlight queue, and decide if I would pay cold hard cash for them were they to appear on Steam. This month I take a look at the point and click puzzle game Green Moon, a stealth platformer called Interference, and an RTS/Tower Defense game called Creeper World 3. Let’s do this thing.

Green Moon by Absolutist LTD

Release Date: Unknown

Here’s how Green Moon describes itself.

Prepare to go on a fantastic journey which will take you from damp prehistoric forests, to the sultry deserts of ancient Egypt, to dirty Wild West saloons, and luxurious medieval castles! Green Moon is a Hidden Object Adventure game like no other, combining science with magic and reality with mysticism. Travel to a unique world full of mystery and exciting opportunities as you learn ancient and timeless secrets!

Two exclamation points in three sentences might be over selling things. Also, I’m not sure if medieval castles were ever “luxurious,” at least not in Europe. I suppose the copy could be referring to luxurious castles of Byzantium. Nit picking aside, I’m also detecting quite a few generic video game buzzwords in this description. “Combining science with magic and reality with mysticism.” So we going to be learning alchemy from Henry VIII on a quest to save Kabbalah?

Let’s go to the video.

 

What’s more pathetic, the fact that this game sells “real fishing” as a trailer worthy feature, or that it is attempting to pass off point and click video game fishing as “real fishing.”

Verdict: Here I thought shamelessly ripping off Myst and The Journeyman Project went out of fashion 15 years ago. Pass.

Interference by Anthony Beyer

Release Date: Q4 2013 – Currently seeking $25,000 of crowd-sourced funding on Indiegogo

Interference shapes up like so,

Interference is a 2D stealth puzzle platformer set in a cyberpunk/technoir world.

- Join the Interferers, the underground organization that’s been labeled cyberterrorists by the totalitarian government.

- Venture into the guts of Arachnopolis, a high-tech labyrinthine city.

- Alter the city’s architecture in order to overcome challenges and progress through the game.

That’s not exactly breaking new grounds in terms of genre or setting. If there was some free running and a female protagonist in the mix, Interference would sound a lot like Mirror’s Edge. Though I will admit to some curiosity about the ability to change the city’s architecture.

Let’s see what the trailer has in store.

 

Okay, this looks objectively cool. The game play appears to be along the lines of Mark of the Ninja. Even though the visuals are a little minimalistic, they evoke a something of a Tron-like sensibility. Granted, the Daft Punk reminiscent music could also be putting me in a Tron mindset. As a show piece for the trailer, the shifting platforms look interesting enough. I would hope that the final product offers some more complex problem solving.

Verdict: I don’t know that Interference is poised to set a new gold standard in cyberpunk storytelling, but it gives every indication of being a fun and visually appealing game. Buy.

Creeper World 3: Arc Eternal by Knuckle Cracker

Release Date: Currently Available

Creeper World 3? I didn’t even know there was a Creeper World 1 and 2.

Creeper World 3 is what happens when cellular automata takes over a strategy simulation. Instead of discreet units that attack your base, a fluid-like substance spreads over the terraformable terrain. Your base, your weapons, your strategy… you must adapt them all.

Does this mean I am fighting the blob? It sounds like I am fighting the blob.

 

The concept does make Creeper World 3 stand apart from garden variety tower defence games. However, its claim to uniqueness suggests there won’t be a lot of variety in the game play i.e. stop the blob from overrunning your position, rinse, repeat. Even with user generated content, I don’t get the feeling that this is the sort of game that would hold my attention for more than a couple of hours. Nor is the promise of an internal scripting language a particular selling point for me, either. And unless the game editor has a great deal of depth, I don’t see how the user generated material will be anything more than variations on the pre-programmed themes.

Verdict: While there’s probably a market for this game, I’m almost certain I’m not within its target demographic. Pass.

One out of three, not the best month for Adam versus Steam Greenlight, but not the worst either. Perhaps, I’ll have better luck next time.


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Adam Versus Steam Greenlight Volume 5: USC and AuraviaL

Well so much for doing an Adam versus Steam Greenlight post as a monthly feature. Ah well. Let’s get back in the swing of things with a quick two-game edition of AvSG. For the benefit of any newcomers to this series of posts, this is where I pull a few games out of my Steam Greenlight queue and publicly decide if I would buy the game were it to appear on Steam. On that note, here’s the first contender.

Ultimate Space Commando by Creatio 49

Release Date: Q1 2014

The Developer’s Description

Ultimate Space Commando (USC) is an old-school turn-based strategy game that focuses on actual field tactics as a small group of elite commandos become engaged in a deadly conflict with a yet unknown, but rather ravenous species of aliens. Make relevant strategic choices, develop tactics and equip your soldiers as you see fit, try to survive and give the aliens hell in the single-player Campaign. Build and customize 4-man squads to play various ‘Single Missions’, Scenarios and ‘Defend the Base!’ actions alone or in a hot-seat or TCP/IP multiplayer session with up to four players, either man vs. aliens, man vs. man or even mixed, with various objectives, official scoring system, and much more. A full-fledged and truly Random Map Generator makes every mission you play unique and challenging.

Trailer

 

My Thoughts

Interesting, very interesting. Ultimate Space Commando has the look of a game inspired by X-Com while being primarily concerned with producing a deep table top role-playing game experience on the PC. From the trailer, the game engine seems to make graphical concessions in favour of dice rolling and stat management. The key question for me: is this game going to be complex or complicated.

Ultimate Space Commoando’s detailed information boasts a “plausible” combat system with 4 character properties, 9 skill attributes, and a detailed weapons system featuring 18 weapons and various ammunition types. But wait, there’s more. We’re also being promised a crafting system and RPG style unit customization. Assuming I won’t need to read a fifty page manual before I can sink my teeth into the game, this sounds very promising. But there’s a fine line between a game that gives me the freedom to tinker, and one that piles on the micromanagement as a stand-in for meaningful gameplay.

The other thing that strikes me as somewhat odd is USC’s gameplay footage running at a faster than normal speed. I hope that’s because the developer wanted to show off as much as he could. My fear is that it’s an attempt to cover up a painfully slow paced game.

The Bottom Line

My love of rich RPGs outweighs my fears that this game might prove dense for the sake of dense.

Verdict: Buy

AuraviaL by SetoZW

Release Date: January 2014

The Developer’s Description

Play in your own ways in an immersive world is all a Role-Playing Game (RPG) is about. And that is exactly what AuraviaL is trying to achieve! With its randomly generated worlds filled with secrets and wonder, and its non-player characters programmed with artificial intelligence, become a hero in your own ways in a universe of magic and spells. You will also be able to manage your wealth, reputation and friendships. Finally, recover the meaning behind “AuraviaL”, because after all, how can a RPG exist without a storyline!

Trailer

 

My Thoughts

I don’t know how much fun I’ll have in a game where one of the big selling features is setting up spell casting macros. Mechanics along those lines were fun for two hours in Magika; then I got bored of doing the same old shtick. I should also mention that I quit playing Fable because I didn’t really feel like spending my precious gaming time on managing friendships with AIs. And as much as it appealed to me, I quit playing EVE Online because I didn’t have the time to manage a fake financial empire. All of these things lead me to think that AuraviaL isn’t quite right for me, at least not from what I have seen so far.

In the proper proportions, I will admit to enjoying all of the above mentioned mechanics. I’m fairly certain one of my undergraduate girlfriends broke up with me because of my fixation with Egosoft’s X2 – The Threat. But balancing an interesting procedurally generated world, meaningful story, interactive NPCs, a free market economy, and a combat system is a tall order, especially in a one person operation. If there’s a meta-lesson to producing indie games, it’s that the best ones are truly excellent at one or two things and ignore the rest.

The Bottom Line

Much as I admire this developer for his/her ambition, I don’t know that I would roll the dice on this game without knowing a bit more about it.

Verdict: Pass, for now.

Next month, we return to the usual three game per AvSG formula. And as always, if you’re a game developer with a game on Greenlight, then send me an email so I can shed some light on your game.


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Adam versus Steam Greenlight Volume 4: The Fantasy Game Edition

Welcome back for this, the fourth installment, of Adam versus Steam Greenlight. For anybody new to the website, this is a monthly feature where I pull three games out of my Steam Greenlight queue and answer the quintessential question of Steam Greenlight, “Would you buy this game if it appeared on Steam?”

This month, however, I decided to do something different. Rather than taking the top three games in my Greelight queue, I pulled out the first three fantasy themed games I could find. Let’s see how it turns out.

Legend of Dungeon by RobotLoveKitty

Release Date: March 2013

Robotlovekitty’s website describes Legend of Dungeon as, “part Beat’Em’Up, like those awesome old-school 4 player arcade games (it plays a little like TMNT and X-Men) and it’s part RogueLike, in its setting and content generation.”

Here’s the trailer.

 

It seems like yesterday when FTL: Faster Than Light hit the market, and with it “Rogue-like” returned to the common gaming parlance. Now nary a month goes by without a new Rogue-like game is cropping up from indie devs and big studios, alike. Personally, I think this is a great thing. There’s a certain allure to the un-winnable game, at least for gamers who grew up with weekly (or daily) trips to the video arcade.

A quick look at the trailer for Legend of Dungeon immediately puts me in mind of a side scrolling Gauntlet. The game’s primitive aesthetic hints at a considerable retro charm paired with modern design sensibilities. What’s more important is that I could actually see my friends and I playing a few rounds of this in between big games at a LAN party.

Verdict: an enthusiastic yes.

Click here for Legend of Dungeon’s Greenlight page.

Legend of Eisenwald by Aterdux Entertainment

Release Date: April 2013

Here’s the official rundown on Legend of Eisenwald

A unique mix of RPG and strategy set in a realistic medieval world, Legends of Eisenwald combines dynamic campaigns with fast-paced, yet strategic, turn-based combat.

Take on the role of a baroness, a knight or a mystic as you liberate or rule over the world of Eisenwald. Against a backdrop of danger and intrigue, you will complete compelling quests and fight in fierce battles that will change the outcome of your story.

When we go to the trailer the game seems to deliver what it promises.

 

Now I love a good fantasy game as much as the next guy. I’ve sunk a positively embarrassing amount of time into Dragon Age over the last couple of years. Despite that, I have some reservations about this title. From the trailer alone, this game looks a lot like King’s Bounty.

King’s Bounty was the sort of game which worked well in concept but fell short in execution. For an ostensibly non-linear game, it used “high level” areas to build an artificially linear experience. After five hours of hex based “army” combat, the game’s core mechanic began to feel as exciting as watching two AIs play Battlechess.

That’s not to say this game will be the same. Eisenwald’s graphics engine seems impressive enough. As well, the presence of a skill tree hints at a bit more depth than King’s Bounty ever offered.

I suppose this one would come down to price point for me. Aterdux’s website lists a pre-order price of $15. If it stayed at that cost upon releasing on Steam, I might roll the dice. Were it more expensive, I don’t think I could get past my King’s Bounty phobia.

Verdict: a hesitant yes.

Click here for Legend of Eisenwald’s Greenlight page.

Mage’s Initiation: Rage of the Elements by Himalaya Studios

Release date: Q1 of 2014

We wrap up today’s fantasy themed AvS with Mage’s Initiation: Rage of the Elements. Here’s the quick rundown.

Mage’s Initiation is a 2D Point & Click Adventure Game / RPG hybrid, set in the fantasy medieval land of Iginor. In the tradition of Sierra’s classic “Quest for Glory” series, you may choose to play as one of four character classes (Fire, Earth, Air, or Water Mage), each with unique spells, abilities, quests, and puzzle solutions!

First reaction: Oh, well that seems interesting enough. I do like me some point and click adventure games. Then I watched the trailer.

 

Post-trailer reaction: Holy shit! That was an amazing trailer. Do I really have to wait a year to play this game?

As somebody who completely missed the Quest for Glory series (hey a guy can’t play everything) this looks absolutely amazing. Moreover, the trailer has bestowed upon me the rarest sort of moment when I realize I’m lusting after something I never knew I wanted. I loved the Space/Kings/Police Quest games. I also love role playing games. Never has it occurred to me that the two of them could work as an effective mash-up. Well done, Himalaya Studios.

Verdict: Shut up and take my money.

Click here for Mage’s Initiation’s Greenlight page.

Three fantasy games and three up-votes. I think I should do themed editions of AvS more often.


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Adam Versus Steam Greenlight, Volume 3: The Cat Lady, Yuri Nation, and Lords of Xulima

For your consideration, noir horror, epic fantasy, and a dog who just wants to be loved on this month’s edition of Adam Versus Steam Greenlight. Presenting the candidates: The Cat Lady, Yuri Nation, and Lords of Xulima.

For anybody not familiar with the process, this is a monthly feature where I pull the first three games out of my Steam Greenlight queue, answering the core question of Steam Greenlight, “Would you buy this game if it appeared on Steam?”

Let’s jump right in.

The Cat Lady by Harvester Games

Click here for The Cat Lady’s Steam Greenlight Page.

As a completed and currently available noir point and click adventure game, The Cat Lady is looking to make the jump to digital distribution on Steam.

Here’s the description.

The Cat Lady is a new, gory horror adventure game not for the faint hearted from designer R. Michalski, the creator of successful adventure game Downfall. A gripping story, pumping soundtrack, high-resolution artwork and voice acting will engross you on your journey through the strange and often terrifying world of The Cat Lady.

Susan Ashworth, known in her neighbourhood as the crazy Cat Lady, is a lonely 40-year old on the verge of suicide. She has no family, no friends and no hope for a better future.

One day she discovers that five strangers will come along and change everything… But those five, “The Parasites”, are also the most ruthless, deranged and cold-blooded bunch of psychopaths the city has ever known. They will stop at nothing to hurt Susan. Unless, she hurts them first…

Despite a lack of Oxford commas in the copy, the premise alone sounds fascinating. After watching the trailer, which goes on for about three minutes longer than is necessary to sell me on the title, my only complaint is that I’m not quite sure I would call all the voice acting “high resolution”. The female voice actor, presumably the eponymous Cat Lady, is reminiscent of Kate Beckinsale. However some of the male actors sound a little bit too forced. Of course, this is just a trailer. Perhaps the delivery is better when everything is in its proper context.

Also, I sincerely hope the audio balance in the game is an order of magnitude better than what we see in the trailer.

 

Verdict: It has been a long time since I’ve played a good horror game on the PC. For roughly twelve dollars (as priced on Desura) I would be willing to roll the dice on The Cat Lady.

Click here to head over to The Cat Lady’s website for more details.

Yuri Nation by Serotonin Studios

Click here for Yuri Nation’s Steam Greenlight page.

If a person were to say the name of this game as one word, they would soon discover the M.O. of this particular entry. Expected to release in the fourth quarter of 2013, Yuri Nation is…well it’s a game about peeing on things.

Maybe I’ll just go straight to the video on this one.

 

Though the developers talk about drawing inspiration from the likes of Paperboy, Grand Theft Auto, and Mario Kart – all games which I have enjoyed at some point in my life – I really don’t think I’m sold on Yuri Nation’s core concept. I mean, you play as a dog intent to piss on as much stuff as possible as part of a turf war with other dogs. It’s about one diabetic toddler away from being a pitch for a TLC program.

I suppose if I was twelve I might be able to appreciate this game on some level. Perhaps I may recommend it to my friend, Chris, as a present for his five-year-old. Though I can’t see his wife approving of the core mechanics any more than I do.

Verdict: A resounding, “No.”

But if you manage to find yourself interested in this game, here is its kickstarter page.

Lords of Xulima by Numantian Games

Click here for Lords of Xulima’s Steam Greenlight page.

Finally, we have Lords of Xulima. Expected to release at the end of 2013, this is Numantian Games’ attempt at recapturing the spirit of the late-90s RPG.

Lords of Xulima is an isometric, turn-based, single-player 2D role-playing game. It is set in a mythical lost continent called Xulima where the world makers lived in ancient times. The game features a challenging vast world where you will have to command and create a six characters (sic) party in an epic story between gods and men.

Question: If the game uses an isometric perspective, is it not still presenting a 3D view?

 

I will say that the exposition in the trailer is a little bit much. There even came a point when the flying text shifted voice between a heroic history and an outright personal narration.

Ultimately though, I think there is some potential to this game. If XCOM: Enemy Unknown has demonstrated anything it’s that there is still a market for turn based strategy in today’s gaming world. Assuming the price point on Lords of Xulima peaked at $25, I would probably buy in. Bearing that in mind, my customer and critical expectations for this game will be pretty high. Given an obvious inspiration from the likes of Ultima, Baldur’s Gate, or Planescape: Torment, I would expect Lords of Xulima to get it right on the first try. When standing on the shoulders of giants, there is little margin for error.

Verdict: Tentative yes.

Head over to lordsofxulima.com for more information on the game.

And there we have it. Two thumbs up out of three for this month. Tune in next month when I pull three more games out of the queue and take them apart for your reading pleasure.


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Adam versus Steam Greenlight, Volume 2: BattleBall, Purge, and Worlds

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen it’s time for another edition of Adam versus Steam Greenlight. In case you missed the first edition this is a monthly post where I pull three games out of my Steam Greenlight queue and publicly answer the question, “Would you buy this game if it appeared on Steam?”

So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Candidate #1 – BattleBall by Fenrir Games

Release date: Officially, Late 2012. Presumably if/when this game gets greenlit it will be ready to go.

At a glance, BattleBall looks like a combination of Pong and a Japanese bullet hell shooter.

BattleBall pins players against a computer or other players both on local and online multiplayer, and makes them do battle, and not just score points with the ball. Power-Ups will allow players to defend themselves, or go on the offensive and both trick and cripple their opponents, while also providing faster and more powerful projectiles to destroy whomever dares to challenge them.

 

Despite the colourful graphics, I can’t see myself getting excited about this game. No matter how you dress it up, Pong is still Pong. A slick trailer and some good audio doesn’t change the fact that the fundamentals of this game are two paddles and a ball. Frankly, I think the trailer would have done better without even drawing the reference to Pong. Kudos though for having the courage to make the comparison before somebody else did so in an unflattering manner.

Verdict: Even on a Steam sale, I can’t see myself dropping cash for this game.

Click here to see BattleBall’s Greenlight page.

Candidate #2 – Purge

Release date: None listed.

From its cell shaded screen shots, Purge immediately evoked thoughts of Borderlands. On the other hand, the game’s description makes it sound like Mirror’s Edge.

Purge is a platforms game with a first person camera, where you’ll have to use stealth and parkour to avoid the enemies and escape. Use the abilities at your disposal like wallrun, pipe climbing, ledge grabbing and more to reach the only route to run away from the agonizing city of Dul’Halasa.

Will you surive the purge?

There’s a thing I often tell my undergrads; no matter how smart you may be, spelling and grammar mistakes make you look stupid. And when a game’s pitch is limited to fifty-seven words there’s no excuse for multiple spelling mistakes and a comma splice.

Anyway, here’s the video.

 

Even if I set aside the poop shaded colour palette, the graphics engine which seems to predate Mirror’s Edge by a few years, and the awful music in the trailer, this game puts me off. However, none of those issues seem quite as offensive as the promotional copy saying there is only one way out of Dul’Halasa. The whole point of Parkour and the philosophy of free running is to be creative and innovative in moving from point A to point B. That there would only be one way out of the city seems painfully linear, oddly counter-intuitive, and particularly boring.

Verdict: Purge may get other people’s votes but it won’t get mine.

Click here to see Purge’s Greenlight page.

Candidate #3 – Worlds by Curious Planet

Release Date: 2013 – month/quarter unspecified.

Finally, we turn to Worlds, a third person action game.

You’re Reyk, an Agent of the Order. The Order’s main goal is to maintain the equilibrum between the different worlds…

Worlds is an action / adventure / stealth game, which will plunge you in many strange worlds. The game offers a lot of freedom, and you’ll find out that there’s often more than one way to finish your mission.

 

I can’t quite tell if the game is whimsically primitive in its visual design or just a little unpolished. Either way, I’m intrigued with the trailer. It seems to fall somewhere between Black and White and Metal Gear Solid, perhaps with a bit of Hitman in the mix for good measure.

Though still in development, Worlds promises eight distinct realms to explore in its finished form. Further, the developers state there will be overlapping consequences from world to world. However, even in big budget games like BioShock or Mass Effect 3 consequences can often end up as red herrings. All too often games and their designers mistake the illusion of choice with actual variety in the outcomes. Hopefully, Worlds manages to see the distinction between the two.

Verdict: Thumbs up. If Worlds appeared in the Steam store I think I would roll the dice on it.

Click here to see Worlds’ Greenlight page.

So ends another edition of Adam versus Steam Greenlight. One out of three isn’t great, but it’s better than a shutout. And if there’s a single take away from this post it’s that developers need to hire a copy editor when putting together their Steam pitches. I might be willing to look past typos, the internet is full of trolls who will downvote a game on the thinnest pretext.


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Adam versus Steam Greenlight, Volume 1: Fester Mudd, MaK, and Haunt

Some months ago Steam Greenlight appeared on Valve’s digital video game distribution service. This community driven feature quickly became the answer to the question I asked game developers when I started writing The Page of Reviews: who do you have to kill to get your game on Steam? The developers’ answers would often include words like “Pagan Rituals” and “blood pact with Gozer the Gozerian.”  Perhaps taking its cues from the democratization of game development through crowd sourcing, Steam Greenlight allows members of the Steam community and general public to vote on what upcoming games should be included in Steam’s catalogue.

In Valve’s own words…

Steam Greenlight is a system that enlists the community’s help in picking some of the new games to be released on Steam. Developers post information, screenshots, and video for their game and seek a critical mass of community support in order to get selected for distribution. Steam Greenlight also helps developers get feedback from potential customers and start creating an active community around their game during the development process.

As I looked through my Greenlight queue, judging future games based on screenshots and trailers, I thought to myself, why not do this right? Why should I limit debate to my inner monologue when I can draw some public attention to developers who have put the fate of their product into the hands of a fickle gaming community?

Gather round then, good citizens of the boundless digital empire. Cast your eyes upon these three games which would prove themselves worthy of your love and coin.

Fester Mudd: Curse of the Gold Episode 1 by Replay Games

Replay Games describes Fester Mudd as “a three-part comic saga of exploration, reunion, and redemption…and a love letter to the classic adventure games of the 90s.”

Let’s go to the video.

 

With a projected release date of Q1 2013, I think we can assume Fester Mudd is a finished game looking for a home. I like that the devs took it upon themselves to make an actual Greenlight trailer, rather than going with something generic to show off the game. As a guy who once went to school dressed up for Halloween as Roger Wilco, hero janitor of the Space Quest games, there’s really no way I could not want to play this game. The interface looks good. What little we see of the script and overall aesthetic seems appropriately light hearted and clever. Perhaps most importantly, Fester Mudd represents a niche of the gaming market that is due for a renaissance. Since I can’t see a lot of big publishers optioning a game style older than their target audience, Fester Mudd seems perfect for release via steam.

Verdict: Unequovical thumbs-up. If you’re a gamer whose old enough to buy their own alcohol, or somebody who likes Community then you would do well to pay attention to a game which draws its sensibilities from greats like Sam and Max, Full Throttle, and Space Quest.

Here’s the link to Fester Mudd’s Greenlight page.

NB: After giving my thumbs up to Fester Mudd I discovered that Replay Games is the studio responsible for the upcoming rerelease of the Leisure Suit Larry series.

MaK by Verge Game Studio

Verge calls MaK a “…physics playground – A sandbox world with engaging game modes built on top of it. We wanted to make something that gives you a sense of discovery and wonder – where creativity is king – a place to explore and experiment – to compete and cooperate – with your friends. The major features that define the game experience, so far, stem from these concepts.”

MaK’s Greenlight page offers five videos that showcase the game in its current pre-release Alpha build. Here’s one of them…

 

I won’t deny this game looks cool. From the footage alone it is obvious MaK does some interesting things with gravity. Despite the sandbox feel, the developers are promising multi-player support as well as a “… non-linear campaign that wraps around an intriguing central plot.” However, I’m not getting a “shut up and take my money” feel off of this game.

Since the success of Minecraft a lot of indie studios are working with variations on said theme. Certainly MaK is charting its own unique direction, but from what I’ve seen I don’t know if it’s quite my style. Personally, I’d rather build a castle than a dancing robot.

Verdict: Thumbs Down. I think this is something a lot of people could have hours of with, but I don’t know if I’m one of them. When the essential question is “Would you buy this game if it were available on Steam?” my answer is a hesitant “only after I read the reviews.” That said, I’d be happy to review it, but I just don’t think I would buy it based on what I’ve seen so far.

MaK is scheduled for release in Q4 of 2013. Check out MaK’s Greenlight page and you can tell me how wrong I am about this game in the comments.

Haunt by ParanormalDev

This is the initial description on Haunt.

Haunt (originally named Haunt: The Real Slender Game) is independent adventure/horror game project inspired by Parsec Productions “Slender: The Eight Pages”, which was based on Victors Surge “Slender-man” idea.

Apparently I don’t run in the right circles on the internet because I have no idea what the Slender Man is, or why it has led to ParanormalDev doing their own take on another studio’s game, which at the time of this post is still in beta. Let’s go to the trailer.

 

So walking and a flashlight…is this another Dear Esther? The Greenlight description frames this game as “First Person Horror”. However, the trailer gives me the distinct vibe of a game intent on coming up with various ways of yelling “boogie boogie boogie” at me in an attempt to startle me out of my crappy Ikea desk chair. Games like that have never really been my scene; seriously, I didn’t even bother to finish the first Silent Hill. I don’t scare easily, and I’m often too cynical/clinical to buy into the underlying ghost/paranormal mythos that drives games of this spectrum.

One other paragraph within the game’s description caught my attention.

More important thing is that “Haunt: TRSG” that uses slender-game gameplay has become some kind of prototype for much more bigger project, that will provide unique story, gameplay elements, environment and will be inspired by many paranormal activities that appeared in our world. Yes – we will do anything to keep it free – even in case of Haunts successor. It is all in your hands!

Two things: first, you guys at ParanormalDev should call me the next time you do a press release, I’d be happy to do a pro bono copy edit; second, the game is free. Free is good, especially in the case of games which seem highly experimental.

Verdict: Thumbs up to Haunt. Since the developers are dedicated to keeping this game free, as well as using it to build a larger project, which too will be free, there’s really no reason not to up-check this game.

Head over to Haunt’s Greenlight page for more trailers and links to download the game.

That’s it for the premiere edition of “Adam versus Steam Greenlight”. I’ll do it again next month with three new games out to prove their worth to the big bad world.