Learning to Enjoy Flawed Games
Previous Flawed Games Can Still Be Enjoyable!
The summer has been a bit thin for big releases, hasn’t it?
That doesn’t mean no good games are coming out, of course! As I write this, we’re halfway through August. It’ll probably be later when this article finally goes live, but we’ve seen some pretty solid releases already. Two Point Campus, an excellent sequel to Two Point Hospital from the old Bulldog veterans seems to be a big success, and it’s on Game Pass, so there are no excuses to try it out! Come to think of it, I need to get that installed as well…
We also saw Farthest Frontier, the colony builder creation of the Grim Dawn guys, and Hard West 2, a flawed yet intriguing Western tactics game.
Coming up in August, we have hunting survival sim Way of the Hunter, Micropose’s Regiments, the Saint’s Row reboot and Destroy all Humans 2. I had some fun with Saint’s Row’s deep character creator, but the full game itself doesn’t grab my interest yet. I’ll keep an eye on it, though. As long as it maintains the enjoyment I had when playing the original series, it might still get me to pick it up and try it. One of the best things about gaming is you’ll never know what you’ll end up enjoying.
We’re back with another episode of The Indie Corner! I will be covering two games today. A couple was on the pipeline in April before I ended up with Covid, which set my schedule back several weeks. I’m still playing catchup with that now. Note to self: organize better.
First of, we have Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator 2.
Let’s kick things off with a silly, gigantic battle simulator! I played quite a lot of the original, which was released in 2017 under Brilliant Game Studios. It’s one of those games which is perfect for memes and quick content, and I have to admit, I had a lot of fun with it. Who doesn’t like pitting one million zombies against Chuck Norris?
They are huge, battle-focused sandboxes where you get to create amusing wars and watch things play out, but the original game did decently enough for that. The problem with the first game was simple: the engine was buggy and couldn’t cope with the numbers. People love the Total War battle model, but it’s hard to get it working properly. There’s a reason why we only really see that system in one series, which is a shame. The other issue with this kind of game is it’s pretty easy to get burnt out on it. Sure, you can make loads of fun sandbox shenanigans, but where’s the game in there? It’s great to show it off with friends, but I would have liked to see the game go further. The studio experimented with its engine in a zombie-survival RPG called Black Masses, but while ambitious and entertaining, it struggled to get off the starting blocks. These are the kind of games that usually stay in Early Access for a long time. In other words, don’t expect a complete experience with these!
Brilliant Game Studios wanted to expand upon their first vision, and a sequel was released in May 2022. While I had plenty of fun with the original, I hesitated before picking up UEBS2. How good would an updated version be? Well, I found myself pleasantly surprised, and the sequel is a significantly more robust title than the first game. Five years of development were kind, and I have to give the developer credit because he’s made great progress on the engine. It’s better optimized, relying on the GPU to maintain better framerates, and UEBS2 looks much nicer than the first game. Character models and animations, while not on the same level as Total War, are still impressive to look at.
With changes to the physics and unit collisions, dynamic events make a difference in battles. For example, corpses will pile up in mass graves, forming obstacles for other units to cross. Blood pools into eventual rivers, and if this happens on a hill, the blood will flow down correctly. It’s a massive improvement to the original game. There are also basic commands you can give to units, giving a simple RTS. Command large chunks of an army to outflank the enemy, for example, or hold the line. I would like to see more improvements on this side, but it’s a good start.
Naturally, this is an Early Access game, so a complete game isn’t on the cards. This is a game where you create your fun, and there’s a decent number of units and maps to experiment with. You can also customize units, although there isn’t any Steam Workshop support yet. Updates since release have been on the slow side, so this is a game that will likely remain in development for a while. However, I was surprised how much an improvement UEBS2 was over the original, even in its current state. The enhanced engine is fantastic, especially for such a small team. Provided they live up to expectations and provide the game with more content, it has the potential to reach greater heights. It’s available for £15.49/20USD. I’d say for that price, it’s probably worth it especially if you like sandbox experiments, although if you want a more complete game, I’d argue to wait for bigger content updates. I don’t regret picking it up, however.
Next, we have Devil Spire.
I interviewed the developer of this game earlier in the year, and you can check out that interview here.
I had my feedback and notes written up on this sitting on my word processor for weeks, and I only found them recently. What happened was that I wrote up my piece on the game in another folder, far away from where my other content for the website usually sits. Naturally, I was unable to find it until now. So, if anyone was wondering why I hadn’t covered the game until now, that’s why. Once again, I need to improve my organizational skills!
At its heart, Devil Spire is an old-school dungeon crawler in the wake of games like Legend of Grimrock, Kingsfield, and Lucacid. We’ve seen a renaissance of sorts in these older-style games in recent years: indie teams who want to reconnect gamers with the olden days so they can forget the less…savory tales of modern game design. I have a lot of respect for people who pull this off, and Devil Spire makes a great example of one of the games which do it right. This is a solo effort from Ithrio, and he’s made something special. For its low cost, it deserves a lot more attention than it currently has.
Combining 2D and 3D graphics in a solid roguelike experience, Devil Spire punches above its weight class. It’s a simple enough premise. There’s a gigantic tower of stone in a realm dominated by death and famine. Climb it. There are plenty of item classes, enemies, and traps to navigate, and the whole experience is rather immersive with plenty of world interaction. Eat plants and fauna to gain bonuses (or get poisoned!), and interact with objects like doors and secret passageways. The levels while small are surprisingly deep, so it’s easy to jump in and out of the game. It’s a hardcore experience with plenty of difficulties: this is not an easy game. Movement and combat while slow are easy to learn, though hard to master. Even when I got killed by the evil goats (Seriously, screw those guys!) I learned more with every run. Completing levels unlocks more tools for additional playthroughs, and there are several different game modes to sink your teeth into.
I can’t think of anything negative about Devil Spire. It’s a bit tricky to learn how to dodge and the difficulty spikes can get frustrating: dying in two hits will end up with a lot of swear words. With its low price point, dynamic gameplay, subtle worldbuilding, and a large variety of weapons and abilities, Devil Spire is a great purchase for anyone interested in the genre. It’s a true hidden gem and deserves more love.
That is all for today’s episode! I’ve been sticking to the two games per article formula for a while now, as it allows me to talk in more detail per game. So far, I feel it’s working well. For my next couple of articles, I plan on writing a new part on the Steam Deck, where I’ll discuss how to get the most out of battery life on the console. I also plan to continue my ‘Flawed but Enjoyable’ series with another installment. I’ve been playing a lot of Fallout 4 recently on the Steam Deck, and it’s inspired me to write a little about it. Until next time, and stay safe!