Monthly Archives: May 2016

Surprise! I thought of a better mouse-over joke at the last second. These bits are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules.

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.

Surprise! I thought of a better mouse-over joke at the last second. These bits are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules.

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

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.

Surprise! I thought of a better mouse-over joke at the last second. These bits are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules.

Jarenth Plays XCOM 2 — Episode 23: Fortify

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM 2, I gained my first glimpse into the inner workings of the mind. The inner workings of the mind sure do look a lot like an alternate soldier advancement tree with clearly delineated powers! Who’d have guessed. Thus emboldened and enhanced, I took my squad into a ‘routine’ base-destruction missed wherein I immediately lost Captain Blackfox to Sectopods.

Okay, so psionic powers are nice. I’m not dismissing that. But not even the most extra of actions or the most guaranteed of soul damage can do much against concentrated aliens weapons fire. We need a more old-school solution for that: an engineering solution, all sweat and metal and axel grease. And as it so happens, I’ve been working on just such a solution for a few days now…

After the break: Payback is a dish best served by casually breaking the laws of physics. And also, by hiding.

Ranonauts 42 – Blitzing Scouts

YouTube Link

I am so glad that the alien forces never quite eliminate scouts from their attack waves, it gives me the milk runs I kind of need to get my weaker squads levelling up while I continue to build gear to hopefully get ahead of the alien tech. Plus assaulting an alien ship nets you not only experience but generally 2-3x the cash that just airstriking it would deliver. I have to admit though it would be nice to have an autoresolve for some of these milk runs, ultimately the game provides some pretty strong incentives for doing every ground combat that you think you can survive. New soldiers are pretty cheap and money is really important so I guess it is kind of a bad sign that I am skipping so many fights that seem okay while this is happening. There are definitely tough fights on the horizon but that is all the more reason to try to train up some totally awesome soldiers into my ranks.

The Ranonauts Project would like to congratulate:

  • Narmio and Maria for finishing a mission quickly when faced with an unexpected time limit
  • The Indochina tank control team for achieving 75% of casualties in their mission

To date Ranonauts has:

  • defended the earth for 6 months and 31 days
  • lost 47 soldiers
  • killed 447 aliens in 51 ground battles
  • captured 51 aliens
  • shot down 132 alien spacecraft
  • had 5 aircraft shot down
  • received $15,361,425 in funding
Surprise! I thought of a better mouse-over joke at the last second. These bits are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules.

Jarenth Plays XCOM 2 — Episode 22: Didn’t See It Coming

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM 2, XCOM went through two long-overdue, much-needed upgrades. Of those two, one was fairly immediately obvious: Lily and Richard have (re)discovered how to make human-suitable plasma weapons. Plasma rifles, plasma handguns, plasma shotguns: you name it, we can make it now. And we did! And then we put those weapons to good use in an alien retaliation mission: the first, no less, where the aliens released their NuChryssalids into a human population. And while I don’t want to suggest things would’ve gone poorly for us without the new plasma weapons… let’s just say I was happy to have them.

Our second new tech upgrade has, in contrast, been a bit of a slow burn. For five days now, our new Psi-Lab has been chugging away, quietly infusing its two occupants with powers of the mind. But for today, I’ve set a special alarm clock: the training process is finally ending, and two new very special recruits are about to join the XCOM forces…

After the break: our psionic operatives are put to the test immediately. But will their fancy powers and ancient religions be a match for a good blaster at your side?

Ranonauts 41 – Local Contributors

YouTube Link

I really like how Xenonauts doesn’t restrict civilians to terror missions and even more importantly has armed civilian forces that will run occasionally take down alien forces even without your help. It makes me feel like, while I am clearly using the best force to handle the aliens, that I am not alone. The native populations of the areas I am protecting will fight alongside me to protect their homes. It is an element that I can’t help but see as missing from XCOM now I have seen it here. I realise it changes the character of terror missions slightly, but not too much given that the aliens still completely outclass these local forces in almost every situation. You are still needed here, but the civilians aren’t entire defenceless either.

I hope that in Xenonauts 2 the alien forces make more use of these forces too, interactions that don’t necessarily involve killing either. It would be pretty cool if aliens exploring the map would do things like attempt to take prisoners and be seen herding subjects to their ships for purposes as yet unknown. Psionic aliens could use them too, imagine having one of the random police officers that had been wandering around fighting along side you suddenly turned on you. Forcing you to take a score/success hit in attacking him or to try to avoid him while you seek the source of the alien puppeteer.

We have started to encounter another tier of enemy ships, the new bomber, new interceptors and a carrier were all spotted this episode, though unfortunately I accidentally let the carrier wreckage expire while waiting for material to arrive from another base. That was silly.

The Ranonauts Project would like to congratulate:

  • The local forces for dealing with almost half of the alien forces off screen while we worked our way to the scout vessel
  • Narmio for taking out as many aliens as the local forces did.

To date Ranonauts has:

  • defended the earth for 6 months and 20 days
  • lost 47 soldiers
  • killed 437 aliens in 49 ground battles
  • captured 51 aliens
  • shot down 119 alien spacecraft
  • had 5 aircraft shot down
  • received $15,361,425 in funding

Indie Wonderland: Chroma Squad

Released almost exactly one year ago (at time of writing), Behold StudiosChroma Squad grabbed my attention some when I stumbled into it on Steam. A cool pixel-art looking tactical combat game about colourful costumed warriors of justice? Except it’s also really about running your own Super Sentai-style studio? Yeah, sure, that sounds like something I’d be into. So I put the game… on my Steam wishlist.

Guys: my Steam wishlist is where games go to die.

But never let it be said that fate doesn’t intervene, every now and again. And more to the point, never let it be said that Steam’s incessant ‘hey, now this particular game on your list is ten percent off or whatever’ emails don’t have some use and value. The first time I ran across Chroma Squad, I decided to put it in my wishlist; now, the second time I run across it, I’ll decide to take it out.

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

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: Will my Chroma Squad bring peace and justice to all? Or will we get cancelled halfway into the season?