Dire Vengeance, co-created by my friend and jiu-jitsu training partner Karl Espiritu, along side Adam Seger, has recently been added to Kickstarter. I play-tested this game a while back, and even way back then I could feel the extreme promise that it has. As it is accurately described on the Kickstarter, "Dire Vengeance is a retro 2D action platform video game inspired by classics like Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden and Ghouls 'n Ghosts". A ton of hard work and dedication has gone into this project, and I'm hopeful it will get the backing it deserves.
In Evoland, you experience the evolution of RPGs by frequently unlocking new features (e.g. weapons, radar, and a mini-game), technology (pre-rendered environments, 3D, colors), and design elements (e.g. puzzles, combos, and secrets). Cliches are ingrained in every moment. Yet cliches don't feel like cliches, but rather they evoke the warming sensation of nostalgia. The experience is more akin to a history lesson, or a virtual game museum, than a standard RPG, sprinkled with jokes and jabs at moments and characters made famous by games like The Legend of Zelda, Diablo, and Final Fantasy VII.
The experience is short, making this less of a complete RPG and more of a brief walk through time. Essentially, Evoland is a taste of the integral pieces that have been built over the many years. Yet the foundation is so solid it beckons for a story-driven sequel.
The Walking Dead: Michonne, a three episode gaming experience, is the most recent The Walking Dead edition from Telltale Games. It follows a similar structure as the previous titles, yet falls short of emulating their success primarily due being limited in time, depth, and character development.
All in all, Michonne doesn't have the same gritty and dark feeling of previous iterations, which is mainly lacking due to the short experience that doesn't allow for true depth. The game really feels like it is about to take off right as it is ending.
In no particular order:
• Evoland - Evolve from GameBoy to PS1
• Dragon Quest VIII - It’s 3D
• Venture Kid - Essentially old school Megaman
• Battleheart Legacy - Missing the story element, but a fun action/adventure RPG
• Device 6 - Unique puzzle/mystery game
• Final Fantasy 6 - Classic goodness
• A Dark Room - It will make you question yourself
• Walking Dead: The Game - Deep, dark, gritty, and an emotional rollercoaster
• Zombie Highway: Driver’s Ed - Strangely addictive
• Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions - Classic strategy, tactical RPG
• Year Walk - Like living in an old, dark, European story book where the environments and creatures are as scary as they are bizarre
• Shining Force - Another classic, turn-based tactical RPG
• Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery - Beautiful design with an amazing soundtrack
• Orbital - Incredibly simple design done right
• Kingdom Rush - Fun, silly, and strategic
Recently I wrote a post about my love/hate relationship with the game The Walking Dead: No Man's Land. As part of that post I offered a list of design ideas, and today I want to expand that list with some additional thoughts.
Since writing that last post a ton of work has gone into improving this game, which I applaud, and I hope the momentum can continue forward. I also hope some of my ideas are helpful to the developers (if they see this).
Ideas from previous post:
I want to love this game. I really do.
I’m a huge fan of the Walking Dead comic and show, as well as the zombie genre as a whole. But this game…oh this game. A mixture of the now cliche Clash of Clans style freemium gameplay mixed with the tactical strategy games of old, The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land feels like an ongoing experiment in bad game design, put forth for all to cringe at as the developers slowly massage it into something presentable. Yet beneath the layers of grinding and clicking is the framework for something special. Something that desperately wants to come to life. There is so much room for growth, however, in its current form, The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land is a menagerie of lackluster, unbalanced, and lame design decisions, sprinkled with obnoxious pop-ups and ads.
The pie chart below shows how I find my time is typically spent in this game, with an explanation of each slice. At a high-level, you will notice a trend where I argue that the most interesting features are where you spend the least amount of time, and vice-versa, which is primarily a failure due to the lack of content and feature diversity.
Upgrading - Behind the safety of the town wall, players can build crops, storage areas, and stations for upgrading players and gear. While on the outside of the wall, with a recently added feature, players can now add and upgrade a walker pit. Supplies are spent to upgrade buildings, gear, and characters. Supplies which are obtained overtime and by scavaging. After the first couple of days of play I found that building and upgrading is an activity that is extremely infrequent, even after spending hours grinding to gather additional supplies.
Story Mode - The story mode is, by far, the most interesting aspect in the game, and unfortunately it’s what players will find they will spend only a tiny fraction of time participating in. What gets so utterly frustrating about the story mode is how infrequent it can be played, because the difficulty curve is an insanely steep arch. Rather than including more levels that can be played more frequently, the developers opted for a drought of content that is stretched so thin that it cannot even be enjoyed.
Raiding Outposts - Every time there is an update I get excited again, hoping for some fun, new features. And occasionally there are new features that, unfortunately, always feel flat, like a quarter of an idea, birthed from the womb far too early. Outpost raiding is one of those recent additions, where players build their own defensive outpost and raid the outposts of others in search for yet another type of resource. Raiding feels far too formulaic, not only in the limited environments, but in terms of strategy as well: kill the walkers, which charges your special skills, then unleash a flurry of your skills on the human enemies.
In short: great framework, terrible design, obnoxious ads, and an extreme lack of unique content.
Next, I want to offer up some suggestions, that I feel could greatly improve this game:
I’m at that point again where I’m ready to, once again, uninstall. I’ll check back in again, one more time, and hope the positive elements of this game have been amplified, and the negatives have been sorted out.
I grew up playing Dragon Quest games (or Dragon Warrior as we knew it here in the states) on the NES, which for me and many others, was an introduction to the console world of RPGs. At the time, I had a vague understanding of dungeons and dragons, had seen fantasy movies, and had read the Hobbit, so this type of world, at this point, was already very appealing to me. But after the NES days, I never experienced the later iterations of Dragon Quest, as they somehow fell off my radar.
Fast forward to 2016, and we now have a collection of these games available on the iPhone. Many balk at the mobile price tag for this game, accustomed to 99 cent titles and modern, freemium games. What they don't realize is that this is a deep experience, packed with content that you don't get with most modern, cheap games (and unlike many modern mobile games, there isn't any in-game purchases).
I recently completed the game, and am listing out what I feel are the "good" and the "bad" of DQVIII. Of course, I am omitting critiques one would make with modern games, this being about 12 years old. However, I am including criticisms about the platform of which I experienced it on (the iPhone 6s). Lastly, be aware that there are light spoilers below, although nothing that would ruin the experience.
Battleheart Legacy is a fun, action RPG, dungeon crawler, filled with campy humor, clean visuals, and interesting layers, but with some missed opportunities.
Gameplay & Combat
As with many RPGs, you can customize your equipment layout in order to maximize your skill set, such as by equipping weapons and armor that raise intelligence for spell casting. You aren't forced to pick a specific class, such as rogue or bard, and can actually mix skills from various classes to make for interesting battle combinations. At first I dabbled in a variety of classes and skills, in order to feel them out. My focus eventually was on the ranger class, with supporting skills mainly from the bard (charm) and necromancer (skeleton minions).
The battle system is seamless and easy to learn. Details like being able to queue up your next ability while your current ability is being initiated allows for a smooth combat experience.
However, combat becomes quite repetitive after a while. At first, a new combination of skills and fighting new enemies makes for a dynamic battle, but once you settle into your favorite skills and have learned how enemies behave, the battles get stale and formulaic.
The biggest issue with this game is the lack of activity and content starting around level 18, which left me attempting dungeons prematurely and battling in the arena with little success. I found myself slowly grinding to gain experience, replaying previous dungeons or getting smashed in high level ones. And this process carried on until the very end of the game. With just a little more content sprinkled in from level 18-30 the game could be infinitely more enjoyable, as it would maintain the steady cadence that the first half of the game provides.
When you traverse the world map, you sometimes get drawn into random encounters. Unfortunately the enemies do not scale in terms of difficulty, so you will quickly be one-hitting baddies. Having scalable world map battles would also help solve for the lack of content in the latter half of the game that I mentioned above.
There's not much story in this game; Don't expect to see a complex backstory to accompany our hero. In fact, don't expect any backstory, and don't expect him to be much of a hero either. There is some information here and there about the kingdom and history, but it's incredibly minimal. Overall, the major lack of story is a huge, missed opportunity.
The only character defining elements in this game are the moments when you have the option to be nice or mean, which can translate to a sassy response or killing a stranger begging for mercy.
Bugs & Suggestions
I really enjoyed this game, at least at first, and then I got frustrated when the content got thin and combat got stale. Overall, its an enjoyable title that's worth checking out, and I'm eagerly hoping for a sequel that leverages the structure that has been created here, but with more content and preferably some story as well.
Recently I created a mini Star Wars terrarium, complete with miniature Yoda, and these are the steps I took to make it. In the future I plan to create some other scenes, and I will be sure to post pictures of those.
Step 1: Plan
I started by downloading a few references photos and rewatched the scene where Luke crash lands into the murky swamp planet. From there I made a list of the materials I would need. Here's a list:
Step 2: Water and Tree
With all of my materials ready, I began by mixing some acrylics and then painted the base of the glass container. While that was drying I bundled up my sticks (for the tree), tied them off with some twine, and then applied some gorilla glue (the twine is temporary while the glue sets). I placed the tree and the X-wing in my scene, and stuck a small piece of cardboard under one side of the ship so that it would be slightly at an angle, like in the movie.
Using a small plastic container I mixed a tiny amount of acrylic paint (a swamp like color mixture) and then added in the realistic water. This water stuff will bubble if you shake it, so I was careful to instead stir it up, which took about 5 minutes. Next I took my mixture and poured it into my scene, about an 1/8 of an inch deep (as the bottle advises), spreading the thick liquid to the edges with a toothpick. 24 hours later it had hardened (this is the minimum amount of time it takes to dry).
I repeated my mixture and pouring steps, this time tweaking the color a bit to be more in line with what I wanted, but this time I also dropped in some flakes of twigs and dirt in order to get some grimy texture imbedded into the water. With the second pour I waited 48 hours, in order to make sure it was fully dry before moving to the next step. At this point, it was safe to remove the twine from the stick bundle, as the glue and water held it firmly in place.
Step 3: Moss and Lighting
I tore my moss into a few manageable chunks and then stuffed them into place, making sure to curve the pieces downward on the edges so that no matter what angle you looked at the terrarium it would still look good. I connected my LEDs, following the instructions that came with the set, and then used some electrical tape to bundle it into a tight fit. I squeezed the lighting set into place, tucking the bulk of the bundle under the moss patch, with the lights fitted under the wings.
Step 4: Yoda
Lastly, I glued Yoda on top of the moss hill using some gorilla glue, and then turned on the lights to enjoy the final product.
A little while back I photoshopped this image of our dog Lola to look like a Dog World cover.
Photography credit goes to Huy Doan.
Brian Riggsbee is a producer and designer, living in San Francisco CA. He enjoys practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, creating art, blogging, gaming, and spending time with his girlfriend and dog.