Jump in Chu’s wooden car for an adventure in Summer Catchers, a beautiful little game from Noodlecake Studios. Venture from the cold, snowy north down south in pursuit of warmer weather and sandy beaches. The best part is that you can pick your platform of choice: PC (Steam), Mac, Nintendo Switch, iPhone, or Android.
Since I’ve been without my PC for a while, I requested a copy for the Switch to review (Thank the gods for mobile solutions!). I honestly didn’t have any idea what kind of game to expect, I was just drawn in by how pretty the screenshots were. Sue me, I like pretty games. And after playing several hours of it, I can report I am not at all disappointed!
Pros and Cons
Obviously, the biggest draw to this game is how gorgeous it is. I mean, look at it! Each of the different segments in the road trip has a different atmosphere and the art never stops being satisfying. The interface is clean and fits in with the style so well.
The only con I can find to Summer Catchers is the repetitive nature of it. You race through different areas to complete tasks before moving on to the next segment of your journey. I feel this type of gameplay is really good for mobile applications and the Switch is definitely the largest platform I’d want to play something like this on. I’ve found it to be a great game for short spurts (under an hour) when I am just wanting to chill or waiting on something. I imagine it would be really good on a phone as the UI seems designed well for touch input.
Gorgeous game! Pick up a copy of Summer Catchers on your phone or Switch to make waiting on your next appointment more enjoyable. Be sure to come back and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Ever wanted to see if you could do a better job running the education system?! Well now you can with Academia: School Simulator! Let’s see if you can make it suck less than your actual high school did. Academia gives you all the tools you’ll need to design, build, and welcome in students, teachers, and staff. You’ll work towards goals to earn grant money and increase the reputation of your school, passing up any rival schools in the rankings (I hope). The game just released on steam so grab it while it’s fresh!
If you’ve watched the trailer or seen the game at all you’ll of course get some very familiar vibes from a game called Prison Architect, which is developed by a completely different company but has the same artist Personally, I haven’t played it and have limited experience watching the actual mechanics so I’ll have to leave it at face value. From what I’ve seen, however, I’d say Squeaky Wheel has done a good job of taking the style and making it their own.
I really like this style of game. I like the art, I like the challenge of it, and overall I had a lot of fun playing it. I’m looking forward to playing a lot more of it and hope they continue adding to it over the months to come.
At the beginning of the game, you are able to choose all your school’s basic attributes: title, motto, colors, uniforms, principal type, and difficulty level. There is a decent amount of customization to change the gameplay and I started on just normal default to test things out. I didn’t really see a lot of tutorial type pop-ups or guidance but that could have been me not paying close enough attention. As a result, I felt a little thrown into the game ut since it’s not my first time playing a builder game it wasn’t too much of an issue. If you aren’t however it might take you a few minutes to get acquainted with the UI and hotkeys before you feel comfortable.
In order to make money in the game, you will have to select grants and do the objectives to earn funding. You’ll have more money to start building with if you start on easy mode, which I highly recommend if you’re new to this style of game.
The first thing you’ll need to do is build an office and hire your principal. There will be 15 students in each class (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) so you’ll build 1 classroom for each and hire a teacher for each school subject. Be sure to pay attention to the grants in your list so you know what you should be building/aiming for. Be sure you read everything because that’s where to tips are on how to find things in the UI!
Check! Done! Woo!
Do you like that dopamine hit of accomplishing goals and checking things off lists? If so you’ll love this game! Seriously, I was plowing my way through objectives for grants for the few hours I played. It felt gooooooood y’all! Very satisfying. I totally built my school in perhaps the most inefficient way possible but hey, it was still a fun time. Lessons were definitely learned for playing through it next time.
In addition, there are little scenarios and events that pop up throughout the game that give you a little extra to break things up and add something new. You’ll get an end of the year report to give you stats of how you did in several categories and give you a rank. A lot of information can be found out during the year via the different UI and charts.
I really do like the graphics in this game. Everything is simplistic but nice and clean. Text is easy to read and nothing hurts my brain. There’s even a warning at the title screen which is animated to make it static to avoid dizziness/illness – something I greatly appreciate as someone who’s got pretty sensitive sim sickness.
Grab yourself a copy!
Grab yourself a copy on Steam or via my Humble Bundle(Disclaimer: I get a kickback, thanks guys)! Academia: School Simulator on sale for 30% off for the next 5 days!
Wander into Germany during the rise of the Nazi party in Through the Darkest of Times, brought to us by Paintbucket Games and Handygames. Lead a resistance group in Berlin to gather information, help free the people, and weaken the regime. And do it on any device you like!
Art, history, & strategy
The artwork for Through the Darkest of Times is a striking style that instantly captivated me and is the primary reason I sought out a key to review. I’ve been playing it on and off for a while now on my phone, which honestly has been really nice because I can do that anywhere. Every time I get to see a new scene I’m reminded just how gorgeous the game is and really lends itself to telling such a generally bleak story.
Obviously, the game’s story is rooted in actual events that happened leading up to World War II and you play as the leader of a resistance group. Every day you choose new tasks for your team to do like gather supplies, convert new supporters, spread the truth, or even attack special points of interest to weaken supply lines or gather vital documents to use against the regime.
Even on mobile, the controls are super easy to use and the game doesn’t take much time to understand how to play. It’s a well-built interface and I haven’t run into a single bug. But the real star of the show is the stories and how your choices affect outcomes.
Throughout the game, you’ll have choices to make that will direct what happens to your character and how the story progresses. Personally I think I played a very linear character that had set ideals but I’d be curious to go back through the story again and choose other reactions to events and maybe build up a character who takes a more aggressive approach instead of the quieter more passive stealth game I played. It’s definitely worthy of replaying to find out what things change.
Get your copy today!
I’m excited to report that this game is now available on mobile, PC, PS4, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch. While I enjoyed the freedom of playing it on my phone I think having it on a larger screen would be really nice and I’m looking forward to playing it on stream or YouTube some time in the near future.
Riot is no stranger to monetizing their games by frequently adding in cosmetics for players to show off during games. So it’s no surprise that Valorant has already released it’s first set of high dollar skins. Last week, Valorant released an Ultra Edition set (more on that later) called Elderflame. Check out the release video below for all the awesome visuals.
WTF is an Ultra Edition?
Valorant has five tiers of skins at varying price points. Select, Deluxe, Premium, Ultra, and Exclusive. As you’d imagine, the lowest tier is just pretty pattern skins that aren’t too involved and as you get higher on the list the guns/knives get prettier and include animations. (see below for the general prices per gun per tier)
As you can tell from the video, the Elderflame skins have a lot going on. Not only are their base models animated and have special sound effects, but you can use Radianite points to upgrade them to be more animated and change to different color dragons.
So, how much does this fancy set cost?
The Elderflame costs a whopping 9990 Valorant Points (VP), which translates into about $100. In the bundle you get the knife, card, spray, and title in addition to Frenzy, Judge, Vandal, and Operator gun skins. And spending money to buy VP to then buy Radianite Points to upgrade the skins with is just.. well it’s a lot. Probably another $100 if you wanted to upgrade them all, if not more.
And I hear you out there, “who pays $100 for cosmetics in a game?!” Obviously many people because I have run into quite a few dragon guns this week and based on how much I’ve seen CS:GO skins go for, and how much I’ve personally spent in other Riot games… well there are a lot of us out there who love to buy cosmetics to support the games we love.
And the skins keep coming!
Hot on the heels of the Elderflame set comes Oni and Sakura. Leaked earlier this week but now showing in the game after this morning’s update, are some gorgeous skins with Japanese themes: demons and cherry blossoms! As someone who loves everything Japanese, you can bet I’m hyped about the arrival of these beauties.
There’s no information yet about how they will be priced but I’m guessing they are the next set to be in the bundle shop when Elderflame leaves in a few hours. My guess is that they will be Premium Edition prices for the Oni items (due to the skin variants) and perhaps Deluxe Edition prices for the Sakura ones (as they are static).
I’m curious to see what other designs Riot comes up with and extra curious to see what ends up being in that Exclusive Edition tier. I hope that those tie into fun events or eSports. Only time (and leaks) will tell! Time to get a side hustle cause these things are expensive and either my wallet or I am gonna cry!
It seems like only a few months ago that Riot teased us with an upcoming shooter, only referred to as “Project A“. Since then Riot has made it a solid entry into the FPS market and dubbed it Valorant. The game is a tactical 5v5 shooter flaunting a good array of playable characters, a variety of play styles, and, in true Riot fashion, a beautiful art style. After a hyped beta season the game is ready for an early launch, worldwide, starting today!
How to Play the Game
When you load into Valorant you’ll have a starting group of agents to choose from. Each agent has their own set of abilities that make them unique and provide different advantages in the field. There are 11 total agents currently: Sage, Phoenix, Sova, Jett, Viper, Raze, Brimstone, Breach, Omen, Cypher, and the new addition, Reyna.
There are four maps: Bind, Split, Haven, and the new addition, Ascent. Each map is unique and gives different ways for the player to use their agents skills. There are a lot of interesting ways to do trick shots or really hinder enemy teams with certain skills in each map.
Everyone has access to the same equipment: 1 pistol, 1 automatic firearm, and 2 levels of armor. You also begin with your special ability. Everyone starts round 1 with the same amount of credits to purchase abilities and gear. Each round you earn more credits based on performance.
Each match of Valorant is up to 25 rounds long. You begin on either attackers (bomb planting) or defenders (defusing). The first half is 12 rounds, then you change sides. The first team to reach 13 wins is declared the winner of the match.
Every round has a 100 second timer in which to plant the bomb. Once the bomb is planted you have 45 seconds to defuse. That means a drawn out match can last close to an hour.
At the end of the match you’ll get to see a data rundown. Who got MVP, how your team did, and how well you did. You’ll also see what XP you earned and if you completed any daily objectives (extra XP tasks that change every 24 hours).
New Mode: Spike Rush
Don’t have time for an hour long game? The new Spike Rush mode speeds things up with added power ups, randomized weapon load-out, and a shorter duration. Be the first team to 4 wins!
Might just be a great way to get your bearings if you’re new!
Valorant’s Beta Period
Instead of following the usual route of emailing players beta invites, Riot pulled a genius move. Valorant beta access was awarded by linking your Riot account to your Twitch account and then watching someone stream the game with drops enabled. This move brought thousands of viewers out to streams and put Valorant on the radar for pretty much everyone on Twitch (of which there are millions).
I got my access a few days or so into the beta period after hardcore lurking in channels. I’ve been a “Riot Fangirl” since the beta of League of Legends, I’ve played every game they’ve made. So I wasn’t about to miss out on this one – which I’d been eagerly awaiting since “Project A” was revealed.
I’ve played a fair bit of Counter Strike, beginning with Source and then Global Offensive. Though the past few years I’ve only hopped in to play Arms Race, I enjoy the premise of the bomb plant/defusal mode. I just found it was lacking something to keep my attention.
Valorant filled the hole by making unique agents with abilities to use in the match. It brings added difficulty and raises the skill level in addition to making the game mode just more interesting. And I’m definitely not alone. Many others say they’ve fallen in love with Valorant way more than they ever liked CS:GO for this exact reason.
The beta period had several patches as well as a test of the competitive scene. There have been a few small tournaments and Riot’s teaming up with Twitch for a big one after Launch. Riot’s done a good job of breaking ground to lay a solid foundation for years of esports for the game.
While the game had bugs, like all games do, I had very little issues while playing Valorant. My machine is by no means top of the line (sorry grandpa but you’re 6 years old now), but it handled everything smoothly. I never had issues with lag and rarely any connection issues. Nothing that kept me from having fun with the game, technically at least – we’ll talk about the bad apples later on.
All in all, I think Valorant had a successful beta. I think they got a lot of feedback, were able to squash a lot of issues and bugs, and built hype for their game. There will be a period where everyone gets to learn the game before competitive opens up, almost like a beta 2.0.
I wish Riot a wonderful, smooth, server crash free launch!
For those just learning to play Valorant, I recommend picking up Sage, Phoenix, or Jett. In comparison to other agents, these four are easier to learn and each has skills that can get you out of a bind. Sage is a healer with a wall that can use to block off corridors and save yourself if needed. Phoenix has a blind and if he stands in his fire skills he heals. Jett has a dash skill that can be used to get out of close quarter fights or zoom across a vulnerable opening to gain cover, she also has smoke spheres to take away vision.
There are guide videos and articles you can use to get an idea of what each agent does but the best way to learn is by getting in a match and actually trying to use their skills. Take your time and stick with other teammates in the game when you’re new.
You’ll want to learn the layout of each map as well as learn what certain chokepoints are called. You’ll hear a lot of different names for these places that are not what they’re called on the map. Things like “heaven”, “hookah”, “showers”, etc. Over time you’ll start understanding what each is and be able to call out better to your team as well. Communication is key to a game like this. If you aren’t comfortable using your mic in-game, use the chat, or learn the built-in ping commands.
Another pointer is to pay attention to your econ, or economy – your credit spending on guns and abilities. Don’t just fling out and waste your abilities. And don’t just buy the most expensive gun you can every time or you’ll run out of money fast (unless you’re murdering everyone every round, in which case buy your favorite pew pew). Pay attention to what guns drop on the ground when someone dies. You can pick them up and use them!
Lastly, find a buddy. It’s pretty obvious, but team games are easier and funner when you’ve got a good team with you. If you don’t have friends to play with, try adding friendly players after a match. You’d be surprised how many people will accept the request and queue up with you!
See You in Game!
Valorant is Free-to-Play so there’s no excuse not to try it out! Sign up and download the client at PlayValorant.com.
Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones is a fantastic little horror game based in H.P. Lovecraft’s worlds made by Cultic Games. It has beautiful artwork, tactical turn-based combat, and rich roleplay. So if you like games with spoopy feels and great gameplay, check it out!
Personally, I’ve never read any Lovecraft (*gasp* I know, I know…). But I love horror and fantasy so this game was right up my alley. Stygian starts with the creation of a character, you’ll get to customize attributes, class, name, etc. letting you make the game more your own. The town of Arkham is pulled into a new, shadow-filled place full of terror. You set out to investigate what is going on and do your best to survive.
There is a lot of story to be had in the game, with plentiful options and characters to have dialog with. You can take your time and explore every dark corner of the game. Better yet you can play it again with a different character set up to try and do things differently. All in all, it’s about 15-20 hours of gameplay each time, a happy medium between short and long.
If you know me, you know I loooove games with great artwork. This War of Mine, The Long Dark, League of Legends are some of my favorite games because of the gorgeous art styles each has. Stygian has definitely joined the ranks with its artwork.
A hand-drawn 2D world that reflects the mood of Lovecraft and cosmic horror.
Quests and storylines which capture the iconic themes of Lovecraft. Take part in your favorite horror stories and shape their outcome according to your role-playing style.
Weirdest of companions will accompany you in your accursed journey. Lonely antediluvian of ‘The Outsider’, a dead WW1 soldier reanimated in the hands of Herbert West, a psychic narcissistic cat from Ulthar and many more will be among your eccentric cast of companions.
Sanity and the mental state of the character will have an influence on the dialog options. Mental conditions create benefits as well as hindrances. Sometimes being mad in a mad world helps!
Belief Systems determine how your characters handle the challenging reality around them and help regenerate lost sanity. Belief Systems also offer unique dialogue options thus extending the roleplaying possibilities that players can explore. A rational character gains sanity after completing research on a mythos creature while a divine believer gains sanity after converting a lost soul to the path of God.
A unique spell system which sometimes takes more than what it gives. The black magic of Stygian is very potent but will cost you your mind, health and sometimes your very soul. Being a master of the true occult is not like flinging colorful missiles from your fingertips.
Turn based strategic combat in beautiful 2D Heroes of Might and Magic-like perspective.
8 different archetypes with completely unique prologue stories and specialties to breathe life into the Lovecraftian archetypes.
The struggle is not for saving the world, that battle is lost already. Follow your personal goals for salvation or vendetta in a doomed world.
I highly recommend checking out this game if you’re looking for an interesting story with solid mechanics. Why don’t you join the other people who’ve picked it up on Steam? Or if you would like to save some dough, head over to Fanatical and use my affiliate link!
This game was provided to me for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
Teamfight Tactics, brought to you by the people at Riot Games, is an auto chess game that gained popularity on release and has fluctuated quite a bit since. Riot is of course known for its hit game, League of Legends, a MOBA game that attracts huge numbers in the esports scene. The lore surrounding the characters (or champions, as we call them) of LoL is massive and has enabled them to make a lot more content based on that world.
Riot has capitalized on letting their fanbase play different styles of games with the same champions they are familiar with. Each season, called a set, of Teamfight Tactics has a selection of champions with assigned attributes. This week, on March 18th, the newest set releases with the theme of Galaxies.
WTF is Auto Chess?
Auto chess, or auto battlers, are games where you choose units, place them, and they automatically fight against another team on a set board. You are one of 8 players, fighting each other in a mini-tournament style, losing points each time you lose a match until a winner emerges. To win against the other teams you’ll need to not only build a solid team but also keep an eye on what everyone else is building plus learn to use your money wisely.
So if you like strategy and can think quickly, you might enjoy playing any of the auto chess games. And if you like League of Legends you’ll enjoy Teamfight Tactics in particular.
How to Play Teamfight Tactics
This week marks the arrival of the next set (or season) of Teamfight Tactics. Each season has brought a new dynamic, changing out what champions are available and what type of items and skills they possess. Every champion has an Origin, a Class, and can carry 3 items or buffs. A champion costs 1 to 7 gold to buy. And each champion can be combined to make a higher tier version – 3 to make a tier 2 champion and 3 tier 2 champions to make a tier 3 (that’s 9 tier 1’s to make a tier 3). Higher tier champions have higher stats and do more damage.
If you put together champions with the same origin or class, you get extra buffs. Things like increased armor, chance to do more damage, or maybe get mana or spell power. In addition to combining traits, you’ll get items in carousels and PvE rounds that you combine to give your champions extra fighting power.
What’s Special About Set 3?
Each new set brings new origin set, changes out what champions are present, and even what skins those champions wear to fit their origin/class combo. On top of the usual changes, Set 3 brings some new mechanics to the game. Set 2 introduced “Elements” to the game where each match was either wind (dodge), water (mana), fire (attack speed), or earth (health) and each gave a different buff for champions placed in spaces that contained that element.
Set 3 introduces a new mechanic where each match will take you to a different Galaxy, with its own set of rules. Some of these are Neekoverse: where everyone starts with two Neeko’s help (an item that clones any champion). Another other is Lilac Nebula: where every champion in the first carousel of the game will have a value of four gold. (Side note: this mechanic will release with patch 10.7 to give players the chance to adjust to the new champion sets first.)
This new set also introduces a battle pass system that will allow players to earn cosmetics for our characters, called Little Legends. Needless to say, as someone who has a history of buying all the skins, I’m super hyped about this addition.
Should You Try TFT?
I’m a huge fan of the universe Riot’s created. I’ve played League of Legends since beta and up until a few years ago, I was one of those people who picked up and learned every new champ that came along (I fell off the bandwagon when I had my first kid). TFT had a lot of hype when it came out and then kinda died off, so I didn’t end up picking it up until Set 2 released. I climbed my way from Iron 1 to Platinum 3 and have definitely fallen in love with it.
If you like strategy games and are willing to put in the time to learn the mechanics of the game then I definitely think you should give it a go! Prepare yourself for Set 3 with the 10.6 patch notes and make use of great guides found on Mobalytics and LoLchess!
As a final side note: I’m really excited to see Riot finally branch out, first with Teamfight Tactics and now with Legends of Runeterra – their card game, as well as their upcoming forays into FPS and an animated series. Maybe we’ll even get a Runeterra movie some time, like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy have produced.
It’s been almost two years since Frostpunk first released. So, naturally, I’m just now getting around to playing and writing about it. Over the years I’ve watched a fair bit of gameplay on Twitch and knew it was something I would enjoy. I finally gave it a go after getting a chance to try it out on the PS4 release. And now it’s got brand-new DLC called The Last Autumn.
What Is It?
Frostpunk is a resource management simulation game where you have to build a city and survive the elements. It’s made by 11 bit studios who make other fantastic games I love like This War of Mine, Moonlighter, and Children of Morta. And it’s available on PC, PS4, and Xbox – so pick your platform and get to playin.
With the base game, you build your city around a coal-powered generator. Research, set laws, build, and explore your way to survival… or perhaps doom. All while balancing hope and discontent of the people.
In order to do anything in the game, there is a cost. Buildings take wood, steel, and maybe some research or workers. Laws cause discontent or hope and make an impact on how your people go about their lives. They also unlock special buildings. Research takes time but unlocks upgrades, building types, and other necessary skills to keep your city from dying. Exploration also takes time but gives you people or supplies, or both.
Balance is key in Frostpunk. You have to keep a good eye on all your production for the times when blizzards come and you need the generator to work triple time or stockpile so you can upgrade and expand when bringing in groups of refugees. Maybe you’ll be really good at it and there will be no discontent… probably not though, people seem to hate soup round here.
Okay, I beat that. Now what?
DLC you say?! Other scenarios?! Yup, we got those. There are several scenarios you unlock by surviving 20+ days. And if you beat those, there’s an endless mode with different difficulties. Not enough? How ’bout customizing the difficulty of all of these modes? STILL not enough? Well fine then.
In late January, a new prequel expansion where you work to build the generator that is used to survive after the freezing cold arrives. This expansion is practically a whole other game in the same story, built on the same mechanics but capable of being its own stand-alone title.
And if you beat this and still want more then you’ll be happy to hear there is another expansion coming sometime this year called Project ‘TVADGYCGJR’.
What did you think, Divine?
If you’ve read my other articles, you know I’m a fan of 11 bit studios game This War of Mine. I think the studio does a great job telling stories and building games with solid mechanics. Frostpunk is no exception. I subconsciously put off playing this game cause I knew I’d get sucked in quickly, and I had CompTIA exams to get done ha!
So far I’ve played about 72 hours between the PC and PS4. I enjoy the ability to change difficulty levels and the different scenarios available. I haven’t gotten a chance to play Last Autumn yet cause money doesn’t grow on trees, but I’ve watched enough to know it’s just as awesome as the rest of the game.
This style of game is right up my alley and like I said, it’s been executed beautifully, so of course, I’m going to give it a glowing review. 10/10. If this style of game is not your usual jam, you might still enjoy it for the story and if you bump down the difficulty you’ll probably enjoy it more. Just like the snow and ice, the game is pretty unforgiving if you don’t pay attention.
How much is this addiction going to cost me?
If you’re smart, you’ll catch it on sale either on steam or through sites like Fanatical. Full price it’ll take $30 for the base game. You can then get a season pass for $35 (usually on sale) which gives you Frostpunk Rifts, The Last Autumn, Project TVADGYCGJR, a digital artbook, and soundtrack. Or you can bundle it all together currently for $50.
There’s no accounting for the time you’ll sink into it though, that’s priceless.
DISCLAIMER: I received a review copy of the PS4 release but purchased the PC version after falling in love with the game. This is my honest review of an awesome product. Thank you!