Seeing Red, A Poem about the Dark Side
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It’s getting colder, and Christmas music is blasting away in shops already. Far too freaking soon for that. It barely waited until Halloween was over!
I’m back once again! I planned to make this a typical Indie Corner episode: to write a final episode for the year before moving on to my GOTY series.
However, I ran into technical issues with The Pegasus Expedition, a narrative-driven sci-fi 4X game that launched in late October. I’m trying to work out why my laptop doesn’t like it, but I’ve been running into crashes when ending my turn. It could be due to a hardware issue on my system recently. I apologize to the guys at Kalla Gameworks for the delay in my impressions. I’ll install the game onto my Steam Deck and see how it will run. That way, I will be able to try it out and hopefully have a review for early 2023. Despite the problems I’ve had with the game, I enjoy the depth it offers. It’s something to consider if you’re looking for refreshing 4X fun.
Onto my GOTY series: I will release the first episode in late November. There have been so many great candidates in 2022 that it’s been a severe challenge getting a concrete Top 10. I’ve managed that, but even as of today, I don’t know the rankings yet.
Today, I review Against the Storm. It took me a while to get into it, but once it got its claws deep into my flesh, it was impossible to let go of it.
Hooded Horse have knocked it out of the park in their first full year as a publisher. Focusing heavily on a strategy game, they’ve backed several great releases in 2022. Clanfolk, Old World, Terra Invicta, and Nebulous Fleet Command have all launched this year to considerable success, with over a dozen published games in the pipeline. I have a soft spot for these guys. I’m not biased, I swear!
Against the Storm was previously an Epic exclusive before making its debut on Steam this November, and my word, have they made an impression. A massive success, overwhelmingly positive reviews? It ticked all the spots, and it didn’t take me long to get addicted to this title.
City builders and roguelikes are a dime a dozen these days, and I’ve always found the roguelike genre oversaturated. So much so that they put me off playing them. However, despite getting burnt out on the genre, I’ve discovered many great roguelikes that are refreshing to play. Hades, Tainted Grail, Slay the Spire, and Streets of Rogue are just a few which I love, and Against the Storm deserves to join that list.
It combines the best parts of survival and city building with a roguelike breed that works better than it has any right to. Even if it’s an Early Access title, everything feels so polished that it feels closer to a fully released title. This is good because it’s how games should feel like.
Roguelike city building is a rare breed, almost unique. I can’t think of anything like Against the Storm, which is why it feels so refreshing to play. The concept is simple: in a dark fantasy kingdom facing a growing apocalypse, it’s the player’s task to rebuild the realm and confront the darkness. It’s punishing and deadly, and choices have consequences. Having to pick and choose what buildings you can make in every run is genius, and more than once, I screwed up by picking the wrong building. You pick wrong? Tough luck; you just have to try and cope! It’s a great sense of choices having severe consequences, so it takes careful planning to ensure the colony’s survival. The game comes with a host of QOL features, my favourite being the free movement of resource buildings; you’ll need to move things around frequently to gather resources.
The queen is a prickly character to please. Every game turns into a race to carry out her many whims. Playthroughs involve carrying out missions or Deeds on time to avoid the ruler’s wrath. Take too long, and you lose, and the settlement is abandoned. Many challenges include weather, random events, starvation, and villager happiness. There are three races to juggle: lizardmen, humans, and beavers. They all come with their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Beavers like chopping down trees, and lizards like meat. Keeping everyone happy is just one of the player’s priorities. It becomes a battle of sacrifice in more complex difficulties, keeping one side happy while pissing off another tribe. There are many different modifiers and ways to curate your playthrough, and like all roguelikes, there are tons of buildings and cool things to unlock. It’s an extensive and impressive experience, and unlike a lot of games where I find unlocking stuff to be a grind, Against the Storm lacks these issues.
Another big surprise was how well Against the Storm works on the Steam Deck. While support is currently unknown, I’ve played a few hours of it on the Deck with virtually no problems. I’ve had some of the fancier effects switched off while running it at the minimum 3 TDP setting with 40hz mode turned on, and it’s a stable and enjoyable experience. The stock control settings provided work great, and it comes with solid five hours of battery life on a full charge. Few city builders work as well on things like the Deck as this, and it’s perfect for short bursts and the long haul.
Sure, the game is technically incomplete because of the Early Access tag, and I wish there was an easier way to locate buildings on the map, but I’m blown away by how solid the game is overall. All the best bits of city building and roguelikes are in here, with the right balance of challenge without being too overwhelming. It deserves the incredible critical reception it’s received, and don’t be surprised if it becomes my favourite Early Access game in 2022.
Polished and expansive for an Early Access game
A steep learning curve
Plenty of unlocks and difficult choices to make
A couple of minor issues with locating buildings when needed
A unique blend of roguelike and city-builder that’s addictive and challenging to play