Hoard is an indie game for Windows and OS X that turns traditional fantasy games on their head. In Hoard, you play a dragon, and it’s your job to fight off knights, pillage villages, steal gold and gems from travelers, and protect your hoard from would-be thieves.
Hoard is a casual game, but it has a lot going for it that more hardcore gamers would appreciate. It plays like a cross being a real-time strategy game and a board game, without the turn-based play common with angled top-down views.
You can play it solo, or compete with AI and/or real people to build the largest horde possible in a limited amount of time. You have to constantly fend off thieves and pesky knights that attempt to infiltrate your hoard. You can kidnap princesses, raise villages, and even burn fields in order to take valuables back to your stash.
It’s fun, addicting, and worth picking up if you want a game that lets you play the bad guy in 15 minutes or less.
WWE SuperCard is a wrestling-inspired card game for iOS and Android launched about a week and a half ago which has already been downloaded a whopping 1.5 million times.
It is a free to play card game with optional paid boosters allowing you to pick more cards outside of the ones you receive through exhibition and tournament play.
I found playing without paying to be very easy, and I have no problems competing in tournament play without the extra cards. You just have to play a little longer to level up your team and find better cards.
In WWE SuperCard, you go head-to-head with other players in what appears to be simulated competition where you are competing against real people, but not in real-time.
In the King of the Ring tournament mode, all battles are simulated and the 45 rounds of play take place over a period of 48 hours, enabling you to switch out your competitors and boost cards as the competition progresses.
Gameplay is very simple and straightforward. Exhibition challenges enable you to quickly draw more cards after each match, and you can level up team members by sacrificing lower-powered cards you’ve gathered which boosts the stats of the team.
It’s a lot of fun, if you like card games. If you prefer a more wrestling-oriented game, you will probably be disappointed.
Desktop Dungeons is a quick-play dungeon crawler from QCF Design that boasts short, 10-minute missions that allow you to get your gaming in during your coffee break.
Each randomly-generated dungeon gives you roughly 10 minutes of gameplay. You can generally speed through each zone in far less time than that, but there is some level of strategy involved if you want to keep your character alive.
The goal of Desktop Dungeons is to build your kingdom by completing a series of dungeon crawls. It’s basically a very loose take on a kingmaker campaign you might find in Dungeons and Dragons.
Where it differs is that you can not only complete an entire fight a few clicks, but you regenerate health and mana by uncovering dark areas of the dungeon. The more you explore, the more you regenerate.
One trap I found myself falling in to constantly was that I would explore the entire dungeon before taking on the enemies I found. This left me vulnerable as damage taken from one enemy couldn’t be recovered unless I had some potions handy.
As you explore the dungeon, you can pick up power-ups that add spells to your list of weapons against the foes you come across. Some spells allow you to demolish or build walls, while others have more practical battle applications. My personal favorite allows you to hurl a fireball at your opponent to weaken them before you go in for the kill.
Desktop Dungeons is unforgiving, and difficult to master. At the same time, it’s quick and easy to play in bursts of about ten minutes or less. This makes it a good choice for hardcore gamers and casual gamers that aren’t afraid of a challenge.
For many, few things are as frightening as a haunted house. Typically, you would be able to escape the terror by leaving the house, but what if the things that haunt you the most are in your own mind?
Layers of Fear takes you on a journey through the twisted world of a painter gone insane. The horrors that surround him are sometimes subtle, yet often disturbing.
As you make your way through this beautiful historic home, the line between reality, imagination, and the supernatural are not only blurred, they’re downright erased. Your goal is to finish your masterpiece, inspired by the events that unfolded in the artist’s life.
The game itself is very linear. You are taken through a story that has definitive progression, but it doesn’t feel as confined as other titles in its genre. You can freely explore the house, ruffle through draws and cabinets, and look at objects that give you added insight into the story.
You can enter some rooms and turn around to find that the door you entered through is no longer there. Walls shift and move as you look around, and most of the action happens when you aren’t looking in that direction.
You can basically do two things. You can walk, and you can interact with an object in front of you. There are no tools or weapons. You might find a key that you will use to unlock something, but for the most part you are at the mercy of the game’s linear mechanics.
You are there to experience a story, not change its direction.
Jump scares, which are a very common and cheap method of injecting fear into the gameplay experience, are thankfully scarce. You find yourself anticipating the next event for some time, thinking that every cabinet door, every drawer, and ever step is the one that will set off the next supernatural event.
This is exactly what separates a cheap horror game from a good one, and Layers of Fear paints (pun intended) a story that unfolds in a very unnerving way.
The scare tactics used in Layers of Fear are subtle. Things change as you look around, doors are replaced by brick walls, characters in paintings change facial expressions, door handles rattle, and yes, there are the occasional jump scares that leap through the screen and slap you around… figuratively.
Audio and Video
The graphics in Layers of Fear are really good for the genre. A lot of horror games have blocky, unrealistic graphics that make immersion difficult. Layers of Fear took the approach of realistic models, and an interactive environment where you can do things like turn faucets on and knock over physics objects.
Details are rock solid, such as rain drops on the windows casting shadows against opposing walls. Lighting is used masterfully, and every shadow appears as though it was put there for a purpose.
The audio is good. It’s realistic enough that wearing headphones puts you in the world. You hear the rain patter against the glass, the floor creak under your footsteps, and the undeniable sound of someone lurking… right behind you!
Layers of Fear is an early release title, and as such what you get upon downloading is about an hour worth of gameplay and an unfinished story. Based on what the game makers have set up thus far, I’ll be very interested to see how it ends.
With public interest in other-world colonization at an all-time high thanks in part to books and movies such as The Martian by Andy Weir, a survival real-time strategy game like Planetbase is well positioned for success in the PC gaming market.
In Planetbase, you control a new off-world colony being established on one of three planet types, each with a higher degree of difficulty. The first planet type you tackle is very similar to Mars.
Your challenge is to direct a team of workers, engineers, biologists, security, and medics to create a colony using supplies that arrived with them before oxygen deprivation, starvation, thirst, or natural dangers of the world take them out.
The first thing you need to do upon starting Planetbase is set up a base consisting of an oxygen generator, entryway, solar and/or wind power, water generator, dining hall, and sleeping quarters for your team. All this has to happen before your team runs out of oxygen, starves, or dies of thirst.
As your base expands, you can take on new colonists and trade with trade ships that dock as they pass through the area. You have to scale up your base and support it, which is a lot harder than it sounds.
You can grow plants in a greenhouse, create synthetic protein in a lab, and trade for food from traders. If you run out of food, your colonists will quickly starve and eventually die.
Power is a constant problem for a growing base. You have to generate enough power through solar and wind generators to keep the lights on, and store enough power to last you through periods of still winds and night-time darkness.
Your colonists regularly suffer injuries during their work which requires medical treatment in the sick bay. This means having medics and supplies to treat them on-hand. Injury will keep a colonist from doing their job at efficiency, and untreated injury can result in death.
Engineers are constantly repairing things. Meteors, sandstorms, and solar storms will pummel your base and destroy your equipment. It’s your job to make sure your engineers have spare parts and clear access to the areas of your base that need repair.
Intruders can ruin your day. They sneak into your base and start blasting away any and all of your colonists until they either defend themselves or a security guard shows up and guns the intruder down.
Water and oxygen are also a very limited resource, and you have to generate enough of both to keep your base self-sustaining. Too little oxygen will suffocate your colonists. Too little water not only creates thirst, but can shut down your oxygen generators, greenhouses, and other resources that depend on water to work.
Planetbase plays like pretty much any other real-time strategy (RTS) game. Except in Planetbase, you’re not competing with another player. You’re competing with the harsh environment of the planet for survival.
There is a single contextual menu that you interact with in the upper-left corner of the screen enabling you to control, build, and access reports for almost every aspect of your base.
I found the user interface intuitive and easy to learn, but having the option to command each colonist and assign them to specific jobs would be a huge plus. You find yourself waiting for a colonist to “get around” to doing something you’ve set up.
Often, jobs like bringing trade goods inside and putting them in storage is completely overlooked by your colonists and the supplies end up spoiling in the open environment. Meanwhile, colonists are laughing and drinking in the bar and you have no way to force them to get to work.
Audio and Video
The soundtrack of Planetbase is very well adapted to the environment. It’s a bit repetitive after a while, but it’s quiet and subtle enough not to be overly annoying.
Graphics are fair. You don’t get to zoom in quite enough to see details of your colonists, but for the most part the graphics are borderline cartoony. In this aspect, Planetbase looks like a washed down version of the Sims.
The planet surface itself is gorgeous, but environmental factors such as sandstorms look like flat sprites that sweep across the landscape.
At $20, Planetbase is a very reasonably priced indie game. It poses a great challenge to even the most seasoned strategy game players, and has enough versatility to offer many hours of entertainment.
Planetbase has no campaign or storyline, so it’s definitely not for players that enjoy storytelling with their gaming experience. It’s more geared towards the science lovers that love challenging and often unforgiving gameplay.
The Ritual on Weylyn Island is advertised as a first-person survival horror game set in a remote island. You play Moira Weylyn, a 22-year-old visiting her grandfather’s remote island to meet with her family and hear the reading of his last will and testament.
Upon arrival, you quickly discover that all is not well on the island. Your goal: find your family and escape the horrors of Weylyn Island.
The story told throughout this game is pretty interesting. The heavy influence of classic horror stories is apparent, with a lot of the typical horror elements present.
You are alone, you have to venture through unknown territory in search of someone, and you are never safe.
The way the story is told comes off a bit rushed. From the moment you arrive at the island, the main plot points are laid out in the first five minutes of game play.
Gameplay is pretty standard for a first-person perspective title, however you will not be wielding any weapons here. Your interaction with the environment is limited to opening doors, picking up objects, and interacting with objects to make sure your survival.
One jarring element of gameplay involves the quasi-cutscenes where the character’s head is taken over by the game to direct the player’s view to match the narrative.
I found myself wanting to look around or focus on specific objects while the character was speaking, but this control is locked out so you end up just going along for the ride.
Bugs are clear throughout the game. Picking up a wallet and looking at the ID inside before putting it in your pocket may result in the wallet being left in suspended animation in mid-air.
Object choice is picky. You have to hover over the exact right spot for things to work.
Graphics are indicative of the games’s indie DNA. It would be leading in 1998. Blood has a density to it that sits on top of objects and not soak in or stain them.
That said, there is no less of a feeling of absolute urgency and horror when you are being chased through the house by what would seem to be crazed madmen.
The voiceover work in The Ritual on Weylyn Island is pretty good, but the sound mixing could use some work. As you enter the island your short conversation with the boatman is poorly mixed, taking you out of immersion for a moment.
You can hear microphone elements throughout the voiceovers, as well. At certain points, it becomes obvious that you are playing a game and not being immersed in this virtual world.
Sound effects, however, are well used. Hearing someone scratching at the door you’re praying doesn’t open, the sound of water and rain, etc. are well done. As long as no one is talking, I found myself becoming extremely immersed despite the simple graphics.
The Ritual on Weylyn Island achieves its goal of delivering an interesting story, an element of urgency and horror, and all this despite its outdated graphics and basic audio mixing.
At $9.99 this is a reasonably priced title. Unfortunately, it has to compete with a swarm of other horror indie games that feature better graphics, superior audio, and an equally gripping story.
If I were to recommend a gaming mouse priced at under $28, you might think I was crazy. That is, until you put your hands on the Redragon M801 Mammoth.
The Redragon M801 Mammoth is priced on par with the lowest of the low end gaming mice, at that sweet spot where you might expect to find a decent three-button mouse for office use. Gaming mice are held to a much higher standard, often demanding high price tags and features such as variable color options and sensitivity settings.
But somehow, the folks at Redragon have managed to pack the Mammoth with exactly the right features to qualify it as a high-end gaming peripheral you would expect to easily pay three times as much (or more) for.
Build and Design
If the Redragon M801 Mammoth were made by Apple, it would be described as unapologetically plastic. This isn’t necessarily a detriment to the device, especially with its generous rough coating that provides plenty of comfortable grip throughout its top and sides.
At its base, you will find a small opening containing weights that you can add and remove as needed. With all of the weights in place, the mouse has a good, quality density to it that makes it glide smoothly across the mouse pad on its teflon feet.
Build quality is exceptional, especially at its price point. The left and right buttons are a bit light on the click sensitivity, often registering clicks if I fidget a bit with the surface of the buttons.
The scroll wheel reminds me very much of the one included on the Razer DeathAdder, a $70 gaming mouse with a similar color-changing light feature.
Speaking of color-changing lights, there are four different areas of the mouse that light up, each with a different color. The software focuses on the lights at the top of the mouse, where your palm rests. The volume/sensitivity adjustment buttons also light up, but their color seems to be linked to which of the five sensitivity settings are currently selected.
As a special extra touch, the Mammoth features a red and black threaded USB cord that is exceedingly difficult to tangle and looks great.
Perhaps most uncharacteristic of a sub-$30 mouse is Redragon’s driver software. In this software, you can configure a number of things, including:
Double Click Speed
5 User Profiles
I found the software easy to use, and generally well designed. Button assignments especially were super intuitive, and generously accessible.
If there is one drawback I noticed, it would be that changing the colors for the lights in the scroll wheel and front of the mouse were not readily accessible. Also, “Close” is a confusing term here. Disabled would make a bit more sense.
At $28, the Redragon M801 Mammoth delivers in the value department. When it comes to getting your money’s worth, the Mammoth is near the top of its class.
In an industry where you tend to get what you pay for, the Mammoth is certainly an exception.
Her Story isn’t your typical game. In fact, it’s about as avant-garde as any game you’ll find. It’s a mystery story with tons of plot twists and subtle nuances that plays more like a movie than it does a game. What makes Her Story so unique, is that you direct every scene of that movie through your own investigative work.
Her Story gives players access to a police database of archived video footage that covers seven interviews from 1994 featuring a British woman responding to questions surrounding the case of her missing husband.
The interface for the game is an old computer running an operating system very similar to very early Windows or OS/2. There is really just one character throughout the majority of the game, and her presence is captured in full motion video.
To make things interesting, the clips you sort through aren’t sorted by date or time, nor are they categorized. You have to search for them using keywords present in the dialogue of the woman. Each clip gives you very subtle clues about what the following clip would contain.
Graphically, Her Story is not beautiful, but this is the intention. It’s an old terminal that gives you access to old, blurry archived footage of a woman speaking in an echo-filled room about her missing husband.
You have the ability to get rid of the dirty computer screen overlay so everything looks a bit more clear, but that’s really all you can do to change the way things look.
The story itself is outstanding. Through your Google-like methods of investigation, you will uncover an incredible tale. Acting is not only superb, but the actress, Viva Seifert, received both the Best Performance and Best Narrative awards at the 2015 Game Awards.
Is it worth the $5.99 cost of admission? Absolutely. You won’t be fighting zombies or wrecking your rocket car in Her Story, but you will experience a classic mystery set in an unusual environment.
Prospekt is a New Half-Life Game Made By Fans, for Fans
It’s not Half-Life 3, but it’s certainly something. Prospekt is a new game built with Valve’s blessing by 25-year-old developer Richard Seabrook. What started as a simple demo for a job application to the popular gaming company has turned into a full-fledged game.
Rather than picking up where Half-Life 2: Epsidoe 2 left off, Prospekt is a continuation of the story introduced in Half-Life: Opposing Force.
In Prospekt, Gordon Freeman is cornered and being overrun by soldiers in the Nova Prospekt prison; the player controls US Marine Adrian Shepherd – the unsung hero – as he’s teleported in by Freeman’s Vortigaunt allies to help fight back.