Forge of Freedom, a Poem about Phyrexian Praetor, Urabrask
Previous Gamedev Interview: Labrador Studios
You know, sometimes you look at your gaming backlog and wonder how you will finish it. I stopped thinking about my library as a backlog, choosing instead to call it a sandpit. I play what I want to when I want to.
It’s been a gruelling year, but I can always rely on gaming to provide some sort of escape. I’ve started work on organizing my GOTY series for December and have nearly finished my schedule. Thirty-two games will be featured during the event, and I think it’s the biggest one I’ve ever planned. It’s going to be a fun few weeks!
Before I begin today’s episode, I have a couple of disclaimers. First, I want to thank everyone for their support. The last few months of my writing and reviews have inspired me to keep working! I’ve got some cool projects in the works and looking forward to showcasing them further. This is Episode 25 of my Indie Corner series, where I write about all the cool indie games I’ve had the fortune to play. Sometimes you’ll find a gold nugget hiding in the haystack. As of writing this, I have four games neck and neck to win my game of the year. All four of them are indies! I probably won’t decide until the last minute, like I always do.
October was a brutal month for me health-wise. While I’ve recovered slightly, it’s resulted in several delays for my content. Impression reviews of games have had to be pushed back somewhat while I work on getting better and planning my GOTY series. Any games provided by publishers in my GOTY series will be covered during that event if I haven’t already covered them. This way, I can focus on others while still making my deadlines. Just a piece of transparency! I love doing what I do, though I’m only one person (a slightly crazy person) doing all these reviews, and health sometimes has to come first. I’m still organizing developer interviews, and I have several in the pipeline to edit.
On with the show!
Terror of Hermasaurus
One of my favourite series when I was a kid was the Rampage series. Mutated animals rampaging through cities and destroying them for my entertainment? Where do I sign? Okay, I was a weird kid back then.
Okay. I’m still weird. And I still play the Rampage series. What can I say? I like these things. It’s probably why I’m not allowed power in any government. That’s for the best.
Terror of Hermasaurus came out recently, and it’s like a nostalgic injection of happy drugs that bring me back to the Rampage days. It’s delicious and addictive to play and much better than it has any right to be. It’s the work of just one guy, Loren Lemcke, and he’s done a great job bringing a retro-style game to the 2020s. It comes with a Story mode, and an endless mode, providing many different unlocks and modifiers. It’s got quite a lot of content for a game like this, backed by a great price tag.
For the first time, booting Terror took me back to the 1990s. The retro pixel graphics are crisp and combine with the physics-based environments for maximum carnage. Controlling a giant dinosaur, it’s your job to rip through the world, punching the hell out of buildings, eating people, destroying stuff… the usual gubbins! It’s great to play on the keyboard and controller, though I prefer a controller. It runs great on the Steam Deck too! There are several creatures to control, all with different special abilities.
Story mode includes hilarious stories and dialogue, picking up on current events. For example, in the wake of global warming, a cheerful doomsday cult brings a thawed alien dino into the world, training it to wipe out the world population to save the Earth. It’s a great romp with a solid tutorial to teach players the ropes. The stages are relatively short as it’s a beat-em-up, so the campaign won’t be particularly long, but the endless mode is a great way to provide extra content.
I haven’t played Terror of Hermasaurus as much as I’d like. I’m only in the first chapter of the campaign, but I’ve played a fair bit of Endless Mode. It’s just one of those games I want to pick up and play. I have a daily slot in my evenings that is ‘Steam Deck Hour,’ and Terror is one of the games I love to play on it. Due to the heavy destruction physics, you might see a couple of frame drops here and there. I haven’t come across many bugs. Honestly? The only thing I wished the game had was the ability to climb onto the building roofs and pound on them from above, like in Rampage! Apparently, there’s an engine issue with that, but that’s the only ‘con’ I have, and I can’t even call it a downside. Of course, that’s just me nitpicking.
It’s delightful to play, the story is hilarious, and the gameplay is addictive. Give it a try; you won’t regret it.
A hilarious story with fantastic dialogue
A few minor framerate drops here and there
A modern take on the retro age of Rampage
Generous endless mode
Open the Gates!
Stronghold was an excellent strategy builder series back in the day. Unfortunately, when Stronghold Warlords was released, I was underwhelmed by it. Sadly, it was one of those series that declined over the years. I managed to find some enjoyment with Stronghold Warlords, but I still return to the original games now and then.
Open the Gates is a mix between the Stronghold series and the sidescroller RPG Kingdom series, and they combine rather well! It’s a great mixture of the tower defense and city-building management from the Stronghold series with the side-scrolling game design from Kingdom, and I’ve found myself liking it a lot more than I expected. More games should try this out. You can read the interview I held with the developer Robin by clicking on the link down below:
Its cheerful art style provides a pleasant backdrop to a simple yet addictive strategy builder. Build houses to gain more citizens for your town, and chop down trees for wood. Quarries can be built to mine stone, while fields and granaries provide noms for the happy victims… I mean, subjects. I don’t make a very generous ruler. But, again, this is why I have no power in the world. Making military units and sending them out to attack the enemy is always lovely. You have control over your soldiers, too; it helps to have direct control over armies instead of being automatic. It’s the skeleton of RTS mechanics, but I like having them in there. Of course, there are enemy wave attacks and citizen happiness to manage, so there’s always something to consider.
The game has two modes: a story mode of sorts with multiple levels and a siege mode that provides challenging scenarios to overcome. Focusing on the military side brings a nostalgic feel to the Stronghold days, especially the hilarious dialogue. I found the voice acting and characters endearing, if a bit cliche, but the writing has made me giggle like a lunatic, so that’s a tick in the happy place. While the early missions are relatively simple, they do ramp up in difficulty while explaining new mechanics; it’s a reliable way to do a tutorial.
I have found some things I’d like to change. For one, there’s currently no save feature in missions, as far as I know. So if I need to come back to the game, for instance, after a break for food, I have to start the level over. Fortunately, the missions aren’t particularly long, but I would like the ability to save and load tasks; controlling when I play is a feature this game needs. The only other quirk I found was a significant delay between dialogue: the text occurs several seconds ahead of the voice acting itself. Hopefully, these are simple fixes, but they will go a long way in improving the experience. On the other hand, there’s a solid amount of content, Robin is supporting the game with frequent updates, and it provides a strategy niche few people are exploiting. So far, so good.
A solid addition to the genre
A few delays in voice/text
An enjoyable story that makes me laugh
Currently no save feature in missions
Simple yet addictive to play
Batora: Lost Haven
This game came as somewhat of a surprise. However, I liked the look of it when it was released: a SciFi/fantasy blend with profound lore and a story-driven action RPG with choices and consequences that matter. Batra was developed by Stormwind Games and launched on 20th October. A big thanks to them for providing me with a review code.
Science fiction and fantasy rarely mix in games. The best example I can think of is Elex by Pirahna Bytes, which managed the combination well. Magic, creatures, and technology are fabulous when it’s done well. Batra: Lost Haven has a strange setting, but it’s a pleasant world to explore. Not for the characters seeing as it’s all apocalyptic and alien races keep dying, but it’s lovely for me. The art design is gorgeous.
What surprised me is that Batora isn’t a roguelike. Most games like this are, but no, a contained, tight story with choices that matter. You’d be surprised how many games claim that, but they rarely amount to natural consequences. The premise is simple. Playing as a plucky hero Avril in a broken Earth, you’re picked up by two gods and go on an interplanetary quest to save your home. Avril’s voiced by Emily Woo Zeller, who did Panam in Cyberpunk 2077. The voice acting in Batora is pretty strong across the board, and while it leans heavily on humor in such a depressing narrative, I found myself enjoying the ride. The characters are decent, and while Avril’s constant leap to comedy and attempt to be witty was a little grating at first, she grew on me.
There’s a lot of lore in Batora: Lost Haven, which is available in the many worlds players can discover as collectibles. It gives me an excuse to explore and seek the biomes as these lore snippets get added to the Codex. As a lore hound, I love stuff like this. This is a relatively linear and short story, but there are multiple endings and a new game plus mode, so there are incentives for additional runs.
The combat was interesting to digest because you get two health bars: one for magic and the other for melee combat. Taking damage in one class doesn’t affect the other, so balancing both health bars is essential. Some enemies are stronger against one than the other. Combat, in the beginning, felt rough, and it took me a while to get used to it. As the player levels up, they get access to new perks and abilities that significantly improve the experience.
I haven’t finished the story yet: I’m about halfway through the story. But, so far, I’m enjoying myself with Batra. The writing and story won’t win any awards for creativity, but the worldbuilding is solid for an action RPG, and the combat is just about enough to keep me engaged. It’s one of those hidden feel-good gems that might not win any GOTY votes, but it stands on its own two feet. If you’re looking for a narrative-heavy, short and sweet experience, it’s hard to go wrong with Batora: Lost Haven. But playing a shorter game is refreshing.
Solid voice acting
Character dialogue a bit cringy at times
Great visuals and some unique mechanics make for a respectable action RPG
Combat early on took a while to grip me
A well crafted story with realistic consequences
That’s it for Episode 25! This will likely be the final episode for the year. It’s been a wild and fun ride, and 2023 is shaping to be even better for video games.