Eximius: Seize the Frontline

Eximius: Seize the Frontline

War, good God y’all… What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

Turns out Edwin Starr was wrong. War, Uh-huh…yeah, what is it good for? Turns out it’s absolutely great for computer games. 

Where would we be without the FPS? Still throwing pine cones across the sandpit and claiming I had been revived by Jeff and wasn’t dead. From Command and Conquer: Red Alert, through Call of Duty and Company of Heroes, I’ve loved them all along the way. Hold on there big dog, I know what you’re thinking…FPS.

Watch This Review:

Eximius Review – FPS / RTS Hybrid Fun

Eximius: Seize the Frontline, from Ammobox Studios is just out of Early Access and is blast. It is an FPS / RTS Hybrid. Whaaat… Yes. You can play the game just like Company of Heroes and you can play it just like Call of Duty. You can even play it both ways at the same time if you want to. How is this even possible you ask?

Eximius is, in simplest terms, a 5v5, squad based arena battle set in the near future of a collapsed political order. Two factions vie for control of the future world order: Axeron Industries, the product of a global financial elite trying to reestablish order. They have units based on robotics to save people from front line combat. The other side is the Global Security Force (GSF) who are made up from the surviving political world order prior to collapse.

Eximius gameplay review

All this set up matters naught though and is swiftly forgotten once you are past the opening intro. Simply pick a side and go through training. There is no real consequence to the side you pick except the choice of weapons, units available and some inevitable variation in play style to suit your differing strengths. Mostly they are similar classes but with slightly different qualities.

Point, Shoot, Smile

The controls are pretty standard and so is the weapons training. There is nothing confusing here – machine guns, pistols, bazookas, EMP weapons, etc. Everything is comfortably familiar. There is a good sound to the fire system, the weapons have variable recoil, but upgrades can improve stability. They sound powerful and act heavy, pleasing stuff. On the battlefield the draw distance for shooting is pretty good, even with standard weapons.

Eximius Seize the frontline review

When you leave training, you can choose to join an ‘Open game’ which is just a rolling restart game with whomever joins and the remaining spots made up with AI players. Or you can join a specific 5 man team to take on a set scenario or you can tackle a variety of maps and missions yourself, offline with a team of AI support. There is lots of variety and the AI is of such a good standard that you need never worry about matchmaking to get a game. There are always at least two of these happening at any given time. 

All of this seems like a pretty standard Battle Arena game and you’d be right. What sets Eximius apart is that only four of your squad of five play as FPS officers on the battlefield. The fifth man plays the game RTS and from a standard zoomed RTS view of the battle. 

Eximius Seize The Frontline Ammobox Studios

Commander and Conqueror

It turns out that what really makes the difference to your team is the Commander. They provide tech upgrades, they can build tanks, different classes of soldiers, they assign a support group of soldiers to you or not and they can drop strategic supply points to enable you to refill ammo and change weapons as you meet different foes. They play Command and Conquer whilst you play Counter Strike and you can talk to each other, ask for things like re-supply, reinforcements or decide attack plans and changes. It is a quite excellent achievement to blend these two game styles seamlessly together and talk/plan across them at the same time.

There is a rare breed of revered heroes called ‘Battle Commanders’ by Eximius community who are players capable of playing the Commander role and capable of jumping into the FPS fight at crucial moments to rectify some part of their grand plan and never losing sight of the overall plan and time in the frontline.

Eximius Seize The Frontline Ammobox Studios

I tried being the Commander once or twice…let’s just say I need practice. I have mostly been playing as an Officer on the battlefield and sometimes my human Commander would provide ammo and weapon upgrade stations for me to use and sometimes they wouldn’t. In one match it became clear that the Commander had his plan and I wasn’t in it, I could die and respawn frequently but there would be no upgrade points for me.

In another we had upgrades and I joined the fray attempting to follow other Officers in direction and battle as support. The Commander rarely attached soldiers to me for support, clearly deeming my contribution unreliable, this was until a crucial point late in the battle when we were losing heavily that I slipped away changed my weapons and crossed to the other side of the arena undetected. I destroyed a tank holding position, protecting a flag point.

RTS/FPS Hybrid Ammobox Studios

The response from my Commander was instant. He held battle back where I had come from and sent me as many reserves as he could from reserves to support what he recognised as a decisive move. We went on to capture several nearby resource points and the enemy were crippled. We lost less than 20 battle points to the enemy teams 300 from this moment on. The post game chat was full of delight and congratulations. These are the moments you play Eximius for.

Dedicated Development

It isn’t a perfect game, the learning curve is initially steep, but there is a lot of potential in the game for varied styles of combat. More variety of weapons are being added and of course, more skins and customisation. The development team is dedicated, improvements are frequently made and what might be thought of as currently lacking does not detract from the glory of the game. 

Eximius Seize The Frontline Ammobox Studios

Eximius is a Latin word meaning ‘excellent’ and Seize the Frontline is indeed an excellent game. It is not just another battle arena with thrown together assets; it is a well thought out game that offers a deepening level of skill the more you play it. They have a welcoming community in the Discord and the game is structured so that newbies can join a team of veterans and not hamper the chance of victory severely. War, uh huh, yeah…may well be good for computer games, but me? Good God y’all I am far from Eximius at it. It is fun though…see you in the fight.


Stephen plays on Eximius: Seize the Frontline as Alt_Ending and is easy to defeat. Take a good look at my face because all you’re going to see from the floor just before you respawn is the back of me walking away.

The Happy Little Virus – Review

The Happy Little Virus – Review

You’re a bad guy. At least I think you are a bad guy.

Do bad guys know they are bad?

Did your ordinary German soldier in 1943 who was fresh out of school at 18 know he was one of the bad guys in WW2? I’m a bit confused about The Happy Little Virus. Normally in games you play the hero, sometimes the bad guy, but when you do it’s clear. I think I’m the bad guy in this…

The game is played in imagined circuit boards, in a kind of Tron way, where you are in the grid, on the motherboard of a computer or in the servers. You play a virus…so a bad guy (right?) and there are companies to choose from to ‘attack’ on the menu screen.

One is for Guide Dogs and the other is a Cancer support charity… we’re hacking and stealing from these people? We’re definitely the bad guys! Right? Perhaps we are fighting corruption or abuse? No, there are suggestions that rich people want guide dogs because they are trained to poo on command. You are sent to hack and steal from various addiction, wildlife and support charities. We’re definitely the bad guys.

Happy Little Dalek-like Creature

In The Happy Little Virus you control a small Dalek like creature in a 2.5D shooter and you have to run through circuit boards, which are effectively corridors. You gradually collect weapon power-ups through the course of the game and your progress saves after each level.

The early levels are just corridor shooters and lack a zing about them to draw you in, but if you persist the game does develop a bit. You are presented with wider levels, giving you choice about how to tackle opponents. Enemies (the good guys) are similar Dalek shaped creatures but represent anti-virus software and sometimes can reproduce in hubs on some levels.

You (as the virus) can take over these hubs and replicate yourself a few times. This gives you a form of extra life in some of the more challenging levels. Levels also develop a variety of additional features. You can regain health from circuit board resistors and there are firewalls, which act as little laser gates that can be activated on and off sometimes. If you are smart you can use these to your advantage making some of the faster anti-virus Daleks career into them as you sidestep like a matador.

Sound & Visuals

The music and sound effects are not up to much, it’s there, but pretty rote and unobtrusive. The colours however are vibrant and look good, with bright greens making borders and circuit connections and some levels using luminescent lighting to provide a different type of challenge than just more enemies. The gameplay curves nicely in difficulty although the final level is something of a chaotic overwhelming challenge. 

There are a variety of different weapons on offer through the game and they are quite inventive, you don’t just shoot things, although of course in a robot shooter, you do have a laser. You can blow a blast on a diffuser that shatters opponents – only at point blank range mind you, you can blow bubbles that capture enemies and bounce them off into space and off the board and you can gather up the shattered bodies of your enemies into a debris whirlwind and fire them at your enemies.

The more enemies you face, the more cluttered your narrow play area and corridors become with these shattered bits of anti-virus robot. This can be a help to you as it slows down the advance of your enemies allowing you to retreat a little and gather yourself; but it can also hinder you by rendering your long range laser redundant with too much debris in the way to hit the intended ‘good guy’.

Weapons!!

The weapons then work best at a variety of distances and best against certain types of enemy. This all means you need to become pretty good at switching between weapon types and picking attack and retreat as weapons cool down. all-in-all it’s a pretty good fire system and definitely the strength of The Happy Little Virus.

If the combat is well constructed the level design and gameflow is less impressive. Although the difficulty is well planned and scaled, the essence of the game does not change very much and this makes play somewhat repetitive and slightly irritating. On top of this the constant messaging is just odd and awkward.

There are about 25 levels in all and they are grouped into rough themes, culminating in destroying and stealing from organised religion. It doesn’t feel like there is a narrative, rather that you are being subjected to the developers prejudices. If you can ignore this, it will take you about five hours to complete Dalek Training school. 

The Happy Little Virus is a reasonable FPS puzzle game and is available on Steam. It has some good design in weapons and a reasonably well planned difficulty curve, but the messaging falls flat and the game is a bit repetitive and lacking fun after a short while; kind of in the way that Candy Crush is a challenge but isn’t actually fun.

The Happy Little Virus provides the sort of frustrating challenge that trying to bounce a tennis ball on the edge of the racket does, you want to go again because you know you can do better, but you also know the experience and result isn’t going to be much different and when you finish you probably won’t ever do it again, unless you’re a bad guy and then nothing you do makes sense.

Breathedge – Review

Breathedge – Review

From the makers of the Matrix… no news yet, but I am in possession of an immortal chicken.

No it’s not a euphemism for something rude, these things do go together. They are a glimpse of the kind of knowing humour on offer in Breathedge. It catches you off guard as you watch the opening cinematic of you being dragged towards an interrogation by some robots made from coffins….you’ll find out later.

Somebody Cut My Cable

A few days after I was given this to review someone cut my internet cable and I had to go somewhere else to download, update (trying not to forget my external drive) and shift everything onto my laptop just to get the game open to run. I was starting to feel like I was in ‘The Game’ and that this was some sort of meta pre-level of scavenging to prove I was worthy of playing Breathedge.

Having crafted together the ability to play the game I did not dare switch it off in case I couldn’t get back and my guy was lost in space to die.

…and I still have no idea why I am in possession of an immortal chicken.

Breathedge is a space survival sandbox game where you are constantly seeking out materials from the wreckage of the space ship you crashed in, to survive and improve your situation. It inevitably involves crafting essential equipment and tools to allow you to progress and in this sense it is rather linear and fairly standard, especially in the early levels. You are given a set of tasks to complete largely in a pre-designed order and you are prevented (by distance and no knowledge of location) from accessing other areas until crafting progression allows.

This is in ‘standard’ mode which is the story mode. Here there really isn’t much of the base building that you might expect in a sandbox crafter, rather you use discovered bases. Breathedge does offer a variety of play options which level story and freedom against permadeath, unlocked achievements and base building.

Downright Beautiful

Breathedge is, graphically, a downright beautiful game right from the get go. The premise is that you have survived an explosion of the largest spaceship in human history, which it transpires was a funerary ship (appropriate). You are on it delivering your fathers’ coffin when the explosion occurs and now you must survive.

Progress, like any sandbox crafter, is slow and contained at first, but opens up at a decent rate once you get past the first chapter. Your problems scale with progress as you move from simply surviving and getting home to uncovering and becoming embroiled in far bigger machinations as the game switches from a crafting exploration game to a more liner adventure game in its final few sections.

A common frustration of sandbox crafters is obtaining enough of the right resources. In Breathedge common sense developers have prevailed and resources divide into two categories.

Firstly the basics to survive, ice, various nutritional elements for crafting into food and various metal and chemicals for tools. These basics are in plentiful supply and often floating around freely…you won’t run out.

Secondly the other stuff, materials for crafting into bigger items (once you have discovered blueprints), plastic, copper wiring, rubber, paint, etc.

These things are found next to or attached to items of space debris. So there is some clarity about where to look for stuff you need and the in-game encyclopaedia offers visual clues on where to find them. This clarity means progression is always possible and never too far away.

About Time… Wasting

There are some gripes about unnecessary time wasting that falsely lengthens game time for no purpose and it is all over the place. Journey time is one particular complaint, it takes a long time to travel anywhere initially and repeatedly having to return to your base to refill oxygen on top of that is annoying. Planning and crafting to bridge what, early in the game, seems a vast distance and discover a new base takes a long time.

Once you get there and realise you need to return to transfer your phat stack of collected resources, over several journeys it is most definitely annoying. I mean having unlocked or completed an area, what is the point in making me travel 4 minutes back to my original base just to collect some resources

This is space and the future, (albeit a 1950s Soviet stylised one) so why, once I have securely moved on in the game or discovered more bases, can I not activate a fast travel system?

This needless wasting of time is present all over the place; you see it in the actual crafting, where every object created needs a 5 second wait for it to be built. If you are making several components that’s a wait of a couple of minutes for no reason at all.

Health & Beauty

Health is another example, it is restored by sleep, but you literally have to wait staring at a screen doing nothing but watch a spinning sand timer for a minute in order to recover your health. It serves no purpose except to waste time, at least until you get the medical box blueprint to craft instant healing.

It is for this reason that some major reviewers have been unkind to Breathedge, but I think they’ve got it wrong. You see any complaint about this artificial and imposed pointless game lengthening (which I think is a valid complaint) is dispelled shortly after completing chapter one.

Very quickly after this point you discover a second base and rapidly open up triple the length of time on oxygen, bigger spare tanks to carry and even discover a vacuum cleaner rocket bike and begin whizzing around at quadruple the speed like a sort of space Hagrid.

So, all of these complaints rapidly recede and the only annoyance that remains is the short wait time for crafting items, but that, by virtue of being the only one, becomes trifling as the game opens up into a vast multitude of tasks to complete and places to investigate; it isn’t as if I have to do a stupid three minute puzzle every time I want to buy items cheaper, (yes I mean you Bioshock) and if it doesn’t spoil that game I can assure you by chapter two crafting items won’t be bothering you here. Aside from that, developers are responsive to the community and a recent update has increased the oxygen and tool durability in the early stages to improve your experience.

Breathedge is a wonderous game of beauty, discovery and adventure. The college humour jars at times, but like the annoyances of the early stages this too dissipates and a more confident game emerges.

In Breathedge there is always something to keep you going and I have lost hours into the early morning on repeated nights playing this because I felt I was just about to crack a puzzle or felt I would just investigate that thing over there, just finish off this last part of the task and I will have made significant advancement. Every achievement in Breathedge feels significant and getting that feel and commitment from a player is a sign of a good game.

You’ll get about 30 plus hours out of Breathedge and the developers are planning two free expansions later this year. It isn’t a perfect game or consistent and in some ways that’s a good thing. So, if you can see past the jarring frustrations of the first chapter (somewhat now patched), you will be rewarded with a visually stunning adventure based largely on a solid crafting background. It’s worth your time and you will enjoy it.

I still don’t know why they give you an immortal chicken, but it’s good for shorting out flayed electrics on space debris. I wonder if that’s how my internet cable was cut…

Grapple Hoops – Demo Review

Grapple Hoops – Demo Review

“BOOM SHAKA LAKA…He’s heating up!”

This was the greatest basketball game of all time –  NBA Jam. There you could jump many times your own height in a ‘physics out the window’, big head, WTF are the rules, two-on-two BBall game of speed and excitement. Score three unanswered baskets and the ball caught fire and would fly in from anywhere you threw it. It was raw, arcade power brought to the console and I loved it.

Grapple Hoops is like the love child of a night where Superhot got very drunk and took NBA Jam home for some serious Boom shaka laka….and you’re gonna love it.

Grapple Hoops

The game is essentially an FPS but your gun is a basketball and your alternate weapon is a grappling hook…hence the name. It all looks like the training school for bad assassin robots or something; a sort of Superhot for crash test dummies.

Grapple Hoops Gameplay

All of the action takes place atop high rise buildings dozens of feet apart that spell certain death should you miss your footing, miss-jump or misfire the grapple. The objective is to score baskets in a strategically difficult hoop at the end of the level. On the way, the basket will be defended by bad guy Crash Test Dummies, who you eliminate by smashing the basketball you are carrying in their empty faces; then watch them fold in slow motion like a cheap tent at the end of a festival. This is the easy bit and you are assisted by a super slow-mo when you draw the BBall to sling a shot, which helps you aim.

There you are at the start of the game, smashing doors down to emerge Keanu Reeves style, on top of a skyscraper and you have to run full pelt off the building with the purpose of jumping some impossible distance. The Mark of the Ninja is a useful personal skill if you have it, because using the grappling hook to fire at rapidly receding flagpole as you fly through the air to swing off ‘a la Spiderman’ is like a sort of colossal half-time crossbar challenge.

This part of the game is pretty unforgiving; you will die a lot getting to grips with the levels and controls. It is so fast and punishing that you can die and restart a level five times in a minute. This sounds tedious and like some sort of excessive rogue-like, but it isn’t. Objects and enemies remain in their place and behave predictably, so rather like a standard FPS, you try and learn where they are, when to act and try different things to get past or defeat the enemies and there are multiple routes to the hoop sometimes.

So despite dying five times in a minute, you will after that minute have made progress and consistently be able to get past what was in your way. So amidst a very challenging game you can feel you make consistent progress. That’s a good trait to have about your game and Grapple Hoops definitely has that ‘once more…this time I can do it’ feel about because of this.

If you get past all the obstacles and sit down all the enemies in your way, then the basket approaches. Often you will be flying through the air at this point…time to draw the ball again and if you sink the shot the rim explodes in a breath of fire and the level is complete. Do this close enough to dunk the ball and the camera will pan out to show you hanging from the hoop post-dunk with it aflame. It’s pretty cool stuff…especially as it’s so goddamn hard to do. There is a genuine sense of achievement to doing this. Most of the time you will be flying in the wrong direction desperately putting up bricks.

The demo consists of five levels and a practice arena. It will take you several hours to get through everything (on easy). The difficulty is set pretty high and I could not nearly complete all the levels of difficulty…but I feel like I could with practice and that’s the key. Each level is timed and there are three settings – easy, medium and hard. So there is a lot of replayability here. Beat your fastest run on a level and get yourself on the leaderboard scores, or try to complete the levels at a higher difficulty.

The levels themselves are not that long and the pace of the game so fast that you can jump in and out of this game pretty quickly, but the challenge means that you will likely always spend more time than you had planned trying to get it right.

Grapple Hoops is like nothing you have played. It’s the sort of game that only an indie developer could make. To mash together the ideas on show here – high rise parkour, basketball Saints Row style and some Tomb Raider swinging, sounds far too confusing to ever get out of the hungover coffee room conversation of ideas in a major publisher; but it works and it’s bold efforts like this that make indie games such an exciting area these day.

So head on over to Steam or Itch.io and download the demo; this game is shooting from downtown and hits nothing but the net. Swishhh…

Is it worth playing No Man’s Sky in 2022?

Is it worth playing No Man’s Sky in 2022?

No Man’s Sky has probably one of the most notorious launches for a new game of the last decade. Soaring on hype, the game failed to deliver on almost everything, leaving gamers crushed with buyer’s remorse.

Now, over four years after the initial release of the game (and several large, free updates), is it worth playing after all this time?

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Two planets nearly touching each other (Photo credit o0BaBaBoOeY0o on Reddit)

What’s the game like in 2021?

The core gameplay loop for No Man’s Sky is the same as many other survival/exploration-based games in the genre. You’re a person, in a world, and you harvest resources to build a base, upgrade your character to explore farther, and fight increasingly tougher enemies.

One of the biggest reasons why I could never truly get into Minecraft and its kin was exploration.

The different biomes were neat, but they didn’t make me inclined to stick around if I didn’t immediately find resources or points of interest. Especially for Minecraft’s sake, most of the game is spent underground anyway, making the change in biomes hardly noticeable.

With No Man’s Sky, you’re instead greeted with the same key resources on almost all planets. Some planets will not have these resources in abundance, which means you may have to stock up and come prepared for some planets.

These planets are completely procedurally generated, while they may still fall under similar biomes to other games, they end up being completely unique every time.

An exotic “Plated Planet” biome (Photo credit Lucifer926 on Reddit)

Between zooming from planet to planet, harvesting resources, and building bases across the galaxy, you’ve still got to explore space as well.

Space Stations serve as trading hubs between you and the local system’s economy, with different prices being offered depending on where you are. Here you’ll meet the three prominent races of the galaxy, learning their language to communicate, trading resources, unlocking new technology, and even buying better starships.

Environments That Leave You Breathless

Space – that is where the game truly shines in the graphics department.

Seeing these vibrant, colorful worlds in different systems and configurations often leaves you breathless. Systems with multiple stars, ringed planets like Saturn, even the sheer size and closeness of planets offer awe-inspiring views that can’t be replicated in other games.

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A Three-star system near a ringed planet (Photo credit JIARVIS on Reddit)

However, survival games such as these always fall into the same issue: Is the core gameplay loop enough to keep you entertained?

Just like Minecraft, the core of the game resides around harvesting resources, exploring new places, maybe building a base, and then going to another planet and repeating this cycle. No Man’s Sky offers some breaks to this via space travel, missions, managing your fleet of ships as you travel system to system.

And The Bad News?

The game doesn’t come without any faults, however.

No Man’s Sky has a fairly unimpressive story, which isn’t unlike other games in the same genre. Games like these offer little in the plot department, and instead opt for players to forge their own stories through their experiences while playing and exploring the game.

Gameplay gets repetitive as well, especially if you have bad luck and end up seeing similar planets in each system you jump to – which really ruins immersion when you’ve seen six Acidic planets in your last three jumps. This may be a personal beef though, as I don’t intend to land on every planet I see as other players may.

My final gripe with the game is the lack of difficult combat. The primary “enemy” of the game, Sentinels, are pretty dumb enemies. They offer little challenge after a certain point, and just attack in endless waves if you don’t actively run and hide from them to drop your “wanted level”.

All in all, the game has little to offer for downsides if you are already a veteran of the genre. There may be some struggles in Multiplayer that I’m not aware of, as I have only played solo so far.

Screenshot courtesy of u/Mokshake on reddit.

For me, I’ve never been more hooked in a game of this genre. I’ve already dumped over 70 hours into the game, including a 3 hour stream. The game continues to offer new free updates every few months, which keeps players like me anticipating what comes next.

Would I recommend the game? Absolutely.