The Purest Cause - A Poem About Elesh Norn (Magic: The Gathering)
Previous Announcing TacticCon: Press Release! September 22nd-26th
I would like to thank Hooded Horse and Firesquid for hosting this event. Strategy games are seeing somewhat of a resurgence in the last couple of years, and these guys have done great in supporting those brave enough to tackle the market. TactiCon is currently available on Steam until the 26th, and covers a host of different games, old and new, with several panel events and a chunky game sale to boot.
I’ve been writing a lot of these articles this year, and when I learned about the event, I wanted to write something about it. There are some amazing games in this sale, with a large selection of upcoming titles. There’s something for everyone, and the next twelve months are exciting for the games industry. I was granted access to some cool games for the event, so thank you for the chance! These will be fairly quick, first impressions of the games, and several have released big updates for the event.
Alina of the Arena
Imagine Slay the Spire but as a turn-based strategy game, like Into the Breach or Fire Emblem? Well, throw some plucky folks into a big gladiatorial arena, mix it up with the usual roguelike ingredients and you have Alina of the Arena! This game launched earlier this year to positive reviews and is being developed by Chinese developer Pininx. There are many deck builders on the market after Slay the Spire’s incredible success. Some of my favorites in recent years are Tainted Grail, Black Book, Monster Train, and Pawnbarian. It’s a great genre with plenty of customization, and Alina of the Arena is shaping up to join this list as one of the better ones.
Combining two awesome game types into one works out well, and unlike other deck builders that focus on boss rushes, Alina requires careful positioning and health management. You hit hard, but so do enemies, so being able to move around properly is key. Collecting cards and equipment is important to boost up your character, and there are three champion fights to get to. Every win gets more cards and gold for rewards, losing allows you to start over with unlocked equipment. So far, so good. It’s a pretty cool mix of mechanics working behind the hood, and Alina is both easy to get into and addictive to play. There are a lot of different cards and items to unlock, and combat is challenging. You’re kept on your toes in this roguelike, and the developers have managed the balancing side effectively: this is hard to pull off!
Alina of the Arena leaves Early Access on 14th October. Even with my limited time with the game so far, my early impressions are solid. There’s a nice mix of difficulty without being overwhelming, and I love the visual design. I would like to see more content or another mode like a boss rush, but roguelike and deck builder fans alike will be happy with this one.
Continuing with the deck builder craze, Summoners Fate is a title I’ve had my eye on ever since it was released in June, so when I was allowed to try the game out for TactiCon, you can bet how quickly I took up the chance! Summoners Fate is one of those games where the right amount of options and ideas work just right, blending the coolest parts of card games like Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons into an exciting dungeon crawler. It’s my favorite game I’m covering today, and there is a major update in the works.
The work of a solo developer at D20Studios (such a fitting name for this game, I might add!), Summoners Fate has proven to be a successful addition to the roguelike genre. It’s simple in concept, but sometimes that’s a blessing in disguise. Set in a fantasy world known as the Multiverse, it’s your task to explore this mysterious land and fight challenging bosses. There are several characters to unlock, all with their different quirks, and the game has a great tutorial to teach players the ropes. Combining world exploration with the dungeon modes, each room carries different challenges. Sometimes there are enemies to kill, or perhaps there are characters to free or recruit. Or maybe you’ll come across someone peddling their various spells. Upgrades and cards come thick and fast which helps deal with the trials ahead, and this is a challenging game! Enemies hit hard, although there are several difficulty modes to cater for.
Summoners Fate is one of those feel-good games that’s so far a blast to play. Conserving resources and looking for opportunities to increase strength is a balancing act: I’ve been destroyed multiple times for trying to pluck that juicy apple. With diverse cards and tactics to employ, a lovely visual style that feels like a pop-up book, several game modes, and dozens of different events, there’s a fantastic game in the making.
Othercide was released in the middle of 2020. During the joys of lockdown and running about working on how to keep ourselves afloat, I’ll admit the game release passed me by. You can blame Animal Crossing for that one…
Regardless, I kept my eye on it as development for the game grew. I loved the visual art, but I was warned about the game’s brutal difficulty. After spending some time in the game, I should have listened to those warnings! This is one hardcore tactic roguelike, where a single mistake can spell disaster. I’ll admit that the brutal difficulty was a challenge for me to pass. I prefer a more balanced experience with my games. I usually play them to relax, not to get beaten to death by hordes of enemies that hit like trucks. I’ve felt the same with other brutally difficult games like Highfleet, the Dark Souls series, and Celeste. While I enjoy playing them, they sometimes feel like running into brick walls without wearing a crash helmet.
That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what it tries to accomplish. I love the game’s atmosphere and the story is pretty solid. In an apocalyptic world where humanity is about to die, you command and evolve a growing army of Daughters in a battle for survival against never-ending waves of demons. The classes felt distinct and each one brought new powers to the table, and while the combat system took some getting used to, it’s quite refreshing for a turn-based tactics game. I’ll need to spend more time with Othercide to give it the chance it deserves because I dig the artistic style it achieves. Even if it may be too difficult for me, I’m happy to give it more time. There will be people who’ll love the chance to try this out.
Dream Engines brings a cool twist to the city builder genre. Combining survival and tower defence elements with a flying city provides a refreshing change to the long list of city builders available. I had my eye out on this game ever since it launched last summer, so being able to try the game out after so long was awesome. It received the major Foundations update recently; adding a new tribe, better optimization fixes, and more options to defend the base. It’s one of the more unique city builders on the market, and while it’s not without its flaws, I was excited to give it another chance.
In a world destroyed by a deadly plague, survivors take to the skies as nomadic tribes to try and carve a new life. There are all sorts of challenges to face, including careful base management, resource collection, holding off raider attacks, exploring new biomes for resources and opportunities, and of course, surviving the plague. The base management is something I love the idea of: these airships have limited space, so every building is vital. It’s on the hardcore side of difficulty, as one mistake can and will destroy your tribe’s hopes and dreams. Gotta be careful! Unless of course, you crave destruction. What’s that, Michael? I thought you love destroying your game NPC’s hopes…
Oh, no. Not me. Never. Please ignore Arthur there, dragging his new friend to his doom.
Dream Engines has seen plenty of updates to add customization, difficulty modes, and more content during its time in Early Access so there are no problems on the game length front. There’s more than enough to explore in this title, and it’s one gorgeous game too. There’s a sale on for TactiCon for the occasion, and there’s mod support too. I’m always a fan of mods for games, as they can only do good for a game’s longevity. The road has been long and difficult for Dream Engines, but it’s a city-builder with a lot of promise. Take advantage of its sale price while TactiCon is on!
The final game I’m covering for this event is a special one; and big thanks to the TactiCon folks for granting me special access to it! One of my favorite space games ever made is Starsector, a brilliant open-world space RPG that’s the work of Alexander Moslov. My only regret for Starsector is that it’s not available on any big launcher like Steam yet, but it’s available for purchase and download at Fractal Softworks. It’s brilliant: check it out.
Cosmoteer almost feels like a modern version of Starsector, and it’s an upcoming game that has a demo available. Combining complete, freeform spaceship building with the classic exploration and spacey things these games have, I’ve had a blast with the preview build. It’s scheduled for a release sometime this year, and from my experience, there’s a lot to love. There’s a great tutorial to teach new players the ropes, and the amount of freedom you have in making the ship is staggering. I’ve rarely played a space sim with this much customization. It even combines it with the classic crew management from games like Space Crew; seeing the little peeps keeping the ship running is endearing. Combat comes thick and fast, with fleet management.
Another benefit to this kind of open-ended, non-linear sandbox game is mod support, and Cosmoteer will come with Workshop and mod support out of the box. With several modes such as a Career mode, Co-op, and multiplayer and a generous creative mode where you get to live out your Star Trek and Expanse fantasies, there’s no shortage of toys and tricks in this box. There’s no concrete release date yet, but you can bet it’ll be at the top of my list for coverage!