Category Archives: PC

Decision: Red Daze Review – PC

Ever since Night of The Living Dead, zombies in pop culture has been a relevant topic, especially in gaming, where players have seen numerous variations of zombie outbreaks and the virus’ that cause them, all done differently from the way they play to the way they look. Nevertheless, only a few like The Last of Us stand out as the top dog when it comes down to it. Decision: Red Daze is the next title to take a crack at the formula in an attempt to take the crown as the top zombie outbreak RPG.

The plot is something everyone has heard of in most zombie outbreak stories. The player plays as an unnamed character who works through quests to overcome the outbreak by recruiting members, building defenses, and looting for much-needed equipment like food and first aid. One of the more unique aspects of the game is the transmitter, which creates a defensive field around your bases and can have varying effects but mainly protects the base from the red mist. Otherwise, a very generic zombie RPG title that is truly nonlinear and rewards the player for trying new paths.

Red Daze combat isn’t difficult to master. You have your melee weapons for close combat and your firearms for distance. Each has their own stats and the player can become proficient with each use of said weapon. The stamina bar is what players use to continuously use to attack, run, and search for loot. The player can use food to regain stamina or sleep to become rested which helps regain stamina. Players also have to watch for the exhaustion bar which dictates how quickly you regain stamina and affects the stats of the controlled character.

The people you recruit as you explore the wasteland have a lot of benefits. Each character has their own primary job like engineer or soldier. Once recruited, the player has two options. The first option is to take them to a base to help maintain and defend. The other option is to have them tag along and make a squad of elite scavengers, as the player reclaims the wasteland. The AI is not the best, as they tend to run out of their way to fight hordes of the undead and lag behind by several meters, sometimes even standing still as the numbers of the undead multiplied.

The base building and gameplay is the highlight feature of Red Daze. Once the player has established a base they are required to build up its defenses. Turrets defend the perimeter and the transmitter keeps the red mist at bay. The player then uses crafting tables and med bays to build needed supplies to help the upkeep of the base like food and meds. Other characters help defend and up the bases as you recruit them, which breathes life into the ever endless world. As the bases buzz with life, players learn that they must also defend them from waves of enemies at times, similar to Fallout 4.

Red Daze leaves a lot to be desired in the graphics department, but they still have a sense of purpose. The environments blend in after a while, but that is not a bad thing. It brings an empty dystopia and makes the surroundings feel truly endless and even uneasy at times. This helps create a gritty and dark atmosphere. While the music and sound effects could still use some work, the voice acting is quite good with the quality of each performance varied from ok to great and overall was fantastic.

There are a lot of issues plaguing the game currently. One big issue is that stamina needs a big workover. Players can run only a few meters away or get into a small fight and would already need to eat or rest. On top of that, sleeping is required so that the characters can recover energy or not be affected by negative stats. The problem with that is, even after resting several times back to back, the bars can barely move or not move at all. Another issue players will run into is finding recruits and leading them around, they tend to fall behind or make terrible decisions like attacking a mob of zombies just to be surrounded.

Decision: Red Daze leaves a lot to be desired. Plagued with bugs and issues on every front, the game can seem unplayable at times. The AI’s need a few tweaks as well as the stamina system. The base system is one of the most functional parts and helps keep the current state of the game afloat. Once they work on the above issues, I believe Red Daze will be a welcoming contribution to everyone’s library.


Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit Review – PC

Having worked many years in the video game industry including stints at Sierra Online and LucasArts, I can safely say that Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit is a refreshing return to the glory days of point-and-click adventure games.  Telltale did an admirable job at keeping the genre afloat for nearly a decade, but developer, Tag of Joy really nails the essence of 3D adventure gaming in looks, story, puzzles, and overall atmosphere, and they totally commit to the point-and-click by only supporting mouse and keyboard.

The story is pretty basic, almost cliché at this point, where we meet up with Milda who lives in Chicago, but after inheriting an old house in Lithuania, sets off to Europe to claim her new home and triggers a surprising epic adventure.  Her grandfather’s house is loaded with clues all leading to some 15th century relic that will have you exploring all sorts of real-world European locales, solving puzzles, and avoiding a dangerous foe.

As with any game of this type, the basic loop is to enter a scene, interact with everything you can, take everything you can, and exhaust any conversation trees with any characters that happen to be around.  While most of the puzzles are fairly straightforward several are quite specific in their solution, often to the point of defying logic.  One of the early puzzles had me trying to silence a guy playing the trumpet in the park.  The obvious solution was to put some chewing gum in the instrument after distracting him (there is even a hint about him “blowing bubbles”), and while that is certainly a valid tactic, the game wants you to jump through about ten more steps to solve this puzzle with a much more complicated solution buried in layers of conversation.  The pacing of the gameplay often stumbles in certain points where you are either presented with puzzles with no hints at solving them or these more elaborate situations with very linear solutions you must stumble upon to solve.

Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit is visually pleasing with some fantastic art and a storybook presentation.  For most of the game you are exploring static screens or areas you can walk around and move the cursor until it indicates something you can interact with, or you can tap the spacebar and all hotspots will be revealed.  I’ve personally outgrown these pixel-hunt games, so the hotspot reveal is a great feature for me to simply experience the game at a comfortable pace.  Most spots allow multiple interactions such as examine, use, or take, and you will find yourself with a nice inventory of items that mostly serve a purpose either alone or after being combined with something else.   The art and animation is simplistic and fun with some great detail in the scenery and great use of color blending, lighting, shadows, and some fun animation tricks with scrolling backgrounds.  The audio is also outstanding with some great voice acting, fun sound and environmental effects, and an amazing soundtrack written by Daniel Pharos.

The adventure genre has a lot of competition on Steam, but Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit manages to standout, even against some of the bigger titles like the new Syberia game.  Expect about 6-8 hours to complete this adventure, which is clearly setting up the obligatory sequel.  I did find the pacing a bit off in the final act where, after a nice leisurely adventure, things started to seem rushed.  The Lithuanian setting was an interesting and unique choice, and I may have unintentionally learned a few things about the country and the lore; meanwhile the characters all provided their own unique elements that added to the immersion.  Even simple character stuff like Milda choosing the right outfit from my closet to get a job was fun.

There is definitely a lot of adventurous fun waiting for you with Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit.  With its engaging story told through gorgeous hand-painted art, interesting characters, and some top-quality voice acting, this is one adventure you won’t want to miss out on.

If you’d like to see the game in action we have the first two hours of gameplay available on our YouTube channel complete with commentary and spoilers.  Enjoy!


No Place Like Home Review – PC

With farm simulators like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon, competition has a hard time keeping up. No Place Like Home is the next one to challenge the top dogs and it brings a lot to the table. It is not perfect but can be a great addition for those waiting for the next DLC or title to come out. There is plenty of mystery included with this one as well.

No Place Like Home has the player step into the shoes of Ellen, who before leaving Mars, wanted to visit her grandfather’s farm one last time. Earth has become full of pollution and trash which has forced mankind to leave the Earth. Once Ellen makes it to the farm, she realizes it is abandoned and in ruin. She finds Cornelius, a talking chicken, who explains that her grandfather is out on a mysterious quest. Ellen decides she needs to find out what happened and help clean up the farm as well. As Ellen cleans up more and finds more characters hidden behind all the trash, she begins to get bits of information about her grandfather.

The tutorial is one of the best to be seen for a while. The player follows a straight road and is instructed by the road signs that easily explain what and how to do things. One of the best tutorials played as it keeps things short and simple but does a great job helping the player absorb the information. The gameplay is similar to Subnautica and Stardew Valley. Use the environment around you to build and create useful items that allow for longer and further exploration. The player will use an environmental vacuum called the suck-o-matic to absorb the garbage out of you and to craft items and building materials. The vacuum is used to combat enemies as well and can be upgraded to better its stats. The player also has an inventory belt to quickly swap between objects and a sack to contain a large portion of the player’s inventory.

Planting is easy and I was (unfortunately) happy that I didn’t have to tend to them every day, as I could just hose them down with ungodly amounts of water (I was so sad to see the animation for watered plants!) and be on my way until an indeterminate amount of time later when I’d notice they had grown. Planting seeds and watering can be a little awkward at times. Sometimes you will try to plant seeds in one spot but end up accidentally planting them in another, while with watering, you can overwater and have the seeds not need any additional watering for the long haul.

If players do not want to work through the progression of the quests or item unlocking, there is also a creative mode. Creative mode removes the quest, unlocks everything, and makes all items accessible. This allows players to try different things and get an idea of what they would like to do in their main playthrough. Otherwise, if players want to wait until they have completed all quests and unlocked everything, then they can have a fun second playthrough with no strings attached in creative mode.

Quests are mainly used for two things, interacting with NPCs and progressing the story. Interacting with NPCs for quests are the only interaction you really have with all the NPCs. NPCs otherwise just stand in the same spot for all of eternity. Players can befriend animals which helps fill in the world as it seems cold and empty. That does not mean there is not plenty to do, and the world has no love. The world has been stained by games like Stardew Valley, where players want to maximize interactions with NPCs and max out friendships with a unique system. No Place Like Home makes the player realize that it is about the gameplay and manipulating your environment in your own way.

There are a few issues with No Place Like Home players will run into. The sleeping action just turns the screen from night to day with a large wake up hitting the player. There are glitches everywhere that make the player unable to move or teleport them across the map into the unknown. Lots of typos and misspellings, and no sound to certain actions like opening a door are a few the player may encounter. These, of course, do not make the game unplayable and can be easily fixed with a few patches. Otherwise, it can still be played even if there are no fixes anytime soon.

There is a ton to love about No Place Like Home for an Indie title. The suck-o-matic gives a great twist to the farm/survival genre. Not being required to sleep can be beneficial in some aspects as well. It does come with a few glitches that over time will be a distant memory as you enjoy breathing life into the farm. After some much-needed TLC, No Place Like Home will surely be a great addition to the genre.


Ghost on the Shore Review – PC

Ghost on the Shore is yet another walking simulator masquerading as an adventure game that puts you in the shipwrecked shoes of Riley, stranded on an island loaded with lore, secrets, and hidden history waiting to be uncovered.  Along for the ride is Josh, a disembodied ghost that provides some delightful conversation and banter along with some useful historical facts about the island and its former inhabitants.Similar to games like Gone Home and Firewatch, Ghost on the Shore basically has you walking around all sorts of creative locations searching for anything that glitters indicating something you can interact with, rotate, examine, or maybe just a picture to look at or a document to read.  Riley will even get to showcase her own artistic talents by frequently sketching specific locations in the world and adding her own creative touches.

Riley will get to shape her journey mostly through her interactions with Josh, and those decisions can lead to various outcomes for the game.  The conversation flow between Riley and Josh is actually quite special thanks to some wonderful voice acting by the two leads.  As you get further into the game, you’ll start to learn about both of the main characters, their pasts, and their motivation moving forward.  Dialogue choices are delightfully subtle at times with no way to predict the outcome of your choices, and you only get one shot at any given response, so choose your words carefully.

Eventually the game will diverge into one of four possible branches based on your relationship with Josh at the moment.  These all lead to four unique endings which, despite a lot of overlap in early gameplay, adds some replayability to the game if you want to see all possible endings.  A single casual pass through the game is 4-5 hours, but the way the branching works you cannot start from a save to see the other endings.  You have to replay and make difference choices.  Ghost on the Shore has an auto-save and no chapter saves, so if you miss something you really can’t go back for missed items.

Visually, Ghost on the Shore has a distinct artistic style that reminded me of early Borderlands; lots of low-poly models, flat shaded textures, and large swatches of landscape tiles dotted with various structures to explore.  Controls are simply and a controller works just as good as a mouse and keyboard for moving around and interacting with the world.  There is a lot of reading and a lot of listening, and I was annoyed that the game locks you into place while listening to recordings, many of which can go on for minutes.

Ghost on the Shore offers a very leisurely adventure game experience with limited inventory and virtually no puzzle-solving.  It’s a big world of discovery and enlightenment and a bit of relationship building with Josh.  For me, the whole Riley/Josh dynamic was what held my interest; especially when it became clear just how much a part of the island Josh was becoming.  This is definitely one of those games where you can sit back and relax and enjoy some interactive fiction.  There’s not a lot to tax your brain when it comes to actual gameplay, but there is a solid emotional drama waiting to be uncovered if you choose to explore the world of Ghost on the Shore.

You can see Ghost on the Shore in action in our first look video along with commentary.

Classic Sci-Fi Survival Horror Is Back When Dead Space Launches January 27, 2023 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC

Motive, a studio of Electronic Arts Inc. today announced during their Crafting the Tension Art Developer Livestream that Dead Space™will officially launch on January 27, 2023 for PlayStation®5, Xbox Series X|S and PC. Dead Spaceis a remake of the classic sci-fi survival horror game that is being rebuilt from the ground up leveraging the Frostbite™ game engine. Still remaining true to the original game’s thrilling vision, the remake offers enhanced audio and crisp, harrowing visuals that have been carefully reimagined to evoke a new level of immersion and quality.

“Developing this remake has been a lot of fun for us at Motive, as we’re true fans of the franchise and want to treat it with the respect it deserves. It’s been equally exciting to see players’ reactions as we’re taking them on this development journey with us,” said Phillippe Ducharme, Senior Producer of Dead Space. “We’re making great progress on our road to hitting Alpha and we’re happy to announce that the game will be launching in January next year. We can’t wait for players, both old and new, to see how we’ve elevated the original experience in the remake to be just as impactful for this generation.”

Dead Spaceputs players in the boots of Isaac Clarke, an everyman engineer on a routine mission to fix a gigantic mining starship, the USG Ishimura. But aboard the Ishimura, a living nightmare awaits. The ship’s crew has been slaughtered and infected, and Isaac’s girlfriend, Nicole, is missing somewhere on board. Alone and trapped, with only his engineering tools and skills, Isaac faces a battle for survival – not only against terrifying monsters called Necromorphs, but his own crumbling sanity.

Also revealed today in the Dead Space livestream, the team at Motive showcased an early look at how the remake visually evolves and updates the original with in-game props, tools, environments and more being reconstructed to a level of polish and details fit for the next generation of hardware and PCs. Moreover, by combining enhancements like dynamic, volumetric lighting with atmospheric and environmental VFX rendered in full-HDR, Dead Space allows players to confront the frighteningly tight corridors and shadowed hallways of the USG Ishimura with unprecedented levels of immersion for the beloved franchise.

Will Isaac live to unravel the dreadful mystery of what happened to the slaughtered crew and ship, or be forever lost to the cold vacuum of space? Find out when Dead Spaceofficially launches worldwide on January 27, 2023 for PlayStationⓇ5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.

For more information and to stay up to date on the remake, visit the official website, like Dead Spaceon Facebook and Instagram, follow the franchise on Twitter and subscribe to its YouTube channel.

Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles Review – PC

Man, the ocean is kind of terrifying. I mean, sure it starts out all fine for the first few dozen feet or so, but have you ever just thought about what’s down there? How much of it there is? And how much of that water is just full of… nothing? How things get weirder and weirder the deeper you go? I mean, yes, sometimes you see beautiful things like jellyfish, or a pretty glowy speck in front of you, but then you remember how dangerous jellyfish can be, or that the speck in front of you is the lure of a female anglerfish and the rest of them resemble less of a fish and more the head of the robots from Five Nights at Freddy’s 4.

Regardless, there are some delightful and weird creatures living in the depths of the ocean. Take, for example, the sea angel, or nudibranches, both of whom are very squishy wonderful little guys. Not to mention the numerous glow-in-the-dark creatures that don’t look like they were designed by Scott Cawthon. Some nudibranches even look like bunnies!

Luckily, the world design of Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles is based more on the latter category than the former. In the game, you play as Lumote, a small squishy thing that looks like a sea cucumber and sounds like a small child. The world they live in, normally a nice shade of blue, has turned into a dangerous looking shade of red controlled by an entity known as the Mastermote. And as every game in the history of ever has taught us, red things are bad, so you’ve got to go fix it (At least that’s what I could glean from the website and Steam page; the story in this game really isn’t super important).

Your controls are simple: you can run. You can jump. You can double jump. And you can sit on things. This last one is where the game’s mechanics really start to come into play. The various levels are dotted with purple patches of flowers. When Lumote sits on one, things happen! Generally, this means that blue energy (which will now be referred to as simply capital-B Blue) radiates out from you along the paths in the level and interfaces with things, powering things up, chasing away the Scary Red Energy (which likewise will now be called Red) and eventually power the exit so you can continue to the next area.

Of course, if you stop sitting on flowers, you will no longer be powering them. So you need to find a way to make the things stay powered and chase the Red away. Luckily, these cube-like creatures called Dumbats, one of many other inhabitants of the world, will hold a charge when you sit on their flower, and emit it into any flower they themselves are sitting on. There’s also these platforms that are actually bioluminescent colonies of worms that stretch when exposed to Blue or Red, although if they are Red they will shy away from you or anything else charged with Blue.

It’s a puzzle game, so experimenting with how these various props and tools interact with each other is the main gameplay loop. Your goal in each stage is to figure out how to open the flower gate that will let you progress. This is always done by making sure the plant in front of it is charged completely with Blue and no Red, but getting to that point is the tricky part, and explaining it in text is perhaps even more difficult.

Gameplaywise, it works pretty darn well, I think. The game introduces new mechanics and creatures gradually and slowly, for the most part, doing a good job of helping you figure out one way to use a given creature’s abilities and habits with experimentation. There’s not a whole lot of tricky platforming or anything, meaning most of the game’s difficulty comes from the puzzles. And they’re good puzzles! They feel quite satisfying to solve, and each time you do you get to see the Blue flow through the level and push the Red into retreat.

I’m about halfway through, and there’s not really enemies or health, although you do die if you fall off the level or accidentally crush yourself, which resets the puzzle you’re on. This is only a brief setback, and in my experience only happens by mistake than the developers explicitly trying to kill you. No restarting a level dozens of times so you can make that perfect jump or anything. I would also like to mention how the game, despite being 3D, feels casual and easy to pick up whenever you just want to vibe and solve some puzzles. The controls feel responsive, and puzzles only take a few minutes to solve each, so playing it doesn’t feel like a huge time commitment. Kinda reminded me of a game called A Monster’s Expedition Through Puzzling Exhibitions in that way.

Also, in case it wasn’t clear from the screenshots: the game is beautiful. It’s themed around the various squishy colorful glowy creatures in the ocean, as previously mentioned, and I want to hug all of them. There’s also an element of the Tron aesthetic of “dark primary colors with glowy blue or red accents” which is always a fun palette, even more so on squishy organic things instead of smooth electronic ones.

There’s also the fact that the game is one long winding path in a single massive room. You can look up or down at any point to see all the blue areas you’ve already completed above you, and all the scary red ones beneath you that are yet to come. It’s really fun just to look around and see all that progress splayed out around you, twisting into the abyss. The game even has a built in photo mode that you can use to look around and fully appreciate the environment.

The whole thing is set to this vaguely watery synthy ambient music. It changes slightly based on your surroundings, and creatures will add little noises and chimes to it as you go about Blueing things, although the Red creatures tend to make more harsh electromechanical “your hard drive’s days are numbered” noises than the smooth ones they make when Blue.

For those of you who like to find secrets, there’s even a series of little collectible relics. As far as I can tell, there’s a little golden statuette tucked away in each level. You can view them in a little gallery in the pause menu. Each statue depicts one of the creatures in the game, and if you collect, say, every dumbat relic, the little golden statue in the pause menu will change to a full colorful 3d model of the creature going about its business. Not to mention each one you collect makes Lumote say “Wooooah…!” in an adorable, hushed voice, which is pretty pleasing of a noise.

There’s a few little complaints I have about this game though. Nothing too major, for the most part it’s thoroughly enjoyable. But right now, I haven’t seen any method available for going back and collecting missed relics. There could be one later in the game, I suppose, but right now I’m just trying very hard not to miss any. Additionally, relic hunters would do well to find each stage’s relic before going to the work of running around and puzzle solving. Some of them are hidden in out of the way locations under the level, and although relics that you collect will stay collected after you die, doing so will still reset the puzzle, and should that happen it can be a bit annoying.

Now onto the minor nitpicky stuff. I just got to a part where they introduced about three new kinds of creatures at once in a single stage. It took me a good few minutes to figure out that this place was actually a mini hub level of sorts that was also introducing teleporting flowers to lead you to off-routes so you could learn how to use each of the things. It’s not something they introduced before and is a bit jarring compared to the rest of the game’s methods of introducing new mechanics.

Additionally, this area has these three large beams that lead off into the distance that you look like you should be able to walk on. It’s not even a huge problem to jump up to them. However, if you travel very far out you simply encounter a kill trigger and die immediately. Like I said, these two are very minor nitpicky issues. I don’t even know if most people would notice or care about either of them.

I’ve been playing for about 2.5 hours, and I think I’m about halfway through, so I estimate it’d take about 4-6 hours to finish, a bit more if you want to go for all the hidden relics. $20 may seem like a bit of a steep price point, perhaps, but there’s a lot of heart put into this game. The puzzles are fun and pretty and all feel really satisfying to solve. It’s a game that’s easy to pick up and put down again and won’t try to skinnerbox you into continuing to play it. That’s $20 going to indie developers instead of letting some billionaire somewhere buy a third yacht. There’s far, far worse ways to spend that $20.

If any of this sounds interesting, I highly suggest you check out the Steam page for more info. It’s got a demo too, in case you want to try it for yourself. Lumote: the Mastermote Chronicles is an overlooked gem, definitely worth the time and money.


Teardown Review – PC

Let’s face it, blowing stuff up and breaking stuff is fun. Unfortunately, there are tons of laws and stuff that make blowing stuff up IRL pretty hard to do without a lot of licenses, training, permits, etc, which kind of takes all the fun out of it. And most games that let you blow stuff up only really let you blow up the stuff they want you to blow up. Like, if a game says that it has destructible environments, usually that means that there are predetermined types of things that you can blow holes in or destroy. The only games that do allow full destruction are voxel-based games like Minecraft, or Space Engineers, or 7 Days to Die. Even then, though, these destructible environments have their limits and often feel a bit unnatural.

Teardown, as its name implies, set out with the goal of creating an entirely voxel and physics-based game that is completely destructible. Also, unlike the other games listed, the individual voxels in Teardown are about a tenth the size of those in the other games, which creates a much more detailed and granular environment to interact with.

When Teardown was in early access, there was a sandbox mode with different maps that gave you a series of tools and vehicles that you could use to interact with the map in various ways, breaking things, blowing things up, making interesting things happen, but with no real goal other than just to enjoy yourself. Now, with the release of the final version of the game, they’ve added a full campaign mode that adds quests, characters, and a story to the game.

Essentially, you’re an unscrupulous demolition expert that various people reach out to to hire as the guy that gets things done without asking questions. You then have various specific tasks that you need to complete, like destroying a house, or breaking into a building to steal evidence, etc. These quests start off fairly simple and then ramp up in complexity, adding more layers and also alarms that will trigger and give you a countdown until the police arrive. This forces you to look at the map in different ways and figure out optimal paths in order to accomplish all the goals in the very limited amount of time you have once you trigger the alarms.

The destruction mechanics in the game are really smooth and satisfying. When you knock down a support for something, you can watch it bend, break, or collapse the way you would expect for whatever material it is made out of. Wood, metal, brick, etc, all react in different ways and require different tools to maximize the destruction.

Speaking of tools, you begin the game with a sledgehammer, a fire extinguisher, and a spray can. As you go, you will unlock a number of other things, like a blowtorch or a shotgun that will allow you to interact with the world in new and different ways.

The physics system is not just impressive with solid objects, either, but there is smoke and water that will react to the environment in interesting ways too. Like, if you set fire to a house, smoke will accumulate within the building if there’s no way for it to escape, but then if you break a hole in the ceiling, the smoke will billow out through that hole. It’s all very impressive and leads to limitless combinations of how you manipulate the various maps.

The sandbox modes still exist as well, so once you complete the campaign, you can revisit all of the areas and have fun messing with them in whatever way you want. Also, the game fully supports modding and has a pretty active modding community on Steam, which allows you to play even more community designed missions, maps, and other game modes that modders have come up with. Since the game is so fundamentally versatile, it is pretty much up to the modders imagination what types of things they can create with the impressive engine.

The long and short of it is that Tuxedo Labs have really created something impressive with Teardown. It feels like an evolutionary leap from its voxel-based predecessors and would be a welcome addition to anyone’s library who ever had the desire to just watch the world burn.

Broken Sword-Inspired Adventure Crowns And Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit Out Today

Thunderful and Tag Of Joy are thrilled to announce that their mystery adventure game that blends stunning hand-painted scenery with a compelling  investigative story wrapped in secrets, Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit, is out today. Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit is available on SteamGOG and Epic from 5PM CET for ​$19.99 / €19.99 / £16.99 with a 10% launch discount.

Headed up by the art director from Broken Sword 2.5 and featuring a talented voice cast that have starred in the likes of The Monkey Island series, Day of the Tentacle, the upcoming God of War: RagnarokThe Wolf Among Us and more, Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit takes you on a thrilling trip across beautifully rendered locations in Eastern Europe imbued with romanticism and conspiratorial intrigue. What begins as a personal story about Milda traveling to the home of her deceased Lithuanian grandfather after receiving a mysterious letter referencing a family secret, soon unfurls into a rich web of enigmatic danger that draws on the rich and underexplored history of the region. Milda’s family secret goes deeper than she ever imagined, leading her to investigate a lost relic, Lithuania’s most legendary royal and the clandestine machinations of the KGB during the Soviet era.

Praised by Broken Sword creator Charles Cecil for its “beautiful graphics” and “fascinating story” and given the “I dig it” stamp of approval by The Curse of Monkey Island artist Bill Tiller, you can get a look at what Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit has to offer in the new trailer:

From enigmatic anonymous messages, to logic-testing conundrums, to classic item puzzles, Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit is packed with a variety of satisfying mysteries and puzzles for you to solve. For some of them you might even have to change Milda’s outfit, from clothes to hairstyle. Of course, you can also just tweak her look for fun! As you explore the game’s rich hand-painted scenes, you’ll meet a host of fun and eccentric characters, all with fully voiced dialogue, further building a rich world that’s a pleasure to inhabit.

The role of Milda is being played by Erin Yvette, who is due to appear in the upcoming God of War: Ragnarok, and also has a long list of impressive credits for roles in The Wolf Among UsOxenfreeThe Walking Dead and Batman: The Telltale Series. She is jointed by Matthew Curtis, who has appeared in Unforeseen IncidentsThe Hand of Glory and Smite, as well as adventure game veteran Denny Delk, who you might recognise as Murray in the new Return To Monkey Island, alongside his other roles in Day of the TentacleSam and Max Hit The Road and a host of Star Wars titles.

“We are so happy that Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit is now available to play,” said game director Šarūnas Ledas. “We have a deep love of adventure games and the incredible experiences they have delivered over the years, so it’s long been a dream of ours to create a brand new adventure that draws on the best of the classics we’ve enjoyed. We hope you like it!”

Dune: Spice Wars Early Access Review – PC

This is an Early Access Review and as such opinions are based solely on the state of the game at the time of review and subject to change as development progresses leading up to final release.

Dune: Spice Wars, is the latest title from Shiro Games, the team behind RTS sweetheart, Northgard. A mix of RTS and 4X elements bring Dune into the 2020s. Players coming in may see the words “early access” and assume they’re in for an unbalanced, unfinished mess, a valid concern in any situation. While some aspects still need work, Shiro comes out of the gate with a strong showing and a promising glimpse of the things to come.

At first glance, Dune: Spice Wars, looks like Northgard with a desert reskin and the addition of sandworms. The player’s territory is hex-based and can be scouted with Ornithopters that can’t be targeted and can be set to auto-scout. This expedites scouting, alleviating players from having to babysit their scouting units, a normal annoyance in RTS. Players will expand across Arrakis either by combat or annex. Unlike Northgard, combat doesn’t feel good at the moment. Winning a settlement in a combat scenario feels more like a numbers game in most situations and less about the units you are pitting against the enemy. Units across the factions all have a distinct look but all feel the same when it comes to combat. Players can build cannons and use abilities, called Operations, to buff their units and nerf enemy units. These can help shift battles, but again it just feels like a numbers game and less like winning a battle due to skill.

The four playable factions all come with unique abilities. The standout for me being the Fremen’s ability to ride the sandworms. This is honestly just to make up for the fact that they don’t have access to the airfields, which serve as the fast travel for the other three factions, but it’s fun to see the creative way the developer worked around the differences. Other differences include different levels of access to the council and information across the game. For example, the Harkonnen always know the influence flows of all factions, whereas the other factions would need to use agents to gather that information).

On Arrakis, resource management is key. One wrong choice and a deficit can leave you trying to play catch up the rest of the game. Resources are mainly gained by building structures in settlements. The most important resource of all, Spice, will drive your expansion as you work to pay your rising Imperial Spice Tax. Adding additional control, players can decide how much Spice they’ll stockpile for taxes and how much they’ll sell in the markets to build up some cash (Solari). This is a great addition that I wish was available for other resources, but at least players can trade resources with other teams, who all put different values on each resource.

There are enough diplomatic systems in Spice Wars to shake a stick at. When selecting one of the four factions, players will also choose two councilors that give additional buffs for their build. It’s fun to mix-and-match these and try to find the perfect blend. A personal favorite of mine was the ability to impose any treaty on any faction for just fifty influence; a great ability if things are getting a little hot and you need an short term ally.

Influence also works its way into council votes, with recurring resolutions that all teams vote on. The more influence you hold, the more votes you get, the easier it is for you to sway the vote on certain resolutions. These give players opportunities to nerf enemies for a short amount of time or gain an advantage in resources or combat.

For more long-term upgrades, there are four skill trees, known as developments. Each tree is catered to a specific faction, but players can mix and match the upgrades they want, which can also be sped up by collecting knowledge. This adds to the variety already presented by your choice of councilors. You can focus on powering up your already buffed stats and just be a powerhouse. You can also go the other way and try to even out your weaknesses. There will be optimized builds (they’re already on the internet, I’m sure) , but I never felt like diving down one skill tree left me at a disadvantage.

Adding more layers is the espionage system and the ability to hire agents (read spies) to infiltrate the different factions and organizations. Each agent comes with their own special ability, which can help determine the best place for them. With infiltration, players gain intel which can be used to complete operations and gain other resources. Infiltrating an enemy faction will give you all the information you need to know about an opposing team. What are their combat capabilities? Are they around another faction? Are they running a surplus or deficit? The answers to these will help you decide the best course of action when it comes to planning out your best route to victory. Just like Northgard, there are multiple paths to victory. These add to the already established variety.

In this early build of the game, only single player campaigns are available, with plans to add a story campaign, multiplayer, and rebalance factions sometime in the future. Love or hate roadmaps, Shiro has proved their games have legs down the road, Northgard just received its latest update back in October, over five years after release.

Early access leaves a bad taste in some players’ mouths. There are plenty of horror stories to be had. In its current state, Dune: Spice Wars is not one of those stories. Players coming in looking for a combat heavy experience or wanting to play with friends may be disappointed. Those looking for something a little closer to a 4X experience will find much more to like here. It might be a while until Shiro reaches 1.0, but this early access feels just like the tip of the iceberg for what Spice Wars could offer.