Posts Tagged ‘alpha’

Premature Evaluation: Interstellar Rift

By Brendan Caldwell on July 8th, 2015.

Each week Marsh Davies battles the overwhelming urge to flee, struggles through an Early Access game, and comes back with any stories he can find inside. But this week he’s on holiday, and so in his stead Brendan Caldwell has played Interstellar Rift, a multiplayer starship construction sim.

I spawn on an impossibly advanced spacecraft. We are floating among asteroids and surrounded by a flotilla of other impossibly advanced spacecraft. The computer terminals flicker on and off as I walk past, chirruping for attention. The doors part with a welcoming breeze of pressurised air. The ship’s corridors shine with the glow of futuristic pride. Truly, this is a magnificent time to be alive. A time of scientific glory, a time in which anything and everything is possible.

Hey. This vending machine is broken.

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Premature Evaluation: Space Rogue

By Marsh Davies on May 25th, 2015.

One of the most charming things about Space Rogue is its stylistic nod to 50s retrofuturism - a vision of the future that simultaneously remembers the past’s quaint anticipation for that future. This is a very new thing in human history - for two reasons: firstly, futuristic fiction itself hasn’t been around for long; secondly, technological progress has only in the last century achieved such a speed that we are able to scoff at or feel nostalgic for predictions made during our own life-times. Perhaps this is why retro-futurism currently operates in just three rapidly well-worn modes: steampunk born of Jules Verne’s fantastic voyages and assorted Victoriana; Space Age Americana of The Jetsons kind; and cyberpunk, replete with jacked matrices and augmented beards.

Each week Marsh Davies beams aboard the hostile vessel of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find or otherwise lasers the life support system and surrenders himself to the cold grip of the vacuum. This week, he succumbs to randomised interplanetary peril in Space Rogue, a rogue-like game set in space and strong contender for RPS’s Most Literal Title Award 2015.

Space Rogue is a lot like FTL. Let’s get that out the way. Your ship travels from planet to planet, encountering and resolving brief randomised events. Many of these involve ship-to-ship combat, during which you micromanage your crew – fixing hull breaches, putting out fires, fighting off boarding parties – while ensuring your arsenal is trained upon your opponent’s most vulnerable systems. Here are the two main ways in which it isn’t like FTL: 1) you are free to explore without a fleet of ships chasing you onward and 2) it has 3D graphics.

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Premature Evaluation: Eastside Hockey Manager

By Emily Gera on April 13th, 2015.

As a citizen of Canada, it’s safe to say Paul Newman’s Slap Shot is the single greatest hockey movie of all time.

This is a film so mired in obscurity it’s not even possible to illegally torrent like its thematic cousin The Mighty Ducks, so allow me lay the scene for you instead. Slap Shot is perhaps Newman’s finest work: a comedy from the ’70s about a crappy mill-town hockey team who, after years of crumby results, decides to let their latest acquisitions, three brothers – depicted with glorious thug-moron precision – finally play. The brothers’ savage style of hockey reinvigorates their fanbase and the team is retooled using violence to draw in big crowds.

It’s a wonderful lesson for everyone: Embrace your talents, however impractical, illegal or violent they may be. This is the kind of meat-and-potatoes advice that helped turn Slap Shot into an honourary Canadian sports film and a favourite among the demographic of retirees who like anything vaguely nationalistic, all despite being filmed in Pennsylvania and havinng no Canadian actors.

But it’s a lesson you should follow to a T when playing Sports Interactive’s recently revived Eastside Hockey Manager.

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Premature Evaluation: 3d Bridges

By Marsh Davies on March 30th, 2015.

As will no doubt be evident from this article, I really know approximately fuck all about bridge construction. This despite living close to several historic bridges: the Clifton Suspension bridge, for instance, or Bath’s Pulteney Bridge - one of only four in the world with shops running the full length down either side! Wow! But living in Bath, where the city traffic is perpetually stricken by the paucity of crossings over its multiple waterways, I do have an appreciation for one particular function of bridges: they make excellent chokepoints. There are not a shortage of examples of this throughout military history, but if I were to pick a favourite, then the Battle of Stamford Bridge certainly has a lot going for it: it’s not only one of the most pivotal moments in British history, and has phenomenal military feats on both sides, but it’s preceded by one of the all-time most awesome threats ever to have been uttered.

Each week Marsh Davies scuttles nervously over the creaking, makeshift architecture of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or plunges to his doom amid a shower of twisting metal. This week, he dons his hardhat and unfolds the blueprint for 3d Bridges, a physics-based construction puzzler in which you construct – yes! – bridges and then run a truck over them to test both their mettle and their metal. It also turns out to be standalone level pack otherwise included in the more sandboxy 3D Bridge Engineer toolkit – which is also on Early Access. They are not entirely as terrible as they might first look. Not entirely.

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Premature Evaluation: BloodLust Shadowhunter

By Marsh Davies on March 9th, 2015.

I’m not quite sure why BloodLust capitalises its L, seeing as it has happily existed as a single word for a good long time. Its earliest (hyphenated) appearance is credited to Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton, politician, poet and idiom-machine, known for coining phrases such as 'the great unwashed', 'the pen is mightier than the sword' and the opening line 'It was a dark and stormy night' - which has become so infamous as to inspire San Jose State University to hold an annual competition 'to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels'.

Each week Marsh Davies runs shrieking from the burning sun and into the dark embrace of Early Access, coming back with any stories he can find and/or an inexplicable desire to wear fishnets, a top-hat and tinted pince-nez while hanging around in abandoned Chinese restaurants. This week, let it not be said that BloodLust Shadowhunter’s name is too subtle an evocation of vampire fiction. It is, however, a surprisingly rich thirdperson RPG with a mix of dungeon crawling, urban squalor and janky make-do charm.

I never went through a Goth phase as a kid, but videogames make me wish I had. I can’t help but find their nighttime cityscapes entrancing – even the squalid backalleys of BloodLust Shadowhunter, with their grimy brickwork, sallow sodium lights, overfilled dumpsters and yesteryear polycounts. Perhaps it’s because, in games, such lonely streets are so often the player’s domain. Perhaps it’s because hours of squinting at Sam Fisher’s rubberised buns have trained me to see shadowy, deserted places as a source of empowerment, from which the populace world can be observed and navigated on my terms. Or perhaps it’s because “BloodLustShadowhunter” is my middle name. Yes, there is that, I suppose.

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Premature Evaluation: Medieval Engineers

By Marsh Davies on March 2nd, 2015.

The toothy, undulating stonework battlements is often called crenelation, crenels being the gaps (from which we get the word 'cranny') and the protrusions being called, variously, cops or merlons. It's not entirely clear where the word 'merlon' comes from - conflicting attributions give it a Latin origin meaning pitchfork and, oddly, blackbird. One suggestion is that the word for blackbird is used in this way because it suggests things perched along a wall. Bit of a stretch, I think.

Each week Marsh Davies punches a hole through the vertiginous walls of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or watches with grotesque, wet-lipped arousal as the entire structure disassembles in a shower of hot, hot physics. This week, he makes, then mounts, the battlements in Medieval Engineers, a castle construction sandbox. And then he unmakes them, too.

Once you’ve built a castle in Medieval Engineers, you can look at it, hit CTRL-C, then CTRL-V and paste a brick-for-brick duplicate of your entire complex anywhere else in the level. Including the sky – though they are not wont to stay there for very long. Castles, despite a plethora of idiomatic song titles suggesting otherwise, are very much a ground based medium, and when placed in the sky, they attempt to revert to form, with glorious physics-enabled results.

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Get Lost: Curious Expedition Free Weekend

By Adam Smith on February 28th, 2015.

Curious Expedition [official site] is a wonderful thing. Taking on the role of a famous explorer/thinker, you’ll lead a team of adventurers across randomised plots of land, packed with wonders to discover, dangers to overcome and volcanoes to tinker with. You will watch in horror as your allies resort to cannibalism and you’ll celebrate as you discover salvation when supplies and sanity are running low. You’ll also weep as you eat a donkey.

I’ve written about my own experiences and this weekend you can try the game yourself, for free. It runs in your browser so you won’t even have to download anything. Cancel your evening plans and settle down for adventure.

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Early Impressions: Rimworld

By Alec Meer on February 26th, 2015.

The last few times we looked at top-down sci-fi survival-strategy (is that a thing? Genres are becoming so tricky lately) Rimworld it was merely flirting with the idea of being genuinely playable, but recent buzz had it that the Rimworld was now inhabitable at last. It doesn’t take much to convince me to starve to death on an alien world, so I thought I’d check in.
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Premature Evaluation: Eden Star

By Marsh Davies on February 23rd, 2015.

A drop of fairy liquid and some hot water should sort these fellows out.

Each week, Marsh Davies crashlands into the hostile alien landscape that is Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or an acute appreciation of how precious are the few fleeting moments of life allotted to us on this Earth and whether it really constitutes a full life, a good life, to spend the ever-diminishing number of hours and minutes clicking on virtual trees to turn them into virtual logs. Nevertheless, this week, he survives yet another survival game – this one called Eden Star, in which resource scrabbling is appended with tower-defence-style fortification on a distant planet.

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Premature Evaluation: Monstrum

By Marsh Davies on February 16th, 2015.

Given how utterly terrifying, unknown and lethal the sea has been to humans throughout recorded history, maritime horror is a remarkably underused setting in games. Perhaps it's a British thing, being an island nation obsessed with naval superiority, that stories of ghost ships and sea monsters are so particularly resonant: the largest percentage of our idioms are nautical references. By and large, if you can’t fathom what a phrase means, it probably comes from sailing. In fact, “by and large” and “fathom” are nautical terms. The same goes for: cut and run, toe the line, know the ropes, touch and go. You can build entire statements out of them alone: “It’s not a hard and fast rule, but anyone who is three sheets to the wind is a bit of a loose cannon and should be given a wide berth, even if, normally, you like the cut of their jib.” Nautical terms pop up in unusual places. Slush fund, for example, comes from the practice of hoarding the rancid fat from boiled meat so that it might be sold on at port. Yummy.

Each week Marsh Davies skittishly edges into the gloomy bowels of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or simply hides in a locker and tries not to cry too loudly. This week he dons his brownest trousers and hopes never to face his fears in Monstrum, a firstperson horror game set on a boat that procedurally reconfigures its layout every time you get eaten.

My, hasn’t the Find Some Things While Being Chased By A Thing genre come a long way? Only two and half years ago it was largely consigned to the realms of shonky boo-scare creepypasta homage. Now we have dozens upon dozens of iteratively-improved indie imitators, and even the lustrously-rendered likes of Alien: Isolation, which took Slender’s sandbox-scare principles to the triple-A firmament. You’d think, after all the shrieky reaction-cams, exhaustively explored lockers and soiled pants, that a new entrant of this genre would have to try ever so hard to be as effective – and, to its credit, Monstrum does give an earnest shake to the basics, inasmuch as the procedurally arranged cabins and corridors give its replays a Roguish unpredictability. But, largely, this is a retreat from the fulsome narrative structures of Alien or Outlast to something more simple and, ahem, slender: a gloomy environment and stuff to find in it, before something finds you and permadeaths you through the brain.

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Premature Evaluation: Besiege

By Marsh Davies on February 9th, 2015.

Besiege’s depiction of war is largely that of the middle ages, with a few fanciful additions - flight and the self-powering of your engine being the most obvious. Flamethrowers, though, actually date back quite a lot further: Thucydides attests to something of the sort being used by the Boeotians in the Battle of Delium in 424 BC. It consisted of a large cauldron of pitch suspended at a jaunty angle below a tube through which air was pumped using bellows. The tube curled back into the cauldron’s mouth, farting air into the burning tar and causing huge jets of flame to shriek out, engulfing the wooden defences and anyone foolish enough to be standing on them. Apparently, combined with the erosive infusion of piss and vinegar, the flames would crack stone, too. (The phrase “full of piss and vinegar”, however, seems unrelated, first appearing in John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle some 2360 years later.)

Each week Marsh Davies hurls himself at the colossal walls of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or soaks the earth with the blood of his fallen foes. This week he is catapulted into Besiege, a beautiful, physics-based, build-your-own-ballista game.

Dr Blam is a killing machine. He does not have a medical licence. What he does have is a trio of metal braziers mounted at one end of a large wooden frame, each cupping an oversized explosive ball. The braziers are also attached to springs, stretched taut and fixed to armatures at the other end of the frame. Press a button and the braziers explosively decouple from their moorings while a set of three pistons gives them a little bit of extra lift, the springs contract, and the braziers twang upwards and forwards, slinging their contents in a long arc. Most of the time they even go in the right direction. Dr Blam is not really interested in surgical precision, but if the patient under his tender administration is a castle or a flock of sheep, then a messy lesson in anatomy is guaranteed.

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Premature Evaluation: Tiny Trek

By Marsh Davies on February 2nd, 2015.

RPS Season 8: A diplomatic mission turns into a disaster when Jim kisses the wrong kind of eel. Alice finds Pip hibernating in her favourite pillowcase.

Each week Marsh Davies boldly goes where only a small cadre of erratic and often unintelligible Steam reviewers have gone before – Early Access – and comes back with any stories he can find. This week he sucks in his beer-gut, stretches on his gold spandex top and prepares to beam down into Tiny Trek, a procedurally generated lo-fi space-faring sim.

Back when I lived alone in a graveyard, in a forest, in isolation, and had a lot of time on my hands, I would occasionally entertain myself by trying to impersonate Jean-Luc Picard’s replicator request for “Early Grey! Hot! Black!”, sometimes for hours on end. How we used to laugh, my imaginary friends and I, as I’d command Ensign Woodlouse to take us to warp, or open diplomatic communications with the mould patch in my bathroom that had begun to resemble a screaming face. I can’t have that sort of fun these days because my housemate is liable to walk in and tell me to put my trousers back on. But, suffice to say, I am WELL UP for a digital Star Trek fantasy that offers just the right amount of engagement for my labrador-like attention span.

Unfortunately, Tiny Trek is not it. Not yet.
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Premature Evaluation: Armello

By Marsh Davies on January 26th, 2015.

“This is what the future of George Monbiot’s re-wilding policy looks like,” he typed, realising he would not be able to come up with a less obscure joke by his copy deadline.

Each week Marsh Davies sidles into the shadowy world of intrigue that is Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or a knife in the back. This week, he plugs in his bunny tail and assassinates anthropomorphised animals with an umbrella in Armello, a digital boardgame of machiavellian power plays.

It would take an Australian developer, apparently not content with harbouring the most deadly creatures on the planet, to advocate giving swords to wolves. Real nice, Australia. Real nice. Why not put stilettos into the tiny claws of rats, while you’re at it? How about making bears into deadly wizards? Go on, give rabbits concealed blades disguised as parasols, why don’t you?

Then make them fight. Oh, you did? Oh.

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