Humble Monthly August

Surviving Mars is a city-builder sort of game where you plop down buildings to create an economic engine to plop down more buildings. There is also some kind of mystery that you can solve, with several to choose from at the start, though being mysteries, exactly what’s up with them wasn’t clear. I didn’t get far enough to find out, because I was sick to Hell of wrestling with Surviving Mars’ opaque resource management. The only interesting decision involved in drones needing to be within range of a coordination unit is that it puts a population cap on the amount of drones you can have in a certain area. So, fine, certain areas have a certain amount of drone control as defined by the drone command radii of certain buildings or vehicles, and if you want more drones in an area, you need more of those. Perfectly reasonable city building gameplay. Except, that’s not how it works, because there is no way to make drones seamlessly transition from one building/vehicle’s control to another. You have to manually reassign them from one to the other every time you want them to move from the range of one to the range of another. This means the optimal way to play the game is with tons of micromanagement busywork as you constantly transfer drones from one mothership to another. There’s a good game hiding underneath Surviving Mars’ terrible micromanagement, but not so good that I’m willing to unearth it.

You probably already know whether or not you want Kingdom Come: Deliverance. It’s an RPG set in medieval Bohemia about politics and war in the Holy Roman Empire. There was an internet controversy about it that was dumb even by internet controversy standards.

Swords and Sorcery 2: Shawarmageddon is a 2D RTS game descended from those Flash RTS games from 2008 where amateur devs tried to wring RTS gameplay out of limited devs as a weekend project. Units you produce march directly from left to right while enemies march directly from right to left. You can cast spells when you have enough mana. I don’t want to give the impression that this genre as a whole is shallow, because it doesn’t have to be, and indeed, this specific game might even be fun once it finally gets off its ass to have some real gameplay. After 15 minutes of particularly hand-holdy tutorial and cringey plot that’s trying way too hard to be zany, though, I gave up. This is a very straightforward genre first created by devs who didn’t know how to make a top-down interface work. The tutorial should not last longer than thirty seconds. Especially not when the plot keeps making callbacks to the original game. If your presumption is that most of your audience for game 2 played game 1, why are you dragging things out with tutorial stages? An early bug prevented me from completing the third tutorial stage (you can send workers to collect chests and if they get stabbed to death, the chest drops and you must send another worker – but a necessary chest dropped behind another interactable doodad and was impossible to target for collection, all attempts to select it just selected the doodad instead), and I decided the game didn’t deserve more than the 15 minutes it got.

Rising Storm 2: Vietnam claims to simulate the Vietnam War with brutal realism. My understanding is that the Vietnam War sucked pretty bad, and that simulating it accurately is probably going to be bad for everyone involved.

Almost There advertises itself as a platformer for fans of incredibly difficult platformers. This is the kind of game that cannot be reviewed well without being good at the genre, so I am of no use here.

Yoku’s Island Express is a pinball platformer. You play as a beetle pushing a golf ball around in what is probably a dung beetle reference trying to avoid scatological overtones. The beetle can push the ball left and right, and is also tied to it, and will therefore be pulled along when the ball is struck by a flipper or bumper or whatever. Since pinball stages are very vertical, the ability to move left and right is pretty insignificant in the middle of a platforming challenge, and you have to rely on pinball skillz to reach your objective, but being able to walk around means that navigating between pinball arenas doesn’t require triggering the paddles at exactly the right moment, which is good, because that would get frustrating fast. The game is unique and fun, although from what I can tell it may also only be like three hours long? Depends on whether this “deliver messages to the three chiefs to tell them they need to come heal the magic tree” thing is going to go as fast as the setup for that story. Judging by the map, the setup covers a similar amount of space as each of the individual chiefs’ zones of the island, but maybe the map is deceptive or maybe there’s more story after that first arc.

The Adventure Pals is a game that exists and describes itself as an “adventure platformer.” I didn’t end up looking any closer than that.

Don’t Give Up is a visual novel disguised as an RPG. There may be a point where the game opens up and you do actually, like, explore a dungeon or have side quests or something, but right now you take stage directions from the game and a totally linear story unfolds in front of you as you follow them, with very occasionally a combat occurring to pretend at being a video game. It’s about a depressed would-be game dev struggling against suicide. I gave up on it when I reached a bad end game over that is clearly long before the end of the plot (the prologue is a flash forward that depicts events that definitely occur long after the game start) and, upon reloading my save, found no immediately obvious way to avoid the bad end. It doesn’t come as the result of any combat, just triggers automatically when you take a certain path, and I can’t find out how not to take that path. The writing is pretty solid and while the game world art is low quality pixel junk, the character portraits are pretty good, but it’s taken an ungodly amount of time to reach the game part of this game and I’m beginning to suspect it’s one of those things that should’ve been a short film except the creator only knows how to make video games.

Also, it wasn’t anything to do with the Humble Monthly, but getting a new game of Nier Automata started is an incredible pain. The save system’s tie-in to the story is a necessary component and makes the game considerably better, but it also means that the first stage is an absolute nightmare on any difficulty but the very lowest, because if you die, you have to restart the entire stage. Even on normal difficulty, the stage’s boss can easily kill you with a single stage-sweeping attack, dropping you from full health to none while you’re stunlocked as its weapon sweeps from one end of the arena to the other. Sure, you can dodge it, but it’s the first level. You’re probably not very good at dodging things yet. Even Dark Souls doesn’t make you watch the opening cut scene again if you lose to the Asylum Demon.

The Humble Monthly costs $12 (or slightly less than, if you get a 3- or 12-month subscription), and this one straddles the line of worth it vs. not for me. There’s a lot of games I don’t care about in here. If you want Kingdom Come: Deliverance but don’t already have it, that’s a pretty good deal, and Yoku’s Island Express is possibly worth it all by itself. Surviving Mars and Don’t Give Up both taunt me with good games hiding just out of sight, but I didn’t feel particularly good about having played either of them.

Also, if you’re going to play Nier Automata, make sure to turn the difficulty down to extra super easy mode until you’ve unlocked the save feature.

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