Tag: indie game

Factorio Review

Developer: Wube Software
Publisher: Wube Software
Music: Daniel James Taylor
Platforms: PC only – Windows, macOS, Linux
Released: 14th August 2020
Genre: Simulation / RTS / Building / Management / Tower defence

Factorio in my house has a reputation, for my wife knows I will be lost for two days, rave of mathematical ratios and alien biters, and somehow gain the focus of a cramming uni student abusing caffeine and amphetamines.

But what is this, my game of 2020 and drug of choice?

Factorio was successfully crowdfunded in 2013 and released into early access on steam in early 2016. I first played Factorio later that year after binge watching youtubers creating vast belted megafactories. Visually, it is a top down, 2.1D isometric game like RTS games circa 1999, while also having a dreary diesel punk aesthetic. Despite this the world is rich with biomes, natural fauna, and easily identifiable resources to feed the factory.

Game play wise it is a beast of real-time strategy, automation, resource management and base defence.

The basic premise of Factorio is that you have crash landed on a planet and need to survive. This is really only present in the tutorial and when you set off your first rocket, the endgame trigger. The rest of the game is the dieselpunk version of Man Vs Wild while you set your mind to the machinations of the machine, engineering an extravaganza of a mega-base while protecting yourself from the natural life forms attracted by your pollution and hell bent on destroying your creations.

To create your first factory you mine, belt, chop, hand craft and build before progressing to automating with belts, inserters, and trains. The final step, if you are brave enough, the birth of true automation with flying robots, wires and storage all controlled through logistics and programming.

Your factory is now vast and consuming, both in resources and time. You stare bleary eyed at not only how long you have been staring at the screen, but how many hours you have now accumulated in your steam profile. Calculations and spread sheets strewn across your desktop as you have calculated the exact ratios of ore to final products.

This game captivates the engineer in me. The organisation to compact and replicate, modularise and expand. But I’ll be honest, I play on peaceful. For without this, those biters, worms and spitters come in ever increasing waves. They expand and search for weaknesses, and one day you look up from your hard work and hear the alarm and they’re chomping at your power station and everything goes dark.

Speaking of sound, the atmospheric sounds are inconspicuous. I don’t mean that in a bad way, rather everything sounds right for the situation. Footsteps on grass, sand, concrete and metal all sound right for the situation. The intervals between the musical interludes are filled with the wind in the wilds, or if you are in your factory the hum of machinery and belts, the crackle of arching electrics or the soft bells of sonar from the radar tower.

The musical composition of Daniel Hames Taylor highlights the desolation and feeling of isolation while still remaining calming and optimistic, it is also memorable and repeated enough so that years after playing, reopening the game and listening to the game’s music brings back instant nostalgia to the hours of gameplay you previously invested. However, should the music grate on your psyche, as in most things in this game, there’s a slider for that.

Overall while I’m sure you can tell I enjoy the game there are some teething issues for new players. The controls and key board shortcuts are extensive and while the tutorial shows a good selection of the basics, the huge selection of inbuilt shortcuts can be overwhelming to learn. There’s also little after the tutorial to tell you what or how to do things. You are left to your own devices, a research tree, and your own brain to guide you. This tends to lead new players to restart their first map a few times before getting into their stride. And when you set up your map everything has a slider, from the progression of the biters to how rich ore patches are, how many natural cliffs, water fronts and trees you need to cut down, destroy or pave over to expand your ever growing factropolis.

The developers Wube Software continue to actively develop the game, while also developing new toys and squashing bugs. The modding community is also highly active and can add different gameplay loops and complexities to your engineering marvel.

If this has wet your whistle for a play you can find a demo available at factorio.com, or you can buy if from that same website or from steam.

 

Dune Sea

Developer: Frolic Labs
Publisher: Frolic Labs
Music: Jake Butineau
Platforms: Steam, Switch
Released: 10 – 10 – 2019
Genre: Side-scroller, adventure

You are a goose, and it’s time to fly.

Perched on the edge of a cliff, you don’t know what’s ahead of you, but with a leap you spread your wings, embarking on a journey.

The destination isn’t important, the joy of Dune Sea is in the journey. The process. Watching the landscape go by, making your way through the air, finding and coaxing friends to join your ramshackle flock, avoiding obstacles, learning how to soar with acrobatic grace.

Dune Sea is a side-scrolling adventure game, if adventure meant a meditative zen-like experience with a little bit of a challenge. With a simple, low-poly art style, soothing music, and a steady pace, Dune Sea is exactly what I needed to play, when everything was too overwhelming, too noisy, or just took too much energy.

Gameplay is soothing, if that wasn’t clear already. It introduces controls simply and slowly. First, let’s figure out how to hop off the cliff and spread your wings. Next, figure out how to fly quickly, change directions, and how and where to land for a rest. A some of the controls are explained to you, but a lot you are left to figure out. You’ll pick up some little collectables and learn that it’ll give you a bit more stamina. You’ll also learn what happens when you do run out of stamina.

A lot of it is very straightforward, and what you’d expect from a game like this. But you have a few interesting tricks to learn. If you encounter a flock of birds, honk at them! One of them may decide to tag along for a little while. And with enough bird friends, you’ll be able to unlock new and interesting pathways, and move past difficult obstacles. Is it necessary? Not really! But who doesn’t want a ragtag flock who can help you blast rocks?

Sometimes, the lack of explanation can be frustrating. I had quite a lot of trouble at the very first launch, where I was told to press two buttons, but I didn’t really know how to, or how long, or in what order.

I’m not afraid to admit I crashed off that cliff at least half a dozen times. But once the mechanics of flight clicked, it clicked, and the rest just fell into place. It helps that it is a forgiving game, with plenty of checkpoints. You don’t get punished harshly for a mis-timed dive. Instead the game goes ‘hey, let’s give that another go’. So you spend less time struggling, and more time just enjoying the journey.

In addition, there is a Zen Mode, where you don’t even have to worry about obstacles or crashing. You can choose to only have to fly.

Like the simple art style, and soothing gameplay, the music just ties it all together. You don’t HAVE to listen to the music, but I think you need to. It’s so gentle, melodic, easy to allow into the background of your flight. It really ties it together, giving pace to your experience. Gentle guitar tones, violins in the background, an echo of the melody rings in the background. It feels open, and warm. I wouldn’t fall asleep to it, but I found it relaxing. I had a better meditation experience playing this game, than I did in my last yoga class. Everything just compliments each other so well, woven into one experience.

There’s no rush, no glaring need to keep flying, no overwhelming drive to DO things. It just lets you fly.

What is Dune Sea? It is a journey, an experience, that serves no other purpose than to just let you experience it. Your destination doesn’t matter. Your goals can be to just stay off the ground. You can build a giant mega-flock, or you can just see where the game takes you, for as long as you want. It’s not exciting, it’s not busy, it’s sort of boring. But in the way that paddling down a quiet river in a canoe, and you look up at the sky and watch the clouds drift by is boring. In the way that sitting by a stream, and tossing sticks into it and mentally betting on which stick will reach the big rock first is boring. In the way that sitting on the train and watching the landscape change and the buildings go by is boring.

It just felt like, for a few minutes at a time, I could just breath. And fly.

That is Dune sea.

Reviewed by Zahra Pending @Degari_rose on 2nd of December 2020

Zed Games Podcast – Episode 263


262

In Studio: Razor, Lee May, Jody Macgregor and special guest host Tim Dawson from Witchbeam.

This week: Jody reviews Pillars of Eternity(PC), an epic role playing game forged in tribute to the isometric RPG’s of the 90’s/early 00’s. Lee & Razor discuss their first impressions of Bloodborne (PS4). Tim gives us an update on the progress of twin-stick shooter Assault Android Cactus.
Aired 1 April 2015.

Subscribe to the Zed Games Podcast on iTunes

Zed Games Podcast – Episode 240


240

48 Hour Game Making Challenge special!

We follow the journey of 3 teams (Loquacity & Hubris, Lucky Dip and Rockin’ Legacy) as they compete in the annual #fab48hr game making challenge, held 3-5 October 2014 at QUT Kelvin Grive Campus. We also speak with Truna, the “auntie” of the event and two of the judges, Pras and Peter.

Benn and Andrew – two members of the winning team Matchbox Battery – join us live in studio!

Lee reviews Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Thank you: Everyone who took the time to chat with us, even when the pressure was enormous!
Music:
Snabisch – Dance and Jump
Eric Matyas – Digital Clouds
Eric Matyas – Puzzle Game 3
Eric Matyas – Cyber Streets
Gichco – Prophecy of Domination

All music is believed to be in the public domain. Please get in touch if you believe we’ve infringed your copyright.

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Zed Games Podcast – Episode 208

208

Razor chats with David and Drew of IRL Shooter, creators of Patient 0: a live-action zombie apocalypse simulation. We chat about “pain belts”, the best reactions they’ve had from players, and launching the most ambitious crowd funding project in Australia history. Check out the Pozible campaign here: http://www.pozible.com/project/176333

We hear an interview with Jakub Szamalek of CD Projekt Red. He talks about how the upcoming Witcher 3 will attempt to blend open world exploration with engaging storylines. Interview courtesy of Big Head Mode.

Jody gives us some first impressions of Vertiginous Golfa steampunk-themed aerial golf game. The game will be coming soon to Steam Early Access. Check it out here.

Aired 26 February 2014

In studio: Razor, Jody Macgregor and Lee.

Zed Games Podcast – Episode 208.

Subscribe to the Zed Games Podcast on iTunes