Posts Tagged ‘Early Access’

Premature Evaluation: The Political Machine 2016

As ugly as the democratic process can sometimes be, it still has one or two advantages over hereditary monarchy. After all, even the most craven and corrupt politician requires some sort of conniving wherewithal to get into power, though this far from guarantees that they will use it to any decent end. This said - and as The Political Machine suggests - the importance of money and mass-media in the States has eroded the need for any other credential, and with shitbubbles like Trump in the running, you have to wonder if the mixture of inherited wealth and empty celebrity he embodies really does much to set himself apart from the sort of high-born cretins who too frequently took the throne in centuries past.

Each week Marsh Davies unleashes a patriotic aquiline shriek and swoops upon the home of the brave that is Early Access, bringing freedom by way of cash-purchased endorsements and glib media-ready soundbites to all he meets. This week, these skills will hopefully propel him all the way to the White House in The Political Machine 2016 [Steam page], a timely update of the presidential campaign strategy game in which candidates scoot between states, bellowing platitudes to the credulous and smarming their way through interviews while doing everything to sabotage their opponents.

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Premature Evaluation: Cryptark

Cryptark’s title is a bit of etymological fun, as both syllables can mean the same thing. Presumably, the sense they are going for is an ark of the Noachian kind - a ship of biblical proportions, but one which, instead of containing animals two-by-two, has become a burial chamber for its unhappy inhabitants. But the meaning of “crypt” did not always assume it contained dead things - that’s as recent as the mid-18th century. Previously it meant a vault or cavern beneath the ground, bouncing back through Latin to the Greek, kryptos, meaning, simply, “hidden”.

Each week Marsh Davies attempts to retrieve some sort of thematically appropriate salvage metaphor from the Early Access game he’s been playing – which is perhaps too easy when the theme of that game IS salvage. But Cryptark is no stricken husk: it’s already proving to be a truly excellent roguelike shmup. In it, you’re dispatched to disable the security systems of derelict alien space-hulks so that they can be stripped for scrap, one after the other, until you locate the eponymous prize itself, a gigantic vessel chock-full of precious alien tech.

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Five Nights Of Fear: Boogeyman

The Boogeyman (Bogeyman in my lingo) is your typical nightmare creature. An anti Santa Clause, in that it is a threat rather than a promise. Of course, Daddy Christmas can be used as a threat as well: “If you don’t behave, no presents!” That’s a damn sight less intimidating than “tidy your room or a hideous supernatural entity will creep out of your closet and eat you from the toes right up to the scalp” though.

Boogeyman [Steam Page], currently in Early Access, is a game about that entity. It’s a bit like Five Nights at Freddy’s crossed with Among the Sleep.

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Premature Evaluation: Noct

As with so many horror stories, Noct takes place at night. Hence “Noct”. But this association between the hours of darkness and the supernatural or simply monstrous has always seemed slightly weird to me. I mean, I *get it*: humans aren’t terribly good at night. We’re most vulnerable then. It makes sense that we would have cultural associations between nighttime and terrors beyond our control or understanding. But it does seem peculiar that we, the apex predator species on this planet, are so ill-adapted to an environment which is afflicted by darkness 50% of the time. Shouldn’t some branch of homo-whatevers have popped up with a tapetum lucidum, the reflective layer that cats have which bounces light passing the retina back onto the eye’s photo-receptors? Or, better still, simply not have the photoreceptors positioned so they point away from the lens of the eye - an elementary vertebrate mistake! I mean, come on. Uninstall backbone, noob.

Each week Marsh Davies reluctantly edges through the grey, dead land of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find or otherwise gets ripped apart by centipedes. This week he’s been doing quite a lot of the latter in the post-apocalyptic Noct, a creepy top-down shooter, in which you play a succession of survivors attempting to follow a plan relayed to you by a distant radio operator.

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Impressions: Spiritual Supreme Commander Sequel Ashes Of The Singularity

There are this many things on my screen: lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots.

And most of them are exploding.

Ashes of the Singularity [official site] isn’t made by the same people as Supreme Commander (or, for that matter, its forebear Total Annihilation), but there’s no denying what it’s trying to be.

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Premature Evaluation: Epsilon

I wonder: what percentage of hostage taking situations are successfully resolved for the hostage-takers? It’s a hard thing to Google, as the general assumption is, not unreasonably, that “successful” in this context means the hostages are released alive. The hostage-takers, however, need not survive at all. Indeed, while videogames tend to present this situation as one of near mechanical symmetry or at least balance, the forces of the state are, in reality, way OP. Sure, they have the difficulty of not wanting the hostages to expire amid the crossfire, but this is surely countered by the need of the state to confidently extinguish such threats without compromise, lest they be encouraged. The win-condition for the hostage-takers, meanwhile, is assuredly not when they have repulsed or killed an assault force; that is merely a reversion to the starting conditions, but with fewer resources and angrier opponents.

Each week Marsh Davies kicks down the door of Early Access and checks the corners for stories and/or blinds himself with his own flash grenade. But not this week, as flash grenades are not yet a working feature of the pre-alpha Epsilon, a tactical shooter in which you struggle to guide a team of exceptionally inert anti-terrorists using a mixture of pre-planned waypoints and firstperson action.

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Doorways: Holy Mountains Of Flesh Adds New Horrors

I first discovered horror game Doorways [official site] at E3 a couple of years back when Argentinian developer Saibot Studios qualified for the inaugural Indies Crash E3 initiative. At the time, all Saibot had to show was a demo which looked interesting, albeit heavily inspired by Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Later that year, Doorways’ first couple of chapters landed on Steam; I was fond of them, but they were a little over-reliant on jump scares. So it was nice to see the developers take stock before releasing the far more accomplished Doorways: The Underworld last year, and the Holy Mountains Of Flesh series earlier this year – the second act of which is out now.

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Isometric Action: Brigador Stomps Into Early Access

What, or who, is a brigador? I’m not sure, but it seems to involve rocking around futurecities in legged, tracked, and hovering vehicles blowing the heck out of hordes of enemies so… whatever it is, I’m onboard.

Looking a touch like Syndicate with customisable deathbots, isometric shooter Brigador [official site] today launched into Early Access. I realise I’m a day early to formally tell you What I’m Playing This Weekend, but: it’s this. I will be playing Brigador.

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Premature Evaluation: Angels Fall First

One of the emerging themes of these alt-texts appears to be how useless humans are at anticipating anything outside of their immediate experience - whether that’s preparing for a fringe weather event like a flash flood or appreciating the essential inhumanity of a non-biological super intelligence. It’s particularly true in science fiction, where we frequently find implausible projections of earth-bound 20th century life. I think I’ve quoted Solyaris’s drunken scientist before, as he complains how inward-looking humanity is in its pursuit of the stars: “We just want to extend the earth up to the cosmos's borders. We don't want any more worlds. Only a mirror to see our own in.” There’s nothing more emblematic of this than our inability to imagine space combat in anything other than direct analogies to 20th century naval and aerial warfare.

Each week Marsh Davies screeches out the airlock as part of a frontline assault upon the forces of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or makes no appreciable difference to the war effort whatsoever. This week he’s fodder for the 64-man battles of Angels Fall First, a promising indie alternative to the likes of Battlefront, with space combat to boot.

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Premature Evaluation: The Flame In The Flood

Considering how large floods figure in the early myths of nearly every culture on the planet, they have been a surprisingly unpopular trope in Western apocalyptic fiction during the course of the last century. Despite terrible floods ravaging parts of the third world during my life-time - I particularly recall the news footage from Bangladesh in the 80s and 90s - it has really taken the advent of personal documentation with mobile phones and YouTube, as was proliferate in the flooding of New Orleans and the Japanese tsunami, to really bring home the incredible human horror of such events. So much so that even Hollywood was able to look piteously upon the reefs of corpses revealed by the receding floodwaters of Thailand’s 2004 tsunami, and ask, “Gosh, but what if it had happened to white people?” - as in The Impossible, starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. Maybe such films do good, in a cynical, roundabout and kinda racist way; maybe that “what if” is really the only way to engage a complacent Western audience in sympathy with people of another skin colour. But I’m not convinced. I tend to think films like The Impossible permit a kind of callow self-pity, allowing a privileged audience to dip into the suffering of another people and come out unscathed, while at the same time reinforcing the notion that the outside world is a place full of chaos and death.

Each week Marsh Davies paddles through the polluted torrent which is Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find, or otherwise tumbles overboard and lets himself sink beneath the surging water. This week he’s been fighting against the tide in The Flame In The Flood [official site], a survival game set in a drowned world, in which a girl and her dog paddle between islands looking for resources – then eventually fail to find them and die.

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