Gaming, review

Curious Expedition

You can’t move for retro looking Roguelikes these days. It often feels like almost every other game carries with it the mechanics of earning abilities as you progress but losing equipment and progress, having to start your playthrough essentially from scratch, but with the idea that each time you start over the game is a little easier than the last attempt. Most tie this to a Metroidvania style game, getting you to explore a large 2D environment. This is where Curious Expedition differs.

f9ac19bf-4881-4db6-9fc3-39e187598d45

Curious Expedition isn’t a side scrolling platform action game, no, its developers Maschinen-Mensch, style it as an “expedition” game wherein the player is tasked with becoming a notable person from the 19th Century who embarks on an expedition to find hidden pyramids, return home with treasures and become the worlds most famous explorer, this is all played out with a Civilization Revolution style map that you move your crew across, clearing fog of war, finding villagers, causing volcanic eruptions and running out of Sanity as you “progress”. Games take maybe an hour to ninety minutes to get from your first expedition to your last, provided you get that far, meaning its quite fun to just switch on and not have to really focus on what you’re doing, its fairly light as far as Roguelikes go.

The presentation its quite quirky, every discovery, trade and decision is played out using diary entries that provide the game with its character, sommetimes they really portray the seriousness of any particular predicament (I had someone break a leg and I had to decide whether to leave them or try to heal it, I had to go with the former as I didn’t have the equipment to do the latter, thus making my inventory space smaller so I had to also leave some other items behind) or adding humour at times. It’s a lovely way to portray what looks like quite a static game and each entry is really well written, which gives it the feel of those Choose Your Own Adventure books that were popular in the Eighties and Nineties.

9dcb2646-2e49-4f08-ba91-6a8cf4df678b

There are a few things that confused me though, I can’t say the game doesn’t try to teach you its mechanics, maybe I just didn’t grasp things well enough. As you explore the map your Sanity meter depletes, this can be replenished by eating consumable items such as chocolate or by sleeping at any villages you find, but both of these can be hard to come by. When the meter reaches 0 you’re crew begin to make mistakes (such as the aforementioned broken leg or they drop items from your inventory, making the rest of the journey even harder) and you’re encouraged to try and make your time walking as long as possible, fewer longer trips results in less Sanity being lost than more frequent but shorter trips.

I couldn’t really grasp the battle system either, its turn based and relies upon dice rolls, but beyond that I didn’t really get on with what the games tutorial was telling me to do, these battles take place against things like wild animals that are patrolling area’s you are walking through or villagers that happened to take offence at your presence (as not everyone is always pleased to see you). It was these moments that led me to getting my Game Over’s as I just didnt have the correct members in my expedition to have the correct dice in order to fight anything off.

0a0d04a5-d895-48dc-a3fa-ea2c857255ee

The games biggest disapointment however is that, currently at least, its missing a multiplayer mode. From what I can tell the developer has been working on one, at least they have been for the PC version thats been out since 2016, but when playing it, there was no sense of competition or urgency to beat the other Explorers and I couldn’t escape the feeling that a turn based game, with players starting at different points on the same map, racing to find the pyramid first, finding ways to make progress harder for the other competitors, would have made this game an essential couch co-op title rather than a fun little distraction.

Formats: PC (Steam), XBox One (version tested), PS4 and Switch
Release Date: 2016 (PC), April 2 2020 (Consoles)
Publisher: Thunderful Publishing
Developer: Maschinen-Mensch
Code provided by Thundeful Publishing for review purposes.

Gaming, review

Decay of Logos

Due to the success of FROM Software’s Soulsborne games (Demons Souls, Dark Souls trilogy, Bloodborne and Sekiro) we’ve spent the past decade watching developers try and knock the Japanese studio off their perch and very few have been succesful, but its hard to ignore that “Soulslike” has become a genre of its own, much like “Metroidvania” games have seen a massive number of games released by would be indie darlings in recent years too.

Decay of Logos is Amplify Creations entry into the Soulslike genre, it borrows from elsewhere but at its heart its a Soulslike, but Amplify haven’t simply phoned in a hardcore fantasy action RPG, they’ve definetly got some ambition and they’ve put it all there for the player to see in Decay of Logos

So, for those unfamiliar with the genre, in a Soulslike the player is encouraged to explore the games world but also forced to be cautious and pick their battles, learn each enemies attack patterns and weaknesses. Each fight is supposed to be a challenge and getting over confident is the first step to failure.

Decay of Logos see’s the player play as a young girl who’s village is destroyed, during her lowest moment an elk comes to her aid and from there the two set out together to find answers and revenge. The lead character isn’t a warrior and it shows in the combat, both you and the girl (as she’s not given a name) learn to fight and defend yourself as you progress through the game, though aside from a handful of magical abilities, you aren’t taught new techniques as you gain experience.

The way in which Amplify have tried to do something different is in how the player is punished, every time you are hit, every time you die and have to respawn at either an alter or campsite, your stats take a hit, you’re strength, stamina etc are all affected by any damage that you take, this is on top of you losing health each time you take a hit. Health can be replenished at either of the two types of save points, but its only at campsites that you can properly heal and return your stats to their previous state. This is done by sleeping, rather than merely resting, but even this comes with its own risk. You’ll either get a good nights sleep and wake up fully healed, or your sleep will be disturbed by enemies ambushing you in the dark of night, defeating them will give you a chance to go back to sleep and, again, replenish your stats and health, being defeated will result in you waking up the next morning with your stats only partially replenished. It doesn’t just affect how hard you’re hitting, but also how easily you take hits, how quick you can recover from any hits and how quickly your stamina bar refils.

These aren’t the only things you need to manage, first off you can only carry a set number of potions, so have to leave some with the elk, the game is all about trying to plan for each outcome and weighing up the risks and this is evident in your equipment. As you slay enemies they drop armour for you to equip, but as you take hits, they deteorate so you’re constantly on the scrounge hoping an enemy will drop the correct piece of equipment to replace something thats seen better days, but also trying to weight up stats and elemental properties for each given location

As I said, there’s alot going on, on the game makes no excuses about not holding your hand, theres tips on loading screens, but as they only come when you start the game up, sleep or die, you’re hoping not to see them too often. There’s no obvious sign posting for where to go either, and early on I missed an entire section that I ultimately went back to as it involved freeing an NPC who provides you with a bit of help later on once you reach the hub zone.

Like I’ve mentioned, its ambitious, especially for what I understand is a very small team. In fact its probably over ambitious in places, the lack of loading is actually probably its biggest issue, which is a weird thing to criticise a game for. However, the framerate really begins to struggle the longer you leave it between sleeping at campsites, and considering that they’re spaced quite far apart (though you can use each one as often as you’d like), until you begin to open up shortcuts around the environment, frames begin to get dropped in really difficult circumstances. I once had the game freeze for a couple of seconds, and it was through sheer luck that I’d dashed backwards at the exact moment before the game froze that I was able to avoid an enemy attack.

I’ve also had problems where my first press of R1 hasn’t initiated my character swinging her weapon, leaving me exposed, I thought I was imagining it to begin with but I noticed it happening every so often, and at random, as I played through the game. The team are already talking about upcoming patches to the game, and as I publish this the first console patch should have gone live, so if anything, on top of it being a little ambitious, Decay of Logos has probably been released a little early on PC, XBox One and PS4, its Switch release was delayed at the last moment.

They’ve also mentioned they’re planning addressing the first zone leading upto the hub area. As feedback has been that its maybe a little too punishing and unfamiliar to the player, I’d have to agree. I’ve already mentioned missing out a section, but I was also trying to do stuff that I clearly wasn’t ready to do. There’s an area that takes you underground and when I climbed one ladder I was met with a knight wielding a lance, I tried and I tried to defeat him, but my equipped weapon was merely tickling him rather than hurting him whilst being caught once by one of his attacks had my character out cold. Turns out this guy is optional at this stage of the game and I came across more of his like later on in the game who were much easier to dispatch due to a combination of better equipment and my stats being much better, not to mention I had a sword that had a fire element to it that would provide additional damage whilst I was backing off to wait for a new opening.

Decay of Logos_20190906223108

There’s alot to like though and if the patches address some of the above then Decay of Logos is well on the way to being a pretty good game, that its been released in what feels like an unfinished state is more an issue with the industry than it is with the ability of its creators. The combat is fun, as are the puzzle solving elements and traversing the environment. The latter has some truly breathtaking moments, especially in relation to its scale. The heights you reach, plus the rather clumsy feeling controls when trying to get the girl to jump, really make you feel dizzy. The elk is also a really positive element. Some may not like the way in which it controls, but to me it felt more like you were riding a wild animal that you were trying to earn the trust of than in other games where your horse or whatever is basically a slower car that steers as such. Here you have to apply small guiding inputs to get the creature to go where you want, though I mostly stuck to being on foot, but continuing to feed it as I soon discovered it can sometimes help you out in battles (though generally it prefers to stay out of conflict).

I can see alot of people bouncing off of this, mostly due to its technical issues, but as a small studio’s first game it’s definitely gained my attention, there’s enough interesting idea’s here that, personally, I find it easy to ignore its shortcomings, especially as Amplify seem to be making the right noises on working on them.

Formats: PlayStation 4 (Version Tested), PC, XBox One, Switch
Release Date: 27th August 2019 (PS4), 30th August (PC and XBox One) and September (Switch)
Publisher: Rising Star Games/Thunderful Games
Developer: Amplify Creations

Review code supplied by Thunderful Games