Hello, hello, hello and welcome along to Parcival Plays. This site is a place for a Scottish guy in his 30's to share some of the games he is playing. This will be a variety of older games and more recent titles with most of these being by smaller or indie teams. Please feel free to comment on posts or follow me on Twitter and to drop me an email using the buttons on the right. For details of when new content drops please check my Posting Schedule. For more please check my About page.


Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Thea: The Awakening

A big thanks to MuHa games who very kindly gave me a copy of the game to have a look at this week to coincide with the launch on Nintendo Switch on 1st of February (this article is based on the Steam version).  The game was developed my MuHa and initially released on PC in November 2015 and was ported to Switch by Monster Couch.

Thea: The Awakening is a survival game which combines elements of colony builder, turn-based strategy and tabletop card gaming in a cohesive package.  You will take on the role of a God who will direct their settlers in gathering, exploration, combat and, ultimately, survival.  The game is story rich, with a lot of inspiration from Slavic mythology, and has wide and varied gameplay, allowing for a variety of play styles.

Selecting the God you wish to play as, more become unlocked as you reach
various milestones, increasing replayability
 To begin you will need to select your playable character which will have some overall effects on your settlers.  Initially you have 2 from which to choose, Zorya, dual Goddess of morning and evening stars, who will give and XP boost to your settlers, or Mokosh, the Mother Earth, who will give a boost to the gathering speed of your followers.  As you play as each of these characters you will level up and unlock further bonuses and playable Gods.  You can also select your main focus at this point - will you guide your followers to be great gatherers, warriors or craftspeople?  For the purposes of this article, I decided to play as Zorya and focus on warriors.

When you start the game you are introduced to the world of Thea by a guide called Theodore.  You can then choose whether to work through a fairly comprehensive tutorial, or to just go for it.  Due to the deep and complex systems, particularly with the card based combat, I'd recommend going for the tutorial.  Theodore tells us that Thea has become broken and that the Underworld is closed with undead roaming the Overworld.

Our starting village with party having moved to Theodore's tower
When you enter into the game properly, you are presented with a beautiful game world.  You will see your starting village with a small expedition group just outside the gates.  You can also see that the world is divided into hexes giving away the TBS elements.  In a turn you can do various tasks either with your village or your expedition group.  You can set your villagers to gather and craft items, move your expedition group or set them up into a camp.

Through your exploration of the world, various events will take place.  These can simply be conversations but can include combat and other encounters.  These often have more than one way in which they can be completed depending on the skills available in your party, for example when you encounter a group of wild animals you can try to do a straight combat, but you may able be able to apply some hunting skills to prevent harm to your party.  You also have the option when you have these encounters to play them out manually in the card based play, or you can have the game do the calculations and auto-resolve the encounter.

A card based hunting encounter
These encounters are a fairly complex aspect of the game.  As with most table top games your cards have different stats.  These include your health, any defence bonuses and attack power.  Your deck (made up from the members of your party) is split into an offensive stack and a tactical stack.  Your offensive cards will deal the damage, whilst your tactical cards will allow you to use certain abilities.

In the set-up phase, the player and computer take turns to play their cards, laying these from left to right.  Once both the player and AI skip a turn without placing cards, you move to the attack phase.  In this phase, the play progresses from left to right, with each card attacking the closest enemy, be that to the left or right.  Don't think that by choosing not to play cards they are immune however, as damage will be dealt to cards in the hand and discard pile once cards on the battlefield are defeated.  Any damage incurred during a fight encounter will be carried forward, damage received during an encounter such as a feat of strength will not be carried.

Moving the party to a cell farther than they can reach on this turn
Movement is done simply by selecting your party and right clicking on the cell you wish to travel to.  A yellow border shows the edge of the cells you can travel to in this turn.  You can select a further cell, but you will need to wait until the next turn to reach it.  There are also other options available when you select your party, such camping which allows you to regain health, gathering of resources you can't get at your village, or interacting with an event.

Within the village there are a number of tasks you can undertake.  These include gathering of whatever resources are nearby, crafting of tools, food and equipment and construction of buildings.  To complete these you will need to assign people to the tasks, ensuring that you choose people with the correct skills to optimise the tasks.  As time passes you will also have children in the village who will grow up to provide you with more workers and warriors.  The game also features an extensive research system which allows you to access more resources, crafting recipes and buildings as you earn research points.

As something which I would not normally pick up, this has been really refreshing, although I will admit that it took me a little bit of time and a couple of failed attempts before I really got into the game.  The game is extremely solid and I noticed no issues with performance or any bugs (granted it is a game that is now over 3 years old).  The game is visually pleasing, although it would be nice if the cards had a bit more detail or colour rather than simply appearing as a piece of parchment with a drawing.  The sound is also done very well with an atmospheric soundtrack and well executed SFX.

The game has not only spawned the recent Switch port, but also had 3 free content packs (one of which introduced multiplayer co-op) and has a sequel which entered Early Access on 30th November last year.  Even at full price of £15.99 for Switch and £14.99 on Steam I would not hesitate to say that this is a great game and well worth to money asked.  At the time of writing, however I'd say this is a great time to pick it up as there is a 10% launch discount on Switch (£14.39) and the game is in the Steam Lunar Sale with a massive 60% discount down to £5.99!

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Friday, 1 February 2019

Pepper's Puzzles - #discoverindies

Discover Indies is an initiative devised by Indie Gamer Chick.  Content creators are urged to play a small indie game without a large media footprint which they have never heard of, and produce content on the first Friday of each month through 2019.  I will be using this as an opportunity to possibly try out some different genres, and games I generally wouldn't normally play.

This month, we are taking a look at Pepper's Puzzles by Emad.  The game released in August of 2017, and even had a recent patch, and features a variety of logic puzzles.  

Pepper guiding us through our first puzzle
The game is split into three game modes: Classic, with over 200 puzzles to test your grey matter; Time Trial, where you need to solve procedurally generated puzzles as fast as possible; and Mosaic, where each puzzle represents a tile in a mosaic.  There is also a level editor bundled with the game, allowing you to make your own puzzles which you can then share to the Steam Workshop, currently with over 60 additional puzzles.

The puzzle of choice for this game is the Nonogram, or Picross, puzzle.  These puzzles hail from Japan, and were invented in the mid-1980s, with the first book of these puzzles being published in 1993, and the first electronic versions a couple of years later.  These puzzles present you with a blank grid and numbers by each row and column.  Using these numbers, you must deduce which squares need to be shaded with the end goal being to reveal a picture.

Puzzle selection menu in Classic Mode
If you are unfamiliar with these puzzles, the games has a really good, in-depth tutorial.  This walks you through 4 increasingly difficult puzzles before letting you solve the fifth on your own.  Then you are unleashed onto the 'meat' of the game.  Unsurprisingly this game isn't going to be a hardcore game, however will eat up your time.  It's very much a case of 'one more puzzle' and it's suddenly 2am!

The puzzles are split into categories, such as warm-up, food, animals, science fiction etc. with each category getting progressively more difficult.  The puzzles in the categories are also listed by difficulty.  There is no 'progression' system however, with all puzzles being unlocked.  This means that if you are a veteran of these games, you can dive in at the deep end to get a challenge, or you can start with the simpler ones an work your way through them if you are less experienced, or just need a quick puzzle fix.  For newer puzzlers, there is also a hint system, however this is only available in the first two categories whilst you are still learning the ropes.

In the process of solving a puzzle
The controls are extremely simple, with a left click marking a cell you wish to colour.  As you fill in the grid, some of the clues become greyed out as you complete them.  This can also allow you to mark cells you know which must be empty by using right click.  If you make a mistake, you simply left click on the call the clear it - very much like minesweeper.

Whilst not something I would usually play, even though I have played them on paper before, I had really enjoyed this game.  It has been a nice change of pace where you challenge yourself in a different way.  The gameplay is solid with no bugs experienced in the couple of hours I've played it recently.  The soundtrack, with over 1 hour of relaxing music, is also wonderful and helps with escaping into the game.

Starting to uncover an image in Mosaic mode by solving puzzles to fill each square
Overall, I cannot fault the game in any way - it has great art, a great difficulty balance and wonderful music.  I have no hesitations recommending this game.  Whilst it won't become your next 500+ hour game, it's a nice addition to your library when you either want something different, or only have a short time available to play.

You can buy Pepper's Puzzles for £4.99 on Steam.

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Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Odd Realm - Early Access

This week is the first of the games from my  2019 New Year article.  Odd Realm is a sandbox colony building game, taking place in a procedurally generated world.  It was released onto the Steam Early Access programme on 11th January 2019 and is the first game to be developed by Unknown Origin Games, who have very kindly provided me with a copy of the game to have a look at.

Being set in a fantasy type world, you have a choice of a number of races to rule over, although only Humans are currently implemented with 4 more due to be added.  Each race has 1 or 2 specific traits which will make your time easier.  When selecting your race, you also need to name your realm and select a world seed.

There are a number of biomes available to choose from on the world map: Desert; Taiga; Voidland; and Tropical.  Each of these comes with their own benefits and will affect what resources are available to you.  When selecting you will also be able to see the temperament of creatures and neighbours.

Clockwise from Top Left: Desert, Tropical, Taiga and Voidland biomes
 You start with a small number of settlers and some basic resources to start you out.  On your first playthrough, you will be presented with some tips as you play, but the game doesn't have a traditional tutorial.  You also can't reset these tips without deleting a file from the Appdata folder.

The game systems are fairly involved and complex.  You must gather and refine resources to be manufactured into goods.  Rather than this being passive like other colony builders I've played, the game requires the player to assign a job to gather the resource and then order the manufacturing, provided the appropriate rooms have been constructed.

Using a grid based system, you can build you colony one block at a time.  Providing you have the resources available, you can build walls, doors, flooring etc. wherever you want.  This allows you to make custom buildings and set your colony up exactly as you wish.  You can also build items such as ladders and stairs which allow your settlers to move between z-levels more easily.

Clearing a flat area to build our settlement while establishing a small farm for food
As you explore the map, you will discover more resources, allowing you access to new blueprints.  To utilise these, such as copper or tin, you will need to refine them.  To do this, you will need to build a variety of rooms such as a workshop or a forge.  This is done simply by highlighting an area and ensuring that it contains the relevant furniture to function.  You can then give manufacturing instructions to your settlers.

Some of these manufactured items will give you access to new items, such as the bronze cauldron once you have made some bronze, or will allow you to improve how your settlers work, for example upgraded tools or being able to go fishing for food.

Speaking of food, this is something which needs some attention.  I've had a number of false starts because I was focussed on gathering resources, or constructing buildings and forgot to build a food supply.  Whilst you start with a small amount of food, you will quickly want to establish more supplies.  You can harvest food from bushes, although these are not plentiful, you can construct a farm to grow food and you can also domesticate some of the wild animals such as chickens.  You will also need to construct a campfire for basic food and eventually a kitchen for better recipes.

I've played the game for a few hours and feel that I'm barely scratching the surface so far.  There are a lot of things to learn, and a lot of menus to remember which can be problematic at times.  My primary issue when the Early Access was the scaling of the game and everything being very small.  I'm pleased to say that this, along with some other QoL issues I experienced were things which the developer was already considering, and a camera zoom feature has already been added.

Our growing settlement with carpenter, forge, smithy and living quarters
The game is still very early into the Early Access cycle, being released only a few weeks ago, but feels fairly solid.  Whilst I've found the game to be difficult, this is in no way a criticism.  I had expected it to be more along the lines of The Settlers or The Colonists where you build a lumberjack and a sawmill then everything happens passively.  This makes you pay more attention to what you are doing, and the grid building system gives you much more freedom in the way that you build and lay out your settlement, even being able to build on multiple levels.

For a single person developer, the amount of work going into make the game ready for Early Access is tremendous.  Since the start of Early Access, not only has he been working hard on new features (such as the zoom mentioned above) but he has also spent a vast amount of time engaging with the community.  On the Discord he is answering as many of the questions being asked as possible whilst also listening to the feedback being provided, even sharing some of the player screenshots to his Twitter.

The game has a lot of potential but is already at an very playable state.  The one time I thought I had experienced a bug was actually user error and I have not experienced any issues such as frame drops or crashes.  At the price point of only £7.19 I can't not recommend the game.  The game can be purchased on Steam or Itch.io.
A building over multiple floors with a kitchen on ground floor (L)
and bedroom on upper floor (R)

In addition to the review copy of the game, the developer has also very kindly provided me with 2 copies of the game to pass on to you.  I will be giving one of these away in my Discord server, head over to the #giveaways channel for more info.  If you're not into Discord, I'll be giving the other away on Twitter.  To enter, follow me and comment on this tweet.  For both of these a random winner will be selected on 6th February at 2100 GMT with the winners being contacted within 24 hours.

If you enjoy my content, please consider becoming a Patron giving you access to exclusive roles and channels in the Discord server.  Also please follow me on Twitter for updates about articles and games I am following.