We last reported on Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics when it was launched on Kickstarter. A few months have passed, funding was successful, and indeed, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics will hit consoles (Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch) and PC in Q4 this year. You can check out the announcement trailer below:
Developed by Bristol-based Auroch Digital and to be published by Ripstone Games, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics challenges you to save the world from Nazis. But not just Nazis, also the other-worldly monstrosities they’ve uncovered through the occult.
Based on the wildly successful tabletop RPG from Modiphius Entertainment, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is set in an alternate World War II where the Nazis have gained a considerable advantage by summoning Lovecraftian monsters that could enable them to destroy the allies. Players take control of Charlie Company, an elite band of allied forces, sent in to do the impossible: foil the Nazi plans and turn the tide of war.
“We loved Modiphius’ pulp mash-up of World War II Nazis and the Cthulhu Mythos. It’s an incredibly evocative and exciting alternative history which makes for a unique tabletop experience”
said Nina Adams, Producer at Auroch Digital.
“We’re taking that nigh-on faultless foundation and transporting it into the video game medium, via our favourite genre, the turn-based tactics game. With the genre experiencing something of a comeback in recent years, we feel Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics will not only deliver an incredibly compelling theme and world to play in but also offer innovative gameplay possibilities.”
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics utilizes a mix of turn-based strategy and RPG mechanics as players embark on a globe-trotting campaign against the forces of evil. Each hero character features their own backstory, weapon specialisations, and combat abilities to give players an edge in the battlefield. Captain Eric “Badger” Harris is a British Intelligence operative who specializes in experimental weaponry and guerrilla warfare; Ariane Dubois is a French Resistance member who’s bonded with a demonic spirit creature that she can command on the battlefield; Corporal Akhee “The Eye” Singh wields a sentient amulet that can transform him into a whirling cloud of blades; and Sergeant Brandon Carter is a loud-mouthed American soldier with a medallion that imbues his signature Thompson submachine gun, with Mythos-fuelled bullets that can tear through the Nazi’s horrifying creations.
Beyond these four main heroes, Charlie Company is joined by the covert ops of Badger’s Commando Unit, and the Native American tribe The Keijn – or “Pathfinder Demon Hunters” as they’re often known.
In the world of Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics, all Allied forces fight better in the light. Step into the dark, however, and the forces of evil will grow ever more powerful.
So, I’m going to split this Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution review into 2 parts, purely because I feel that way you will get a true sense of what I have had to endure to bring it to you. The first section will be the first 10 minutes and the second will be everything after that. Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution is a turn based strategy game where you play a squirrel rising up against King Louis the Umteenth who is squandering all their taxes on an extravagant lifestyle.
There you have it, it’s basically the French Revolution played out by squirrels. The one squirrel who stood up to the government goes by the name of Charles De Montesquirrel. The game starts off quite basic with the title screen being uncluttered containing basic single player or multiplayer options. You’re greeted with a small museum type tour of the back story and then thrust into the first level that starts with a small yet comprehensive tutorial.
Each level is set up, where each player has half of the map, each player’s area is separated into squares. In each square you set up your defenses and your fighters. Your defenses come in the form of barrels, however if you align 3 barrels together they then convert into sandbags with more HP and harder for enemies to destroy. Likewise with your fighters, your initial army consists of squirrels with pistols but you can combine three to make a rifleman, then three riflemen to make a bomber. You have a set amount of fighters and defenses at the start of each turn so it’s up to you to plan ahead to have the best chance of winning the round. You get acorns as your currency so you have to spend wisely.
Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution is really easy to get the hang of in a short amount of time and the objective is clear. Once I had played and won the first 2 rounds I started to think more about strategy and the levels offered quite a healthy challenge. This however is the first 10 minutes over and things went rapidly down hill.
At the start of every turn the dreaded Tax Man takes some of your acorns, 50 at first but this goes up to 100 once you hit stage three, I’m only guessing but it’ll probably be more as you progress through the game. This of course gives the Tax Man an advantage as he has more disposable income to spend on upgrades. On your half of the map a pile of acorns will spawn and you have to collect them by planting your defenses or soldier squirrels on that square, you also get a bonus of 50 acorns when you combine three pieces. It quickly becomes clear that the Tax Man generates more acorns than you and at a faster pace putting you at a disadvantage right form the start.
The Tax man is the first stage boss, with five chapters in total the thought of ploughing through the game to get the the 5th boss made me want to cry. Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution got frustrating very quickly, the difficulty spike was insane and often unfair. The Tax man would steal your acorns at the start of each turn then upgrade his base for some random reason giving him more hit points, this would happen just when you thought you had the upper hand. It’s a good time to point out, my base didn’t upgrade at any point any there was no option to do so. I would have expected this type of shenanigan as you get to the end game but this was stage three.
Needless to say I started to lose the plot a little as it seemed impossible. In true sportsman fashion I took a break to make a cuppa and calm down a touch so I paused the game and walked away. I could however still hear the game being played so I walked over to my Xbox and noticed that the game was still going even though I had paused it. That for me was it, I was done. For a game to become so frustrating and imbalanced at such an early stage screamed that this game was not for me and not worthy of anymore of my time. I don’t want to be too hard because I know just how much time and effort goes into making games, even the small ones. I sat for hours and hours 30 years ago typing code into a Commodore Vic 20 only to have a shape move across a screen, so I can imagine the painstaking process it takes to get game from start to finish.
I thought I may have been a bit unfair so I did some research into Hightale Studios, the developers behind Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution. They are a small team of just four people with presumably a small budget. They have spent 1095 days and written 5546 lines of code to make the game. 1647 people have download the game and I’d be surprised if 1647 people aren’t completely frustrated with it. I’m pretty sure that Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution’s issues could be fixed with a patch. The game isn’t unpleasant to look at but it quickly become tiresome with not enough to keep you wanting to play. The unfair gameplay and difficulty spike so early on makes the game easy to walk away from. It is such a shame as the multiplayer could be so much fun. I would be glad to play the game once again once the issues have been ironed but until then it’s on my “Ready to Install” list.
Thank you to Hightail Studios and Xbox for supporting TiX
Over the years, I’ve played a few Games Workshop’s offerings. They’re based in my home town of Nottingham, so it sort of makes sense. From Warhammer to Space Hulk, the table-top nights of years past were always a little fun. I never got so much into it that I played the Mordheim series and in some respects that’s sad. The digital offerings have varied. Space Hulk on the Amiga was amazing fun, taking top-down, turn based gaming to another level at the time. Can we place Mordheim: City of the Damned in the same bracket for today’s consoles?
Mordheim is a tactical RPG based on the tabletop game of the same name. A twin-tailed comet has smashed into the Empire city of Mordheim, scattering magical Wyrdstone all over the ruins. Fight as one of four main Warbands, battling to control key neighbourhoods in this shattered city. The story is set during the intro of the game, which repeats every time you load the game up, irritatingly.
If you’re going to invest in Mordheim: City of the Damned, than I’d highly recommend running through the Training sections right from the off. This simply isn’t a game that you can launch yourself into. To put it in simple terms, you’ll get mullared from the off and from there it’s a downward spiral into frustration and misery. That being said, you sort of sleepwalk through the tutorials. There are so many elements to the game it’s a miracle if you don’t get overwhelmed by the number of things that you have available as turn choices.
Turn choices. There’s the biggest gripe I have with the game, right there. To get to the action, you first have to select a Warband to create. There’s four to choose from, being, Skaven clan Eshin, Human Mercs, Sisters of Sigmar and Cult of the Possessed. At the time of this review, the Cult was paid DLC only, which was a huge disappointment. Once you’re banded, you need to buy your members with your limited funds. There are several classes of warrior to pick and each one has different attributes, such as ranged attack, heavy attack, leadership etc. Its fairly standard for RPGs.
When you’re finally ready to start your campaign, you sort of sit there, waiting for something to happen. The campaign launches a Map screen and from there you get to pick a mission that will lead you, eventually, to the streets of the beleaguered city. Here’s where it gets a bit sketchy. You get the opportunity to add warriors to your Warband here, but its not explained how you manage this, nor if you’ve been successful in adding them. This can result in you fielding a vastly under-strength group of warriors. Not that this would seem to matter. No matter where you start on the difficulty scale, your warriors will be axe-fodder.
I’ll explain. As you attempt missions, you’ll gain XP which can lead to skill upgrades, even if you were defeated, or as the game calls it, routed. During the course of the battles, if your warriors are debilitated or killed, you’ll get a report on their injuries and their chances of survival at the end of each mission. In one battle, my Hero received significant nerve damage, rendering him pretty much useless for the remainder of his warrior life. Despite this, you still have to pay the warrior upkeep, despite running very short on gold. Thus the downward spiral of Mordheim: City of the Damned begins.
Start a mission then, and you will start your ‘turn’. These are performed in rounds and I still struggle to follow the logic behind how they are playing out. Your Hero or Leader seems to go, thus exposing him as you’re never sure when the enemy will be moving, then the enemy start to move. After this, the rest of your Warband move. I still don’t understand why it happens like this. As with some classic games, like Laser Squad, Mordheim makes you think about the trade-off between moving great distance and attacking. The options that you have use some form of Action Points, but as I seemed to go through the Tutorial in something of a malaise, I couldn’t for the life of me tell you where these are on the display.
These turns allow you to choose a finishing ‘stance’ from your warrior. Choose from Hold Ground, Ambush, Dodge or Parry depending on whether you’re engaged with an enemy. The combat mechanic is, if truth be told, a massive disappointment in this game. I get that Developer, Rogue Factor, want to try to capture the essence of the tabletop game and the way that they inevitably run in turns, but this serves to make the digital version confusing and frankly tedious.
Once you’re engaged with your enemy it’s a case of tap A then A again. There’s no feeling that what you’re doing after that isn’t down to anything other than luck. If luck is all that the game uses to score hits, misses, dodges or parries, then I must have completely lucked out in life. There’s no connection to the gamer, not like other tactical RPGs on the market.
Make no mistake, Mordheim: City of the Damned is, right from the outset, tough. I tried to stick with it, but I’ve not won a mission yet. I’ve been soundly routed every single time. After five or six of these and with you having run out of gold to pay for your warrior’s upkeep and medical needs, it’s pretty much capitulation each time, with no chance of completing missions. It’s like real life but more brutal.
The city itself is beautifully rendered and the characters are nicely drawn and well animated. There was something that didn’t really ring true with the city streets though, and it took me a few days to realise what it was. There are no citizens left in the ruins. No dregs of humanity or the remnants of occupation. No wildlife or mutants hiding in the rubble to try to catch you out. It’s simply unrealistic.
Mordheim: City of the Damned is a missed opportunity. The decision to make this a turn based RPG doesn’t really work as the turn order in each round doesn’t make any sense at all. There’s permadeath in the game as well as debilitating injuries suffered in battle. This adds to the atmosphere but makes the difficulty ramp more of a 50-foot wall than a gradual incline and the over-complicated, plodding tutorial does nothing to inspire the player to remember what you’re supposed to be doing and in what order. The game is over-complicated and far too challenging to be enjoyable. The Campaign is sectioned into days for example. Nowhere does it mention this. I flipped around the Campaign menus, looking to start another inevitable rout only to find that I needed to end the day and recover injuries before I could try again. It’s an awful decision from the developers. The game would have fared much better by being a traditional Hack ‘n’ Slash RPG. It’s not a game-changer in it’s field. It’s simply a frustrating, difficult, confusing mess.
Remember that alien invasion in 2012 and the creation of the XCOM organisation to fight back under your command? Well, as it turns out, you lost. However, this feels thematically spot on. Based on your average playthrough of XCOM Enemy Unknown, with the countless soldiers you lost and retires required to win, losing the war overall makes sense and sets up this sequel rather nicely.
Now with XCOM 2, the enemy is no longer unknown and 20 years have passed since Earth was conquered. Humanity now lives alongside the aliens, seemingly benefiting from their advanced technology, but of course the aliens have their own agenda. XCOM has been reduced to a small resistance force, but once they rescue you and place you back in command, as well as secure a power core, they have the means to fight back. This time around your resources are even more limited and engagements take up a guerrilla war style; flying all over the world in a modified alien ship to search out support and aid pockets of resistance, whilst gathering the evidence needed to prove to the rest of the world that the aliens are not as benevolent as they seem.
It feel pleasantly familiar. Your home base – the modified alien ship – acts very much like it did in the previous instalment, allowing you to research new technology, upgrade and promote your troops, and build new rooms to accommodate and fulfil the advancements you need to step up your fight against the aliens. Moreover, thanks to the passing 20 years, there’s now more history involved. It’s a more personal story this time around. In fact there’s a great deal more storytelling. There’s been logical improvements to base-technologies that are easier to accept. Meanwhile, the reason for your capture by the aliens makes the fight more emotional, enhanced further by any knowledge you have from the previous title.
Your engagements with the aliens are much different as well. You’re fighting a more tactical war this time. Rather than taking the alien menace straight on, you’re attacking strategically important targets and locations, striking from the shadows. This manifests itself in a new stealth mechanic. The majority of you missions start you concealed from the enemy, strongly encouraging you to sneak up on your targets, scope out the area as much as possible, and place your troops in the best position to attack. This is further driven home by just how effective the alien forces are.
Enemy AI is excellent. They’ll look for opportunities to flank you, they call in or wait for reinforcements so to face you with superior numbers, and their weaponry can decimate your troops in a shot or two. It’s staggeringly difficult at first, however, once you figure out all the mechanics and how to best use each class of soldier you have, things get a little easier.
Using the terrain to protect yourself and draw the enemy to you is a big part of the strategy, with elevation playing an even bigger part than in Enemy Unknown. Setting a Sharpshooter up on overwatch a fair distance from the battlefield whist your Grenadier flushes enemies out of cover can be a recipe for success. Meanwhile, Staying hidden but allowing your Ranger to get in close and slit some throats whilst your Specialist is flying a drone around to scope the area and complete the primary objective, is another sound strategy. However, XCOM 2 uses procedural map and objective generation to provide a different mission each time you leave the dropship, meaning no campaign playthrough is the same, extending XCOM 2’s longevity a great deal and putting the ownness on you to devise the best strategies. The terrain, your available units and their upgrades, your mission object, how long you can stay concealed, and the countless choices you make each turn can all add up to very different encounters with your enemy; figuring out how to deal with the hand your draw is part of the fun.
And it is fun, hugely so. Much like its predecessor it’s tactically compelling and rewarding to figure out the puzzle that is the battlefield. This is also the case for upgrading your soldiers. Each class has two upgrade paths that benefit different styles of play, and developing enough soldiers with a diverse set of skills to help in different missions is a criticle and involved consideration. It involves you sending rookies out to gain experience, giving you the risk/reward consideration for mission success verses soldier experience. And of course, XCOM 2 is hugely challenging and your will lose countless troops, but often this is an inevitable cost to complete the objective, making the story even more personal and gripping and gives the risk/reward even more weight.
Fortunately, you can opt to retreat if an objective is too risky or difficult to complete, saving your precious squad. You can also save anywhere and reload to your heart’s content, but with no checkpoints in-mission you better remember to do so. Unfortunately, however, loading times when reloading a save are a little on the long side, which isn’t much of a surprise when you see how beautiful XCOM 2 looks.
A varied colour palette and densely packed environments makes each mission a visual treat. Meanwhile, cinematic camera angles during the action phase of a turn builds the tension whilst superb sound effects from the weapons makes a critical shot all the more exciting and rewarding, if it hits. Of course actually hitting a target is sometimes unfair, with occasions where point blank shots on enemies miss and unobstructed lines of fire have an entirely arbitrary percentage to hit. Incidentally the aliens will also sometimes shoot straight through walls and nail impossible shots on your soldiers. Further bugs also hamper the experience slightly, with characters sometimes freezing in place and not executing commands for 10-15 seconds, and cutscenes occasionally hit frame rate problems.
Fortunately, the fun outweighs the occasional frustration; no matter how often you fail a mission there’s always plenty of alternative actions you can take to try and find success, and exploring them is joyous. Despite its steep difficulty this is a turn-based strategy masterpiece with a wonderfully engaging story to compliment it, although it is a shame that the DLC from the PC version isn’t bundled with it as standard and is instead available separately.
With its ‘choose your own adventure’ decision options, a Disney meets Don Bluth 2D art style, European medieval fantasy setting and intuitive yet tactically deep combat, The Banner Saga is primed to immerse you for hours on end. Moreover, its many branching paths means each playthrough spins its own unique tale in a world where the sun has died and the Varl and Human races’ precarious alliance is on the verge of collapse.
The Banner Saga sees you take control of two caravans of warriors marching across the frozen land to pay tribute to the old gods and combat the demonic dredge that threaten to bring chaos to the dying world. The caravans march on a beautiful 2D layered panoramic perspective of the land is punctuated by events that occur during the march, stops in towns and camps with further events, and grid-based combat.
The events themselves are a mixture of narrative moments and random occurrences, seeing you converse with your fellow adventurers and make decisions on how to proceed. These decisions can have long-lasting effects on your story, removing a character from your caravan or even killing them off. Meanwhile, other decisions can affect your supplies and morale which can cause issues in the near future. It’s a terrific minefield of unknown consequences that can play out completely differently for each person’s playthrough, resulting in a wonderfully complex web of narrative possibilities. This also occurs with combat, where defeat isn’t necessarily game over, making the adventure feel somewhat more grounded in reality than in many other games, despite the Tolkien-esque fantasy setting.
The combat itself is a grid turn-based affair that centres around three stats: strength, armour and willpower. Your strength doubles up as both your health and your attack power, introducing an interesting tactical challenge where the longer a battle continues the weaker you typically get. Armour, meanwhile, simply measures how much of an incoming attack can be deflected, whilst willpower offers the chance to increase your movement and attack strength from a finite pool that only replenishes outside of combat. It’s a fairly simple system that’s very easy to fathom. Characters and enemies receive a turn based on the order shown at the bottom of the screen, and a turn allows you to move and attack. Varls are larger than humans and take up four squares on the grid whilst humans take up one. The complexity comes with how you use this simple system to defeat your foes.
When you attack you can choose to target their strength/health or their armour. Reducing a foe’s armour means you can deal more damage in the future but means your foes will hit harder come their turn. Meanwhile, if a foe’s armour is higher than your strength, then your ability to inflict damage is reduced giving you a percentage chance to hit, therefore encouraging you to reduce their armour before targeting their strength/health. Additionally some characters have special abilities they can unleash, such as the ability to hit multiple opponents with one attack. When attacking and moving you can spend willpower to increase the amount of damage you inflict or grid squares you can move, adding a tactical consideration, but willpower is limited and won’t replenish automatically in combat, so you need to spend it wisely. It all comes together to offer a fun and easy to learn combat system that offers a nice range of tactical possibilities.
With the experience shifting between combat and narrative heavy dialogue and decisions it’s a shame so little of it is voiced, meanwhile the sound effects for the environments, weapons and attacks are disappointing. The soundtrack is fantastic, however. Environments are also lacking in variety, and whilst the narrative doesn’t allow for anything but a frozen landscape there was still plenty of opportunity for more variety and detail in the combat arenas. Then there’s the loading, which, whilst fairly short, was relentless. Practically every screen transition required a black loading screen, and with the lack of any heavy-duty assets to bring in the constant need for loading is baffling. There was also noticeable stuttering during dialogue sections when the camera transitioned between characters. It’s not the worst case of poor optimisation but it’s noticeable enough to threaten your immersion in the otherwise excellent storytelling.
The Banner Saga offers a brilliant branching path story with intense and accessible turn-based combat that’s hard to put down. Death can take any number of characters you’ve learnt to love away and decisions can seriously affect how your tale unfolds, making it a wonderfully compelling personal experience within an intriguing fantasy world. Here’s hoping the other two parts of this saga see completion and fix the technical problems that keep the title from achieving the high praise is otherwise certainly deserves.