Free from Epic – Yuko’s Island Express

I actually remember helping my youngest child play a demo of this game at some point. It’s a really cute and well crafted take on what would otherwise be a very random pinball game. The basic premise is that you’re a new postal worker who happens to be a small red beetle. Given the ball to which you’re leashed, I would propose that it’s a dung beetle.

Aside from the variety of pinball related challenges, most of which require you to collect runes or manipulate the environment in some way, the primary progression comes from collecting enough fruit to unlock entrances to new areas. They seem to cost either 30 or 80 and there were certainly times that I had to go back to old boards in order to collect more fruit.

Despite having a fairly robust map, routing can be less than straightforward. Still, the overall format is a bit loose at times. Progression can feel a bit metroidvania like at times. Exploring part of one area to unlock a new ability or find out where something is then doubling back to grab the thing that you need.

I would say that there’s a lot of fetch quest type action, but you’re the postmaster, so yeah.

While anything resembling combat is quite rare, there are a couple of boards that have a slightly combative setup. Most of it is like the other areas and more a matter of problem solving and figuring out what you’re expected to do rather than anything overtly combative. Still, it was interesting to see some of the different challenges and approaches they incorporated into these sections.

The art style and environments were good, if stylized.There are a lot of little secrets and hidden places to find if you’re paying attention. There were actually several areas I never figured out how to access. Some simply because I couldn’t figure out how to physically get there and others because I couldn’t find the required item.

There are also some very strange characters as well. The underground area has mysterious hooded warriors and the snowy peaks are home to frogs called “space monks” that build giant rockets to the moon. Most of these various groups or species have a chief that you’re supposed to be finding and asking to attend a healing ritual. Solving their problems, usually. Each of them also have their own biome and none of them seem to be fond of visitors. Most of them require some new ability or unlock to gain entry.

There’s also a great deal of optional content as well. I managed to collect about half the little sproutlings required to do whatever this was. You use them 10 at a time to light torches scattered around the island. Despite playing for about 7 hours and completing the main story content as well as wandering around a great deal, they game reported me has having about 54% completed.

There are actually a number of side quests that require you to visit and explore different areas of the island to find specific locations or puzzles. From planting mushrooms all over the island to collecting parts of what appear to be a petrified wizard.

On the whole it’s a nice little game. There are a variety of things I’m leaving out, like ways to color and decorate your ball. It’s perhaps not for everyone, but it was a good way to spend several hours for no cost. If I had one complaint it’s that some of the boards require a degree of accuracy that ends up feeling more like luck. There are places that feel a little frustrating when it’s easy to fall into the lower section and difficult to get back to the upper section.

Y’all take care. Watch out for explosive slugs.

Free from Epic – Automachef

While I’ve largely been ignoring Epic’s free games for a while, I figured I would take a break from my usual stuff today to try the latest one. At a glance it reminds me a lot of other logistics games that I’ve played such as Satisfactory and Mindustry, but with a slightly more culinary direction. I didn’t play it all that long, but it was a pleasant enough experience.

The game is broken down into a series of levels in a somewhat tree-like structure. It requires you to complete the previous ones first, and is more of a linear progression with a small occasional side tree based around a specific theme. I did the tutorial and about the first three or four levels in the main sequence.

Each level is effectively set up as two stages. A placement/setup phase and a run cycle where it actually executes what you’ve set up as customer orders come in. Most of my time was spent in the setup phase, especially since you can fast-forward the execution phase.

The tutorials themselves are fairly direct, requiring you to place machines in very specific locations and orientations. I suppose they were more interested in demonstrating how to do something instead of allowing you the freedom to play around.

While the mechanics of the machines themselves are fairly well explained, they don’t directly address some of the slightly more subtle aspects of efficiency. Yeah, they show you how to automatically toggle equipment on and off the order processor, but not how to adjust the transfer arms or machinery directions that are needed for some of the more compact areas. This was more of a trial and error process of wondering why something wasn’t getting moved or picked up.

There are also a lot of factors I didn’t run into, but are mentioned on some pieces of equipment, such as spoilage. Perhaps the most complicated thing I did was operating a single grill with three different items passing through it.

So far, the actual placement of machines seems fairly straightforward. With what I have access to there’s only so many layouts I can get away with. My primary strategy revolved around looking for ways to minimize the amount of conveyor being used to create as compact a design as possible. After that, I buy as many order computers as I can and try to keep equipment shut off when it’s not needed. It’s worked pretty well insofar as I’ve played.

The other purpose of these order processors is to limit how many ingredients you spit out. This way you only produce the items you need as dishes are ordered. This limits the “ingredients used” metric that each level has tied to it, but presumably also saves on power as well.

I can see where some of these could get quite complicated. Hopefully they eventually add some better logic processing as well, though I don’t know if I’ll end up getting that far into it. Toward the end of my play session, I was getting into territory where my efficiency was starting to drop. I might could deal with this by changing the speed of the final assembly machines, making the fast recipes slower to save power and speeding up the complicated ones to get them out the door.

Not a bad game. Very different from the more real-time type of logistics I’m used to, but very similar in nature. If you like Satisfactory or Factorio you’d probably enjoy this too, at least a little bit.

Y’all take care. Remember to turn the grill off when you’re not using it. Can’t be having an inefficient exploitation of humans.


Hey, it’s Blaugust time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

Something New – Road 96

Road 96 is actually a relatively new title, released on steam on August 16th 2021, just four days ago at the time of writing. It’s a very interesting narrative oriented game that manages to meld the roguelite genre with something of a more point-and-click adventure. I actually quite like it, though I’m not sure I would let my kids play it. We’ll get to that later.

The general premise of the game is that you are a runaway teen trying to escape the seemingly authoritarian country of Petria by reaching Road 96 and crossing the border. As shown here, the roguelite portion of the idea comes from the fact that every time you reach the border, you start over as a different teenager.

Most of the gameplay alternates between small shops or rest areas and time spent inside a vehicle. Most conversations have a choice between two or three options, and extremely impactful ones will have a relevant icon next to them. The specific situation of each encounter varies wildly, from impromptu camera operator, to bartender, breaking and entering, playing a trombone, playing connect four, and a shootout with a nail gun. Each scene has something that makes it a unique and memorable experience.

All of this takes place on a politically charged backdrop full of crooked cops, authoritarian policies, illegal broadcasting, protest, and violent rebellion.

As you travel you must eat and sleep in order to replace the energy you spend on travel. Sometimes this means buying what you need, and other times just doing a good job or having a spot of luck will give you what you need.

You are also presented fairly often with the choice to steal money and food, which feeds into a karma system, though I’m not entirely certain what impact it has.

The idea is to presumably try to balance survival with ideology and morality.

The game’s cast of recurring characters is both diverse and interconnected with the political situation. These two bikers are trying to stop an alleged assassin from killing their favorite news reporter who also happens to be spinning the news in favor of the incumbent President Tyrak. None of them are necessarily evil, but each pursuing their own goals for various reasons. At the end of my second run, I certainly have my favorites and one or two that I dislike or distrust, but I don’t outright hate any of them.

A good job is done of weaving the stories together in such a way that I never know who I’m going to encounter next, or what situation we’ll be in. It feels very natural and spontaneous, at least insofar as I’ve played it.

While the overall art style is somewhat simple and stylized, it also has some nice natural beauty mixed in with it. It’s nice sometimes to just stop and look at some of the views, and they do tend to be related at times. The path where this image was taken is on Road 96, and has an overlook where you can see the border crossing in the distance.

It’s not without its hiccups, but they’ve patched the game twice in four days. I’ve had a single crash that forced me to close the game and restart. Fortunately all I had to do were repeat a few dialogue options and I was back where I crashed. It autosaves between each scene/area, but this could be a problem if you crash after a few lucky dice rolls asking for food or money.

There are a lot of little hints and connections that are easy to miss in the game. Enough that I can’t help but wonder how many of them I’ve missed and what’s still out there to see. I’m also curious to see what would change if I made different choices than the ones I have. The only way to find out is to keep playing.

There are a lot of beautiful moments crossing back and forth with heartbreaking or tense scenes. I’ve already noticed from playing free games from Epic that I enjoy these narrative experiences a lot more than I thought I would, and I’m extremely glad I took the time to spend the $20 that this title cost. It’s well worth it, just for the five hours I’ve already played it, especially since I play to keep playing. I really want to see how everything turns out.

A beautiful yet dark work with a politically charged narrative. Might not be your thing, but it’s definitely mine.

Y’all take care. Remember to vote. Individually insignificant, but collectively important.


Hey, it’s Blaugust time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

Something New – Starlink

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When I first came across this title on the Humble Store, I was uncertain what it even was, much less if I would like it or not. It was an odd-looking title on the UPlay platform that was hard to categorize based on the provided material. I figured a small risk once in a while is acceptable and went for it.

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Not my image.

Overall it feels like it’s somewhere between Starfox and Assassin’s Creed. You get a Starfox sort of gameplay in a more open-world sort of environment. You can even do a “barrel roll.” I got the distinct impression that the game was designed to be a toy-based franchise like Disney Infinity. Can’t possibly tell where I got that idea.

 

 

CharacterSelect

Upon starting a new save you are prompted to select a Pilot. I am uncertain how permanent this choice is, but if there’s a way to change pilots I either haven’t unlocked it or and too oblivious to have noticed. There are quite a lot of moving parts in the game, so the menus are a bit weird. In addition to an “ultimate” style ability, each pilot also has a skill tree style upgrade system.

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Once you’ve done that you’ll be asked to select a ship. From the starter selection, there are several different ones, from the performance class shown here to the tank class that I’m using. In all things, including pilot, ship, and weapons, there are a number of locked items that aren’t available. It’s implied that these could be unlocked via gameplay. In fact, I’ve met some of the pilots in question.

I didn’t see a major difference in the ships stat-wise, but I haven’t actually used anything but the tank class, so it’s hard to say one way or the other.

loadout

The final loadout of a given ship looks something like this. I had already managed to locate a couple of mods when I took this screenshot. There are several different weapons with various element types. I think heat, cold, kinetic, gravity, and anti-grav cover the basics. I was using two heat weapons here because I couldn’t tell what was and wasn’t unlocked, but I ended up putting that flamethrower on the left side and putting some ice rockets on the right side. This allows me to hit something with the flamethrower to apply a heat effect, followed by the ice missiles to create a “thermal shock” combo.

hovertank

At least for the first couple of hours, most of the gameplay took place in what I have been calling “hovertank mode.” Mostly because that’s what it feels like I’m driving. I haven’t found combat to be overly difficult as far as I’ve gotten. There was one POI that lit me up pretty hard, and it was some manner of unique artifact that I didn’t need to deal with.

There are some random organic and metal components you can acquire as you wander about, though inventory is fairly limited in the beginning. Most of the organics have a special mini-game attached where you have to maintain the proper distance to “pluck” it. Those items can eventually be traded to outposts in exchange for currency, items, and influence. They reveal more of the map if your influence is higher.

There are a variety of other things going on too. Wildlife to scan, small puzzles that require one or more element types to complete, elemental canisters that must be shot with their opposing element to open, outposts that require you to block with proper timing, you know, general POI-based content that offers a variety of rewards.

I spent a lot more time on the first planet than I had to in order to get the components to unlock more upgrades to the… mothership? Those trees unlock additional mod slots, additional inventory space, fast travel capabilities, things like that. I wanted access to a few basic items, so I put the effort into unlocking them before I moved on.

From a story standpoint, I wasn’t overly impressed. The cinematics were pretty solid, but the writing so far hasn’t been particularly interesting. Genious captain re-invents ability to create long lost energy source and now the big bad wants it because reasons. I couldn’t find anyone named John Crichton though, and the technology isn’t “wormholes.”

It’s still on sale for a few days if anyone is interested. It’s not bad for $21. Not sure I’d recommend it at full retail, but let’s be fair, I’ve only played it for a couple of hours.

Y’all take care, and remember, Judge is the best character.

Something New – XCOM: Chimera Squad

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You know, for a game I paid $10 for, this is a great title. Having said that, I’ve been something of a fan of the XCOM series. If you don’t like XCOM, you won’t like this. It’s still basically the same thing.

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I absolutely love the Breach feature and the various specs and options you get. Every battle begins with some form of breach, from busting through doors and windows, to hacking doors and blowing holes in the wall. Breach is immediately followed by a sort of “bullet time” even where each agent on your team gets to take a shot or other action. Later on you start to unlock special abilities that you can use once per mission during this phase, like scanning the room for an aim bonus or healing everyone at your breach point. They still get to take their shot on top of that.

The order you assign to breach points and the agents in each point will also determine their relative positions in the turn order once combat proper begins. I have someone set up with tranq ammo to finish enemies off non-lethally. I try to put her fairly late in the turn order so I have a wider choice of targets.

Also new is having a variety of non-human agents on your team. In some cases this is more flavor than anything else, but they tend to have abilities consistent with their… species. The human characters don’t seem to suffer though, as everyone has a pretty unique thing that they can do. One of the engineers has a ranged heal while the other has a ranged shock that’s 4 damage and 100% hit chance. I use both of those frequently.

That’s where I imagine some of the more hardcore fans might not like the game. Even on its normal difficulty, it feels slightly less severe and a little more… “arcadey?” By no means is this a complaint, just an observation.

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It’s still XCOM, though. It has its usual balance of managing resources, doing research, having to prioritize certain missions or areas simply to contain the chaos; if you know the franchise, you know the drill. Noticeably absent is the base-building/construction element we normally have, at least to the point that I’ve played it.

loadout

The loadout is kinda the same. I have yet to reach a point where I can change the weapon any particular agent uses, but not displayed here are the mod slots for weapons and armor. In addition, you get one breach item that can allow that agent to be placed in a certain position. For example, in order to use a certain breach point you may need a “breach charge” and the agent carrying the charge must be in the first slow.

The utility items cover a pretty wide spectrum, from special ammo like I have here, to medkits, and different kinds of grenades. I haven’t got any yet, but I thought the “cease-fire” grenades were cute in an “I’m the man and I’m oppressing you” kind of way.

Thematically your team is more like a superpowered SWAT team than a paramilitary group. A relatively constant concern is avoiding civilian casualties and you get rewarded for non-lethal takedowns. Many of the associated character dialogue actually used the word “arrest.”

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There are a few things like the scavenger market that you unlock by doing a particular mission. It comes around once per week or so and sells three items for “Intel.” This is the same currency you earn for the arrests. So far it’s been mostly equipment mods and utility items. You can be certain I picked up that stock on the right, though I put it on a pistol? Game logic is game logic.

I could say more, but I just wanted to hit the highlights here. I haven’t had as much time to play it as I might have liked, but got more out of it than I expected. With such a low price point, a full suite of the usual XCOM options, and full Steam Workshop support, I suspect we’ll be seeing some paid DLC, both campaigns and features, in the future. I look forward to seeing what they do with it.

Y’all take care, and remember, XCOM math never changes. I’ve already missed a point-blank shot above 90%.


blapril-2020-200Hey, it’s Blapril time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

Something New – Borderlands 3

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Now that the game is finally available on Steam, my brother was willing to give it a go. We’ve given every title so far at least one good run in co-op. To be honest, there isn’t a lot to say at this point. If you like the Borderland franchise, you’ll probably like this one, because it’s basically more of the same thing with a little more polish and content. That said, I even liked Pre-Sequel, so I’m weird I guess.

quick refill

One of the first things I noticed is that there are a lot of small changes like the quick ammo restock and quick heal. It wasn’t a huge pain before, but I thought it was a really smart change. This extends to other consoles too, like the vehicle summon console, where you can quick-summon your last used vehicle.

vehicles

They added a fair amount of customization and content to the vehicle system as well. You have to find abandoned vehicles on the map and return them to a catch-a-ride to unlock new parts. Once unlocked you can mix and match the parts for the chassis type as you see fit. I think it’s a solid update to the old system.

There are a number of collectibles present in the game. The usual audio logs scattered around, radio towers to disable, dead claptraps to salvage so Claptrap and build himself a companion, that sort of thing.

3d map

I also found the new 3d map to be quite useful. It really helps navigate some of the more maze-like areas. However, the new fast travel system is absolutely awful. It has a very strange flow to it that continues to annoy me 20ish hours in. In fact, the controls for a lot of menus and submenus are equally strange, and some features like weapon skins are quite buried.

weapon skin

The customization itself is a nice touch, though at times you change weapons so infrequently that it’s pointless to do it. Other times you find yourself using a particular weapon for 10-15 level because it’s just that dang good. That’s Borderlands for you.

crazy earlEridium isn’t used for the ammo upgrades anymore, but cosmetics instead. This is actually pretty fair and a nice way to include a purchased cosmetic system that doesn’t use real money or lootboxes, for once. Unfortunately, I don’t like most of what’s available. I think I’ve only bought a few trinkets and most of the room decorations so far.

All things considered, I like the title. I don’t know that I’m going to do a second playthrough, though. The story itself is fairly predictable so far and the loot system is fairly strange. The old system metered the rate at which the higher rarities appeared, but this time around legendaries are a dime a dozen and often less useful or valuable than the lower rarities. I come back if they release a DLC that looks particularly interesting, but only time will tell.

torgue brand

Y’all take care, and remember, TORGUE IS THE BEST BRAND, BECAUSE IT HAS EXPLOSIONS!


blapril-2020-200Hey, it’s Blapril time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

Something New – Dragon Quest Builders 2

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While everyone else is running around playing Animal Crossing, I’ve been poking around with Dragon Quest Builders 2, which was on sale on Steam a few weeks ago. Truth be sold, my Switch is currently refusing to charge or I would have joined you.

I have to admit, there was far more gameplay to be had here than I expected, especially if you’re a fan of building and design. It does feature the typical limitations of cubic-voxel style building, so the overall effect is a thematic Minecraft with a little more story. The story itself is fairly simple and predictable most of the time, but the lines themselves are fairly well written and at least occasionally entertaining to one as easily amused as myself.

bath house

Much of the story-related building is either freeform with directions regarding decorations, size, etc, or a completely inflexible blueprint like this one. To be fair, the structures that start as blueprints are editable to your tastes after you have “completed” it. To progress the story you must build it exactly as specified. Each major island in the game generally has several very large blueprints where the NPCs will do most or all of the work, including providing materials.

construction menu

There are a variety of different blocks and furniture available depending on where you’re at in the game. So many, in fact, that individual items can sometimes be difficult to locate in the main crafting station, or not always in the section you would expect. Windows are in the category with doors and not in the building blocks.

dockhouse

Speaking of building, there are also some size limitations. In this image, the central area with the crafting bench and the glass floor behind it were all a single room but was too large to be detected as such. Likewise, the plaza/patio area had to be split in two before they would be properly tagged as rooms. Working out the exact details of what furniture a room must contain to get flagged as something specific can be quite annoying. A “hotel” requires at least one bedroom connected to a “reception room,” but fails to indicate what you need in order to create one of those. You must either continuously experiment or look it up.

eatery

For instance, the kitchen in this restaurant is a “simple kitchen” because I have yet to identify the specific decorations required to make anything else. Add some firewood and flour sacks and it becomes an “agricultural kitchen,” but not really what I was looking for.

rare cabbage

Farming is also an interesting activity with its own room type. When set up properly you can manually plant and harvest something once, then use the scarecrow to designate what grows in that field and the villagers will generally handle the rest. In fact, tasks like watering plants can only be done by villagers. While you do eventually start getting rare crops that create higher quality food and drop dyes, it mostly does its thing without you. As long as you’re on the same island.

medal shrine

There are a variety of exploration and puzzle-based activities as well, though most of the puzzles are fairly simple and exploration is mostly to either find these puzzle shrines or scavenger hunts that unlock unlimited crafting materials. Some of the smaller randomly generated islands have higher-end monsters that yield crafting recipes or trophies when they’re defeated. There are also some tamable animals and later on monsters, which have some sort of breeding/rarity system, but I haven’t spent a lot of time with that.

Most the main story gameplay took around 60 hours, though I was not in any particular hurry when I did it, so that time could probably be cut a fair bit with optimization. It has a variety of gates and checkpoints that require you to engage with a number of different activities. Most of my time alternated between some mix of exploration, combat, and gathering, or free-form building something a villager requested. Completing those requests are critical to having enough “generosity” to progress at certain stages.

tablet targets

I’m quite pleased with the game, overall. I’ve spent another dozen or so game hours beyond story completion just poking around and completing various optional tasks. There are a couple of small islands I haven’t unlocked yet because they’re crazy expensive and I’ve been doing my own thing instead of farming generosity.

My one large complaint is the multiplayer mode. It prevents travel to any of the other major islands and doesn’t seem to unlock anything for the guests. It’s more of a co-op building mode on the main island and less of a true multiplayer experience. It has value, but they could have done a lot more with it, especially in the end-game.

Y’all take care, and watch where you’re swinging those hammers.


BlaugustBOnlylogoHey, it’s Blapril time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

Something New – The Outer Worlds

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I must admit, I did rather enjoy this title. Gameplay-wise it reminds me of Mass Effect, but with a slightly Firefly feel to it. It starts very early with the heavy-handed “trolley problem” style dilemmas that gave Mass Effect its gravity. The main story and the companion side stories were fairly compelling, though at times they seem slightly cut short.

Still, I’m sitting here writing this after having finished the main story and most of the side content, taking around 34 hours or so to complete. I don’t really intend to talk about the story as much as the setting and my reaction to it.

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See, it is by random chance that I’m playing it right now, but it seems eerily relevant to current events. Its strange brand of corporate dystopia is just familiar enough that it seems almost a commentary on events that didn’t occur until after its release. As an exaggerated reflection of current corporate culture, it leaves me both angry and depressed. It loses its value as an escape from current events because it constantly reminds me of them.

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Fortunately, we do not live in such a society. Not really. I really wish they had fleshed the setting out a bit more. The “current events” and people of the setting seem solid and believable. Even the villain’s motivation is reasonable and relatable.

What I’m talking about are the institutions and places that exist. Why do these specific corporations exist? Who founded them? Who runs them? Why is Vicar Max the only priest we meet in the entire game? There’s supposed to be this large organized religion and the only other evidence of it I saw was a ruined church on another planet. The characters are beautiful and wonderful but exist against a backdrop that seems… incomplete.

Still, I enjoyed a good playthrough, and now it’s time to move on to other things. It was, overall, a compelling story with a satisfying enough ending.

Y’all take care.

Something New – Genesis Alpha One

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I had been eyeballing this on the Epic Games Store for a while, so I grabbed it during the sale for a significant discount. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as it’s billed as a rogue-like, but the gameplay seemed up my alley so I tried it anyway.

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Each run generally consists of you selecting a corporation, which affects your starting situation, along with a basic crew and whatever artefacts are. I didn’t have any yet. In fact, the very first time out, my first session, you have to choose the tutorial corporation in the top left. These other three unlock after you’ve completed the basic tutorial, and the higher tier versions unlock after you complete specific requirements, like collecting 50 iron in a single run.

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After that, it will have you build a basic functional ship. Building is pretty straightforward, with each room having one or more door connections that must be connected to another compatible door. Once you get rolling the ship gets quite large and quite maze-like. There are also some other efficiency-related considerations, like having the directly between the hangar and the refinery. That way resources and ores you collect on planet surfaces have a low travel time.

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While the hangar is one way to get resources, in the early game you’ll be using the tractor beam. It lets you scan debris fields in your current system and will slowly pull in resources.

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If you don’t want to babysit it, though, you’ll have to use the side terminal to assign one of your crew members to work it. This picture was obviously taken in the greenhouse, though, instead of the tractor beam.

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There’s a couple of these workstation terminals in each room that you can also use to speed up progress. When you don’t have a crew member assigned this is the only way to make progress. Some rooms, like the cloning lab, I use so infrequently that I don’t bother assigning crew members to it.

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Every once in a while your tractor beam will pull critters in with the resources. For that reason, I typically keep a crew member and at least one turret in this room. It’s a fairly regular occurrence, probably around a 25% percent chance every cycle.

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Once you build up some resources, mostly iron, you can build a hangar. The hangar lets you scan planets, much the way the tractor beam scan debris, and launch away missions to the planet surfaces.

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Planets come in a wide variety of environments. I’ve specifically seen arid, lush, barren, snowy, and whatever this is. You’ll be limited to a certain area with your lander in the center. Things like this dish in the picture are what was listed above as “sites” and you generally stand near them and defend yourself while they process. Once done they give you something like suit upgrades, room blueprints, or location data.

As this implied, there’s a fairly constant barrage of critters while you’re on a planet. This is a sort-of good thing, as it’s your primary source of biomass and DNA to use in the cloning room. Most planets just have little bugs, spiders, and worms, but I have encountered humanoids once or twice. They tend to be significantly more dangerous.

You’ll also see a variety of ores, which look like rocks with little color crystals sticking out of them. You use your harvester, right click, to collect them similar to biomass and DNA that critters drop, but it takes a lot longer. Your harvester can only hold five bins of ore, at least in the beginning, so you may have to pick and choose or make multiple trips.

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Much like the tractor beam, things will sometimes hitch a ride on your lander and in your ore. In any of those cases, they tend to seek out and disable the energy nodes on your ship, and you’ll have to reboot them to keep your modules from going offline.

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If you get too many, or miss one or two, you can end up with an infestation. They build little nests in areas with this… stuff… and become a persistent problem. I have not yet found any way to remove it, so I just put some turrets nearby in the hopes that they will keep it under control.

That’s most of the basic gameplay loop, but there’s a lot more than that going on. Generally, you gather materials to build rooms and resources then travel around trying to get new blueprints and materials you need to research or build those things. It didn’t really feel like a roguelike, but I can see that the overall process is probably somewhat iterative. I’m not really sure what the end-game is, really, but enjoyed playing it anyway. I would make a great VR and/or multiplayer game, but alas it is neither.

Since I now own it on Epic, I can longer see it’s current price, but it was $10 when I picked it up, and still should be, at least for another week or so. Y’all take care, and maybe don’t let any alien critters make a nest in your house.

Something New – Stories Untold

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It’s time once again to go over our free Epic Game Store game. This time it’s Stories Untold, a somewhat thematic game with the tagline “4 Stories, 1 Nightmare.”

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I’m assuming, based on the tagline, that all four of these seemingly un-related narratives are tied together in some way. Unfortunately, in the making of this post, I did not get through all of them, so cannot be certain.

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The first story takes place pretty much entirely as a text adventure using the console on the left. They did a great job at using the environment for atmosphere, but I do feel that it was rather difficult to use the rather small text area. This was something of a recurring problem and leads me to the impression that this game was intended for a 60 inch TV and not a standard computer monitor. I’m also glad I’m old enough to have experience with this type of text adventure, which made the clues it provided very straightforward, for the most part.

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really liked the second story. It had an SCP Foundation sort of vibe to it and I really enjoyed the way to section played and progressed.

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This section also introduced the ability to switch between two different views. One using the computer to see what you’re supposed to be doing and how to do it, and the other, where you can fiddle with all the bits and pieces in the experiment proper.

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The third section plays similarly, with a microfilm viewer in place of a computer, helping you tune to various radio frequencies, deciphering the encryption code, then interpreting the proper commands. I got somewhat stuck on the morse code bit and had to look up why what I was certain was the correct code wouldn’t work. Apparently, I had some of the digits wrong due to the fuzzy microfilm situation. Operator error, I assure you.

I made it at least partway through the last section before the power went out, and I probably won’t be dealing with it again until late this evening. I got far enough to infer where this might be going, but can’t be certain.

Decent little puzzle game, overall. Subject matter can get really dark though, so player beware. Overall time commitment from beginning to end is probably only 4-6 hours, I’d guess. Those people over at Epic sure do like their narrative puzzle games.

Y’all take care and stay safe. Maybe don’t drink and drive, yeah?