EVERSPACE finally made its way to PlayStation 4 this week, both standalone and bundled with a few extra goodies in the Stellar Edition; whichever version might take you fancy, picking up ROCKFISH Games’ space-faring roguelike is an easy recommendation.
EVERSPACE has a more developed narrative than we’ve experienced in any other roguelike.
As such, it’s important to pick your battles by keeping a distance and utilising stealth where you can. Entering into a smart engagement - isolating enemies, prioritising targets, managing your shield and knowing when to retreat - can be the difference between life and death. It is possible to play too cautiously though, as you’ll need fuel to safely progress between areas and additional resources both to repair your ship and craft or upgrade items, all of which are dropped by defeated enemies.
Valuable resources can also be gathered from mining spots and containers, or purchased via ports and traders, though a looming threat ensures that you can’t spend too long scouring any one area for booty. Enemy fleets will spawn and hunt you down should you allow them to triangulate your position, meaning you’ll need to keep a considered pace at all times.
You’re sure to meet an early grave with so much working against you, which, as you may have already gleaned from our earlier mention of runs - you clever thing, you - will set you back to square one. Permadeath can be a scary concept, but EVERSPACE boasts extensive persistent progression that’ll help to make losing a time investment actually feel productive.
Any credits you earn during a run can be siphoned into a vast range of useful perks and upgrades, or even additional ships, though you have to spend what you’ve gathered before redeploying. Not allowing players to save towards more expensive purchases might seem unnecessarily harsh, but this simple tweak ensures you’re always heading back out into the unknown vastness of space with an added in-game advantage and a little extra motivation to hit your desired figure this time around.
Permadeath can be a scary concept, but EVERSPACE boasts extensive persistent progression that’ll help to make losing a time investment actually feel productive.
If EVERSPACE is sounding too difficult for you, then opting for the easy difficulty setting is the way to go. It’ll tip the scales in your favour while docking 25% of your earnings, slowing the upgrade process in order to maintain balance. Similarly, the elite can opt for hard mode and boost their income by 25%, whilst the dangerous can ‘enjoy’ a separate Hardcore game type that eliminates persistent forms of progression whilst throwing you the odd bone.
Whatever way you play, procedural generation will keep things varied and interesting between runs, subtly randomising area layouts and spawns. More significant are the occasional prerequisite area objectives and visually stunning weather anomalies that impact play, while the Encounters expansion (included in the Stellar Edition) makes an even greater impact by introducing numerous random character encounters that blossom into persistent quest lines.
Not only that, but Encounters adds a powerful new ship with an arcing lightning cannon and disabling EMP blast, loads more gear to kit yourself out with, new enemies to test everything out on, and even more, all while seamlessly integrating into the base game experience. It’s a no-brainer at just £7.99, which means the same can be said of the Stellar Edition, which offers a couple of premium themes and a digital soundtrack at no additional cost to buying EVERSPACE and Encounters separately.
Its sharp assets and striking juxtaposition of colours make the game really quite beautiful, especially on Pro hardware, where players can enjoy checkerboard 4K as well as the standard HDR support. Really then, EVERSPACE - Stellar Edition is the full package: challenging, tactical, highly customisable, rewarding, almost endless, and pretty darn gorgeous.
Unless you’re averse to taking to the skies, or refuse to succumb to your mortality at the hands of permadeath, you won’t regret climbing aboard the good (space)ship roguelike.
Based upon Games Workshop’s popular tabletop franchise, Space Hulk: Deathwing attempts to do for 40K what Vermintide did for old school Warhammer. While Deathwing is a unique and often exciting FPS onslaught in the vein of Left 4 Dead, it doesn’t quite meet the high standards set by its inspirators.
Deathwing is a unique and often exciting FPS onslaught in the vein of Left 4 Dead.
That tactic comes in particularly handy, as the game’s touch-and-go encounters can otherwise be overwhelming. Space Hulk: Deathwing bombards you with hostiles while requiring you to juggle priority targets between them, often as you’re confined to dark and claustrophobic spaces only sporadically lit by muzzle flashes. These moments invest you in the fight by making your squad of hulking marines - with infinite ammo to boot - feel small and vulnerable, but they could easily have been elevated further.
The game very sparingly utilises an ambient soundtrack, placing a focus instead on its (mostly) strong and encompassing diegetic sound. This isn’t inherently bad, but an adaptive soundtrack that ramped up alongside enemy spawns would’ve made for absolute magic in these situations.
Space Hulk: Deathwing also struggles when it comes to graphical presentation, largely looking fine in busy motion, but falling apart should you stop to smell the roses. Flat textures, strawberry jam blood effects, ropey animations and more stick out like sore thumbs as you traverse the darkly Gothic halls of the game’s labyrinthine spaceships.
On that note, environments are sprawling to their detriment at times, requiring you to frequent the map screen so as to not get lost in backtracking purgatory. Whilst a spattering of explosive barrels and flame-spewing pipes make areas lightly interactive, their similar aesthetics and objectives don’t offer up enough variety to maintain interest between missions or temp you off the beaten path in search of collectibles.
Unfortunately, this sews the seeds of tedium as you work through the campaign’s nine lengthy chapters, making the notion of revisiting areas to complete randomised special missions in a secondary mode an unattractive one, even if there are alternate routes to take.
Environments are sprawling to their detriment at times, requiring you to frequent the map screen so as to not get lost in backtracking purgatory.
Lacking replay value is easily Space Hulk: Deathwing’s biggest stumbling block, considering that’s generally the foundation for this breed of shooter and was no doubt intended to be here. Throw in technical issues like dropped frames and crashes and the experience definitely doesn’t feel “enhanced”, as the title suggests, though it’s worth noting that we were playing a pre-release version.
Overall, Space Hulk: Deathwing - Enhanced Edition is a game at odds with itself, boasting some brilliantly implemented ideas alongside weak alternatives. Its gameplay foundation is (mostly) structurally sound, yet the surrounding accoutrement hold it back. Despite the issues, as ever, gameplay is king, so we’d say it’s still worth a look if you’re in the market for a co-op shooter to dip in and out of with friends, especially if you’re fans of the source material.
Hide and Seek is a slightly disappointing second outing following The Council’s promising pilot, which kickstarted protagonist Louis de Richet’s adventure back in March. Continuing to search for his missing mother whilst hobnobbing with the social elite to keep up appearances, the game’s characters and tangled conspiracies continue to develop with intrigue, whilst a shift in focus away from the defining conversational confrontations towards solving puzzles is a very misguided one.
With that being said, things do fall a bit flat here by comparison to the first episode. Its meandering pace makes Hide and Seek a bit of a slog at times, often failing to either propel things forward or satisfyingly tie up loose ends, with the latter perhaps making the cliffhanger finish more cause for concern than suspense.
Few new areas to explore and a focus on slightly awkward puzzle solving are culprit to the episode’s pacing issues, placing bog-standard adventure fare over the thoughtful character interactions that made the pilot stand out. Acquiring a desired target can be cumbersome in the absence of a cursor, while spending Effort Points to utilise skills often leads to puzzle solutions being spelled out a little too plainly in blatant monologues. Conversely, not making use of Effort Points in select situations can leave you scratching your head until bordering on frustration.
What verbal confrontations remain generally prove more staunch brain teasers than the accompanying puzzles. Now that you’re an episode deep and should have the hang of them, some interactions no longer offer multiple chances and will instead have the brakes applied with one out-of-place utterance, which works in conjunction with the timer to ensure they’re more exciting than ever.
While not quite plummeting the series into the doldrums, Hide and Seek does disappoint at a stage where The Council should’ve been doubling down on its strengths to satisfy those making a return trip to Mortimer’s affluent estate. With the central narrative on a downturn it’s also harder to forgive the game its technical issues, making Hide and Seek an episode we wouldn’t recommend in itself, but would suggest you stick with as it’s not time to give up hope on The Council yet.
Valentina, Beta, Alexxis, Jay… they're dead. They're all dead. While we mourn their passing, their permadeaths serve as an example of one of the greatest strengths of State of Decay 2.
As a newcomer to the series, it turns out that the complete breakdown of society can be pretty brutal.
Later, when your community swells and you gain enough influence (the game’s de facto currency), you can claim locations ranging from small, resource gathering outposts, to electricity generating power stations and even makeshift forts constructed from shipping containers. Each new locale has its own advantages and how you manage your growing empire, customising locations further with mods and upgrades, is up to you.
That said, it’s advisable that you take council from your community as morale upkeep is a constant battle in such dire circumstances, as one might expect. Sacrificing a building slot to set up a garden or fashion a lounge (in which you can install an original Xbox) can work wonders in keeping everyone cheery.
As time goes on, your survivors will improve their skills based on what actions they perform. While the game wants you to feel you're developing fleshed out characters in a manner akin to the likes of Skyrim, the reality is that skills are fairly limited, and you'll just want to make sure most of your population go for a run once in a while to boost their stamina, or they'll quickly become overwhelmed in a bout of fisticuffs.
What is unique to SoD2, and arguably the main motivator in investing you in its characters, are a collection of 100+ more mundane traits such as “Car crash survivor”, “Cat lover” and “Flatulent”, all of which have passive effects. When each survivor gains enough standing in the community their individual skill is unlocked, such as “Yoga instructor”, offering an amusing look at their pre-apocalypse lives. While these abilities sadly don't unlock a suite of oddly juxtaposed mini-games, they do offer depth at fairly low effort.
There's another side to this of course, in that not everyone gets on, so they can start fights in your absence or generally become disgruntled. If it comes to it, you might have to take the difficult decision to exile them for the greater good, though generally they do go quietly.
The same is true of the different AI factions, known as enclaves, which can get cheesed off if you repeatedly ignore their requests for help or side with other enclaves over them in disputes, potentially leading them to become hostile and spoil for a fight.
All of these elements comes together in a very compelling simulation, with the downsides to the experience so far (much of which lacked the minor polish brought by the game's hefty 6GB day one patch) being technical.
Zombies can drop in from about 20ft in the air as you approach, using vehicles places your life in the game’s hands as they can randomly flip out or explode, and the AI often behaves unpredictably, to the extent that more than once our fellow community members have perished in relatively mild peril.
Using vehicles was something we hardly dabbled in throughout the game's opening hours, assuming them to be too much of a zombie magnet, but in reality to reap the full rewards when scavenging around the map - in particular valuable resources like food or medicine - their boot/trunk space is quite essential. Casually opening a car door to obliterate a squishy zombie as you pass them at speed also never ceases to be messily fun...
Everything comes together in a compelling simulation, with the downsides to the experience so far being technical.
Another significant drawback is the lack of direction on hand for new players; a handful of prompts keep recurring, but seemingly there's little to lead you into new experiences as you’re drawn deeper into the game. On top of this, plenty of basic options like trading items between you and a follower out in the field are far from a simple button press away, taking us back to pre-Resident Evil 5 levels of AI buddy management.
Same applies in co-op, where up to three guests can venture into the host’s world and loot their own unique supplies to take back home with them, but should you want to swap items amongst one another it’s a cumbersome case of using menus to drop them on the ground before rifling through piles of stuff and picking up the relevant drops. There’s also a limiting tether that stops players from straying too far apart, but if you’re committed to watching each other’s backs that shouldn’t be too big of an issue.
Setting a few more minor bugs aside, the overall experience is stable, no doubt aided by the graphical sacrifices that see SoD2 appear visually underwhelming even with the added oomph of the Xbox One X at its disposal.
Whether SoD2 is for you depends on how you attribute value based on look and feel versus raw gameplay. If you favour the former, it certainly doesn't have many “wow” moments to entice you, or make for a particularly good sizzle reel, but the gameplay over time is undeniably compelling.
This post-apocalyptic world effortlessly encourages you to leave the safety of your home and explore just one more area, run over just one more zombie or pick up just one more follower, without drowning you in endless map symbols. Nor does it penalise you too much if you decide to be really heartless and ignore individuals’ needs (*cough* Sam *cough*), resulting in an unparalleled sense of freedom that allows you to craft your own narrative without completely abandoning you to your own devices in the process.
In all, at its basic price point, the game is well worth picking it up, and if you nab it as part of a Game Pass subscription you'll likely find even better value for money. With different areas to settle, origin stories to experience, and enclaves and survivors to encounter, there's plenty to keep you busy until the previously outlined DLC expansions arrive, but, for the time being, if you'll excuse us, we have a wind power station to claim.
Space gets a bad rap. For a locale which, in reality, is largely empty space; film, TV and particularly video games have taught us that the great unknown is filled only with baddies who want to fire laser weapons at us (pew pew!)
A game steeped in the ever-present nostalgia factor with a few fresh ideas thrown in for good measure.
Such thrills are fairly short-lived on their own, but, if you keep an eye out, you can often string powerups together so your buffs keep the pressure on the enemy.
If it all sounds like a cheerful way to spend some times, particularly on the move with the portable powers of the Switch, then you’re in luck, as the game is fairly easy to pause at almost any point and jump in and out of. If you’re looking for something more however, you may wish there was a little more variety to its gameplay.
There are 12 levels on offer, split into five areas, but you’d be hard pressed to tell each of them apart at first glance, aside from a different vibe from the games authentically 8-bit soundtrack for each. Difficulty builds fairly gradually and increasingly you’ll find you’re taking hits from what you thought was just ship detail below but turned out to be a hull-mounted bomb or gun emplacement. The odd cheap shot here and there is understandable, with so much going on, but at times your health will take a huge hit in seconds when several dangers converge.
Of course, the challenge is part of the appeal, and your squishy health bar remains visible at the bottom of the screen at all times, reminding you of the impending doom. In fact, when your health hits that critical final square there’s even a stylish slowdown effect to alert you to that fact without peppering the screen with ‘helpful’ voiceover from some unseen supervisor back on Earth or a teammate that won’t shut up (we’re looking at you Slippy.)
After the main game’s first run, there’s a few things to go back to. Each level has five optional objectives, some of which you’ll probably stumble across as you play, such as the perpetual “Kill all four alienoids”, but others will require more strategic action.
Then there’s also survive and boss modes for each level, which are exactly what they sound like, but neither really do much to remix and change up gameplay. Speaking of mixing, the game’s Xbox version has a particular tie-in with streaming service Mixer, which sees the audience capable of sabotaging the player by introducing enemies and generally making life difficult, but whether that would be something you’d like to subject yourself to/rise to the challenge of, is for you to decide.
The end result is a game steeped in the ever-present nostalgia factor with a few fresh ideas thrown in for good measure. To really blow us away it would have been nice to see the game break the mould a bit more, but for many a title which makes retro-style games accessible, and slightly more forgiving, to younger audiences and new players is no bad thing.
Having hit HTC VIVE and Oculus Rift late last year, Killing Floor: Incursion has finally made the transition to more budget-friendly hardware in the form of Sony’s PlayStation VR headset. Bringing the Killing Floor series’ gory brand of sci-fi horror to a new dimension, Incursion is a mix of old and new that achieves varying degrees of success.
An annoying cooldown feature disallows teleporting multiple times in quick succession, wasting no time in convincing us that free movement was the only way to go.
Fortunately, the game fares better at instilling chills in other areas. In spite of some graphical pop-in and general fuzziness, the largely dark and moody settings make for tense and grimly detailed places to explore, aided every step of the way by incredibly effective use of 3D audio. The sound works best in confined spaces, which also happen to be locations where the aforementioned cheese strategy won’t do you any favours, making for a potent mix.
While the campaign is relatively brief at around four hours, bringing along a friend for co-op and/or graduating to the higher difficulty level are motivators for at least a second playthrough. That said, most of your time with Incursion will likely be spent engaging with Holdout mode, which is more the survival onslaught you’d expect going off Killing Floor’s past form.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering it centers on the series’ bread and butter, Holdout is the highlight regardless of relying on such a prevalent trope. Playable solo or two-player, just like the campaign, the mode introduces a range of power-ups and an over-the-top announcer that grows more and more excited as you build a score multiplier by chaining headshot kills.
Here any semblance of ambiance is dumped in favour of piping in Killing Floor’s signature heavy metal soundtrack, its breakneck tempo mirroring the frantic pace at which you’ll need to physically swing melee weapons or dual-wield firearms in order to survive the intensity. Two Move motion controllers are required to play, which you can do either seated or standing, and they mostly do a sterling job of keeping up with the frantic flailing as you make use of the game’s narrow selection of murder implements.
The overwhelming nature of Holdout’s pulse-racing encounters can easily get you flustered, causing you to fumble the somewhat button-heavy controls as your brain struggles to process inputs on top of inputs, inevitably seeing you mobbed and mauled by the ugly enemy troop with no concern for personal space. It’s here a few desperate weapon whips, punches or pushes come in handy, but not nearly as much as having a co-op partner capable of a well-timed rescue.
Holdout mode dumps any semblance of ambiance in favour of piping in heavy metal, its breakneck tempo mirroring the frantic pace at which you’ll need to act in order to survive the intensity.
Combat is satisfyingly visceral as standard, though there’s something supremely pleasing about cutting the arms off an enemy that’s reaching out to grab at your teammate; it’s also hilarious when said teammate then picks those severed limbs up and wiggles them around like wet noodles… Puppeteering the sagging jaw of a decapitated head for one another was a similarly macabre hoot, though more human interactions like simply reciprocating a wave to an online stranger or swapping weapons with one another is pleasing in itself.
Unfortunately, our time online has been hampered by spotty connections, which, coupled with a sparse selection of just five small maps (one of which is a timed PS VR exclusive), calls longevity into question for all but the most ardent highscore chasers.
When a simple horror shooter in the vein of The Brookhaven Experiment would’ve fallen so easily into place with the Killing Floor property, it’s a pleasant surprise to see Incursion go the extra mile and prove an adventurous experience more akin to Arizona Sunshine. Despite the comparisons, Incursion carves out it’s own niche by translating the Killing Floor series’ dark humour, heavy metal stylings, and sparing use of slow motion to highlight its most gloriously gory moments to a new format. On the whole, it’s an enjoyable VR shooter that unfortunately finds itself in the middle of a very crowded market.
Having started life as a free-to-play mobile title under the guise of Ace Academy: Skies of Fury, Illumination Games and Seed Interactive’s WW1 air combat game recently made its console debut on the Nintendo Switch.
The bold visuals help give the game plenty of character as you dogfight over the patchwork fields below and fly through giant, marshmallow clouds so thick you could seemingly hop out and walk on them.
There are optional challenges similar to the Halo series’ skulls that can be applied pre-mission to help add some level of difficulty to proceedings, without proving insurmountable, whilst the only significant downside is that you’re less likely to earn loot boxes that contain new plane skins and alternate reticule designs as you won’t be earning EXP as quickly.
Skies of Fury’s campaign is broken up into five chapters, with missions split between German and British forces. Completing all of the missions in a chapter sees you rewarded with a fresh set of comic strips that convey the game’s narrative.
As you progress, you’re also given skill points to pick out new passive abilities to mitigate/increase incoming/outgoing damage such as faster health regeneration, larger magazines and a deadlier special attack. Another cool feature is the ability to snap up your AI allies as wingmen, adding their firepower to yours for greater damage whilst simultaneously acting as shields against incoming attacks.
Despite the sheer number of missions available, it becomes obvious very early on that there’s a distinct lack of variety between them, with the game recycling the same dogfight, escort missions and bizarre time trials that require you to fly through a series of hoops over and over again. In addition to the lack of objective variety, no voice acting means there’s no real difference when playing as either a German or British pilot, save for the names and livery of the planes.
Given the nature of its setting, it would have been nice to see some sort of trench-based reconnaissance or attack missions included, which the narrative suggests played an important role in the build up to the Battle of Arras. It feels like a missed opportunity considering this is supposed to be a more substantial offering than the mobile original.
Yes, there’s local multiplayer and a new survival mode which can be played cooperatively (also only locally), but the overall lack of extra polish when it comes to the game’s focal point - the campaign - drags Skies of Fury DX’s otherwise fairly enjoyable arcade action back down to Earth.
Everyone loves a bit of Norse Mythology, right? Whether you’re enjoying the new God of War or cheering on your chisel-jawed hero Thor in Avengers: Infinity War, there's something particularly epic about that pantheon of gods.
Unlike the other titan-toppler we played this week, Extinction, there's plenty of variety on offer here.
While keeping the challenge level high might goade some players on, this combined with the limited dodge range of your character (in fact the dodge itself is almost as slow as normal movement) can start to see frustration build.
Other times, the beautiful hand-drawn art style and animations can prove to be a hazard, as enemies fall and catch you in their wake when you feel as though you should be free and clear.
The final twist of the knife is the camera, which often zooms far far out, to Below-esque levels of distant appreciation, to show you the points of interest in the scene, but, again, often at the expense of your character's wellbeing.
All in all then, the intrigue of Jotun will keep pulling you through, and, being a portable game on this particular platform, finds itself well suited for quick bursts while trundling along on a train. There's little to bring you back once your quest is done, with only the extra hard Valhalla mode left to tax the most dedicated players. At journey’s end your character might not have much of an emotional arc, but there's variety here to keep you occupied without outstaying its welcome.
There’s no hiding the fact that Bombslinger is heavily inspired by Bomberman, at first glance even appearing as little more than a Western reskin of the classic series. Whilst the serviceable Battle mode doesn’t do too much to dispute that, its roguelike Adventure mode blasts Bombslinger past Konami’s most recent effort - Super Bomberman R.
Its roguelike Adventure mode propels Bombslinger past Konami’s most recent effort - Super Bomberman R.
While not as complex as the likes of The Binding of Isaac, which can be pretty obstructive to newcomers, the occasionally clumsy four-directional movement in Bombslinger will leave some a-shakin’ in their snakeskins. You’ll very frequently need to duck around a corner to avoid the blast radius of a bomb, but every so often you can be slightly off centre to the gap you’re attempting to squeeze through and end up taking damage as a direct result of the fiddly correction process. Considering that this has the potential to put an end to a run, it’s far from ideal.
It’s not such a problem in Battle mode’s lower stakes skirmishes, though that’s not to say they’re easy - the AI takes no prisoners, yeller belly! DeathMatch and Last Man Standing game types can be played across 12 maps, with the former a frantic race to the frag limit and the latter a more considered bout for survival.
In familiar fashion, you’re placed into a maze filled with a mix of destructible and non-destructible obstacles, as well as power-ups and power-downs, with a mad scramble ensuing as up to four bombers fill lanes with flames in an attempt to quell the competition. It proves tense, fast-paced and skilful despite the inherent simplicity, which makes the lack of online multiplayer support all the greater a blow.
A pick up and play nature makes Bombslinger ideal for gaming on the go, but, when it comes to local competitive matches, a big ol’ TV screen is the ideal way for everyone to keep track of what’s going on. This makes Nintendo Switch the game's ideal platform, offering up the best of both worlds and sacrificing none of the sharp retro aesthetic in the process.
The occasionally clumsy four-directional movement will leave some a-shakin’ in their snakeskins.
Bombslinger’s tentpole is its excellent roguelike Adventure mode, which boasts a characteristically addictive gameplay loop that compels you to keep developing your skill set over time. Battle mode is very much a secondary distraction, though proves to be good fun when getting some local friends involved - it’s just a shame that the fun can’t be taken online when there’s nobody to hand, and that control issues can make a game with a consistent level of challenge stray towards feeling unfair. Still, if you’re a fan of the Bomberman template, Bombslinger is a game you probably won’t want to miss.
Masters of Anima is a charming action strategy game in the vein of Pikmin and Overlord, where the player guides a young man named Otto on a quest to save his betrothed.
Excellent balance is struck between the game's three key pillars in exploration, puzzle solving and combat.
Stocking up on a certain type of Guardian as a situation dictates - bow-wielding Sentinels for a boss that cuts a swathe through melee fighters, for example - can help to secure not just victory, but a pat on the back and some extra experience points too. You receive a letter grading at the end of each engagement, with the lofty S rank often taking a few failed practice attempts to reach.
Upgrading Guardians can help to make them useful in more situations, but with skill points shared between each class and Otto himself, deciding where to invest them can take a bit of thought; luckily, you can respec as many times as you like between levels in order to really nail the perfect loadout. Replaying stages will net you extra experience to keep improving your build, which is a nice little motivator to do so, as is the opportunity to improve upon letter gradings and gather any remaining collectibles.
Outside of the odd technical performance dip and a few proofreading oversights (just note that we were playing a pre-release version), Masters of Anima is a game that’s very easy to admire. Rich with personality and considered design, joining Otto on his quest is a no-brainer for fans of the often overlooked action strategy genre.