Infinite Space: Sea of Stars (Early Access) Preview

My god, it’s full of stars!

First off, what do the sci-fi movies and television series 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, Red Dwarf, Doctor Who, and Planet of the Apes all have in common with each other?  They’re almost as good as the Infinite Space series of games which have been created by the small indie development studio, Digital Eel.  “Why’s that?” – you might ask.  Well, it’s simply because they’re fun, smart, humorous, and easily accessible, and they can be enjoyed by both hardcore and casual gamers alike.  They’re also something of a cult classic, much like the Red Dwarf TV series.

Sure, every campaign can be completed in the time it takes to enjoy an “extended” coffee break, or plunge a toilet filled with a bad case of explosive diarrhea, but that’s beside the point.  The real meat and potatoes of the Infinite Space series is found in it’s exploration, discovery, simple yet strategic combat, randomness, and the near infinite replayability it grants the gamer with.  It would be hard to directly compare the series to any one game, but it’s gameplay is spread over multiple genres such as 4X turn based and real-time strategy, mixed in with a hint of Roguelike and RPG-lite elements that contain item discovery, loot-drops, NPC’s, some dialogue, and a dash of diplomacy.

Having played the first two games in this epic series, I had an idea of what to expect when going into the third and latest adventure in Infinite Space: Sea of Stars.  The good people who work at Digital Eel know that they have a well-oiled and working formula, so rather than tinker to much with the overall gameplay, they instead enhance and add-on to a solid foundation while also modernizing the mechanics and bumping up the presentation.  Like-minded gamers obviously appreciate this about Digital Eel and their game development, because the studio was able to draw enough attention and enthusiasm from the public in order to successfully fund their Infinite Space III: Sea of Stars Kickstarter Campaign, which also surpassed it’s humble funding goal I might add.

Veterans of the Infinite Space series can expect the same gaming goodness with a graphical overhaul, a handful of additional features that enhance the Infinite Space universe (without breaking it), but also a more detailed and focused layout in terms of helpful statistical information in regards to weapons and item descriptions, planets, and races, to name but a few.  Newcomers will appreciate the pick up and play mechanics coupled with a friendly user interface.  As with the other games in the series, Sea of Stars includes a helpful set of tutorial and hint screens that efficiently do the job of getting the player involved in the game right away.  These hints can be turned off once the player understands the ins and outs of the game, which really doesn’t take very long, but they can also be turned back on in case an aspect of the game isn’t quite clear yet.

One of the major differences in the latest game is that players will start the game by purchasing a ship, rather than choosing a loose plot at the beginning which determined your starting ship type, as was the case in Sea of Stars predecessor which was aptly titled Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space.  This time around you’re given a bit of starting cash and a number of ship types to choose from at the beginning.  You won’t be able to afford all of the ships right away, but knowing that you can come back and buy the more powerful ships later is certainly enticing.

Once you’ve purchased your ship it’s simply time to explore and get lost in this vast universe of strangeness and wonder.  Players can fly from star to star or planet to planet, all with the simple use of their mouse and easy to understand interface.  During my first game I encountered a number of hostile races, some of which I needed to flee from because I simply didn’t have the shields or weapons necessary to deal with them, but on a couple of occasions I was able to defeat some of the weaker enemy ships and reap the rewards of new and mysterious items.  Sometimes I’d find a new weapon, or a shield, while other times I’d gain an item that seemed superfluous at first but ended up proving to be quite useful later in the game when I encountered an enemy who decided not to attack simply because I was holding said item.  Much like the first two games though, Sea of Stars features a randomized star system filled with nebula and both hostile and friendly races to deal with.  The replay value is nearly infinite and if this title turns out to be anywhere near as good as its predecessors, then I’ll be playing it often and for many, many years to come.

While the game still has that classic feel of the Infinite Space series, it’s easy to see that Digital Eel wants to make an even bigger and better sequel, with more options, and all new 3D graphics, and the same catchy ethereal music and sound fx.  However, the game is still in its early development phase, meaning it’s still got a lot of kinks and blemishes.  Although the game is available on Steam through early access, the core gameplay is still rough around the edges, and for obvious reasons, doesn’t feel complete yet.  That’s just fine for me though, and I think fans of the previous games can be confident if they decide to pick the game up early, in order to try out the current build and follow the production of Sea of Stars and it’s development right up to the finished product.  Newcomers and gamers unfamiliar with the series should definitely keep an eye on this particular title though.  Just understand that if you do decide to pick the game up, it isn’t finished yet, and there will be A LOT of new elements, tweaking, bug squashing, and polish added to the game over the coming months.  If there’s one thing I can say about the Infinite Space series though is that so far the games have been worth every cent, and then some.

You can head over to the Digital Eel website for info on their complete library of games but be sure to keep your eyes on the Infinite Space: Sea of Stars Steam page for a current list of detailed updates and release info!  Currently you can purchase the game in it’s early access stage for $9.99 US, which is cheaper than it’s predecessor was when it first came out.  So far, the game is only available on PC, but will hopefully become available on multiple platforms in the not so distant future.

.

Croixleur Sigma – Now Available (Steam, GamersGate, Desura, and the Humble Store)

Croixleur Sigma, formerly known simply as Croixleur, is now available on many of your favorite game distribution networks such as Steam, GamersGate, Humble Store, and Desura, to name but a few.  Published by Nyu Media, who are best known for their frenetic Shooters or Shmups, have now delivered an Anime inspired arcade hack and slash arena-based brawler.  The story is your usual fair of lighthearted anime fluff complete with the requisite sexual innuendo.  However, you’ll be focusing more on the action, rather than the exposition, in this fast-paced, sword-swinging, magic wielding, combo-fest of a 3-D arcade style beat’em up.

I’ve spent a good hour playing the game and it feels just as slick as it looks.  The controls are tight and responsive.   Although players can enjoy the game using the default keyboard setup, it is highly recommended that gamers play this one with a controller or gamepad since the action is almost non-stop and becomes more intense with each new stage or level.  However, the game is currently only available for Windows users.

Croixleur Sigma Features:

  • 5 modes of blistering pace 60 FPS hack-&-slash arcade action!
  • 2 playable characters – play as either Lucrezia Visconti or Francesca Storaro!
  • Take on the Adjuvant Trial in Story Mode with separate stories and multiple endings for both characters!
  • Test your mettle and hone your skills in Score Attack, Survival, Challenge, and Bonus modes!
  • A well-featured combo system including move canceling, attack collisions, invincible dashing and action locks!
  • 20 weapons to collect, each with a unique special attack! Pick the load-out that suits your fighting style and the battle ahead!
  • 42 in-game achievements, Steam Trading Cards, and online leaderboards!
  • Local 2 player co-op! Take on the monster hordes with a friend in Dramatic Battle mode!

For more information and detail on the story and characters, head over to the Croixleur Sigma website where you can also purchase the game.  For your convenience you may also buy the game on Steam, GamersGate, Desura, and the Humble Store, all for the low price of only $7.99 US.  If you like Hack & Slash games and Arcade-style action, definitely check it out.

Uncanny Valley – The Psychological Indie Survival Horror Game

Uncanny Valley is a new survival horror adventure game being developed by Cowardly Creations, that focuses on storytelling, some mature themes, and a dark and atmospheric setting, all while providing the player with a sense of dread and an ever increasing amount of tension.  The unfinished game is well on it’s way to delivering on all those features but the developers are reaching out to the public with their IndieGogo funding campaign in order to help complete Uncanny Valley and release a scary game that is finely crafted and well polished upon release.  The developers are looking for a modest amount when compared to most recent Kickstarter projects.  There’s a little over a month left in the campaign and with a little bit of help from other enthusiastic gamers, I think this project can be easily funded.

There are no lack of survival horror games these days, though the vast majority of them have been focusing on delivering the “jump scare” rather than playing on the fears, emotions, and mental fortitude of gamers.  It’s not difficult to understand why jump scares are popular since we’ve had plenty of reason now to watch other jump while playing a game, rather than taking the opportunity to play the game for ourselves.  Psychological horror games on the other hand, slowly creep their way into ones brain, providing that dreadful, yet interestingly entertaining experience, while producing all the necessary side-effects such as an increased sense of dread, tension, depression, and of course, impending doom.  These are the things we’ve come to expect as gamers who enjoy horror games with a rich and engrossing atmosphere, particularly since the release of the grandfather of modern psychological horror games, Silent Hill 2.

Interesting Mechanics and features (from the IndieGogo campaign):

“Uncanny Valley’s main difference from other games is a thing we like to call the consequence system. Whenever you fail at something, the game goes on, but with harsh consequences for your character that can impact both the story and the gameplay.

For example – you fail at avoiding your attackers, meaning your character will move slower throughout the game, making it harder to escape future pursuers, so the player needs to be careful and more clever, which adds more tension to the game. Of course, there are a couple of sections where you can die, but we’re trying to avoid that as much as possible.

Why? Because dying and repeating the same section over and over is tedious and leads to frustration. The game stops being scary if you’re angry and just want to rush through it, so we think that adding such a system will still keep the tension while adding a new layer to scariness.”

Features:

  • a huge, explorable facility with multiple floors and buildings
  • intense moments of dread
  • detailed story with rich characters
  • consequence system mechanic

If Cowardly Creations exceeds their funding goal they plan on bringing Uncanny Valley to numerous platforms including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS devices.  Be sure to check out the IndieGogo campaign for Uncanny Valley and enjoy the teaser trailer above!

Sky Battles – Preview

What would happen if you combined and mixed prominent gameplay elements from both Crimson Skies and Shadow of the Colossus?   You’d get Sky Battles that’s what!  Developed by Magnetic Studios, Sky Battles attempts to take fast paced arcade style air combat to bold new places.  Does it succeed?   Well, the game is still in development, but it’s shaping up to be quite the experience and after playing a working build of the game, I think it’s safe to say that Sky Battles has a lot of potential.  Keep reading.

After diving in and playing around with the game mechanics and enjoying the sheer spectacle of battling larger than life enemies, I’m certainly looking forward to the full game.  The controls are fairly simplistic so far, and that’s a good thing considering the action / arcade style gameplay involved.  This isn’t an air combat simulator, and it does have more of a Crimson Skies feel to it, even though you’ll be taking on Godzilla and King Kong like enemies.

In the build that I played there was only one plane and two maps available.  There’s also a multiplayer mode but it wasn’t available yet.  Speaking of multiplayer mode, I can’t wait to see how that plays out as I’m a huge Crimson Skies fan and there hasn’t been much in the way of a good Crimson Skies multiplayer experience since it was originally released.  The plane(s) are controlled using either a keyboard or a simple mouse setup for movement and shooting, but I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t an option for gamepad or controller support.  The mouse control is smooth, though a little unwieldy at first, and the keyboard control is function but lacks the analog precision of a controller.  I do think the controls would feel even better using an Xbox 360 controller or a generic twin stick gamepad.  Hopefully, this is something that will be implemented in the not-so-distant future though (fingers crossed).

Sky Battles development is well underway and you can expect to see the game made available on platforms such as PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.  No word of a Linux build yet, but hopefully that’s something we’ll see in a future update.  If you like what you see an would like to learn more, head on over to the Magnetic Studios website.  If you’re excited about a new arcade style air combat game with a full single player story and online multiplayer, then be sure to head over to the Steam Greenlight page where you can up-vote Sky Battles and hopefully fast track this title to the Steam storefront.

Forward to the Sky – The indie Zelda-like that requires your support

The passionate people behind Indie development studio Magichnology, who are industry veterans based out of Taiwan, are well on their way developing an extremely slick looking Zelda-like titled Forward to the Sky or FttS.  The game won’t just be a simple Zelda clone, but will involve numerous elements of sword swiping action, adventure, puzzle solving, and platforming.  The team behind the game are looking for a little bit of funding through the Forward to the Sky indiegogo campaign.  Unlike some of the overinflated (and in many cases unreasonable) funding goals found in recent Kickstarter campaigns, the devs of FttS are only looking for a modest $3000 in order acquire additional art assets in order to finish their project.  With just over two weeks left in the funding campaign they are almost 1/3rd of the way to their funding goal.  I’m personally hoping that this campaign succeeds because the PC, Mac, and Linux platforms have been missing good Zelda-like games as of late.

The gameplay reminds me quite of a bit of some of my favorite N64 and Playstation 2 games such as Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon, Super Mario 64, and Dark Cloud 1 & 2.  The game also has some Anime inspiration surrounding it, which reminds me quite a bit of the games released during Playstation 2 era (which was also the most popular console era to date).  Forward to the Sky also boasts some impressive animation.  Obviously the game is incomplete, but judging by the trailer and screenshots below, it’s shaping up to be quite the colorful adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re impressed by what you see then be sure to head over to the Forward to the Sky indiegogo funding campaign page where you can help bring this sharp looking action / adventure to life.  For the modest contribution of $7 US, you’ll receive a full DRM-free digital copy of the game once it’s released.  You may even increase your contribution in order to obtain bonus perks such as the game soundtrack and collectors booklet (in pdf format) which includes original artwork and some background on the game development.

Indie Game Announcement – “Bazalth: Don’t Trust The Signs!” coming late 2014

Here’s a little title that was recently brought to my attention and which had piqued my interest.  Bazalth: Don’t Trust The Signs! is a 3D action / adventure / beat’em up of sorts that will involve some light puzzle elements which will be thrown in for good measure.  The announcement trailer doesn’t reveal too much in the way of gameplay with the exception of a brief snippet near the end of the trailer, but what’s there does look good so far, particularly for a small indie development team consisting of only 3 people.  Helium Games plans to make the game available across multiple platforms such as Windows, Mac, and Linux with a projected release date sometime in late 2014.

“Once upon a time, on a planet far far away, lived some cute and peaceful creatures called Gloupsies. Happy and innocent, living a dream life. The only small problem they had was about their demon infestation. Every 28 days (on Fridays), their village would be attacked by powerful demons who destroys everything. One morning, an old stranger arrived out of nowhere, carrying a strange package. This stranger, called Folm, explained that he also suffered from the demons attacks: First of all he said, we have to relocate your village Yeah… Gloupsies were actually rebuilding their village at the same place over and over again. So much wisdom quickly convinced the Gloupsies who welcomed Folm as their savior. However, this is just a temporary solution, he continued, I’ve brought someone who can in time help us defeat those evil demons forever. We have to fight evil with evil! Here is Bazalth, one of their own.”

Some of the features you’ll find in Bazalth:

  • Action packed
  • Challenging puzzles
  • No 8bit pixels! Tremendous 3D models
  • Weapons!
  • Power ups!

Obviously this is just a glimpse of what’s to come.  I’m hoping that Bazalth turns out to be the great 3D action / beat’em up that it could possibly become.  For now we’ll just have to wait and see.  Head on over to the Bazalth: Don’t Trust The Signs! website for more info and participate in the forum discussions regarding it’s gameplay and imminent release.