Hello, hello, hello and welcome along to Parcival Plays. This site is a place for a Scottish guy in his 30's to share some of the games he is playing. This will be a variety of older games and more recent titles with most of these being by smaller or indie teams. Please feel free to comment on posts or follow me on Twitter and to drop me an email using the buttons on the right. New posts will generally be weekly on a Wednesday.


Parcival

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Creo God Simulator - Upcoming game!



Creo God Simulator is an upcoming settlement God game by 8-bit Bento, created out of a love for games such as Black and White and Populous.  Development started a little under a year ago and the game recently launched a Kickstarter campaign.  As it is still quite early in the development cycle this is very much a first look preview and all of this is subject to change.

You have recently become a lesser god (congratulations!) and now need to build your civilisation.  You start with a small number of items available (the usual suspects of residences, wood cutter and quarry) and will develop over time.  As your civilisation advances and your skills as a god improve, you will have access to a wider selection of items and even god powers with which you can choose to smite your society, although beware the enemy god who can be a bit unpredictable at times!
The plaza with a small temple to encourage loyalty

The first thing you need to do is to place your plaza which will become the centre point of your settlement.  From here you can build, expand and manage your society, hopefully picking up some believers on the way.  The game is very much a sandbox type game, however with resource management, in that there are currently no objectives.  You simply have an area which you want to populate and develop in the way that you choose.  This includes collecting wood, stone and metals but also ensuring the needs of your populous are met with food etc.

A developed settlement

As people build their belief in you as their god, you will gain Willpower.  This allows you to use your god abilities.  At the time of writing I have only been able to experience two.  Do you want to be a caring god and bring rain to the crops to provide food and sustinence, or are you a vengeful god who wants to reign destruction with meteors?  The choice, as they say, is yours.  You may want to combine these and bring some good times, but also remind people who is in charge.  Each of the people who live in your realm have free will and may choose to believe you (and increase your willpower) or not, so there may be times where you cause destruction strategically if your number of believers is low.

Kaboom! a meteor destroys a settlement

The game has some procedural generation, which not only makes the landscape different each time you play with varied distribution of resources, but also with a randomisation engine for 'storytelling'.  This will allow random events (disasters?) to occur which you will need to react to.  Being to zealous in your mining could result in golems terrorising your towns, heretic cults stealing your believers or maybe even zombie outbreaks.

Placing a lumberyard in a forest near the town

Esteban (the developer) has a lot of ideas for the game but is also actively looking for suggestions from the players for how to improve the game and make it something people will enjoy playing, with a plan for an Early Access release during the first half of 2019 but definitely a community approach.  To this end, he is already running an open pre-alpha through his itch.io site where you can download the development builds for free, and provide feedback via his Discord server where he has been very active.  This will allow you to try it out and get a feel for the project and decide whether to contribute as the game is set as pay what you want (even if you download for free you can contribute at a later time).  So far I've played about 30 minutes and very interested to see where this goes.  I'll be keeping a close eye on this and hopefully when we have more content, I'll be able to get another article to show it off in all it's glory.

Edit: Since writing this article there has been an update released to the game (hence the delay as I wanted to check it out).  This has added a couple of features including a day/night lighting cycle and a speed control to increase game speed.  The road system has also had an update meaning that you now have to place a road before you can place buildings.  As with many of these games the roads have an AoE, indicated by a blue highlight, which shows how far from the roads you can build.  

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

MachiaVillain

MachiaVillain is an evil mansion management game, developed by French studio Wildfactor (Freaking Meatbags) and published by Good Shepherd Entertainment (Train Fever, Hard Reset & Oh... Sir! The Insult Simulator).  The game released on 18th of May 2018 and the devs very kindly provided me with a key recently to write this article.

The game started life as a prototype developed during a Ludum Dare Game Jam.  Receiving positive feedback from the event, and attracting a grant from the French Government, the team were able to expand and fully develop the game.  The developers drew inspiration from a variety of places including Dungeon Keeper, Prison Architect and all the clich√©s of 50s B movies.

Your plot with some evil trees and rocks blocking contruction

You are tasked by the League of Mechiavellian Villains with running a haunted mansion.  Unfortunately they have only provided you with a meagre supply of resources and a piece of land in the middle of a forest.  They do also provide you with 3 minions who will do your bidding.  When you start you are given a choice of a number of minions, each with different abilities such as how many jobs they can have assigned, which jobs they are better at and various traits like coffee maniac which reduced sleep requirement or quick feet which increases movement speed, but they also have weaknesses, for example send your vampire minions outside during the day and they will lose health.  These minions are 'brain dead' in that they can't think for themselves and must be assigned jobs or they will stand around doing nothing.

The first order of business is to clear some space so that you can build, and then establish a home office so that you can write invites to lure your unsuspecting victims to the mansion.  To do this you will need to set areas of resources such as trees and stone to be cleared by your minions.  It's easy at this point to wonder why they are just standing about. As I mentioned earlier they can't think for themselves, so you also need to assign the individual minions to resource gathering in the jobs screen.  Once you have some space, there are various rooms you can build which will allow you to progress in your mission to become the ultimate Machiavillain.  Building a room is as simple as placing down floor tiles and surrounding these with walls and a door.  The type of room is determined by what items you place in the room, for example a writing desk will make a home office, beds will make a bedroom and a butchers table will make a kitchen.  The first room you will need is a home office.  Without this you won't be able to attract your victims... umm guests, to visit your mansion.  Once you have placed your writing desk you will need to assign someone to make adverts.  Once you have some you can select an ad campaign such as 'You Have Won A Luxury Cruise' which will determine the number, and types, of victims who will come.

The starting ad campaigns available to you

Once your victims arrive you don't want to spook them too quickly.  You can make rooms with specific items, such as lights, televisions and bookcases, which will put them at ease but if they see your minions or blood on the floor from previous visitors they will become increasingly suspicious.  These victims will be the food source for your minions, but you can't just kill them without some planning.  Initially you will just want to hide your minions whilst the victims arrive and then attack once they have arrived.  As time goes on though you can build a lab and research new items.  These will allow you to build items such as traps and false walls making it easier to separate and kill your victims.  The League of Mechiavellian Villains also have a series of rules they expect you to follow.  Most importantly you should try to kill the victims when they are on their own.  Failure to do this will result in a slight penalty. 

Clearing stone whilst building a room for victims with other minions

In addition to building your mansion and attracting your victims, you must also look after the needs of your minions.  As mentioned earlier some minions must stay inside during the day or will lose health.  They also need to get time to rest and fed.  Failure to provide these needs will result in lowered loyalty.  Minions with a low loyalty will not want to work for you.  There are various ways you can boost the loyalty by improving how you fulfil the needs.  For example, whilst they are less hungry when they eat they are unhappy if they have to do so standing or without a table to eat, and will be better rested (and happier) if they can sleep in a bed.  They also won't be happy if your mansion is of a low prestige and isn't spooky.  These are rectified fairly simply.  For the spookiness there are certain items (candles, skulls etc) which boost this rating for you minions.  The prestige is increased by having larger rooms with more and better items (similar to Two Point Hospital).

A mansion with various rooms for both minions and victims

I find it difficult not to think of Don't Starve when playing this game.  This isn't a bad thing though and is probably due to the similar art style and the dull lighting, which add to the atmospheric of the game.  The cartoon graphics also make the game generally light hearted to go with the relatively black theme of the game.  Whilst I've only played this for a few hours so far I am thoroughly enjoying it and it has become one of those '5 more minutes' games when you suddenly realise that it's 2am.  I had also only scratched the surface of the possibilitoes with the items, primarily as I spend so long gathering resources and making rooms that I forget to make adverts to entice victims.  If you have a dark sense of humour and are looking for something which can while away a few hours then I'd say this game is very worth picking it.  It is available on Steam for $19.99/€19.99/£14.99

Also whilst the game is not an early access title, development is continuing with a current public beta for owners of an update including new items and features including electricity.



Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Chris Sawyer's Locomotion


Chris Sawyer is probably best known for creating the Rollercoaster Tycoon (RCT) series and developing the first two games in the series.  He has also recently been involved with the team who recently made the mobile port RCT Classic, which is essentially RCT2 with a touch interface for tablets/phones and the RCT1 scenarios and content reworked in the RCT2 file format.  This is not the only games he has made however.  In the 80's and Early 90's he worked on a number of projects including the PC version of Frontier: Elite 2 with David Braben.  This would develop the relationship that would lead to Frontier developing the Xbox port, expansion packs for RCT2 and going on to make RCT3.  He also created transport management game Transport Tycoon.  It was actually whilst working on a sequel to this game that he became sidetracked and made RCT.  Following the success of these games, he returned to the transport game and Chris Sawyer's Locomotion was released in September 2004. 

Despite the name, the focus is on multiple transport methods, rather than just railways.  You have access to rail, road and air transport options depending on the scenario you are playing.  Some you are limited by the time period, whilst in others you may be restricted to using, or not being able to use, a given form of transportation.  You are challenged with providing and developing a diverse and thriving transport network in the region.  You do this by providing trains, trams, goods vehicles and busses to meet the needs of the various buildings in the area.  This also means managing a production network, for example transporting grain or cattle from farms to food factories, and then that food in to your cities.  Of course, you also need to ensure the infrastructure exists, so can build new roads, rails and tram tracks in the region.  You also need to set stops and stations.  When you are placing these there is a useful highlight showing the catchment area, helping you ensure that as many buildings are covered without overlapping.

Scenario selection, clearly heavily inspired by RCT

The game is split into a number of scenarios which are divided by difficulty (Beginner, Easy, Medium, Challenging & Expert) in a format that will be familiar to players of RCT and RCT2.  These have a variety of objectives such as delivering a set number of passengers or goods, or achieving a set performance index which is a score based on your network efficiency.  In most of these you will also need to compete with AI companies.  Like you, they can also build roads, stops and rail meaning that you may have to react to the placements of these, particularly the rails as you cannot run trains on lines owned by other companies.

Once you have placed your transport stops (train stations, bus/tram stops, cargo depots, ports or airports) you will be able to select these to see an information pane.  This will give information, such as items waiting collection and items accepted for delivery, which will help you plan your routes.  You also need to think about the best placements for your stops, for example most houses will produce both passengers and mail, however only certain buildings can accept the mail.  As the towns will develop dynamically based on how well you are providing services, the items accepted at a particular station may change, new industries may develop or industries may even stop production.  You will get a notification for these events and may want to change the services you are providing as a result.
A town serviced by trams and busses with shared stops

Setting road routes is as simple as popping some stops on existing roads and purchasing a vehicle.  If you don't set a route they will move between the stops in their own priority, however you are able to define a set route to control which stops it will visit.  If you are connecting industries, or setting a route between two towns, you may need to add more roads.  Setting up tram routes is very similar to road routes, except you need to place tram tracks.  These can be placed either over roads or completely off road.   These will use the same stops as the busses which will help you to increase the speed at which passengers are transported from popular stops.  Air and sea networks are similarly simple to set up - place the port, select the type of ship or plane you want and set a route between them.

Simple rail circuit

Setting up rail routes can get very involved.  Firstly you must build rails and stations.  Then you purchase a locomotive and select your carriages based on what you want to transport on a given route.  The simplest train route you can have is a straight line with a station at each end.  On this you won't need to set a route as trains will shuttle between both ends, however you can only run one train.  The simplest solution to this would be to create a circuit where you can have a train running between each station.  A more 'elegant' solution is to split the track after the stations and run a train in each direction.  This involves the use of signals.  To do this you need to pull a branch off the line a few tiles away from the station (making sure there is enough space for the entire train to clear the junction) and run the rails to a similar position at the other station and linking them back up.  You can the use the one way signals to determine a direction of travel for each of the tracks.  As you learn the system you can also expand to use branches off the main line to supplement deliveries and also even utilise complex junctions with multiple platform stations.

Signal controlled station with multiple platforms

In all the game is a very solid management simulation, although sometimes it can feel like the available loans are a bit OP and sometime the AI companies can expand very rapidly.  If you enjoy this style of game though it's very worth the purchase, although the main downfall is the lack of an endless/sandbox mode (although there is a 100 year challenge on some scenarios), but that is more a sign of when the game was released as it was less common at that time.  I've had a good number of hours enjoyment from the game and even picked up a version of it which Sawyer worked on as the iOS and Android release of Transport Tycoon in 2013, although there were some changes in that version.  You can pick it up on Steam for £4.79.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Eden Rising: Supremacy (Game Changer Update)

A couple of months have passed since we first took a look at Eden Rising and there hasn't been much in the way of patches.  Today that changes with a massive update which they have dubbed the 'game changer' update.  This update takes almost every system in the game including crafting, combat and siege rewards and completely revamps them.  The game now plays a bit differently and I'll hopefully manage to cover as many of these changes as possible in the article.

Main Menu

As soon as you load the game you can see that changes have been made.  The main menu has had a redesign with a new background and the hint of a new UI.  It's now easier to start a single player game using the new Solo Game button.  This sets up (or continues) a new single player game with one click.  You can have up to 3 single player saves at any one time and can switch between these using the Switch Profile button in the bottom right.  This takes you to a screen where you can see each of the save slots with your character displayed to help you remember which is which.  Also on the main menu screen is a Multiplayer button, although you can add your friends to a single player game while it is in progress if you wish.

Tutorial Island


A cave gorgon triggers the new laser lance turret in the tutorial

After the opening sequence added a couple of updates ago, you arrive on 'tutorial island'.  Even if you have played the game I highly recommend redoing the tutorial as it introduces some of the changes and has had a drastic makeover.  Gone is the small round island where you just climb to the top of the hill and we now have a substantial area of gameplay. 

Initially is a similar movement orientation and basic combat introduction.  This also introduces a new type of monster and aspect to the combat.  We now have shielded enemies.  The shielded medusa which features prominently during the tutorial have a hard calcified front, giving them a lot of armour.  To defeat these you will need to attack from behind to reach their weak spot.  You will also get an attack bonus (shown by the damage being displayed in an orange colour rather than white) if you hit this weakspot precisely.  This section also introduces dodging.  For those who have played before the big difference here is that you can now dodge mid-attack.  This makes the combat feel a lot more fluid and less of a turn-based system where you are locked into an attack.  I feel this is particularly beneficial when using a bident due to the long animation for the triple-stab section of the chained attack.

Crucibles

The crucibles have had some BIG changes and are probably the main reason I would say to do the tutorial.  We now have a new crucible called the Warden Rock crucible which makes up part of the new tutorial island (if you choose to skip the tutorial you will spawn into the world just in front of this crucible).

The Warden Rock crucible

The actual process of completing a siege has remained largely unchanged, save the refinements to the combat system, new monsters and new weapons.  The two main changes relate to the minimap and siege timer.  The minimap has had some redesign making it a bit more useful.  It has been increased in size making it easier to see, but you can also easily see which lanes are active for the current siege.  The changes to the timer mean that rather than having a set time such as 2 minutes for the siege before the crucible starts to take damage, your time is based on the monsters which have been killed with more being added for each kill.

What you will notice though is that the rewards screen has been completely revamped.  Instead of the 5 'ranks' you now have 5 'links' which you make within the crucible which contribute to the reboot process.  The rewards for completing the sieges have also changed.  Gone is the essence which have been replaced by nanochips.  Depending on how well you complete the siege (based on remaining time, damage dealt, defences lost and damage to crucible) you will get more nanochips and complete more links (between 1 and 5).  The more links you get, the more higher level sieges you can attempt as they cause the crucible to increase it's tier.

Redesigned siege rewards display

The nanochips play in to the new tech tree system.  Rather than being awarded specific tech after certain sieges, you can now buy new tech using nanochips.  The tech available is dependant on the tier of the crucible, your available nanochips and, in some cases, what tech is already unlocked.  This means that if you don't really care about some techs (such as armour dyes) you don't need to unlock these, or can unlock these later.  This also seems to be an in dev system with some of the higher tier techs displayed as coming soon.

Tech tree for Valley crucible

With the removal of the essence, the crucible improvements (factories, available power and boost spots) have had to be reworked.  To unlock these you will need to use crucible modules (formerly datakeys) in the improvements screen.  This is accessed by interacting with the crucible and shows the various improvements available for the current crucible.  A couple of the key things to note here are that you camp power does not increase by 1 after each siege as it did previously, but you can buy 5 power for 2 modules, and also that rather than having to buy each boost spot individually you can now buy, for example, the damage boost spots as one unlock

The final change in the crucible area relates to the changes to the crafting system.  You now cannot do equipment upgrades in the wild, but now need to use the upgrade station located near each monolith.  This is pretty easy to find as it uses what was originally the global storage container before the changes which made that accessible anywhere within the crucible area.  You can now also see the upgrade tree for the item rather than just your next upgrade, and get some additional information about what the benefits of upgrading are such as improved damage or different effects, for example the Corrosive Glaive will deal corrosion damage over time in addition to the physical damage from the impact.

Upgrade tree for fungal bident

Miscellaneous

There are also various other changes and new features which I'll touch upon in this section.

Telesites - With the removal of the datakeys as they functioned before (there are now more of the modules scattered in different locations) the telesites no longer require any special items to activate them.  This makes,in my opinion, a big QoL improvement as I now don't need to spend 15-20 minutes hunting for the datakeys to activate them.  There is also an improvement to the UI making it clearer and easier to select the tower you want to teleport to.  You are still limited by line of sight and can only teleport between active towers.  This means that once you activate a new crucible, the towers in the other crucible areas are deactivated.  The quick travel between crucibles is still possible through the crucible screen by clicking the crucible icon at the top of the window and selecting the discovered crucible you wish to travel to. 

One of the new creatures the Shield Bud

Outposts - As with the telesites, you now no longer need a special item to activate these.  This means that you simply interact with them as you would the primary crucibles rather than having to manufacture a condensor rig. 

Crafting - The crafting UI has been given a fresh look.  As mentioned, you now can't process upgrades through the standard crafting UI, but like upgrades it is also a lot easier to understand benefits of manufacturing new items. 

Making a fungal glaive

There are lots of other improvements and fixes and far too much to list, but you can view the changelog here

The update really lives up to the 'Game Changer' name.  The game is now a much more enjoyable experience for single player, with a major balancing pass and I would say that now is the best time so far to try it out.  If you're still no sure you can play it free on Steam now until October 21st and the game will have a massive 40% off on Steam until the October 28th making it a steal $8.99/£7.79/€8.99

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Overcrowd


Ever since the mid 90's and games such as Theme Park, Theme Hospital and The Settlers on the Amiga 1200 management and tycoon type games have been a favourite of mine.  After a hiatus of ten years or so, this genre has been making a comeback over the last 2 or 3 years.  This week we are having a super early look at upcoming tube management sim Overcrowd.

This will be the first game by UK indie developer Square Play Games.  The team comprises of boyfriend/girlfriend duo Alastair and Sarah, with Alastair doing the coding whilst Sarah does the artwork.  The game was originally conceived as a mobile game following a number of years using the London Underground to commute.  Whilst dealing with the difficulties of using the tube network, Alastair thought that managing the flow through the stations could make a fun game, and 3 years ago Square Play Games was born and development started on the game.  During the development the project has developed and grown to become a fully featured PC game, rather than mobile time waster.

A simple 2 platform, multi-level station


As with many of these games recently, they have decided to go with a pixel art style and isometric view.  This gives a nostalgia trip for me whenever I look at these games, taking me back to this games I enjoyed in the 90's and early 00's and the devs aren't pretending these games haven't influenced their project.  The team do want to bring their own spin to the game though.  Overcrowd will not only be about management, but also some spatial puzzle solving and you will have direct control over your staff, recruiting a crack team to deal with any issue which may arise in your station, whilst also making sure their needs are met.  Your commuters also need looking after to keep them happy, for example they won't be impressed if your network is overrun with rats, too hot or too cold.

Each new level you start will have a procedurally generated map.  These will be of differing sizes and shapes with obstacles (such as rocks or water) and some track blueprints placed.  This is where the spatial puzzling will come into play as you need to work out how to best utilise your space the meet the goals of the level.  As with the London Underground network, your stations will not all be built on the level.  You will be able to take your station down by up to 4 levels, allowing you to have multiple platforms and lines to keep those commuters flowing. 

The overground concourse with ticket machines and coffee cart

As seems to be the way things go these days, there will be a tech/unlock tree utilising a special currency (think Kudosh in Two Point Hospital, the various skill points in Graveyard Keeper, or the science points and hearts in Parkasaurus).  As with those examples, this is not a micro-transaction but is earned through normal gameplay.  The more commuters you move through your station, the more City Hall will reward you with bonds which you cnlan use to unlock new items or hire new staff.

The game is due to hit Early Access 'soon' but the devs aren't giving up a specific window yet.  This is totally understandable as only having one coder on the game thing may change and be influenced by a number of factors.  It has recently been listed on Steam and you can add it to your wishlist now.  You can also join the official Discord where the developer is interacting with the small, but growing, community regularly.  All of the information in this article has come from press kits and dev blogs so is, of course, subject to change.  Needless to say, this game has piqued my interest and I will be keeping a close eye on this one coming available to get hands on in the, hopefully not too distant, future.

Short animation showing object placement and 'thermo cam'

As always, thanks for stopping by, any comments and feedback are always welcome and remember you can get in touch using the contact form, or any of the social channels to the right.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes...

No, not the David Bowie song just time to take stock and post a quick piece of IRL content.

When I started this blog little over a month ago it was on a whim and I wasn't sure I would stick it out, I've tried in the past and never got past registering the names!  My hope was to get about 50-100 views by now, in fact there have been over 600 page views by you lovely, lovely people.  As this is something that I am planning now to stick with there are a few changes I want to make.

The blog will stay as it is, with the exception of some small changes you may have seen.  A member of a community I am in on discord very kindly did some work on my logo and a new banner is in place.  Along with this we also now have a Parcival Plays Favicon rather than a Blogger generic one, and we've got rid of the orange highlights on the page and moved to a blue (which is actually one of the blues already in the logo).

It's also time to diversify a bit and you might notice some changes to the contact section in the right side bar.  Now in addition to Twitter and Email you can join my Steam Group which I have set up so that I can start posting my content as Steam Curator recommendations, but also as a route of communication with my readers.  Also for a way to chat with you and find out what you are playing or even what games you want me to try and get a look at, I have set up a Discord you can join from the widget to the right.

Finally, I've taken a tentative step and dipping my toes into the world of YouTube.  I plan to post the occasional Let's Play video of some of the games that I've covered, or ones that I feel would be easier to show rather than write a full article.  I've already posted a couple of videos of Parkasaurus and hope that as I make more videos they will only get better (I know these ones have a few issues).

For now I've not got anything else I need to say other than thanks for your ongoing support and don't hesitate to fire me a message.


Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Parkasuarus (Now In Early Access)


A few weeks ago we had a quick preview look at cute dino park builder Parkasaurus from Canadian 2-man team Washbear Studios.  I've been waiting, impatiently, for this since I first saw the announcement trailer back in November and can say the wait has definitely been worth it.  The game had originally been slated to hit Early Access back in Spring but the team took the hard decision to push the release back until they felt it was in a better state.  This has given them time to add some new dinos, new guests following feedback from the announcement trailer and fix some of their bigger bugs (they had one where any water would cause your park to flood).

I'm going to try not to repeat too much from the other article and look a bit more at how the game actually plays out.  Being Early Access though, some of this will be subject to change depending on feedback from players, and more features still need to be added as development progresses.  In the final game there will be 3 game modes (normal, custom and scenarios) with the first two already implemented.  In the normal mode you start with a flat, empty lot, some cash and a small selection of buildings, scenery and dinosaurs available (this mode will be the focus of this article).  The custom game let's you set various parameters for your game such as unlimited money, all research unlocked and all dino species available.  There is also an alpha random terrain generation (bumpy terrain) option.

 A small spot of tranquillity in the park

When you start a normal game you are given the option, by way of a check box, to skip the tutorial.  The tutorial still needs some work but does introduce most of the game mechanics and, through exploring the game, those which aren't yet in the tutorial can be figured out.  There are a few things which make this stand out in the management sim genre for me, and they make the experience quite unique.  Probably the biggest difference to most games like this is the day cycle and how this affects your finances.  Rather than running constantly your park closes each night with all guests leaving your park.  The end of day is also when your income is calculated.  This means that rather than your available cash increasing every time your guest make a purchase you 'cash up' at the end of the day with income from admission, shops and donation boxes calculated against your expenses on food and staffing, although you can see how much is being made during the day as this is displayed in a piggy bank below your available cash.  This makes developing your park a bit more strategical as you can't rely on the money constantly increasing. 

Obviously, creating your enclosures and looking after your dinos is a massive part of the game, and is much more involved than simply drawing a fence.  After you have chosen which fence you want, these all have different attributes such as how strong they are or how easy the guests can view the dinos through them, you draw out your enclosure.  This is done with a simple click and drag system and if you are near the park boundary you can even use the boundary wall as part of your enclosure to save some cash.  But you are not finished there!  Each dinosaur species has a specific biome requirement ranging from desert to swamp.  To create the perfect biome you need to select the base tile (grass, sand or swamp) and lay this within the enclosure.  Now you can morph the biome by editing the terrain to make it more rugged and add water.  To help you get it right there is a useful graphic in the exhibit pane to show you the current biome and how ruggedness and wetness will affect it.  There are also 'privacy tiles' for each of the base tiles which are essentially long grass which give some shelter when your dinos are overwhelmed.  Finally, you need to balance the biodiversity of the exhibit with a mix of trees, bushes and rocks suitable for the chosen biome (again a handy graphic helps you to get it right).

The park by night with the awesome chain lights (maybe my favourite item in the game)

Now you're ready to add your dinos.  This involves crafting eggs.  To do this you need to use the portal room to send scientists back in time to hunt for footprints and skulls.  Each species requires a different number of these from their dinosaur family, for example sauropod or theropod, and a gem.  These gems can be purchased in town and the items can be combined in the Egg Store.  When you return to your park you simply drop the egg into your exhibit and leave it to incubate.  Once it is ready a finger icon appears and clicking that will cause it to hatch.  During this incubation you can also influence the colour of the dino by slotting different items into the egg.  There are currently ove r 20 dinosaur species to place in your park and one of the community members has kindly put together this guide of the dinos in the game.

Of course, you have no park without guests and you need to make these happy too.  Happy guests will spend longer in the park, spend more at your shops and, crucially, make more donations which is the core income source.  You can get an idea of how they are by reading their reviews at the end of the day, or clicking on a guest will bring up the info pane.  The thing I found most difficult to get my head round initially was guests saying that the park was boring.  This is because the decoration within an enclosure doesn't influence their overall impressions of the park.  This means that you need to make sure you don't pack your facilities too close together so that there is enough space for you to place some of the many decor items, many of which require to be unlocked via a research/tech tree.  There are two of these in the game, one for park items and one for dino items.  The park items are unlocked using research points which are generated by scientists assigned to a research station or a learning point.  Dino items are unlocked using hearts which are awarded at the end of each day based on the number and happiness of dinos in your park.  As you progress this allows you to unlock the different families of dinosaurs.

Baby stegosaurus co-habiting with some triceratops

As you can probably tell the game is a lot deeper than the low poly art style and cute dino accessories (cone of shame for your dinos anyone?) and for being at the very start of the early access cycle the game has a surprising amount of content and polish.    I've barely scratched the surface with this post and we will definitely be keeping an eye on this throughout the development.  I have no hesitation in recommending the game for purchase, even on day 2 of release.  The devs have shown their commitment to the process by already pushing out hot fixes and engaging with the community for feedback.  They are in the Discord server daily, have a Trello board and are very open to feedback and suggestions.  At the time of writing the game has a 100% positive rating on Steam and as within the top 10 sellers list on Steam for the UK.

I have also done something new and have a YouTube video play through of the tutorial and will hopefully find the time to flesh this out into an ongoing let's play series.  As always, comments and likes are appreciated and please follow me on Twitter/subscribe on YouTube.  If you ever have any games you want to see featured feel free to email me using the button to the right.

Parkasaurus is now available in Steam Early Access priced at $19.99, €19.99 and £15.49.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

I'm Not A Monster (First Look)


Brought to us by publisher Alawar Premium and developer Cheerdealers, who worked together on Distrust, I'm Not A Monster is a multiplayer, turn-based strategy game, influenced by the popular party games Mafia and Werewolf.

The game has a retro-futuristic feel to it, helped by both the visual and sound design of the game, complementing each other excellently (think 50's B-movie and you are on the right tracks).  The back story for the game is that you are on a tourist starship, The Albatross, when disaster strikes and monsters invade, picking off the passengers one-by-one.

Planning a move 

In the game you are randomly assigned a role at the start of each round, either, that of a hero, or that of a monster.  In the version played there is currently only one game mode "Save the Civilians" so we will only discuss that game mode.  There is also place holder menu items for "Cleanse the Infected", "Stay Alive", "Battle Royale" and "Evacuate".  In the game mode played the concept is very simple.  If you are a hero you need to rescue NPC civilians from the monsters, and if a monster, infect civilians and heroes.  The game mechanics can be quite overwhelming and confusing at first, for example heroes can have special abilities depending on what weapons and equipment are being carried, and heroes being able to shape-shift to disguise themselves as humans.  Thankfully the developers are aware of this and have provided some in-depth tutorials.  It took me about 20-30 minutes to play through these and I would highly recommend taking the time to have a look at them, even if just for the accompanying voice over.

A player shoots at another with a Ray Pistol

Gameplay is as to be expected from this style of game.  You have a number of action points which can be used to move or use equipment and weapons.  Movement is on a tile system where you can move within a limited range, determined by available action points and distance travelled.  In the planning phase you have about 30 seconds to decide what you want to do - will you run straight up the middle, hide behind an object, interact with crates for goodies, or tell a civilian to follow you to safety.  When all players have completed their planning and have flagged as ready, the

A monster attacks to infect a human

What makes it interesting is that if playing as a monster you can choose which human character you wish to disguise yourself as.  This can be used to your advantage.  If someone notices you changing form as you are in their sight, then you can change to imitate a different character to try and disorientate the other player.  As a monster you are able to infect both NPC civilians and player heroes.  To do this you need to change into your monster form and attack, holding the other character for 2 turns without being attacked, to infect them.  If a hero isn't healed within 5 turns, they become a monster and if a NPC is infected a monster who is killed takes over that body.  Once 50% of the civilians have been rescued/infected the round ends and you are shown stats for the match.

A Monster selects which of the nearby humans they are going to impersonate (shown by the yellow highlight)

The game is designed as a multiplayer experience for 6 players.  The game cannot be played with less than this, but the devs have taken steps to make this as simple as possible for players.  The first option is to populate the game with friends from your Steam list.  To do this you simply click on one of the boxes with a '+' symbol at the top of the screen, and select them from this list.  The other way to find players, or indeed fill the gaps when playing with friends, is through a matchmaking system.  This all happens automatically when you start a new game.  The software will search for players to fill the gaps in your game.  If the system can't find players, it will add AI bots into the empty slots after about 45-60 seconds meaning that you will always be able to play. 

A Hero rescues a civilian after escorting them to the escape shuttle

For being in a beta state the game feels very well polished with no major bugs that I have experienced.  There is a lot of information on the HUD which is a bit spread out in places (I often forget to check the status of my character in the character portrait for example) but for me the real attraction is the graphic style.  Not only do you have the retro sci-fi art, but as you play you also get the ocaissional blemish on the screen, really adding to that feeling of watching a B-Movie play out.  We don't have a release date yet (other than it is expected later this year) but this is certainly a game that I will be keeping my eye on.

The developers have also been fairly active on Steam with regular news articles, responding to players on the Steam Discussions and also pushing updated versions of the demo with bug fixes fairly regularly over the past few weeks.  As an added incentive for players to join in this phase the developers are offering a prize draw for all users who participate in the open beta and complete a short survey from within the main menu for Steam keys of the game when it releases.  The demo/open beta of I'm Not A Monster is available now for free on Steam.


Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Two Point Hospital (Out Now)

Two Point Hospital is the first game to be made by developer Two Point Studios, formed in 2016, and published by SEGA.  Don't be fooled with the studio being young however.  Two of the founding staff (Mark Webley and Gary Carr) have been working together making games since 1989 when both worked at Bullfrog Productions, now part of EA UK.  Games that the pair worked on previously include Theme Park and Theme Hospital whilst at Bullfrog, and The Movies whilst at Lionhead, so they certainly aren't newcomers to this style of game.  Due to this history of the dev team, some people have called this game the spiritual successor to Theme Hospital and the devs have stated that this will be the first of a series of management games to be set in Two Point County.

I will probably be drawing A LOT of comparisons with Theme Hospital throughout this post, and it's something very hard not to do.  As soon as you load your first hospital the similarities are fairly obvious.  The art style retains the fun cartoon look of its predecessor and is complemented by a fun soundtrack, which is very reminiscent of The Movies as it is in the style of a radio station with humorous presenter interludes, and comedy illnesses, such as Light Headedness and Jest Infection.

Two Point County overview

Each level has a series of objectives,  such as cure a certain  umber of patients or earn a certain amount of cash, and a chance to get a 1, 2 or 3 star rating.  These are not a measure of your success over a set period, but are more like the apprentice, entrepreneur and tycoon  objectives in RCT3, where completing a set of objectives unlocks the objectives for the next star rating.  After completing the first star you can choose to continue with the same hospital, or progress to the next one.  If you choose to progress, you can return to the previous hospitals later, with the advantage of any unlocked items and tech you gain in other hospitals being available, which makes the higher stars easier to attain.

The early hospitals act as a tutorial of sorts, with each introducing different game mechanics, for example Mitton University only allows you to hire junior doctors and introduces research and focusses on staff training.  These will break new players in gently, but will also help to familiarise seasoned management sim players to the specifics of Two Point Hospital.

Humble beginnings, our first GP Office and Pharmacy

Whilst the basic game play is similar to Theme Hospital, there have been a number of changes making the game look fresh.  The most obvious of these is, of course, the look.  Whilst retaining the fun and quirky style of Theme Hospital, the graphics have been brought up to date.  This makes the game at first glance look simply like an HD remake but it is soon evident there are new things to see.  The character models and items all look a lot cleaner and more detailed and, with the free cam perspective, they need to be, as objects can now be viewed from any angle.  This leads on to one of my favourite things.  We have more free placement of objects rather than items being tied to one of 2 orientations.  This is going to lead to the opportunity to be even  more creative when designing your hospital, with many items not being locked to specific rooms as they were in Theme Hospital.

As this is primarily a management game, the simulation is as important as the aesthetics.  This has also been taken up a level compared to Theme Hospital with a wider range of challenges and options.  Are patients too hot or cold?  Provide them with aircon or radiators.  Patients getting bored whilst waiting?  Offer them a leaflet stand or magazine rack to give them something to read.  There are all the management things you would expect from this type of game such as planning and designing rooms, managing needs of staff and patients, research of technologies and training of staff, but there are also some other nice touches.  For example, when building bathrooms, you can now assign these to be male, female or staff only or when designing your reception area, rather than plopping down a single desk, you can now create a reception 'island' (once you have unlocked it) with workstations for multiple staff and all the associated items from a reception area, including filing cabinets, various plants and even a donation tin to sit on the desk.

A Patient being treated for Lightheadedness

In summary the game looks great and will be enjoyed by both Theme Hospital veterans and newcomers alike.  This takes the solid base created by the developers when they made Theme Hospital and really builds on it with new and reworked mechanics and a simulation much deeper than the graphics would have you think.  There is also a completely new list of maladies and associated treatments and clinics and new options for diagnosis and customising your hospital.  It has to be said though that the game is very much a new Theme Hospital, which has resulted in some mixed reviews with people saying it is too similar to its predecessor.  If you are looking to relive the experience of Theme Hospital the game is definitely worth it, if you want something new in a hospital management game check out Project Hospital which comes out next month.

Two Point Hospital is out now on the Steam Store at a cost of £24.99



Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Parkasaurus (Early Access release announced!!)


This game has been on my radar ever since I saw the first reveal trailer in November of 2017.  It stands out in the currently busy dino park management genre due to it's lighter take on the game.

Not only does it use a 'traditional' grid based system and camera, it has some interesting and fun mechanics in it too.  The way you design your exhibits will determine how your 'dino best friends' feel about them, is there enough space or is it even the correct biome?  You can also affect the traits of your dinos with accessories such as a unicorn horns, hot dog hats and the infamous cone of shame!

Dinos wearing some of the hats

Until the game comes out and we get 'hands-on' we just have to work from the few videos on the developers Youtube but they have shown us a few of the different aspects.  From exhibit design, taking into account the environmental and privacy needs of your dinos, to dinosaur breakouts, where they wreak havoc in your park destroying not only fences, but your shops too.  The game look like it's going to be extremely fun.

In addition to making your exhibits, you also need to serve your guests and keep them happy.  By making your guests happier they will spend more in your shops and stalls and might even decide they want to contribute to the welfare of your dinos by making a donation in a strategically placed donation box.  Other confirmed features include staff management/training, time travel to collect eggs to expand your collection of dinos and seasons, each bringing their own challenges.

A functioning park

Over the past 9 months you can see that the devs have made some great progress in the new trailer (below) with completely new guest models and Dino shaders making everything look less ''blocky".  They have been fairly active over on their Discord server, regularly sharing concepts and asking for feedback, and at at times implementing that feedback.  I've barely scratched the surface in this brief post but expect more content and details once the game hits Steam next month and there is more information in the devblogs.

Release date announcement trailer

The game is developed by Canadian devs WashBear Studio, a team of two developers, and will be their first game, although both members of the team have a number of years in the industry.  The game hits Steam Early Access on September 25th and is due to cost $19.99.

Games From Space



Whilst I will usually be writing about games I wanted share something else that I’ve come across that might be of interest to gamers.  It is a piece of software called Games From Space.

The programme lets you earn ‘free’ games using your graphics card whilst your computer is idle.  It does this by using the processing power to mine for cryptocurrencies and rewards you with an in-app currency called ‘Space Coins’.  These can then be used to purchase games within the store section of the client. At the time of writing the platform had over 350 items, with more being added each week, including Steam Keys, GOG Keys, GTAV Shark cards and, recently added, Steam, iTunes and Google Play gift cards and even subscriptions for your favourite Twitch channels.  The prices of these vary, based on the cost at suppliers, with the cheapest item being indie puzzle platformer Yasik at a cost of 113 Space Coins, which should be achievable by most people within a day or two of using the app. There are a mix on these smaller indie games, and bigger, more popular games like PUBG and Ark.  These bigger games will take longer to get than the small indie games due to the cost.

Some of the items available in the Store

How quickly you are able to redeem a game is dependant on how powerful your graphics card is.  Currently any NVIDIA card with 512mb VRAM or higher (providing it uses the CUDA (NVIDIA coding architecture) version 5 or higher and AMD cards with more than 4GB of VRAM can use the service - a full list of supported cards can be found here.  You can of course increase your coin production by overclocking your card but the Games From Space staff do make a point of say that it's not recommended and they don't provide support or advice for overclocking, so this is done entirely at your own risk.  The value of cryptocurrency will also affect your mining speed. As this can fluctuate, currently they mine for Ethereum with their 'default’ configuration and ZCash on the 'alternative’ configuration, it does mean that the number of coins you gain each day can go up or down with the market price of the currency, but the coin value of the games in the store remains the same.

The Engine Room where you can customise the settings for the miner

There are various settings you can apply, for example how long you need to be AFK before the engine starts mining, or even if it will run whilst you are using your computer.  This is something you need to play with and find the settings that work best for you, remember that it uses your graphics card so will cause issues such as frame rate drops if you are trying to run games at the same time.


Chosen games in the Queue where you can track progress

I know you’re probably thinking 'what’s the catch?’ but there really isn't any.  You may notice a slight increase to energy bills as your computer will be running whilst you are not actively using and and there will be some wear to your graphics card, but no more than running a demanding game for an equivalent time, so you need to bear that in mind.

I've been using the platform for a while now and have received a few games.   It's also been great to see it growing and develop. The team is based out of Berlin and is pretty small with only 4 core staff, but they do have some great volunteers helping them out on their Discord server and the team themselves are pretty active.


A redeemed 'Pod' arrives.  Clicking on the Pod displays your game key
(N.B. not all keys are delivered instantly)

In summary, if you don't mind running your computer while you are AFK and are wanting to increase your game collection it's worth giving it a shot.  They've got a range of games from psychonauts to PUBG, the list is growing regularly and the keys are guaranteed to be genuine. Unfortunately, due to circumstances outwith the devs control, crypto values are quite low at the time of writing so it's taking a bit longer to get games than it did a few months ago.

**The Devs are holding a ''Kill The Devs event in a few weeks (15th September) and have PUBG half price for a limited time in the run up to this event**

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

My Time At Portia (Early Access First Look)


If you enjoy games like Harvest Moon and Stardew valley and want something new to scratch that itch, you should have a look at My Time At Portia.  Developed by Chinese team Pathea Games (Planet Explorers) and published by UK gaming veterans Team 17 (Alien Breed, Worms, Overcooked) the game is currently in Early Access for PC with plans for future console (PS4 and Switch) releases after this phase is complete.

The game was successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2017 and describes the game as “a 3D sandbox RPG adventure inspired by the beautiful aesthetic of Castle in the Sky and Nausica√§ of the Valley of the Wind. My Time at Portia features gameplay elements inspired by the likes of Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, and the Animal Crossing series mixed with Dark Cloud 2 and Steambot Chronicles, while creating its own unique world set in the lush backdrop of what remains of an ancient civilization.”

Character creation

When you first load the game you have a range of character customisation options. Firstly you can choose either a male or female character and then you can get really deep into the customisation.  You have options for hair style, including fully flexible colouring, and tons of options for facial customisation ranging from size and position of eyes to width and length of chin, all on variable sliders and even a few voice options.  Once you have decided on your look and you start the game you are greeted with the familiar cutscene. Your character arrives in Portia from a far away land to discover they have inherited a workshop from their long lost father. The first day or two are spent with orientation type missions to get your builders license, introducing the basic crafting mechanics for small items using the workbench, and larger items using the assembly station, and how to get jobs via the Commerce Guild.

Success!  Showing off my Builder's License

Taking these commissions will likely be your main source of income, but there are also times where these will drive the story. After gaining your builders license and registering your workshop with the mayor, you get your first big project - to build a bridge from the town to Amber Island in the river. This will require some planning and the crafting of some storage boxes for your yard (you can colour code these to help with inventory management as you progress through the game and discover pigments) and start to build up your collection of manufacture equipment, such as a civil cutter for making planks and a grinder for metalworking.

Assembly Station blueprints in your workbook

To make these objects you will also need to venture into the Abandoned Ruins near the church.  This is where you will do mining for ores, stone and special parts. To enter the ruins you need to pay a weekly ‘maintenance fee’ of 200 Gols (80 Gols for your first week) and you will have access to a jetpack and a relic scanner.  The first of these is obvious, it allows you to jump back out of deep holes. The relic scanner is a nice mechanic where you are able to see where in the cave there are special items. These are shown as a yellow dot and if you look at it for a few second the location is saved so you can mine towards it.  These may give you any of a number of items including power stones (fuel for some of your crafting equipment), furniture which can give buffs to your house, manufacturing parts and relic parts.

A chest containing relics discovered with the scanner

Data Discs and relic parts can be taken to the research centre in town.  In exchange for data discs you will get new blueprints for your workbook after a few days.  The blueprints you will get depend on how many discs you hand in, with blueprints available for 3, 5, 6, 10 and 20 discs.  If you have all the parts for a relic (anywhere between 2 and 5) and the required number of data discs these can be restored using the recovery machine in the research centre. These relics can then be placed in your home for buffs, or donated to the museum for reputation. Alternatively you can turn in discs to The Church of The Light who are concerned about some of the technology of the Old World and will give you green technology, special seeds, in return for giving them discs to be destroyed.

Wearing relic scanner and jetpack in abandoned Ruins

In addition to building items, you are able to take part in other activities depending on your play style including farming crops, raising animals and exploring a relationship system, including marriage and divorce, with the people of Portia.  As you would expect you start the game with no materials or tools and just a small house and plot of land. Through gathering and crafting you can raise Gols with which you can purchase upgrades to your workshop providing more space to build and also increase the size of your house, allowing more furniture to be placed.

Your starting workshop

As the game progresses through Early Access we will come back and look at some of these mechanics in more detail.  The devs have been quite responsive to the players and have made a point of adding a lot of additional content and game mechanics with each update including adding the desert, animal rearing and also riding.  The only downside is that the game can be quite hardware intensive and the graphical style is quite deceiving on that point. It does mean that at time there can be FPS drops and also in some areas the cursor feels less responsive.  The drops have decreased a lot after the most recent update and performance is definitely a lot better than where it was 6 months ago and I would recommend the game if you are the sort of person who doesn’t mind a game running at about 30 FPS.

My Time At Portia is available on Steam Early Access for £15.99 with a demo also available from the Steam Store page.