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Wishful Thinking 1

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Cross-posted from Escape Vectors (follow on Twitter).

In his regular “Wishful Thinking” column, blogger Durandal muses about games that have been lingering on his list of wants. This time: Race to Mars, Knytt Underground, J.U.L.I.A. Among the Stars, Doorkickers, Desktop Dungeons: Enhanced Edition and UnderRail.

Race to Mars

WT / Race To Mars

When Did I Put This On The List? 

March 8, 2014.

Why Did I Put This On The List? 

Kerbal Space Program is amazing, okay? But it's also really fiddly, and a lot of it focused on the actual execution of missions as a Kerbal astronaut. Not much of the game, when I last left it, was actually about the management end of things. I kind of want a game about managing to get a project as ambitious and difficult as colonizing another planet off the ground. And really, there aren't many that attempt to give you that experience. For the most part, you're either playing a 4X set on another planet, or you're just clicking "terraform" on a menu. I like the idea of really needing to approach the problem piecemeal and consider how best to turn barren rock into a habitat.

Is This Game Well-Liked By Others? 

Hooo boy. Nope. Not looking great. It seems to be following a very worrying trend of less and less dev communication along with more and more very angry player communication. There are apparently bugs littered throughout, very important features missing, and a heck of a lot of hurt feelings. People are generally abandoning the project as permanently unfinished. The latest post on the community page for Steam is "So I take it I shouldn't buy this, then?"

Will I Ever Buy This Game? 

Probably not. Kerbal 1.0 is here, it's great, it's well-supported. It will also likely develop into the management sim I'd like to see faster than this game will.

Will I Be Happy If Someone Else Buys It For Me?

I would not want anyone spending $20 on a project that's not remotely looking like it will be finished. I appreciate getting Early Access stuff because it removes my guilty sense that I shouldn't be spending money on an unfinished game, but only if I think that's actually going to change.

Should You Buy It? 

I really wouldn't. There's just not enough going on to justify it. Early Access is kind of a minefield at the best of times, but without consistent developer updates it gets even more dicey.

Knytt Underground

wtknyttunderground

When Did I Put This On The List? 

October 27, 2013.

Why Did I Put This On The List? 

Okay the first thing I'm actually noticing is that this game has an age-gate, which is super odd. What in the heck does this little platformer have in common with Mortal Kombat X? Anyway. I think I've played Knytt game. I don't remember which one, but I remember it felt like a neat little secret game. I'm intrigued by how confidently this game presents itself. It's got a lot of concepts on display in the trailer, and Nifflas has made a lot of games in this mold, so it might be a good condensing of a lot of tested concepts.

Is This Game Well-Liked By Others? 

Hm. There are a lot of people who like this game. But worryingly, there are a lot of people with really reasonable reviews that don't recommend it. They liken it to NightSky, which I do remember playing and eventually giving up on. Fiddly physics leads to the later-game feeling like trial and error apparently. And some people apparently feel the end deflates the atmosphere built over the course of play to the point that it actually renders the game worse in retrospect. I don't know that I'll ever feel that strongly about a minimal-narrative game ending, but it's not a good sign.

Will I Ever Buy This Game? 

Probably not. There are a lot of Nifflas games available for free that I haven't gone through and I know myself well enough that I know this is a game I'd power through to the bitter end all while feeling kind of dumb for feeling like I was incomplete until I'd bested a little physics puzzle.

Will I Be Happy If Someone Else Buys It For Me?

Probably not. It's interesting, but if I want to experience something like it, I can. Money isn't really the object.

Should You Buy It? 

If you've liked any of the previous games Nifflas has created, yes. Absolutely. People who work to create interesting art should get some money so they don't starve to death, because if they starve to death we don't get any more of their interesting art. Whether this particular game is the best Nifflas has produced is kind of academic, it's one of the few ways to give them some well-deserved compensation.

J.U.L.I.A. Among the Stars

wtjuliaamongthestars

When Did I Put This On The List? 

October 10, 2014.

Why Did I Put This On The List? 

First of all, it's beautiful to look at. I think initially I didn't comprehend entirely that it's a point-and-click adventure. I've gotten used to them being self-consciously retro or low-budget, not splurging on really nice looking static scenes. What kept my attention was the fact that the setting is unique for all that sci-fi is overplayed in games. Playing a 35 year-old astrobiologist is a far cry from playing another person whose primary mode of communication with alien species is via bullets.

Is This Game Well-Liked By Others? 

More important than the fact that it's well-liked is the fact that even the most damning review ended up sounding really enticing. Basically, after excoriating the game for having tedious puzzles that grow repetitive, the reviewer said that the story was full of unexpected emotional and conceptual depth. That sounds neat! If I get stuck on something that isn't fun to fiddle with, I'll just use a walkthrough.

Will I Ever Buy This Game? 

Maybe. I'm a big fan of games in a standard style attempting to do interesting things with narrative, and it sounds like this might be an under-appreciated gem in that area.

Will I Be Happy If Someone Else Buys It For Me?

Oh yes. If it's free, there's no guilt in totally using walkthroughs from the word go and just seeing what there is to see. Did I ever mention that I used to buy game guides for PC games which I couldn't actually play? I've read through the plot and puzzle solutions to more adventure games than I've ever played. I had too much free time as a kid, maybe.

Should You Buy It? 

Depends. It really does sound like it provides not much of interest for those of you looking for innovative puzzling. If you're an old hand, I imagine it'll get repetitive and frustrating quickly. But if you're interested in seeing what's been done with the narrative, I'd go for it.

Doorkickers

wtdoorkickers

When Did I Put This On The List? 

September 3, 2013.

Why Did I Put This On The List? 

I have fond memories of Rainbow Six, a game primarily concerned with carefully laying out a sequence of instructions for a team of people with guns so that they could shoot people without getting shot themselves. The closest I've had to that sort of tactical fun in recent play has been Frozen Synapse. With Doorkickers, it looks like I might be able to get a much more standard presentation of that sort of careful planning gameplay, maybe with a bit more emphasis on realistically rendered 2D spaces, rather than freaky techno-nightmares.

Is This Game Well-Liked By Others? 

Very well-liked. There have been glowing previews on trusted sites, and a bunch of people already enjoying it on Steam. The majority of negative reviews seem to focus on the sort of finicky frustration that I think might not be possible to eliminate from the genre. Things not being carried out as you'd expect or like, and just kind of getting angry and giving up rather than figuring out how to massage that issue out.

Will I Ever Buy This Game? 

Probably. I kind of wish it wasn't about SWAT teams. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I'd be more comfortable playing some sci-fi equivalent.

Will I Be Happy If Someone Else Buys It For Me?

Yeah, it'd be a departure from what's currently on my docket, and it seems like it has staying power.

Should You Buy It? 

Probably. If you're big into tactical real-time stuff, there just isn't all that much out there. If you don't already have Frozen Synapse, buy that first. If you do have Frozen Synapse, this should tide you over to the sequel.

Desktop Dungeons: Enhanced Edition

wtdesktopdungeonsenhancededition

When Did I Put This On The List? 

November 19, 2013.

Why Did I Put This On The List? 

I've played the free version and it's pretty great! It's basically a roguelike dungeon crawler as a mathematics puzzle game. Your goal is always to kill all the evil monsters in some dungeon by using your skills and equipment effectively, which is pretty standard. What's different about Desktop Dungeons is that the dungeons it generates all have a pretty narrow path toward completion that you need to figure out. You have to attack the right monsters in the right manner and in the right order, carefully calculating your resource use and making certain you're unlocking the map in the right order to maximize your health. It's frustrating on occasion, but also just a brilliant little puzzle that ends in a satisfying crescendo of killing the dungeon boss. Plus it's all on one screen! It actually reminds me a lot of Hexcells, with the slow elimination of probability space.

Is This Game Well-Liked By Others? 

It is! Probably the best part about it is that so many people say basically the same thing: this game is just math! It's just that it's either said in a way that's admiring or angry.

Will I Ever Buy This Game? 

One hundred percent yeah, this is a really solid puzzler that makes sense. It's part of this perfect new wave of wonderful puzzle games that are just so reasonable.

Will I Be Happy If Someone Else Buys It For Me?

Yes please yep.

Should You Buy It? 

Oh absolutely. Like, try it out for free if you'd like, you can on their site. But just... get it. It's a different sort of game than you're used to and it's very solidly constructed. It feels correct to fall into it, you'll have a fun time.

UnderRail

wtunderrail

When Did I Put This On The List? 

September 24, 2013.

Why Did I Put This On The List? 

I kind of love things set in the Metro, any metro. There's something so readily apocalyptic about this warren of underground tunnels and stations. They're full of people and resources just separated enough from the surface world that you can imagine them becoming holdouts in some horrifying aftermath. UnderRail seems to be trying to take on the mantle of the original Fallout, to some degree. Isometric, turn-based, RPG, looks like one character. It could be really interesting to get a game like Fallout where the combat system wasn't totally borked.

Is This Game Well-Liked By Others? 

Wow! It's beloved. There are negative reviews, but apparently they're not in a language I can understand, possibly they are written by visitors from another world. The positive reviews amount to "Hey, remember Fallout? This is bigger and better!" So, yeah. People are claiming 100+ hours to get through the incomplete early access version!

Will I Ever Buy This Game? 

Yeah, definitely. It had dropped off for me at this point but dang will I remember this once it's out of Early Access.

Will I Be Happy If Someone Else Buys It For Me?

I'd be frankly amazed if anyone picked this as a gift, but no, definitely not. No getting anyone a gift that's Early Access, that's just rude. It's an incomplete product! That's like getting 3/4 of a train set or something.

Should You Buy It? 

I mean yeah, actually. I may hate early access, but holy heck does this developer seem to warrant your support. Years of consistent updates and a game that looks to be a lost better sequel to Fallout 2? That's something worth ten bucks. Of your money, I should clarify.

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Comments (8) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Race to Mars looks a lot like Doorkickers…

    I don’t think I’d be upset if someone gave me an early access game as a present – it’s an exciting/interesting new thing and I’d be chuffed that they thought of it for me, especially if it was something offbeat and ambitious or from a creator whose previous work I’d enjoyed.

  2. Agh, thank you, my bad. Somehow the original picture got messed up. Now fixed.

    Oh and looking at upcoming Wishful Thinking entries I think Durandal has already changed his mind on Early Access, Phlebas!

  3. Okay the first thing I’m actually noticing is that this game has an age-gate, which is super odd. What in the heck does this little platformer have in common with Mortal Kombat X?

    One of the fairies who delivers most of the dialogue has a foul, foul mouth. It is when li’l w senior learns to read and goes back to this game that we will have the conversation about how there are some words that you know but should not use.

    Also, what is this with people who don’t love NightSky and don’t love Knytt Underground either? Is that allowed? I would not allow it if I were in charge of not allowing things. (I’m not sure whether “Fiddly physics leads to the later-game feeling like trial and error apparently” refers to NightSky, in which case it seems wrong to me unless you started in alternative mode which is another thing that is banned, or Knytt Underground, in which case the concept of “later-game” is something of a category error.)

  4. Ha! That’s kind of awesome. It’s so rare that a game pops the age gate without being clearly a gore-fest so I was intrigued.

    Nightsky I honestly have only vague memories about. I’m assuming I had a negative reaction to it because I always select “super difficult” which I’m assuming means I did start in alternative mode? But yeah, I played the first bunch of puzzles and drifted off when I got to a frustrating portion that felt like it was obvious what I needed to do but not fun to keep trying to do it.

    Also my position on Early Access changes basically every time I read the Steam reviews for an Early Access game. Sometimes they’re glowing discussions about how nice it’s been to support a developer while they work hard to produce something interesting, sometimes it’s people threatening to sue the developer for being in Early Access TWO WHOLE MONTHS!

    I generally stay away from actually buying anything in Early Access though, because it’s usually a premium to not actually play something for a long time. I’ve got a backlog of fully-complete games as it is!

  5. Yeah, starting NightSky in alternative mode is not the way to go. I’m pretty sure that Nifflas designs his games to punish people who like difficult platformers, like “Oh you wanted something frustrating? Here’s something frustrating.” There are all sorts of distinctive design decisions in NightSky that work well with the not-awfully-difficult normal mode, particularly the lack of in-level checkpoints–it enforces a relaxed pace in a lot of ways, and it often has an opening to the level that you have to go through kind of methodically but is difficult or impossible to fail; which is fine if you can get through the middle of the level with a couple of tries but pretty infuriating if you have to replay that opening a dozen times. And a lot of the physics is in the service of providing an immersive world rather than challenging you.

    I mean, your mileage may vary I guess, but this is one of my favorite games as long as you don’t start on hard mode. I like Anna Anthropy’s take on it. (FWIW she didn’t like Knytt Underground–her review of it kept me away from Knytt Underground a while which I regretted.)

  6. Almost missed this, but I just have to voice my own support for Knytt Underground. I love the game, and here are some thoughts:

    The greatest joy I have always had in Nifflas’s games is that of exploration. Knytt Underground fulfills this by being the largest Nifflas game. It takes about 6 or 8 hours to finish, and most of that is moving around the map with only a little bit of puzzling, similar to the previous Knytts. The visual style is lovely and is almost identical to the free game The Great Work, so look at that and decide if you think it is pretty.

    I was also rather sad about the age gate, however. Many of the characters swear – I think in an attempt to make them sound more human. It kind of works, but it makes me sad because the game would probably fit in the “good for kids” category without it. I also love it because it deals with some themes games often avoid, including religion and destiny and all that teenage/college age thinky stuff. I won’t say it is particularly deep, but it is nice to see it explored in a non-cliche manner.

    I think the game gets a lot of flack for being being weird, and it deserves it. But if you enjoy any of Nifflas’s stuff, definitely get it. It is long, relaxed, and quirky in a very Nifflas style.

    PS, I have also played Door Kickers. The interface is much better than Frozen Synapse, but the SP mode is a little boring. Not much of a plot, at least last time I played. But it is good for an LSN clone. I’ve also got my eye on Flamberge, a medieval LSN clone that uses an interface similar to Door Kickers.

  7. I still feel bad having not yet played Knytt Underground – I mean I got to playtest it on Nifflas’ laptop back in 2012 and I still haven’t played it for real.

  8. I will be eternally jealous of you because of that.

    I will admit that your words written up above are pretty spot-on in the sense that Knytt Underground is best for people who feel like there isn’t enough Knytt in the world. It is the weird thing about pop-culture pressure that there are so many excellent things in the world, but the pressure to know about them simply because everyone else does can actually ruin it.

    Anyway, I sent you a key because you didn’t want it. I would send you a key for a game you actually want, but I don’t have any and I don’t feel like spending money today. I would be interested in your thoughts on Door Kickers sometime, though. Cheers!


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