Posts Tagged ‘Early Access’

Poop And Profit: Slime Rancher’s Fantastic Farming

Slime Rancher [official site] is the cutest game about selling shit ever made. Admittedly it’s probably the only game about selling shit ever made, but I don’t know for certain and googling “Shit­selling games” tends to bring up commercial flops like Bulletstorm rather than games that literally involve the flogging of faecal matter.

If you’ve seen anything of Monomi Park’s debut, which slithered onto Early Access a couple of weeks back leaving a silvery trail in its wake, then its love for excrement may come as a surprise. Aesthetically Slime Rancher is a thundering wave of colour, like a circus struck by a tsunami, and the eponymous slimes are so clearly designed to be child­friendly that it’s surprising to discover they have any orifices at all.

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Premature Evaluation: Scrap Mechanic

Please give a warm welcome to Rob Zacny, the new writer of Premature Evaluation. Each Monday he’ll be picking through the detritus of early access to separate the games might one day be assembled into something worthwhile from those which should remain on the scrapheap.

A confession: I think sandbox games are boring.

Which makes their popularity kind of ironic, considering that Jim Rossignol once wondered whether games might one day “banish the curse of boredom from our lives.” If you look at the great majority of popular Early Access games on Steam, you’ll find they are either about sandbox construction and crafting, or about survival, or both.

Entire worlds at our fingertips, all manner of heroes, explorers, and villains to choose from, and yet the surest way to players on Early Access is to leave them with a few building blocks, a lot of room to use them, and nothing else to do. So it is in Scrap Mechanic.

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GOG Starts Selling Early Access Games

In his final Premature Evaluation column on Monday, Marsh said of Steam Early Access: “Developers don’t know what they’re selling, customers don’t know what they’re buying, and I often don’t know what I’m reviewing – each week I play two or three games in the hope of finding one which is recognisable, even loosely, as a product against which even the vaguest expectations might be tentatively measured.”

Today, GOG have started selling early access games. They insist they’ll be “carefully evaluating” games before selling them, and will be kind with refunds. But who will we turn to now Marsh has evaluated himself dry?

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Premature Evaluation: Garbage Day

Keen RPS readers will probably have noticed by now that nearly every Premature Evaluation I’ve written has contained a not-terribly-secret second article in the alt-text, wherein I make a tortuous segue from the subject of the game to some matter of personal fascination to me: ancient phallic statuary, freaky Renaissance paintings, the unluckiest pirate to slap his naked bum in front of a naval officer. That sort of thing. Writing these alt-texts and seeing them being discussed further in the comments, often in much more scholarly detail, has been a true professional highlight for me. So thanks for that. This week, since it’s my last ever alt-text, it’s only right that the subject should be one inspired, not by the game of the main article, but by RPS commenters themselves: after including a glib comment about Oliver Cromwell’s bloody campaign in Ireland in one of my previous captions, one RPS reader suggested that recent research had rather redeemed him - and this (along with Pip Warr’s extensive Cromwell-knowledge) prompted me to make my way through Tom Reilly’s impressive work of investigation “Cromwell: An Honourable Enemy” which seeks to completely overturn the prevailing narrative of Cromwell’s calumny in Ireland.

Each week Marsh Davies descends like a hungry urban gull upon the reeking heap of Early Access, hoping to yank free a tasty treat without choking on a crinkled Space Raiders packet. This week, he’s been stuck in Garbage Day, a game that is nominally about replaying the same looping time period, again and again, until you piece together the mystery and escape your temporal prison. In its current form, however, it’s no more than a colourful but cramped chaos sandbox, in which you can kill and maim cartoonish inhabitants of a highly-smashable town in the knowledge that any consequences will be reset as soon as the clock strikes midnight. But does its eternal present suggest a plan for reaching a less frivolous future?

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Premature Evaluation: Dark Nexus Arena

It’s a little weird that the MOBA, apart from most other competitive multiplayer genres, seeks to contextualise its sport-like bouts of combat with some sort of metanarrative, and weirder still that it’s more or less the same story every time: warriors gathered across time and space to a gladiatorial hyperdimension. Two of them even call it the same thing: the Nexus! It’s not like CounterStrike feels the need to suggest its special forces operatives are condemned to some sort of anti-terrorism limbo in which they play out their battles over and over again for the entertainment of capricious gods. Imagine trying to supply such a narrative for Rainbow Six: Siege, in which, peculiarly, neither side play as terrorists. Have these elite police units been tricked by some Illuminati-like puppetmasters into doing battle with themselves?

Each week Marsh Davies dons his power armour and plunges into the grimdarkness which is Early Access, coming back with any stories he can find and/or succumbing to the nightmarish seductions of the Warp. This week he’s been conscripted into F2P gladiatorial combat in Warhammer 40,000: Dark Nexus Arena, an action-oriented pseudo-MOBA moshpit.

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Early Access Impressions: Force Of Elements

The very best thing about Force Of Elements [official site] is that each character has a set of stock phrases, set to the number keys, that can be barked during play – such that throughout multiplayer battles, I have my big gruff man-thing hero say “I put the cute in execute!” over and over and over and over and over.

Admittedly, this is the very best thing about Force Of Elephants rather by default, as it’s the only thing that stood out. FoE is a puzzle quest clone that wasn’t paying attention while it was copying someone else’s work, resulting – in its beta launch state – in a weirdly shallow game with very little to do. Other than try to drive random opponents into insanity.

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Premature Evaluation: Squad

It’s interesting hearing the barks ascribed to the insurgent soldiers in Squad. They have something of the deep-voiced glowering inflection we’ve come to expect from Western depictions of Islamic terror, but stop short of hysterical appeals to Allah or demands for the blood of the Great Satan. Such depictions of the enemy in popular culture always intrigue me, not because any particular group of people is obliged to be polite to another they consider their enemy, but because mischaracterising or misunderstanding the enemy is one of the greatest mistakes a nation can make - at least according to Sun Tzu.

Each week Marsh Davies is Oscar Mike to the FOB that is Early Access and tries to find at least one thing that isn’t FUBAR. This week he’s been taking on tangos in Squad, a large-scale military shooter which claims to be the spiritual successor to the Battlefield 2 mod Project Reality.

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Sine On: Twinstick Shooter Waves² Enters Early Access

Waves is a splendid game. I first encountered it at the Eurogamer Expo back when I was an RPS baby, and its frantic twinstick shooting and shimmering screen of colours immediately coaxed me into a spaced-out bliss zone. Last year, one-person dev studio Rob Hale launched a Kickstarter to fund a sequel, Waves: Arena Tactics. That didn’t work out quite as intended but Hale reckons that’s all for the best and has now released Waves² [official site] into Early Access. You can see it in action below.

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The Long Dark’s Story Mode Gets First Trailer

The Long Dark [official site] is one of our favourite survival games. John has been playing it on a regular basis and enjoying his treks through the cold wilderness a great deal, despite the daft difficulty levels, which either see him starving to death within minutes of a gargantuan feast, or present no real challenge at all. That he has returned to the game so often is testament to the strength of the hunting, gathering and cowering.

The upcoming story mode might provide a more balanced experience. The first part of the first season will be available in Spring 2016, when the game leaves Early Access, and there are details and a trailer below, as well as a peek at the latest additions to the sandbox mode.

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Premature Evaluation: Tempest

Blackbeard may be the more familiar household name, and bequeathed to us 90 percent of the archetypal pirate look, but it’s Francis Le Clerc to whom we can attribute the appearance of at least one appendage: the peg leg. Indeed, Peg Leg was his nickname (or in his native French, “Jambe de Bois”, and among the Spanish to whom he gave such considerable grief, “Pie de Palo”). Though injuries of this gravity were reasonably commonplace among sailors at the time, it wasn’t that usual for a pirate captain to persist in his career after the loss of a limb. But Le Clerc was a particularly persistent sort of bastard. It wasn’t until Le Clerc had lost his leg and the use of one of his arms while fighting the English, in fact, that his privateering really took off, not only devastating much of Cuba and Panama personally, but acting as a sort of angel investor for other pirates. In fact, he so totally ruined the then capital of Cuba, Santiago de Cuba, that it stopped being the capital altogether. But a feature that deserves to be even more emblematic of pirates than wooden prosthetics is the theme of betrayal, both of them and by them.

Each week, with his beard smouldering and black flag aflutter, Marsh Davies prowls the oceans of Early Access for plunder, slo(o)ping back to port with any stories he can find. This week he’s been further debasing the reputation of pirates on the low-fantasy high-seas of Tempest, a game of naval combat and light ship management.

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