CRIMESIGHT

A fantastic asymmetric social deduction game.

CRIMESIGHT is an asymmetric social deduction game, and it’s fantastic. It might be my favorite giga-brain moment sort of game, and it makes you feel very smart, as long as you don’t scuff up wins that you have in the palm of your hand.

Which I’ve done a few times to be honest.

In order to talk about what I like about CRIMESIGHT, I’m gonna briefly cover how the game works. There are going to be several paragraphs going over the game’s mechanics. If you don’t want to read any more, here’s my summary of why I like the game: it’s full of incredibly clever mindgames and bluffing linked to an interesting balance of resources and information between the two competing sides.

A screenshot of a game of CRIMESIGHT in progress. I think I lost this one.

A game of Crimesight is played over up to 10 rounds, on a single map consisting of multiple rooms and areas, and with 6 pawns. One pawn is the Killer, and one pawn is the Target.

First, a little bit more about pawns. Pawns start the game with nothing, regardless of their roll. Each pawn can carry up to two items, and has two health slots. They can also carry a single weapon. Weapons do not take up an item slot, and cannot be dropped once picked up. Every three rounds, the day ends, and pawns need to eat, or else they will become hungry. Hunger, like any other injury in the game, puts a token into one of the health slots. A pawn with one slot occupied can only move up to two spaces per round, and pawn with two slots occupied can only move 1 space per round, and is also blinded.

Each round, the players in the game may issue a number of commands to pawns, determined by the player’s allegiance, and the number of other players in the game. These commands consist of a movement command, and an action. First, movement. Each pawn can move up to three areas in one round. If they move more than two areas, though, they get fatigued, and will only be able to move twice in the next round. Then the pawn does an action. The action can be to search an area for food, to use an item on a location or another pawn, or to interact with an object. Pawns always move, and then take an action; they cannot do otherwise.

Let’s talk about the two allegiances, Moriarty or Sherlock, and the differences between the two.

The Moriarty player wins if they can have the killer pawn murder the target pawn. In order to do this, three conditions must be met. The killer must have a weapon, the killer must be in the same area as the target, and there can be no witnesses with line of sight. If the Moriarty player fails to pull this off in 10 rounds, the best they can hope for is a draw.

The Moriarty player also has several special advantages. They can see which nodes on the map contain food, weapons, or special items/objects. They start the game knowing the target and killer. In addition, if both Sherlock and Moriarty command the same pawn, Moriarty’s commands always win out, and will overwrite Sherlock’s. Moriarty can also always command pawns to move up to three spaces, even if the pawn is fatigued. Finally, they have access to a single special command, “assail,” which can only be used by the killer. When the assail command is executed, the killer will delay their action until the end of the round, and then move as close as they can to the target, and if their end location meets the criteria for committing murder, they will do so.

There are downsides to the assail command, however. Using it will reveal the killer and target, and if the killer does not reach the target that turn, there is a single final turn, after which if they cannot pull off the murder, Sherlock wins.

The Moriarty player also has one weakness: they cannot issue commands to the pawn designated as the target.

The Sherlock player has none of the advantages listed above. They start the game being able to see that 2-3 of the searchable areas have food in them. They don’t know anything about the rest of the nodes. They also start out not knowing who is the target, and who is the killer. There are only three advantages that the Sherlock player has over Moriarty.

For reference on why I included this photo: I played a game as Sherlock that went to 10 rounds. There was one obvious target, and an obvious villain. But, I thought to myself, what if the “target” wasn’t the villain, and the obvious villain wasn’t either, but Moriarty was instead using them to make us move the actual villain right next to the real target? AND I WAS 100% CORRECT. And this victory screen is from that game. Gigabrain strats.

The first is that the Sherlock players can issue more commands to pawns than Moriarty. The Sherlock player can also command any pawn, including the target. At the end of every day, they get additional information from “deductions,” where the game will tell Sherlock if the Killer is within 3 areas of the target, and based on that, narrow down potential killers and their victims.

The game has a really interesting balance of power and information going on. When the game starts, Moriarty knows everything, but has almost no “resources” (i.e., the killer doesn’t have a weapon, all of the pawns are fairly bunched together to prevent murder attempts, and they’re also all healthy making it easy to run the target away from the killer). On the flip side, the Sherlock player has the board state where they want it, (no wounded pawns, pawns all close to each other so Moriarty can’t move a single witness away from a murder attempt, no gas leaks, dogs, etc) but zero information about who they need to protect from whom.

As the game continues, the balance of power starts to shift. The balance of resources and board state shift into Moriarty’s favor as pawns split up to search the map for food, pick up weapons, or end up hungry if they fail to find any. However, Sherlock gets more and more information: each time the two clash by commanding a pawn, more info is revealed to Sherlock about can’t be the target. The end of day deductions also potentially cut out large swathes of possible murder/target combos.

I do want to talk about the game’s multiplayer modes a bit though. There can be multiple players on the Sherlock team, or multiple on both teams. So far I’ve played the 1v1, 2v2, and 3v1 modes, and I vastly prefer 1v1 and 3v1.

While the game supports up to four players, there can only ever be one player aligned with Moriarty, in 2v2. The second non-Sherlock player controls Irene.

In the 1v1 modes, the game is fairly straightforward, since each player knows who the other player is. 1v3 is where things get interesting, because as a Sherlock player, you start the game not knowing which of the other 3 players is playing Moriarty. I find this neat because it lends an extra level of trying to read other player’s moves and actions, which isn’t present in the base game, and also lets you play more mind games as Moriarty.

This brings me to 2v2, and why I don’t enjoy it or the Irene roll very much. When playing the Irene roll, you effectively play a weaker version of Sherlock, but on the side of Moriarty. You can only command one pawn, you can’t see the location of items, you do know the victim and target, but you can’t use the assail command. It can be amusing, but it still feels like a fairly weak roll.

On the flip side, it’s not much fun to play against Irene either. Unlike Moriarty, if Irene issues a command to a Pawn at the same time as Sherlock, it’s a toss up on whose action goes through. And even if Irene wins out, it doesn’t give any information to the Sherlock player about who is/isn’t a target.

Outside of that one thing, I don’t really have any issues with the game. The game’s text display can be a bit frustrating, and there isn’t really a good option between “Tell me all the rules each time something happens” and “Tell me nothing,” but that’s pretty much it.

So that’s CRIMESIGHT in a nutshell, an asymmetric social deduction game for up to 4 players. I find it incredibly fun, and setting up either clever kills, or blocking them makes you feel smart. If all of this sounds like your cup of tea, you can buy CRIMESIGHT here on Steam. It’s $20, and it’s worth it.

Satisfactory

I like Satisfactory. There are a lot of other things I could say about it, but I spent days playing shapez.io, and Satisfactory is Shapez.io in 3D. That is to say, it’s a game about automation and factory construction, and the optimization of those systems.

The story of Satisfactory is that you are [EMPLOYEE#7190] for some gigantic space megacorporation called Ficsit, pronounced Fix-It, and you’ve been dumped onto some lush untouched wilderness to turn it into a giant factory. The reality is that it doesn’t matter that there’s a story, because there might as well not be one.

In any case, after being dropped down onto a planet, there’s an opening segment that amounts to a tutorial. After being introduced to the ability to construct buildings and craft parts, the player is free to do things at their own pace. There’s no real time pressure to get anything done. There is some hostile enemy wildlife, but even those are pretty non-threatening. Let’s talk about those for a minute, because Satisfactory is a game about building things, specifically giant factories, and everything that doesn’t contribute to that feels fairly vestigial and pointless.

Sure, there’s some hostile wildlife, and trees, and rocks, and whatnot, but they only matter to the extent that they get in the way of building. The AI for this wildlife is laughably stupid. The primary enemy, a sort of dog/armadillo thing, has constantly gotten stuck on loops trying to charge me, and then running in endless circles. It’s ineffectual enough to be forgettable, and annoying on the few instances when they actually do manage to connect a hit. The weird murder bumblebees are frustrating, but mostly pointless. Combat is just not very good.

Exploration is a somewhat similar boat. You can select from 4 different worlds to spawn into when you start the game, but they’re all fixed, not random. There are a few things that you can pick up as you venture around the world, and some crashed ships to find, but even those crashed ships are only interesting because they can give you access to hard drives, which give you research. Research lets you pick between various sidegrades/unlockable recipes.

Research is the game’s primary internal motivation. Most additional buildings, structures and tools are unlocked by research. The game itself consists of tiers, and completing the previous tier’s mission unlocks the next two tiers or so, and those tier’s associated missions. All of these missions involve feeding resources into something, usually your space elevator or remote dispatch drone.

Research serves a sort of tutorial gate, forcing the player to get familiar with what they currently have unlocked before they get access to more complex buildings. Let’s look at how the game handles electricity as an example.

Almost every building in the game requires electricity to actually do anything, from auto-miners to assemblers, to constructors. At the start of the game, after building the HUB, it comes equipped with two biomass burners. These can be powered by stuffing them full of leaves, and wiring them up to whatever needs power. Additional power requires building more biomass burners, which will also need to be kept supplied.

When you get far enough along the tech tree though, coal becomes available. Coal-powered generators can be set up to have coal routed directly into them with conveyors, so manual refills are no longer necessary, but in addition to coal, they also need water. This means pipes, and potentially, pumps or a pump system to make sure that water is getting where it needs to be fast enough.

Getting the most out of your power setup with coal can be a bit more involved than biomass burners. It requires at least 3 building types, a miner to dig up the coal, a coal burner, and a pump to supply the water. You might find after building your first set of generators that you need more power, and end up setting up a few more, only to realize that you’ve underestimated the amount of coal to keep things stable. Or maybe you redesign things, and forget to connect your pumps to the rest of the grid, causing a network wide outage, and forcing you to restart the coal plants semi-manually with an attached biomass burner. Maybe you’re burning too little coal, so you set up more burners, only to realize you’re now behind on water.

At its heart, Satisfactory is a game about optimizing systems. Optimize your inputs and outputs, remove bottlenecks, and try to make sure you have enough power throughout it all. While the exploration and combat feels rather week, the building gameplay is incredibly enjoyable. The game is still technically in Early Access, with a fair amount of “WIP” content, but nothing to make me hate it. You can find a link to the game’s site here, and I heavily encourage you to check it out.

P.S. When I started Gametrodon, I did so with the intention of not wanting the site to turn into the game equivalent of those baking websites that open with 3 paragraphs about how this recipe was the last surviving thing they have from their great grandmother, who got it from a mysterious shop next door that disappeared the day after they purchased it. But Satisfactory really makes me want to do one of those writeups, because it has a lot of things you could write about related to the game that aren’t really related to the game.

You could cover the fact that the game had timed Epic Store exclusivity when it first came out about 5 years, still requires some sort of weird ghostly cross-play solution to play online, and that switching that behavior requires you to contact customer support for some reason. You could point out how it’s kind of weird for a game to still be in “Early Access” after 5 years of development and patches, and the weird things that exist in the game because of that, such as the creepy fucking alien artifacts that will speak to you, and make scary noises, but have been a work in progress for over 3 years. Or maybe you could cover the sort of weird tone the game takes around construction and its theming. “Here’s a perfectly vibrant planet, full of unfucked nature, get down there in the space suit you’re renting from us [VALUED EMPLOYEE#3719] and fuck it up.” I’m not sure that the lyrics “Paved Paradise, Put up a Parking Spot” was supposed to be a How To guide. It’s vaguely uncomfortable, much like any worker placement board game where you realize that the “workers” you’re placing, based on the game’s setting and historical context, would have all been enslaved Africans. Not uncomfortable enough to make you stop playing immediately, but it does make you pause the next time you’re about to pull it out at family game night.

In short, there’s a lot of interesting hot takes you could make about Satisfactory. Fortunately the preceding paragraph of extended one-liners has gotten my desire to be Yahtzee Crosshaw off my chest. I don’t need fame and fortune from writing snarky hot takes about video games.

Yu-Gi-Oh: Master Duel

So, for folks who’ve played Yu-Gi-Oh before, and are wondering if they should play Master Duel, here’s my opinion in brief: Yu-Gi-Oh Master Duel can be fun, but only to the extent that you play against other people with decks that function at a similar power level. I can’t speak to higher level decks, because I never made one. I spent a non-zero amount of time being thrashed by players who did make high level decks.

A big critical note: Master Duel is ALMOST ENTIRELY PvP. There are some small PvE sections of the game, but they effectively function as tutorials.

As far as being a digital implementation of the physical game, it seems to do a solid job. I have some problems with how it handles certain mechanics, and there’s also very little flare compared to something like Hearthstone, or Legends of Runeterra. When an opponent searches for a card from their deck and adds it to their hand, the game only shows you the card for a brief moment, instead of keeping it revealed. I hate this, as the game has something like 5000+ cards, and I have no idea what a large number of them do.

Finally, its in-game monetization is fucking awful. I don’t give a shit about some “f2p btw top ranked” motherfucker. The only difference between this game and a crackhead with a knife coming at you in an alley is that the second one is being more transparent in their desire to obtain everything in your wallet.

I’d write more about this, but I already did. Master Duel is #4 on my Least Favorite Game Business Models list.

I’m going to be honest. I don’t have much more to say on Yu-Gi-Oh that provides value in the form of a review. Modern Yu-Gi-Oh is an incredibly alien beast to me. Opening turns can go through what feels like half a player’s deck, only to have any advantage gained be destroyed by one or two cards. First turn kills from the second player are common. The game’s balance seems to rely on handtraps, cards that you discard from your hand to negate your opponent’s effects, and quickly recognizing your opponent’s deck archetype. Knowing their combos and how to interrupt them is just a critical skill as knowing how to play your own deck.

I played 40 hours of Master Duel, and this review is the best I can offer. I know that I enjoyed playing against my friends who also installed it. I know I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone as a “single player” game, which it effectively is in many ways. I don’t like it as much as Duel Links, which had a lot of PvE content. I enjoy some forms of competition in card games, but I don’t enjoy grinding ladder, and that’s primarily what Master Duel seemed to offer.

But hey, it was free*. If you still want to play it, you can grab it here.

*Free to get your ass repeatedly handed to you by Eldlich the Golden Lord, seriously, fuck that card, and that deck.

Back 4 Blood

A unique Co-op First Person Shooter with Roguelite Deck Building for progression, with modernized Left 4 Dead-esque gameplay, and Counter-Strike-esque Item Shop by Turtle Rock Studios (TRS). 

Author Note: I’ve played a lot of zombie shooters, including World War Z, Call of Duty Zombies, Zombie Army 4, State of Decay 2, and of course Left 4 Dead 1 and 2. As you might guess, I kinda like the genre.

If you’ve never played a zombie shooter before, the general gameplay loop is something like the following: you and several of your friends are dropped into the start of the level. You’re given guns, a few medkits, and “Good Luck!” and tossed out into the apocalypse. You start in some form of safe area, and your goal is to get to another safe area. Along the way, you’ll be attacked by wave after wave of zombies who want to get their hands on your delicious face meat. Different entries in the genre handle things like when waves of zombies spawn, special super zombies, ammo, and importance of individual performance vs teamwork differently. Groundwork set, so lets talk about Back 4 Blood.

Back 4 Blood is the most polarizing zombie shooter I’ve played. I can attest that you will either love it or hate it. At launch it had a lot of problems with bugs and difficulty scaling; however the current patch fixed most issues. As such, I will be judging the game in its current form as of the Dec. 17th update.

Technically, Back 4 Blood offers two different game modes. There are co-op campaigns through 4 different acts, as well as a PVP mode called Swarm Mode. I think Swarm Mode is an awful experience. If you’re looking for PVP look elsewhere. This game ain’t it. The rest of this paragraph is going to be a short list of why it sucks, but then we’re gonna just ignore it for the rest of the article.  Swarm mode suffers from too much downtime between rounds, small map size, and frequent disconnects from either side due to just not being fun.

The PvE experience however is great. It offers high replayability with enormous build diversity and almost infinite skill ceiling in that you can always learn a new thing or two every time you play.

The game offers three difficulties: Recruit, Veteran, and Nightmare. Compared to other games’ difficulties these are comparable to Normal, Hard, and Insane. Nightmare is substantially harder than Veteran. The general progression path for all players is that you complete all missions through Recruit, then grind Veteran until you have enough progression unlocked to handle Nightmare difficulty. The main differences between the modes are the typical numeric difficulty scaling. Enemies hit harder, have more health, and more of them. The only big difference between them though is corruption card system.  

Corruption cards add modifiers to change up attack patterns or defenses of the zombies. This can include the zombies getting armored plating to negate bullets, having no weak points, or auras to buff allies around them. This adds a lot of variety to the missions. You can go through the same mission, but have a vastly different experience based on what the AI director through against you with this Corruption card system. It could be common zombies explode on headshot for acid damage, which would incentivize more area of effect weapons like Molotov’s or barbed wire to slow them. Of couse, the AI isn’t the only one who gets neat cards. Back 4 Bloods biggest twist on the genre is its Deck System. 

To build a deck, a player selects up to 15 cards to put into one, names it, then selects it and a character at the start of a level when joining a game. Order of cards matters in your deck. Your first card you will always have, but the order you pick from then on is somewhat flexible. For example on the first mission of act 1, you start with your first card but then you get a choice from one of your cards in order of 2 through 6.

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This allows you to build the deck in such a way where you can put cards in to counter certain corruption card modifiers on your current run. For example, there are quite a few corruption cards that reduce line of sight via fog, toxic gas, or lack of lights; you can counter this with the card “Marked for Death” which allows you to highlight a red outline of special ridden while multiplying the damage your team does to them by 10%. No one player however can cover all contingencies; but a team can. There are lots of different strategies to deck-building because you can try to create a jack of all trades that can react well to everything, or you can go hyper specialized. The Deck System is complex because most games don’t offer this level of choice in customizing your character in a co-op shooter. You can make hyper specialized character roles, like melee, healer, reviver, sniper, loot find builds, grenadier, etc. or a hybrid between them. Each of the characters has a unique card (see above) which generally provides a unique buff to them as well as a buff to the team such as move speed or extra lives, etc. All characters are viable and usually have unique roles they best excel at. Depending on the campaign you start with a different amount of cards(see below), but you always gain 1 card per level from your deck.

I’m uncertain what is “optimal” but I can confirm that most cards are viable in some build up to veteran difficulty.  Once you get to nightmare difficulty I’d say it is reduced to around 20% of the cards.

You get more cards for your deck by unlocking supply lines with supply points. You get supply points from completing missions. The top supply line is mostly damage cards, middle supply line is mostly support cards, while the bottom supply line is melee/utility/copper find cards. All supply lines are mixed with cosmetics to unlock as you play.

That is not necessarily to say that you can’t win without cards, just that it’s significantly easier with using the “best” cards. Still, all the cards in the world are nothing in comparison to having a good coordinated squad. I recommend joining a discord group because this game truly shines with a four man squad on voice comms. I’ve beat nightmare using exclusively in-game matchmaking on nightmare but prepare for lots of failed runs if you choose to do so.

For solo queue meta, the best decks I run with use the same 2 or so damage cards (Glass Cannon 25%damage/ Hyper Focused for 50% Weakspot Damage),  2 or 3 mobility (Run Like Hell for 12% move speed is auto include for all builds) cards and the rest goes to your role. The only role that deviates from this rule is melee, they will be a little weak early game but they are the kingpin to a group. Without melee to handle the common ridden you won’t have ammo to kill the specials or bosses. Pure economy builds based on copper gain or loot find are too slow to come online to be viable as Nightmare runs are reduced from checkpoint to checkpoint and rarely completing a full act in one sitting.

Here below are the decks I’ve used for my nightmare runs. Even though you lay out the cards you pick up 1-15, you don’t have to choose that way, for some runs you’ll react to what the corruption card is for that mission and prioritize getting different cards first. Generally speaking though I will prioritize 2 damage cards always, if the team is doing poorly I’ll get cards that aid the team such as Needs of the Many for extra lives, otherwise I’ll focus immediately on more selfish cards. 

 In the most recent December update they added a new type of one-use-per-level card called “Burn” Cards which apply a buff for one mission in any act campaign you are playing in. They cost on average 50 supply points, which is steep for beginning players. If you are a new player just ignore the burn card supply line and focus on unlocking all the other cards first. This feature is good because it allows you to take out some randomness in the game, for example if you are a LMG build, you can use a burn card to guarantee a LMG for your character at the start of your mission.

I was iffy on burn cards and this following statement is speculation; I am concerned at how easy it would be for TRS to turn Burn Cards into microtransactions where you buy supply points with real cash, so you can apply those buffs every mission for a campaign. The same could be said of regular cards as well. If such a thing happens though I feel like most players would drop this game. TRS are definitely treading a fine line with the introduction of burn cards. In its current state however it is an amazing addition to the game. Here below are some of the burn cards. 

Core Game Flaws in summary: 

  1. Supply Point Acquisition is ergo the rate at which you unlock stuff is too slow, also no points gained from losses is unnecessarily punishing.   
  2. Not being able to see allied players’ decks to strategize accordingly.
  3. New Player experience is mediocre for 6 hours at least which is intolerable for any game. For any casual player that is at least a week before the game gets “good”.  
  4. Swarm PVP sounds good conceptually as contests to who can hold out longest, but all the downtime between rounds and in practice feels awful to play with random Battle Royale Circle of gas closing in. Left 4 Dead definitely had the formula right with PVP through the regular campaign.  
  5. For Back 4 Blood the ratio between common zombies and mutants is around 75:25 where most zombie shooters are closer to 95:5 so the game feels more special hunting than massive hordes of zombies like most other games in the genre. 
  6. Lots of bosses with Big Health bars appear in the different missions, more than half the time the proper thing to do is just ignore them and run. The UI does a disservice in that all gamers have been trained for generations to see a big HP bar and kill it, not run. It’s a tough call though and I understand it’s useful for a player to know at a glance how close a boss is to being dead. 
  7. Map objectives are sometimes unclear, lots of levels have parts to them where they spawn endless hordes of zombies until you reach some area. An objective indicator stating such would be nice. 
  8. Back 4 Blood failed the silhouette test which is how easily can one spot the difference between the mutant ridden variants based on shape outline alone. In Left 4 Dead you can tell at a glance between Boomer, Smoker, Hunter, but in Back 4 Blood that only applies between the first level special mutant ridden. You can tell the difference between  “Tall Boys”, “Stingers”, and  “Reekers” however most of the variants of each are subtly different which in the heat of battle are harder to distinguish. For example the visual difference between a tall boy and bruiser is that a bruiser is spikier on the arm, but a bruiser has substantially more HP. Generally speaking when you play enough you learn anyways but I feel more could have been done to differentiate between them all to uphold the silhouette test more clearly. 

Core Game Pros in summary: 

  1. Corruption System/Deck Card Roguelite system feels amazing
    1. Makes every run feel different and promotes experimentation with different strategies accordingly.
    2. Enables players to feel powerful towards the end of runs in ways no other in the genre successfully captures. 
    3. Allows players to finetune decks to cater to a specific playstyle that they enjoy rather than forcing each player to play only one way. There probably is an “optimal” deck for each campaign section and each role but most cards are competitively viable for a given role and feel impactful. 
  2. Highly replayable level design is great in that it’s still linear so you don’t get lost but complex enough where there are a lot of little things to learn even when you’ve played the level twenty times.
  3.  Cosmetics are all unlockable via in-game progression, and not with microtransactions aside from launch edition bundles of 4 skins. This will probably change, but on the whole is a sight for sore eyes in a world where everything is like 10 dollars a skin in the rest of the world in AAA gaming. 
  4. Monthly Patching keeps things fresh and exciting. The november update killed this game with heavy nerfs and ridiculous special spawn rate bugs, but they redeemed most of the problems with the december update with burn card system, and buffs to cards, while nerfing speedrun strategies. When speedrunning was exclusively the only way to play the game, it was just not fun and warranted nerfs. It’s still viable in coordinated group play but no longer required.  
  5. The corruption system that randomly buffs them throughout your campaign playthrough is a nice touch to keep you on your toes to change how you proceed through a level. This helps a ton with replayability, as you might gravitate to more bullet stumble type weapons to stagger armored ridden, or you could go for lighter faster firing weapons when they are all fast packing acid or fire heads.
  6. The item shop between missions in an act feels amazing. You are constantly torn between pooling enough coins together to buy a team upgrade for long term power, or biting the bullet and buying up max equipment like frag grenades to shred bosses, or other items. Adding economy as a facet of the game is a huge win for enabling a pause to strategize with the team, as well as extreme flexibility to different strategies for any level. While other games have economy mechanics, none are quite like this for the zombie shooter genre. 

At the end of the day I think if you like roguelites, and Left 4 Dead you will love Back 4 Blood. However, Back 4 Blood surprisingly isn’t a zombie shooter, like that’s the story flavor but gameplay wise it’s truly too different from everyone else. World War Z, Zombie Army 4, Call of Duty Zombies, Left 4 Dead are all games which nail the aesthetic of there are millions of these guys and you need to mow them down and get to that next safe room as soon as possible.

Back 4 Blood and State of Decay 2 play more into a slow proactive playstyle with few bursts of action and a focus on efficient resource use. The spice in Back 4 Blood is experimenting constantly with different card builds seeing what works and doesn’t work for you. Tailoring decks specific to each act ultimately. The power curve where you start weak, but over time become a god at your role is addicting in a way no other in the genre captures.

It’s possible you’re not sold on the game, which is understandable. I personally recommend playing Back 4 Blood on something like Xbox Game Pass first just to try it because the game is very polarizing. Some people love it, some people hate it, but no one comes out of it with a neutral opinion. 

Orna

Orna is an interesting augmented reality game, with an focus on the “Game” bit.

Orna is an augmented reality game in the general vein of Pokemon Go. Where Pokemon Go is heavy on the augmented reality and sometimes forgets to be a game, Orna remembers that AR games are supposed to actually be… well, games. In general, it functions as a semi-procedural RPG. There are monsters to fight, dungeons to explore, quest givers, inns, and shops.

You can filter what shows up on your map by what you’re looking for, including only showing enemies, or only showing larger bosses.

Like Pokemon Go, you have a sphere around you that dictates what you can interact with, and if you want your character to move, you need to move around in real life. The game world is overlaid on top of a world map, and you tap nearby things to interact with them.

Perhaps the biggest difference between Orna and most other augmented reality games I’ve seen is that Orna is focused on being a game. While combat starts out as a fairly simple affair, leveling up gives you the ability to unlock and switch between additional classes. The higher tier classes give access to additional skills, abilities, and skill slots, letting you bring more moves into battle.

For example, earlier in the game I had a thief who turned into a magic wielding wizard. I would buff myself up to be able to dodge attacks, then just stab people a bunch. After a while, I found that not having access to elemental abilities was making it harder to defeat certain enemies. So I switched over being more of caster.

Before I stopped playing, I’d rebuilt again into using physical damage, but casting low-mana cost spells to apply elemental damage of various types to my attacks, while trying to lock the enemy down with sleep and other status effects. This only worked because I’d unlocked a high enough tier class to bring in about 8 spells to battle, and ran a pet that had a chance to heal me each round, so I could just focus on damage and status effects. So there was quite a lot of build variety available to me.

You start out with just two skill slots, but you get more as you unlock higher tier classes.

The end result of all of this is a reasonably in depth system that, oddly enough, illustrates something to me that I hadn’t thought about too much before. Why do so many Augmented Reality games lack in-depth mechanics? The answer, I realized, is because outside of all this combat, you are at least in theory supposed to be playing this game while wandering around outside. In games with in-depth combat mechanics, combat actually requires attention and planning. Trying to play Orna and not walk into people/traffic/road signs is actually pretty tricky.

Instead, I often found myself pausing my walk in order to finish combat encounters or larger boss fights. Orna includes an auto-attack system to get through fights while not paying attention, but using it tended to result in me getting my ass handed to me. A level of attention and focus was necessary to actually win.

Most of the game’s secondary systems also run into a similar problem. There are dungeons, which are a longer gauntlet of battles, and you can’t pause or anything between. There’s the arena, where you face off against other players’ builds controlled by the AI. Both of these can be a bit tricky, and require you to actually be careful with your moves.

On the flip side, there are some systems that encourage moving around, at least a little bit. You get quests through daily random quests, from quest givers, or from other sources. Some quests just ask you to “explore” and walk a certain distance. In addition, there’s a territory capturing system that gives you bonuses for a time period for beating the mini-boss controlling an area.

No, the blue currency isn’t premium, it’s Orns, used to create various buildings and unlock new classes. But you can’t buy it with real money.

You can also construct various different types of shops and buildings to provide additional passive income, and other boosts and benefits. Some of these buildings can be seen and used by other players, while some can’t. But if you want you can choose to make the public ones private. In theory, this would let you wander around and discover other players’ structures, but in practice, I mostly just built everything in one place, and never left that area.

There are a bunch of other systems, including upgrading items, socketing gems into items, fishing, and various multiplayer raids, but I haven’t played around with them enough to really know what to say.

Look, this photo of my gear is just here to pad out the article.

And that’s a general overview of Orna. An interesting augmented reality game without excessive microtransaction bullshit, but which is sometimes a bit hard to play because of how many mechanics and systems work. Or at least, difficult to play while not getting hit by a truck.

If Orna sounds cool, or you want to play something that requires you to walk around a bit and isn’t Pokémon Go, you can find Orna on the Apple App Store and Google Play store if you just search the name. If you’re not sure, there’s more info on the game’s webpage here.