Sunday, 20 October 2013

Spelunky is the best indiegame I played this year.

I have been liking many "indie" titles, whether it is a kickstarter project such as Shadowrun Returns, or a goofy game like Binding of Isaac, or something simple yet satisfying such as Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. My problem with most of those games is that there is always a rough edge, even slightly, one can feel an indie title works on a limited budget or other ideas that have not been completely polished.

I feel however that Spelunky is the first actual indiegame that I have played that is polished, has good working mechanics and gameplay, as well as charming graphics and soundtrack. It is an effective hommage to classic games while being its own thing, a rogue-like platformer.

The story is simple. You are a spelunker that gets lost in a network of caves. he ends up in some sort of limbo, each time he dies, he is alive.. back at the top, only by defeating the mystical Olmec, he can escape this living hell.

The graphics are an upgrade from the original game, which you can play for free at , it is 2d HD graphics with some neat lighting effects. They are sharp, clear, and do the job. The sound is pretty standard, it does the job and is not buggy. The music is this pseudo chiptune music from the Sega Megadrive/Genesis era, especially some of the "secret" tunes you can find throughout the game.

The gameplay however is the high note for me. The basic premise of Spelunky is simple,  for 4 (or if you know how to, 5) worlds you need to get down from the top of one level to the next. each world exists out of 4 levels. You encounter all kinds of enemies. bats, spiders, crazy tribesmen, bees, mummies, yetis and even aliens, the list goes on for quite a bit. But your worst enemy is probably the environment, treacherous spikes and pits can be the death of your little Spelunker. You will never die because of the game bugging on you, you will die because it is your own fault, you will die a lot, and learn the game slowly but surely. Even once you get the hang of the game, death still looms over you at the strangest turns due to the game's random level generator. Each time you play, the game is completely different in its levels. The only persistent thing is the the world themes and the final boss.

The way you play the game is where it is really at. Okay, it is not exactly Mass Effect or Dragon Age in its moral choices, but there are quite a few that affect the way you play the game. Most of the levels have a damsel in distress that you can save to get extra health, or, if there is an altar in the level, you bring her to there instead and sacrifice her for the chance on an exclusive item or something else that will help you out.

There are also shopkeepers that are spread throughout the game. They will sell valuable items against pretty large gold prices. gold is a pretty important currency in the game. Gold does not only decide what you buy, it also decides your final score. You can instead of being a good little customer, also walk the path of stealing and anger the shopkeepers. This gives you the option to get a lot of money for killing them, as well as get all their items for free, but the catch is that they will hunt you down for the rest of the game, and there will even be a shopkeeper guarding each exit. My advice: get a shotgun and take care of them, fast!

There are many secrets in Spelunky, warpworms, alien spaceship, golden cities, and even a secret fifth world with a new final boss which is not easy to get to. Spelunky has been out for quite a while on Steam as well as on Xbox Live. If you decide to jump into it, I wish you good luck. If you are not sure if you like the game at all, I once more recommend going to and download the free, much simpler version before buying this little gem!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Shadowrun Returns: when man meets magic meets machine and when dwarf just takes it and  augments his own body for divine purposes.

Small Warning: This blog may contain a few minor spoilers, although I do avoid the storyline as much as possible.

I have recently delighted myself in this little gem that was only €17 when I pre-ordered it. The reason of my pre-order was mostly one of pure fangasm, I used to play a little RPG called Shadowrun for the SNES back in 1993. Shadowrun was based upon the PnP roleplaying game of the same name and was set on planet Earth in a cyberpunk future. Magic is reintroduced to the world, and it is inhabited by different races, humans, dwarves, elves, orks and trolls. the mainrole of the character in each game so far is to take on the role of a Shadowrunner, a mercenary that does dirty jobs in the shadows of the big cities in the year 2054. In Shadowrun Returns you take the role of a Shadowrunner that is desperate for some more Nuyen (cash in the world of Shadowrun), he gets a message from a dead friend of him which is was triggered by the Dead Man's Switch. He asks you to find his killer and you take this job and will end up running into one surprise after another.

This is the basic gist, I have not returned to Shadowrun for ages. Shadowrun Returns is a tribute to the snes version partially, as well as finally giving gamers a proper iteration of the original PnP version. mix this in with a turnbased strategy combat reminiscent of XCOM: Enemy Unknown

While I think the game is pretty damn good, let me get two things out of the way that are a sore thumb to the expectations. Firstly, the game is incredibly linear, don't see this game like Shadowrun for the snes or the Genesis/Megadrive, Shadowrun Returns is more like XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The other downside is the inability of saving anywhere. You are forced to finish an area, and sometimes even a mission, to be able to save, if you try to leave in the middle and go back to windows, you will have to start over again the next time you start up. The developers have said they did not have the resources to do it, I believe it is an odd decision.

Like XCOM, it gives you some kind of hub where you can fall back. The "Seamstress' Union" will supply you with supplies such as health kits, grenades, new outfits, weapons, cybernetic enhancements, spells, datajack equipment and last but not least Shadowrunners. I felt the cybernetic enhancements was the most fun addition to the standard trope of buying items in RPGs. For the majority in the game (as far as I have experienced it)

Unlike ordinary gear, cybernetics are permanent, you replace your arms and they will stay there. with each cybernetic implant you will lose Essence, Essence will make you cast spells better. I myself picked a dwarf street samurai, and I had no issue with losing Essence. At the moment of writing I am a dwarf with a metal exoskeleton as well as cybernetic arms to enhance my hp and body. Leveling your character up primarily is in the form of Karma, which you will spend similar to talent and skill points in other games.

Most missions have you go in a party, be it NPCs like Shanna and Coyote, or hiring Shadowrunners. combat is done turnbased, the more actionpool you have, the more actions you can perform in one turn.I personally feel the transition from just exploring to combat can be done better as there are plenty of moments where you can freely roam around while there is no enemy visible, yet you are awkwardly still taking turns. One single complaint about the combat itself is the UI, it feels like it is practically made for an iPad or some other touch screen device and it sadly shows.

Despite some of my gripes and frustrations, I have been enjoying Shadowrun Returns thoroughly, and a new CRPG in one form or another is always welcomed on the PC by me. The most impressive adition of the game is the editor, which allows people to create their own campaigns as well as settings. It is too early to tell what great things are able to come from it, but if stuff like the early Alpha version of the SNES remake are any sign, the future for user generated content of Shadowrun is great. With a Berlin campaign in the making, the developer created content will hopefully turn it up a notch and create a more linear experience. All in all, great game.. roleplayingwise, I am a cybernetic enhanced dwarf samurai in the future.. in cyberspace, what more would I want?!