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.

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Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Parkasaurus (Early Access release announced!!)

This game has been on my radar ever since I saw the first reveal trailer in November of 2017.  It stands out in the currently busy dino park management genre due to it's lighter take on the game.

Not only does it use a 'traditional' grid based system and camera, it has some interesting and fun mechanics in it too.  The way you design your exhibits will determine how your 'dino best friends' feel about them, is there enough space or is it even the correct biome?  You can also affect the traits of your dinos with accessories such as a unicorn horns, hot dog hats and the infamous cone of shame!

Dinos wearing some of the hats

Until the game comes out and we get 'hands-on' we just have to work from the few videos on the developers Youtube but they have shown us a few of the different aspects.  From exhibit design, taking into account the environmental and privacy needs of your dinos, to dinosaur breakouts, where they wreak havoc in your park destroying not only fences, but your shops too.  The game look like it's going to be extremely fun.

In addition to making your exhibits, you also need to serve your guests and keep them happy.  By making your guests happier they will spend more in your shops and stalls and might even decide they want to contribute to the welfare of your dinos by making a donation in a strategically placed donation box.  Other confirmed features include staff management/training, time travel to collect eggs to expand your collection of dinos and seasons, each bringing their own challenges.

A functioning park

Over the past 9 months you can see that the devs have made some great progress in the new trailer (below) with completely new guest models and Dino shaders making everything look less ''blocky".  They have been fairly active over on their Discord server, regularly sharing concepts and asking for feedback, and at at times implementing that feedback.  I've barely scratched the surface in this brief post but expect more content and details once the game hits Steam next month and there is more information in the devblogs.

Release date announcement trailer

The game is developed by Canadian devs WashBear Studio, a team of two developers, and will be their first game, although both members of the team have a number of years in the industry.  The game hits Steam Early Access on September 25th and is due to cost $19.99.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

My Time At Portia (Early Access First Look)

If you enjoy games like Harvest Moon and Stardew valley and want something new to scratch that itch, you should have a look at My Time At Portia.  Developed by Chinese team Pathea Games (Planet Explorers) and published by UK gaming veterans Team 17 (Alien Breed, Worms, Overcooked) the game is currently in Early Access for PC with plans for future console (PS4 and Switch) releases after this phase is complete.

The game was successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2017 and describes the game as “a 3D sandbox RPG adventure inspired by the beautiful aesthetic of Castle in the Sky and NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind. My Time at Portia features gameplay elements inspired by the likes of Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, and the Animal Crossing series mixed with Dark Cloud 2 and Steambot Chronicles, while creating its own unique world set in the lush backdrop of what remains of an ancient civilization.”

Character creation

When you first load the game you have a range of character customisation options. Firstly you can choose either a male or female character and then you can get really deep into the customisation.  You have options for hair style, including fully flexible colouring, and tons of options for facial customisation ranging from size and position of eyes to width and length of chin, all on variable sliders and even a few voice options.  Once you have decided on your look and you start the game you are greeted with the familiar cutscene. Your character arrives in Portia from a far away land to discover they have inherited a workshop from their long lost father. The first day or two are spent with orientation type missions to get your builders license, introducing the basic crafting mechanics for small items using the workbench, and larger items using the assembly station, and how to get jobs via the Commerce Guild.

Success!  Showing off my Builder's License

Taking these commissions will likely be your main source of income, but there are also times where these will drive the story. After gaining your builders license and registering your workshop with the mayor, you get your first big project - to build a bridge from the town to Amber Island in the river. This will require some planning and the crafting of some storage boxes for your yard (you can colour code these to help with inventory management as you progress through the game and discover pigments) and start to build up your collection of manufacture equipment, such as a civil cutter for making planks and a grinder for metalworking.

Assembly Station blueprints in your workbook

To make these objects you will also need to venture into the Abandoned Ruins near the church.  This is where you will do mining for ores, stone and special parts. To enter the ruins you need to pay a weekly ‘maintenance fee’ of 200 Gols (80 Gols for your first week) and you will have access to a jetpack and a relic scanner.  The first of these is obvious, it allows you to jump back out of deep holes. The relic scanner is a nice mechanic where you are able to see where in the cave there are special items. These are shown as a yellow dot and if you look at it for a few second the location is saved so you can mine towards it.  These may give you any of a number of items including power stones (fuel for some of your crafting equipment), furniture which can give buffs to your house, manufacturing parts and relic parts.

A chest containing relics discovered with the scanner

Data Discs and relic parts can be taken to the research centre in town.  In exchange for data discs you will get new blueprints for your workbook after a few days.  The blueprints you will get depend on how many discs you hand in, with blueprints available for 3, 5, 6, 10 and 20 discs.  If you have all the parts for a relic (anywhere between 2 and 5) and the required number of data discs these can be restored using the recovery machine in the research centre. These relics can then be placed in your home for buffs, or donated to the museum for reputation. Alternatively you can turn in discs to The Church of The Light who are concerned about some of the technology of the Old World and will give you green technology, special seeds, in return for giving them discs to be destroyed.

Wearing relic scanner and jetpack in abandoned Ruins

In addition to building items, you are able to take part in other activities depending on your play style including farming crops, raising animals and exploring a relationship system, including marriage and divorce, with the people of Portia.  As you would expect you start the game with no materials or tools and just a small house and plot of land. Through gathering and crafting you can raise Gols with which you can purchase upgrades to your workshop providing more space to build and also increase the size of your house, allowing more furniture to be placed.

Your starting workshop

As the game progresses through Early Access we will come back and look at some of these mechanics in more detail.  The devs have been quite responsive to the players and have made a point of adding a lot of additional content and game mechanics with each update including adding the desert, animal rearing and also riding.  The only downside is that the game can be quite hardware intensive and the graphical style is quite deceiving on that point. It does mean that at time there can be FPS drops and also in some areas the cursor feels less responsive.  The drops have decreased a lot after the most recent update and performance is definitely a lot better than where it was 6 months ago and I would recommend the game if you are the sort of person who doesn’t mind a game running at about 30 FPS.

My Time At Portia is available on Steam Early Access for £15.99 with a demo also available from the Steam Store page.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Thimbleweed Park

Thimbleweed Park is a classic point and click adventure game released in 2017, heavily inspired by the Lucasarts adventures of the ‘80s and ‘90s. This is in part due to the studio (Terrible Toybox) being created by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick who worked together on a number of those games, notably as co-creators of Maniac Mansion in 1987 and going on to work on The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: Le Chuk’s Revenge.

The game retains all of the charm of the Lucasarts games but taking advantage of advancements in technology, in particular the characters and artwork have a more smooth appearance while still being recognisable as being influenced by its predecessors. In fact in the blog post where they announced the Kickstarter back in 2014 they mention “the charm, simplicity and innocence” of those games and that they wanted to create the game as ‘an undiscovered Lucasfilm graphic adventure game you’ve never played”. This makes the game very accessible from the outset due to the interface being familiar to players of the old games, and intuitive for new players. To meet this goal they have employed the traditional screen layout of the top ¾ for the ‘action’ area with the bottom left of the screen having your verbs and the bottom right showing your inventory.

Agents Reyes (L) and Ray (R) inspect a corpse

Similarly to Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle (DOTT) you take control of multiple characters which you can switch between. The first two characters you have access to are Ray and Reyes, two FBI agents who have been brought in to town to investigate a murder. Each character has their own inventory and at times you will need to have the characters work together to solve some of the puzzles. As with the previous games these puzzles often have you thinking outside the box or combining a number items and even utilising multiple characters in different locations.

As soon as you are in the game you can see that they have taken influence from The X-Files (the characters looks surprisingly like Fox and Mulder) and the 1990 incarnation of Twin Peaks with the agents investigating the discovery of a body on the bank of a river. As expected you have to collect anything an everything (including specks of dust scattered around the town) and to advance the story must find specific items for specific NPCs, such as the Pigeon Brothers Plumbers, who are actually sisters. If you get stuck you can always use the in-game hint system. You can access this by using any phone in the game to call HINT and you will get a contextual hint about your current position in the storyline. These are often a bit cryptic and you will still need to do some problem solving but will point you in a general direction, much better than just jumping directly to a walkthrough!

The Pigeon Brothers

Progressing through the game you will unlock a total of five playable characters; Ray, Reyes, Delores (a budding software developer), Ransome the Clown (a clown whose act relies on being as obnoxious and insulting as possible) and Franklin (Delores’ father). For the most part you are free to play as whichever character you wish. This will provide you with different dialogue options and the people of the town will react to you differently depending on which character you choose. For example the NPCs will not react favourably to Ransom but Ray commands a certain level of respect from the populous of Thimbleweed Park. There are a few specific puzzles where only one character can solve them, for example when Reyes finds himself trapped in a storm drain fairly early in the game. This is where being able to pass items between characters become extremely useful as you may find yourself in a situation, as I did, where you have to solve a problem with a specific character but lack the required items to do so.

From L to R: Ray, Reyes, Delores, Ransome the Clown & Franklin

Following the successful release of the Windows, MacOS, Linux and Xbox One versions in March of 2017 it was inevitable that there would be further ports with the game becoming available on PS4 in August, Nintendo Switch and iOS in September and Android in October of the same year. The game lends itself brilliantly to the touch screen devices due to the simple point and click interface meaning that the gameplay doesn’t feel different to that of playing on a computer.

It’s safe to say that if you liked the Lucasarts games of 20-30 years ago you will enjoy Thimbleweed Park. I feel the game has succeeded in its’ goal to bring a familiar genre up to date. It still has all the elements that drew me to these games as a child, the simple interface, application of logical thinking to solve the puzzles and a story peppered with dark humour and satire, but also feels very fresh with the updated graphics, the addition of a notebook in which you can track your progress and use to help you work out how to move the story forward and full voice acting for character interactions. The only unfortunate thing about the game is that is doesn’t appear that they are working on any follow up.

Eden Rising: Supremacy - Early Access

NOTE: Eden Rising: Supremacy had an extensive update on 18th October 2018.  This update makes some information in this article out-dated.  You can read our article about the update here

Eden Rising: Supremacy is a game by Canadian developers Nvizzio Creations, created from the former Funcom Montreal studio. The game is designed to be played co-operatively between up to 8 players, although with scalable difficulty can be played solo, and blends the genres of open world survival and tower defense set on the alien world of Eden. 

After some very basic character customisation (currently there is only a female model and a limited number of colours for skin, base layer and hair with more customisation options due for full release) you are introduced to the story of your arrival on Eden. Having discovered an alien blueprint you have crafted a portal and passed through this to the world of Eden where you are find yourself in front of a green sulphurous ocean. You are greeted by ‘the Steward’ an alien intelligence who will guide you through the tutorial and early stages of the game. 

Arrival on Eden

The Steward observes that your human body is not suitable for living on Eden and makes a bargain, it will make an alteration to your body if you agree to become a Warden of the crucibles and restore these to access their archives. 

Following this opening introduction to the core mechanics you enter the world and complete a short tutorial introducing you to the main mechanics of the game (movement, combat, gathering and crafting). 

Crafting a trap in the tutorial 

After moving up the hill and completing these various actions you come across a Telesite, part of a mid-range transportation system that you will develop as you explore and progress through the story, and a transported to the main continent of Eden where the majority of gameplay will take place. 

A short way down the path there is a cut-scene which directs you towards the first of the four available crucibles which you need to activate and defend from the creatures of Eden (where the tower defence element comes in to play in the form of sieges). After following the path down the hill and gathering some resources along the way (stopping to craft your first piece of gear the Fungal Cuirass on the way) you come upon the first of the monsters of this alien world in the form of some Medusa Buds and a Gorgon. 

First encounter with a Medusa Bud

The Gorgon

After arriving at the crucible and activating it, a protective forcefield comes up protecting the crucible and also providing healing effect over time to players within it. Now you can activate your first siege. Each crucible has a number of lanes where you can be attacked so you will need to distribute traps, turrets and players strategically, each item has a power cost and you have a limited amount of power available which increases as you progress. This first siege has some ancient traps already placed for you to take advantage of. Upon completion you are awarded your first technology from the crucible archives in the form of weapon blueprints for an improved melee weapon, the acrobatic Fungal Glaive, and the first ranged support weapon, the Fire Slinger. You are also awarded essence which allows you to upgrade the crucible with things such as factories which produce turrets or upgrade points to increase damage dealt by turrets or reduce the cooldown as they recharge. 

Wearing the Fungal Cuirass by the first crucible

Currently there is about 30-40 hours of content over four biomes if you don’t take time to just explore the landscape, with more planned as the game approaches final release. It’s very easy to lose an hour or more and realise that you haven’t actually completed any sieges to advance in the game, but exploration is rewarded with some items being unlocked upon discovery of the relevant resources, such as cosmetic dyes for your armour, rather than through the crucible sieges and weapon or armour tech by discovering and completing Outposts. 

Overall the game feels in good shape for an Early Access title from a small developer with nice visuals and an improvement in performance and combat systems so far in the EA cycle. The team appear to be taking player feedback on board when planning their updates by both including bug fixes and implementing new features and system refinements based on player feedback. Certainly there are still some areas which need work with combat sometimes feeling a touch unresponsive, although this has been improved in an update this week, and areas of the map where your character can get stuck but the game feels to be going in the right direction.  The developers also have a Discord server where you can provide feedback and speak directly with the team.

Eden Rising: Supremacy is available in on Steam Early Access at a cost of $14.99 US, £12.99 or €14.99