Iron Harvest – 1920

Iron Harvest, like its mechs, is cool, but also big, clunky, and frustrating.

Ed Note: This article should be read as a review of the campaign, and not the PvP multiplayer. We haven’t played pretty much any of the multiplayer, just a bit of campaign co-op. Even in the co-op, these issues were still present, but please don’t get the impression that we played enough to know if the multiplayer is balanced between factions and such.

This post was going to be about a different game called Unrailed, but instead, it’s about a different type of steam powered machine. Five second version of the article is this: I like Iron Harvest, but it has too many small problems for me to recommend at the moment, and its core gameplay systems don’t interact with each other well. Maybe it will be patched. Maybe the price will drop. But right now, it just costs too much for the issues it has. You can leave now, or you can stick around and read why I think that.

Iron Harvest is a RTS, more of the Warcraft 3 variety then say StarCraft. I’ve mostly just been playing through the campaign so far, and at about 18 hours in, I think I’m about two-thirds through. The two big parts of the game for me, are the story and the gameplay. So those are the two things I’m gonna talk about. Let’s start with the story/lore.

Look at that. I mean, just look at it.

Overall, the story is solid, if occasionally stuttering. Set in the same universe as the board game Scythe, you play as a variety of forces in a 1920 Europe with diesel-punk tech. This includes the Not-Quite-Germans, the Not-Quite-Polish, and the Not-Quite-Russians. The only real gripe I have about the story is that for all of the emphasis on the value of human life, the actual gameplay will have you blowing up shit from hell to breakfast. Otherwise, I’d say it’s fine, and from what I’ve seen, it does a pretty good job of nailing the “World War 1 was a clusterfuck that should never have happened” vibe.

Then we have the gameplay. You create bases, build units, and generally do RTS things. I want to talk about the units in a bit more detail though, because they’re where I have most of my issues with the game.

There are three types of units in Iron Harvest: mechs, infantry and weapon platforms. Infantry is a single group of up to 5 units, mechs are large single-unit mechanized robots, and weapon platforms are things like mortars, machine guns, and cannons manned by infantry.

All three units share a few things in common. First off, they feel fairly expensive, at least in comparison to say, units from something like Starcraft. You cannot afford to just run them like lemmings to their doom. They also all have an experience system, in which leveled up units get access to more actions/better stats. For some units, this is fairly minor, and for some, the units are more or less useless without leveling up.

All units also feel relatively clunky, albeit in different ways. Infantry is inherently the most mobile and least armored, with the ability to take cover behind fences and walls. This would be fine, except some fences you can take cover behind, and some you can’t, and until you mouse over them, you won’t know which is which. You can’t actually move an infantry squad individually, you can only move the group. This can become very frustrating when you can’t get them all behind your defenses.

(As a brief example, you can order engineer units to build barbed wire, but you can’t control them individually, so it’s entirely possible to build a line of barbed wire, only to end up with half of the unit on the wrong side, and now forced to walk around the map to just get back home.)

Speaking of defenses, let’s talk about mechs, and the terrain deformation system. I’ve included a brief example below.

What a small lovely church. I sure hope nothing bad happens to-
Oh dear.
This isn’t even from attacking or anything. This is from just having that mech move through it.

This is one of the coolest, and at the same time, most frustrating things about Iron Harvest for me. Mechs will just roll over a fair amount of anything that gets in their way. Unfortunately, this applies to your defenses as well. Unless you are very careful with your command move orders, they are more then happy to just stomp through fortifications you just finished setting up. Trying to keep mechs from destroying your own defensive line is a real struggle. And given that your defensive line usually exists somewhere between your factory and the place you want the mechs to go, it happens a lot.

This might be deliberate given that they’re supposed to be these hulking multi-ton behemoths, but it can also be exceedingly aggravating. They control like slugs on crack: hard to get moving, and even harder to stop. Mechs take about double damage from attacks that hit the back of the unit, so you want to be able to put them exactly where you need them, but the game doesn’t always play toward this. Move commands will not always actually re-orient a mech, and the turn speed on many units is very slow. This means you can end up with your forces pointed the entirely wrong direction in a fight.

Finally, the weapon platforms. I only have one real gripe with these, and it has to do with how the game handles attacks. From what I can tell, Iron Harvest seems to have a physics-based projectile system for attacks. This is true for all units in the game, but it’s easiest to notice with infantry-manned weapon systems.

This means that you can actually benefit from cover and high ground, but it also means your mounted machine gun will sometimes fire directly into the defensive sandbags you set up in front of it, instead of into the approaching enemy forces. You might just deploy cannons and later find out that they can’t actually hit anything. And since your troops don’t automatically adjust, they’ll just sit there while a battalion of jackholes with flamethrowers waltzes up to sauté your ass.

I’m going to try to summarize my issues here but it generally works out to this: unit controls are too clunky micro effectively, and interact with terrain, but if you don’t micro, you get wiped out. Not using terrain will mean you have a decent chance of just shooting into a wall. The experience system encourages you to keep your units alive, but scouting the map often requires at least some sacrifices, and again, requires that ever present micro. And you need to be doing all of this at the same time.

This last bit illustrates my biggest issue with Iron Harvest, and I think if I had to summarize it, it would be, “It feels like there are several underlying systems at work that simply do not play well with each other.” The game wants you to build fortifications, but you can’t control units effectively enough to not destroy them. The bunkers you can build that don’t just get destroyed when they get walked over count toward your population cap, as do anti-mech mines if you have access to them. The AI both gives you very little control (you can’t individually position units, just issue move orders until you have them where you want) and at the same time, you’re asked to be as careful as possible with placement, for example taking double damage if you’re shot in the back.

And finally, you have a destructible terrain system feels equally likely to fail you when you try to move a larger mech, and accidentally take out a line of barbed wire, because the AI simply follows orders.

Iron Harvest is full of interactions like this. You can station units in buildings, but you can’t give them hold fire orders. Attack move commands feel more like a suggestion. Units will repeatedly fire directly into walls, because they “see” enemies, but their attacks are blocked. Mortar and ranged units don’t have a “hold and fire” option. You can’t necessarily fire into fog of war.

These issues are less of a problem on the smaller levels, where you control a small number of units. Some of these levels are my favorite in the game, including one where you escort a train with a massive cannon. Another level has you using small sets of infantry to infiltrate and take out defenses, all the while avoiding larger patrols. These missions, where you have the time to focus and micro, where you only have a few units, and where you can really keep them alive, are where the games feels fun. You have the space to plan and watch, and figure out how to use all of these systems in your favor.

It’s when the game tries to have truly massive fights that everything just starts to fall apart. I found myself mostly just face-mashing my way through certain levels. I would try to build diverse unit compositions, but the second I lost a critical unit (longer range siege, anti-mech infantry), I would have to retreat and regroup my forces, as I would eventually run into a problem I didn’t have tools to deal with.

Iron Harvest is just too rough right now for me to see it as worth its price tag. The moments of fun are just not balanced out by the massive slog and frustration some of the larger levels can become. The quality of the campaign is varied, and doesn’t always play to the strengths of the game as a whole.

Iron Harvest is currently $50 on Steam. If you really love the aesthetic, and think you can put up with the issues above, you can buy it there if you want.

PAX Online 2020 – GAME DEMOS – PART 6 of 6

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In what turned out to be Part 6 of 6 of our demo coverage, thus allowing me to go back and enumerate everything else, we take a look at eight more demos. Why not three for each part, you ask? Like all the others? I don’t know either. But here they are, the last eight.

Format is as follows:

GameName of the Game
Demo LengthHow Long it Took me to Finish the Demo
GenreType of game, based on my impressions
Quick Thoughts3-4 sentences based on what I thought of the game
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameMoo Lander
Demo Length14 Minutes
Genre Adventure?
Quick ThoughtsI think I spent more time trying to figure out what to put in the genre box above then I have spent thinking about Moo Lander. It’s not bad… it just didn’t really grab me? It has some nice art, and amusing writing, but nothing about the demo screamed “BUY ME” to me.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameCrown Trick
Demo Length2 Hours (got to final boss, didn’t beat it)
GenreTurn-based Roguelike
Quick ThoughtsI love Crown Trick. Crown Trick does not love me. Crown Trick thinks it’s okay to put you in a room with three fairly massive bosses and just beat you into a ever-loving pulp. I want to play more Crown Trick, and I want to beat it.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameNeon Abyss
Demo Length10 Minutes
GenreRoguelike
Quick ThoughtsNeon Abyss seems to take ideas from a bunch of places, including Binding of Issac, Dead Cells, and Enter the Gungeon. It’s a fast-paced roguelike where you collect stuff and get better. The demo was fun, and it’s actually out already, but there wasn’t anything in the demo that screamed that I had to buy this game.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameNeko Ghost, Jump!
Demo Length1 Hour
Genre2D/3D Puzzle Platformer + Speedrunner
Quick ThoughtsA lot of stuff about Neko Ghost, Jump! right now is very crude, including the art, music, and animations, but the gameplay is awesome. You can swap between 2D and 3D, and it tends to get used in some really clever ways. The most unique platformer I saw at the show, and have seen in quite a while. Worth keeping an eye on.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameEldest Souls
Demo Length5 Hours/2 Hours from a friend who is good at Dark Souls
GenreDark Souls
Quick ThoughtsThe genre is technically called “Soulslike” but if you make a game where I die for three hours in a row to the same single enemy, you’ve made a Dark Souls. I’m not good at Dark Souls style games, and as I learned with this demo, I might be really bad at them. The game is pure boss rush fights, and my friend who likes Dark Souls games liked it a lot. I mostly liked watching him play after I beat the demo, and reminding myself that I’m not bad at video games, sometimes they’re just hard.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameGreak: Memories of Azur
Demo Length40 Minutes
GenrePuzzle Platformer
Quick ThoughtsI liked Greak, but again, not enough for it really leave a permanent lasting impression. The idea of controlling multiple characters is really neat, but I struggled with the controls, mostly because they were set up pre-bound for Xbox controllers, so a lot of the prompts were off. The one mini-boss was the area where I died the most, and trying to do combat with both characters at once never clicked for me. Still, if you like games like Trine, this might be for you.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameLovingly Evil
Demo Length1 Hour (I played really slowly)
GenreVisual Novel/Dating Sim
Quick ThoughtsI don’t really play visual novels/dating sims. I was gonna have someone else play it, and do a write up, but life happened, so I did it instead. Look, I think if you play this sort of game to begin with, you’ll be a better judge of if you’d enjoy it than me.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameWerewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart of the Forest
Demo Length22 minutes
GenreVisual Novel
Quick ThoughtsIf nothing else, the writing for this game drew me in really quick. I’ve got to wonder how much of the writing is actually variable, and how much is scripted, but if the goal of a demo is try to get me interested in the full release, this one worked.
Play It HereLink to the Demo

PAX Online 2020 – GAME DEMOS – PART 5 of 6

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Format is as follows:

GameName of the Game
Demo LengthHow Long it Took me to Finish the Demo
GenreType of game, based on my impressions
Quick Thoughts3-4 sentences based on what I thought of the game
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameJack Move
Demo Length41 Minutes
GenreJRPG Mechanics with a Cyberpunk Theme
Quick ThoughtsPerhaps the most interesting thing mechanically in Jack Move’s demo is the ability to swap out your spells mid combat. Everything else is pretty standard, but well executed. If you’ve played a JRPG, you’ve seen most of these mechanics before, but the presentation is fun. This could turn out to be really good for folks who already like the genre.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameDrone Swarm
Demo Length28 Minutes
GenreReal Time Puzzler/Strategy
Quick ThoughtsIn Drone Swarm, you control a spaceship that has a drone swarm. The writing is painfully campy, and the whole “Oh no aliens please don’t attack us” thing, where you are then forced to blow them up (even though mechanically, you can pretty easily survive without damaging them) rubbed the wrong way. On the other hand, the actual mechanics are neat, since you do stuff by drawing patterns and shields. If nothing else, Drone Swarm is pretty unique, making this demo warrant a play.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameDestiny’s Sword
Demo Length12 Minutes, but I just Stopped “Playing”
GenreI have no idea.
Quick ThoughtsThe Destiny’s Sword demo does not do a good job of selling Destiny’s Sword as a game. As far as I can tell, it looks like a glorified mobile game with some troop management mechanics. Honestly, this was just such a poor demo that I stopped playing, since it was kinda hard to figure out what you were even supposed to be doing, and you can’t really interact in the battles outside of a few “Tap to activate” abilities.
Play It HereLink to the Demo

PAX Online 2020 – GAME DEMOS – PART 4 of 6

This excerpt space for rent.

We’re running out of clever things to put at the top of these articles. Please follow us on Twitter? Subscribe and like? Offer us your immortal soul so that we may use it to please the Dreadmother of the Night?

Format is as follows:

GameName of the Game
Demo LengthHow Long it Took me to Finish the Demo
GenreType of game, based on my impressions
Quick Thoughts3-4 sentences based on what I thought of the game
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameMorbid: The Seven Acolytes
Demo LengthJust over an Hour
GenreDark Souls, but 2D
Quick ThoughtsI am not a Dark Souls person; this game is a Dark Souls. As such, it took me forever to beat, and at least 4-5 tries on the final boss alone. Did I like it enough to buy it? Not sure yet, I’m not a masochist. Overall, really good.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameInkulinati
Demo Length1 Hour
GenreTurn Based Tactics
Quick ThoughtsOne of the neatest things I’ve played so far at the show. Art is great, music is great, gameplay is great. Only real gripe I have is that the AI in the demo seems very weak in terms of letting you just shove the enemy captain Inkulinati off the ledge. But, y’know, demo. Worth keeping an eye on.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameExophobia
Demo Length39 Minutes
GenreSingle Axis Shooter
Quick ThoughtsI wanted to put “I can’t believe it’s not Return to Castle Wolfenstein” in the genre section again, but then remembered I’m supposed to be professional. Nothing amazing, nothing awful about Exophobia. The opening is very slow. This is one of the demos where I think you can play it and know if you’ll be interested in the final game. This one just isn’t for me though.
Play It HereLink to the Demo

PAX Online 2020 – GAME DEMOS – PART 3 of 6

The wheel of fate is turning.

Round 3! Ready? FIGHT!

Format is as follows:

GameName of the Game
Demo LengthHow Long it Took me to Finish the Demo
GenreType of game, based on my impressions
Quick Thoughts3-4 sentences based on what I thought of the game
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameRangok Skies
Demo Length8 Minutes/48 Minutes (More on this below)
GenreShoot Em Up
Quick ThoughtsI have two lists of times up above, because 8 minutes is how long it took me to clear the demo, and 48 minutes is how long it took me to clear the demo on one credit. SHMUPs are not a huge part of my gaming diet, so I’d be curious to see someone more familiar with the genre play this. Regardless, I liked it.
Play It HereLink to the Demo – You may need to set your refresh rate to 60hz for the demo to work properly. The publisher has confirmed the devs are working on a fix for this that is expected to be released in the full game.
GameNeurodeck
Demo Length1 Hour
GenreDeckbuilder Rougelike
Quick ThoughtsI am really conflicted on Neurodeck. Right now, it feels like playing a prototype more then playing a demo. The mechanics are interesting, but currently feel untuned, and the enemy scaling is ridiculous. It doesn’t feel like the mental illness tone of the game was built with those mechanics in mind, more that the theme was added after mechanics had been decided on. There are also some bugs.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameUragun
Demo Length15 Minutes – Only one level, but it took a few tries
GenreTop Down/Twinstick Run and Gun
Quick ThoughtsUragun is neat. The demo is pretty short, but it’s fun. Twinsticks aren’t really my cup of tea, but you lose nothing by grabbing the demo and seeing if it’s something you want to keep an eye on. It has some really neat enemies, like these little dudes that form blocker walls.
Play It HereLink to the Demo

PAX Online 2020 – GAME DEMOS – PART 2 of 6

Part 2 of what is starting to look like a substantial haul of demos. I was trying to come up with something interesting to say like “Grab your pickaxe as we go into the game mines,” but honestly, this is the easiest convention experience ever in terms of reviewing stuff. This is more “Click install on Steam and just play stuff.” So here we go.

Format is as follows:

GameName of the game
Demo LengthHow long it took me to finish the demo
GenreType of game, based on my impressions
Quick Thoughts3-4 sentences based on what I thought of the game
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameOperation Tango
Demo Length20 Minutes
GenreAsymmetric Real Time Co-op Puzzler
Quick ThoughtsMy standout game of the show so far. A really cool puzzler, with one person playing the Hacker, and one playing the Agent. Neat puzzles, really nice art style. You will need a friend to play with, so find that person, and keep an eye on this one.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameBlack Skylands
Demo Length1 Hour (including some messing about)
GenreTop Down Run and Gun/Town Builder
Quick ThoughtsLots of potential here. Developers describe the demo as a “Vertical Slice” which in my experience means “Held together with tape and prayers”, so it will be interesting to see how this ends up maturing. I generally enjoyed playing it, and I’ll keep an eye on it.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameMayhem In Single Valley: Confessions
Demo Length1 Hour
GenrePuzzle?
Quick ThoughtsI did not have fun with this demo. Outside of some nice art and music, I have no praise for it. The demo was buggy, inconsistent, and exceedingly confusing and janky. Disagree with me? Go play it yourself. I can’t tell if it’s just not for me, or what, but this didn’t sell me on the game at all.
Play It HereLink to the Demo

PAX Online 2020 – GAME DEMOS – PART 1 of 6

Overloop, Hell Architect, and Nongunz. What do these games have in common? Well, mostly the fact that we finished downloading them first.

The misery that is 2020 continues, and one of the casualties has been in-person events, and actual conventions. However, PAX Online is here, and with a whole bunch of Steam demos. This article consists of the first part of Gametrodon’s ongoing coverage of PAX Online.

Format is as follows:

GameName of the game
Demo LengthHow long it took me to finish the demo
GenreType of game, based on my impressions
Quick Thoughts3-4 sentences based on what I thought of the game
Play It HereLink to the demo
GameOverloop
Demo Length16 Minutes
GenrePuzzle Platformer
Quick ThoughtsYou have a gun to make copies of yourself. Solve puzzles with it. There’s a story, but the tone is… eh. Nothing special, but seems competently made. Pixel graphics.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameHell Architect
Demo Length31 Minutes
GenreSimulation/Management
Quick ThoughtsSeems like a grimier version of Oxygen Not Included. A bit neat. Not really the sort of thing I’d usually play, but it held my interest long enough for me to finish out the demo.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameNongunz : Doppelganger Edition
Demo Length??? – (I quit after a few deaths.)
Genre??? – I think it’s a roguelite
Quick ThoughtsReally neat unique art style. Gameplay feels bad, but I’m not sure if that’s because I’m really struggling with the controls, or what. I’m gonna give this one another go with a controller. No actual in-game explanations given without text on how things actually work.
Play It HereLink to the Demo

Max Seidman, Resonym – Post Surrealist Kickstarter Interview

A Post Kickstarter Interview

I recently got a chance to chat with Max Seidman from Resonym about their recently completed Kickstarter for the board game Surrealist Dinner Party. Max is a game designer and manager at Resonym, and has worked on several released games, including Mechanica, Monarch, and Visitor in Blackwood grove. Resonym’s Surrealist Dinner Party Kickstarter finished with just over $30,000 in pledges.

The discussion mostly centered around board games and Kickstarter, with a few questions about Surrealist Dinner Party. Some of this interview may seem a bit scattershot, but the general categories of questions and info can be found below.

  1. Production of Board Games, and various costs
  2. Some Interesting things about Surrealist Dinner Party
  3. The Changing Meta of Kickstarter

1. Producing Board Games

F(Fritz Wallace): So, this is more general, but just to start off, let’s talk about scams and failures on Kickstarter. There have been a lot of projects that don’t get finished in the game sphere, mostly video games. And even in the board game space, we have things like Glory to Rome which just imploded. Do you think these have impacted use of Kickstarter as a platform for board game projects, and for people pledging?

M(Max Seidman): From my standpoint, no. Games in general is the single biggest category on Kickstarter, and board games are a much bigger than video games. Failures in video games don’t really impact board games.

F: Let’s talk about cost. I was kinda shocked when I looked at what KS takes in terms of cut. Using Kickstarter ends up costing about 10% of money raised on the service, 5% in Kickstarters fees, and between 3-5% in payment processing fees. How high does that end up feeling?

M: So from our standpoint, this is not bad at all. One thing to keep in mind is the standard supply chain for a board game works something like this:

You take your game, and you sell it to a distributor at 40% of MSRP. The Distributor then sells it to stores at 50% MSRP. Then your local game store or Amazon or whoever it is sells the game at MSRP. So, let’s say you make a game that retails at $50. This means the local game store most likely bought it at $25. They purchased it from the distributor who bought it from us for $20.

So, for a game being sold to stores, this means that if we want to make money, the cost of production and shipping the game has to be about $10 per copy, for us to even stand a chance of making money on a MSRP $50 game.

Now let’s consider a Kickstarted game, from the same lens. Let’s say you pledge $50. Well, Kickstarter and fees take their 10%, leaving us with $45. And now that $45 is the combination of what we can use
to both make money, and to actually produce the game. So let’s say manufacturing and shipping ends up costing $35, because we can now afford to throw in more components, more pieces, nicer print runs, etc.
We now have three times as much we can spend per copy manufactured, relative if we were to go with the traditional supply chain, and we’re still netting the same amount of money profit. For some creators, this is what
Kickstarter lets them do.

Now, we don’t do that at Resonym. We want to make games that can be enjoyed by a wide audience, and as such, we want to be able to sell them at mass market prices, which means they end up going through the supply chain mentioned above. But this is why with Kickstarter versions of a game, you might see nicer tokens, extra addons, or other things that make the game better, but might be cost prohibitive otherwise.

The other reason to do Kickstarter is that we simply do not have the money to do these print runs otherwise.

ED Note: The TLDR here is that direct sales (like through Kickstarter) are much more profitable to the publisher than retail sales, which I found fascinating.

2. Some Interesting Things About Surrealist Dinner Party

F: You’ve made games before, including Mechanica. Whats been the hardest thing about making Surrealist Dinner Party?

M:
One of the longest parts of Surrealist Dinner Party has been getting the right to the actual Surrealists in the game themselves, specifically the right to use them in a board game. It’s a complicated process, and none of us are lawyers.
My understanding is that state of the rights to use their likeness and name can depend on where they lived, where they died, and bunch of other factors.
We got a lot of help from the Artists Rights Society in figuring things out.
While there are some artists who we might have been able to use without asking permission, we didn’t want to do that.

In addition, getting the rights to use them in a game was tricky, and was different on an artist by artist basis. For example, even once you got in contact with the rights holder (which itself was challenging; many estates or families never got back to us), what they would ask for was somewhat unpredictable. Some would let us use the artist’s name in the game for a reasonable sum, or a similar donation to charity. Others thought it was neat that this person would be in the game, and let us use them for free.

Some weren’t as enthusiastic, as they didn’t want the person they were representing, often a relative, in a game at all.

(Personal Opinion of Gametrodon Editor Here: This seems incredibly stupid to me, but what do I know about art.)

There were also some that asked for licensing fees that were simply so high we couldn’t include them.

F: Okay, so quick question. Since you now have all the rights to these artists for games, when can we expect the Resonym published Smash Bros, but with Surrealists?

M: Well, we don’t have the rights to use them unequivocally forever. We have the rights to use them for this game.

F: Bummer. Alright, so one last question about production before we get into the meta of Kickstarter itself. It would be silly not to mention COVID-19 and the year’s pandemic. Do you currently see that as
impacting your ability to deliver Surrealist?

M: We have some concerns about COVID-19, but they may not be the ones people would expect. Right now, I’m not worried about the manufacturing itself, as China seems to have COVID under control but I am worried about what happens when we get to shipping it out.
I’m really hoping this whole thing will mostly be under control by the time the games arrive in the US. If anything, I’m more worried about tariffs. They can have a large impact on our cost of production. I can say that COVID-19 did impact the process of getting rights to the artists in the game, which is understandable.

Ed Note: I wanted to find a good statistic for the current state of coronavirus in China, but I was unable to find a trusted source that I felt comfortable linking to as a source of truth. If anyone reading this article has good info, and I mean CDC/WHO sorta stuff that can be trusted, toss it over.

F: It wouldn’t be cheaper to produce the game in the US, or in a non-China country?

M: Absolutely not. The difference in manufacturing in the US vs China is massive at this point. There are only a small handful of factories in the US that can actually do everything that is currently done in China, and they effectively only work with big companies like Hasbro. The print run minimums are so high, that we simply couldn’t use them even if we wanted to. Of the remaining factories, a majority of them actually do a lot of their manufacturing in China anyway, or can only do specific parts of games in the US, like cards.

A lot of the infrastructure to make board games just doesn’t exist in the US.

Ed Note: Max gave an example of Meeples, the little wooden people you get with a bunch of different games, and pointed out that if you pay to get a game with Meeples “manufactured” by a US company, the Meeples will still get made in China, and then shipped to the US.

3. The Changing Meta of Kickstarter

F: Okay, so finally, let’s talk about Kickstarter, goals, early bird rewards, and all the other stuff that has changed. For me, one of the most visible ones has been the disappearance of rewards that involve putting a backer in the game. Why do you think this happened?

M: Obviously it doesn’t quite make sense to put a random backer in the game in Surrealist Dinner Party. More generally, I can think of at least three reasons that you wouldn’t do that if you’re running a Kickstarter these days.

First, there is a crew of folks who just irrationally hate it, and they tend be part of the more vocal crowd on places like Board Game Geek.

Second, because of the current demographics of Kickstarter and the board game community, there is a exceedingly high chance that you will end up with all white men. In Monarch, the only reason we were comfortable with doing the unwanted guest stretch goal this way was because the rest of the characters in the game are already women.

And finally, production times. We fulfill our Kickstarters relatively fast. For Mechanica, the Kickstarter was in February, and we fulfilled our pledges by November. But getting custom art done and approved can have a turnaround time that can end up impacting the timeline of the entire project.

F: On the subject of art, and I know this is something we’ve actually discussed (Ed Note: read as “Argued about”) in the past, your games like Monarch and Surrealist have some pretty great art. At the same time, Resonym doesn’t really do anything like selling prints or little pins, or other merchandising. Why not?

M: There are a bunch of small reasons, like having to figure out how to ship merch internationally, and somewhat limited appeal. But personally, I would rather work on things that improve the game.

For example, the wooden tokens for Surrealist. I feel that they actively improve the gameplay experience. They’re tactile, they’re fun to place, and they just make the game feel better. And while art prints would be pretty, they’re not important to the game experience.

We would rather provide items that improve gameplay feel, like the tokens, or extend gameplay, like the mini expansion for Mechanica. Does this mean that we wouldn’t merchandise if we had a big hit? No. But at Resonym, we want to make games.

Time spent on making prints, stickers, or other merchandising is time spent not making the best games and game experiences we can for our backers and our fans. We want make games, not prints.

F: Alright. Thanks for your time. Before we end this, is there anything you’d like to say to your backers?

M: First of all, I’d like to thank them for their support. And second of all: FILL OUT YOUR SURVEYS! We just had someone fill out a survey for Mechanica, approximately 1 year late. This is a problem because we actually may not have any copies left in our European warehouse to send them. You gave us money for a copy of the game, and I want to make sure you get the game. We actually had an extremely generous backer for Monarch who backed at the custom art pledge tier who we were never able to get in contact with. They still gave us the money, and we’re grateful for the support, but we want to send you your games! So please, fill out the backer surveys!

F: Thanks, and hopefully they will!

Dead By Daylight

I’ve played a shit ton of Dead by Daylight over the last few weeks, and I really like it. If you’re familiar with the game, but haven’t really given it a chance because of the horror theme, I’d encourage you to check it out.

So what is Dead by Daylight? Well, it’s a 4v1 asymmetric hunt. If you don’t know the genre, that’s fine, because I can’t come up with one either. Maybe I’ll come up with a better descriptor by the time I finish writing this article. Maybe not. The point is, it’s one of very few games I’ve chosen to play instead of Dota 2. It’s sorta perpetually competitive, and also a game I’d like to get better at.

Before we dive into the game itself, I do wanna get my two main gripes with it out of the way. First of all, the game has a shit ton of DLC. Buying the base game at $20 gives you five out of the twenty one playable killer characters, and six or so of the twenty-three survivors. I’m mostly just going to look at killers for the sake of simplicity here, but of the remaining sixteen killers currently in the game, seven are permanently pay walled, as they are licensed characters from other horror franchises. The others can theoretically be unlocked by grinding. At about 90 hours played, I think I’ve earned enough currency to unlock… 2 other killers. So yeah. The time to unlock ratio ain’t great. Also, on their own, killers and survivors are $5 each, and you can buy packs of specific ones for $7.

Editors Note: I’m pretty sure I counted right for the killers here, but I may have miscounted the survivors. Point is, there’s a lot of DLC if you actually want to play all the characters.

Second main gripe would be this: The game can be buggy as all hell. When I mentioned bugs in my last review for OddRealm, I mentioned them because while they were rare, they were game breaking. In Dead By Daylight, the reverse is kinda true. I’ve seen only one bug that actually ruins games (a piece of level geometry that you can clip into, and get stuck in). With that said, 7/10 times, your pre-made animations will clip the camera into a wall. You will hook survivors onto empty air. Mostly stuff like this.

So now that those two things are out of the way, lets talk about the actual gameplay. Like I mentioned, it’s a 4v1 hunt. One player plays the killer, and four players play survivors. (You do get to pick which role you want to queue for before starting a game.)

The games take place in semi-randomly generated maps, with each side having a different set of goals. Survivors have to repair five generators, and then open an escape door in order to get out. They do this by interacting with the generators, and completing quick time events to continue the repairs. Killers need to (surprise, surprise) kill the survivors, which they do by inflicting damage until the survivors are downed, and then hanging the survivors on giant meat hooks so a spider god can try to eat them. Survivors can still save their friends from hooks, but it’s always possible the killer is nearby.

While this sounds simple, it’s made markedly more complex by the variety of game mechanics, perks, items and other factors in play, as well as the fact that regardless of which role you choose to play, you will be facing off against other humans. If you trick someone, it’s because you outsmarted them, not because the game let you.

Here’s just one example of a mechanic in the game that’s quite interesting, and it’s also why I wouldn’t consider the game to be a horror game: The Terror Radius. You know how in horror movies, the tense music plays as the murderer gets closer to our unsuspecting victim? Well, Dead By Daylight has something similar. You can actually hear the killer approaching, which means while they mostly can’t sneak up on you. Of course, they do have perks and options to lessen, or even temporarily hide their radius, so you’ll still have to pay attention.

And there are a bunch of mechanics like this. Killers have a first person point of view, but survivors have third person, and can use it to see around corners and over walls. At the same time, Killers move faster then Survivors, so without careful play, Killers will always win chases.

I could go on, and just list out mechanics, but I’m not sure it would sell anyone on the game, or it would help explain why the game is so compelling. What I will say is that Dead By Daylight has one of the best ratios of money/time spent in game of anything I’ve played this year.




Odd Realm

Odd Realm has promise, but just isn’t finished yet.

I really like Odd Realm. I’ve played a bunch of it prior to writing this review, most likely 10-15 hours and I want to be able to recommend it… Right now, I have two big reasons I can’t, and a few small ones. If you already own the game from the itch.io racial justice bundle, or some other event, you should play it. But if you don’t own it yet, you may want to wait until a full release.

Odd Realm is a colony builder, and has the most in common with Dwarf Fortress. You pick a starting race, pick a place to start, and then proceed to try to keep your settlers alive. Doing so requires making sure they have water and food if you picked humans. Or they might require chambers in which keep their animate bodies forever functional, if you picked the immortal skeleton race. Y’know. Normal stuff.

I mentioned two big reasons I can’t recommend Odd Realm just yet, and they are the following: First, the game is buggy. And second, it feels fairly content-lite compared to its obvious inspiration of Dwarf Fortress.

Let’s talk about the bugs first. 95% of the time, the game runs smoothly. I’ve had no crashes, or straight failures, even if I have had points where stuff gets a bit laggy for a moment.

5% of the time, something weird will happen and the game will just die. I’ve listed a few examples below.

  1. Settlers decide that the most fascinating thing to do is to all simultaneously move back and forth onto a resource deposit zone, instead of doing anything else you might want them to do.
  2. Settlers get stuck in the move action, and refuse to actually move.
  3. Settlers move jerkily and refuse to take any additional actions.
  4. Settlers don’t move resources to appropriate resource deposit zones.
  5. Production queue of items, and information just absolutely dies.
  6. If you make the mistake of digging underwater, prepare to watch as your game slows to an absolute crawl.

The problem isn’t that these bugs are common. They really aren’t. The problem is that they absolutely destroy the game when they occur. I was having a hard time writing this review, so I fired up the game to try to figure out what I wanted to say about it, only to spend more time trying to figure out why I could no longer manufacture glass panes, and spend an hour or so trying to fix the issue.

To the developers’ credit, they seem to be aware of this issue, and fairly active on their Discord in requesting sessions and save states to try to patch the problems, but right now, having your entire fortress just blow up because of of a stupid bug feels real bad.

The second big issue is that the game feels very content-lite at the moment. There are only 4-5 types of ore, and they all function more or less the same, but with better stats. The same thing feels true of most of the plants you can grow. There are only a few pieces of gear, a few spell books, etc. Some types of stone can be used for making roofs, but not for anything else. Right now, once you have rooms set up, there just isn’t a lot to do.

There are a bunch of other little things that I find annoying, like not being able to tell settlers things like “Stay in here, don’t go outside” and the number of random events being exceedingly limited. But these are all minor.

This is why I think if you don’t already own the game, but find it interesting, you should wait until release. Many of the bugs and glitches will hopefully be ironed out. And hopefully they’ll also be a lot more to do. But right now, Odd Realm is a bit buggy, a bit frustrating, and still unfinished.

P.S. If you do have Odd Realm, play the Ancients race instead of humans. They are way more fun.