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.




Quantum League

A mind bending shooter that’s best played with a friend. Really neat unique time mechanics, but not a massive player base.

I first saw Quantum League about 2 years ago at PAX East, and even though I didn’t play it then, I was interested in the premise. So what is the premise? Simple.

Quantum League is a 1v1 or 2v2 shooter played in rounds, where each round is a 15 second time loop that repeats three times. I enjoy the game, but it can be a little draining after a while, since there are only those two games modes, and you’ll only ever play against humans. For explaining the mechanics, I’m going to talk about the 1v1 mode only.

When a round starts, you have your dude, you have a pistol, and you have five other weapons. The weapons are pretty straightforward, you have a sub machine gun, a sniper rifle, a shotgun, a grenade launcher, and the only funky one, a kinda beam-stick flamethrower. All of them behave pretty much as you would expect from any FPS. In the first round, it’ll just be you and your opponent, and depending on the game mode, your goal will be to either shoot ’em, or be the only person standing on a given capture point at the end of the round, which (big surprise) will most likely involve shooting them. The round will end after 15 seconds, even if you kill them early on.

Loop two is where things get interesting, and where Quantum League really shines as its own game. Like I said above, the game is played in loops, and in round two, you’ll have the same starting locations, weapons, everything else, with the game’s one big mechanic in play: there will now a be copy of you, replaying all your actions from loop one in addition to your normal controlled self. Your opponent gets one, too. They will replay all actions you took in round 1, exactly as you performed them, and they can still be interacted with. In Quantum League, when you die, instead of waiting to respawn or taking other actions, you instead just continue playing, but as a ghost. Your ghost version can’t interact with anything, damage anything, or score. But it can still shoot, move and otherwise do whatever it wants, because there is a very real chance that at some point in a future loop, you might kill the killer before they kill you, and as such, your clone will suddenly remain alive instead, meaning that its actions are now a resource you can use.

Loop three is the same as loop two, except with clones from round one and two, and one big difference: rounds are only scored at the end of loop three.

This time mechanic is the thing that turns Quantum League on its head, and is what makes the game completely different from almost any shooter out there. The key to winning in Quantum League isn’t pure twitch reflexes, or more accurate aim, but to plan your actions, recognize what your opponent will do in response, and then move to anticipate their future actions.

Here’s an example: Iin any given loop one of Quantum League, my preferred weapon is the sub machine gun. The SMG is a medium range weapon, losing at long range to the sniper, short range to the shotgun and beam rifle, and lacks the inherent area denial and angle capacity of the grenade launcher. So why pick it? For me, the SMG is the most effective continual area denial tool in the game. My plan is to move up behind cover, fire a few shots down various angles that I suspect my opponent may try to use in future rounds, punishing them with chip damage if they do, before finally actually moving to try to take out my opponent and win the round. In short, I’m not even shooting at my opponent, I’m shooting at where I think they’ll be in the future.

And this is just a small fraction of the sorta neat stuff you can get up to. There are also respawn globes and a few other mechanics that make the game even mind melting then it starts out as.

The only two big gripes I have with Quantum League are the hyper competitive nature of the game, which makes playing it for a long period of time fairly draining, and the lack of other game modes.

If Quantum League sounds like your sort of game, you can get it on Steam and it looks like a Switch version comes out soon as well, but I haven’t played it. I really suggest find a friend who also interested, because that way you can do 2v2 matches, and 1v1 matches if no one else is playing at that point in time. The game’s player base is still pretty small.

A Short Hike

Be a bird, climb a mountain, fly around and stuff.

A short hike is a fun, simple collect-a-thon in which you try to climb to the top of a mountain. It has a very Animal Crossing aesthetic, and the actual gameplay often reminds me of Breath of the Wild. It takes maybe 3-5 hours tops to “Finish” the game, and it probably has some repeatability, but more for exploring the island, and less for mechanical challenges.

Also, I almost didn’t play it, even after downloading it, because I’m an inverse elitist, and kinda assumed it was a Firewatch-esque game novel.

Whoops.

A Short Hike is well named. You’re quickly introduced to the main character, her aunt who she’s staying with on a small island with a mountain in the middle, and okay, now you’re playing the game. There is a given reason for having to climb the mountain, but it’s not really that important in any way.

The game is played from a top down isometric perspective, like Animal Crossing, and a decent amount of time spent trying to get to the top of the mountain is going to to be spent looking for various items, golden feathers, and other interesting things. The general structure of gameplay is, “Follow a trail, hit a roadblock, find a way around the roadblock, or start exploring,” or at least I think that’s what the structure is supposed to be. My gameplay structure was more, “Follow the trail, find something interesting, get distracted by it, search around, find some treasure, chat with some folks, and then remember that technically, I’m supposed to be climbing a mountain.”

I have one big gripe with the game, and it’s that the flight controls are a bit cumbersome. Looking at the game afterward, I suspect it’s because the game might be intended to be played with a controller, instead of mouse and keyboard, but it can make some of the bits near the end a little tricky.

Lemme explain what I specifically mean. A Short Hike has a locked camera, and said camera seems to shift when you enter certain spaces/move through a given zone. This isn’t a problem while walking, but when you’re flying/jumping, if you pass through one of those barriers, the game has a habit of re-orienting your bird, and all of sudden, your inputs make the character fly in a different direction then intended. This can also be tricky if you’re trying to land on top of things far below you. It’s my only real issue with the game, and I suspect it might just go away if you use a controller.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with A Short Hike. It’s a few hours long, and it’s $8, which seems about fair to me. You can buy it on Itch.io and on Steam, and it was part of the Racial Justice Mega Bundle on itch, so if you bought that bundle a bit back, you already own it! And you should play it!

With 2020 continuing to be the winner of year it is, it was nice to just fly around a chill island and have a good time. Take care of yourself, and stay safe.

Sky Rogue

Blast through the air in a minimalistic flight game/dog fight game.

I like to beat games before I write about them. I have not beaten Sky Rogue, but I’m gonna write about it anyway. This is because I don’t think I’m going to beat it anytime soon.

Sky Rogue is a minimalist flight sim and dog fighter, where you select from a set of colorful planes, load them out with enough weaponry to wipe out a small country, and then proceed to blow up repeatedly when you fail to accurately estimate the distance between you and the ground. Or you and the hanger you’re trying to bomb. Or you and the two enemy drones with chainguns. Or a surface to air missile turret.

Your experience may vary.

What I’ve learned primarily from Sky Rogue is that I am very bad at flight sims, even those of the most simplified kind, and even if I can usually finish a run of a roguelike, Sky Rogue demands a level of execution that I currently don’t have. If I beat it at some point in the next week, I’ll update this article.

So, what’s the loop then? As the name would suggest, Sky Rogue is a roguelike. The roguelike element is primarily present in the set of unlockable planes and weapons. While unlocking equipment is permanent between runs, the upgrades you purchase with cash for your planes and gear are not. There are two main resources:

  • Tech, which persists between runs and functions as a sort of exp for unlocking more equipment/planes.
  • Cash, which is lost and death and is used to upgrade gear during a run.

As far as roguelike elements go, it’s pretty minimal. Missions and environments are randomly generated, and upgrades are lost on death, but you don’t really have to scavenge for parts or weapons. Destroying enemy structures and planes during a mission grants cash, which can be spent on upgrading the planes or equipment of your choice. Most of the upgrades I’ve seen so far have been primarily numerical, i.e., extra capacity, damage, or targeting range. This meant I usually just upgraded whatever gear I was using, instead of being forced to adapt my run based on pickups.

In addition, you can fully heal and re-arm at any point during a level by returning to base (as long as you haven’t completed the mission), so there’s not as much resource conservation as there might be in something like Dead Cells or Slay the Spire.

So we have a roguelike with permanent unlocks and weapon configuration, free health refills, and a wide selection of gear. In theory this would be easy, which brings us to actual gameplay: flying your plane around, and in my case, into things.

One of the things I was hoping to find in the itch.io racial justice bundle was exposure to a bunch of games and mechanics that I wouldn’t otherwise engage with. I’ll be honest, I mostly expected to find narrative games, dating sims, that sorta stuff. Instead, I’ve gotten my ass repeatedly handed to me on each of my runs of Sky Rogue. I’ve gotten about half way through what I think consists of a full run, and I’ve gotten to the first big “Boss” once. It wrecked me.

If I had to give any advice to anyone else tempted to play the game as the result of this review, it would be the following:

  1. Turn off arcade mode. While it might feel better at first, it ultimately prevents you from flipping yourself over, and doing other tricky flight things.
  2. This game is probably better with a flight stick. I wouldn’t know. I don’t own one.
  3. Spam the flares.

Sky Rogue is $20 on itch.io, and Steam. The team does have a little blurb noting that if you buy it on itch.io, they get more of the money, and you can still get a Steam key if you buy it there.

As 2020 continues to be some sort of Twilight Zone or Tales From The Crypt anthology of garbage, stay safe, wear a mask, and take care of each other. I’ll update this article if I ever beat Sky Rogue.

Quadrilateral Cowboy

I started Quadrilateral Cowboy on Sunday, and finished it Tuesday. “Well then,” you might be wondering, “If you finished the game so long ago, why don’t you have a post about it up?” To which I would replay “Great question, theoretical fictional person who most likely does not exist outside of my head, but also somehow reads these posts and has an internal sense of how many articles should be posted on this blog per week. I’ve been wondering that also.”

I really like Quadrilateral Cowboy. I think you should play it. However, I’ve had a very hard time trying to figure out how to tell you that, because Quadrilateral Cowboy is supremely weird.

Quadrilateral Cowboy is made by Blendo games, a smaller indie dev that has an aesthetic of strangeness, and a catalog of other games I haven’t played. I’d say this aesthetic might honestly be the biggest thing that would prevent you from picking up the game, because it gives off a very “indie” vibe which I honestly sometimes confuse with entries in the “Move Around and Look At Things That Tell a Narrative” genre.

Some people call these walking simulators, but honestly, I don’t think that’s realistic. Death Stranding simulated walking, as did QWOP and both those games were hard.

So, if you get past the aesthetic and into the game, congrats! The game only has one other small ask of you: to learn a semi-fictional command line programming interface along with a variety of other programs/mild programing, and to be able to execute these with speed, precision, and accuracy.

As such, the game’s primary audience appears to be the coveted overlap of “People who are comfortable engaging with narratives and designs featuring non-traditional protagonists and stories” and “People who are willing to learn fictitious scripting languages and solve fairly tricky and convoluted puzzles.” I’ve provided a visual aid below in the form of a Venn Diagram I’ve titled “QuadCowboyMarketShare.png”

It’s the bit where the circles are touching. I should also note that I’m most definitely in that overlap.

Okay, so you’ve survived this extended intro bit. What is Quadrilateral Cowboy, and why should you play it? Well, primarily it’s a puzzle/heist game. But it has some of the most fun tools I’ve ever seen in a game like this, and they are some of the most satisfying things to use I’ve ever gotten in a video game.

You’ll unlock additional bits and pieces as you go through the game, but the primary way of interacting with the world short of just walking around and grabbing things is your Deck, a portable laptop-esqe chunk of hardware that allows you hack open doors, turn off guard lasers, and other functionality. And when I say hack, I don’t mean some lame minigame. I mean “telnet door2.open(3)” style stuff. Hope you like the command line!

There are other tools you’ll get as time goes on, but I’m gonna focus on the two other big ones. The Weevil, a very small remote control robot that can be used to sneak into areas that you can’t fit through, and the Autocase, the most satisfying gun to use that I’ve ever seen in a video game. More on the Autocase later. Let’s talk about the Weevil first.

Just like above, you don’t get a remote control for this thing. You’ll need to plop it down, pull out your Deck and micro-cctv monitor, and then use a series of commands to find and connect to it. Then, you’ll be able to instruct it to walk around, again via the command line, turn left and right, and jump. You might be thinking “That sounds difficult and mildly frustrating,” and you’d be right! Which is why getting it to do what you want is so satisfying.

On a side note, of the two minor gripes I have with the game, one is related to the Weevil, and more specifically, the fact that many situations where you use the Weevil feel a bit too “designed” to be solved in that manner.

Of course, then there is the Auto-case. What is the Autocase you might ask? Why is it great?

The Autocase is my favorite item in the game, and I feel like could sell the entire cyberpunk theme to the game on it’s own. It’s a command line controlled, remote deploy-able, briefcase packaged gun. And it is awesome.

The Autocase doesn’t feel like it suffers from the same problem as Weevil of being designed to solve specific problems. To give an example, sure, you can use the Autocase to just shoot things open, but you can also use it set off triggers and various other things that you would be able to do by hand, but remotely. And this sets up some exceedingly satisfying moments where you remotely can remotely blast buttons to open doors, shatter glass to jump down and escape from an airship, and remotely trigger an emergency release to launch something skyward.

If I have any gripes with the game, it’s that it feels short. I want to play more in this world, and more with these tools. But it also means that the game only feels like it drags a little toward the end, where it introduces a few new mechanics, only to more or less throw them away afterward. These levels were some of the least interesting, at least for me.

Quadrilateral Cowboy is a short game, and I still couldn’t quite tell you the plot, but it’s a fun game, and more importantly, it is a game. You can buy it on itch.io, here, or on Steam here. It looks like the normal price is about $20? The price does feel a little high, but its fun, weird, and worth playing. And if you don’t want to pay that much, wait for a sale. It’s definitely worth $10.