Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

4 July, 2016

Steam sale goodies
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 9:05 PM

So, the Steam summer sale has come and gone. As I sit in limbo, waiting to hear back from various opportunities, I bought a few games that were on serious discounts. My wish list got a little lighter, but my backlog got a bit heavier.

Anyway, I figured I might talk a bit about the games I picked up and why they interested me.

I bought four games this steam sale.

Castle in the Darkness

Not sure where I heard about this one, but I like a good metroidvania game. This one has a nice NES era aesthetic to it as well, which I like.

It’s a pretty straight-forward game, with a very retro feel to it. You can equip one weapon at a time, and can only swap at save points. This can be a bit frustrating as certain weapons make some areas and bosses MUCH easier if you have them. You get one magic spell as well, which you can use by holding the attack button to charge up; this allows the game to have a four direction + 2 button interface like the old NES pad (ignoring the Start and Select buttons).

The game is packed full of references to other games. Many of the bosses look like characters from other games: the Bubble Bobble dragon, Abobo from Double Dragon, etc. Plenty of hidden references to other indie games as well. And it also has references to classic games; For example, one room looks like the old CD loading room from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (ironically right before a loading screen).

The game expects to be brutal. When you die, it gives a count of how many times you die, with left-padded zeros it goes to five digits. So, get ready to die a lot. At the beginning, it’s mostly to enemies that do things you didn’t quite anticipate, or that were not quite at the right level for you to hit with your weapon. Later in the game, it’s the insta-death spikes that kill you, some of which fall from above. The developer obviously had fun with some of this; one pit has an obvious secret passage to the side. Falling down, you can get into that area and find a “Troll Sword” and “Troll Armor”, but with no way to get back out of the pit the items are obviously intended as a joke.

I was mostly having fun with it, although I do wish it had given some concessions to modern tastes. A map would have been nice to keep track of where you’re going; not vital, but a little nice bit. Being able to hold a few weapons at a time would have been nice as well, instead of pretty much having to die against a boss, reload, and choose another weapon.

The thing that eventually drove me off? Those insta-death spikes. I don’t mind a bit of tough platforming, but sometimes it just felt like a cheap shot when a dark spike against a dark background hits my character and it just dies. It essentially took away any advancement I was getting from collecting health and better armor when I’d just die.

I might come back to it, but I wouldn’t put money on it. Which is a shame, because I really wanted to like the game and did for most most of the first part.

Valdis Story: Abyssal City

I had my eye on this game since a Kickstarter campaign a few years ago. Another metroidvania game with more modern aesthetics.

The art is gorgeous. Lovely sprite artwork with smooth animations. The backgrounds are detailed and lush as well. It’s a visual feast, and I really appreciate it despite not usually caring much about graphics.

The game plays well, too. There is lots of customization and level up choices, so I assume I can play through the game multiple times using different builds. The combat can feel a bit button-mashing at times, but that’s fine. The platforming feels pretty smooth for the most part, although I’ve had some issues with wall jumping and grabbing ledges; this could be more me than the game, though. It gives some good challenge without feeling overly punishing.

The game is big, with large maps and plenty of enemies. Lots of challenges and puzzles to figure out. It also has a story, although I don’t feel super invested into it to be honest; it provides enough framing for why I’m doing what I’m doing, but it feels a bit shallow. There needs to be a bit more character development, and a bit less “this feels epic, so let’s include it!”

This is the game I’m currently playing and pouring my time into. I expect I’ll stick with it for the foreseeable future.

Crypt of the NecroDancer

I remember hearing about this when it came out. It’s a rhythm game and roguelike all in one! You move a character around a dungeon to a beat, fighting monsters and collecting goodies. Be careful, because you have to manage resources, such as your health, carefully, just as in any roguelike.

It’s a neat idea, but I didn’t quite have the patience for the full experience. The developers were smart and added a character (Bard) that didn’t have to move along to the beat, so you can play the game like a turn-based game. I’ve mostly played the game in this mode to explore the game. I’ve quite enjoyed exploring the game, even if it’s a bit easier without having to manage your movements to the beat.

I’ll probably try the game with the beat to get the full experience sometime soon. But, for now, I’ve enjoyed the game quite a bit playing it like a typical roguelike.

Lords of Xulima

The last game I bought was an RPG. I haven’t dove into it yet, because I expect that there will be and endless amount of time I could pour into it. I might want to do something else rather than get sucked into dozens of hours of RPG goodness.

I first heard about this game from the CRPG Addict blog. (That’s a great blog you should read if you like RPGs and history). It looks interesting, and it was on deep discount, so I picked it up with one of the DLC.

The review on the CRPG Addict’s blog gives me hope this will be a great game. I’m tempted to dip my toe into the game just to check it out, but… well, I should stay committed to Valdis Story for now.


What’d you get?

What game did you pick up during the sale? What games did you want to get, but weren’t on sale or not enough of a sale? What kind of games do you wish they made more of?

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  1. I picked up Crypt of the Necrodancer too!

    I’m enjoying it in a similar way as my relationship with Binding of Isaac. That is, I actually suck at its gameplay, and only get up to the first boss level, whereupon I die horribly and restart again for another dynamically-changing go.

    It’s the sort of masochistic roguelike relationship where it’s more about “dying is fun” “how will I die this time?” and playing in bite-sized increments of one character each go, because one doesn’t have time for a long format game but can squeeze in a few rounds of a roguelike, where poor playing just means more tries in the same period of time.

    I like that Bard exists as an option, but haven’t really chosen to use him very much. I liked the added self-imposed challenge of keeping the rhythm with Cadence, and then promptly getting hurt/dying because I forgot some mob’s movement pattern while keyboard tapping in rhythm.

    Comment by Jeromai — 4 July, 2016 @ 9:45 PM

  2. I didn’t get anything. But on Android, I’m playing Pixel Dungeon like crazy these days, which you might like, because it’s a rogue-like that is kinda like something you once wanted to build :)

    I only have time for Android games these days :(

    Comment by unwesen — 5 July, 2016 @ 2:09 AM

  3. I didn’t get Lords of Xulima, but I’ve been curious about it for a long time.

    I’m torn, though – I suspect my reaction will be extreme, one way or the other:

    1) This is somewhat too old school, overly difficult and not grabbing my attention – I play it briefly and never again. See also: Many similar CRPG games recently.

    2) It DOES get my attention and interest, and I live-eat-breath the game for as long as it takes to beat it. I get right into RPG’s I enjoy. But I don’t really have time to get super-involved in an RPG right now; so many real life projects on the go.

    Comment by Derrick Whittet — 5 July, 2016 @ 5:44 AM

  4. Jeromai wrote:
    I liked the added self-imposed challenge of keeping the rhythm with Cadence, and then promptly getting hurt/dying because I forgot some mob’s movement pattern while keyboard tapping in rhythm.

    Yeah. For me, I want to explore the content, so I’ll sometimes take the easy route. The downside is that once I see all the content, I can lose interest in a game. I was pleasantly surprised that the game held up even without the rhythm portion of the game.

    unwesen wrote:
    …I’m playing Pixel Dungeon like crazy these days, which you might like….

    Yep, had that on my phone for a while now. It’s also open source:

    Derrick Whittet wrote:
    But I don’t really have time to get super-involved in an RPG right now; so many real life projects on the go.

    Yeah, I hear that. I did poke my head into the game and check out the character creation at least. It looks pretty interesting, although it does pile some tough choices early on. You get 5 character slots and 9 classes! But, reading suggestions about starting parties, sounds like it’s not overwhelmingly difficult to play. It also has difficulty settings up front; I’m not afraid to play on easy mode to start with. :)

    Comment by Psychochild — 5 July, 2016 @ 1:42 PM

  5. I picked up Child of Light and Steamworld Dig. Might get around to playing them next year some time.

    Comment by Tesh — 6 July, 2016 @ 10:56 PM

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