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Jarenth Plays XCOM 2 — Epilogue

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM 2, we did it. Thanks to the efforts of six brave volunteers, and one impromptu Weird Science body-trip on my end, ADVENT’s control over Earth has been well and truly shattered. All Elders we encountered in the alien seat of power are dead, the aforementioned base is destroyed, and thanks to our disruption of the ADVENT Network Control tower, the alien psionic information network is down for the count.

Is that the end of our story? It is, and it isn’t. There is always more story to tell, after all. Not much of it, we’ll be privy to. But I’d be one mean storyteller if I didn’t tell you how the fade-out goes…

After the break: Step Three: we take our planet back from alien occupation.

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Indie Wonderland: Shadwen

A flash reveal out of nowhere, Shadwen leapt into my games awareness much in the same way an acrobatic rooftop assassin would onto their target du jour. And with about equal chances of me resisting their intent, too. A 3D free-movement grappling-hook-based assassination simulator, by none other than Frozenbyte? This game was always going to draw my major attention — though not necessarily for the positive reasons you might be thinking of.

If the name ‘Frozenbyte’ doesn’t ring any immediate bells, that’s fine — but you should know they’re the studio behind the Trine series of games. I’ve played all three games cooperatively with a friend. As expected, we had a blast with the first two — if you haven’t played Trine 1 or Trine 2 yet, you know, blanket recommendation right here to get on that. But Trine 3 was… a different beast. The move to 3D has poor results for a game series known for carefully crafted 2D platforming experiences. Particularly the rope-swing physics, a strong point of both former Trine games, was wonky, glitchy, and unreliable. We wondered aloud at the time why Frozenbyte would have made this move: surely, we figured, they couldn’t have thought that this would make for a better Trine game?

And then Shadwen came along. A 3D-movement game based almost entirely on rope physics. And all of a sudden, we saw Trine 3 for what it likely was: an extended technology proof of concept, evidence that Frozenbyte could make ‘functional’ 3D movement worlds, stapled onto a beloved brand name.

So what I’m saying is, I really want to see if Shadwen was worth this.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low-medium. Mechanical, medium.)

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: Shadwen. I promise I won’t hold Trine 3’s broken promises against this game. Much.

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Jarenth Plays XCOM 2 — Episode 27: Part Of Your World

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM 2, XCOM finally did what XCOM’s been wanting to do since the beginning. We broke into the ADVENT Network Tower, hacked their signal, and broadcast the truth — ‘Soylent Green is people’ under any other name — to the masses worldwide. And just like that, the situation flipped: where once we had to operate in the shadows to avoid the overwhelming reach of ADVENT and their propaganda-indoctrinated masses, humans worldwide are now standing up to fight for their survival. The global resistance, finally in the limelight, is stepping up to combine the riots and the uprisings into a global coordinated push-back against the alien occupation.

They won’t win. Not like this. We couldn’t even win with the full might of the united human nations behind us. But in a surprising Lord of the Rings analogue, this fight isn’t important for their possible victory or loss. This fight is important because it ties up the lion’s share of ADVENT’s forces. Giving a small XCOM team the opportunity to sneak into this story’s Mount Doom equivalent, the mysterious alien ‘seat of power’, and destroy it from within.

The survival of humanity depends on the success or failure of this strike team. Luckily for them, I’m about to take a slightly more active hand in this particular outing…

After the break: Step two: under the cover of global resolution, a team of XCOM operatives infiltrates the alien base and… does something. We haven’t quite worked out what, but I can see us playing this by ear.

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Jarenth Plays XCOM 2 — Episode 26: Can’t Stop The Signal

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM 2, our understanding of the whole ‘Avatar Project’ situation moved forward by leaps and bounds. Three leaps and bounds, to be precise. First, we figured out the deal with the alien portal: it’s a gateway to somehow, an important alien base that might as well be on the moon in terms of reachability, but we learned that a particular combination of factors would be needed to travel through it. Second, we dissected the alien Avatar corpse in an attempt to get those factors. Results were… interesting: the long and the short of it is that we’ll have to build us our very own Avatar, and that I will have to ‘remote-control’ it through the portal and into the base. This sounds dangerous, and prone to unexpected errors. But if it’s the only way…

And third, finally, we learned that ADVENT is getting ready wrap this Avatar Project up. Which sounds alright enough, but it would mean the extermination of all human life on Earth. So, you know. We can’t let that happen. Luckily, the Councilman brought us — at great personal cost — the plans that will let us turn ADVENT’s propaganda broadcasts to our own ends. As well as a location that tells us were to look…

After the break: Step one: we find the ADVENT Network Tower, infiltrate it, and replace their propaganda lies with some more wholesome programming.

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Indie Something That’s Almost Like A Review Land: Stellaris

“Oh boy! Another Monday, another Indie Wonderland. I can’t wait to see what delicious slice of hot gaming pie we’re getting served up this week. Hey, I know: maybe looking at Jarenth’s Steam account can give me some clue to what he’s been playing this week…”

It totally will.

“Okay, cool, Stellaris then? That’ll do. Make with the word jokes, funny-man.”

Hmm. Okay, so. This is a little awkward.

I can’t actually review Stellaris.

After the break: why can’t I review Stellaris? And why am I struggling to try anyway?

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Jarenth Plays XCOM 2 — Episode 25: I Hope You Like Talking

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM 2, we finally encountered the eponymous Avatar. One of the eponymous avatars, at least. And then we killed it, and dragged its corpse home with us. For ‘study’. Definitely not for stringing up in the training room and using as an ersatz boxing dummy; that would just be weird. I don’t know why you’re even suggesting this.

Richard cautioned against cutting open our one and only Avatar corpse too quickly. Without evidence to the contrary, we have to work under the assumption that this is the only one we’re ever likely to get. And trying to study it without knowing what we’re really looking for is a good way to squander that unique opportunity. All other Shadow Chamber projects should be completed first, he cautioned.

And that’s what brings me to the Shadow Chamber on an early, early September morning…

After the break: Looking forward to seeing what exciting alien fights I get into this episode? Well, reader, do I have news for you!

Ranneko Plays Duet

YouTube Link

Duet is a hypnotic arcade action game, the goal is pretty simple get your rotating spheres through and around the obstacles that are falling towards them. It is a pretty simple concept much like that of Super Hexagon or Supercollider and exactly as in those games it is much harder and more frustrating than it sounds. This is a oneshot episode which I am pretty sure was the right decision because the later episodes would have come down to hearing my repeated affirmations “I can do this, right left left right right right left left right- damn!” but rest assured I have gone through and finished the initial story and seen the credits.

I think one of the features I grew to appreciate the most was the way each of your failures leaves its mark on the otherwise fixed levels. Whenever you strike an object the sphere leaves a paint splatter. You can see each of your failures as you strive to get just a bit further and often particular marks help provide guidance. You know that that particular blue mark is the block where the direction suddenly changes and eventually you learn and you adapt.

Interestingly enough the game actually reveals basically all of its basic structures in the opening set of levels, what the successive stages add are new and ways for those structures to be obscured reducing the time you have to recognise them which has the unfortunate side effect of forcing you to rely increasingly on memorising the unchanging level until you finally master it enough to pass through.

This is one of the rare instances of the developers of a game reaching out to me suggesting I give their game a shot. I have no idea why, perhaps it is because the creators are Melbourne based Kumobius Games they want to reach out to a fellow Australian or perhaps I just ended up on a mailing list at some point. In my case I already happened to have bought the game via Humble Indie Bundle 16, but that coincidence benefits you dear reader. I have a spare key to give away for this game, if you are interested let me know.

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Jarenth Plays XCOM 2 — Episode 24: Avatar

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM 2, our new power armors certainly did the trick vis-à-vis: keeping everyone alive on the battlefield. Well, a combination of armors, heavy weaponry, psionic powers, and dumb luck. But listen: the armors definitely helped. I daresay, in fact, that it looks like we’re more or less at the top of the tech tree. No more easy examples of alien technology to steal, reverse-engineer, and improve upon: what we have now is probably what we’ll be working with for the foreseeable future.

If both we and the aliens have halted our upward mobility, that means the onus of XCOM should re-focus once again on finding and stopping the Avatar Project. We’ve been letting it slide, for the last few weeks: only reluctantly assaulting and exploding an alien facility because it was sort-of in-the-way. But there’s no putting it off any longer. Every moment we delay is another inexorable step forward in… whatever is is the aliens are planning. We’re honestly still not sure?

We’re getting closer and closer to uncovering the truth, though. For example, doctor Tygan has made some very interesting discoveries in his latest Shadow Chamber work…

After the break: In case the episode title doesn’t spell it out for you, we make a big leap in understanding the Avatar Project today.

Ranonauts 43 – Almost Back in Black

YouTube Link

Thanks to the marauder’s amazing contribution to our air superiority we have almost reached the point where our funding meets with our maintenance, all it took was shooting down a few dozen spacecraft in the course of a couple of months and suddenly they are almost all heaping praise upon us. It feels pretty good even as we continue to lean heavily upon our armour sales to allow us to manufacture the weapons and aircraft we need to keep the planet safe, maybe if we were better at the air element of Xenonauts from the very beginning many of these problems could have been avoided.

We continue to conspicuously avoid that alien fortress sitting in Russia, there are always excuses available to us. My favourite one is “Oh god, there will be so many aliens”, I will get to it eventually but not before we finish manufacturing our final tier of weapons and armour, it does not seem like the kind of place you want to go casually.

Instead we will take our not entirely equipped europe team into our first carrier fight. Those ships are big, 3 levels linked with teleporters, lots of cover and lots of enemies including some even tougher variants. They are never going to be easy or quick to deal with and worse still it looks like they are going to eventually replace almost all the lower tier ships, save for those pesky scouts. It is going to be tough to avoid losing soldiers taking them but hopefully the supplies will prove to be worth it.

The Ranonauts Project would like to congratulate:

  • Kate for the long distance save
  • Maria for taking vengeance upon the aliens that took out our departed comrades.
  • The Androns for being suprisingly sneaky for big death robots that cannot actually take cover
  • Narmio for achieving a final medal in her last mission

The Ranonauts would like to offer their condolences to the friends and family of:

  • Vebjorn Ingarson
  • Narmio

It will be hard to truly replace these losses.

To date Ranonauts has:

  • defended the earth for 7 months and 2 days
  • lost 51 soldiers
  • killed 469 aliens in 52 ground battles
  • captured 51 aliens
  • shot down 138 alien spacecraft
  • had 5 aircraft shot down
  • received $18,388,833 in funding
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Indie Early Access Land: Seraph

I generally don’t review Early Access games. Not because of any strong principled stance or moral obligation: I’m a firm believer of the idea that if the developers ask money for participation, you’re free to criticize the product as much as you like, no matter how many ‘technically unfinished’ labels they slap on it. It just feels a little strange to me, I guess, to write reviews of products that are nominally supposed to still be in heavy flux. What good is my current-state review going to do if the next build two weeks from now changes the whole thing up? Particularly since there are also hundreds of gold-release indie games out there I could be reviewing instead, I tend to not go out of my way to find the ones with the disclaimer.

Never let it be said I’m not open to suggestions, though. Developer Dreadbit — they of Ironcast, the Victorian/steampunk-themed match-3 puzzler that I was somewhat positive about — sent me a review key for their latest in-development, Seraph. I gave it a shot, to see if it was at all in a state I’d be willing to write about, and — well, here we are! Seraph seems very near completion, to be honest, both in the audiovisual and mechanical departments. I don’t think I’d have picked up it was Early Access if it wasn’t for the few areas that spell out THIS PART OF THE GAME IS NOT COMPLETED YET.

I’m still not comfortable writing a ‘full’ Indie Wonderland review on Early Access games; what you’re about to read is going to be a little shorter than usual, as I sometimes do. I’ll also mark this review with an explicit ‘time of writing’ disclaimer — so to anyone coming in a significant amount of time after this, be wary of how much what I say here might be utter nonsense.

And I’ll thank you to keep the obvious quip here to yourself.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, high-ish.)

(Game source: Developer press key.)

(Time of writing: 2016-05-09, ‘May 9th, 2016’.)

After the break: Seraph. Will it be… angelic? Probably not, but a man can dream.