Didn’t Make The Cut – 12.25.2020

I spent part of this weekend in what I have come to think of as a public service, pruning and hacking my way through through the massive glut of games that is itch.io Racial Justice Bundle. While some might devote this time of year to giving to the needy, feeding the hungry, and other such charitable pursuits, I stayed home and played video games.

Phrased like that, it seems slightly less heroic doesn’t it? Hmm. In any case, here are 3 of the things I played this weekend, and links to the incredibly high quality stream in which I played them. These are all games that didn’t grab me enough for me to really want to continue playing them past around an hour, and I also don’t have enough to say about them to write a full article. So here we gooooo.

Catlateral Damage

In Catlateral Damage, you are a cat, and you must destroy as much stuff as possible within the time limit. You can jump, and you can bat things left and right. And that’s it. That’s the entire game. It’s a cute concept, but it doesn’t feel super well executed. The controls are fairly floaty, and the things you whack around don’t feel like they have much weight to them. Personally, I also really dislike the art. I think these cats are incredibly ugly… and yeah. The game just didn’t feel great, or look good, so I did a single run playthrough and then called it a day for this one. It’s short and chaotic, but I didn’t find it particularly satisfying or fun to play.

From Orbit

If you told me that From Orbit was an early access game, I would believe you. In fact, after writing that sentence, I went and checked to see if it was on Steam, and it is, but it isn’t early access. Where Catlateral Damage has an interesting premise, From Orbit feels like it got to the next stage of making a good game, which was having interesting mechanics. But it kind of falls apart there because then they didn’t really make anymore game. For example, the idea of having your workers being able to shift form based on what you want to use them for is cool! But then it sorta falls apart.

My biggest gripe, though, has to be that you can only have 4 units (5 if you count the spaceship which you can’t actually control), which is strange for a game that bills itself as an RTS. By this standard, playing as Meepo is an RTS.

My other big gripe is that the resources you gather on a given planet are also the resources you use to buy upgrades to improve your dudes, ship, and unlock abilities. So yeah, you could build a auto-miner, if you’re willing to lose 60% of the haul from a planet, or you could just do the whole thing manually. Oh, and the enemies you face are dumb as bricks. (I do like the flashing red outline you get for your units letting you know they’ve pulled agro.)

Everything else I can gripe about with the game is pretty small. The game doesn’t follow standard RTS controls schemes, you can’t queue commands, you can’t make control groups, attempting to select a unit automatically centers the camera on it, even if what you wanted to do was move it where you were looking BEFORE you selected it.

The stream is here, and the itch.io page is here.

Quiet As A Stone

I have a link to the stream of playing Quiet As A Stone here. I say “Playing” but honestly, “interacting with” might be a more accurate summary. My notes for the game have the following:

  • Experimental Photography Simulator
  • Rather Pretty
  • More like playing with actual rocks thana game

Here are some screenshots of Cragthor the Mountain Titan, the only thing I really did in the game before getting bored and quitting it.

Behold his majesty.

I have a few more games I’d like to do writeups for before the end of the year, so keep an eye out for those. One of them might be Depth of Extinction, which is this neat procedural XCOM/FTL style thing.

I’ve linked the names of the games up above, so if one of these looks like your cup of tea, you should go take a look. At the time of writing, I think From Orbit is actually free.

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.