Posts Tagged ‘beta review’

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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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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Premature Evaluation: Valhalla Hills

Beer plays an important role in Valhalla Hills and it’s one of the more sophisticated technologies you can develop. Keep your militia well-supplied with booze and they receive a buff to their abilities in combat. This is in keeping with the stereotypical view of vikings as fighty piss-artists - but actually was against Odin’s advice. Among the god’s many sayings, quoted in the Poetic Edda, are a large number of warnings about beer, the pithiest of which is this: “No worse provision can [a man] carry with him than too deep a draught of ale.” Oh, okay, one more quote: “Be wariest of all with ale, with another's wife, and a third thing too, that knaves outwit thee never.” Quite so, Odin. But so many are his proclamations against excessive drunkenness (but not of drinking per se) that we can at least infer that it was a common enough problem. Latin accounts of Germanic tribes, which me might expect to be culturally similar to the vikings, certainly described them as hard drinkers. The Roman writer Cornelius Tacitus recounts with some alarm just how happy these shitfaced barbarians were to resolve disputes with bloodshed during the course of an evening’s revelry.

Each week Marsh Davies attempts to prove his valour beneath the baleful eye of the gods, venturing into the frigid wastes of Early Access and coming back with any sagas he can find. This week he’s been playing Valhalla Hills, a jolly village-building god-game with a Nordic theme.

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Premature Evaluation: Duskers

Duskers’ premise has the player investigating the disappearance of human life from the known universe. Hulks float through the emptiness of space with only the garbled fragments of old log entries as evidence for the existence of their crew. The game puts forward a few different possibilities for you to look into and eliminate, and these suggest an action that humankind takes which inadvertently precipitates its destruction: a nanotechnological experiment gone wrong, creating a grey goo that atomically disassembles human matter, or simply the use of a super weapon so devastating that the resultant chaos causes the rapid decline and extinction of the entire species. But, assuming that humanity survives to become a space-faring people at all, perhaps the larger existential threat is inaction.

Each week Marsh Davies pulls apart the fritzing hulks he discovers drifting through the lifeless void of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or accidentally flushes himself out of an airlock. This week he’s been tentatively probing Duskers, a space-set roguelike in which you remotely operate a crew of drones as they strip derelicts of resources and attempt to uncover the reason for the dramatic depopulation of the galaxy.

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Premature Evaluation: Dungeon Souls

According to the design documents on the game’s Tumblr site, Dungeon Souls dungeon is, in fact, a tower. But that’s actually not inappropriate given the tangled etymology of the word “dungeon”. Dungeon in the sense of a subterranean prison emerges only in the 14th century, and there seem to be conflicting theories as to how.

Each week Marsh Davies wriggles free of his shackles and flees, filthy and naked, from the dank imprisonment of Early Access, bringing you stories of the depravities he endured therein. This week he’s playing Dungeon Souls, a frenetic top-down roguelike in which the player battles through successive tiers of peril, nipping between abruptly spawning enemies and hails of magic bullets.

Titan Souls, Twin Souls, Crystal Souls, Crossing Souls… if Namco ever wanted to stake a claim to that “Souls” suffix, I suspect the horse has bolted, flown to Belize and can now be seen scooting round Tranquility Bay on a jetski, trying to clasp a piña colada between its hooves. But whereas the lack of opposable thumbs ultimately renders this a tragic scene, the existence of Dungeon Souls should be one of celebration, derivative though it is, both in its name and in its action – which borrows heavily from both Nuclear Throne and Spelunky.

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Premature Evaluation: StarCrawlers

I’m writing these alt-texts on what is often now called Mother’s Day here in the UK, but can be helpfully distinguished from the American day of the same name by its more accurate title, Mothering Sunday. The origins of each are different, though intertwined, and certainly the popularity of both celebrations share a common factor: the pain many mothers felt at losing their sons to war - which is definitely entirely relevant to SpaceCrawlers and not at all a wild digression born of my waning attention span.

Each week Marsh Davies plunders the ravaged hulk of Early Access and smuggles out any stories he can find and/or succumbs to the terrors of the interdimensional void. This week he murders robotic wait staff and asset-strips sci-fi dungeons in space salvage RPG StarCrawlers. It goes on sale tomorrow.

Is it any wonder that some members of the gaming community nurse a persecution complex when, in the games themselves, so few people, animals, robots, or multifanged amorphous spacethings are ever pleased to see us? In StarCrawlers, even the cleaning droids and busboys want to have a pop, lobbing chinaware and squirting me with detergent. Admittedly, I am usually there to plunder their derelict spacestation, or sabotage their data centres, or “deliver a severance package” to a megacorp employee who has, in a literal and shortly rectified sense, outlived his usefulness. But still, it is a bit of a hit to the self-esteem that you can’t walk from one room to another without some haywire robot or grotesque alien hatchling flinging itself at you. “Where’s the beef?”, I mutter to the hatchlings, as I ruefully sunder them with psychic horror channelled from the abyssal nightmare of the void.

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