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Hey all! Before I forget, I wanted to bring up something. Since starting these review threads back in January I've gotten a lot of positive feedback but I've been hoping that this would spark more discussion on the Monthly Bundle. I've decided to start a Steam group
just for the Humble Monthly so more people can have a place to talk about the games that get released every month. It's completely unofficial and has nothing to do with the main Humble Bundle steam group. I hope you all like it!
October starts us off with a AAA title in Rise of the Tomb Raider. I mentioned briefly in my September review that I hated the previous game. My dislike of the new Tomb Raider could just as well be its own essay so I’ll just say that I didn’t like the new Lara either compared to her original or even as a stand alone. Not going to lie, I’m not digging on The Shrouded Isles. I think it’s the gameboy green and black graphics that are turning me off. Seasons After Fall looks really adorable, I hope the gameplay is as good as its art style. I think Wargame would have intimidated me if it showed up in an earlier bundle but after playing half of Stardock Entertainment's catalogue this year I feel confident in my skills to pick it up. I’ve heard of Furi and Orwell but I’ve never been chomping at the bits to play either, maybe this month will change my feelings. Scanner Sombre looks like a Walking Simulator, which is good because I enjoy a nice relaxing experience. I hope it has a good story. I made an educated guess that Getting Over It was made by the same guy behind QWOP and it turns out I’m right. I don’t have any real feelings on QWOP or this new game so my review will be as big a mystery to me as anyone else.
Description: Using my own words, I will describe the story and gameplay
Opinion: I will offer my own feelings on what works and what needs improvement.
The One Hour Rule: I will play each game for a minimum of one hour. Afterwards I will decide if I wish to continue playing.
Who would Like This Game: My personal opinion on who would or would not find this game enjoyable
Nitpicks: Small issues that, while not deal breakers, are annoying and I wanted to bring up.
Additionally, there will be a sixth category for Humble Original Games.
After taking everything else into consideration I will decide if I would I purchase the full version if or when it is released.
Rise of the Tomb Raider by Crystal Dynamics Description:
Rise of the Tomb Raider is an action adventure third person shooter. You play Lara Croft, a young adventurer as she travels the world to stop a secret organization from obtaining the secret of immortality. Rise of the Tomb Raider is the sequel of the 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot and contains crafting and hunting elements and was nominated for over 75 ‘Best Of’ awards. My Opinion:
Rise of the Tomb Raider keeps a lot of the same basic gameplay from its predecessor. The world is broken up into smaller zones that you can traverse by platforming and fighting enemies. Your survival is built around crafting and using a mixture of combat and stealth. I personally found melee combat and stealth to be a bit stale as fist fighting is mostly just hitting the Y button a bunch and stealth is now contextual with you automatically going stealthy when enemies are near. Ranged combat reallys feels where the focus was placed. Enemies react differently based on how and where you hit them. I personally found enjoyment by throwing a bottle at an enemy's face and then running up and doing a take-down move while they reeled back. Story feels a bit more improved over the first game. Lara never feels like she’s supposed to be a delicate flower so it’s less weird when she smashes a man’s skull in with a climbing axe. The story was pretty straight forward with the main goal set up and many of the characters motivations are clearly defined. Characters feel fleshed out and have great facial animations but I also never found myself caring for any of the them as most of the focus was placed on Lara herself. I do wish there was more to the game. The skill system feels underwhelming and it’s a tad too easy to find parts for upgrades. For the most part, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a competent game where my biggest complaint is that it plays things too safe. The One Hour rule:
The first hour was a tutorialized slog but once I got past that things improved and I actually found myself enjoying Rise of the Tomb Raider. While I can’t say I’ll play it to the end I do think there is fun to be had in this game. Rise of the Tomb Raider passes The One Hour Rule. Who would like this game:
If you liked the first game, you’ll like this. If you’re looking for a third person platformer I would say this would fit the bill, be but aware it doesn’t do anything really special. Nitpicks:
I appreciate this game toning down on the long horrific death animations for failing jumps or QTE but I feel like they went to a little too far. Lara now comes off as mildly annoyed when she falls to her death or gets mauled by a bear. It’s borderline comical.
The Shrouded Isles by Kitfox Games Description:
The Shrouded Isles is a cult management simulator. You play the high priest of the dark god Chernobog and must purge your village of all sinners before the final judgement in three years. The Shrouded Isles contains monochrome hand drawn visuals, intrigue management and procedurally generated gameplay elements. My Opinion:
The Shrouded Isles plays a lot like a board game The graphics are simple with little animation and most of the gameplay elements come off as pretty straight forward with some randomization added to keep things fresh. You have twelve seasons over the three years to find and sacrifice the seven major sinners in your tiny island village all while keeping you cult members ignorant of the outside world and full of fervor. You accomplish this by assigning members of the major houses to your advisor positions so they may enforce your rule but also so you can determine their true natures. There are also random events that pop up. Some are hard choices while others are just opportunities for free resources. This game is easy to pick up but hard to master and I failed quite a number of times either because I couldn’t oppress the population enough or some of the major houses fell into open revolt. I eventually learned the best people to sacrifice are dull artists while best advisors are complacent pyromaniacs with only speak in guttural animals noises. The Shrouded Isles is a fun game with great atmosphere, music and visuals. While not exactly genre defining it creates a large amount of depth with what little it brings to the table. The One Hour rule:
The Shrouded Isles is a
good time waster and I’m amazed just how quickly a quick game can turn into a few hours. The Shrouded Isles passes The One Hour Rule. Who would like this game:
If you like a fun, charming and oppressive death cult simulator then Shrouded Isles is for you. If you want something more fast pace or a little more forgiving, you may be turned off by this game. Nitpicks:
Chernobog is not Lovecraftian Elder God. Chernobog is a 12th century Slavic deity and an analogue to the Abrahamic Devil. He’s that one demon guy from Fantasia.
Seasons After Fall by Swing Swing Submarine Description:
Seasons After Fall is a 2D adventure platformer. You play a newly formed tree spirit in the body of a wild fox as you traverse a land to gain the powers of four totem guardians of the seasons. Seasons After Fall contains original string music, hand painted visuals and was a finalist for Best 2D visuals in the Unity Awards. My Opinion:
Seasons After Fall starts off really strong by showing off its visuals and music. The opening cutscene was absolutely breathtaking. Gameplay is fairly simple with basic run and jump platforming but later adds in more gameplay mechanics when you gain the power of the seasons which are used to alter the landscape and progress the plot. Despite having a voiced narrator all the gameplay is taught through action. Invoking a season will cause certain plants to bloom while making others wilt, which can be used to open or close passageways or solve puzzles. There seems to be no enemies or ways to die so I found myself focused more on exploration and drinking in the ambiance. Puzzles can be a tad too easy, the hardest time I’ve had was getting these exploding sponge spiders to run in the right direction while I was trying to gain an audience with the Guardian of the Fall. Seasons After Fall is an great relaxing experience. While I feel the platforming is a bit too on-rails to be considered a Metroidvania I still enjoyed the exploring, the enchanting landscape and uncovering more of the story. The One Hour rule:
The game is pretty short and I’m about 20% complete after getting an hour in. I think any longer and it would outstay its welcome but due to its brevity I’d say Seasons After Fall passes The One Hour Rule. Who would like this game:
If you’d like a nice, low key platformer with a heavy emphasis on visuals, music and the most adorable fox since Never Alone then you’ll love Seasons After Fall. If you want a more challenging platformer, look elsewhere. Nitpicks:
The platforming feels fluid but I really wish the developers added in a wall or a double jump mechanic or at least something that altered your gameplay instead of the environment.
Wargame: Red Dragon by Eugen Systems Description:
Wargame: Red Dragon is an in depth Real Time Strategy game. You play the role of a commander of an army as you fight in multiple theaters of war across the South Pacific. Wargame: Red Dragon features a dynamic campaign system, multiplayer and over fourteen hundred different units. My Opinion:
Wargame: Red Dragon goes out of its way to add a large layer of depth to its gameplay. Combat is broken up in two categories: The battle map and the battlefield. The battle map looks like a game of risk and all actions are turn based. The units appear as little figurines in a board game and can be moved around to take or defend territory. When you or the enemies units move onto an opposing territory they engage in battle. Battles are waged on a smaller map in real time, with the option to slow the battle down to allow for orders to be given more efficiently. The graphics are pretty plain and don’t really stand out, neither does the music. My biggest problem with the game is how poorly things are explained. There is no in-game tutorial. Instead you have a rather dense quick-play guide that can only be accessed out of mission. I did my best to skim through what I thought were the essentials and dive straight into one of the easiest campaigns available but I found that even on the easiest mode you’re still required to know pretty much everything. I couldn’t figure out how to get more unit on the battlefield nor even move my pieces on the battle map which made me feel incredibly frustrated . I understand that I wasn’t able to really play this game but I feel like the developers made a massive misstep by not including an actual tutorial for new players to learn even the most basics mechanics of the game. The One Hour rule:
I debated playing longer because about half my time was skimming through the guide and retrying battles with only marginally better outcomes but then I realized half of my time playing was consulting a guide just to learn the basics. Wargame: Red Dragon fails The One Hour Rule. Who would like this game:
I’m going to assume that fans of the Wargame series will enjoy this game as it has a pretty high rating on Steam. If you’re looking to try a new RTS with a lot of complexity I may suggest something from Stardrive Interactive. Nitpicks:
I know I brought this up before but why would they not allow players to access the guide whiling playing the game?
Furi by The Game Bakers Description:
Furi as an arena hack-and-slash shooter. You play The Stranger, a man who escapes his prison high above the earth and must battle each of his jailers to gain his freedom and uncover his mysterious past. Furi contains Bullet-Hell gameplay and uses stylized graphics. My Opinion:
The first thing I noticed is that Furi’s gameplay is incredibly boiled down. There is no leveling system, no upgrading weapons or abilities and the entire vanilla game only consists of maybe ten boss fights. There are no throw away enemies or platforming between these fights, only walking along a series of platforms overlooking beautiful vistas before challenging the next defender. Furi combines bullet-hell and hack-and-slash in its combat. Most battles have you switch between sword fighting, where you attack and parry your foe, while bullet-hell falls into the time-honored tradition of shooting the enemy while avoiding the things they shoot back at you. Fights can be a tad long but I never felt bored as they were more like free-flowing puzzles than a grind fest. The stylized graphics are super pretty and remind me of games from the PS2 era with a higher focus on design and color scheme than the number of pixels on a screen. Furi reveals very little about its story. I’m only a few boss fights in and so far all I know is that the main character has a troubled past and may or may not be hallucinating a man in a bunny suit. With its colorful graphics, quirky story and complex gameplay, Furi feels like it has the potential to be a cult classic. The One Hour rule:
As much as I wanted to say that Furi isn’t my kind of game I find it hard to deny that I am drawn in. While I can’t guarantee I’ll finish it soon this game has my attention. Furi passes The One Hour Rule. Who would like this game:
If you like hack-and-slash games but wish there wasn’t any mob grinding, this is the game for you. Nitpicks:
The walking sections are incredibly annoying. They’re basically just cutscenes where you have to occasionally push the analog stick in different directions.
Orwell: Keeping An Eye On You by Osmotic Studios Description:
Orwell is a dystopian surveillance simulator. Taking place after a terrorist bombing you are put in charge of looking into the personal lives of interconnected suspects to uncover a conspiracy to disrupt the freedom of The Nation. Orwell is a story focused game with meaningful choices. My Opinion:
Orwell takes a new approach to the detective mystery formula. The entire game takes place on a computer screen where you review evidence and spy on civilians. You’re tasked with finding suspects of a recent terrorist attack and looking into their personal lives by finding information about them on the web, listening in on their phone calls and text conversations and hacking into their email account. You have to skim through all this data and find relevant “data chunks” to piece together a narrative. Sometimes the game will throw curveballs by offering data chunks that conflict with others or displaying chunks that are completely useless. I was scolded by my handler for adding a data chunk about one of the suspects liking muffins. I like how the story handles the characters. The people on the government side feel less like power hungry villains and more like government employees doing their job while the civilians you spy on are flawed individuals with their own lives and agendas. I thought it was a nice touch on how everyone has a different speaking mannerisms and online habits. One girl talks like your typical late 20’s millennial who overshares on facebook and makes typos when she gets upset, it makes everyone feel real. Orwell may be a bit on the nose in terms of its imagery but that doesn’t stop the game from offering a great storytelling experience. The One Hour rule:
At time of me writing this I had completed day two and unfortunately was unable to stop a bad thing from happening. Even though I’m cruising for the bad ending I still want to continue to see where the story goes. Orwell passes The One Hour Rule. Who would like this game:
If you like a narrative focused game where your choices do matter, you’ll love Orwell. If you aren’t up to sifting through page after page or data then I may suggest something else. Nitpicks:
When you’re first making a profile the game asks you for your email. I thought this was the game attempting to be meta and make a point about sharing info with strangers but it’s just the developers wanting to send you emails about the next episode. Really?
Scanner Sombre by Introversion Software Description:
Scanner Sombre is a first person cave exploration simulator. You play a lone explorer who must navigate a pitch black cave with the help of a laser mapping tool. Scanner Sombre was made by the same people behind Prison Architect and features full VR support. My Opinion:
Scanner Sombre attempts to take the basic Walking Simulator formula and add additional depth. The entire cave system is pitch black and you are required to use your spectral scanner to map out the surroundings to find the passageway, solve puzzles and avoid pitfalls. Along the way you come across fragments of an ancient cult and ghostly after images of its members as well as uncovering bits of your own story. Scanner Sombre did a good job of creating mood and and balancing the atmosphere between awestruck curiosity and oppressive dread right up until I ran into a monster. As it turns out, Scanner Sombre is a survival horror experience in the same vein of Amnesia. You never actually see the monster, just its after images so you’ll only know where the monster was and never were it is and I found this fact unbelievably terrifying. The idea by itself is pretty interesting but as it stands it’s poorly implemented. Monsters are rare and not very aggressive but there seems to be very little rhyme or reason when or why they show up. I could barely keep invested on the story or atmosphere because I was afraid that if I took my eyes off a statue or ghostly after-image it wouldn’t be there when I looked back. I feel like Scanner Sombre doesn’t know whether it wants to be a survival horror game or a walking simulator and instead of staying focused on one it tries to be both and ends up falling short. The One Hour rule:
About forty minutes in the screen flickered and I turned around to discover a monster just a few paces away. This startled me and I ended up falling in a pit to my death. Scanner Sombre is disqualified from The One Hour Rule due to jump scares. Who would like this game:
I feel like if Scanner Sombre allowed players to chose between a horror game about being chased by the ghosts of a death cult or a walking sim about a man uncovering his past then I would suggest it to fans of either genre. As it stands, I can’t find a way to suggest it except for the novelty of the spectral scanner. Nitpicks:
If you’re going to have a game about exploring a cave system at least let us climb a rope.
Getting Over it by Bennett Foddy Description:
Getting Over It is a physics puzzle platformer. You play a man in a pot who must climb a mountain using a hammer. Getting Over It was designed to cause massive frustration and pain to anyone who plays it. My Opinion:
Getting Over It is made with the intention to make the player fail again and again. The game only uses a mouse or a trackpad to move the presumably naked man around by pushing, dragging or hooking yourself to or from nearby surfaces to scale a mountain. The controls are intentionally awkward and more often than not I found myself losing large amounts of progress because I accidentally pushing myself off a surface only to fall to the foot of the mountain. As you play, Bennett Foddy narrates your travels and talks about the nature of failure and how it can define us. As much as I want to, I don’t think I can offer any valid constructive criticism. Getting Over It is meant to be awkward and frustrating to teach the player that failure is not about losing progress but rather about giving up on the game. With these factors in mind, Getting Over It does a great job of creating art in gameplay but mostly fails as just a game. The One Hour rule:
To be honest, I’m not sure how long I’ve played. After falling off the top of the mountain for the umpteenth time my vision started to go red and I lost track of time. Following in the spirit of Getting Over It, I have failed The One Hour Rule. Who would like this game:
Getting Over It is more of an art piece and less game so if that’s your bag then you’ll have fun. If you value your blood pressure, stay far, far away. Nitpicks:
Bennet, if you’re going to offer both mouse and trackpad support, would it have killed you to add controller support as well? Maybe I wanted to get angry while lounging on the couch.
I was most surprised by Rise of the Tomb Raider and The Shrouded Isles. I went into both games with a feeling of dread and came out pleasantly surprised. On the inverse, Scanner Sombre and Wargame: Red Dragon turned out to be duds for me, although I feel like speaking such a sentence will ruffle some feathers with the Wargame fanbase. After playing Furi and Orwell I find myself disappointed that I never tried these sooner but I’m thankful I played them now. Seasons After Fall was just as adorable as expected and I look forward to playing that game at a casual pace. I didn’t know what to expect with Getting Over It but I feel like Bennett Foddy succeeded on whatever he set out to achieve. Next month is going to be interesting as this marks not only the first time Bethesda games have ended up in a Humble Bundle but also the first time we get a triple early reveal. While some people I’ve spoken to have shown apprehension for this I’m going into the experience with a sense of optimism.