The Gauntlet: Roguelike Turn-based RPG

The Game

The Gauntlet by Cutlass is a minimalist turn based RPG. A simple, retro feel and a great time waster. The game is focused on combat over 100s of floors of monsters. You can also permanently upgrade your heroes or purchase new ones with your

You can pick what difficulty gauntlet you’d like to start, after which you select your fighters – initially there are 4 classes available and more can be unlocked through cash or in-game currency. The 4 base classes are Warrior, Thief, Mage and the Knight – each offering different stats and its own skill tree. Once you’ve selected your 3 fighters you are plunged into the gauntlet and you’ll start fighting waves of enemies. The game will cycle through your characters allowing to choose your moves – attack, defend, use items or cast spells. Beat all the floors and you’ll have mastered that gauntlet.

Worth it?

Overall it’s a brilliantly nice and simple game with a unique art style and solid gameplay. There is potential to expand on the game by having equipment for the different classes, more achievements, challenges or perhaps even some different game modes. Each new class costs $1.99 or 50 000 souls, which are fairly easy to collect from a few successful runs. This means there’s no pressure to actually purchase classes, but buying them is a great way to support the developers. There are also no ads, which is awesome. When you need to do something else you can just exit or pause the game and it will save your progress, convenient for when you’re out and about and just need something to do for 5-10 minutes. The game is worth a download, just don’t get too distracted because you will keep thinking “just one more floor” and we all know how that goes.

Tips

  • Use items to restore health/mana, also items are per character rather than a shared pool of items
  • Clear smaller easier units before focusing on the boss
  • Mage is useful against phantom characters, who don’t take damage from physical attacks (they do take damage from various spells though)
  • Knight has a “Provoke” (Taunt) ability that will make enemies more likely to target it

Useful Links

Heroism

The Game

Heroism by MINMAXIA is an Early Access game available on Android. It’s a brilliantly deep roguelike(ish) action RPG game with some idle game elements (although it’s not really an idle game). The game has a cool retro pixel style, multiple classes to choose from when creating your hero including some more unusual choices like the Chicken King (and his army of chickens). If you’ve played games like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon you may notice some familiar elements. The game has a lot of classis RPG elements like attributes, active or passive skills, companions, randomised tiered weapons and armours. It’s got it all. There’s also an impressive variety of points you can gain in order to invest into upgrading yourself, your companions and your rewards. This is where the idle elements come in as you can just keep upgrading and upgrading so that when you’re exploring a dungeon you make more and more – you guessed it to spend on more upgrades.

The core game play loop is focused around you exploring dungeons in order to complete various quests a la collect an item, rescue someone or clear all monsters. You can use on screen controls or tap to go to a location – you will encounter mobs and loot on your way through the dungeons. If you play with some of the settings (there’s a lot of settings options) – you can extend the range of your auto attacks so that you path towards any enemy within that range. This allows you to play the game sitting back while your character does the hard work of chasing down mobs, however this may not be the fastest way to navigate the dungeon. As you explore the dungeon each grid space has a “Heroism” orb on it. Personally it took me some time to grasp how all of these various points (there’s also experience, kill streak, progress points, death points) are accumulated and I think I was a bit confused by the similar shape of the Heroism and Experience Orb. However once you do get the hang of it collecting them and investing them strategically is highly rewarding. Even death gives you points to invest in death driven events.

Worth it?

Heroism is a brilliantly simple and charming game that’s definitely worth a play. It’s good as both an active game or more of a sit back and enjoy the ride type of game (almost like an idle) as you watch your hero destroy enemies and explore dungeons. It would be great to see how much more can be done with the game – things like making the story missions a bit more special, almost like adding cutscenes or special events to them to make them feel a bit different. It would also be great to see some new types of missions added or even other towns with NPCs as more of the map is discovered.

Overall, it’s definitely worth checking out – it can be quite addictive as you keep thinking – just one more dungeon. There’s so many different types of points to upgrade and invest in, some really interesting settings and options too. It would be great to see even more done with the game as after a while the core gameplay loop does get a bit repetitive, but the increasing difficulty after each main story mission and the various types of dungeon will keep you on it for a while. There’s virtually no gatcha elements, you can watch ads if you like, but they are very non-intrusive, you can purchase an ad-free version for £3.79 as a great means to support the developer.

Tips

  • Extend the range of your auto-attack in order to go directly to any enemies within the dungeon
  • If enemies are very easy, you may want to increase the minimum enemy level
  • Invest in the range of your auto collects
  • Necromancer and Chicken King are great for passive play as their minions will do a lot of the dirty work
  • Progress the main story quest whenever you can
  • Get a companion as they’ll help collecting loot and clearing the dungeons faster
  • If you do a rescue mission you can then go into another dungeon and the person you rescued will help you out

Useful Links

Island War

The Game

Island War by Fastone Games HK is a mobile first take on the familiar mechanics popularised by games like Bad North. The game is built around collecting an army of various units, upgrading repeat versions and using that army to destroy other player’s bases. That’s essentially the core game play loop and it’s available in several different leagues and challenge modes, all designed to put your army to the test. You will also have to set up a base to defend your own island.

The game rewards you frequently in terms of giving you new units and coins. Premium currency is also fairly easy to obtain, although spending it doesn’t always guarantee a great reward. There are some gatcha elements like a battle pass for extra rewards, but the game is still ok without them.

Worth it?

If you’d like to play something similar to Bad North, but can’t afford to buy it, then Island War is a good option to check out. There’s plenty of cards to collect and upgrade. It also looks like the game is still being worked on with new updates and features ahead. The core gameplay loop does get a bit repetitive but the frequent awards, level ups and challenges keeps it quite varied. The gatcha elements are plenty, but generally you can get on quite nicely without having to use any of them. There are few ads and the challenge modes can be quite tough to crack.

Overall I’d say it’s worth a play, it will keep you busy from a few minutes to an hour a day, limited only by how many levels you unlock – if you exceed the level limit, once the new level limits are unlocked you will receive any backdated rewards. There are some lag issues with big armies on bigger islands, but other than that it’s a solid and simple take on a good game mechanic.

Tips

  • When attacking other player’s islands try and put your rafts down in such a way so as to hit the three core buildings fastest (Army Camp, Gold Mine, City Hall)
  • Use paratroopers to your advantage once you’ve lured away defending armies
  • Combine troops to upgrade as soon as you can – you can also look into specialising each raft for a specific purpose
  • Upgrade your City Hall and Army Camp asap to allow you more rafts and higher army upgrades

Useful Links

The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores

The Game

The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Islands by Xigma Games is a sequel to the quite compelling The Bonfire: Forsaken Lands. If you’ve played the original you will be familiar with the general concept of managing your settlers and expanding your settlement around the ever-burning bonfire. The first game showed a lot of potential and could get quite challenging, it was also presented as a 2D “side-scrolling” game. In this epic sequel the game developer has moved from a 2D world into a full 3D one for something of a paper-cut out aesthetic.

The game will challenge you to grow and expand your settlement while ensuring you manage your resources and workers in such a way so as to maintain optimal food and resource supplies. Where The Bonfire games differentiate from some other city builders is the nightly attacks. Every evening various beasts – ranging from wolves to spiders and other quite scary monsters will swarm your village and attack your settlers. You will need to ensure you’ve always got enough guards on patrol and that they are all well equipped. The sequel adds even more depth to what was already a quite deep mobile game. There are a good variety of buildings and production chains which will challenge you to expand your settlement even further than before. You also keep unlocking more buildings with practically every building you construct.

Be weary though – some of your settlers may decide to steal from you or leave you! All settlers have unique characteristics and special skills. The skills combined with suitable tools will allow you to specialise your people for the role they were born to do, be it farmer or guard. The settlers will share their thoughts with you regularly and won’t hesitate to let you know when they are unhappy – something you really want to avoid.

Worth it?

A free version of the game is available, but you are only limited to 10 nights. Personally I didn’t really like this method of getting me to buy the full version for £4.49 on mobile and £9.29 on PC. I would have preferred limiting the number or types of buildings that can be created in the free version, because 10 days are up quite quick and you are essentially forced into the full version.

Free version aside, the paid version is – generally-speaking – worth buying. There are some slight issues, like some performance issues with bigger settlements, not being able to remove trees, some minor visual bugs and it can be quite battery intensive. As a mobile game this is definitely a great choice as there are no gatcha elements and you will find yourself thinking – just one more night for quite a while until you realise you’ve spent the last 3 hours on the game. The expeditions allow you to discover new islands and continue scaling up your resource production. I am unsure if I can justify the full price for PC, although I would also expect less performance issues. The game is also still being worked on and developed further so there will hopefully be future updates with even more amazing things to do with your settlement.

Overall definitely worth checking out, you can always play the demo/free version and if you decide it’s something you like, you will have to purchase the full version to play any further.

Tips

  • You can’t remove or move trees/rocks – plan accordingly
  • Make sure you can equip your workers with carts and appropriate tools (especially builders) – this will greatly speed up their work
  • Match settlers to their jobs based on their special skills
  • Always ensure you have more guards than you think you need – sometimes waves of monsters may attack from different sides
  • Build homes to house your settlers – they are less vulnerable to attacking beasts than if they sleep by the bonfire
  • You need a trading dock to be able to send your ships on expeditions

Useful Links

Home Quest

The Game

Home Quest by codeSTREAM is a free to play mobile game that let’s you build cities, manage your workers, create an army and much more, all from the palm of your hand. This minimalist game is beautifully simple in its design, yet has a surprising amount of depth. You start out by creating a settlement and building houses and farms – all in order to gather resources. As you gather these resources you begin to unlock the other parts of the game, like assembling an army for example. As you battle other tribes and continue to grow your settlement you will add new types of resources, new buildings, new units and eventually further settlements. New settlements will have new types of resource that you will need to collect and manage.

The game also features a “Soul Harvesting” part, where your shamans harvest the souls of your dead enemies in order to produce resources. The depth the game offers in terms of military units, resources and buildings is genuinely amazing. Just as you think you’ve discovered most of what the game has to offer it throws some more enemies, buildings and units at you to keep you going.

Worth it?

The game is free to play, but also offers a paid option – for £4.49 you can have the “full” game. The paid version doesn’t give you all that much – it extends your building queue by 2 and allows you to have unlimited Soul Wells (otherwise you are limited to 3). That is probably the most worthwhile part of the paid version (along with supporting the developers), as Soul Wells can be quite crucial in getting you big lumps of resources, including some you can’t normally collect from the world. Free or paid version aside the game has so much to offer and there isn’t much to fault it on as a base. It is still being improved and worked on it – it could use some sort of achievements or integration to Google Play Games for Android to give it just that little bit more. Maybe something like daily quests. Another little pet peeve is being able to swipe away Soul Well notifications and some minor visual improvements – like a little exclamation mark showing free workers in a settlement or similar.

The game isn’t actually very long, but has good potential to be expanded on. It took me a couple weeks of regular play to complete v1.0 and I’m looking forward to any future additions or campaigns.

Overall this game is a masterpiece and it would great to see it developed further. Its brilliant simplicity, the seemingly endless depth and potential scale give it a lot of potential for growth. You are constantly encountering new enemies, unlocking new buildings, units and creating new settlements. The game is good for both an active session as you manage and expand your settlements and armies or for a more idle type of play where you leave your civilisation to gather resources while you are away. There are basically no gatcha elements and I cannot recommend giving this one a try enough – a definite must play.

Tips

  • Keep fighting enemies – you are limited to 4 sets in view, usually one of which is a boss, the others will give you new units, some will give you new buildings and the easier ones will give you resources
  • Send lower grade troops (after unlocking better versions) to Valhalla in order to add Valkyries to your army – they can revive other units
  • Move your workers around depending on what resources you need at the time
  • Once you unlock factories and villas you can really scale up your production and speed massively

Useful Links

MMA Manager

The Game

MMA Manager by Prey Studios is a mobile game based around running an MMA gym and building a roster of fighters. The game let’s you build and customise your gym, the equipment you choose will let you train your fighters in different disciplines. Of course you’ll need trainers and coaches as well to boost specific stats from each discipline. You can set your fighters to train for either a short or long period of time (minutes or hours).

Once you’re confident in your fighters ability you can take them to the arena and choose from a selection of fight modes. Campaign provides a good challenge but little rewards, whereas the quick match gives a somewhat decent reward and if you have a good fighter you can go on some good winning streaks. Tournaments consists of a series of fights at various time intervals – a few hours apart. They offer a great payout if you can make it to the end. Gym fights are 7v7 mode where you take on other player’s gyms – the matchmaking on these feels a little imbalanced and you also want to make sure most of your fighters are the same level.

The game offers some great gym customisation options and potential for upgrades. Fighters also feature a talent tree that you can unlock as you level them up. There are 3 main “special” martial arts – BJJ, Wrestling and Muay Thai, they allow you to upgrade the most stats. There are also more specific routines for less stats upgraded. This is where the short and long training sessions are useful. If you are looking to be fairly active, do a few fights, check back in the gym – then you can set a short training sessions. If you’re going to be offline for a while, use the long ones. Before each fight you will get an overview of your opponent and you can adapt your strategy going into the fight. The fights themselves can be quite fun to watch and can deliver some pretty exciting results (the fighters are not player controlled), but there is a skip option should you get bored of them.

Worth it?

The gatcha element isn’t too bad on this one, you can get on fine without needing to worry about premium currency and while cashflow can be a bit challenging at times, a good winning spree and completing daily quests can help in that department.

Overall the gameplay can get a bit repetitive, it’s also an always online so you won’t be able to play it without internet. Initial progress can be quite fast before hitting the first major hurdles. Other than that however it offers a good deal of gameplay and a nice element of strategy, as well customisation. It’s worth it if you’re looking to play a few active sessions a day and it’ll keep you coming back for a good while, but will eventually begin to feel a bit repetitive.

Tips

  • Avoid Gym vs Gym unless most of your characters are around the same level (you will need 7 to do this)
  • Check and ensure that the trainers you hire will work with any equipment as well as actually contribute to the fighter’s stats (after a while a fighter will outgrow the trainer and will no longer gain stats)
  • Leaving a player idle for a while will give them a training boost – this allows you to receive double stats awards on short trainings
  • Buy decoration for your gym as it’s the best way to get prestige – more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean more prestige
  • When fighting other players – look at the types of hits they’ve made the most of statistically and block/defend against those.

Useful Links

NEO:BALL

The Game

NEO:BALL by Fil Games Ltd is a fun and fast paced online PvP game. NEO:BALL is currently only available on Android, but will give you a bit of a Rocket League vibe – it’s quite something. The game is simple – use your “car” to hit the puck into your opponent’s goal. There are various arena’s which represent different game modes – first to a certain score, time based and arena shape being the key differences between the various ones.

There are also tournaments and daily missions. Each match is different based on the arena being played in and players can customise their cars, their attributes and their selection of buffs and debuffs – which can all be earned from card packs.

The gatcha element is opening the above-mentioned card packs that you win from your games – each rarity level card pack will take a variable amount of time to unlock and you can only ever hold 4 – personally I found this a bit annoying as when you play a game and win a rare or special pack, if you have no space for it you will essentially lose that pack. You also can’t delete a pack so you may be stuck waiting for a while for rare pack to open – sometime forcing you into using your gems (premium currency).

Worth it?

The game is free to play and it’s quite an interesting idea. The PvP works well, but can be seriously infuriating (in a good way) when you are so close to winning or you accidentally turn and smack the puck into your own goal. Honestly I am not sure if I am not that good at the game or if it’s just not as easy as it looks but scoring an goal does happen more often than you think and it can actually be quite a challenge to pull off a good shout, especially taking the puck’s curl into account.

The gatcha element is a bit of an issue in that you can’t hold more than 4 card packs or delete ones you don’t want to open. Other than that there’s “login every day” type rewards and certain rewards for watching ads. The ads are very non-intrusive overall and are only really required if you’d like an extra bit of cash or to allow you tournament entry.

Tips

  • You can only ever hold 4 card packs – try to open common ones first as they’re faster to open
  • Different skins and different trails give different stats – see which work best for you
  • Go through the goal to come out on the other side of the map (your own goal)
  • You can choose which buffs/debuffs you’ll have access to in the customisation menu

Useful Links

Top 5+ PC Games You Can Play on Your Phone

With second lockdowns already happening and more on the horizon we’re going to need some pretty solid games to get through this. Not all of us have the convenience of a gaming PC at home or even a console – sometimes we just have to settle for our trusty smartphones. But don’t think that just because you’ve got a smartphone you can’t get a proper gaming experience as you would on a console or even PC.

This is a list of 5 games (with some honourable mentions) that have a PC or console counterpart and that will keep you playing for hours. Some are paid, some are free, some have free modes.

RollerCoaster Tycoon

RollerCoaster Tycoon is an all time classic PC game and while the original is over 20 years old, the gameplay and graphics are truly timeless. This mobile port combines the best of RCT1 and 2 into tens of scenarios that will keep you playing for hours. It will set you back £5.99, but it’s definitely worth it.

Check out my full review:

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is an incredible RPG and life/farm simulator game that will give you many many hours of entertainment. Again this is a paid title, but for £7.99 it’s absolutely worth it and will provide you with countless hours of gameplay. The game is also often on sale so definitely worth the purchase if you see it reduced.

Check out my full review:

Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact is a recent free to play open-world RPG game available on various platforms and even includes PC/mobile cross-saving. The game is quickly becoming a new household name in the world of gaming as it offers an immense and beautiful open world – for free. New content is constantly being added to it and there are big plans for it in the future.

Check out my full review:

Mini Metro

A minimalist game for the more casual player – mini metro will challenge you to create the most efficient metro system in cities across the globe (perfect for a time when we can’t travel). The game is available for £0.99 for Android and a touch more for iOS, but definitely worth a play as it has regular daily challenges and the occasional new map released.

Check out my full review:

Exiled Kingdoms

This RPG will keep you playing for hours on end. There is a free but limited version that will still offer you about 30hours of gameplay, but I recommend upgrading to the full version for only £3.99 as it will give you a lot of convenient bonuses, new classes and even more game play.

Check out my full review:

Honourable Mentions:

These are some well known games that are worth checking out, again a mix of free, freemium and paid:

  • Game Dev Tycoon – a paid tycoon game, all about running your own game dev studio. Check out my review: https://random-games.com/2020/07/18/game-dev-tycoon/
  • Mindustry – a free sandbox, factory-like tower defense game: https://mindustrygame.github.io/
  • Auto Chess – while I would regard Auto Chess as more of a genre than a specific game this is a good choice for those who enjoy PvP and some strategy – there’s Dota Underlords, Auto Chess or Teamfight Tactics. All options are free to play. Game length can sometimes take a while and being an online PvP game you can’t really pause.
  • Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition – one of the most challenging and relentless survival games is available on mobile for £3.99, however there’s some criticism in terms of bugs and game controls. It’s available for both iOS and Android.
  • Hearthstone – not sure if this one needs any introduction, Blizzard’s iconic card game. A freemium game which sadly over the years has become a bit of a pay to win and is difficult to get back into after a break.
  • Gwent – If you’ve played Witcher you will know all about Gwent – a bit of a half-way house between Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering. Available on Android/iOS: https://www.playgwent.com/en/play-mobile

Gumslinger

The Game

Gumslinger by Itatake is a mobile physics based action game about a good ol’ fashioned Western shootout. The game has simple controls – swipe to draw your gun and tap to fire. Aim for your opponent’s weak spots and you’ll win the dual, get hit and you’ll go all wibbly wobbly, because yes – you are made of gum.

The game is has you collecting various Gumslinger characters, unlocking new guns and completing challenges. You progress the most by duelling other player’s characters in tournaments, it’s not actual PvP – although that would be a nice addition to the game. The tournaments take place in 5 stages, you have a chance to heal between rounds provided you have a medkit – you can usually buy one for 100 coins (you can watch adds for coins), or you may unlock them through progress. Winning the tournament gets you a hefty amount of coins (150) and doubles it if you’ve completed it with a new character. This is the core gameplay loop and for what it’s worth it’s quite addictive. Super simple concept that works, but be warned you may end up throwing your phone at the wall in frustration at some points when you think you’ve won the round, just to get sniped at the last second.

Worth it?

The game is free to play, but also offers a £4.99 Pro version – which gives you more rewards, no ads (unless you want extra coins), the ability to customise your gumslinger’s colours and a skin pack for guns. The game’s ads are generally non-intrusive and allow for a good amount of uninterrupted play. If you’re someone who likes customising their characters then it may be worth getting the Pro version, but other than that it’s a bit on the expensive side for what it offers. At least it’s a one off and will help support the developers, who are constantly bringing our new characters.

Overall it’s a great time-waster – perfect for a quick 5 minute session while you are waiting for something or trying to kill time. It can be extremely rage inducing and a live PvP mode could add to it quite a lot.

Tips

  • Check the strengths and weaknesses of various characters – but generally aim for the head
  • Try and win tournaments with a new character every time to maximise your winnings

Useful Links

Genshin Impact

The Game

Genshin Impact by miHoYo came out last week and it’s really something. The game is absolutely immense and best of all it’s free to play. Genshin Impact is an open world anime action RPG. The game features a character collection (the gatcha) element with a fairly familiar upgrade and ascension system whereby you can trade in gems and weak gear to upgrade and ascend the levels and ranks of your best gear or character. It starts out very story driven with a decent amount of questing to be done in order to get you up and running. But once you’ve got through most of that it really opens up in terms of questing and exploration that you can do. The world is big, not massive but with a packed good amount of treasures, mobs, side quests and collectibles.

The game is available on basically every single platform. I played it mostly on Android and that’s probably the most significant platform that it’s available on – this is a great game regardless, but for a mobile game there isn’t much quite like there. The game offers Zeldaesque pastel scenery and a really punchy, dynamic and fun combat system based around elements, weaknesses and combinations, forcing you to swap between characters to deal with different enemies. You are also accompanied by a Claptrap-level nuisance with a similarly annoying voice – Paimon your “trusted” assistant. Together you are on a mission so you may be reunited with your lost twin and help restore order to the realm (standard fantasy stuff here really). One feature that it could use is some sort of target lock system when in combat, especially on mobile as the camera can be a bit hard to control during an intense fight.

Worth it?

The game is free to play and from about 20hrs of playing I am yet to feel a real pay wall or gatcha element. There are no ads and there’s so much to do that I haven’t thought twice about any catches. Where I am sure this game will begin to challenge you is ascending your characters to the higher level and getting more of the rare ones. Nothing a bit of grinding can’t achieve – you get a decent amount of Primogems completing various tasks and quests – these can be exchanged for Wish, which can be spent on loot boxes for better characters or weapons. However you can also find rare loot in dungeons and from bosses, so there are definitely ways to get there without spending your hard earned cash. The game also offers cross-save for PC and mobile, PS4 sadly is not included in that.

Overall I’d say that this game has really elevated free open world RPGs especially for mobile. A massive open world, a great story, plenty of quests, regular updates, a lot more in the pipeline, events, the list goes on. Be warned it is a battery drainer, always requires a internet connection and is a hefty download. You can’t really have a proper play session in under 10mins on it so it’s definitely not a casual mobile game. If you are into RPGs and detailed open worlds and story with a lot of depth then definitely check this out.

Tips

  • You can heal your party at the Statues of the Seven
  • You can exchange your Primogems in the Shop for Wish which you can spend on loot boxes in the Wish section of the Paimon menu
  • Check your mail for rewards and daily login prizes
  • Learn the elemental weaknesses and combinations
  • Cook food and utilise the food bonuses you get off certain dishes before a big fight

Useful Links