fantasy

SteamWorld Quest: A Review

SteamWorld Quest: A Review
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SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech is the fifth game in the SteamWorld universe starting back with 2010’s SteamWorld Tower Defense for the 3DS. Since then, we’ve seen two digging platformers in the form of SteamWorld Dig (2013) and SteamWorld Dig 2 (2017), as well as a turn-based RPG in SteamWorld Heist (2015). You can click on the hyperlinks to see my thoughts on some of those games. With that said, SteamWorld Quest is a almost completely different beast. My review here will be primarily spoiler-free but I will note some points and share some images and video from the first 4 chapters of the game.

So let’s begin. SteamWorld Quest is an RPG, that much can be sure. Per Image & Form Games’s press information:

SteamWorld Quest is the roleplaying card game you’ve been waiting for! Lead a party of aspiring heroes through a beautiful hand-drawn world and intense battles using only your wits and a handful of cards. Take on whatever threat comes your way by crafting your own deck choosing from over 100 unique punch-cards!

What awaits you is a luscious treasure chest filled with gold, dragons, vivid worlds, magic, knights in shining armor as well as XP, turn-based battles and all that good RPG stuff! The game’s humorous mix of traditional fantasy and steampunk robots makes for an unforgettable experience with lots of laughs.

Now, let’s shake some of this out. The game is a straight up fantasy RPG with a steampunk style. The steampunk style is in line with the previous SteamWorld games and has come to be one of my favorite video game aesthetics. The animation is lively, bright, unique, and a joy to view. Our three main characters, Armilly, Copernica, and Galleo each fill a relatively standard RPG role. Armilly is our hero though. She is cliche but in a tongue-in-cheek nature.

In fact, the whole game is very self-aware of RPG cliche and that’s just fine. Armilly is essentially our fighter warrior. She has a sword and can increase her strength in battle. Copernica, on the other hand, is our magic barer. She can cast spells of ice, fire, shielding, and more. Finally, Galleo is our tank but reminds me a bit of Overwatch’s Brigitte in that he can provide additional armor and healing while being able to soak up damage.SteamWorld Quest Journey 1

The battle mechanics are really where the game finds its footing, however. As the description says, the battles are turn-based and card-based. Now, when this was initially announced during a Nintendo Direct, I was concerned. Recently, card-based games where you can collect and craft cards have seemed like money pits, pay to win, freemium games. Hearthstone, for example, while a joy to play and really well done, it’s pretty difficult to be competitive without spending a lot of money or playing literally every day. So I was worried this would be similar. Would we be buying individual cards? Blind card packs? Purchasing some kind of dust or in-game currency to craft?

Actually, we don’t do any of that. Not one bit. There aren’t any microtransactions to date. I was shocked but in the best way possible.

SteamWorld Quest Punch-card Tutorial 1

So how does the card-based battle system work? It’s actually pretty interesting and intuitive. You see, at the beginning of a battle, you draw cards. Cards are associated with a specific hero. Strike and Upgrade cards build up Steam Pressure. Steam Pressure is required for Skill cards. For example, if you watch the video below, it shows a single turn. You can see that I play a Strike card but it does not give me enough SP to play by Skill card, Brave Buster, so I play a second Strike card which adds enough SP for me to play the Skill card.

You can play three cards on a turn and eventually you can chain cards together if you play all three from a single hero. In the video below, you’ll see that I was able to use three cards for Armilly. This chaining action adds a fourth card that has an effect, in this case, dealing more damage, but that will vary based on the hero being chained.

As noted before, you will earn new cards throughout the game as you come across treasure chests and level up. Additionally, you can craft cards for your heroes. Crafting cards is fairly simple and is done from the Deck screen. Shaded cards are card types you could craft but have not done so yet. Each card requires specific resources in order to craft it. “To Victory”, for example, requires 250 gold pieces, 5 lustrous fibers, and 10 smoldering ember. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough lustrous fiber, so I cannot craft this card yet.

The story brings our heroes across many different villains ranging from fairly basic characters to those with unique and complicated move sets, including boss level characters like Captain Canary, shown below. Battles range as far as the number of opponents you’ll confront, but the number of heroes you bring into the battle will depend on how many are you in party and how many are still conscious. Tómba, for example, are essentially bomb beetles. While they don’t appear to do much early on, they pack a very serious and deadly punch once they build up enough SP. Confronting these little steambots changed my whole strategy going into battle. I even crafted some cards and altered by decks just to beat them.

SteamWorld Quest Captain Canary

I think that’s all I want to reveal at this time. Overall, SteamWorld Quest is a solid and pleasantly surprising addition to the universe. The card battle system is unique and compelling, challenging and interesting. The characters are a bit corny but that’s clearly on purpose. The art is again, unique. It’s lively, joyful, bright, and appealing hour after hour. The music is bouncy and fun, never feeling repetitive even though I know it repeats. The cheesy characters and story might not be for you, but it hits me strong and I find it a bright spot to my day when I’m able to play. While I do prefer the platformer genre of SteamWorld Dig 1 & 2, SteamWorld Quest has increased by interest in turn-based RPGs. And I think that in itself is a big positive.

If you’ve enjoyed the previous games in this series, especially SteamWorld Heist, I would definitely recommend this new entry in the franchise. If you are looking for a new Indie game and enjoy RPGs with turn-based battle system, I would also recommend this game due to the unique nature of the card battles.

SteamWorld Quest releases April 25th, 2019 on Nintendo Switch for $24.99 USD (€24.99 /£22.49).

You can find additional information on the game through their official website: www.imageform.se/game/steamworld-quest

Game was played 100% in handheld mode on Nintendo Switch.

A review copy of this game was provided by Image & Form.

Follow me on Twitter @TheStarTrekDude to talk to me about this game in more detail!

Music:

  • District Four Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
    Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
  • SteamWorld Quest theme loop recorded in-game on Nintendo Switch

SteamWorld Quest: A Review

Screen Heroes Awards

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Screen Heroes Awards! This year, we bring you 32 categories spanning film, television, and video games. Join us as our three Screen Heroes hosts are joined by hosts from all across the Heroes Podcast Network to discuss the nominees you’ve been voting on for weeks and who the winners are, plus our own takes on those choices.

We do apologize for the echo in the audio. It’s inconsistent and varies in strength depending on who is talking.

Watch the episode here:

What did you think of our nominees and winners?  We want to know! Comment below or hit us up @HeroesPodcasts on Twitter or Facebook!

Go to Screen-Heroes.com right now to subscribe to us on iTunes and drop us a review. If you do, we’ll be sure to give you a shout-out in a future episode!

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Screen Heroes Awards

SH S3E21: Best Live-Action Fantasy Movies

It’s time for the Best Live-Action Fantasy Movies of All-Time! That’s right, we sit down and provide our Top 5 fantasy movies, making up a solid list of 20 live-action films. Before we jump into that, we talk some news including the directors leaving the Han Solo movie, plus the reality of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman pay.

Also, go to Screen-Heroes.com right now to subscribe to us on iTunes and drop us a review. If you do, we’ll be sure to give you a shout-out in a future episode!

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Screen Heroes Podcast Credits

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Derreck Mayer
Rachel Stewart
Ryan Couture

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Robert McCullagh

Executive Producer
Derreck Mayer

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Derreck Mayer

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Flying Killer Robots

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SH S3E21: Best Live-Action Fantasy Movies

The Last Witch Hunter Reviewed

While the latest Vin Diesel film, The Last Witch Hunter, may seem like exactly what you would expect, it probably isn’t. Commonly known for his over the top action franchise, The Fast and the Furious series, you may think that Diesel is branching out into over the top fantasy action flicks with this film but unfortunately, everything about this film is simply lacking. Personally, I found the Fast and Furious to be an entertaining series filled with fun and adrenaline but also with a decent amount of good character development interspersed, as outrageous as those films are. the-last-witch-hunter

————————————Spoilers Ahead————————————-

Unfortunately, The Last Witch Hunter possesses none of the action packed charm or appeal of Diesel’s previous films. The entire plot is filled with pointless events, all of which feel disconnected and like the writers were making it up as they went along. The film starts with Vin Diesel’s character, Kaulder, a person of seemingly Viking or European Barbarian origin, along with several other comrades as they invade a witch lair, hoping to rid the world of the Witch Queen as she is apparently responsible for the Black Plague in her attempt to rid the world of humans. After defeating the Witch Queen, Kaulder is cursed by her with immortality hence the reason the rest of the film takes place in the modern day. Once at this point, the rest of the film takes place like the plot of a bad linear video game. Kaulder goes from cliche fantasy location to other cliche fantasy location slowly learning details about the dark witch’s plot to predictably resurrect the Witch Queen and to restart the Black Plague all over again. Without having to go into all the details, the ending of the film basically leaves Kaulder in the exact same place as the beginning. Zero things have changed for him. He is still left immortal, still charged with defeating witches, and still has Michael Caine as a mentor who is, unfortunately, horribly wasted as an actor. And what makes this whole ending ludicrous is how Kaulder makes the obtuse observation that something has changed in his life when literally nothing has. Now to clarify, all of this happens without a lick of decent action to even make up for the bad plot and acting.

In short, don’t waste your time.
rs_1024x645-150617142654-1024.vin-diesel-last-witch-hunter2.jw.61715Did you catch The Last Witch Hunter opening weekend? Do you disagree with my thoughts? Comment below!

The Last Witch Hunter Reviewed

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Review

Overview:

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a downloadable title available for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, as well as their next generation counterparts. The story follows the quest of two brothers looking for a tree that will cure their sick father. Along the way, they encounter wild animals, trolls, giants, cultists, and many other strange things, some good and some not.

The Good:

1. Brothers is a truly unique game in how it handles both protagonists. The older brother is controlled through the left thumb stick and left trigger. The younger brother is controlled through the right thumb stick. This can really play tricks with your mind if you’re right-handed like me and the brothers somehow end up on opposite sides of the screen from your controller. I had to stop more than once to get them switched around. Nevertheless, this setup made for some rather interesting puzzles that challenge parts of the brain one does not usually use.

While flying, you have to move the brothers left or right to steer the glider.

While flying, you have to move the brothers left or right to steer the glider.

2. This is a platform game and, as previously mentioned, it has a lot of puzzles that require the brothers to work together. However, each brother has his own skill-set. For example, the older brother can pull levers while the younger brother does not have the strength. Meanwhile, the younger brother has the ability to slip into places that are too small for the older brother. The collaboration of the brothers is a lot of fun and it is nice to not be totally alone in those dark and dangerous places. The brothers are also different in their personalities. Whereas the older brother is more mature and strong, the younger brother is compassionate and a bit of a goof.

3. The supplementals of Brothers work quite nicely. The graphics are not high detail like a Call of Duty title or Mass Effect. Rather, they are more like out of a storybook like Fable‘s graphics. This fits the fantasy genre quite well. Likewise, the music enhances the experience and draws on emotion with a sound that has a sort of wooden flute as the lead instrument. There is also no spoken dialogue, but the game makes it pretty easy to know what is going on based on tone of voice (they do speak but it’s no language I know) and symbols.

The brothers meet plenty of strange people and things, some that will help you and others that will not.

The brothers meet plenty of strange people and things, some that will help you and others that will not.

4. Level design is not lazy in the slightest in Brothers. The player goes everywhere from a village, caves, mountains, the air, a giant fortress, among other places. With the exception of the first section, I was never bored with the setting. Rather, I was drawn into it and wanted to keep playing. Add terrors and monsters to the equation and you have a diverse and dark game-play experience.

The Bad:

1. Minor glitches still hurt this game. The only ones I came across involved the older brother (never the younger brother surprisingly) getting stuck in areas and not being able to move. I would have to reload a checkpoint to be able to get out of it. Since the game saves fairly frequently, this was a minor concern. Nevertheless, it was a bit of a nuisance.

2. I am still not sure how I feel about the ending. I will not give it away here, but the story takes a rather bold move that may upset certain audiences. I give it credit for boldness, but I’m truly not sure if it was the right move.

brothers3

The brothers have to work together in puzzles. In this one, one grips a surface while the other swings across to the other side with the attached rope.

Conclusion:

I have never played a game quite like Brothers. The control scheme is innovative even though it can be trying at times. The story is dark and sometimes even brutal. The game is very short, but for someone who does not have too much time to spend on video games nowadays, I like a decently short game. If you’re one for a variation on platformer games, then this is certainly a game you should check out.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Review

A Cybernetic Cinderella

These days it feels like we are inundated with re-tellings and re-imaginings of Fairy Tales. Despite very favorable reviews from people I respect, I was hesitant to begin reading Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, because it was (yet another) Cinderella story. Ultimately I decided to take the plunge, and I’m glad that I did.

The Good

The initial setup for Cinder’s story is very easy to map to the elements of the classic story: the step-mother and step-sisters, the prince, the upcoming ball. But as this story is set in a futuristic world of robots and cybernetics, we get some interesting twists on the original story as well.  Instead of talking animals, we get a quirky household servant android.

The primary antagonist for the book, and the series, is the Lunar Queen Levana. A colony, established on the moon hundreds of years ago, has developed into a powerful nation, and the Levana is apparently intent on conquering Earth, one way or another. Part of the reason the Lunars are so powerful is because of their ability to manipulate bioelectric energy, sometimes helpfully referred to as ‘magic’ when discussed by Earth-based characters. This power allows a Lunar to manipulate what another character sees, feels, and does when under the direct influence of the Lunar. The character easily maps to the “evil queen/witch” character found in many fairy tales, and in particular to the queen in Snow White, given the cover text from later books in the series.

One of the interesting twists that I really appreciated is the cultural perception of cyborgs, and how it influences the characters in the story. Cyborgs are literally viewed as being less than human. And as Cinder is a cyborg, that little detail gives the step-mother character an additional motivation for her unkindness, as well as significantly changing Cinder’s motivations. This Cinderella doesn’t want to go to the ball. Cinder has completely different plans for her life. As you might expect, she does eventually attend the ball, but largely for reasons other than what you generally expect from a Cinderella story.

The Bad

There’s an additional ‘special’ ability that Cinder is revealed to have late in the book, and one of the other characters mentions that it is very distinctive and reminiscent of another character, but we get no additional information on what that means. The connection between Cinder and that other character have already been established by that point in the story, so telling us “your power looks a lot like hers”, but not telling us what that means or what it looks like, is frustrating as it feels like the author is deliberately withholding information that you would expect to be revealed at this point.

(I do see the irony in expressing frustration with how vague the book was regarding this point, while myself remaining vague about what that power is and the ‘connection to another character’, but I’m chalking that one up to trying to be as spoiler-free as possible.)

The most frustrating part of the book is how it ends, because it feels very much like the story had just gotten really moving.  In essence, the story ends shortly after Cinder has fled the ball, and nothing has really been resolved. It feels very much like this story was written with the expectation that you are going to have to pick up the next book in the series to see how this plays out, even though the next book in the series appears to center, at least initially, on a completely different character.

The Verdict

Cinder is a very fun book to read, and, in all likelihood, I’ll be picking up the sequel in the near future to see how the story proceeds. Cinder is very much not the traditional helpless girl, waiting for a prince to save her. She’s competent, motivated, and tries to do what is best for herself and the people she cares about. It’s the best kind of princess story these days. The prince is there, and he’s part of the story. But it really is Cinder’s story, and does not revolve around him as the center of her universe. And that’s wonderfully refreshing take on this story.

A Cybernetic Cinderella