Checkshirted wearing, waxed moustachioed hipsters, this game is for you.
I mean it’s for the rest of us as well, but especially the bearded no logo uniformers who dream of wielding an axe in the wilds. Mana Potion Studios have produced a fine little RTS, city builder, tower defense game to delight us.
Jaunty music, fishing for food, venison for the people, a proper medieval looking castle designed by you, siege engines, classic big marrow shaped club wielding trolls wearing nothing but slashed hulk shorts and Lumberjacks. Lumberjacks galore. I never wanted to be a barber anyway.
There’s a lot to love about Becastled, a wonderful game that is part city management, part RTS. It is like Total War for people who used to play Settlers on wet break in the science labs.
You’re A Lumberjack, Barry. You too, Harry.
You play the master of the Kingdom of the Sun. You guys rule the daylight and life is good.
The deer stroll nearby, the earth is luscious and your people are productive. You begin by placing your central hall or Castle Keep onto a chosen hex and found your settlement. Then you spawn some citizens willing to do your bidding and your first objective is to tell them to be lumberjacks, because almost all of the early currency is in wood. So, site yourself near some trees and get going.
As usual in an RTS management city build you need to get resources and spend them to enable expansion. You will need wood for building more houses to grow your population, you need wood to build taverns to keep them happy, you need wood to build a farm to feed your growing population, you need wood to build training centres for archers or melee warriors to defend the glorious new Utopia you are building, in fact you’re going to need more lumberjacks.
Wood is the currency early game, building, expanding and sustaining that is the key, as it is in any resource management builder.
Here Comes Trouble
As the game progresses you need other things and very much like playing the board game version of Settlers, you need to be located next to lots of varied resources and some of them like stone and gold or a sort of mined solar gem are needed later for upgrading the stockade and towers to stone ones and building a church to restore your dead warriors in the resurrecting power of daylight hours because, you see, you are on a daily clock.
When the day is over, the Moon Warriors spawn somewhere nearby. They are blue goblins and trolls and they come each night without fail from different directions in ever increasing numbers and with better equipment each night. They march inexorably toward you like the hoards of Mordor, carrying scaling ladders, battering rams, cannon and siege towers to breach your city walls and so you must prepare for sunset each day to go once more into the frey to see if you live or die this day. To survive you must protect and defend your Keep. Citizens and troops may die, buildings may fall, but your founding Keep must survive or the game is lost.
The controls are delightfully simple, the expansion tree is entirely open, the only thing that holds you back is…lumberjacks. If you can get going fast enough and manage food and housing, then you can get other careers going for masons, miners and engineers.
The first few days are easy to defend against, by which time you need to be up and running with defensive structures and plenty of varied methods of defense. The only help you get is that a blue mist signals the spawning site for the Moon Warriors that coming evening. If you have not planned or do not have a productive enough village then you could find they are due to spawn on the most exposed side.
So, you need a strategy and you need to act quickly and consistently, managing choices and resources to sustain, defend and develop…much like any standard RTS. The difference and appeal with Becastled is the varied nature of how you can play.
Hoards of Hordes
It has stacks of playability with challenges split into eight difficulty levels, with three levels of combat difficulty, on seven different terrain types with resources either abundant or scarce and most interestingly you can alter the length of the game, effectively your win point.
Keep the Solar Kingdom safe for 10 days in the easiest instance or try for up to 30 days. With each added day of challenge the Moon Warriors get more powerful and more difficult to defend against, but potentially your castle starts to resemble Carcasonne…another fine board game Becastled clearly draws influence from.
And if you are feeling like Henry V then you can take the ultimate challenge of an infinity mode and see how long you can survive the nightly mounting hoards. I have seen some people on YouTube try to build a wall around the entire map and another who fought for 50+ days. That you can alter the challenge so greatly and try to break the game with challenges like walling the entire map is great freedom for a game.
Who Just Died?
There are some problems with Becastled; some men stop working sometimes and it often isn’t clear who has died when you begin the day after an attack and you have to check absolutely everything to reassign workers otherwise the city will start to fail and you need to work hard each day to grow and repair if you are to survive the night.
Pathfinding is another problem, the AI isn’t great at this, when you send troops to certain locations or to engage in combat with a group of the enemy they take the shortest direct path, but this can lead to them being stuck on a cliff edge or behind a gatehouse or something. With a battle raging this can be disastrous and you can be left wondering where that unit you sent to help got to, but it’s now all too late.
Visit The Solar Kingdom Today!
However, these minor problems for a game in Early Access and the devs are patching these sorts of things at least once a month so by the time you play they may even be gone.
On top of this they have published a clear road map of exciting development that includes tech trees, city building expansion and boss fights. I can only hope they make PvP possible in the future.
Becastled offers hours and hours of medieval fun at a bargain price. It proves both accessible and challenging at the same time. You really would be medieval to not go and get this, especially if RTS is your thing. Can you go 50 days without defeat? I can, but then I’m a Lumberjack, so I’m ok.
Riot: If one peasant like you can’t do anything, perhaps a hundred peasants can
Me: Hey! Who you calling a peasant?
These are the first lines in the Readme.txt that accompanies the download of Riot from Itch.io. I don’t think I’ve ever been abused so early on in a game. Riot was made during the Brackeys Game Jame 2021, and received a fair amount of praise upon submission. This off-hand, jaunty attitude runs all the way through Riot. It opens with a pirate sea shanty and a bunch of faceless characters being hurled by trebuchets (a catapult to you non-historians) into the wall of a fort and exploding.
I’m not sure why these little fellas explode but there we are. It’s slightly comedic and sends the message….we’re here to have fun. I haven’t seen that many medieval games in 2021, and I would be hard pushed to list the best medieval games for PC. But I’m thinking I’d probably include Riot.
Reverse Tower Defence
Riot is a sort of reverse Tower Defence or a simplistic reduction of an early Total War game, where you play as the attackers and you get given hundreds of them to throw into the breach. You must begin a short distance from the settlement, you are always attacking a small circular settlement, which will be increasingly well defended; towers, turrets and double walls all making more frequent and dense appearances as each level passes.
You choose a spot to attack from and press the left mouse to begin deploying your men. They appear and immediately and lemming-like, charge at the nearest building to begin attacking it (which seems to mean clubbing it with their fists). You end up with a long line of synchronised running guys all heading for the palisade.
The goal of each level is to break into the fortified medieval style village and storm the ‘Town Hall’ at the centre, although it looks little more than a barn. In compensation for the increasing fortification of each level you are afforded an increasingly large mob of peasants to deploy, an ability to place trebuchets and eventually the addition of ‘bombers’.
The medieval trebuchet will only engage action if some of your men are attacking a structure and then it will fling a single fella through the air to land on top of the building roughly every five seconds or so. The unfortunate volunteer seems to like it as the little flung men ‘wheee’ with excitement, they land however, with the visible splat of a pancake and motionlessly slide off the structure like Wylie Coyote hitting a rock wall. The bombers on the other hand appear to be flaming mummies that run straight to the nearest building and explode like some sort of bandaged, possessed suicide bomber.
There is an element of managing your resources to Riot as the trebuchet costs 15 peasants to place, but does not seem to deplete your reserves with the men it flings (there’s an exploit here) and the bombers costs 5 peasants. The only other strategic element is where you choose to drop your mob, because this matters. We’re not talking Terra Invicta level of strategy here, of course.
The little fellas are programmed to charge at and attack the nearest eligible structure and when they destroy it they charge the next nearest one from there. So where you place and launch attacks from matters.
This all sound wonderful fun and it is, but…
Whilst classes of men might differ the overly simplistic AI your peasant mob is endowed with is does not. For example, having breached a wall they do not head for the next wall or the tower blocking the way to the town hall…no they just start to attack the next segment of wall, because it is the next nearest eligible structure. All the while the towers defending the cities are bombarding your idiot crew. Even if you reserve men and dispatch them later when a gaping breach in the wall has been made in front of you they will still head off at a 50° angle and attack a pointless barn off to the right.
You will shift around the gap trying to find the sweet spot to stop them running that way and then all of a sudden the men you lay start running off at a 50°angle to the left now.
Best Medieval Game 2021 Nominee: Riot
The Trebuchet’s just follow suit and so do the bombers. It is frustrating and there are few more annoying things in a game than controls which result in an action you did not input or want and there being little you can do about it.
This does promote a disengagement with the game in the latter third, which is a shame, because I began by thinking this was reasonably fun.
Riot offers 12 levels of increasing difficulty and can be completed in an about two hours. There are not many decisions to make or much variation in play; make a choice of where to start, release the mob, watch for results, move and repeat. Simply calling Riot a medieval game is doing it an injustice. I mean, I did compare it to Total War not long ago.
With improvements Riot might become something more interesting, it has character, charm and appeal. I do love the menu soundtrack, but overall Riot is a nice idea that starts well and does not really develop.
Somewhat spoiled by poor AI, Riot still has enough about it to make a decent, lunchtime distraction; a surprisingly relaxing and unstressful one for a game named Riot.
If there’s anything of a new hotness in the gaming world, it’s definitely roguelikes. Crawling out from under the towering presence of open world survival titans like Minecraft, RUST, and ARK as well as the battle royale scene with Fortnite and Apex Legends, Roguelikes have been slowly rising to the top over the past few years.
Passtech Games’ first debut into the genre comes out of the gates fast and hard, and became a smashing success out of Early Access. Curse of the Dead Gods features creative and exciting mechanics that make it stand out among the crowd, as well as a striking art style reminiscent of Mike Mignola (of Hellboy fame).
Curse of the Dead Gods starts you off with a simple premise: You’re an adventurer trapped in the ruins of a Chatac temple, heavily inspired by Mayan and Aztec culture. You get a machete and a pistol and you’re off to find the way out.
Or are you?
Cursed To A Miserable Fate
Well, it turns out you’re cursed to roam this labyrinth of never-ending traps and enemies forever. As you go deeper, you become more corrupted and the game steps up the difficulty. Eventually, you may find yourself face to face with a champion of the Dead Gods. If you survive….well, you’re back at the start of the temple.
“Why are you cursed?” you ask, sitting on the edge of your seat.
Well….I dunno? The game unfortunately lacks a strong story behind the amazing gameplay. There are some tidbits of lore tucked away behind unlocks by defeating enemies, but there are no cutscenes or dialogue about who you are and where you are. It all requires a bit of digging, which to me felt like a letdown.
Now, that’s not to say that all roguelikes need stories with them. A good setting is all you need to play Risk of Rain 2, or a creative deckbuilding component to get lost in Slay the Spire. But for a game with such striking visuals and a rich setting with plenty to draw from, the game falls a little flat for me.
The combat is where Curse of the Dead Gods really shines.
Curse Of The Dead Gods vs Hades
Those who craved more difficult combat from Hades or more thoughtful dodges like in Dead Cells will be right at home here. You start with five points of stamina, which is used by dodging, combo finishers, and some two handed weapons. You can regain stamina by waiting, but that makes you a sitting duck. Instead, you need to weave your attacks with your dodges, and stay safe. If you manage to perform a good parry, you’ll even regain some stamina to keep the flow of combat (as well as feel really rewarded when you land a sorely-needed parry).
On top of that, the game offers a ton of weapons and weapon combinations, with 11 total weapon types to choose from, and each type offering 8 unique weapons within them. That’s a LOT of variety, more than you usually get from your average roguelike.
Now that you’ve got the rhythm down, you’re able to fly through some of these levels, and I mean fly. Maybe I’m just too into roguelikes, but I found most levels being really short, and combat not being enough. Maybe there wasn’t enough enemies that spawned, or maybe they were just not that difficult in the first place, but I often breezed through most of the first 5-7 rooms. Maybe I’m just too used to the infinite spawning hell of Risk of Rain 2 or the constant fear as I turn up the heat in Hades, but I breezed through more rooms than I’d like to.
Unique Light System
One of the unique mechanics added to the game is the light system. Simply put, you got a torch and you gotta use it! Having your torch out lets you see traps ahead of you, spot enemies and loot, and overall make your life easier. The downside is that your torch takes up your main weapon, so you have to offset higher damage for vision. On top of that, if you get hit by an enemy or a trap while it’s dark, you’ll take more damage.
There are some sconces and whatnot that you can light in some chambers so you can see better, but in my experience they always seem to be extinguished by an enemy as soon as I light it. Instead, I opt to just light one of the baddies on fire (a totally valid strategy) and use them as a natural source of light.
You’ve cleared this floor and you’re ready for the next one. You approach the door, pick your path, and BOOM! You gain some corruption. What’s that? Well, if you fill up the little purple bar in the bottom right, you get a curse. Curses can be wildly different, I’ve had some easy ones that make almost no impact in my run, versus some that made me regret every choice I made so far. It helps keep the game fresh without going overboard. You can also get corruption at any shop you visit, since the game allows you to purchase new relics and weapons with either gold or blood.
Curse Of The Dark Visuals
Now that we’ve talked about most of the core mechanics, let’s talk about the visuals.
Curse of the Dead Gods is a beautiful game, hidden under a very dark world. The art style is grim and beautiful, very reminiscent of Hellboy and The Walking Dead (not the show, the graphic novel).
The floors you run through as you traverse one of the three temples offered (with a fourth coming later this year) are unique and each one stands out from the others. The enemies are unique and interesting, as well as the bosses that await you at the end. Some sections of the game I have felt were too dark, even with my trusty torch in hand.
The few cutscenes the game offers are very well done, with the intro cinematic simple yet powerful. Even the brief scene when you receive a new curse is beautifully animated and iconic. I do wish there were more, to better explain the world or the dead gods we’re fighting against, but maybe that will come in a future update.
Scratch Your Roguelike Itch
At the end of the day, I’m a sucker for roguelikes. Curse of the Dead Gods scratches all of my itches, with unique mechanics presented in an interesting world. However, I do have a couple (minor) issues with the game.
As I stated, the gameplay has a steep learning curve, but plateaus fairly quickly for me. Maybe I didn’t play enough, but by the third temple I was breezing through most floors with little to no issues.
I have no issue picking up a new game, flying through the tutorial and learning the game. But there are just so many mechanics I have to keep in mind while playing the game, that it slowly becomes decision paralysis.
Do I run and dodge to find a place to light this room and fight? Or do I risk it and hope I don’t get hit more than a few times?
Is this weapon really worth that much corruption? Would I be better off with what I have right now?
Do I dodge? Do I parry? Do I need a new weapon for this next floor? Do I want to get a relic? WhichstatdoIincreasenext? WhichcurrencydoIneedtounlockthenextweaponorbuff?
There are a lot of things to ponder about in this game, which I worry will be a turnoff for those who aren’t prepared for it. Especially those coming off the heels of Hades, another similar title with far less decisions to make that actually impact the game.
Curse Of The Dead Gods Review Summary
Would I recommend it? Absolutely, but with a caveat.
For those who are not as invested in roguelikes as I am, I would watch our gameplay footage first to see if it’s something you’re willing to play.
If you like roguelikes, or want a unique and moody atmosphere for a game, by all means pick up Curse of the Dead Gods today.
Let’s be honest here. Hades is a fantastic game and there’s no reason to give it anything but a recommendation. Five Stars. 10/10. To claim otherwise that Supergiant’s entry into the rogue-lite genre isn’t a masterpiece would be a complete lie, and I’m an honest man.
Overview of Hades
It’s not difficult to describe Hades on the surface – It’s a 2.5D rogue-lite game that takes place in the beautiful world of the Greek Underworld. You play as Zagreus, the edgy and cool son of Hades who just wants to leave his hometown and explore the world, but Hades oddly refuses to let you leave Tartarus and communicate with your Olympian relatives.
So naturally, you run away. Dashing through the rooms of Tartarus, fighting monsters left and right as you make your ascent to Earth. You meet colorful characters from Greek mythology, like Sisyphus and his super cool eternal punishment despite him being super kind, or eternal sad boy Orpheus who just wants to vibe in the afterlife.
Not to mention the Olympian gods, who send you their blessings to help you advance through each run, each one with their own personalities and boons to offer unique builds for every run through the layers of Hell.
One of the most unique features that Hades offers is that it’s a rogue-lite with an actual story. And like, a good one too.
Most roguelikes have a story ranging from “mom locked me in a basement and is going to kill me, by the way here are the four horsemen of the apocalypse and my dead unborn brother” to [frustrated shouting at your monitor when you’re 12 minutes into Monsoon difficulty], with gameplay superseding the story-line of the game.
The more you progress, and die, and repeat, the more the game opens up for you. New characters begin to wander the halls of Hades’ home, as well as new weapons with unique upgrade paths for each one. Each character has their own story and personality that unlocks the more you spend time to interact with them, or gift them items to strengthen that bond.
Supergiant isn’t new to the realms of excellent storytelling as well as engaging gameplay – with the hit games Bastion and Transistor under their belts, they are no strangers to fantastic storytelling. Paired with the unique genre of Roguelite games, the gameplay loop of progressing as far as you can before dying also allows the story to unfold at the pace of the player. Hades only offers one clear goal: Escape Hell, and you beat the game.
Of course, most players aren’t going to be able to pick up the game and complete it in their first attempt. Once they have shaken off their mortal coil, players see new characters and options in the world to unlock and play with, as the story unfolds with each incremental victory.
Summing Up Hades
Eventually, the game culminates in it’s “final ending” (Although I think there is a third ending after you escape a certain number of times), which is not only completely satisfying, even still adds further content to explore within the game.
Generally, I don’t play a game all the way to completion for a review. In this case, our Hades review was epic. I’ve logged close to 55 hours of the game, and I still pick it up for a few runs every couple days.
I don’t think there is any other way to sum up how I really feel about this game, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.