Saturday Night Gaming: The Shrouded Isle

Have you ever dreamt of being the head cultist and spiritual leader of a small post-apocalyptic village, working to awaken your great patron-god, Chernobog? Was your dream colored in Lovecraftian greens?

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Did it look something like that?

No? You’ve no clue what I’m talking about? Well, I can’t say I blame you.

This is the Shrouded Isle, a game with this exact premise. It’s a bit more complex than picking a villager and ending their life; each one has minor or major virtues and vices, which affect you in positive and negative ways, respectfully. Each run of the game is broken up in 12 seasons–it takes place during 3 years– during which you have to sacrifice 12 of your fellow villagers.

The villagers, there’s thirty of them, and none come from the most distinct genetic material; each is a member of one of five families, whose primarchs control some different suppression apparatus — the Iosefka family is in charge of the fervor in the village by building monuments and spreading the holy word of Chernobog’s imminent return, the Kegnni make sure that your villagers remain proper and ignorant, and so on and so forth.

It’s a game about information, and acting upon it. During each season, you’ve got three months to vote on the activities your cultists make. While you’ve got five councilors — one from each esteemed family on your shrouded isle — you can pick to work on one to three of your councilors’ activities each month; the more the activities worked on, the lesser are the returns for you. It’s a perfectly logical system that allows you to discover more about your villagers’ vices and virtues at only a small cost.

Vices and virtues are also found out by inquiries, of which you will get some, as long as you’re in good standing with the different houses; it’s always difficult to decide whom to use your first couple of inquiries, on account of knowing virtually nothing other than some cursory flavor text, give n to you by the house leaders whenever you scroll over the members of the family.

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Villagers and the five attributes of the entire village–Ignorance, Fervor, Discipline, Penitence and Obedience–are not the only ones you have to be on the lookout for; each house also has an approval rating that raises when you continually vote for their advisers, and falls whenever you ignore them. Approval also plummets whenever you decide to sacrifice someone; particularly if you have no proof, or even an idea, of an advisor’s transgressions.

‘This might all seem like a lot to follow, and I did have some difficulty making sense of it all during my first game; which is why one of the families quickly rose in revolt, and did me in, thus ending playthrough #01. That said, once I began all over again, it made sense and, in less than two hours, I stood above the precipice, awakening good old ‘bog and watching him as he stretched those holy wings of his.

The Shrouded Isle is all about revealing information one month at a time, and using that information to the fullest. There’s no overarching storyline, when one really could’ve worked quite well.The art-style is good but minimalist, and there are about…eight screens in the game overall, with an additional three-four cutscenes.

It’s entertaining for what it is…but I’m not certain that it’s worth the price tag of 10 euro. That has to be its biggest weakness; the Isle simply doesn’t have enough content. After my two and a half hours, I have absolutely no desire to go back and replay it in its current form; if the developers introduce a content-focused patch, perhaps I will.

The Shrouded Isle is an interesting experiment that’s built around a cool concept, strong aesthetics and ambiance, but hobbled by lack of variety and lacking a cohesive story.

Should you play it? Only you could say that, and I hope to have provided all the tools necessary to help with your decision. Happy Gaming!

PS: I know there are different endings–but I didn’t feel curious enough to spend another few hours unlocking them.

 

 

Saturday Night Gaming: Pyre #01

Supergiant games deliver yet again.

That makes for three outstanlion p kdiglng, visually stunning –breathtaking, even — games, each three years apart from the other, starting with Bastion, transitioning with Transistor and now, the largest of them all, Pyre.

I have played too little of Pyre since it came out on Tuesday (July 25). Not enough, certainly, to construct an in-depth analysis of the mechanics of the strange, fascinating sport-like combat system; nor to talk about the different route choices, the leveling system or several other aspects I would love to take a y look at.

What I can tell you is that Pyre is beautiful. Breath-taking; and yes, I realise I repeat myself, but I can’t accent that nearly enough. I would put each of the landscapes hanging on my wall as posters.

It’s no small thing, that – I don’t own any posters at all.

The story is very easy to get into, and although the narrative takes something of a backseat this time around, it’s not for lacking in plot. To the contrary, there is now more written speech between characters (and more characters overall) than in any of the two previous games by Supergiant.

The music – fantastic in so many ways, once again written by Darren Korb…although I might have that last name wrong. I’ll be sure to check and react it a few hours from now, in the comfort of my home.

Next week, I will go more in-depth in many of those aspects I glossed over. Look forward to it!

Saturday Night Gaming: Critiques and Wolfenstein: The New Order

Whenever I begin writing a video critique or review for a game, I spend some time considering how to go about it. This blog post will look at the reasons behind my choices and plan for the (as of yet) unfinished critique; if you enjoy talk about gaming, you might enjoy it, and if you don’t — stay tuned for our regularly scheduled programming!

Wolfenstein: The New Order is not too complicated a narrative by any stretch of the imagination. Id Software’s writing team took a whole bunch of chapters from Philip K. Dick’s “The Man on The High Castle,” and — to the joy of everyone involved — succeeded in creating a tense world that makes you more than enthusiastic enough to shoot all the Nazis you find!

There’s a love story going on in the background too, and it’s done well — but that’s all narrative. When talking about a first person shooter, the story has to take a backseat to the gameplay; what matters most is gunplay, enemy variety, map/level design and what I’d like to refer to as the sheer bloody level of AWESOME that a game can provide the player.

For a ‘narrative’ guy like myself, putting an accent on the mechanics of a game first is a difficult task, occasionally. Two things help; the first is, realizing that the mechanics are in fact complemented by the story, and the second — recognizing when that happens.

Otherwise simple actions, mechanically, become much more meaningful when the narrative dictates that they be so — stabbing a Nazi grunt will not remain in your memory but daggering the lover of a hated adversary most certainly will, for example. That’s the kind of synergy between gameplay and

Another aspect I am looking at has to do with the boss battles. These are often some of the most memorable parts of a game; either for the best reasons…or for the worst. While I’m not going to go ahead and critique those here — I’m saving that up for the video review — I’ll let it slip that Wolfenstein’s boss encounters leave much to be desired. I judge at boss battles according to how ‘gimmick’-y they are; the more freedom one such encounter gives the players on how to tackle the gigantic metal monster — the better. For brilliant boss battles that packed one hell of a punch in an FPS game, look no further than 2016’s Doom, developed by the same studio as Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Id Software took notes, I think.

The most important questions, when preparing any sort of long-form critique about a video game have to do with the genre and how the game performs compared to the average expectations and performances of other representatives of that genre. Follow each thread, observe how the game does, and its weaknesses and strengths become evident enough.

The rest is…only words.