Steam Assimilation

Further down we go.

SteamWorld Dig is a rather charming, interesting, and somewhat unique approach to a classic formula. Unlike other platforming titles you quite literally build the path downwards as you continue exploring. It’s an approach that can leave you stranded if you don’t make use of the ladders, lamps, and teleporters so generously provided by the townsfolk. But it’s also one that provides innumerable secrets as you unearth new ways to approach old locations. It’s not a particularly lengthy adventure, either.

So it’s quite enjoyable revisiting old locations frequently.

These secrets will award you with precious minerals and mysterious Orbs. Both are used to purchase upgrades to make Rusty more durable, carry more water, take more damage, or dig even faster. The later updates which are more technological (and thereby more powerful) have an additional Orb cost. But earlier iterations are easily affordable with gold.

It’s a neat progression system, too. As you’re introduced to the concept that this is a fading mining town and the money that you provide through your adventure revitalises it, which is evident when you see the town growing and more vendors appearing. You’ll also unlock paths back to town at each major location, which makes returning to town incredibly easy in a way that reminds me of the first Diablo. The immediate approach to returning to town is to use teleporters. These will be found at certain locations, but you can also purchase your own (for a small Orb cost) and place them wherever you like. You might be hesitant to spend Orbs to acquire them but I bought four-five and could still afford all of the upgrades.

I don’t think this is the confirmation that they wanted.

Alongside the aforementioned range of upgrades bought in town, there are key upgrades which you’ll find at certain locations in the caves that afford you entirely new abilities. Such as being able to propel yourself upwards with the power of steam. Or the classic double jump. Or even the ability to detect minerals. Of the available options, my personal favourite is the removal of fall damage. All fall damage. Forever. It’s so nice to be able to dart down large, open, excavated caverns without a care in the world.

I don’t believe it’s possible to miss those upgrades, either.

In this way, SteamWorld Dig is surprisingly content dense and enjoyable as a result of it. It’s not a massive, sprawling, open world but what there is to explore is crammed full of secrets and other goodies. It’s easy to miss it, too. Especially with the earlier secrets that require relatively late upgrades. It’s certainly a credit to the developers and their ambition, though.

I’ll be honest and admit that I bought this mostly in anticipation of SteamWorld Heist, but it has grown on me. It has a certain charm that reminds me of childhood days spent with the SNES and all of the adventures therein. Something that’s just fun to play. That’s interesting and enjoyable. That has controls which actually work and where every aspect feels intuitive. Those are not feelings that I generally get these days with many things I’ll play, but, for those reasons, I would highly recommend SteamWorld Dig to anyone looking for some good ol’ fashioned fun. The kind we had back in the day. Which I am almost old enough to say now. Which doesn’t concern me or fill me with thoughts of my own mortality in any way.

Have a nice week, all!


Sacred 2

These caves are treacherous! You could be looking for the quest marker for hours in here…

Not that I went the complete wrong way for an hour, cleared the rest of the cave, and then realised the objective was behind where I was standing. Never. That said, I feel the map(s) could stand to be a little clearer at times. Or that the game could explain certain features (like holding Tab to open a full area map) better to help you get through those confusing, embarrassing, silly times.

Sacred 2 inherits much from the original Sacred. It’s an open world fantasy ARPG with surprisingly deep and varied character development, featuring several different classes, and two distinct story choices (to either be good or evil). Many of the mechanics return with a little more polish alongside a full 3D presentation. Voice acting remains (for each of the classes, some of the quest NPCs, and general commentary) and helps to flesh out the world of Ancaria. The Gold Edition also features two expansion packs which bring all sorts of extra goodies along for the ride (like the carrier imp, a new character class, new regions, and more).

Overall it’s a pretty solid title that will likely net you several hours of enjoyment if you like ARPGs.

One of the most intriguing developments for me is how the character classes vary. I took the atypical fighter in the Shadow Warrior (following the evil story) the first time I played and after I finished the main campaign (on bronze) I explored the other choices. I was curious to see what they would do differently and it’s quite extensive.

I don't think he/she's very happy with me...

I don’t think he/she’s very happy with me…

For instance, the Skills you learn vary from class to class. I wasn’t really expecting to start with a Dragon Mage and see options the Shadow Warrior hadn’t been able to select, yet, likewise for the Dragon Mage, there were things the Shadow Warrior had that he didn’t. It’s a small change (and somewhat expected) but it’s nice to see that there are unique benefits for each of the classes. Many of the standard choices like Armor Lore, Shield Lore, Constitution, Toughness, and so on are present for all of the classes (as far as I’m aware).

The Attributes don’t vary between classes, however.

These are the pretty standard self-explanatory choices that you’ll find in nearly every other RPG. Yet, combined with the Skills, and the Combat Arts (covered below), you have the opportunity to create vastly different builds. The character classes do have specific roles, however. Or sets of roles. Like the Seraphim can fight in close quarters or at range depending on how you build her.

Combat Arts are your magical or physical attacks (also your buffs) and they follow suit from Sacred to be almost exactly the same. You find runes, use them, level up the skills, but face increasing cooldowns/penalties every time you do. In Sacred 2 after investing a number of points in certain Skills you can also upgrade Combat Arts to make them more powerful. Adding area damage, life stealing, armour penetration, and other benefits. These are specific to the Combat Arts and so each have six choices of which you can choose three before the Combat Art is mastered.

There are a whole heap of quests and locations to explore, too. This is something that’s quite difficult to summarise as there are so many things to talk about, but, for me, the above is what really stands out and makes Sacred 2 great. That flexibility, character depth, choice, and the chance to replay the story again on increasing difficulty levels.

Have a nice week, all!


Sir, You Are Being Hunted

At least I know now why these robots are trying to kill me.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted throws you into a tense survival situation spread across five different islands. You’re tasked to gather food, gather supplies, avoid murderous robots, explore the various islands in turn, and hopefully find the teleporter fragments you need to return home. Pretty much every aspect of the adventure can be tweaked to your preferred approach when generating a new world. You could, if you wanted, have five islands with exactly the same region. You could also pick a profession that has weapons and ammunition from the start of the adventure.

One thing I feel that this title does well is it never gives you an overwhelming advantage.

The tools to survive do exist in the world and it is up to you to find them. The aforementioned professions adjust the difficult curve slightly but they aren’t professions in the sense of giving you a list of traits, abilities, skills, and so on. They’re closer to roleplaying a particular background or character type. (There are no traits, abilities, or skills present in the game.)

Which is where I find the most common comparison to Don’t Starve to not ring true. In Don’t Starve each character has a particular perk or affliction which will affect the game or change it entirely. Sir, You Are Being Hunted pretty much throws you an average everyday person and the professions only affect which items they start with. Therefore, if you’re looking for deep or varied character development you’re probably not going to find it here. That said- I think the lack of character development makes it more enjoyable. There are no advantages to be had except those you create for yourself. Likewise, as the world is generated each time you play, there is no chance to find a certain item in a certain place every time.

Tread very carefully and quietly.

Tread very carefully and quietly.

Stealth is the core mechanic. You will need to think carefully about how to approach a situation, which distraction items to use, and how you can get those fragments back to the boat and/or main island. Inventory management is key and you should only really carry what you absolutely need as you can never tell how big the fragment will be. These qualities come together to create an experience you have seen in other titles but never quite like this. Even down to the lack of being able to sell or purchase items. We’ve seen it before- but it works so well here.

Living off of the land and what you can find has never been quite as terrifying.

It’s quite difficult to explain as I think everyone will take something different away from the experience. The things you usually enjoy in other titles (such as exploration or gathering items) will likely be found in some way here. This makes it really accessible to a variety of gamers- regardless of skill level or previous experience(s)- but still provides a solid experience that can challenge you several times before you return home. Which is a pretty rare quality in modern games (in my opinion).

It has a certain charm to it that older gamers might appreciate. There are no Steam achievements (at the time of writing) and a lot of the content is measured by how much you want to do, how much you want to explore, what different character styles you want to attempt, and so on. It’s pretty much something you will get as much or as little out of as you want to.

Have a nice weekend, all!