Pummel Party

Mario Party minus bullshit. It’ll still make you rage at your friends, though.

Ed Note: I grabbed the images for this article mostly from the Steam Page. I doubt this will ever be an issue, but I do like to make sure people are aware of the differences between images I take, and stuff that is effectively marketing material.

It’s easy to look at Pummel Party and think “Oh, it’s a Mario Party clone, but for PC.” But while Pummel Party does feel heavily inspired by Mario Party, after playing quite a bit, I think it’s actually a much better game. With that said, just like Mario Party, you will need friends to play it with, because playing Mario Party by yourself is incredibly sad. So let’s talk about why Pummel Party is good, and why it doesn’t feel like the 50 minute exercise in coin flipping that is Mario Party. Oh, and it supports up to eight players, instead of just four.

So, first let’s talk about the general structure of the game. If you’ve played Mario Party before, you already know most of this, so you can skip this paragraph.

All players are placed on a large board, and a game consists of a series of rounds. During each round, players can choose to use an item if they have one, then they roll a die to move across the board. Based on where you end your turn, you might get items, coins, or some sort of special event might happen. After everyone has taken a turn, players play a mini-game of some kind, and are rewarded with currency. Currency (Coins/Keys) can be spent to buy victory points (Goblets/Stars), but they can only be purchased by reaching specific areas on the board. Whoever has the most victory points after a given number of rounds, or reaches a threshold first ends the game, and is (probably) the winner.

Okay, boring introductory stuff out of the way. Let’s get into the big differences between the two, and talk about the idea of player agency for a bit.

The biggest things that Pummel Party adds to this formula are a second stat called health, better items, and different turn order mechanics. Lets start with those turn order mechanics shall we?

In Pummel Party, turn order is decided each round by placement in the last round of mini-games. Winners go first, losers go last. This is important because it means that actually being good at the mini-games is important. If two players are neck in neck trying to reach a Goblet, whoever wins the mini-game is likely to reach it first, as they get to move first. In addition, doing well in mini-games rewards items, which are far more useful for interacting with other players than anything in Mario Party.

So let’s talk about those items and health. Health is a secondary stat that caps out. If it hits zero, you lose 30% of your currency (according to patch notes) and get placed back at a graveyard. You might lose health because you ended on a damage spot, or another player’s Reaper Spot (TLDR: First person to touch them chooses either health or keys. Every player who steps on them after that loses that resource, and it’s sent to the spot claimer). More likely though, you’ll lose health because another player has opted to pull out a shotgun and blast you in the face. It’s one of those items that you can get for winning mini-games, or by picking it up from the map.

The big thing here for me is that in Pummel Party, you actually have the ability to stop someone who is starting to cruise their way to victory. You can team up in mini-games, you can work together to drop wrecking balls onto their head, or you can just blast them with a cross map orbital laser. Winning mini-games lets you pull ahead and act first, before your opponents can take action, and losing means you have less resources.

Okay, so now that I’ve sung the game’s praises, lets talk about the elephant in the room: the mini-games.

Some of the mini-games are very good.

Some are okay.

And some are just not fun.

While the game does let you turn off mini-games you don’t want to play before the game start screen, it’s undeniable that some of these games are just… garbage. There are also quite a few that seem to give host advantage, and others that feel buggy or glitchy. (Looking at you, laser train game.)

This doesn’t bother me enough to stop playing Pummel Party, but it does mean that I usually want to actually play the board game mode instead of just mini-games.

Wrath: Aeon of Ruin

Wrath is good, but it’s not finished. You should wait to buy it for now.

Editorial Note: The images in this article I grabbed from the Steam Page. Usually I take my own screenshots, because independence and other stuff, but I had some difficultly with that, and honestly, the screenshots are accurate. But I don’t want to give the impression that I got all these photos myself.

I really like Wrath: Aeon of Ruin. It gives me a wonderful sense of nostalgia for an era of games that I never actually played, that of the old Doom/Quake/Duke Nukem Era. It might be because you will spend most of the game strafing around gothic corridors with a bunch of weapons. It might be because you will use those weapons against monsters that look like they were pulled from a fire sale at low-poly Lovecraft R Us.

The screaming head dudes with multiple faces are legit fucking terrifying.

And it might be because it was actually built on the old Quake engine. I had a ton of fun playing it, which makes me feel a bit bad about what I’m going to say: Even if this is a genre you love, I don’t think you should buy Wrath yet.

My recommendation doesn’t actually have anything to do with the gameplay itself (despite the fact that I definitely have a few gripes with some of the game’s systems), but instead with the fact that the game simply isn’t finished. There are only four levels, and while they’re good and polished, they only took me about 8 hours to play through on the medium difficulty. I actually delayed this write-up a bit because another update was supposed to come out a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, it just got pushed back to this month… so yeah. While I’m sure they intend to do their best to keep their promise, it may be a while before the game ends up in its final state, and as such, I think you can wait on this one. If you’re reading this article after the summer of 2021, you should probably check to see if it’s fully out, as that’s the current estimate for its release date.

Okay, so with that whole thing out of the way, let’s talk about the other simple truth of the game: I had a lot of fun with Wrath. It’s well polished, and very smoothly executed. It’s just fun to run around shotgunning demons and pulping zombies with a stake cannon. I played Wrath because the gameplay was fun. There was no point where I found myself pushing through a boring bit to get back to the story (there really isn’t one right now) or grinding for numbers. Wrath has more or less zero filler.

This doesn’t mean Wrath is perfect by any means. I have some problems, so let’s talk about them.

First of all, while the game is really fun, if you want to actually replay a level, you need to make a brand new save file. There’s no option to just reload a given level, or to skip to a certain point with weapons unlocked. This is annoying. The second part, that wasn’t super frustrating for me mostly because I was playing on the medium difficulty, is the save system. Wrath lets you save by either reaching a checkpoint, or by using an item called a Soul Tether, which you find and pick up as you play through the game. You have a limited number of these, and while this limit caused me zero problems on the medium difficulty, I can see it becoming frustrating super fast on the harder difficulties. Wrath is in some ways a puzzle game of “Connect The Bullets With The Enemies” and it’s entirely possible to get through a section of the game you’ve already solved, only to die over and over again in a specific area. This means you end up replaying the same parts a lot, and if you’re trying to conserve soul tethers, it can take like five minutes to get back to the point you were at previously, just to get another try at something.

Walking in a winter murder landdddddddd

These were my two main problems with the game. Wrath is fun, the levels are well made, and outside of a slight overreliance on “You touched a button, now we’re gonna spawn in 10 enemies in your blindspot” the game doesn’t really have any patterns that are frustrating. I honestly expected to be seeing the same levels over and over again, but the actual layout and design is quite varied.

So yeah. Wrath is fun, but currently it’s not finished, and it’s rather short. I have some gripes with the save system, and how you can’t replay levels, but outside of that, I’m excited to see what the full game looks like. If it maintains the level of polish and creativity that I’ve seen so far, it will easily be worth the $20-30 price tag I expect to see on it.

Middle of the Pack

While looking for gold, I found silver. Better than finding lead, worse than finding gold.

Editor’s Note: this article was mostly written during the week of the 2020 elections. Then it wasn’t posted. Whoops.

Writing about games this week felt a bit like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, so instead of any big full reviews, I have bunch of thoughts on some things I’ve been playing, even if none of them really stuck with me.

Just think of this article as the digital equivalent of a list of abandoned animals looking for a loving home. Except in this case, I’m the one who abandoned them.

Okay, that fell apart pretty fast, but the core takeaway is just because I don’t like a game doesn’t mean you won’t. If you like the look of a game, clicking the name will bring you to the itch.io page.

Airships : Conquer the Skies

Of the games on this list, I think I liked Airships the most. Like the name suggests, it’s a game about building 2D airships and commanding them around.

Much like with other vehicle construction games I’ve played though, after a bit, I kinda just got bored/stuck. There are a bunch of single player missions and an auto-generated campaign with customizable difficulty to play through, but they didn’t grab me. I suspect a large part of the loop of construction games like this is either making small improvements and testing upgraded ships, or trying to build ships and ideas around a gimmick or trick.

Maybe it’ll be the game for you, though?

Midboss

If Airships was the game I liked the most, Midboss was the one I wanted to like the most. The pitch is simple: an isometric, turn-based roguelike where you can process the bodies of enemies you kill, learning and absorbing their skills. It just never really grabbed me, though, and after maybe 7-10 runs, I put it down and picked up something else. The body snatch mechanic is cool, but often runs turned into more tedious chains of trying to build myself back up after losing a valuable body, and being kicked out.

WitchWay

From what I played of WitchWay, it’s a puzzle platformer. You are a witch. You have a magic wand, and you can use it move blocks. Blocks have their own rules and twists on how they can be moved. And then I stopped playing. There wasn’t really a special reason for it or anything, I was just… done.

Haque

It’s a roguelike, in the classic sense. In both classic senses. Like, in the sense that the entire UI looks like it’s projected onto a CRTV, and also in that it’s a fairly standard procedurally generated dungeon crawler. Unlike everything else on this list, which I would say is the game equivalent of “Just Not For Me Thanks,” Haque’s graphics actively made playing the game harder for me (although they are incredibly on theme). There are sliders to turn off various effects and such, but even with those, reading and understanding the UI annoyed me too much.

IN CONCLUSION

I’d say they’re worth checking out if they sound like your cup of tea. I wanna stress that none of these were bad, so much as they never grabbed me. They’re good, well made games, just not for me.

Super Animal Royale

It’s 2D Fortnite for Furries. If you like any of the words in that sentence, you should probably try it, since it’s free.

Sometimes when I write “reviews” for this blog, I feel obligated to play a given amount of a game, or reach a certain threshold before I give my verdict. Then games come along that remind me that I write these articles because it’s fun, and also because when I’m asked “What do you do for fun?” “I write a blog,” is a more adult answer than ,”I think about Pokemon cards.”

The astute reader may note that for a Gametrodon review, it’s taking me a long time give my thoughts on the game, the mechanics, or if I even like it, but surprise! The actual summary was in the excerpt all along.

Super Animal Royale is 2D Fortnite for Furries. It’s free, you can download it here, it’s on Steam, and it’s generally pretty fun. There’s no pay to win bullshit or gacha, though there are a bunch of cosmetic microtransactions.

Is this enough? Can I now go back to wishing that Champion’s Path boosters were less expensive, and wondering why Shiny Charizard V is $400 dollars?

No? I should talk more about the game? Fine.

Part of the reason I don’t have too much to say on the game is that with a few exceptions, there’s nothing here I haven’t seen before. That shouldn’t take away from the game’s quality and polish, but all in all, you have a tiered weapon rarity system, a battle royale where you drop from a giant flying vehicle, a few different game modes, and a battlepass/exp challenge system that might have been copied straight from Fortnite.

Okay, so outside of all of this, the game does one VERY interesting thing that I haven’t actually seen before, and actually makes me think that more games should steal this system: the way it handles healing/health power ups.

In Super Animal Royale, you have a great big health jug. Instead of having bandages or potions, any health juice you pick up just goes into the jug. When you want to heal, you drink from the jug.

And that’s it! No more having to carry around 100 potions. No more having to figure out if you should carry 5 bandages or one Med kit, because the Medkit heals more, but can only be used once, and the bandages can be used on smaller wounds, but are much slower.

Instead, whenever you run over juice, it gets picked up, and added to your health jug.

I think more games should do this. Screw fiddly potion management. Just let me stuff all the healing items I pick up into my great big heal box, and whenever I need healing, I just take a big sip. It’s like Jungle Juice but for liquid bandaids.

Look, I don’t have too much else to say on the game. It’s free. It’s more or less Fortnite. If the screens looked interesting, or if the game looked fun, just go download it and play it.

PS: We streamed the game a bit. And by we, I mean me and another friend who I work on random projects with. You can watch it here if you want to know more about what the game plays like.

PPS: Oh, and the game has bots, which is something everyone who makes battle royales at this point should just do. Keeps the matchmaking time down, and means that even suckers like myself can get kills.

Loot Rascals

Good polish, neat mechanics, and some flaws that make it quite frustrating at times.

Ed Note: The game looks way better these screenshots might imply. Everything has a very nice vector art feel, a feeling that was absolutely destroyed by my image compression. Whoops.

I think you should play Loot Rascals. Generally, I’d say I like the game.

Has the lede been unburied? Am I now free to waddle forward and backward between comparisons to other games and ramble about dissonance? I am? Fantastic. Let’s roll.

First, a bit of context, and some info on Loot Rascals: it’s another game I grabbed from the itch.io Racial Justice Bundle. It’s a roguelike, but as far as I can tell, without any between run progression systems. A run consists of five or so levels (I’ve only ever gotten up to 3 before, so there might be more), consisting of randomly generated maps on a hex grid. You control a spacelady or spaceman that you choose at the start (same stats, different sprites), to get through these levels by fighting monsters. You have three stats, Attack, Defense, and HP, and monsters have one stat, Attack/HP.

I know what you’re thinking. No, it’s not a typo.

When you and an enemy occupy the same square you fight, with the time of day determining who gets to hit first. There’s a day/night system and manipulating this system and trying to land the first hit is a big part of the game. The math for combat works something like this:

If the player is attacking, they deal damage to the monster equal to the player’s attack. Player attacks deal damage equal to the player’s attack stat. Monster attacks deal damage to the player equal to the Monsters attack/HP stat divided by the players defense. If the result is less than 1, that value is the chance for the attack to still go through and hit. If an attack hits, it deals 1 damage.

The big takeaway I want you to make is the following: Any attack that hits has a CHANCE to inflict damage, even if the chance is very low. This is going to be important in a bit.

Okay, so we’ve talked about stats. We’ve talked about how they work. But how do you get them?

The answer, of course, is cards. Or card blocks. Your inventory looks like this.

Yes, I know, the Boot Helmet and the Orbital Bowls should be switched, but I wasn’t thinking about that at the time.

Cards in the main section give you stats. Cards in your stockpile on the right do not. There are a few other different types of cards, like the Chronoflange one, that don’t give any stats, but change rules about how the game works, and also elemental cards, that give access to special abilities, like setting things on fire, teleporting, or creating decoys.

So with all of this said, I have two big problems with Loot Rascals, and they have to do with randomness and telegraphing. Lets talk about the randomness first.

A lot of roguelike games use procedurally generated or random-esqe levels in order to increase replayability. Spelunky, Slay the Spire, and Binding of Issac are a few that come to mind. However, none of these are really random. Instead, they tend to follow certain patterns or rules regarding how they function, and those rules can be learned and exploited. Spelunky will always have a dog in the level. Each floor of Binding of Issac will always have a treasure room to find. Each floor of Slay the Spire ends in a boss fight. The levels for Loot Rascals though, appear to be almost entirely random, and occasionally this means you end up in starting locations that are simply bad, forcing you to take early hits and lose health just to access the rest of the map.

In addition, since card drops are almost completely random (certain enemies will always drop certain elemental cards, but I haven’t found anything of the sort for normal stat cards), you can spend a lot of time trying to farm card drops and get nothing, or you can get one or two good drops early, and use them to clean up an entire level. It’s frustrating, because it just ends up feeling like straight luck.

This feeling of randomness is also present in the damage calculation. Because of the way hit chances work, if you end up in a fight, and the enemy gets to attack you, there is ALWAYS a chance that they deal damage. It’s frustrating, because parts of the game can end up feeling very “Push your luck” as opposed to tactical decision making.

The second big gripe I have is with how the actions that enemies will take are telegraphed, and I’ll just be referring to as telegraphing from now on. Every enemy in the game has some form of movement pattern. The Ratmen will run away, Ogre will move every other turn, the half-horse/half-seahorse Horse Bro will flip combat sides… and I can’t think of any more to list, because I haven’t been able to actually figure out how they work. I have no idea how Bola aliens work, just that they go in circles. The game doesn’t give you any information about where Bounty Hunters will aim their next shot, or how a Webbers’ webbing actually works.

The thing is, because of the situations the game puts you into, it often feels like you’re supposed to have this information, and then make the best choice based on the information.

A few other minor quibbles: you can’t save in the middle of game. There are a bunch of disconnected social components that just don’t seem to work. I wish it didn’t feel like there was an optimal build for any given situation. It would also be cool if you had some ability to choose cards for your build.

Outside of all this gameplay stuff, the art is really solid, if a bit cute, and the voice acting was enjoyable enough for me to mostly not skip it. I liked Loot Rascals enough for it to get it’s own whole little writeup, and like I said at the top, I think it’s worth playing. But there were also quite a few mechanics that mostly just frustrated me.

Loot Rascals is $15 on Steam or itch.io.

Spelunky 2

Spelunky 2 will beat me before I beat it.

I like Spelunky 2. With that said, using cheese and shortcuts, and having played 55 hours, I’ve gotten to the final boss twice, and died both times. So I don’t think I’m very good at it. On the other hand, the stats for steam achievements say that only 5% of players have actually finished building all the shortcuts. Maybe the game is just hard.

Spelunky 2 is the sequel to Spelunky. (Surprise, surprise) Having only ever played Spelunky very briefly, they feel rather similar to me, but I suspect someone who has played both could give you an extensive set of differences. Spelunky 2 has the classic roguelike loop: start the run, acquire power-ups and items, then try to go as far as you can without dying. The game itself is a platformer, with the main character starting out with a simple whip, a jump, and a duck/crawl. And that’s it! These are the tools you have to get as far as you can. Let’s talk about that “As far as you can” bit.

With Spelunky, the game is broken up into worlds, each consisting of one or more levels. A level is procedurally generated, which shouldn’t be confused with “randomly generated.” Rather, you’ll get used to seeing certain patterns and setups, and certain blocks of rooms, but the way they’re connected or placed together changes from run to run, as well as what they’re populated with. In addition, each world is populated with different enemies and traps.

Which arrow launching trap will our brave hero forget to trigger in advance, and be shot by about eight seconds after taking this screenshot?

To beat a non-boss level, you just have to get to the exit door. This is easier said than done, because not only are the levels populated by enemies, traps and problems, they’re also full of gold, gems, dogs (Yes, dogs, we’ll talk about them later), altars, shops, and other things you might want. Your primary resources are health, which if you run out of you die, bombs for blowing up walls, and ropes for climbing down large depths.

So far I’ve mostly just talked about what Spelunky 2 is, and not really why I like it, or continue to play it despite being very bad at it. The reason I’m still playing is that in close to 30 hours, there have been maybe only one or two instances where I died because of what felt like actual bullshit. Almost every situation in which you lose life or die, you can look back at what led up to that point, and see how you got there. In my case, for example, it’s usually because I get greedy, and press my luck on something stupid that goes horribly wrong. None of my failed runs are because of bad luck, they’re failed because I made bad choices, and it means I have no problem starting another run, confident that this time I’ll do better. (This will usually turn out to be a lie.)

Yes, the game does have more then two biomes, but I hadn’t seen them when I was taking pictures for this article.

To try to illustrate this, let’s talk about pots in Spelunky 2. A pot is a small item that shows up pretty much everywhere. Pots break when things hit them, and you can also pick them up and throw them. When you break a pot, it can have a variety of things inside, including gems, gold, or various enemies. They’re incredibly simple in that regard, but the flow chart of how you actually end up interacting with them is far more complex.

Pots can be used to set off arrow traps like most thrown items, and kill weaker enemies, but they also can have loot inside. They’re single use, so if you throw them early, you might find yourself without another projectile weapon in the short term future. So when you find a pot, the questions you really should be asking are things like, “Do I have space now to break this safely, and grab whatever comes out if it’s a good thing, or should I pick it up and carry it until I need it? If I’m already carrying something else, should I just throw that at the pot? Can I just smash it with my whip and call it a day?” And because you’re doing this all very quickly, if you’re me, you will inevitably forget some part of this flowchart, and do something stupid, break the pot, and have a snake pop out that hits for one of your limited health points.

And almost every item and enemy in Spelunky 2 has this level of twitchy decision making around it. Did you fire the shotgun near a ledge, only to forget about the knock back? Enjoy being launched into a pit of spikes. Accidentally whip the dog? Hope you don’t have to use it to get past a arrow trap, since now it only has two life left. Try to drop a bomb down a shaft, only to forget you have bombs that stick to walls, and now you have about two seconds before the floor under your feet isn’t? Better move quick!

And because the game is random, you can’t just memorize your way though. You’ll really have to learn how objects and enemies work and interact, discover how items function, and then remember to actually use that knowledge. You can’t faceroll Spelunky. And while the levels are different, the objects are not. Pots and Rocks will always be thrown the same, arrow traps will always trigger, and enemies behave the same.

I really like Spelunky, but if you don’t like platformers, and you don’t like rougelites, and you really, really don’t like bashing down brick walls with your face, you may not have as good a time. I’d buy Spelunky 2 again, and for the $20 price tag, I’d say it was worth it.

Ed Note: There’s no online Co-Op on PC yet, which is kind of frustrating, so hopefully that gets patched in soon enough. Apparently it released super janky on console, so maybe we’re not missing much.

Didn’t Make the Cut – itch.io Racial Justice Bundle

All filler, no killer.

Another week, another set of games from the itch.io racial justice bundle. These are primarily games that simply didn’t get their own full article about them, either because there wasn’t really a lot to say (LAZAKNITEZ), I couldn’t play them (Troika), because I refuse to do so out of spite and dislike for the game (Oikospiel). Having said that, let’s get to the games

LAZAKNITEZ – PC/Multiplayer/Singleplayer
LAZAKNITEZ almost works for starting a trend of games with names that are nonsense words, until you boot up the game and realize that it’s just a very 90’s spelling of Laser Knights. And that’s exactly what the game is. You slide around a 2D plain, jousting on the back of your laser horse, and firing from your laser lance. I played this one for a few rounds and then put it down. It’s not bad. Just very light on things to do/see. Once I’d played a bit, and felt like I had seen most of the powerups, I was done.

Oikospiel Book 1 – PC/Singleplayer
I don’t like Oikospiel. I think that it’s stupid. It plays and looks like a fever dream made by someone who just imported every 3D model they could get their hands on into Unity and it should also probably come with an epilepsy warning.

Oikospiel is what you would get if you took Timecube and made it into a video game instead of a website. I have some questions for whoever made this game, and primarily they’re things like: “Are you okay?” and “Do you need help?”

TroikaPen and Pencil RPG
Mechanically, I didn’t see much in Troika that impressed me, but I also didn’t actually run a game. The initiative system seems neat, in which you randomly draw tiles from a bag and then whoever’s tile you drew takes a turn.

The flavor though, is incredible, and I honestly wish there was more of it. It has a very old-timey science fiction sort of vibe, and the closest thing I can think to compare it to is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore, or perhaps the sorta of weird science-magic of The Wizard of Oz.

For example: the book has stats for a sort of snake that doesn’t sneak up on you, but instead offers reassurances and a well placed “It’s alright, I’m here now” in order to get you between its coils so that it might crush and eat you. The starter adventure in the book involves convincing a sentient gas in the elevator with you that you would really like it if it could take up a bit less of the elevator, on account of the fact that it’s drowning you. The stat block for a “Tea Set” gives you a bonus on etiquette checks as long as you have time to prepare tea for the person you’re trying to impress.

The reason that Troika doesn’t get a larger section to itself is primarily that since this is a website for reviewing games, and I haven’t run a game of it yet, I can’t review it. But definitely worth a read.

Wrap-Up

Nothing this week that really jumped out at me. I loathe Oikospiel, LAZAKNITEZ reminds me of the sorts of things I’d play for 20 minutes before switching to something else on sites like Newgrounds. Troika is a fun read, but I feel like it would be tricky to pull off without a party that was really willing to lean into the weird-wonderness. If playing these games is the art of separating wheat from chaff, this week was all chaff, no wheat. Take care, and I’ll put more stuff up as events warrant.

Genshin Impact

Free to play, more expensive then a trip to Vegas if you actually want to buy anything in game.

I’ve been wanting to write about Genshin Impact, but I’ve had a hard time doing so over the last week. This is because Genshin Impact might be the highest quality free-to-play game ever made, but discussing the game without talking about the monetization model would be crazy. It’s like discussing a tiger, without mentioning the teeth or claws, and just discussing its fluffy-wuffy tail. Let’s start with that fluffy tail though.

Genshin Impact is a free to play RPG for everything except your Nintendo Switch. It has cross-play for pretty much everything, and cross-progression for everything that isn’t a PS4. You can actually close the game on your PC, then open it on your phone, and just… keep playing. The same game. From where you left it on your PC. You can do cross-play between phone, PC and PS4. It’s incredible.

And when I say RPG, I mean RPG. You’re presented with a massive world to wander around, search for treasure and do quests in. There are world bosses, and hidden secrets, and all the good stuff. Mechanically, the game borrows a massive amount from Breath of the Wild. You can just climb up mountains and hills and walls, and you also get a glider fairly early on which lets you drift around.

The combat system is also pretty neat. You build a party of 4 characters, and as long as you aren’t in a Domain (Dungeon) or combat, you can swap characters out as you wish. Each character has a weapon type, basic attack, ability, and ultimate ability, all on separate cooldowns. Each character also has an element, and elements interact in various ways. For example, if you launch an Anemo (wind) character’s ability into an area with fire on it, it will Swirl, and create a fire tornado. Put ice onto a character affected by water, or vice versa, and that character will freeze. There are about seven of these elements, and in addition, things like walking through puddles will make both you and enemies wet.

There is a day night cycle as well.

These abilities can be used outside of combat to light torches, trigger pressure plates, and do other puzzly stuff. You can even use ice attacks to freeze and then cross lakes and oceans. Theres an entire quest line that requires you to take advantage of this to get to a hidden island that doesn’t even show up on the map.

Moments like this are Genshin Impact at its best. When you’re just running around, fighting monsters, climbing terrain, and discovering things, you might even forget you’re playing a free to play game, and if I had any gripes with the game as it is, it would most likely be that the climbing behavior can occasionally be a bit funky. You can climb all over every mountain, and every hill in the game, and there is treasure everywhere. Every mountain top has hidden collectibles, there are puzzles in every cave.

Okay, so now lets talk about the bad part.

If the moment to moment gameplay of Genshin Impact is Breath of the Wild, the meat of the game’s advancement system is classic mobile gacha. If you’ve ever played Puzzles and Dragons, Azur Lane, Fate Grand Order, or Dragalia Lost, you’ve seen this sort of thing before. You have Resin (Energy) which recharges over time and is used to collect treasure from world bosses and dungeons. These include advancement materials that are used to increase the max level of your characters and weapons, books that are used to upgrade their talents, and artifacts that can slotted in to give set bonuses, and extra stats.

You can spend in game currency to refill your energy, and honestly, as frustrated as some people are by Resin, I don’t take too much issue with it.

What I do take issue with is the drop rates and costs of the Wish system, the system by which you get new characters, and most of the higher rarity weapons. I refuse to call these micro-transactions, because there is nothing fucking micro about them.

ONE roll of the Wish system is 160 Primogems/Genesis Crystals. A SINGLE ROLL.

These are the prices, and after you buy the first time bonus, they change to this.

$Primogems / # of Rolls
0.9960 / .33
4.99330 / 1.83
14.991090 / 6.06
29.992240 / 12.44
49.993880 / 21.56
99.998080 / 44.89

So if you’re looking at this, and thinking, “This seems a bit expensive,” then yeah. It fucking is. But here comes the kicker: the drop rates are AWFUL.

The Wish system in Genshin has multiple different tables you can choose to roll against, usually called banners. For the featured character in a banner, the drop rate is 0.6%, or 3/500. The drop rate for an weapon OR character of the highest rarity is 1.6% total, or 2/125.

Ed Note: I think fractions do a better job illustrating how low this is, which is why I’ve included them here.

Keep in mind, a single roll costs $2.20 at its cheapest, if you buy the $100 currency pack. This gets you just over 44 rolls.

There’s also a pity system in place in which if you haven’t gotten a weapon/character of max rarity after 90 rolls, you will be given one. I want to point out that the real money cost of 90 rolls is just under $200. At this point, if you’re rolling on a featured banner, you will have a 50% chance to get the featured character. If you don’t, you’ll be guaranteed to get them at the next pity roll. Which means at this point, you’ll have to have spent over $400.

TLDR: If you want a FEATURED character in Genshin Impact, they can end up costing you $400 for a single copy of the character. In addition, the game has system by which characters are powered up for each duplicate you get of them. So getting a character to their max potential requires you to get receive them 6 times.

So yeah. That’s the state of Genshin Impact as of today, an incredible free to play game that is unmatched by anything on the market, with what I’m going to call “Macro-Transactions” that can easily total the same price of a new PS5 to get a single character. Play it. Enjoy the story, the anime bullshit, and the voice acting. Explore the incredible world, scouring every nook and cranny for treasure, and climbing every mountain.

But please don’t spend money on it.

PAX Online 2020 – GAME DEMOS – PART 4 of 6

This excerpt space for rent.

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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 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