Posts Tagged ‘Early Access’

Bridges The Gap: Poly Bridge Out In Early Access

By Jem Alexander on June 30th, 2015.

Building bridges is hard. Both in the physical and metaphorical sense. Dry Cactus’ new game Poly Bridge [official site] tasks you with helping vehicles of various shapes and sizes across watery chasms using World Of Goo style physics systems. It’s out in Early Access now.

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Premature Evaluation: Train Valley

By Marsh Davies on June 29th, 2015.

Train Valley offers quite a focussed and fun optimisation challenge rather than a sprawling simulation of every aspect of rail management. Nonetheless, it makes some efforts at historical accuracy - at least in terms of the style of the engines you use - setting its challenges across two centuries of rail transport in Europe, America, Russia and (when it gets a later content patch) Japan. The Gold Rush gets a hat tip, as does World War 2 - so it was with a tiny amount of completely irrational sadness that the date of 1864 came and went while playing the game’s European levels, and there was no mention of the One Thing I Know About Railways: the first British railway murder.

Each week Marsh Davies boards the Steam locomotive as it chugs its way through Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or is cannibalised by rabid commuters while delayed in a siding. This week he’s played Train Valley, a chirpy but challenging rail construction sim.

My attempts to run a railway system make a good case for nationalisation: the absurd delays as I reverse trains back and forth over a switch in the track, somehow making the same signalling error each time; the piles of cargo that end up in the wrong town, or so late that its value has completely expired; the destruction to wildlife, farmland and neolithic monuments; the forced relocation of indigenous people. Oh, and the massive loss of life, too, I suppose. At the end of it all, I go bankrupt – and yet they keep giving me another chance.

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Walking With Dinosaurs: Is Ark: Survival Evolved Good?

By Steven Messner on June 24th, 2015.

On my third night in Ark: Survival Evolved [official site], when the sun had finally set and I was left alone in the seething blackness of the jungle, I saw a glimpse of my possible future. I was chopping trees in the dark, too scared to even light a fire for fear of what the warmth might draw toward me, but as another tree toppled with a groan I spied lights in the valley below. I crept closer. Silhouetted in flickering torchlight towered a tyrannosaurus rex, around which a group of hunters darted back and forth, attacking with spears and arrows. Eventually, they hunters prevailed, and, as they set upon the fallen dinosaur with tools to harvest its meat and hides, I faded back into the jungle and began chopping with renewed purpose.

Ark: Survival Evolved is an early access survival game full of these moments – the kind that fill you with trepidation and excitement in equal measure. But for every moment that adds to the enchantment of surviving on an island teeming with prehistoric life, there are just as many capable of frustrating you. Building on a firm foundation well tread by online survival games, Ark certainly has potential, much of it unrealized, but I can’t help but wonder if the claim of Survival Evolved is just too hyperbolic of a statement to make.

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Premature Evaluation: CrossCode

By Marsh Davies on June 22nd, 2015.

The game's tutorial largely takes place on a cargo ship, the Solar, captained by a jetpack wearing tar, who is full of slightly mangled but suitably salty language. This enjoyable seadog stereotype is a rather indelible one, and I suspect it persists in the cultural imagination because, for most of human history, the sea was a thing that would surely fucking kill you, and anybody who made a living dicking about on it had to be either fearlessly stupid or stupidly fearless.

Each week Marsh Davies jacks into the virtual battleground that is Early Access so that his spandex-clad avatar may wrestle with the digital monstrosities therein. This week he’s uploaded himself into CrossCode, a top down 16-bit-styled singleplayer ARPG set within a distant future MMO, where the boundaries between the real and virtual worlds have blurred.

It is a strange vision of the future in which the world’s number one entertainment involves me slapping a hedgehog to death with my balls. These balls are sadly just glowing projectiles, of course, aimed in 360 degrees and fired continuously if desired, ricocheting off walls to hit enemies and switches out of the line-of-sight – but the game does insist on referring to them as “your balls” in a way which is either deadpan mischief or minor mistranslation from the developers’ native German. It is but one of many mysteries in the intriguing world of CrossCode – and a rather natty combat system to boot.

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Premature Evaluation: Lego Worlds

By Marsh Davies on June 15th, 2015.

Will Lego Worlds escape the penises that plague so many other games with user generated content? It’s hard to see a system they could enforce which might effectively root them out without adversely affecting the freedom to create and share worlds. It’s a problem Minecraft has survived, however, without much damage to its image among parents - perhaps because there are just more interesting things to do. Spore probably couldn’t say the same.

Each week Marsh Davies squints at the ambitious blueprint that is Early Access and struggles to work out which bit goes where, and how many pieces are missing, before giving up and, most likely, building a big old cock instead. This week he’s been playing Lego Worlds, TT Games’ attempt to channel the charm of Minecraft’s freeform construction at the behest of their brick-wielding Danish overlords.

Finally, Lego have made a game about Lego rather than the Lego brand. Though they quite possibly only managed that because someone else went and did it first. Every dismayingly poor TT Games platformer I’ve played has only further convinced me that Markus Persson already made the best possible Lego game – and as just one facet of that multifaceted monster, Minecraft. Its shadow looms large over this entire enterprise. Though it’s an enterprise that seems to be getting wise to this fact: some of the recent releases under the Lego brand are, I am told, interesting and ambitious in their own right, and not just quirky minifig rehashes of film properties, draped over a crap but childproof platformer framework. So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that Worlds, too, feels interesting and ambitious – albeit extremely early in its development. There’s not much about it at the moment that Minecraft hasn’t covered in mods, but it’s nonetheless immediate, generous and jolly, its focus shifted away from Minecraft’s complex recipes and resources to simple collection and unfettered creation.

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Early Excess: Quinns Revisits Darkest Dungeon

By Quintin Smith on June 12th, 2015.

Hey! It’s a new and sporadic video series from Quintin Smith called Early Excess, re-visiting Early Access games to see what they are, how development has progressed, and whether they’re any good.

First up: 50 minutes of Darkest Dungeon [official site], a fantasy RPG in which you’re managing your squad’s mental state as much as their stats and inventory.

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Premature Evaluation: Gynophobia

By Marsh Davies on June 8th, 2015.

For a much more provocative and intelligent look at the phenomena of gynophobia, one might turn to Lars von Trier’s film Antichrist. I love Lars von Trier’s films partly because I always know that I will find something violently objectionable in them - but unlike the many shallow attempts at purposeless offence that various right-wing bores attempt to parade as examples of free speech, von Trier’s films are masterworks of trolling which entangle the middleclass arthouse fan in their own hypocrisies and complacencies. I sometimes leave the cinema absolutely furious, and yet somehow delighted, because this fury is a joke at my own expense. It’s a really strange concoction of emotion and meaning, and unlike the work of any other director.

Each week, Marsh Davies roots through the underwear drawer of Early Access and beholds with a mixture of fear and arousal the strange contraptions he finds within. This week, he’s played Gynophobia, a short game about shooting things and being afraid of tits and spiders. There’s even a spider with tits – a lamentable mainstay of monster design that not even Dark Souls could redeem.

Sing with me now:

♫ SpiderTit, SpiderTit, ♫
♫ Let’s be honest, it’s always shit. ♫

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Premature Evaluation: Ronin

By Marsh Davies on June 1st, 2015.

It’s doubly tricky to avoid setting off alarms in Ronin because the levels occasionally repopulate with extra enemies who stumble upon your trail of corpses - corpses which you have no means of hiding. This is a terrible shame because furtively stacking corpses in closets is my number one favourite thing to do in stealth games, and probably also number one in the list of macabre game mechanics that you should not admit to enjoying loudly in public.

Each week Marsh Davies slices open Early Access like the soft belly of a hapless Yakuza goon and roots around inside for any stories he can find. This week he’s playing Ronin – a game about infiltrating 2D-cutaway buildings and dicing their occupants up via a sharp-as-hell turnbased combat system.

“Tip: this is not Gunpoint,” says a little message on the screen. It’s not wrong. While playing Gunpoint, for example, I never punched my monitor so hard that it flickered to a blank white for several seconds, during which I fearfully grovelled in apology to the gods. Ronin is heavily inspired by Gunpoint, however – a fact which, to forestall the needlessly defensive cries of “Clone!”, seems to delight Gunpoint’s creator, my good chum Tom Francis. And regardless of its origins, Ronin now plays really quite differently (not least because of the tantrum-inducing lack of a manual save system). You can still leap across moonlit rooftops in elegant parabolas, scuttle up the sides of skyscrapers and sling yourself through their plate glass windows, but, once inside, the player’s purpose is less about open-ended stealth puzzling than it is strategic slaughter.

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None More Black: Darkest Dungeon Expands

By Alec Meer on May 29th, 2015.

so which one's the Man-At-Arms? Oh, right

Darkest Dungeon is a good time, if your idea of a good time involves people going mad, dying horribly, getting lost in brothels or demanding to be flagellated. If it doesn’t, why not? Pervert. While one of the more robust Early Access offerings it was not without annoyance at launch (Yes, I know full well you’re in distress, Hero! Stop barking at me!) and there was clearly much more to be bolted on. Last night’s Fiends & Frenzy update is the wondrously-narrated team roguelikelike’s biggest step forwards yet.
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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: The Magic Circle

By Marsh Davies on May 18th, 2015.

One of the things I like most about The Magic Circle is its name. It captures the illusory nature of these conjured worlds, their potential for wonder and the artistry that informs them. Celebrated sentient beard and author Alan Moore has, in his mischievous way, declared himself a magician and all art a kind of magic. Defining art as the act of creating illusions to work an effect on the mind of the audience, he claims this is as close to a shamanistic understanding of magic as we have in this century.

Each week Marsh Davies plays unfinished and broken games on Early Access and usually tries to come up with an introductory sentence which says exactly this while using imagery appropriate to the idiom of the given week’s game. But the idiom of this week’s game is being an unfinished and broken game! So, job done. It’s The Magic Circle [Steam page], a game set within a game, in which the player edits the properties of the world around him while exploring the strata of the game’s many abandoned developmental stages, unravelling the story of its creators in the process.

I have tamed Jim Rossignol’s bumhole. I’ve also made Jim Rossignol’s bumhole fireproof, which is just as well, since Jim Rossignol’s bumhole spews gouts of flame when angered. Jim Rossignol’s bumhole has a lightning rod jammed in it, too, which deactivates forcefields. With my latest effort, Jim Rossignol’s bumhole has sprouted a little propeller, allowing Jim Rossignol’s bumhole to fly about. John Walker’s angry red Weeto has many of the same properties, and it should surprise no one that Alec Meer’s huge husky third leg is shaped like a ginormous mushroom.

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Premature Evaluation: Black Mesa

By Marsh Davies on May 11th, 2015.

Alt-text is having a week off to recover from the election. Soz.

Each week Marsh Davies latches onto Early Access like a brain-eating alien parisitoid and slurps up any stories he can find. This week we’re back in Black Mesa [official site] – the classy fan remake of Half-Life 1 in a hybrid version of the Source engine which was used for its sequels. An incomplete release of the project was made available on Steam for free last year, but the Early Access incarnation is a more polished, ongoing, funded development, with additional chapters planned, multiplayer, workshop integration and modding tools.

If the past is another country, then it’s one under constant mnemonic invasion from the present. This is doubly true of moments from a distant childhood, a time when experience was already enlarged so dramatically by the imagination, when the emotional significance of toys, or books, or games far exceeded their actual sophistication – and it is these responses which then endure in memory, rewriting the reality. 22 years of brain death has sneakily uprezzed my recollection of the original Syndicate, for example, transforming it into a glorious cyberpunk cityscape that its crude, mud-paletted pixels have never really deserved. So when I say Black Mesa is every bit as good as the Half-Life I remember playing 17 years ago, you’ll understand that I’m praising something much greater than an act of recreation.

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Jagged Alliance With Skellingtons: Battle Brothers

By Adam Smith on May 6th, 2015.

Mercenaries are great. I’ve never met one in real life, mind, and don’t think I’d want to, but they’re invariably great when they pop up in games. Perhaps part of the appeal is that their apparent amorality lets us play soldiers without considering politics or aftermath – whatever the reasons may be, I’m usually glad to see a band of guns/swords-for-hire. Whether they’re a shortcut to short-term success in a strategy game or the delightful bastards of Jagged Alliance, the mercenaries of gaming are alright with me.

Now we can add Battle Brothers [official site] to the list of Good Mercenary Games. Currently in Early Access, it’s a very lovely thing indeed.

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