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Guest Post | The Final Station: A Review

Written by: Sage the Cosplaya

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I am a sucker for a good indie game. A nice game that can have a wonderful impact on you, unlike many mainstream games. I’m looking at you, Call of Duty. 

A few days ago, I stumbled upon The Final Station, an indie game from Tiny Build. This developer has made a good amount of solid games in the past.

So, what is this game about?

I’d love to tell you, but I don’t know myself! The story is actually the biggest issue. You are not given a prologue or any indication of what the world is like before you begin. You wake up and begin your journey to ride the worst Thomas The Tank Engine ever made.

Okay, it’s more that you travel and deliver cargo that is supposed to maybe save the world from another invasion? Along the way, you pick up rescuers, keep them alive, and drop them off. You also fight off mysterious blackened slimy creatures that were once human beings; that, too.

So what is the good in the game?

What story there is seems fascinating. It has a unique premise. One of the best levels is a mansion, which seems empty at first. You see a few hints of the story in this level. Then, once when you go underground, the real story of this house and its owner, begins. The music is beautiful; it adds the necessary ambiance that makes you feel as though this tragic world is at the end of its days.

The scenery in the train sections are great. It is pixelated art, but when you see it in terms of story for locations or events, it really leaves a impact. The mood and how it changes is done very well.

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So what is so bad about it?

As I’ve said before: THE STORY. To me, any game, regardless of graphics, can be great as long as it has a compelling story to tell. So, lets break this down.

In each level, you get scraps of paper and messages about the people in that level. That is nice, but it rarely contributes to the overall story. You do get some story-driven dialogue from the passengers on the train. This story-driven dialogue would be great to hear… but you can’t because you have to rush to feed the passengers and give them first-aid kits to prevent them from dying. Also, you have to rush to keep and maintain this train from hurting the passengers. You can not listen to all of the dialogue, which is frustrating.

Also, when you can speak to people, you don’t say anything. Instead, the game just displays, “….” and they respond to it. But not like Groot and Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy, where you do get what they are saying despite them not saying anything.

There is honestly a part to the climax of the game where you have to talk to people about changing plans in order to save everyone. The exchange is bascially:

“Hey, glad you made it!”

“…”

“Really? Well, go to this place.”

“…”

“I agree. I hope this plan works.”

What plan? What was wrong with the original plan? What made you want to come up with this new plan? How can we execute this plan? EXPLAIN, GAME!

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The ending is another huge flaw (spoilers at the end). It feels rushed and, at parts, abandoned. Even after completing the game, I have watched others play and still have the same reaction. I have a lot of questions that do not get answered.

“Its the journey, not the destination,” you might say. NO! FALSE! When you spend hours getting involved in a game or in a series like LOST, you’re dedicated. The story has you. There are mysteries that you want resolved. You get to the ending and it is such a let down that it ruins the journey and you feel like you just wasted so much of your life. That is this game.

One final flaw: the money/craft system. Throughout the game, you raid bodies, lockers and bathrooms for loot and money. The loot allows you to craft ammo and first aid kits on the train, which you have to do when everyone is talking about the story. Also, if you keep the passengers alive, you get some cash or ammo as rewards. After every act, you get to a city where you can you buy food, meds, and ammo. At one point though, you go to a city and you can no longer buy anything. Ok? But afterwords you still need meds, and you still go to loot for money and crafts, which is pointless because you can not use them again, and there is not a New Game+ to use them on. It’s pointless.

Overall, I give The Final Station a 3/5 trains. It has so much potential for a good ride, but it derails and crashes.

Ending Spoilers:

Read the rest of this entry

Indie Developer Spotlight: Beneath Nexus

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Indie Developer Spotlight: Beneath Nexus

by Michael Wells

Disclosure: I am a backer of Beneath Nexus on Kickstarter. Also, while I have not worked on this specific project, I have been in discussion with Silverclutch Games to provide writing for a future project.

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It’s time for another developer spotlight! This time around we’re talking about Silverclutch games about their upcoming release Beneath Nexus. We had a chance to talk to Tom and Chris from Silverclutch at Too Many Games in Oaks, PA (check out our convention impressions here and here) and now we’re pleased to feature them and their project on our site.

The Project:

Beneath Nexus game logo

From their website:

Beneath Nexus is a dungeon crawling card game for 4 to 6 players. Discover powerful treasures and unlock forgotten secrets in your quest to reclaim the city of Nexus. The Heroes combine their unique skills and powers to overcome the trials of The Blight Lord who uses fiendish monsters and dark magicks to destroy all who delve Beneath Nexus.

Beneath Nexus is a tabletop card game that offers an exciting roleplaying experience in a quickplay format. It is inspired by Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop RPGs and aims to recreate the feel of those games using predetermined heroes with decks of unique abilities. One player takes on the traditional GM role and plays the Blight Lord, a boss character for the other players to take on. To do so, the other players choose heroes that are drawn from traditional role-playing class archetypes and must strategize how best to use their complimentary abilities to overcome the monsters and spells that the Blight Lord arrays against them.

Beneath Nexus is currently up on Kickstarter and has nearly reached 75% of their goal at time of this writing. Take a look and consider backing this exciting project.

Developer Interview:

I sent a few questions to Silverclutch Games and Chris took some time away from their Kickstarter and Convention schedule to respond.

What made you want to get into game development?

Tom and I have both played games since early childhood. Tom developed his passion for gaming when he was introduced to Magic: the Gathering in the 3rd grade. I played the classics with my father, and he was relentless. Instead of a healthy hobby, my passion for gaming lies more so in my hunger for revenge against my dad for absolutely decimating my brother and me for years in Risk, Stratego, Checkers, and Uno. We began gaming together when Tom joined my Pathfinder RPG group when we were in college. Both of us have always been curious about how games work and have been ready to criticize any game that comes our way. We ended up making games because we knew what we wanted to play and wanted to share those ideas with our friends.
How did Silverclutch Games get started?
Silverclutch Games is a product of my desire to own my own business and Tom’s desire to create awesome games. Tom was developing an introductory dungeon crawler for a handful of months when I approached him with the idea to start our own game design business. That was June of 2015. We incorporated in August, 2015, with the plan to create accessible, easy to learn games that engage the hobbyist gamer.

 

What were your inspirations for Beneath Nexus?
Tom and I are huge fans of D&D, Dungeonworld, etc. We play roleplaying games regularly, but many of our friends can’t be bothered with the hefty rulebook and long playtimes. That bums us out! Beneath Nexus was created so that new players and casual gamers can get a taste of the fantasy adventure genre without having to do homework in the meantime.
What about Beneath Nexus is most interesting/exciting to you as a designer?
We tried a lot of different things, mechanically, with Beneath Nexus. We wanted it to be easy to learn, quick to play, and interesting for both hobbyists and newbies, so we had to experiment with a bunch of different ideas. What excited me most about the process was translating player feedback into mechanical changes. A lot of hobbyists tested the game, so their comments were very direct and specific. The casual gamers that had much more general feedback were the most fun for me because the playtesting notes became a puzzle of vague notions after a few play throughs. Tom seemed most excited by the balance of the asymmetry of the game. Making sure the Blight Lord wasn’t too weak or too strong was a huge task when we incorporated it. Tom dug into it immediately and really shined there.
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I had the chance to play two games of Beneath Nexus at Too Many Games and was very impressed by how polished and balanced the game is. A great deal of obvious care went into the design of the heroes, their abilities, and the ways that they interact with each other. Using the whole party’s abilities in just the right way to overcome a challenge feels a bit like the moment in Magic: The Gathering when the cards in your deck line up and play just right for that devastating combo. Meanwhile, the Blight Lord’s abilities and Monsters keep players on their toes and can easily punish careless or reckless play. The game looks like it is rewarding for players on either side of the table.
The game is already available in a print and play format if you want to give it a go. I can’t wait for the physical game to be released. For more information about the game and Silverclutch Games, check out the Beneath Nexus Kickstarter and their website.

Review: Gone Home (2013)

Dev./Pub.: The Fullbright Company
Platform(s): PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: Aug. 15, 2013

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Gone Home is a visual novel that focuses on exploration. According to the Steam store page, this game does not have any enemies or puzzles that must be completed to beat the game. The player simply must explore the house until they learn the whole story.

What’s it about?
You are Katie Greenbriar. You return home after a long trip abroad in Europe to find a note from your younger sister, Sam, instructing you not to go looking for her. It is your goal to explore the house to find out what happened to your family through notes, letters, books and pamphlets. The game ends when you learn the whole truth about what happened while you were abroad.

What did I think?
This game is beautiful. Not only are the graphics amazingly detailed, but the gameplay is flawless. As Katie, you are able to see and interact with every nook and cranny in this mansion that is your family’s new home, including messy beds and strewn about clothing.

The story is a powerful one. You learn early on that the house, which used to belong to Katie’s great-uncle, is referred to in town as the Psycho House because the previous owner went crazy and killed himself. The ambiance screams horror game as a thunderstorm rages outside and the old house creaks as you explore. Despite all this, my favorite part about this game is that it’s not horror at all. The devs could have fooled me.

There is a lot of reading to do, but what else can you expect from an exploration game that focuses on finding notes? The journal entries from Sam, written as letters to Katie and voiced out loud, are a nice touch. They pace the story quite well so that you are able to explore the entire house before you know exactly what happened.

The game overall reminded me of Life is Strange, which, I think, is a compliment.

Do I recommend it?
Yes, I definitely do. If you have a PS4, it’s the free PS Plus game for June. Otherwise, you can find it on Steam and Xbox One.

Indie Game Spotlight: This is No Time for Games

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Written by: Not Quite Black & White
Our game is a modern 2D point-and-click adventure called This is No Time for Games. It’s a sci-fi fairytale where you play as Florence Holloway, a data verification technician in a future crime lab, where high-profile murders are solved by artificial intelligence. Through some amateur investigating, Flo bumbles her way into a bizarre and dangerous digital world of creatures called “Apps” who all have a story to tell.

The gameplay of the genre will be updated in This is No Time for Games to heighten the excitement and increase the player’s immersion in the puzzles and dialogue – but we haven’t released any info about that yet.

Our inspiration to make the game was undoubtedly to create a story of our own. We were in the TV/media industries (sound post-production, and graphic design) and kinda bored of polishing other people’s projects. We’ve been writing together for over ten years and we started writing stories for games about six(ish) years ago. We’re also big point-and-click adventure fans frustrated with how few of them actually get made, so we want to make one in our own style that will give adventure game fans something familiar, but something new at the same time.
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The game itself has many sources of inspiration. We want the game to have a great protagonist like Guybrush Threepwood or Manny Calavera – we don’t think there’s a female character as funny or as charismatic as these characters in adventure games. The closest are possibly Laverne from Day of The Tentacle or more recently GLaDOS from Portal. We want Florence Holloway to be comical and loveable in the way that characters of the old Lucas Arts classics were.
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We also love surprises in games. Sword and Sworcery had some really innovative ways of solving puzzles and Monument Valley did some really clever things. The best puzzles are the ones where you want to rip your hair out and the answer turns out to be right in front of you. We want all of these things in This is No Time for Games.
It’s not out yet. Release is all dependent on money, unfortunately. We’ve been looking into crowdfunding with an exciting new platform called gamekicker.org, so, depending on how successful that is, we could see the game released as early as next year. We were at the global game jam at the end of January and we made a game in a similar style to This is No Time for Games called Don’t Stop Bereavin. The response from the other jammers was amazing. They really seemed into the artwork and the mystery surrounding the puzzles. We plan to polish it up and try and release it in the next couple of months.

Indie Game Spotlight: Essence

Written by: OneVision
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OneVision Games is comprised of two young developers from Berlin who love to create worlds and inspiring and meaningful games. It’s just an amazing feeling to see how an idea becomes reality and how a thought actually turns into a world that you can walk in and that takes you in a totally different universe. We both love games and it has always been a dream to create games since we have been small.
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The game is launching a prototype/demo in a couple of days. The game itself will take a bit more time as there are many worlds that need to be built, many more cool surprises and secrets we want to hide within the worlds and many more abilities and game play elements that we still have to implement. The estimated release of Essence is at the end of 2016 (around the end of October).
Now LIVE on Kickstarter!
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Indie Game Spotlight: Blacksea Odyssey

Written by: Blacksea Odyssey
Overview
Blacksea Odyssey is a top-down shoot ’em up about ripping colossal space creatures to shreds with a harpoon and rune-infused spears. Play as the cybernetic Old Man who has entered the deadliest competition in the galaxy – the Blacksea Odyssey! Four of the bravest huntsman compete in capturing bounties for the largest space creatures that exist! Only the sole champion of the competition is awarded the honor of encountering the Titan of the Stars! Legend says no one has ever lived to tell a tale about the Titan. Will the Old Man be the first?
Inspiration
Blacksea Odyssey‘s core concept drew inspiration from the classic arcade game Asteroids and the novels Moby Dick and The Old Man and the Sea. However, it has since evolved to draw from numerous other sources: imagine, if you will, Shadow of the Colossus’s massively scaled bosses, Geometry Wars extremely crisp and fluid control scheme, Path of Exile‘s deep RPG-like rune system, and Binding of Isaac‘s insane replayability.
Current Status
We have an Alpha Demo available on our website: blackseaodyssey.com. We plan to release Early Access on Steam in late February followed by the PC launch in May and a console launch in June.