Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Darkwind: War On Wheels

Remember Darkwind? I awarded it "Most Addictive Game" in the 2009 Bytten Ernie Awards. The multiplayer on-line turn based strategy war game now features Factions and Squad Combat Leagues which offer a completely new dimension to the game with an emphasis on consensual PvP play.

The game design team have created a system of inter-related Factions, including major factions such as the Merchants and the Anarchists, as well as minor ones such as the Mutants and the Evan Reds. Players' in-game actions now have consequences in terms of how members of these factions will treat them, as well as how the towns themselves will perceive their gang in terms of fame and reputation. In-game consequences will be far-reaching: will an arena gang adhere to your resignation or try to kill you? Will a town provide protection for you if you're fleeing from a pursuing enemy - or will they hate you to such a degree that they actually mobilise the local Militia to attack you as you arrive?

An entirely new style of league has been added to the game, with an emphasis on consensual PvP action. The Squad Combat Leagues are conducted between player-run teams, and are organised into 5 divisions. Each team competes in one combat per week. After each season, the top three teams in each division are promoted while the bottom three are relegated. Unique prizes are offered for these leagues, including camp production bonuses and top-tier character training.

"We are very pleased by the enthusiastic feedback the new features are receiving from players," game creator Sam Redfern commented. "Additionally it is a great achievement to receive positive reviews in the mainstream media as well as the indie media. The full-page review with a very positive 80% overall score in the UK edition of the world’s number one PC Gamer Magazine shows that main-stream reviewers are open-minded enough to recognise a top quality indie game when they see it."

Additional recent features to the game include mutant characters who tend to be stronger and faster than 'norms', yet they suffer from aging effects faster. The addition of mutants also ties in with the factions system, which provides a more subtle social model than a 'good versus bad' system.

Psionic powers have also been implemented, allowing the lucky few who possess these post-apocalyptic skills to perform a variety of mind-control and telekinetic effects.

The in-game tutorial has been totally overhauled, so any players who found Darkwind to be confusing the first time around should stop by and have a go at the new tutorial, which will get you driving and shooting in no time.

On-demand races, deathraces and arena combats can now be launched straight from the game lobby. These are 'proper' funded events, which will let your gang earn prize money and gain skills - so no more waiting around for the next event to spawn if you're a new player who hasn't yet ventured into the wilderness.

If you have not already signed up, go to www.dark-wind.com and find out what all the fuss is about!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Braaaaiiiiins!

Between the rest of my life and my work for Bytten, I rarely buy computer games. I receive review copies of games on average every fortnight and work on a computer all day at my office job, so understandably I don't really have much time for my own pursuits.

So it's a rare game that manages to slip into my life and extract cash from me at the same time. Even in this case, I took advantage of my Paypal account (useful tip, developers - many people have Paypal and any money in that account is often not considered "real" money, so offer Paypal as a payment method... it'll boost sales!).

This is "Plants vs Zombies", a tower defence style game available from Popcap. It was my partner that first located it, buying it for a new iPhone, and I was hooked. It's fun, it's easy to get into, the difficulty curve is pitched perfectly, it is FULL of little features, bonus games and so on, and it's utterly insane. So I bought it for the desktop machine.

The premise is simple enough. Zombies are attacking your house (no, we don't know why). The only thing between them and your delicious brains is your garden, in which you plant a variety of defensive flora to fend off the attack. These vary from the pea-shooter (a basic gun emplacement of sorts) and the cherry bomb (one-shot explosive, good for large numbers of zombies) to cabbage-pults, wall-nuts, mushrooms, potato mines, garlic... there are about fifty! Zombies too vary - from the garden-variety (ahem...) to tougher zombies in football gear, pole-vaulters, snorkel zombies in the swimming pool, dancing zombies, zombies with balloons, insane exploding zombies, zombies on bungee cords... and the terrifying Zomboss!

As you unlock more features in the main adventure mode, you'll gain access to puzzles - smashing vases which contain plants or zombies, or taking command of the zombies and getting past an army of plantlife - and a range of bizarre minigames, including a Bejeweled homage, a Zombiequarium and many more besides. You also have access to a Zen Garden, where you can grow your own plants from seedlings and gain coins for keeping them fed, watered and happy.

This is what I'd consider a good example of a gold star game. The attention to detail is astonishing, the range of features is incredible and even when you've completed the main game there is plenty more for you to do. Why stop at a simple match-three puzzler? You don't need ray-traced graphics and tons of content generation to produce a top game; all you need is plenty of imagination and a new take on an existing genre.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

UFO: Alien Invasion



Since this is a game that has rather absorbed my attention for the last few days, it seems only fair to give it a mention here.

Older games players may remember the X-Com Series (starting with "UFO: Enemy Unknown" here in the UK) in which aliens are surrepticiously visiting Earth, mutilating people and abducting cattle - or was it the other way around? X-Com is set up as a united defence against the alien threat and your role is to manage your bases, research and production in one half of the game and to lead your teams of warriors into battle in the other half.

UFO: Alien Invasion takes this old game and reinvents it. This is no straight port with flashier graphics but a new game altogether. The aliens are different. The combat is more clever. The weapons are vastly more numerous. The research tree makes a modicum of sense! It's a rather different beast to the original and I love it.

Opensource, this is a game still constantly in development. X-Com fans, you'll love this. Developers, you're welcome to pitch in and help with the latest version. Visit them at http://ufoai.sourceforge.net/ and see why I've been out of contact with the human race for the last few days.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Blowing In The (Dark)Wind

A lone tumbleweed spins across the dusty ground. Outside, the normally chill October air is strangely stuffy, filled with slow-baked desert heat and the distant rumble of over-revved engines.

That's right, folks - everyone's favourite post-apocalyptic vehicular carve-up is back in town. Darkwind, winner of a "Most Addictive Game" Ernie, is celebrating the opening of two new towns and a number of new features by offering all currently registered players two free weeks of full-access mayhem. If you haven't been visiting lately, here's a chance to see what you've been missing.

Aside from a new website and the two new towns (along with new maps and new arenas), Darkwind now boasts Town Attack Combat events - a consensual PvP gameplay method that allows players to duke it out with each other for special rewards whilst avoiding the "griefing" that regular PvP can cause.

Just remember - it won "Most Addictive Game 2009" for a good reason. You have been warned. Now I'd better let this tumbleweed back out before it starts clawing at the furniture...

Sign up at: http://www.dark-wind.com

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Magic Toy Chest - New Graphics



Some time ago I reviewed a game called "The Magic Toy Chest". One of the many aspects I commented on included some issues with the graphics.


The developers listened to these comments.


The Magic Toy Chest has thus been revamped, with all-new graphics! We were thus faced with a dilemma - as it is still the same game, a new review seemed unnecessary (not to mention likely to set an awkward precedent - every update to any game would warrant new reviews!) but a mere news posting seemed insufficient. And so I've dusted off my old blog, somewhere I really don't post to enough.


Here we have a screenshot from the previous version, and the new version. Note how much clearer the foreground is - you can now tell much more easily when something is foreground and something is background.






Here is another comparison - the character art has also been much improved:






Well done on your efforts! But a note of caution to all developers - try to ensure your graphics are finished before you release your game. It is very difficult to improve them afterwards.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Holy Street Fighter, Batman!


I've recently encountered a very strange little game: http://onemorelevel.com/game/faith_fighter

Having rather irreligious tendencies I rather liked the idea - select a divinity, then battle against all the others in turn. Each deity has a selection of special moves, as well as the normal collection of punches, kicks and so on. It plays like a demented, sacrilegious Street Fighter.

Those of you with devout beliefs may wish to stay away. Those of you with a playful streak may want to see if "your" god can vanquish all the others! As a means of choosing the one true faith this is probably not the best option - as a bit of fun, it's a hoot. And it's free!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

An Epic Work In Progress...

I am always pleased to hear about new and ambitious projects in the indie world, and here is just such a project. New developer Probability Space are launching Warrior Epic, an online RPG that aims to be small to download and free to play. Players after new equipment and special features can pay for this as they wish, but this is not required.

Though Probability Space is new, the team comprising it are anything but - previous work includes input on StarCraft, Age of Mythology, Gears of War, Command and Conquer III, Battle for MiddleEarth, and more besides. While a public beta is not yet available there are several screenshots on their website and what they have put together so far is impressive.

You can find out more about Warrior Epic at www.warriorepic.com.