Welcome to a new episode of the Indie Corner! I am proud to say that I’m finally pushing through the ‘mental energy’ block. Adjusting to full-time work again after two years out was a greater struggle than I expected. Fortunately, I’m through the teething issues, so I should to be able to return to weekly articles at least.
I’ve missed writing to you all. There are so many things I want to write about. In a non-exhaustive list, that includes reviews of Pokemon Scarlet, Spacebourne 2, Wartales, and Everspace 2, not to mention all the Indie Corner episodes, completing my Pokemon review series, and Tears of the Kingdom when that Zelda behemoth launches. Regardless, it’s going to be a busy and wonderful time for you.
On May 4th I’m planning a special Space episode for the ‘May the 4th Star Wars’ thing, even if I’m not particularly keen on Star Wars. Some of the games are cool, however.
In the meantime, grab some snacks, and enjoy today’s reviews!
Scorchlands intrigued me from the moment it was announced. This Early Access city-builder was released back in February, and I’ve been captivated by it ever since. The work of a small developer studio — Ringlab — and published by Star Drifters, Scorchlands has fallen under the radar for many. That’s unfortunate because there’s a great game here: boasting gorgeous visuals, humorous dialogue, and tight gameplay. Thanks to the dev for providing me with a review code for the game. I’m sorry for how long it took for my impressions of the game, by the way!
Taking the role of an invading alien race of chickens, it is up to the player to terraform a hostile, volcanic moon to save their home world. I’m not even kidding. You play as a chicken. It’s pretty unique for that alone. As a huge fan of 2021’s Dyson Sphere Program, Scorchlands feels like a minimalist version of that. To anyone who hasn’t played Dyson, please check that game out. That game is one of the coolest space titles I have ever played. But back to Scorchlands!
What drew me to Scorchlands was the art style. It’s a strange blend of cartoon textures. At first glance, it might look odd, but it suits the design of the game overall. While you control the map like most city-builder games, there’s the ducky avatar that allows you to move across the terrain. The graphics may be simple, but they captivated me. They added Photo Mode in a recent update as well.
Oh yeah, and there’s magic. Pretty cool, huh? The resource management system reminds me a little of Islanders — each building requires a certain resource and takes up energy points. Therefore, players need to be careful not to overstretch their logistics, especially early on. Expand the map, unlock new buildings through research, rinse, and repeat. Connect cities with portal technology to trade resources, and so on. The cool thing is that buildings are free to produce. Just plop them down when needed, without any cost to the player. Re-positioning and deconstruction are free too. This is a more casual approach to city-building, but a welcome one.
Scorchlands includes an extensive prologue that guides players through the tutorial, which is a good thing. While this is no Factorio in complexity, the game still throws quite a few challenges the way of the player. While the chunky campaign mode offers tutorials as well, I recommend playing the prologue first.
It’s just not resource management and logistics, however. In exploring this vast, inhospitable world, our chicken….things, must deal with local wildlife. That introduces the combat system. By summoning units, the player must position them carefully to win. If you outnumber them, you generally win. It’s not much of a combat system, just another piece to this puzzle-oriented sandbox, but it adds another layer of gameplay, and I have no complaints about it.
While Scorchlands is in Early Access, there’s a lot to enjoy already. With a generous price tag, simple yet addictive gameplay, and a decent amount of content to digest, this is an easy game to recommend if you fancy a refreshing take on a logistics-based game.
|Simple gameplay mechanics that blend well together||Early Access — technically incomplete|
|Humorous dialogue and lore in the game’s juicy Campaign mode||Combat could be more complex|
|An effective tutorial that keeps players engaged|
|Excellent price to performance|
Relic Space is an interesting title. Launched earlier this year, it combines a few things we rarely see in the space game era: turn-based combat. We rarely see turn-based space RPGs. This is a pretty unique title, and despite its considerable difficulty curve, I’m enjoying this one.
In this roguelike, hex-grid space title, players take on the role of a commander, leading their ship in a large open world and engaging in procedurally generated storylines. There are several ways to victory in supporting your faction, and while the world revolves without the player, even the smallest ship can help shape the course of the future. The world contains dozens of small sectors, each with factions dealing with their agendas and strategies.
In the current stage of Early Access, Relic Space does not have a set story, focusing instead on missions and lore that are randomly generated. Despite that, you wouldn’t think that playing the game. I found the narrative surprisingly competent even in this state. After a usual, gigantic catastrophe as sci-fi games go (this event is called The Fall), the human race is scattered and struggling to survive. It’s up to the player to help their faction (The Order) succeed. All the standard space gubbins are in here: Ship upgrades, docks, and stations to land at and equipment to purchase, missions to complete. There’s a solid game loop already, and given we haven’t got handcrafted missions in the game yet, I’m excited to see how the developer handles those. Bravo.
The big difference Relic Space offers is the combat system. Turn-based is rare in the space genre, and it is based on realistic space travel. The game employs an energy system for everything. Moving in a straight line is free, but firing weapons and turning takes up resources. Every part of a ship can be damaged, so while the combat might look simple, there’s a surprising amount of depth in here. It’s challenging, and even in the prologue, I lost my ship to enemy ambushes.
As with most games in Early Access, Relic Space remains in active development. While the tutorials and in-game codex are great for helping players, I wish the UI was less confusing. There’s a ton of information thrown at the player, and while the interface isn’t bad by any means, there is room for improvement. I also wish there was more ship customization. While players can equip ships to their liking, the current customization is somewhat lacking. Like the UI, these aren’t flaws in themselves, just additional things I would like to see.
Overall, Relic Space is an engaging game that offers a compelling mix of gameplay and aesthetics. The story, while relatively light, is still a welcome addition. While the game is in Early Access, there is a solid amount of content to dig your teeth into, and despite the steep learning curve, there’s plenty to enjoy. The music is also damn good. Honestly, it’s sometimes worth playing a game for that alone. The world is a better place with great music. Fortunately, Relic Space is greater than the sum of its parts. Overall? Pretty damn solid.
|A space RPG that bucks the trend||I would like to see more customization options|
|Surprisingly competent lore and mission design for procedural generation||The interface is a work-in-progress|
|Turn-based hex combat is simple to learn, hard to master||The difficulty curve might throw some players off|
|Runs well on pretty much any configuration|
That’s it for today’s episode! These impression snippets ended up longer than I expected — so I’ve decided to push my impressions review of Netherguild into Episode 34. Join us next time, where we’ll be taking a look at Netherguild, as well as the incredibly promising Shadows of Doubt.
Until then, enjoy your week, and stay hydrated.
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