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Soulcaster I & II [REVIEW]

February 15, 2012 4 comments

Soulcaster: released March 1st, 2010
Soulcaster II: released December 14th, 2010
Developer: MagicalTimeBean
Platforms: Windows, Xbox Live Indie Game Marketplace

For this review I’ll be covering two separate games, the original Soulcaster, and it’s sequel Soulcaster II. They’ve been longtime favorites of mine on the XBLIG Marketplace, and what with their recent launch on the Windows OS, it’s high time I finally show these games some love. The Soulcaster games are an interesting blend of Action RPG and Strategy mechanics that manage to take the hack n’ slash out of the dungeon crawler, and still maintain a fun, unique take on the genre. I’ll be starting off of course, with the original Soulcaster.

What immediately makes these games stand out, is the interesting gameplay mechanics they employ. On the surface it may resemble an old school Gauntlet game, and to an extent, that’s fairly accurate. Where it differs is in the execution. Instead of choosing a class to play as and going to town on baddies by way of your own combative prowess, you instead take the role of a Soulcaster, who uses something called a soul orb to summon “images” of great warriors. You first encounter these warriors by way of a trio of statues, each made in their likeness. From there, the spirits (or whatever they are) of these warriors grant you the ability to summon images of themselves which will aid you during combat, assisting you to thwart the evil that has cursed their land. Read more…

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Defender’s Quest [REVIEW]

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Defender’s Quest: released January 20th, 2012
Developer: Level Up Labs
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

It never ceases to amaze me how indie developers continue to push tower defense games in new and interesting directions so frequently. Many old school genres such as platformers and shmups, have enjoyed a pretty notable resurgence in recent years, almost entirely thanks to the indie scene. Tower defense games on the other hand, are a genre that have just about always thrived exclusively at the hands of indie developers. Most recently it’s become quite popular to take the core mechanics of a tower defense game, and blend them with a totally different style of game. Sanctum and Monday Night Combat did it with shooter mechanics, Dungeon Defenders and Orcs Must Die! did it with action RPG mechanics, and Defender’s Quest goes an entirely different route, choosing to blend tower defense, with traditional, story driven JRPG mechanics.

At this point I’m beginning to wonder if tower defense isn’t just some kind of all encompassing super-genre that manages to blend well with any type of game. Each time one of these hybrids is released, I smack myself on the forehead and wonder how nobody had ever thought to do it before. Having now sunk the past couple days in to the extremely addictive Defender’s Quest, I once again find myself wondering, how the hell has nobody ever thought to do this before?! Read more…

Path of Exile [PREVIEW]

January 10, 2012 2 comments

Path of Exile: release date TBA
Developer: Grinding Gear Games
Platforms: Windows

[NOTE: THIS PREVIEW IS FOR THE CLOSED BETA VERSION OF THE GAME!]

Path of Exile is still being worked on, and the fine folks at Grinding Gear Games are constantly updating and making changes to the very fabric of it’s existence. The version played for this preview was 0.9.5, and there are still many plans in the works that have yet to make their way in to the game. That said, the core of the game is there and I feel confident that my impressions of it thus far will undoubtedly carry over to the final product once it finally makes it’s debut.

When I recall my history as a gamer and think back to the titles I played growing up, the important ones, the ones that really shaped who I am as a gaming enthusiast, there are a handful of names that will always stand head and shoulders above the rest. Of course there are the more obvious gaming staples such as Mario, Zelda, and Metroid, which you’re likely to find on almost any veteran gamer’s all-time favorites list, but another franchise that truly left it’s mark on me was that of Diablo. The thrill of unlocking new skills and hunting down rare loot was something I had never really experienced before, and to this day it’s that very same formula that keeps me coming back to the series.

After doing a few years time in the land of Diablo 2, I began to crave something different. I wanted that same loot based, dungeon crawling experience, but with new settings and characters. Some might argue that the Forgotten Realms titles (Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Neverwinter Nights) appropriately fill that void, but let’s be real here, those games are nothing like Diablo. I still loved them to death, but I missed the addictive qualities of randomized dungeons and looting. It’s taken some time, but we’ve recently started seeing some real forward momentum with the Diablo-style of game design, and today I’d like to talk about a particularly promising title called Path of Exile. Read more…

Dungeon Defenders [REVIEW]

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Dungeon Defenders: Released October 19th, 2011
Developer: Trendy Entertainment
Platforms: Windows, Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network

Every once in awhile we happen across games that completely catch us by surprise. Maybe it was a game we’d never heard of before and just happened to see at a buddy’s house, or maybe it was something we expected to have a little mild fun with, only to have it turn around and absolutely shatter our expectations. Regardless of what events lead us to finding these titles, I think we can all agree that it’s a pretty magical experience when we do, and having just finished almost an entire day straight of playing Dungeon Defenders, I can honestly say that this game had me utterly enchanted.

Dungeon Defenders takes two of my favorite (and most addicting) genres, Tower Defense and the Action RPG, and smacks them together into sweet, sweet harmony. Tower Defense games are an unhealthy habit for me, as I tend to love them just a little too much, but when a developer successfully marries Tower D. to another of my favorite genres, I just lose it. It’s a rare occurrence, only ever notably happening in games like Sanctum and to a lesser extent, Monday Night Combat. Indie developers have always been inextricably drawn to the genre of defending towers, so it seems appropriate that they seem to be the ones to really push the genre in new directions, first with those previously mentioned titles, and now with this game. Read more…

Breath of Death VII/Cthulhu Saves the World Double Pack [REVIEW]

October 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Breath of Death VII: released April 22nd, 2010
Cthulhu Saves the World: released December 30th, 2010
Developer: Zeboyd Games
Platforms: Windows, Xbox Live Indie Game Marketplace

For my first review, I’m gonna go ahead and hit up a pair of indie game staples. Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World are, in my experience, two of the most well known indie games around. With the exception of a few special cases, most indie titles seem to have one foot in the grave before they’re even released. Indie game developers need to fight extra hard to even get their games noticed, but Zeboyd Games spit on the odds and got it done anyways. They have been showered with praise by numerous websites, at least one print publication, and have had their games trumpeted around various forums across the internet by fans who are dying to share their love of these games.

BoDVII and CStW are unique, in that they’re not just traditional JRPGs, they’re comedy JRPGs. In Breath of Death alone you’ll find references to the Resident Evil, Fallout, and Castlevania series’, amongst countless others. Not to mention the way these games lovingly poke fun at their forefathers by touching on various JRPG stereotypes. I’ll start, with Breath of Death VII.

The first of Zeboyd’s traditional JRPG throwback titles, BoDVII doesn’t just parody it’s predecessors, it outright takes jabs at the ridiculousness of them. Whether it’s the main character rolling his metaphorical eyes (he’s a skeleton) when his companion attempts to explain how stats work, or the narrator chiming in when you reach the obligatory sewers level, explaining that RPGs are “legally obligated” to include them, there are jabs to be had around every corner. One of my favorites is when you climb some stairs to the second floor of a house, and through the open roof you see a treasure chest on the other side of a wall. As you investigate, the game informs you that: “Somehow you know there’s a treasure chest on the other side of this wall. Too bad you’ll never get it.” Classy. Read more…