Tag Archives: 11 bit studios

Moonlighter Review

I’ve often bemoaned the lack of shop-keeping sub-games in Rogue-likes. Well, I haven’t really, but obviously some bright spark at Digital Sun and 11-bit Studios did, because essentially that’s the basis of Moonlighter,

In Moonlighter you play as Will, who owns the local store (appropriately called Moonlighter) in a town called Mynoka. By day Will works the till, selling his goods to the local tourists who all visit the town because of the nearby dungeons. These are five, mystical portals to other worlds with fearsome creatures and boundless treasures, where death awaits those you enter unprepared. By night, Will visits these dungeons to slay the creatures within, collecting all the wonderful loot whilst desperately trying to solve the three floors of each dungeon to reach the boss that lies in wait. These treasures are what Will sells the very next day. And so lies the simplicity and addictiveness of Moonlighter. You see, to progress, Will needs to upgrade his armour and weapons which can only be done by introducing a Blacksmith into Rynoka, which costs money earned by selling treasures. Will also needs health potions, made by the potion maker, which also requires money to open. You are always only one (or perhaps more) successful dungeon run(s) away from that next upgrade. Both the town and your shop can be upgraded, and as you progress you can actually employ someone to manage the shop for you, leaving you to hit the dungeons a lot harder!

Death in the dungeons is not as punishing as in other Rogue-likes. There is no permanent death for Will. Instead he will find himself stripped of all treasure and booted back to the town. This could be potentially disastrous if it wasn’t for a few tricks Will has up his sleeve. Firstly is the magic amulet, that for the cost of a few hundred gold will teleport Will out of the dungeon with all his loot intact. There is also a teleporter, which for a few thousand coins will allow Will to travel back to the town, offload the current haul, and then allow him to return to the dungeon to continue on. All the dungeons are procedurally generated, so you’re never quite sure of what is through that next door. Each floor of each dungeon is progressively harder, but the treasure contained is of a higher value, so there is always an element of risk and reward.

Once you return to your store the secondary element of gameplay kicks in. You have to manually set the prices of the goods on offer to their optimum value, and the only way to find this out is by trial and error. When a customer looks at the price they react with a thought bubble above their heads. These reactions and selling prices are then stored in your trusty notebook so you can adjust accordingly on the next sale. You will also need to deal with shoplifters and react quickly to stop them stealing valuable items. As you progress through store upgrades you will also get requests from customers who want certain items on certain days, and will pay well over the odds for this privilege, which is a great way to earn money quickly. If you don’t have the goods it will mean more dungeon runs to collect them before the time runs out.

These dungeon runs and the creatures you face may look simple, but some rooms can be downright deadly. A walk through a door to find upwards of six enemies who will all chase you, or fire projectiles at you can result in your death quite quickly. Luckily, one room on each floor contains a healing pool, so you can always retrace your steps to heal if you have run out of health potions. However, take too long on each floor and a large monster will spawn to chase you until you teleport out or reach the exit. Enemies will need different strategies to defeat and you will need to modify your play style when you enter each room in order to get out alive.You do go equipped with a number of different weapons at your disposal. Although you start out with a broom, you soon earn enough money to buy a sword and shield, a bow or a spear in order to become a more effective killing machine. All of these can be upgraded by the Blacksmith, and enchanted by the Potion maker, so you’re always getting stronger and more powerful.

I always find it tricky to review a game when I haven’t actually completed it, but Moonlighter is a tough game to beat, assuming the end goal is to beat all four main dungeons to unlock the fifth, and beat that one too. I have put in over twenty hours and am still only on the third dungeon, but I’m pretty sure the gameplay isn’t going to change dramatically on later levels. Moonlighter is a really great game, as the balance between game modes is great, even if the shop-keeping element can sometimes feel a bit frustrating when it comes to reaching that sweet price point of items. There is a great deal of strategic thinking required when in the dungeon, whether or not is is worth pushing through to the next room and risk losing all of the loot, or to cut your losses and escape by using the amulet. Your inventory is limited as well, meaning at some points you are swapping the treasures around in order to maximise those profits back at the store. There is always that feeling of “just one more go” in order to earn enough cash for that next upgrade, at which point that feeling reappears as you then want to go back in to see just how much stronger you have got, and how further you can go.

Graphically its definitely inspired by those retro RPG’s of old, and the inside of your store and home looks gorgeous. Musically is very pretty as well, although as similar music plays throughout I did head for the options to turn that volume down. The creatures in the dungeons could do with a bit more detail in places, as some are just blobs, but even so they move and attack in their own specific way. Despite the gameplay feeling pretty spot-on I did have a few occasions where I did at times feel I was just grinding in order to get enough money to upgrade, but this was relieved by upgrading the store to the next level, which opened up the requests mechanic, which very quickly doubled the profits, but this wasn’t signposted to me at all, which some players will appreciate and some (like me) will not. I also found it restrictive that you couldn’t fire diagonally, which did add extra complexity to fighting as a lot of the enemies could move diagonally!

Moonlighter is also available for under £20 and the Xbox One version is also Xbox Play Anywhere, so you cross-save between the Xbox and PC version, which is an absolute bargain. I did look at purchasing for the Switch as well, but it is not available until September 27th 2018, so I guess I will have to wait!

A really great game, just go and buy it now!

Many thanks to Digital Sun and 11 bit Studios for supporting TiX

This War of Mine: The Little Ones review

There have been plenty of games about war, but they have almost always been from the perspective of the soldier – isn’t it about a time we played something from a civilian’s perspective? 11 bit studios released This War of Mine back in 2014 on PC and explored this very theme – now it’s on Xbox One and comes with added little people.

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There’s no pre-story, no tutorial, just a group of survivors holed up in a shelter that’s in desperate need of some TLC. You must direct them to patch up the shelter, building defenses and amenities so they can survive the coming weeks and seasons until a ceasefire is called and some form of normality can be returned to their lives.

By day snipers make the streets unsafe so you must use this time to work on your shelter and nurse sick survivors back to health – the day is on a timer (as is the evening cycle) so you must plan carefully. Each task takes a certain amount of time to complete, so you won’t complete all your chores before night sets in. Under the cover of darkness one of your group can sneak out to scavenge for supplies while the others sleep or guard the shelter and the precious supplies you’ve already gathered.

While out scavenging, you have to navigate each area, careful not to make too much noise and attract any unwanted attention. The day and night activities reminded me of The Escapists, which I absolutely adored, so it’s no surprise then that This War of Mine has hit similar highs.

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While an option, combat is a last resort. Should you decide to stand and fight, you will more than likely be left badly injured or worse, dead. Your character can also end up emotionally scarred should they end up killing someone. Here lies the biggest challenge: deciding when to take a risk. Scavenging can often lead to theft – the best loot isn’t just left lying around – and stealing from someone not only comes with the risk of being caught, but also has the potential to impact your own community. Returning with food, meds and supplies can raise questions. A scavenger may even confess as to how they robbed someone blind or worse, left somebody for dead. You may be able to manage hunger, illness and tiredness, but the emotional wellbeing of your survivors can often be out of your control and this can be the tipping point that cracks your community.

What starts as something simple turns into a game where every choice has a consequence. Every decision is a hard one that rests on your conscience making each choice all the harder, especially when children are thrown into the mix. Do you feed the starving child or keep food for the strongest members of your party? Who do you send out to scavenge and who should stand guard? Choices get harder as time goes on. Survivors fall out, illness sets in, very soon your carefully managed community goes to shit – and it’s wonderful.

One by one the inhabitants of my shelter left – nobody died – but soon Bruno, the one who had cared for everyone and done all the cooking, was left all alone. It was incredibly sad. He moped about the house and when he became deathly sick, he lied in bed waiting for the inevitable to come. He lasted a week and just as winter set in Bruno couldn’t take the suffering anymore and committed suicide, never to see the end of the war.

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There are plenty of moments like this, pulling at your heartstrings. Some situations develop after you’ve made what might seem like a simple decision but ends up having an unfortunate outcome. It’s sad in places, but that’s the point; this isn’t a happy game, it’s about the struggles of war.

The biggest question the game asks of you is whether you have any morals? Do you care for those you meet or protect those at your shelter? While exploring a resource rich ‘quiet house’, I found an elderly couple – they’ve had a good run right? – Robbing them of their supplies meant they couldn’t survive and upon returning to their house, I discovered what my actions had done. Even if you can live with this, your character remembers what has happened.

These actions are reflected in the narrative of the game; each character has a bio card where diary entries are made. These include thoughts and feelings about their current situation and towards the other survivors currently living in the shelter. You can also read a house statement that gives clues as to what you should be building next.

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War is not a happy, careless Call of Duty experience. It’s tough and filled with difficult decisions. It’s particularly bleak for those caught in the middle of it and this has been captured perfectly by the excellent artistic direction of the game – black and white pencil drawings. There’s no respite from the soundtrack either. Beautifully composed, it compliments the setting perfectly but will provide no solace for the desperate and depressing situation you might find your survivors in.

This War of Mine: The Little Ones is an incredible piece of work. It’s humbling, emotional and tough to beat, but as well-balanced as it is I did stumble upon a situation where upon being attacked (and retaliating) my character became sad. When returning to the scene of the crime and looting further – each character became increasingly more depressed that we had left the camp with fewer and fewer supplies after each raid, yet the survivors at that location were both dead thanks to my earlier ‘incident’. Eventually my favourite character and choice scavenger could no longer live with the guilt and left the shelter.

A civilian’s take on war might sound like a dull prospect but 11 bit studios have created a compelling and engaging experience within the survival genre. It may not have high action, but This War of Mine stands out as one of the best titles I have experienced, leaving a lasting memory of what I had played.

Thanks to Xbox and Koch Media for their support

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Deep Silver reveal This War of Mine: The Little Ones

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War is so often depicted in video games from the eye of the combatants. A few years ago, developer 11 bit studios released a game based on the seige of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. It told the story of survival in the conflict zone from the civilian perspective.

Deep Silver have announced an Xbox One release of This War of Mine: The Little Ones, set inside a makeshift shelter in a war-torn city. The main goal of the game is to survive the war with the tools that the group of characters you control can gather and craft.

This isn’t an ordinary romp through the park though. Snipers will prevent you from venturing out in the daytime, so you’d be better to spend that time honing your tools, trading, upgrading the shelter and healing the injured. Make your way out under cover of darkness and scavenge what you can, where you can in an effort to make it through tomorrow.

This group of folk have no specialist training, no survival experience. It’s up to you to help them make life-or-death decisions that will settle their fate.

This War of Mine: The Little Ones is due for release on Xbox One on the 29th of January 2016.

The Halo Channel drops on to iOS and Android devices

Now you can enjoy all your favourite Halo programs on the move – the Halo Channel is available on iOS and Android – but before you jump for joy too much, it’s worth noting that some shows aren’t available! I’m looking at you Halo Nightfall – even though it states on the website that you can view it – doing so gives you the message that the content is only available via the Halo Channel on Xbox One or Windows.

You can however view a ton of additional content that does work via the smartphone app, and the app UI is pretty damn slick too – well played 343i.

You can download the Halo Channel for iOS here, or for Android here. Fans who download the app and watched any video will receive a unique emblem REQ pack for Halo 5 Guardians.