Thursday, May 21, 2009

23 preview: No Quarter

Exclusive Preview: No Quarter

This is the title screen, sorry about the lazy crop, for some reason NQ doesn't like full screen screen captures

You may or may not have heard about Edmund McMillen and Alex Austin's newest project; No Quarter. No Quarter is going to be a game compilation that will play with 6 different games, or "tracks," much like a music CD. The game is still in fairly early beta, so I'm just telling you of what it's like so far, which may be very different than the final version. So, I managed to get my hands on a copy of the indiecade beta, with my awesome indie games press skills, and here's what I think of it so far.

Sliding on a platform while shooting zombies out from the air... yeah, this game is pretty awesome

The first track, Hitler Must Die!, is a 2D action/shooter/platformer. In this game you play as a Russian agent assigned with the awesome task of killing hundreds of invading Hitler clones. After the opening scene (done in stills) explaining this, you start right in the middle of an open, rocky terrain in the middle of the night. The art style is completely black and white, except for the blood. The moon shines in the background, occasionally getting blocked by the foreground. Light shines from the moon and from lightbulbs and windows inside, the lighting engine is as good (if not better) than that of Gish's. The game play is kind of slide-y and squishy, but that makes it perfect for sliding through halls filled with retarded Hitler clones while mowing them down with your Uzi. You get 4 guns (so far), your pistol, the Uzi, the shotgun, and grenades, all if which have infinite ammo (for now). Expect there to also be a flamethrower and to get these items randomly from enemies in the final version. One of the main features that makes this game really stand out is the physics system. When you kill an enemy, they don't just die, they fall (or if hit by a grenade, fly) backwards. This is very rewarding, especially with enemies that fall off ledges or get shot midair. So far, this is the high point of NQ, fun, addicting, and unique. Also, it has a good sound track.

GOOD COMBO!!! woohoo! ...these are common when you try to play as fast as you can...

The second track is Trivium. (20cc says: That's a band!) Trivium plays like Tetris with physics. The point is the connect 3 of the same type blocks and they will disappear, with new types of blocks appearing each level. So far it's fun, but a little slow. The bouncy physics make for a semi chaotic experience, controlling with the arrow keys gives you enough control to put the blocks where you want them, but still is inexact enough to always keep them moving. And, once again, this game also has a nice sound track, sort of a techno version of the Tetris theme. If you want to play it's already in a released beta version of NQ, and there's a very similar game Alex made a while back named Triptych. Oh, there's also a high score board to keep track of your scores.

THWOMP! The red center is a explosive, but hard to get to, also for some reason this one covered the toolbar

The third track is Epic Flail. EF is pretty early in development, but the concept is still established. You play as a small spaceship which has a huge bolder attached to it by an extending cable. You use the bolder to smash the one huge piece of space debris, eventually reaching the exploding core. The goal is to smash the falling debris into small enough pieces that it will burn up in the atmosphere, and not destroy the city below (or move the falling pieces far enough away from the city). In my opinion, this is the second best game of the track, and after it gets multiple levels, ships, and debris, it's sure to shine.

So... I filled in the outside... even playing on the small board can be tough

Track number four is Hext. Hext is very similar to Scrabble; it's a word game where you use your given letters in spaces on the board to make words. There is one very big exception though; all the pieces are 6 (hex) sided. The end objective is to fill the whole board with letters that combine to make as many words as possible and have the highest score (based on which letters you used). There is a handy in-game dictionary in case you want to check to see which words the game recognizes (almost all words are accepted), or to plug in some letters and see if it's a word. This game has a small and large board size, and also features a high score board.

My very unimpressive tree... atleast it didn't tip over

Track five is Seedling. So far Seedling is just a toy in which you build and grow a tree. It does it pretty well, although it's hard to make a sturdy tree that actually looks like a tree. The mechanics work fairly well, although you are able to make severely messed up trees. It's surprising how well a bunch of triangles can represent the growing of a tree. Anyway there isn't much else to say about this, because there isn't much there; build a tree, triangle by triangle, make it grow, and give it leaves and roots to catch sun and water. Hopefully this game will eventually emulate the life and hardships of a growing tree, full with competing wild life and environmental effects.

This is after the shuttle has split up in to three parts... believe it or not, this is what NASA uses...

The sixth, and last track of NQ is a work solely created by Alex. It is called Odyssey. Do you remember that game from way back when, the one where you had to land the spaceship on the moon? Well, this game is a lot like that, only that it feels like a bigger scale, and it's been updated with better physics and the idea isn't just to land, but to also drop off the rover and return to the base (i think). It's a lot more forgiving then the original (or the dozens of versions made with the same mechanic), and I think with the right music it could turn in to a very atmospheric, space-y, and somewhat lonely game.

So that's No Quarter. For all the beta testers, expect to see this version in about a week, and for everyone else, well, lets hope they release it by, idk, before the end of the year? Anyway, this game looks like it could be a real winner, hopefully it will get the attention it deserves when it comes out. Expect to see more footage up once all the testers get it!

P.S. Here are some more Hitler Must Die! screens for being a good reader and getting all the way to the end of the article!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Battle for Wesnoth, by BoltAction

Battle for Wesnoth
Real-Time Strategy for the Thrifty and Fun-Loving

Battle for Wesnoth is an open source strategy game available for download here. While I'm not a huge TBS fan, I was drawn to this simple and unpretentious strategy game pitting fantastic medieval armies against one another over a hex-grid. Gameplay is simple enough: you have a leader who sits in your castle, recruiting troops that hop around the board grabbing villages for income, slaying baddies for experience, and taking enemy castles in your name. As your units reach experience thresholds, they advance, becoming more specific and effective troop types, often far better at what they do and frequently just a bit worse at everything else. For example, a human spearman is a general unit, capable in melee and passable at range. Its upgrade options include javelineer (tough shooters that retain melee combat capability), swordsman (eschew first strike options for heavier damage), and pikeman (no ranged capability, but first strike and front-loaded attacks). Swordsmen upgrade further into royal guards, and pikemen into halberdiers, further specialized in their forms of attack. Units have their damage split up over multiple attacks, which they trade in the course of one combat, meaning that while the royal guard deals the most damage over his five strikes, the halberdier is much better at disposing of an enemy without being wounded himself, dealing only slightly less damage but using only two or threee attacks.

The mix of terrain and time-of-day options adds more interesting ways to play than just overwhelming an opponant. Chaotic units, such as undead, are more effective at night, while lawful ones, such as humans, are better during the day. Needless to say, elves are better at fighting in forests, and so on. Some units, such as the undead shadow and elven ranger, gain additional options depending on terrain and time of day, which encourages flexibility of play style and awareness of positioning based on the battle conditions. Of course, all too often the campaign simply ends up as "I've got a ton of experienced troops from previous scenarios - let's roll over the enemy like a steamroller over a turkey!" One quip: why is a side dependant on its leader's hanging back in the base recruiting units when logically he should be mopping the floor with the blood-soaked corpses of his enemies? Especially for orcs, the idea of an administrator-lord seemed inappropriate.

The game's graphics are a little bit cartoonish, and the plotlines of its many campaigns are fun, if not very original. Though these slight faults can diminish enjoyment for the connoisseur, the multitude of campaigns, sheer number of online scenarios, and variety of units and factions combine to give Battle for Wesnoth excellent replay value. The game's simple play style makes it fun, accessible, and, unlike many of the strategy games out there, transparent. On the whole, well worth the brief download and install time.

Gameplay: 18/20
Storyline: 16/25
Graphics: 1/5
Streamlined: 10/10
Innovation: 7/15
Fun: 18/25

Overall: 70/100

For the Optimists:
-Fun, comprehensible strategy game
-Cute + free + simple = kid-friendly
-High replayability

For the Pessimists:
-Graphics unimpressive
-Story uninventive
-Not very exciting

I, BoltAction, recommend Battle for Wesnoth if you're into open source games, like turn-based strategy fantasy, or are just looking for a simple, free game to suck up some time.