Freeware Garden: Astrox

Wow. Having failed to play Elite: Dangerous and having recently been told that ignoring such games as EVE Online was criminally silly, I had forgotten just how compelling open world space trading and combat games can get. And, unprepared like this, I ran into Astrox and barely made all the deadlines I was supposed to.

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Evac Shuttle: Space Station 13 Remake Open-Sourced

Shiny new medistuff.

Space Station 13 sits high on my list of Favourite Games I’ve Never Actually Played. When chums started talking about their space station adventures – mixing toxic drinks in the bar, turning people into clowns as a space-wizard, amputating crewmates’ bottoms to turn into autonomous cyborgs – I assumed they were talking about a pen & paper RPG. Nope. It’s a mystifyingly complex multiplayer sandbox, somewhat hindered by being built in a hacky way. I had hoped to jump onboard with its upcoming standalone remake, but development slowed over the years. With life imposing, the remakers have open-sourced their work so others can take over.

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Livestream ‘Em Up: Steam Broadcasting Out Of Beta

Stream-o!

The sky, rivers, my eyes, this pustule on my hip go on take a good look get right up close is it meant to be this colour and smell like that it seems wrong – everything is streaming lately. Steam’s at it too, as Steam Broadcasting left public testing last night and came to the main client.

It builds in support for livestreaming of games and whatever else you fancy, really, but doesn’t feel like a direct competitor to Twitch. It seems more personal, more intimate, and over the beta I’ve mostly used it with friends wanting to show me something. “Isn’t this puzzle garbage?” they ask. “See how poorly I sneak!” they blush. It seems a nice and easy setup for that, at the very least.

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“Like SpaceChem… In 3D”: Infinifactory Early Access Out

Yeah, you make those things!

A new game from Zach Barth is probably something to coo and poke and beam and gawp at, even as an Early Access release. His past games including the Minecraft-inspiring Infiniminer and RPS-pleasing SpaceChem, and his latest looks to combine elements of the two. Infinifactory is a sandbox puzzler about building and optimising production lines to create products to please your alien overlords. They always take a hard line on slacking and slop, alien overlords do.

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Premature Evaluation: Vagante

Vagante is Italian, if you’re wondering. Or rather, if you’re wandering. It means “wandering”, is what I’m saying. So, that’d be a hard “g” with an audible trailing “e”.

Each week Marsh Davies shuffles apprehensively into the dank catacombs of Early Access and returns with any stories he can find and/or a faceful of cycloptic bat guano. This week he quaffs an unidentified cyan potion and throws himself onto a bed of spikes, repeatedly, in procedural permadeath platformer Vagante, a particularly Roguish Spelunkalike.

Did you play Spelunky and think, “What this really needs is to be a lot darker, with several additional layers of complication and a much less parseable tileset”? Somebody out there did, and judging by the wholly positive Steam reviews, at least 68 other folk did as well.

I can’t claim to be one of these strange, troglodytic creatures, but then I also must confess that it took me many concerted attempts before I finally fell beneath Spelunky’s subterranean charm. Maybe it’ll happen with Vagante. It hasn’t quite yet – although some several dozen misadventures later, I am warming to it. It manages that rare trick, as Spelunky did, of making failure the most entertaining part. It’s certainly the most plentiful. My sorties into the underworld have ended in the digestive cavities of man-eating plants, as demon-dog dinners, beneath boulders, in spike-pits and in pieces, thanks to the Bandit King’s axe. But throughout, my most dangerous enemy has been myself – my incaution, my stupidity, my insatiable desire to immediately glug every pungent, bubbling concoction I find in the bottom of a barrel. If I discover a helmet made out of jelly, I’m wearing it. And then, when I realise it’s cursed, I’m going to drink my unidentified inventory dry, set myself on fire, and teleport into a pool of piranhas.

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Quickfire Tactical Mexican Standoffs: Flamingo!

No you flamin' go!

Flamingo! is dressed up (quite prettily) as a Mexican standoff ’em up, but it’s not about twitchy eyes and quick fingers. Still in development, it’s a two-player tactical sort of a thing where players try to position their banditos to hold up banks and grab cash while covering their backs against the enemy’s armed animals. It’s the sort of game which sounds like it could’ve been a quickfire board game, but will benefit hugely from being able to match random folks across the Internet. Here, come watch the trailer which brought it to my attention:

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Shadow of More-dor: Playing With Permadeath In The DLC

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor came out last year to widespread appeal. Sure, the combat’s just a gorier, hyper deadly version of what we’ve already seen in the Batman Arkham games. Yeah, open world icon assassination was clearly lifted from Assassin’s Creed. But this time those icons were orcs, with actual memories and personalities, balanced on a power structure which the player was free to tinker with.

It’s great, but by the end of the game, messing with those systems felt unnecessary. You were powerful enough to just wade into the fortresses and kill your targets willy-nilly. What’s held my attention instead are the extra modes added since launch (one free, the rest paid-for DLC), which allow you to play the game as something approximating a roguelike. The free ‘Test of Defiance’ is the only mode that actually limits you to a single death, but it also doesn’t randomize the enemies or require you to gather intel on them.. Instead, I’m playing the ‘Test of the Wild’, which tasks you with ‘killing all 5 Warchiefs plus all 20 Captains’. I’m only giving myself one life, and to make things more interesting I’ll only use runes which I find as I play, ignoring the haul I gathered while playing the main game. Bring it on, hordes of Sauron.

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