Awful title aside, it feels great to return to my Indie Corner series! Today's episode features the excellent Shadows Over Loathing, as well as an ambitious, indie grand strategy title called The Pegasus Expedition.
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Indie Corner Episode 28: Western Space
It’s been a while since my last Indie Corner episode, so I would like to update you all on my plans for the coming months. I prefer being as transparent as possible, after all!
So, you have probably noticed that my activity has slowed recently. That’s because I’m in the middle of my new job! It’s going smoothly so far, although it means that for the next few months, I’ll be slowing down my content. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll be stopping entirely. I have many projects in the works, and I can’t wait to share them with you when they’re ready.
With those little updates out of the way, it’s time to kick off today’s episode. It’s been an intriguing 2023 thus far, with several major releases already catching my interest. I’ve been playing a lot of games, as is the norm for me, and I’m excited to share my thoughts on them. In the meantime, I’ve got two games to discuss today. In future Indie Corner episodes, I will return to the ‘3 games per episode’ model, but I’ve finally had time to write up these reviews, and I felt I’ve kept people waiting long enough.
Shadows Over Loathing
One of my favourite games from 2017 was West of Loathing — a comedic western RPG that kept me entertained all the way through. Releasing in a time of massive, open-world games that demanded hundreds of hours of my time, it was refreshing to play a smaller title. Short but sweet, the hilarious dialogue and competent gameplay made me a fan of Asymmetric’s game design. The stick-figure art design sold the humorous craft, offering a delicious, bite-sized game for the price. We need more games like this in the industry. After years of playing Ubisoft sandbox games, I would rather play a shorter, more focused game any day of the week. West of Loathing fit that bill, and I remember it making my Top 10 list alongside giants like Persona 5, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Divinity Original Sin 2.
Not poor company to be in, I’ll say! On that note, I’m excited about the Zelda sequel in May. My Nintendo Switch will see a lot more use!
Back to Shadows Over Loathing. Given how much I enjoyed the original, it excited me to learn of a sequel by Asymmetric. Releasing in November 2022, it boasted a major expansion over West of Loathing, adding more content and depth. I was fortunate enough to receive a review code, thanks to the folks at Asymmetric. While this is an impressions overview of the game and not a complete review, I can safely say that Shadows have lived up to expectations.
All the hilarious quips and dialogue from the original game continue in Shadows, which returns to the Western setting. Despite the dialogue being stuffed full of puns and jokes, I didn’t tire of it. In a game like this, it’s a hard thing to balance comedy. Too little, and the game loses its appeal. Too much, and buyers will get turned off. While Shadows rarely let up on the slapstick puns, it’s yet to overstay its welcome.
Shadows of Loathing’s world design surprised me. While the graphics are deliberately abstract, the locations are full of detail. Every nook and cranny of this stick-man realm brims with things to discover and interesting people to talk to. With an improved character progression system, there are many ways to take advantage of abilities in the environment. Don’t fancy taking on that gang of thugs? There’s probably another way around them.
That takes me to the combat system. While combat is mostly optional, there are a few mandatory fights in the game that require attention. The combat mode is turn-based and contains what you might expect. There are a bunch of power-ups and abilities to use, including all sorts of hilarious items. Who would have thought that chucking a banana peel at enemies in battle will help? Seriously, it would. Banana peels are slippery customers.
Combat is difficult, and it is one of my least favourite points of Shadows Over Loathing. However, the number of customization options and difficulty settings make this a minor nitpick. I didn’t feel as bothered about the combat, most of the time. While I call the combat my least favourite, that does not make it bad by any means! I just prefer the rest of the game over it.
In conclusion, Shadows Over Loathing took everything great about West of Loathing — and simply adds more. It is a great sequel, and a competent RPG in its own right. If you enjoyed the first game, this is a no-brainer purchase.
An excellent RPG with clever writing
Humour may rub some people the wrong way
An intriguing Western world that contains a surprising amount of depth
Challenging combat might frustrate some players
The stick-figure visual design compliments it incredibly well
Dialogue and characters are excellent
Runs on a potato
The Pegasus Expedition
I’ve wanted to write an early impressions review on this game for a while. It’s refreshing to see a narrative-driven 4X game again. Apologies to the developers for how long it’s taken me to write a review on this one! When I first played Pegasus, I ran into so many technical problems that I put the game aside. It’s okay — sometimes things just don’t work out. While I ran into some UI bugs and slowdown during the battles, I chalked the issue down to my laptop overheating. When I returned to the game after some patches, I found it a smoother experience.
There’s no denying it — I love space games. Whether they are sprawling space operas, heavy 4X titles, space shooters, or do-it-yourself sandbox RPGs, there’s something about space that fascinates me. Some of my favourite space titles recently include Everspace 2, Starsector, Cosmoteer, and Spacebourne 2. You’ll learn more about my thoughts on Spacebourne 2 soon enough — that’s an Early Access space RPG that’s really grasping my attention.
Developed by Kalla Gameworks, The Pegasus Expedition launched on Steam late last year to some mixed reception. While there were problems at launch, it deserves more attention. I think there’s a great game in here, and we need more games like this on the market. Many 4X titles are designed around a big sandbox, with breadcrumbs of the story rather than a dedicated narrative.
So let us talk story first — there’s a lot to experience. Many characters, storylines, and lore snippets make up someone’s first play-through, and this makes for a slow start. When I booted a campaign up for the first time, the pacing threw me off. Gameplay sequences are few and far between the swathes of dialogue thrown at the player, and it can get overwhelming. This is grand strategy with plenty of micromanagement — there wasn’t much of a way to automate things, so you’re constantly having to stop and work out what’s going on. Despite this, there is a solid tutorial to help players along, and the visuals impressed me. The lore is interesting, if ordinary for this genre, and while I never felt blown away by the characters, they are interesting enough to keep my interest.
My main issue with the game comes from difficulty. Challenge is a balancing act — too easy, people will get bored, and if things are too difficult, players will stop out of sheer frustration. It realistically meets expectations: human factions trying to survive against alien races? You bet there are roadblocks. However, a single mistake, either decision making or in the clunky combat system, can doom a player’s campaign. Losses take time to make up, which often involved me sitting through more dialogue and waiting for my fleets to rebuild.
Despite my personal shortcomings in my experience of Pegasus, there are bright spots. Since its release in October, Kalla Gameworks has made several improvements to the game, including a couple of new scenario modes — adding a more sandbox experience alongside its story-driven campaign. This was a great update, as it adds extra content for those who just want to dig into the gameplay, without sitting through oodles of story. For 20 USD, this is a hefty chunk of content for the price tag, and there aren’t many 4X titles in space. A lightweight, cheaper version of Stellaris is always nice, and The Pegasus Expedition makes a decent addition to the genre. While I ran into a few typos, this is a fairly polished Early Access game. As with all these games, Pegasus Expedition is still in development, but there’s enough here for grand strategy fans to enjoy. In time, I hope the combat and micromanagement quirks improve.
A decent new entry into the space Grand Strategy genre
The story campaign starts incredibly slowly
Plenty of content for the price (20 USD)
Punishing combat and consequences that are tedious to recover from
A few bugs and a cumbersome UI
I’ve sorely missed my Indie Corner series. I’ll be at work until at least the summer, so my reviews will be less frequent for some time. However, there are several games I’ve been playing in the meantime that I plan to review sooner than later. Several Early Access games launched last month — Kerbal Space Program 2, Spacebourne 2, and Scorchlands are three that I want to cover soon. Phantom Brigade also came out of Early Access, making its long-awaited debut on Steam: a real-time mech-based combat game that I cannot wait to feature.
Alongside ongoing impression reviews of The RPG Engine, Ancient Cities, and Superfuse just to name a few, there’s much more to come. My Indie Corner series will only endure.
In the meantime, stay safe, and hope you all have a great week!