First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon - A gothic roguelike RPG which is strangely punishing & still fun.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon - How will your party members die?

When I heard about Darkest Dungeon, I was dubious. I’ve tried plenty of roguelikes and self-proclaimed “hard games” in the last year or so that have either not lived up to their claims, or have been decidedly un-fun. But people kept talking about this gothic, dark RPG and it got me all interested, so I read some reviews on Steam and couldn’t help but cackle at some of the funny ones. After reading about someone’s paladin becoming a kleptomaniac and stealing from the party, I was sold.

Darkest Dungeon is all about failure, death, and losing everything you’ve worked hard on. You recruit a squad of heroes whom you send out to fight for you, and inevitably they die. A lot. And you get to watch as that hero you actually kinda liked just keels over after somehow surviving on zero hitpoints for the last three battles. On top of that, there’s the “Stress” mechanic which fills up as bad things happen to your heroes and party. When it reaches full, your hero will gain an “Affliction”. These will have negative effects on that adventurer, such as causing them to retreat further back through the party, skip their turn, or even harm themselves.

For a start, the gameplay is fun! I was surprised that I didn’t find losing party members frustrating. I was a little sad when my Crusader died as he was really awesome and the real hard hitter of the group, but I’m hoping another one comes up in the village to be recruited in the future. Hopefully soon, too. The combat is quite slow but that works for the game style, and each adventurer you recruit will have the potential for different abilities, which can make your party feel like a different make-up every time.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon - The dark art style suits the gameplay.

The art style is gorgeous, and fits perfectly with the dark, gothic theme. It’s not a particularly happy game, and that works immensely well with the rough 2d character and environment artwork. Atmospherically, it’s excellent.

Like I said, combat is slow, and the game is not at all forgiving. It is quite possible that you’ll fail quests and lose an entire party of adventurers you’ve been working with for a while, including rare items such as an accuracy boosting ring I’d put on my highwayman shortly before he got critted in the face one room over. If you make the mistake of getting attached to any one hero in your party, prepare yourself for the worst or be sorely disappointed (though we all know you’ll likely be disappointed even if you steel yourself against the pain of loss).

All in all, I would totally recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good dungeon-crawler. Darkest Dungeon is in Early Access on Steam which I generally dislike, but it’s in a great state for play, and considering how much fun it is I would absolutely encourage you to pick it up if it sounds like your kind of thing.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon by Red Hook Studios.

Elite Jumps Into Modern Gaming (Elite: Dangerous Review)

Elite: Dangerous Review - Exploration can be incredibly rewarding when you find beautiful systems like Acrux.

Elite: Dangerous makes me feel incredibly small. With a realistic rendition of our very own galaxy, 400 billion stars each potentially with a system full of planets to see and scan, it would take over 12,000 years for one person to visit every single system if they only stayed in each for literally one second. Feeling small is an understatement; I feel positively tiny.

I have never encountered a game in my years of gaming that has made me feel like this before. I played Frontier: First Encounters — also known as Elite III — about 10 years ago, but even then I only darted between a few familiar star systems to deliver medicine and make money off other people’s plight. I didn’t really think about how big that game was; I just shot pirates and delivered my cargo, hoping I didn’t pop on the way. Most of the games I’ve played and truly enjoyed have felt pretty big, but I’ve felt like a massive part of them, and I’ve known I will explore every inch of the game within time. I will finish every achievement, complete every quest, tie off the storyline in a neat little bow and be done with it. Even the biggest games I’ve played, even the most open, have had some sort of finality after a while.

Elite: Dangerous Review - I know I will never see it all, so I want to spend my time wisely.

Not this one. I am very conscious of the fact that I will never explore every little nook and cranny of the Milky Way. I am reminded often that I have to decide where to spend my time, because I can’t see it all. And that’s surprisingly nice, for a change. There is so much for me to do that, instead of being overwhelmed or confused, I find myself cramming all of my time into doing the things I enjoy the most, and seeing the things I wish I was able to see in real life. Just the other day, I posted a video of the Acrux system, a stunningly beautiful system full of stars that glittered with a myriad colours as I scanned each and every one. That is something I will never achieve in my lifetime, but Elite: Dangerous has made that possible for me.

Elite: Dangerous Review - I still feel small, but like my decisions and actions matter.

And yet, where space makes me feel pleasantly insignificant, like no matter what I do it ultimately doesn’t matter (and that’s reassuring!), I feel like everything I do in E:D has an impact. I can help overthrow galactic governments. I can hunt down interstellar terrorists and pirates, and make people’s lives that little bit easier. I can actually see the changes I am causing, even if they’re small, on the balance of power in any given star system or region of space. While the game is a sandbox, there are still some hefty decisions commanders will need to take on their journey through the ‘verse. Will you side with the extravagant and powerful Empire, who wiped out an entire species in order to set up their new home planet? Or will you prefer to stick with the corporate and arguably corrupt Federation? Alternatively, will you fight alongside me with the Alliance?

Or if you wish to steer clear of politics and blowing people up, you can always explore the vastness of our galaxy, alone or with friends, and do some interstellar sightseeing. When all is said and done, how will you become Elite?

You can buy Elite: Dangerous now for £39.99 / €49.99 / $59.99.

Game Review: The Sims 4

Game Review: The Sims 4 - Sim interactions & relationships are very much improved.

When a company comes out with a follow-up game to an incredibly popular, long-standing series like The Sims, there’s always the risk (and arguably the reality) that they won’t be able to please everyone. In fact, there’s a very big chance that they won’t end up pleasing anyone. Luckily, that doesn’t seem like it was entirely the case with The Sims 4.

I’m a long-standing fan of the series, and have been playing ever since getting my first computer as a preteen. I owned nearly all of the expansions, and invested countless hours into Sims legacies, often documenting them on various community sites for other people’s (and my own) entertainment. So, when The Sims 4 was announced it seemed like a no-brainer that I’d pick it up and continue where its predecessor left off. Except…there was a lot of content missing from the most recent game in the series. Among some of the most shocking of these missing features are swimming pools, toddlers, and a lack of open world to name but a few.

However, I picked it up all the same and gave it a try, and frankly I’m really glad I did. A lot of the changes they’ve made have been vast improvements, such as their self-proclaimed “smarter Sims”. It’s now easier to see what’s on your Sim’s mind, what they want, and how they’re feeling. This also directly influences your Sim’s personality; if your Sim is in a bad mood, that’ll be reflected in the actions they take. Angry? Maybe your Sim will take that out on their little brother, or in my case, on the giant teddy bear upstairs in your little brother’s bedroom. Your Sims also have goals, not just one single aspiration, giving a lot more options for development of a character. This isn’t even scratching the surface; there’s a lot of new career options including professional gaming and livestreaming, games development, and a more dedicated author career path.

Game Review: The Sims 4 - Building has been made a lot smoother, with emphasis on making it easier.

Building is also a lot smoother. I don’t personally use the room-building method — which allows the player to modularly build their house by slotting in rooms one at a time — but it’s definitely made things a lot easier on people who aren’t comfortable with normal building in the game. I’ve found myself inspired to make prettier houses all over again, whereas by the time I’d reached the third game I was bored and using the same style of house over and over.

There’s no doubt that when it comes to the player’s Sims themselves, though, they’re the focus of the new game. The character development and relationship options are much more realistic, the facial expressions making the characters seem more approachable and lifelike (without bordering on Uncanny Valley!), and the social interactions far more fleshed out than they’ve ever been at all ages.

Game Review: The Sims 4 - Missing features & bugs can get frustrating.

That doesn’t mean that The Sims 4 is perfect. The missing features do get to you after a while. Most of them are unimportant: I don’t really miss swimming pools (except for the chance to kill unwanted Sims off easily…), and toddlers were an annoyance to me more than anything. But things like the lack of open world do get frustrating, and I can’t fathom why so many careers are missing. Since I’m playing a sort of legacy, it’s bothersome that there’s no particularly expensive, large lot to waste all my money on, and that babies are just objects that can’t be moved from their bassinet. They’re also incredibly annoying!

I also didn’t like some of the changes they made that were meant to be improvements, such as only having three traits to begin with and having to unlock more traits as you play. That sounds like a great idea, but I’ve been playing the same family for over 20 hours and none of my Sims have unlocked additional traits yet. They haven’t got enough lifetime achievement points to do so! That makes me wonder how it’s possible with a normal Sim lifespan, as I currently have it set to “Long” just to make sure I achieve everything I want to.

Some of the lacking or “crippled” features do make it feel like the game took a massive step back, sometimes back as far as The Sims 1 if you remember the babies there. I’ve also encountered quite a few bugs, such as my recurring maid never showing up unless I exit the game and restart, in which case she apparently “showed up” while I was gone, but she still hasn’t actually cleaned anything. The game is meant to be pretty stable, but first of all, I’ve had several crash-to-desktops that have resulted in several hours of lost gameplay, and secondly it only utilises 4GB of RAM as it’s a 32-bit executable.

All in all, the game is fun, and I’m glad that I picked it up. But frankly, I’m more glad that I got it for a reduced price from a third-party retailer. As much as I love The Sims and am enjoying its fourth installment, I don’t think it’s worth shelling out the €60+ for it through Origin. Maybe if they fix a few of the issues and implement a few more features without them being DLCs, but otherwise I’d suggest waiting to pick it up from somewhere on sale if you’re interested in playing it. Otherwise, you can watch me streaming The Sims 4 on my Twitch.tv channel beforehand, if you’d like to see what it’s like before you buy.

Game Review: The Sims 4 - I'd recommend picking it up, but not for the current price tag.