Punch Club

The Game

Punch Club developed by Lazy Bear Studios and published by tinyBuild is a pixel graphics fighting simulation game. With elements reminiscent of Sims and loads of references to cult classic films there’s quite a bit to unpack with this game. The game has a fairly simple and straightforward gameplay loop consisting of training to level up your stats, working to earn cash and fighting your way to becoming champion of the world (technically you watch your character fight).

Every day you will have to balance exercise, work and other tasks to progress, at the end of every day you will lose a significant chunk of your stats. There are three main attributes that you can develop – strength (red), agility (blue) and stamina (green). Different gym equipment will level you up at different speeds, exercise too long on one piece of equipment and you’ll start earning less points, so make sure to change up your routine as soon as that happens. Your stats tie in to your fighting abilities and skills. After each fight you will learn skill points which can be spent learning new skills, moves or perks. As if all of that wasn’t enough you also have to ensure you’ve got enough food, energy and happiness each day. In the early game finding the balance between working to earn money and training is particularly difficult, so you’ll probably be stuffing yourself with frozen pizzas for quite some time.

The story focuses on a character who dreams of becoming a great fighter and avenging his father’s death. As you become a better fighter more elements to the story will unfold, as well as some side-stories, which actually get pretty weird after a while. The game world is packed with references to movies like Fight Club, Rocky, The Simpsons, John Wick and even Jay and Silent Bob (if you look outside the store) and some truly beautiful pixel art.

Worth it?

This isn’t an easy game. Especially the early game can be particularly hard as you balance working, training and fighting. Once you start to unlock better jobs, some home equipment and more skills things begin to get a bit easier and the game starts to click. The mid-game (from Din Kong) onwards begins to get a bit easier, however it is also worth noting that this is an extremely grindy game. While losing some stats every day makes sense and is an established mechanic it also makes the game really hard and you will be spending an extremely long time levelling up your stats (especially for the final fights). While it is quite punishing, it also makes for a good challenge. Some story lines will also present you with choices which will affect them, potentially making completion for those story lines unachievable.

You can get the game for around £1.50 on sale, which is absolutely worth it. The game provides a good challenge, is wonderfully aesthetic, has an interesting story and loads of film references to keep you going. It will take you quite a few hours to complete your first playthrough and you may be tempted to do a second one after (maybe even a speedrun). The sound track can get a bit repetitive after hours of grinding and the game itself can get a bit repetitive and grindy towards the end, but other than that it is quite difficult to fault it. If you see the game on sale, grab it.

Tips

  • In the early game meat is the most effective cost per food item, however pizza is better at recovering your health
  • Making money is only difficult in the early game – focus on getting your own equipment at home so as to avoid the daily cost of the gym
  • The skip attack skills is very useful if you are draining your energy very quickly
  • Adapt your strategy from round to round – try out different moves, counters and defensive moves
  • Fights will teleport you directly to the location so you can save yourself the walking
  • Keep skills just above a level if the day is about to tick over, so you can easily get it back up again at the start of the new day
  • Focus on unlocking the extra skill slots early in the skill tree
  • Look ahead at what gets you where in the skill tree, plan ahead
  • Once you are living with Din Kong focus on upgrading daily allowance asap, money will also become a trivial concern pretty quickly then
  • You can collect the prize from Mickey in the trailer park twice
  • Skill unlock cost caps at 25
  • The flower locations for Adrian are: Roy’s garden, the Warehouse, the Bar, Mick’s office and your house
  • Check out the wiki for more tips/tricks

Useful Links

Valthirian Arc – Hero School Story

The Game

Valthirian Arc – Hero School Story by Agate Games is a rather weird, but strangely addictive game available on PC, PS4 and Switch. A quirky art style and a mix of anime and cute characters make this quite an interesting game. There are two aspects to Valthirian Arc – on the one hand you are a principal managing a school for heroes. You will need to build and upgrade various classrooms and facilities around the school while also upgrading your students and crafting them new gear. At the end of each academic year you have to graduate some of your students in order to obtain a large lump some of cash and experience.

The second aspect of this game are the actual missions that your students are sent on. These are essentially little randomised dungeons in which you usually have to find some items or kill some mobs. This encompasses the core gameplay loop in which you go out on missions, find loot, gain experience, followed by levelling up your students and eventually graduating them and enrolling new ones to repeat the process with. As you advance the story and acquire more experience your school will grow, allowing you to place more buildings and unlock specialisations for your students.

Worth it?

The game is available on Steam for £11.99, I got it on sale on PS4 for around £2.50. Realistically, the game isn’t really worth much more than £5.00, but it does have an addictive quality about it where you keep thinking to yourself – “just one more mission or one more graduation”. The gameplay does get quite repetitive quite quickly, but the prospects of improving your students further and further and unlocking the various specialisations can keep you engaged for quite a while.

Overall the story isn’t anything overly compelling, although it does appear to have a couple of variations on the end result. There’s an interesting variety of mechanics, from managing and building the school, to crafting gear and upgrading students. It has a weirdly addictive side to it that does make you want to keep playing for some time. If you focus on doing only the main story line missions you can probably complete it in around 5-10 hours, however doing side quests and favours is a great way to earn more cash and upgrade your students even more. If you spot this on sale, it’s definitely worth a try if you fancy something a little bit more quirky.

Tips

  • Do not send all parties on idle missions (ones that play out on their own) as time advances really slowly when you are not out on a mission.
  • Always ensure you have on party with which to play out missions while the others can go on idle ones. You can use the main party to advance time by completing the missions.
  • Don’t get too attached to your students, you will have to graduate them at some point as newer students joining will have a higher level cap.
  • The dirk is a great weapon for the lowest class students.
  • Always buy everything you can from the travelling merchant.
  • There’s little point in crafting most of the lower class weapons as you’ll tend to find a lot while out on missions.
  • Invest in buildings and rooms that give you extra cash early on, you can always delete or replace them later on.
  • Item drop rate is capped, regardless of how many rooms you have that buff it.
  • Look out for students’ base stats when enrolling them – you can specialise them based on these. Focus on their strengths.

Useful Links

The Survivalists

The Game

The Survivalists is a pixel-graphics survival game by Team17. You are stranded on a deserted (or is it?) island in the middle of the ocean with nothing but the clothes on your back and the wreckage of your raft. It’s up to you to build up your base and arsenal of tools and weapons and eventually make your way to other islands and even back home. The game shares a lot of similarities with other popular survival games (like Don’t Starve), but is also quite forgiving and can be quite chill at times (rather than the hectic panic that other such games induce). There are regular attacks by the goblin natives of the islands – you will always be warned the evening before these occur and you’ll have a good amount of time to prepare yourself for the impending attack.

Where The Survivalists really comes into its own is it’s unique monkey buddy system. While exploring the islands you will run into monkeys who will need your help – sometimes they’ll be capture in a cage that needs breaking, other times they will need a specific item. Once you’ve helped them they will join you on your adventures and quite literally follow all of your orders. The monkeys allow you to automate production, construction, resource harvesting, combat, etc. as you can teach each monkey to perform one of the roles described above. This is quite a unique mechanic and makes for some pretty interesting scenarios, especially as you amass a bigger and bigger following of monkeys.

The game also features vaults and labyrinths, which are basically dungeons with cool loot and secrets to be uncovered. These are scattered throughout the world and up to you to find on your adventures. The labyrinths will require special keys to be purchased from the Mysterious Stranger. There are a few other NPCs and some quests that will keep you busy when you get bored of building up your base and gathering resources. If that’s not enough for you, you can also play cooperatively with your friends online (sadly no couch co-op options available).

Worth it?

The game has all the classic survival game mechanics you’d ever want and the monkeys give the game something truly unique. I would even argue that they make the game what it is – they take away the tediousness of crafting and resource gathering and allow you to focus on the bigger picture problems like layout out your base, exploring or even just watching them to all the hard work while you take a nap. The game will generally set you back around £20 but is often on sale for around £10 (you really can’t say no to that). I played the PS4 version and have very little to fault it on there.

Overall it’s a very enjoyable game with a great amount of depth to it – it can be quite chill at times, at other moments you may be fighting for your life. As with all such games, things to tend to get a bit repetitive after a while and the loop of finding better materials for better tools to get better materials starts to become a bit tedious – that would be my only major criticism. Other than that the game has some truly unique elements to it and will keep you busy for hours on end. It also has that addictive moment where you just keep thinking to yourself: “one more day, one more job” and then you find you’ve actually played a few hours longer than expected.

Tips

  • Only go up 1 difficulty when moving to a new island, otherwise you won’t be able to gather resource and will probably get killed.
  • Gather as many monkeys as you can.
  • Setting monkeys to follow you and giving them weapons will allow them to fight alongside you.
  • Vaults aren’t too difficult, especially on the first island – they often contain monkeys as well.
  • You can give a chest to a monkey to carry as a way to have more storage space when out in the world.
  • Try to get to the 3rd difficulty island asap as you will find the materials for portals there – this will help you massively with navigating the world.
  • Find the Mysterious Stranger to buy the Mysterious Chest (36 slots) for 500 Doubloons – this will help you massively when adventuring.
  • Complete 3 quests for the Beastmaster to unlock the first backpack upgrade to be purchased from the Mysterious Stranger – these will then appear on the 2nd page of the crafting menu.

Useful Links

Horizon: Zero Dawn

The Game

It’s been a couple weeks since gameplay footage for Horizon: Forbidden West were shared by game developers Guerilla Games. With that you may be asking yourself if it’s time you finally played Horizon: Zero Dawn if you haven’t already or giving it a replay if you already own it. The short answer is YES.

For those who haven’t already played it, Horizon: Zero Dawn is set in a post-apocalyptic version of our world, where the earth is roamed by giant mechanical beasts and civilization has descended into warring tribal factions. You play as the badass machine hunter from the Nora tribe – Aloy, a woman outcast as a child with a mysterious past that is more connected to the state of the planet than she thinks.

The tutorial zone brings you up to speed with hunting machines and sneaking around the world, which are the main two actions that comprise the core gameplay loop. There are a variety of machines and classes, much like animals in the real world. Each machine will have one or more elemental types, vulnerable spots (hit these), and behaviour. Initially you’ll start out with a bow and staff as your weapons, but as the game progresses you will amass an arsenal capable of taking down even the toughest machines. You’ll have access to bows, traps, slingshots and some more unique weapons like the ropecaster, rattler or tearblaster.

Once you’ve completed the tutorial zone you’ll be thrown onto into the massive open world onto your mission – this is where the game really opens up and let’s you do whatever you please. There are loads of side quests, collectibles and challenges to keep you in the game for ages and as if that wasn’t enough, the game has an awesome photo mode which will allow you to tinker with Aloy’s pose, filters and many other options – allowing you to get the perfect shot.

Worth it?

Generally you can find the game on sale for around £10.00 including the Frozen Wilds DLC, which is an absolute steal. If you focus on only the main quests, the main game will probably take you around 20-25 hours to complete, but if you’re like me and end up helping almost everyone you meet or getting side tracked with collectibles and various other activities you’re looking at at least 40 hours. The game is a visual masterpiece – the thought and details behind every machine are amazing, the scenery, the landscape and the story all deliver on a both a personal and a big picture scale. There are some minor ease of life improvements to be desired like being able to pay to fill your medicine pouch, also sometimes the climbable areas can be a little hard to see, but none of these are really deal breakers. The size of the world and amount of things to do can be a bit daunting and I did occasionally struggle to find the motivation to finish it, but I was very glad when I did finally see it through to a close.

Overall the narrative, character design, aesthetics and gameplay will transport you to another world. The size of the world and the amount of things to do will keep you busy for days. Some fights will really get your heart going and the story will make you think about the world and humanity as a whole. This is a modern classic, making it most certainly a must play. With a sequel coming soon, it’s definitely worth picking this up, especially considering the low prices.

Tips

  • Get the machine override components as soon as you can
  • Choose your fights – you don’t have to take down every machine you see
  • Farm animals for meats and skins
  • Upgrade your carrying/ammo capacity from the “Crafting” part of the menu
  • Rather than trying to figure out a machine’s weaknesses with your focus in the fight, open the menu and check your notebook for details on all scanned machines
  • Use overrides to pit machines against each other
  • Use the ropecaster to tie down flying enemies
  • The tearblaster is incredibly strong at close range and can help strip a machine of it’s most lethal weapons
  • Aim to get the purple level weapons/armour as soon as you can, you can also have a variety of weapons to switch between depending on the enemy
  • The lure/call skill can be very useful when trying to pull a specific machine to a stealth area for a quick and quiet kill

Useful Links

Civilization VI (Rise and Fall, Gathering Storm) – PC & Console Versions

The Game

There’s no way you haven’t heard of Sid Meier’s Civilization series (developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games). Civilization VI is the latest in the famous series and while the base game came out a few years ago, the developers have been rolling out a series of DLC and updates. They have also published the game on basically every console. I played both the PS4 version and the PC so I’ll cover some of the good and bad of both. Civilization V is one of my all time favourite games (I had over 1000hrs) so I had high hopes for this sequel, but I held off buying it until it came out at a more accessible price.

If you’ve never played Civ before then you have been missing out (and probably living under a rock). It’s a turn based 4x strategy game that takes you and your civilization through history and the ages. There are several ways you can win the game – domination, culture, science, religion, score (or in Gathering Storm – diplomatic). You play on a hex grid map and build up your cities and armies and take on rival civilizations, or build alliances and friendships if you prefer a diplomacy heavy game. You decide whether you want to be a peaceful and fun loving leader or a warmongering dictator that drops nukes those who oppose them. If you’re coming from Civ V some of the most notable additions are districts (specialised neighbourhoods) and a civics tech tree. It’s not until the expansion packs and DLCs where the game really starts to feel like something innovative and new, like the addition of Governors and Loyalty.

The game offers tons of civilizations to play as and each DLC adds more, there are also a variety of maps and game modes to chose from. This in itself will give you much to experiment with and keep you busy for hours on end. The base game in itself feels a bit limited, it’s not until Gathering Storm that the developers really made it something special and moved it on from Civilization V. Rise and Storm adds mechanics such as Dark and Golden Ages, loyalty and governors, while Gathering Storm builds and expands on that by adding climate change, disasters, electricity and a new victory mode. Each DLC also gives a bunch of World Wonders, new Civs, units and buildings.

Worth it?

On its own the base game really isn’t all that much – you’re better off playing Civilization V and all its DLC instead. You can get the Civ 6 base game (on sale) for around £8.50, and each of the main DLCs will set you back around £10, with some civ packs for around £5. The console versions will set you back a little bit more, but try and get them on sale if you can. When it comes to deciding the platform, the obvious benefit of PC (apart from cheap CD keys) is also mods – the Civ modding community is great and there are some really great ones out there – from UI improvements to entire civilizations, units and modes. On the other hand, the console version will let you play from the comfort of your sofa, a potentially very dangerous combination as you probably won’t leave that sofa all weekend.

It’s got to be said that the DLC method does feel like a bit of a rip off, there’s a lot of additional content which can amount to quite a serious sum. The base game on its own is quite basic, especially when you learn about all the great additions in each of the mods. The main one worth getting is Gathering Storm as it includes much of what’s in Rise & Fall, although you can often find the two on sale together. The console version I played (PS4) had some issues worth noting – there are issues with the UI, various highlights and selections are hard to see, issues with scrolling in certain menus, some of the functionality available on PC isn’t available and of course, no mods.

Another couple of the DLCs worth picking up as they add a good deal of new content (secret societies game mode and a civ) are the Ethiopia pack and the Babylon pack (heroes and legends game mode and a civ) – each of those will set you back about £3.99. With all the DLC and various packs you will have so much content to play that you will definitely get your money’s worth – there are potentially hundreds of hours of gameplay there.

Overall Civilization VI didn’t start out as the strongest game on its own, but through a few years of updates, DLCs, new modes and civs it has become a truly epic game that will keep you locked in for hours, thinking “just one more turn”. The console versions aren’t the greatest, but strategies on consoles have always been a bit of an odd combo and considering that – it does do an ok job. Aim to get as much of the DLC as possible (ideally on sale) and you will have yourself something to keep you busy for a very very very long time.

Tips

  • Enable the ribbon UI option so you can keep track of your opponents’ yields
  • Enable the yields UI option to get an accurate idea of the individual tile yields
  • Don’t accept demands from the AI
  • Selling diplomatic favour can help if you’ve got cashflow problems
  • Think about the positions of various districts and yields when placing cities
  • Placing a city on a luxury resource will still give you that resource
  • On harder difficulty there’s less point in getting a religion
  • Domination victory is generally easiest
  • Science matters – regardless what victory you are going for
  • Gold can solve a lot of your problems too
  • Use the “Join Ongoing War” option to help get other AIs involved if you feel you need support (and distractions for the AI) – sometimes they will willingly accept for 1 gold, other times a spare copy of a luxury is enough to convince them
  • Settling on fresh water gives you more housing, coastal cities start with less, which is why granaries and harbours with lighthouses are important
  • Read the wikis and learn as much as you can about your civilization’s bonuses, but don’t force them into your game if it’s not right
  • For tips for playing on Deity or general tips check out PotatoMcWhiskey on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/PotatoMcWhiskey

Useful Links

ABZÛ

The Game

ABZÛ was made by developers Giant Squid Studio and is an underwater adventure experience. Similarly to Journey, the game plunges you into a beautifully designed world without much explanation and lets you figure things out on your own. In ABZÛ you’ll find yourself swimming with the most amazing see creatures as you make your way through a world that seems just a little bit off, and you’ll soon discover there is something disrupting life in the oceans. Venture through different areas and swim with whales, manatees, dolphins, sharks and many many more beautifully simply designed animals. There’s no combat, just exploring and interactions with the world around you. There’s a few simple puzzles, but nothing tedious or stressful. The simple gameplay and graphics accompanied by a brilliant sound track make for an unforgettable experience.

Worth it?

The game normally goes for around £15, but you can find keys or discounts for around £10. The game is currently free on PS4 as well. It will probably only take you a couple hours to complete the game, but those two hours will be one of the most relaxing and compelling experiences you’ve had.

Overall the game is a must see, especially if you can get it while it’s free on PS4. You won’t really get a lot of gameplay for the money, but there is a deal of replay value as there are a few collectables hidden in each of the main areas. It’s also a great game to let a friend play through when they visit and just to watch as they experience the vibrant world and help restore the ocean.

Tips

  • Look out for the coral portals (they have an orange interaction pyramid above them), they are dotted throughout the levels and will add/release a bunch of trapped animals
  • Hold L2 (PS4) or Shift (PC) to hitch a ride on an animal – you can also take control of that animal
  • You can flip or get an animal to do a flip

Useful Links

Final Fantasy VII Remake

The Game

Final Fantasy VII Remake by Square Enix is a brilliant introduction to the Final Fantasy series for anyone who’s never played any of the other games in the series. The original game was released in 1997 and made quite the impression. 23 years later the remake version was released. It keeps much of the original story, modernises the visuals and and has a truly unique battle system.

The game is a JRPG with “turn based” strategy elements in the combat – they aren’t really turn based, but you can essentially pause time and pick a move to perform. During fights you will be battle using your basic and heavy attacks to fill your ATB gauge, once that’s filled you can essentially pause the game and choose from a variety of spells and abilities to perform on your enemies. This system is quite rewarding, and fun to use, the combat itself can be quite hard as you block and dodge attacks and spells. There are some truly epic boss fights and monsters in this game, becoming more and more powerful as the story progresses.

The story is based around a group of “eco-terrorists” attempting to take down the evil corporation Shinra that is destroying the planet by draining it of its magical life force – mako. It’s set in a steam-punk(ish) fantasy world and you play as Cloud, an ex-SOLDIER – as you find out that means you have some pretty unique combat skills and are generally quite powerful. You are a mercenary, but you find yourself helping out Avalanche (the eco-terrorists) and cultivating your friendships with the key characters of the game. The game is rich with amazing side characters and stories all set in a detailed semi-open world (zone/level-based).

Worth it?

The game has a gripping story that makes you want to keep playing for hours on end. The combat system is quite unique, although it can take some time to master blocking due to the fact that dodge can be somewhat unreliable. There are some truly epic boss fights and the game is visually stunning. Levels are generally quite linear (except the more notable districts). The game is exclusive to PlayStation and will set you back around £60 on the PlayStation store, so you may want to keep on the lookout for better deals or discounts. Admittedly it’s only a year old and has hours of gameplay for you – with side questing (which I highly recommend), it took me around 32 hours to complete the game.

Overall I’d highly recommend the game, especially for anyone who’s never played a Final Fantasy game – it turns out there’s actually little connecting the various games in the franchise story wise, so this is as good a game as any to jump into the series. The game offers a good challenge, hours of gameplay, a rewarding and unique combat system, stunning graphics and a compelling story.

Tips

  • Always have Materia equipped so that you can level them up – they increase their level simply for being equipped in battle
  • Get the Assess Materia as soon as you have an option to do the side quest for Chadley, which is basically one of the first side quests in the game
  • Use blue Materia in linked slots in order to enhance or interact with the other Materia – Magnify and Elemental are two of the more notable ones
  • Always be on the look out for hidden chests and destroy any Shinra boxes you encounter
  • Interrupt enemy spells by using spells or abilities on them while casting (while they have a red text above them)
  • You can reset your weapon points/upgrades by visiting Chadley
  • You can use healing spells outside of combat

Useful Links

STEEP

The Game

STEEP by Ubisoft is an open world extreme sports simulator that will keep you coming back for more. Locked up and unable to practice your favourite winter sports or if you ever played SSX back in the day? Check out STEEP – the game throws you into a vast open world of mountains, cliffs and beautiful scenery. There are 5 base sports to choose from: skiing, snowboarding, paragliding, wingsuit or the rocket wingsuit. You can also purchase some additional sports like sledging, speed skiing (skiing with a parachute) or base jumping.

The core gameplay is focused around completing various challenges around the map. There are challenges for each of the base sports and various difficulties and types of challenge. Some will challenge you for freestyle points and tricks, others for extreme situations (like wing-suiting near the ground) or even the bone breaker challenges, which may leave you needing a new controller. With some of the harder challenges you will find yourself retrying for ages until you get that perfect line. That aspect of the game is quite addictive as it’s a great sense of satisfaction you get after attempting something 50 times and then you manage to pull it off in style. It can also be extremely zen to just plough throw the fresh powder and take in the scenery. There is also a snap photo option for some artistic shots and for any run or line you’ve done you’ll be able to watch the replay back in full to find that perfect moment where you pulled off a crazy trick.

The game also offers up a multiplayer playlist challenges and there’s also several ways to interact with other players while out in the mountain, like pairing up and just free riding together or publishing a sick line you’ve just pulled off as a challenge for all your friends. The main game offers you up the Alps and Alaska as the main two mountains – the Alps being the main game location with the majority of challenges. The game also has access to another mountain range in Japan, however you will need to purchase this using either in game currency or buying one of the DLCs. There are quite a few cosmetic items and DLCs available as “micro” transactions, there is also an in game store where you can purchase various equipment to customise your character with. You have a choice of a handful of pre-existing characters and you can customise their looks for each of the sports.

Worth it?

While the game does offer an amazing gameplay experience, some truly breath-taking landscapes and loads of fun challenges it’s a bit of a shame that Ubisoft have in a way retired the game. Apart from the occasional weekly challenge, there really isn’t much else going on – a lot of the focus has moved onto Riders Republic (set to be released late 2021), which is going to be the spiritual successor to STEEP. The DLCs are overpriced and offer a handful of extra challenges, which may keep you busy for a day or two. I will note however that being able to purchase the Japan map and the extra sports with in-game currency is quite a cool idea; it would have been interesting to have an option to buy the DLC in the same way.

Overall, it’s an amazing game and definitely worth a play even though it’s past its heyday. Try and get it while on sale and if you intend on buying the DLC do so first and save your in-game currency for cosmetics instead of tickets. Personally I don’t think the DLCs bring all that much to the table, but when you run out of challenges you may find yourself contemplating them. It’s a game that will keep you coming back for a long time and may even frustrate you to new heights (especially trying some of the crazy wingsuit challenges).

Tips

  • Learn when to stop spinning when in flight in order to land properly – generally speaking let go a few second before landing to give yourself time to correct
  • Hold the right stick in a direction before jumping and making a grab to do different grabs (nosegrab/tailgrab/etc)
  • When you reach level 25 you get infinite helicopter tickets (don’t bother buying any before), you can then use these to teleport anywhere you like
  • You can play X-games challenges in multiplayer
  • You can purchase additional sports and tickets for Japan using in game currency

Useful Links

Big Pharma

The Game

Big Pharma by Twice Circled is a simulation game available on virtually every platform (except mobile). The game is a conveyer belt manufacturing simulator in which you combine various ingredients to create new and wonderful medicines to help people with their illnesses. Overall the concept is fairly simple, however the initial learning curve can be quite steep. There are quite a few tutorial missions and they can be quite daunting, but once you get to grips with the mechanics you’ll also realise that the game does quite a good job of telling you exactly what to do with each ingredient to achieve the desired effect. Note that I played the PS4 version, so some comments may be specific to that, the obvious benefit (as usual) of having a PC version is mods – although these aren’t available through the Steam Workshop as with other games, so may be a bit of a hassle.

The game features research trees and various exploration missions that you need to undertake in order to discover new ingredients and improve your machinery. At it’s most basic level the game is based around increasing or decreasing the concentration of various ingredients in order to achieve desired effects (these can be seen in the info panel of each ingredient). When at a certain concentration some ingredients can be combined with others or run through a specific machine in order to change or upgrade their effect completely. This is where the game gets interesting and a lot more complex. Combining various ingredients and increasing/decreasing their concentration until you achieve the perfect cure can be quite a complex process and if you don’t do it efficiently enough, you won’t be making much of a profit.

Worth it?

Generally speaking the game will set you back between £20-30. Honestly I find that a bit on the expensive side, so look out for any offers. It does offer a lot of scenarios to play through and a lot of depth and there’s a free build mode too. On PS4 the controls can be a bit of a challenge to get used to and don’t always feel very intuitive to use, it sort of goes without saying that it’s a game made for a PC.

Overall other than some control issues and the slightly elevated price, the game is quite addictive and can be really satisfying once you get that supply chain up and running properly, it has some really satisfying sound effects and will keep you coming back for more. There’s plenty of scenarios to keep you playing for a while and if you’re playing on PC you can even have a go with modding the game.

Tips

  • Keep an eye on each ingredient’s info card – it will tell you what concentration you have to get it to and what device you then need to use to get the desired effect
  • The info card will also tell you the total manufacturing cost and medicine value – don’t overextend for really good drugs early on as you won’t have the machinery to make the production line efficient enough and you’ll end up losing money
  • Hire researchers as soon as you can afford to so that you can begin researching better machinery – focus on the agglomerator and ioniser
  • If you can’t get rid of a negative side-effect, turn that medicine into a cream – it will reduce the negative score from the bad side-effect by 50%

Useful Links

The Outer Worlds

The Game

The Outer Worlds developed by Obsidian and published by Private Division is a game that may look quite familiar to the more observant amongst you. You would be right to point out the many similarities to Fallout but it’s also worth mentioning that this is the team behind Fallout: New Vegas (but not the newer ones). In a nutshell, The Outer Worlds is what the newer Fallout games should have been.

While it may have a similar retro-futuristic atmosphere to Fallout this game is actually based in the 24th century when humanity has left Earth on its mission to colonise the stars. Similarly to Borderlands you’ll find that corporations and companies are in charge of life on these planets and in a typical hyper-capitalist fashion they are focused on exploiting people until they die – all in the name of maximising their profits. Quite early on you will learn that The Board is in charge of the colony of Halcyon where you now find yourself after being woken up from a hibernation pod, where you’ve spent the last 70 years. However, the colony is in a dire state and it’s up to you to sort it (or not).

The game is heavily decision based, has brilliant dialogue options and gives you an unimaginable amount of freedom. You don’t like this quest giver because they looked at your strange – that’s fine, you can kill them and keep playing. Of course all such decisions will influence the world around you and you’ll quickly learn that every action has consequences and not everything is black and white. There are virtually infinite ways to play through the game, in fact after I finished my first play through I couldn’t just put the game down and instead started a new playthrough immediately, now trying to do the opposite of what I did on the first play through – easier said than done. Virtually every quest will give you at least one decision to make at some point, this will affect the outcome, your relationship with factions and in some cases even the ultimate fate of the colony.

The combat is essentially the established and familiar mechanics seen in the Fallout series. You can choose from a variety of weapon types, be it melee or range, different damage types and weapon mods. This will allow you to customise your weapons so that you can have the perfect gun (or hammer) for any occasion. During combat you can use the TTD (Tactical Time Dilation), which slows down time and allows you to hit enemies in their most vulnerable places.

Worth it?

While the game doesn’t necessarily do that much “new” stuff it cements its place in gaming history with some of the great titles of this genre like Skyrim or Fallout: New Vegas. The Outer Worlds takes an established and successful formula and turns it into an epic masterpiece. The visuals are stunning, the dialogue is extremely well written, the story is compelling, the characters and their backstories and off the cuff comments are brilliant. There are many side quests and regions to explore, each with its own unique challenges. An average play-through of the game will take about 20-25 hours (my first playthrough was 27hrs and I did a lot of side-quests), depending on how many side-quests and dialogue options you engage in, but as mentioned above that’s only going to be one version of the story. You can easily replay the game taking a different approach and be introduced to other stories and characters. The replay value and potential of this game is actually brilliant – while some key story points may remain, getting to them and their outcomes can differ immensely.

If I had to fault it (which is really difficult) I would say occasionally it sounds a bit empty – maybe some sort of radio or a bit more on the music front and there’s the occasional visual bug, but that’s being picky. At full price the game will set you back £49.99 – honestly I do think that’s a bit on the expensive side as its now a couple years old as well, but you can frequently find it on sale for a much more affordable £19.99 – check out the links below for some good deals on CD keys. If on sale, I highly recommend you give it a go (especially if you’re a Fallout fan, who’s been left wanting after recent games). Overall it’s a brilliant game, great visuals, aesthetics, dialogue, story and gameplay. An absolute must play.

Tips

  • If you are doing ok and not being particularly challenged, don’t spend your skill points as you may reach a point where you need a few extra points in a dialogue option or lockpicking and those spare skill points will come in handy.
  • You can actually make your character dumb at the start of the game, which will unlock some [Dumb] dialogue options (and even a dumb ending) – definitely doing a playthrough like that.
  • Persuade/Intimidate/Lie are useful skills to avoid doing leg-work. Being able to talk yourself out of a situation can save you time.
  • There’s always multiple ways to handle a situation. Sometimes you may see a door that’s locked and think it’s the only way through, but if you look around you’ll often find alternative options – maybe a key somewhere, some dialogue or a PC you can hack that will get you through.
  • Generally speaking there’s two main paths to take – you either help The Board or you help Phineas the scientist who saved you. Each option has a variety of main quests you’ll need to complete to progress with many important and impactful decisions along the way.
  • Adding things into your medicine slots means that you will ingest that when you restore your health.

Useful Links