Connect with us

Preview

Witanlore: Dreamtime | Early Access Preview

Published

 on

The Steam Early Access program launched on March 20, 2013. Over the past four years, great games have emerged from the service. However, with them have come broken, undeveloped titles that leave consumers wondering about the legitimacy of the promises offered by developers. The unfortunate reality of Steam Early Access is that developers, with little to no experience, are able to lead on customers with lavish and unrealistic goals that these developers often believe are within the realm of possibility. Witanlore: Dreamtime is a brilliant example of this.

Developed by Druid Gameworks Studio, Witanlore is an open-world adventure RPG. The game begins with a lengthy, and somewhat interesting, cutscene explaining the history of the world and why the tribes of Ursine are entrenched in years of war, setting the scene for Witanlore’s adventure. Players assume the role of a young Ursine about to uncover his/her destiny by communicating with a deity through the tribe’s traditional ritual, ‘The Dreaming’. This ritual will be an opportunity for the Ursine to understand the deity’s plans for his/her future. However, a set of tasks must be completd before the player can jump into this sequence.

HighresScreenshot00033_00000

Few quests exist in Witanlore at the time of writing, giving the player only a few hours of content, and all of the quests involve little more than walking from one NPC to the next. Witanlore continually presents a complete lack of care in nearly every aspect of the game. Before even reaching The Dreaming, the player must collect flowers from a mountain for the progression of the ritual. Unfortunately, the flowers cannot actually be acquired despite them existing in the world and so the player’s adventure stops there. After a few hours of playing Witanlore, these oversights start to manifest themselves into a pattern of incomplete ideas.

Graphically, the limited content available in Witanlore adheres to a relatively high standard. However, serious issues arise, with exceptionally unstable framerates and intense ghosting. The game consistently drops in framerate despite little happening on screen. Animations are clunky and stilted, and the character will often clip, get stuck on, or refuse to interact with the game environment. Many of the forum posts under Witanlore’s Steam page are authored by disappointed customers who have purchased the game only to have the program crash on launch.

Futhermore, Witanlore has a day-and-night cycle that makes playing impossible half of the time as the game becomes pitch black during the nights. Witanlore’s combat has not yet been fully implemented, and as a result, the only content that is currently available is a series of fetch quests. This focus on exploration requires the player to pay close attention to the minimap, especially during the game’s nights, to find whatever the last NPC has demanded. Unfortunately, in another stroke of brilliance, Witanlore’s minimap does not line up correctly with the world map. In many situations, the player will appear in a blatantly incorrect location, making the completion of fetch quests virtually impossible when compounded by the darkness of the game’s day/night cycle.

HighresScreenshot00033_00001

Lighting and map improvements are planned, alongside the implementation of skill/xp functionality, according to Druid Gameworks’ latest post on Steam. Although, updates are rare, with months passing between patches. Witanlore is growing with a clear direction and obvious potential. However, at this point in time, Witanlore is nothing more than an empty, lifeless shell of a game.

While the sword-and-shield combat system is reminiscent of a rudimentary version of that found in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the world lacks enemies. Narrative is Witanlore’s strong suit with most of the quests being interesting and fun to follow, but the general lack of content draws any enjoyment to a quick close.

Witanlore is a collection of interesting ideas that is clearly too big for Druid Gameworks to handle. The direction Druid Gameworks is taking the game is clear, and, despite the slow pace at which the team releases updates, Witanlore has the potential to become exactly what Druid Gameworks first set out to accomplish.

Preview

Co-op Gaming Shines at EGX Rezzed With We Were Here Together, Phogs!, and Cake Bash

Published

 on

Co-op gaming

Over the years, jolly co-op gaming has been in decline, especially from AAA developers. Several recent games have been standouts, such as A Way Out, Strange Brigade, and the Far Cry series, though the latest pioneers of co-op gaming will likely come from the indie community.

While exploring EGX Rezzed, the atmosphere was filled with a sense of mutual enjoyment as gamers came together to play a plethora of team-building games. Among these games were some of my personal highlights including We Were Here Together, Cake Bash, and Phogs!

We Were Here Together

We Were Here Together is the latest co-op adventure puzzle game by independent studio Total Mayhem Games.

The title continues on from two previously released projects, We Were Here and We Were Here Too, with the former available on Steam for free. Set amidst a frozen landscape, the first two games centred on exploring a mysterious castle while solving puzzles as part of a two-person team. Players were separated throughout the playthrough until the final moments, which featured a touching scene where the puzzling pals would eventually meet to conquer the remaining conundrums.

We Were Here Together immediately shakes things up by starting the game with both players working together in the same environment. The EGX demo starts off outside of the castle grounds in an expedition outpost where two explorers suddenly receive a distress call from somewhere in the frozen wastes. Players must work together to decipher an incoming transmission and correctly pinpoint the distress beacon.

The location itself is the answer to a series of puzzles, requiring both people to work together. A great example of teamwork is one player adjusting an outside satellite while the other stays inside to alter the radio’s frequency until a voice can be heard. This is where the creative ingenuity from the developers comes into play as solutions are different for each playthrough. The puzzles themselves remain the same, but, by using the same example as before, the voice may only be heard on a different frequency. Similar situations where the outcome changes include changing co-ordinates and figuring out which key may fit a particular door.

Roughly one-third of the game will be set in a shared environment while latter parts will take place back inside the castle in a traditional, separated format. Two paths are laid out later for the players to choose between, providing avenues for replayability. The changing solutions also add to the replay value as it prevents veteran gamers from going back and telling their new partner the answers.

The moments where players are physically apart highlight one of the unique features of the game: the radios. Both characters are equipped with walkie-talkies so players can communicate with each other. Radios are a brilliant immersion tool as the mechanic works exactly as a two-way radio should, with the wielder having to hold down a button to speak and release to hear the other. The radio mechanic is optional, though, as players can simply use a third-party chat. However, the added difficulty and roleplaying add an extra element to an already rather tricky title.

We Were Here Together is a fun shared experience that proves a challenge for even the most seasoned puzzle solvers. The release date and price of the project are unknown at present, but the game will be available on Steam.

Cake Bash

During EGX Rezzed 2019, the Coatsink team had a glorious display full of plush animals, colourful scenery, and even a rather large and comfortable dog bed.

I was lucky enough to go hands-on with Phogs! and play a few rounds of Cake Bash with PR and Events Manager Jack Sanderson. Both games proved to be a real treat to participants, with Cake Bash serving a much-needed helping of raucous fun in a series of mini-games.

Not unlike many beloved party games—such as Mario PartyCake Bash is an up-to-four-player competitive game featuring several rounds of friendship-ending challenges. The design of the title instantly stands out with an adorable and vivid visual style that brings a certain charm to the characters and settings.

Before each round, players choose a character from a selection of delicious desserts as their combatant. During the demo, only two game modes were available, the first of which required players to gather falling pieces of fruit and throw them inside a giant meringue. A single point is awarded for successfully tossing a piece of fruit into the bowl. However, a rare golden fruit, worth ten points, will appear every so often. Competitors must be wary of descending fiery boulders that can briefly daze any dessert. These boulders can also be picked up and lobbed at rivals. Not only can enemies launch these rocks at one another, but they can also punch and beat each other to force someone to drop their fruit.

The second mode available was a race to gather the most jellies to become the tastiest treat. Player avatars run around an arena, gathering multi-coloured jelly beans to cover their chosen dessert, and the sweet with the most treats at the end wins. While the first game mode mainly had the individual focusing on their own points, this round directly pits people against each other as limited jellies can be found, and players can steal them by whacking opponents.

While the game looks stunning, gamers will have to wait until 2020 to get their hands on Cake Bash. The late release has allowed for an increase in scope and additional modes for players to sink their teeth into.

Phogs!

The other title playable at the event was an equally adorable project called Phogs! The game can be played solo or with a friend, as the player controls one or both halves of a two-headed dog. The two heads can be moved independently and are able to stretch, bark, and bite.

Phogs! is set in a dream-like environment where the ground is made up of soft duvet sets and pillows, while the skies are filled with tranquil clouds gently floating in the distance. The level designs are built in a way that eases the player into the various mechanics, offering something new or demonstrating different ways to solve puzzles. Early enigmas would require both sides of the dog to work in unison to pull an object or levers simultaneously. Later levels would add a glowing orb that can be used to remove dark shadowy walls or illuminate pathways to walk across. Even the orbs are based around the idea of working as a team as one side of the dog bites onto the light ball with the other opening their mouth to act as a torch.

The charming personality of the game really shines in the various character designs and their functions within the levels. One of the final missions of the demo featured a sleeping giant that dreamed of bridges in floating thought bubbles. Players could then use the camera perspective to align the dream bridge with a section of a missing platform to cross. Other cutesy critters include wailing alarm clocks that can disturb the giants, preventing them from dreaming up a way to progress. The clocks can be led to nearby beds where they will quickly start to drift off and stop ringing.

Despite the levels being fairly linear, additional tasks can be completed to gain collectable dog biscuits. These tasks often require the dog to present characters with a particular item, for example, bringing a storybook to an owl.

The whole experience with Coatsink was a delight, both games offering a mix of controller-clenching competition and jolly cooperation. Like Cake Bash, Phogs! will also be arriving in 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One.


For future EGX coverage and the latest on all things single player, follow our FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. Meanwhile, join the discussion on our community Discord server.

 

Continue Reading