Back in May, during the NBI’s month-long event, there was a writing prompt discussing Early Access. I said my piece, and I still stand by what I said back then. For the most part, I think Early Access can be a great boon to the games industry. I don’t have a huge library of Early Access games though, as not only am I a bit on the frugal side, but I also tend to be selective in games I choose to back. My selection process probably differs from yours, but either way I have been pretty successful in the games I’ve chosen to support before release, in that they are all still pushing out regular updates. No ships abandoned thus far.
Checking up on a selection of the Early Access titles in my Steam library was included as part of my Gamer To-Do List. That seems to be the bulk of where my Blaugust writing activity will come from, so I figured this was an easy first item to check off of my list. I won’t be covering all of the games I touched upon in that NBI post, but will be talking about Ark, H1Z1, The Forest, Darkest Dungeon, Basement, and Nuclear Throne. Let’s get started shall we?
On of my more recent purchases, Basement is a strategy simulation where you play a drug kingpin. Actually, it isn’t really clear who you are, but you definitely get to control a variety of employees who will process drugs for you, be it through cultivation, chemistry, distribution or security. The last time I talked about the game it had just released into Early Access, and was a very basic concept. Since then, there have been a number of tweaks and improvements, and my initial complaint was addressed.
When I first started the game, I had a similarly sized building which I had built up to the point where expansion was the next step. I took over a neighboring building by sending some of my employees over to kill whoever resided there. After having taken the building over however, I found that I couldn’t send my attackers back to the original basement, leading me to hire new employees, but having idle hands. The green block at the top of the building now contains options to move employees back to the original basement, and that’s nice. There’s also an option to destroy garages now, and they have changed one major mechanic around.
Generators have to be built to power new rooms, but previously, you didn’t need special rooms to hire new employees. Now an employee room is present, and it can be used to hire up to two employees. Employee rooms are to employees as generators are to other rooms. They are essentially another resource to manage. Also, there were previously only one type of dealer room, while there were multiple drug rooms. Now there are matching dealer rooms for each drug type, which allow you to specialize, since the storage rooms can only hold two types of drugs. I went down the path of having only two drug types in one basement, along with matching dealer rooms for maximum profitability. Still feels like there are plenty of features to be added at this stage of the game, but I’m enjoying the direction. Cop raids need to slow down though.
I picked up Darkest Dungeon a while back, but only played it for a few minutes before being distracted by other things. At this point, I’ve put about 5 hours into it. I picked it up one day at random and kept finding myself coming back to it. It is punishing, but still rewarding at the same time. It’s hard to describe, as most of the time games that are this damned frustrating tend to turn people off, but I find the difficulty and challenge refreshing. It’s sort of the same phenomena as the Souls franchise. It kicks your ass but when you get a minor victory it feels so good.
There have been changes since it first appeared on Steam though. For one, the Houndmaster class was added, and though it’s cool that there are so many to choose from, you are randomly assigned what shows up in the caravan, so you might not see certain classes for a while. In the end, though each are different skill wise, it still comes down to similar mechanics. Regardless of who you take into the caverns with you, you are bound to lose someone due to full loss of HP or heart attacks due to stress. You’re heroes get stressed out if you have to abandon a quest as well, so sometimes it’s better to just let someone die and try to complete the task at hand. My first estate was lost rather early due to multiple retreats and a lack of gold to continue to fund adventures. I can also report that the Cove and Darkest Dungeon bits have yet to be added to the game, but it seems that updates have stayed regular.
The Lovecraftian vibe of the game is amazing. It takes typical fantasy tropes and throws them on their heads. The torch mechanic can be frustrating and when creatures from the void appear you’re as good as dead. I took to the idea of naming my characters after Bloggers and my own MMO character naming conventions, but it saddens me even more to see all of my comrades dying left and right. Thankfully there are plenty of names to choose from in the blogosphere!
Ark: Survival Evolved
Ark wasn’t a game I was particularly keen on experiencing so soon, but it was gifted to me and I knew I should at least check it out. I enjoy playing The Forest, so I knew what I was getting into with this game, but adding in Dinosaurs instead of the typical Zombies shtick was a plus. When I first booted it up, I played alone on a private server and just ran around a bit. I didn’t really dive too deep, as the game felt a bit rough around the edges. It felt like it was lacking optimization, and it didn’t look as pretty as I thought it should.
It looks pretty damn good in the above picture, but even now that I’ve waited a while and gone back to play it more seriously, it still doesn’t look quite right when I’m playing it. I mean there’s definitely some great looking artwork, but things feel off while I’m moving around. I’ve fiddled with the graphics settings, and despite putting it where it’s recommended or at max settings, it seems to run the same. I don’t see a noticeable drop in framerate or anything, but parts of the engine feel wonky or dated. I fought past this irritation and just played anyway, and what I found was a bunch of neat concepts.
I think my biggest issue is the UI elements. They just look ugly. There’s apparently some sort of storyline and it feels a bit sci-fi meets pre-historic, so maybe that’s what they were going for in the UI. Still, it’s functional, despite not being pretty. Mainly though, it starts off like any other survival title. You gather stuff, you make stuff, you gather more stuff, and you make bigger stuff. There is a leveling system though, and the crafting system feels deeper than say, The Forest’s does, at least at this juncture.
When you level, not only can you put points towards your character’s stats (health, stamina, etc) but also spend “Engram Points.” These points are put into what amounts to a skill tree, but allows you to learn new items to craft. Eventually you’ll have a range of tools, wearable items and the ability to build buildings. Further still, you can eventually tame dinos and ride them. I didn’t get far enough to see all that the game has to offer, but as I’ve stated before with these Early Access games, I won’t play them too seriously until they’re finished. Until then, they’re just fun to mess around with and write about.
I’ve written about Nuclear Throne a bunch of times, and have posted videos as well. This time around will be no exception. The major updates of late have been less about the mechanics of the game or adding in new guns or creatures, and more about the UI and various changes to the artwork of the game. I have prepared a short video highlighting these differences (though if you don’t follow the game or my past videos, you might not notice much).
I haven’t written about H1Z1 in a while, and frankly it’s because I haven’t been playing it. There have been numerous patches since the last time I did play, which you can see a list of by heading over to the steam community page. I have already expressed being slightly worried about the direction of the game since Smedley’s departure, and seeing as how multiple items on the July Roadmap aren’t implemented yet (correct me if I’m wrong), the effects might already be visible. There has been a Team Battle Royale mode added to the game, though I’m not sure about the leaderboards, the new Zombie type (screamer) or if the Professions have been talked about or added yet. You were supposed to be able to pick a profession upon character creation and currently that’s not possible so I think some of these updates may have been delayed. Constant patches with tweaks and balances have been coming down the pipeline though, so I know the game isn’t standing still, but having a visible Roadmap and no results doesn’t bode well.
The same goes for the Forest, in that I haven’t really played it in a while. For the most part, I have gotten what I wanted out of the game as it stands. There have been several patches since the last time I talked about the game (that was back when it was v0.16 — it’s up to v0.21 now) that are mostly bug fixes and tweaks. At this point I’m waiting for the game to be finished, or for the co-op to be playable, as the last time I tried it was not. There aren’t server wipes per se, but the game usually has to be started over after a patch as the saves get corrupted, so I’m not really looking forward to starting over and over again. This game along with Ark and H1Z1 fall under the same blanket of being survival games where your progression is the point of the game, so as long as there are wipes or constant patches I don’t see the point in getting too invested. Upon release I think that will be a different story.
Have you guys played any good Early Access games lately?
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