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Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics Review

Achtung Cthulhu Tactics review featured
8.3Awesome!

Boy, are we late with the Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics review or what? Well, better late than never – said no gamer ever! But since this is a game worth sharing your opinions on, we’re publishing our review today instead of never. Especially because Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics didn’t get much love from other reviewers and I believe that’s not really fair!

The game itself, just like the name suggests it, is based on the popular tabletop Achtung Cthulhu and probably the fans of the board game were expecting something else – hence the lower ratings in reviews. But for somebody who loves tactical, turn based games – like myself – Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is as good as it gets.

I was a huge fan of the original Jagged Alliance games and ever since I am comparing all titles that are similar in concept with Sir Tech’s classics. And even though titles named Jagged Alliance have been launched in the past years, none of them managed to make me feel as good as I did when playing Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics.

Of course, it’s probably just my broken self who finds connections between the classic JA games and Auroch’s title. Because here, we’re dealing with Nazis – and not any kind of Nazis, but those with supernatural powers, controlling a bunch of Lovecraftian monster and pitting them against the world, but mainly against you and your team of brave heroes.

And your brave heroes will spend most of their time in battle, always outnumbered, but still managing somehow to end up as winners. This is your job, actually, and expect a real challenge from the beginning to the end!

Fights take place in turn based modes and tactics are just as important as your team’s loadouts and your ability to really make those 90% hit chances actually hit their target (hint: you can’t!). You can instruct your own people to hide behind rocks or trees and take cover, increasing their chances of staying alive, while also trying to flank opponents and give them the pointy end of your stick before they do that to you.

Like most tactical turn based games, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics tells you how likely you are to succeed with an attack or another by taking various elements into account, like the weapon you’re using, the range, the cover that’s protecting your enemy and much more. However, this mechanic is also the culprit for frustrating moments like those when you are face to face with an enemy, your hero wielding a knife that would make Rambo jealous, but you still end up missing your target. These are things that should never happen and games like Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics should have a mechanic in place that does give you 100% hit chances in some situations. Otherwise, it’s just embarrassing.

Cpl. Singh’s lack of aiming capabilities, despite being right there in front of the enemy.

But despite this problem, the game is still really good and insanely challenging. You will often times be outnumbered and outpowered, having to strategize a lot (and save your progress often), but without making everything frustratingly impossible like some games do. The difficulty level is high, but not impossible. Just perfect to keep your mind working at all times and your heart beating fast.

And you’re always expecting the worse thanks to a fog of war concept introduced by the developers, one that keeps most enemies hidden until you have eye contact. And you usually happen to make eye contact when all your team members are low on health and you’re happy to have just one enemy left… oh, the joy of war!

There’s a nice progression mechanic in game as well, with your characters leveling up during their adventure and allowing you to unlock skills for them and develop them into killing machines or support units or whatever you like. All the game characters that you get are already built for a specific role (you have the melee combat maniac, the long ranged expert, the supernatural freak and so on) and simply building the skills to improve their existing abilities is usually the best way to go.

The character development section is not that complex unfortunately and you have limited options when it comes to both equipping them with items and weapons, as well as slots where to equip the said items.

This, in turns, results in the game becoming a bit boring in the later stages when all you have to do is go through the same routine of discovering where all opponents are and trying to outplay, outwit and outlast them as if you’re in a retro Survivor show.

Visually, the game delivers just as much as you’d expect an indie game to deliver. The graphics won’t blow your mind, but they’re not bad either. This is a tactical game, in the end, so you’re not really after spectacular explosions and other distractions on the screen: as long as things look at least decent, we’re good to go. And things do look good.

The same relatively low budget feeling goes with the voice acting as well – but that is charming in my opinion. It’s just a few lines of text anyway, like in the strategy games of yesteryear, and I personally love that touch: one liners keep me entertained.

All in all, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is a much better game than many other people tell you it is. Sure, it is a bit slow at first and battles become a bit repetitive and, due to their insane difficulty and length, you end up wishing there was a fast forward button somewhere, but you still remain mostly entertained and excited for whatever amounts of time you spend playing.

This is for sure one of the most complex, challenging and beautiful turn based tactical games I have played recently and if you enjoy playing this type of games, don’t hesitate to give Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics a try. It’s a treat, no trick! (And I’m not saying that just because Halloween’s coming!)

You can download Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics from Steam right now.

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Prodigy Tactics Review

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7.3Good

Steam didn’t exist back in the days when I was playing the Heroes of Might and Magic games like a mad man, but if it existed, their hour counters would’ve listed: “You play too much, get a life!” And it wasn’t just HoMM that ate up all my free time (and study time and time I should’ve spent sleeping), it was any type of game with hexagons. Hexagons are life. Hexagons are power. Hexagons are the ingredient of awesome games.

In other words, yes, I am a sucker for deep, tactical games where you can spend as much time as you need planning your next move, making sure that the outcome, at the end of the day, will be exactly what you expected.

As a result, I was instantly attracted by Prodigy Tactics, a beautiful turn based tactical game that looked like a massive hit on my values scale. It’s true, it doesn’t feature my beloved hexagons, but at least it has circles!

Story-wise, things are not very clear to me. I will be honest and admit that I actually had to read the official description of the game to know that there’s actually a story behind all the battles taking place on-screen. Apparently, the fantasy lands of Thasys are going through some really difficult times, as Mana pools are draining and the fantastic creatures who need them to survive go a bit crazy.

And, as it always happens with crazy, they start fighting over the little Mana that’s left. But the Guardians – legendary creatures who still have the secret of Mana production and join the fight for whatever reason. The truth is that this doesn’t really matter much, because – just like me before writing this review, you won’t even care if there’s a story behind all that’s happening in the game.

As soon as you start, you’re thrown into battle – and that’s exactly how I like things to happen. Sure, I am playing some games for their story, but some – like Prodigy Tactics and many tactical TBS games out there – can easily rule our hearts without some.

And rule our hearts this game does, as a tiny Jedi master would say (OK, you can read the sentence again with his voice now!)

Star Wars geekery aside, Prodigy Tactics does look good. It offers so much eye candy that you wouldn’t need to eat chocolate for an entire week. For real!

The level of detail in this game is amazing. The character design is flawless and each character has been drawn and built to look as good as possible. Having in mind that this is actually an indie studio that handled the entire development process – and not an AAA studio with tens of millions on their hands, the whole eye candy stuff is even more impressive.

And Prodigy Tactics knows that it looks good because it flaunts its beauty on every occasion. And that’s not really a great thing, because it does so by throwing at us battle animations, one after another. They are amazing to look at when you start the game, but after a few hours of play time, things are no longer the same. You like how the steak looks, but you want to eat the damn thing!

All those beautiful animations – close-ups of your characters, slow motion attacks and the whole set of ways to impress you with the beauty of the game – can’t be turned off. Like it or not (and trust me, you’ll stop enjoying it after a while), you will have to go through them each time you perform an action. Every freaking turn. Fortunately, you can click your mouse once or twice to speed these animations up and get back to playing.

As a tactical game, Prodigy Tactics throws at you 13 different creatures to select and place on the battlefield (well, actually, you can only use 4 at a time), then destroy your opponent like there’s no tomorrow. Each creature has a unique set of skills and attack moves, as well as defense moves and a plethora of stats to go through and consider – which is a godsend for fans of the genre.

Every battle has an interesting way of unfolding too: one of your creatures attacks one turn, while one of the enemy’s defends, then roles change: one of your creatures defends, while the enemy attacks with one of his. The fun part comes from the fact that the defending creature will most likely not be the target of the attack and this opens up a lot of possibilities, making things way more interesting in the long run.

There is also a Harmony / Dissonance system in place, which basically gives you two different options for performing your move: one of them (Harmony) is safe to perform at any given moment, but has a less powerful effect than the Dissonance moves, which create Dissonance circles on your side and risk ending up in a massive explosion that can really throw your tactical plans under the bus. I’ve tried to win battles going the safe route and only choosing Harmony actions – and that’s not really possible. So in the end you will have to risk a bit (or more) in order to end up winning. Which, again, gives you a ton more tactical options.

But because of the way it is made, the actual battles in Prodigy Tactics tend to drag a bit. Fights are long and usually repetitive, made even longer and boring when you have just an opponent left, who will constantly defend reducing a ton of incoming damage and dragging the entire fight for several more turns before you can grab the crown.

But the entire combat system is very complex and offers a ton of possibilities. The characters themselves have unique abilities and specific strengths (or weaknesses), as well as affinities with various other characters which can be used to win battles easily. So even though the number of available characters seems low at first, I prefer having a bit over two handfuls of truly unique ones to choose from instead of 100 that are more or less the same and don’t offer you the multitude of tactical options that the lower number does.

Prodigy Tactics can be played in single players, but also multiplayer. Unfortunately, finding an opponent for PvP takes a bit of time right now – but hopefully things will change soon, as more and more people discover the game and start playing it. But even without the multiplayer aspect, the game offers enough of a challenge in single player and just completing the tutorial itself is a solid experience (a must play one too, in order to fully understand how the game works and unlock your characters).

Conclusion

Have you ever dated that insanely beautiful girl that drew all the attention when as soon as she set foot in a room? Only to realize that she’s a bit shallow and not the best conversation partner in the world, nor the most fun person to be around with? Me neither, but if I were to ever date such a lady, guess what? I wouldn’t really care of those cons, not even a bit!

Something similar goes with Prodigy Tactics: it delivers a ton of eye candy and, unlike the hypothetical girlfriend I mentioned earlier, it does manage to keep you entertained for the most part, giving you enough tactical options to have you rub your chin every now and then. It’s not the best experience you can have playing a game, but at least it looks better than most.

And even though I’ve always been an advocate of the crowd saying that gameplay is more important than graphics, I must admit that the gorgeous visual art of Prodigy tactics does make a massive difference and tips the balance in the favor of a big thumbs up. Because – to continue the analogy I made earlier – you must be physically attracted to your girlfriend too in order to make things work. And in this case, the “girlfriend” definitely has the looks and just enough of everything to consider yourself a lucky person for meeting her.

Would I recommend this game? Definitely! So check head over to Steam and give it a try.

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The Works of Mercy Review

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7.4Good

Ever since F.E.A.R. hit the PCs aeons ago, I knew one thing: any game that has horror elements or better said “jump off your seat” scares is not for me. I end up screaming like a little girl and my heart beats faster than it should. Not pleasant.

Still, I decided to give The Works of Mercy a try. It’s described as a psychological thriller and I knew deep inside that this means “horror,” but I was drawn into the game by its description. I mean, it does have a unique story and seems to push the limits of normality and morality to a brand new level. So why not give it a try?

The story – without spoiling much of it, since it’s the most important thing in The Works of Mercy – is that somebody has kidnapped your family and gives you some morally questionable tasks (read: kill people) in order to keep them alive. It’s a bit horror movie “Saw,” a bit “never saw this before” and a bit “saw it in my darkest dreams, actually!” So whoever decided to go live with this deserves a medal for courage!

Unfortunately, despite such an original (or at least interesting) idea to start the game with, The Works of Mercy doesn’t really manage to deliver and rise up to the high expectations. The execution is unfortunately poor and even though it does start really strong with that first call you’re going to get – and actually turns gory really soon, it starts to drag a bit afterwards and only manages to gain some bonus points all the way to the end.

Fortunately for me, the game isn’t really a horror title – at least not in terms of jump scares. It is extremely tense at all times and you feel the pressure from every direction: the game’s concept, the spooky works of art in your player’s house, the music, the darkness… everything is there to set the right mood, without actually being extremely scary. That’s a great accomplishment for sure.

In terms of gameplay, you don’t have a lot to deal with. You’re following a fairly linear story with multiple choices, but all leading to the same demise. I have actually restarted the game and made some different choices only to find out that all goes to the same inevitable ending. So the options you have to choose from don’t necessarily influence the game as much as it proves what kind of in-game character you are. Your choices. Not real life.

That’s a good thing, because I decided to play the desperate husband and father who would do anything to keep his family safe. Even though I realized soon enough that I’m not the sanest person in the world and killing others is not the answer. Whatever.

The Works of Mercy is also very short – which is a good thing, because you don’t have the option to save your progress or go back in time to make different choices. You want to try something else, you have to restart the game and go through the same scenes over and over again, which is sometimes a bit of a drag on the first try, let alone the second or the third.

The biggest problem with the game is that there’s no quest log. If you don’t listen carefully to the instructions you receive once, you might be doomed. I, for example, didn’t really pay attention at a certain moment when instructions regarding a specific hammer drill were given and I had no idea what was expected of me. Not pleasant walking around aimlessly in a dark house, not knowing what you must do next, even though it’s a really small house, after all.

But all in all, the game wasn’t really bad. It wasn’t great either and it would’ve been a lot worse if it wasn’t for its ending.

It is indeed a psychological thriller that sets the mood right and keeps you busy for most of the time – but also ends up being a bit boring every now and then. The writing is not brilliant, unfortunately – and writing matters a lot when dealing with this type of games, but at least the music and the effects make up for that.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a short adventure game that makes you think twice before making some truly questionable decisions, with some really good parts and an ending that really spooks you, you should give it a try. It’s not a bad game, but it starts so strong and has such an interesting premise that you end up a bit disappointed that it doesn’t offer more.

The Works of Mercy is available for download on Steam.

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Depth Of Extinction Review

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8Awesome!

Was it global warming? I think it was global warming, because the world simply sunk. This is the scary but possible scenario that post-apocalyptic turn based RPG Depth of Extinction throws at us, together with the plethora of consequences and goodies from a gamer’s point of view.

Yes, the world sunk but people somehow managed to survive. The original survivors were expert tech gurus and stuff, since they created armies of robots to take care of the sunken world and their own well being. But these Creators (this is the original way they’re called) are now long gone and their robots are starting to fail. So factions appear and that goey stuff hits the fan. Which is not the best thing to happen when you’re living underwater and the only fresh breath of air comes from fans.

You jump into the Depth of Extinction when a robot gives you some important details about something just as important. Just that you don’t know what it is, and the robot is blown to pieces by other huge robots before it can give you the details. And so your adventure begins: it’s time to assemble your squad and explore the world, trying to put back this whole mess together.

Which won’t be easy. Trust me when I say it that this turn based RPG is unforgiving. Permanent death-type of unforgiving and yes, I got there too after getting a bit too cocky with my team of rookies armed with rusty rifles and, for some reason, headphones.

It all ended, in my case, right before the first major discovery, when an enemy soldier sent a deadly grenade right in the middle of my squad. Lesson learned: keeping all your soldiers grouped together isn’t the best tactical choice.

And there is a lot of tactical thinking and decision making in Depth of Extinction! Sending your soldiers in the best possible positions will take the most of your time, as you will need to find a place that offers cover, but also a line of sight towards your enemies for maximum destruction. There is also loot to collect as you play and goodies to unlock. Plus, the cover you found can be blown to bits if your opponents decide to focus fire on it!

The level of depth is… well… deep too. Your soldiers can be upgraded into several various classes, each with their own Pros and Cons, with favorite weapons and specific skills. A sniper, for example, is deadly by slow, while a shotgun-wielding soldier is great at dealing damage from up close, but the first to sign up for going up all the way from the depths of the ocean to the heavens, as he will be forced to get close and personal with the enemies.

If you want to compare Depth of Extinction’s gameplay with something, you’d have to first think of the original turn based tactical games of the past such as XCOM. Things get a bit complicated thanks to the permadeath mechanic and the fact that all the choices you make will have consequences regarding the development of your soldiers – which is a nice thing in my opinion. We need difficult games to keep us busy and smart.

The game takes a stance, visually, against modern, beautiful graphics and goes for a retro look with everything pixelated to the maximum. It’s pretty obvious that there are limitations here – probably most of them linked to the game’s budget (or lack of it). It’s sometimes difficult to tell apart cover from loot and even all your soldiers look pretty much the same.

I am one who loves these pixelated, retro graphics as this is what I grew up with and nostalgia hits whenever I see those squary faces, but it’s all a bit too simple and basic in the game.

But this is an indie game and I am ready to forgive it for lacking some spit and polish as long as it delivers a high quality gaming experience – and that it does, for the most part.

There is a bit of a learning curve and the fact that it’s so freaking difficult can sometimes be considered an obstacle, while the loot is little and the costs are high, while dead soldiers remain dead forever. The game also gets a bit repetitive eventually and is a bit slow paced, but none of these small problems manage to take put the good stuff in the shadows.

The tactical aspect of the game is what really makes it stand out – and you really have to plan ahead all your moves and take advantage of everything the environment is giving you, knowing when to risk sending your soldiers out in the open for getting a clear shot and when to keep them hidden behind crates, waiting for the right time to strike.

The items and weapon, as well as the skill system with all its boosts, also come as the frosting on the cake, giving you multiple options to play the game and truly make your team your own. Learning from your own mistakes and failing miserably makes things a bit frustrating since you have to start over, but it all pays out in the end.

Depths of Extinction is definitely not a game for the masses, but anybody who gets nostalgic thinking about the original XCOM or the UFO series will get a real treat from this game. Challenging and complex, deep chock-full of potential approaches, Depths of Extinction is the dream come true for every old school gamer looking for a new adventure.

Definitely give it a try! The game is available for purchase on Steam, GoG or the Humble Store.

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Big Big Baller Mobile Game Review: Oddly Satisfying

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I rarely get hooked on a game as fast as I did with Big Big Baller. Basically, as soon as I started playing for the first time, I knew that I won’t be able to put it down for a while. Yes – it took me 15 games to finally leave the bathroom, legs numb but happy.

So… what is this Big Big Baller game you probably never heard of?

Well, it is an amazing mobile game that takes a bit (actually, a lot) in concept from Namco’s original Katamari Damacy. But unlike the console game and its follow-ups, Big Big Baller takes everything to the next level by introducing the secret ingredient: multiplayer.

Basically, if you’ve played any of the .io games in the past (like Agar.io or Slither.io) you basically know what this game is all about. Just sprinkle a lot of Katamary Damacy touches, add a time limit of 2 minutes per round and things will get crazy really fast.

Crazy in a good way. Big Big Baller is oddly satisfying, despite it being insanely repetitive and – if we are to be honest – not really original.

But everything about this game is flawless: from the short, fast paced rounds of just two minutes, to the number of players and the extremely high quality visuals, everything is great!

You control your ball by dragging your finger over the screen, and your goal is to crash into as many objects as possible, absorb them and grow to be the biggest ball at the end of the round. Pure Katamari style!

The thing is that now you’re competing with other players for the limited resources on the map and these players can either crush you to bits – or you can crush them and absorb the items they had gathered and get bigger. This is what makes it so much fun: the multiplayer element.

The game is also built in such a nice way that, even if you are at the bottom after 30 seconds of play time, a bit of luck and inspiration can quickly turn things around and make you the leader. Just play a smart game, play a good game and strategize a bit and you can do it. The nice folks over at Touch Tap Play shared some tips and tricks to help you get there and trust me when I say that it is doable!

And insanely fun! Especially when you can complete various achievements to unlock additional skins for your ball – or pay using the coins you unlock after each round to get your favorite skin. These don’t do anything to affect the core gameplay and are just for looks and bragging rights.

In the end, Big Big Baller is exactly as a mobile game should be: easy to learn, relatively difficult to master and insanely fun. It’s well made, well balanced and plays without error. The quick rounds are brilliant and you really can’t put it down once you start playing.

So if you have an afternoon or three to waste, make sure to download the game right now for free. It’s available on iOS only right now, but hopefully an Android version is in the works and hitting the Google Play store soon.

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Trianga’s Project: Battle Splash 2.0 Review

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7.7Good

Trianga’s Project: Battle Splash 2.0 is a fast and friendly competitive third-person shooter. You play as one of four girls who wield powerful water weapons. It’s the ultimate water fight, and these girls are packing more than just water balloons; we’re talking water rocket launchers, water rifles, water submachine guns, and more!

Battle Splash is currently in Early Access testing at the moment, so we were a bit limited in the modes we could play. The game has three different modes: your standard team battle, team tactics which is just the regular battle mode but with elimination rules, and SBot Guidance which is essentially capture the flag mode but with a robot instead of a flag!

While the SBot Guidance mode is a fun little distraction, you’re going to see the most action in the two battle modes. Once you jump into a server, you can pick which of the four girls you want to play as. While the princesses of aquatic warfare have the same weapons, they each have their own unique abilities that can really bring the splashdown on the enemy team!

Let’s take Pentaga for example! Her special item is the Disk Dryer which is basically a fancy blow dryer! Did one of your teammates get splashed? Dry them off and revive them on the spot! Quadra’s special item is the Digital Shield which lets her project a shield in front of her that reflects projectiles and water balloons. Think Reinhardt from Overwatch!

Battle Splash sets out to be a fun and friendly shooter, and it does a great job at accomplishing it. The “water fight” setting cuts out all the violence that typically comes with shooters, and the bright and colorful heroines are a nice change too. We haven’t even mentioned the maps which are visual spectacles in their own right! One our favorites is the Paper World map, a beautiful, serene forest with paper highlights and rays flowing throughout the environment. The background music also really helps push the dream-like feel of the maps, as they’re peaceful piano pieces that set the mood. Maybe the songs do their job too well though, because sometimes they don’t represent the hectic water warfare occurring at the moment!

However, since Battle Splash is still in Early Access, there’s lots of room for improvement. You take damage at alarmingly fast rates, and the game doesn’t always do a great job of communicating that to you. Take the game’s name literally, because over half of our deaths were from splash damage from unknown sources. Since all the girls have access to the Rocket Launcher weapon, it can get quite hectic with all the water splashing around and you’ll most likely suffer a few deaths where you had no idea what happened. With some graphics polishing and more visual feedback, this can be fixed.

Something that also needs work is just the general feel of the game. This goes hand in hand with the previous problem of visual feedback being a little lacking, but the game also feels a little bit too “loose”. The girls run around the field really fast, and they don’t really feel like they have any weight to them. Of course, this could also be intentional to keep the fast-paced nature of the game intact. Regardless, some fine-tuning and can make movement feel a little more fluid and right.

Trianga’s Project: Battle Splash 2.0 is a fun little shooter. With cute characters, beautiful maps, and simple yet enjoyable gameplay, Battle Splash has a ton of potential. What’s even cooler is that the game features limited mod support, with more updates coming later! You can change the character models with your own if you so wish. With some weapon tweaking, polishing, maybe some new characters here and there with new abilities, the game could become something really special!

You can check out Trianga’s Project: Battle Splash 2.0 on Steam.

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