Hey there, I'm Jon Fisco and as of this writing I just want to be able to write about my passion and have people read it. My passion is video games, ever since I can remember the idea of playing a video game was the most intriguing and novel idea imaginable to me. This blog will focus on me playing video games, reviewing video games, and covering the many ins and outs of video games and their creators. Cheers
Wasteland Angel tries to evoke the feeling of classic arcade shoot'em ups while also trying to be a tower defense game and a car combat game all at once. Wasteland Angel doesn't really give off any of the aforementioned feelings, instead it feels like some interesting ideas spread too thinly across its bleak setting.
Released by Meridian 4 as an independent game on Steam early this September, Wasteland Angel promised epic boss battles, different enemy types, and 24 levels with varying terrain. It's not that these elements aren't in the game, there sure are 24 levels, it's that these elements are bland and repetitive. Each section of the game feels like a repeat of the last with a quick palette swap happening each time you move on to a new area.
The game plays as an isometric car combat came with mild elements of tower defense thrown in. For standard levels you are given an obvious zone that is the town you must protect. A timer counts down and wave after wave of enemies come in and try to either kill Angel or steal citizens from the town and ship them off to become slaves. It's your job to drive around the level and take out each wave of enemies while completing the occasional side mission, such as operating a turret or collection supply crates.
The controls in Wasteland Angel feel decent at first when the levels are simpler but when hills are more common and enemies become more sticky the problems arise. Toward the later levels the terrain becomes more mountainous and the enemies who used to shoot at you now just try to run into Gypsy and tip her over. The combination of the two leads to countless times where the car is flipped over on its top and left motionless while enemies fire away until the game decides to flip you back. Enemies too will randomly drive around the level and begin flipping, getting stuck off screen, or partake in other odd behaviors.
Enemies in Angel are basic as there are only 3 classes regardless of which faction you are up against. While there are Wastelanders, Renegades, and Mutants each faction has the same 3 classes of cars to battle with and the only real difference is what they look like. There are killers, named so because they try to immediately attack Angel no matter what, slavers who try to steal civilians, and duals who can try to kill Angel or steal civilians. The only real difference from faction to faction was that the Mutants' killer class is a plow that rams into Angel as opposed to the other classes that shoot her.
To get rid of these baddies Gypsy comes equipped with some seriously ridiculous weaponry. The game does a nice job of letting you know what the super weapons do at first but there comes a time when it just throws in new weapons and no tutorial is given as to how it works. Besides the dual machine guns on Gypsy, fired with the A button, that can upgrade to rockets and incendiary ammo there are a smattering of other tools. There are things like spike traps and mines that can be laid out behind Gypsy to stop incoming enemies. EMP grenades freeze pretty much every enemy on screen for a few seconds, and nukes blow everything in a given radius up. That's right, the world ended in a nuclear war and these ballsy bastards are using nukes to fight gang wars.
The combat feels somewhat easy on the games medium difficulty. There are two more above medium that increase the damage done to your car but the AI seems to remain the same. All that really has to be done is protect a few spots where slavers show up and gun down the rest and you have yourself a saved town.
There are boss fights and bonus stages to break up the action as well, and they are hardly as fun or challenging as the game tries to show them off as. For the most part the strategy for bosses is drive around in circles getting the required super weapon from baddies who run into your machine gun fire, plant said super weapon, and wait for the boss to drive over the super weapon.
The bonus stages are first person racing/killing modes where you attempt to stay alive and keep the timer from ticking down to 0 all the while racking up more and more kills. The best way to achieve success in the bonus' seems to be driving in circles and holding the fire button. It's moments like these that bring down the fun in Wasteland Angel tremendously. The game has a weird feel to it all like Angel doesn't care about what's going on she just wants to have fun, problem is there is little fun to be had.
Perhaps the most fun in the game is the score counter that constantly goes on throughout each successive level. Having a multiplier of 99 and taking out dozens of enemies at once with a well placed nuke to see your score jump is pretty cool. Also the fact that the scores are tracked and rated on a scoreboard that can be viewed after each level is a nice touch. Though I did realize my placement on the board shot up from the 200s to the 20s in the later levels, making me think people may have stopped playing this after a few levels because my performance wasn't that astounding.
Wasteland Angel has no problem making sure players know that the narrative doesn't mean much. There are constantly strange quips from Angel basically blowing off the interesting parts of the hastily thrown together story because she wants to kill freaks. Right off the bat the protagonist, named Angel, talks about how the world is pretty much destroyed due to nuclear warfare. With the world in disarray and radiation polluting the surviving population different factions have risen to try and have some fun in the anarchic world. That's about all you get from the game's narrative.
The small bit of characterization you get for Angel is when she will talk about her car, Gypsy, that she uses to viscously murder wrong doers and traverse the wastes. There is also this strange, almost Book of Eli, background story about Angel's friend Ekx and some strange book that never gets explained at any point whatsoever.
Sound design in Wasteland Angel feels a bit uninspired as well. The music has the same few clips that repeat in every level and the enemies spit out a few random lines at the start of certain levels. Other than that it's mostly Angel calling people freaks or scum as she blows them up. Oh, there are also the towns who talk to Angel through an intercom and for some strange reason they all sound like horrible stereotypes of your worst hillbilly nightmare.
It took about two and a half hours to get through every level in Wasteland Angel. That includes going back to a few levels to try and increase a score here or get a higher ranking there. After the story is concluded, horribly I might add, that's it. You may want to go back and try to increase your score on the leader boards but there isn't any other incentive to go back into the world whatsoever.
With gameplay that gets repetitive and frustrating quickly, a story that the protagonist doesn't even care about, and weird bugs and flaws at nearly every turn it's a hard game to recommend. Wasteland Angel certainly has some fun bits to it, like the comic book cutscenes and the scoreboards, but the game that encompasses the main experience is too short and too lackluster to be worth a buy to anyone. That is unless you desperately can not wait for a better car combat game to be released in the coming months.
(Pictures courtesy of Giantbomb.com and Meridian4.com)
*Also, if you like my review be sure to check out more of my writing at TinyGrenade.com, thanks for reading.
Numen: Contest of Heroes surprised me on Steam the other day as it was fun looking RPG that was only $2.50. Obscure cheap games often scare me because it means they're either absolute garbage, great games with a few major flaws, or something completely out of this world. With the ever growing free gaming market taking over I decided to see what a $10 game on sale for $2.50 had to offer.
Numen: Contest of Heroes is a RPG set in ancient Greece developed by a small Czech Republic developer Cinemax. With a decent story and a familiar interface Numen blends some interesting ideas with some frustrating mechanics to create a game that leaves a wanting feeling from the moment you click start.
Contest of Heroes kicks off with a surprisingly tragic tale of your chosen protagonist. You can pick from a boy or a girl and after you select your gender you're tossed into a small Greek village filled with people who have hovering exclamation points over their heads. Numen controls like the majority of MMORPGs and third person RPGs play in today's market. Players control their soon to be hero with the WASD keys while using either the mouse or keyboard shortcuts to attack enemies and interact with the world. Right off the bat it becomes apparent that two things are going to be the bane of any experienced player's playthrough.
After getting your bearings you start questing right from the get-go. After an awkward talk with your uncle who explains to you that the warrior class is the best choice and being a mage or archer is useless you set off killing and gathering things in typical RPG fashion. Most quests in Numen follow the typical kill 10 X and gather 5 Y. While some quests differ in mechanics, such as being a spider or finding a bird, most quests are simple and a bit dry.
Killing tons of things is the name of the game in Numen as most areas are populated with enemies who need to be killed so you can level up and move on in the game. The combat works well enough with the left mouse button attacking and the number keys assigned to various spells for whatever class you may be. The three starting classes in Numen fall into the staples of most role playing games. There's a warrior, a mage, and an archer. However, picking your class isn't as simple as clicking what you want to be at the select screen. Instead Numen takes a different approach and let's the player's choice of weapons and spells at the beginning of the game lead to their class choice at a later cut scene.
The problem I ran into here was that I wanted to be an archer but towards the end of my childhood phase my bow broke and there was no vendor around to fix it. So, wanting to move the story along, I grabbed my wand and headed out blasting baddies with some fire and shadows. At the end of my childhood the cut scene revealed that I was fond of magic and proven to be a squishy mage. I like the mage class, but it's not what I wanted to play.
After having your class decided you pick a god to worship. Each god has different abilities to offer you for leveling up your favor with them. Zeus gives you extra damage spells, Poseidon provides some heals and buffs, and Athena gives the player buffs on buffs on buffs. From their the game explains that you train for years and after that you're dropped off on an island. This is where the game loses a lot of its charm and becomes more of a grind that is covered with a simplistic overlay.
The graphics of Numen are decent but clearly dated. Objects and people look decent enough but they don't have any great features in particular. Combat looks decent enough with creatures and enemies taking hits and dishing out pain in ways that looks alright. Overall the game doesn't have any one graphical asset it holds above the rest but none of it is awful either.
Perhaps the strangest, and most fun, aspect of the game is the text. There is no voice over in Numen and all talking is done with text boxes. The translation reads as if it was done with a dated version of Google Translate and that makes some of the dialogue fantastic. Reading through pages and pages of in game text isn't exciting but the occasional muck up makes the reading much more enjoyable.
Sound design in Contest of Heroes is much like its graphical assets, borderline decent. The spells make the sounds you expect them to make and the hits have the sound of a good slam behind them. Monsters have some decent sounds when they attack and die but other than that the game can feel empty sometimes. The ambient music isn't anything astonishing and often times it feels too repetitive.
Numen: Contest of Heroes has some decent gameplay mechanics and some interesting design choices all bundled up with elements that are both familiar and dated in an ever growing RPG landscape. It's not a game that will make you want to stop playing whatever RPG has you hooked at the moment but it will hold your interest for a few hours, if only to read some memorable text.
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