Cry of Fear can be best described in one word, immersive. From the first time you boot up the mod right through to completion the entire world closes in around you and holds you tight. You will take on the role of Simon, a young teen who wakes up in a dark alleyway with only questions. He has no idea of the events leading up to this point or why the world around him is slowly filling with horrible monsters. Simon needs to fight the darkness (and what lies within) with the intention of uncovering the mysteries and surviving to see another day. I won’t go into any more details regarding the story but it is worth mentioning that you are in for a very enjoyable ride, if you can muster up the courage to press into the night.
Cry of Fear has something very special. You see the gents from Team Psykskallar Team Psykskallar have not just been sitting idle for the past 4 years as CoF boasts some of the best engine implementations for GoldSRC since Paranoia. From the very beginning of the mod you are greeted with a new hint system, inventory changes and my personal favourite the new map loading system (more details on that later). Lighting effects are vastly improved and actually make a big difference. The world – while not extremely dark – still requires some player held light source to navigate effectively so your combat will change based solely on the lighting made available to you. With 6 different lighting solutions available at different points in the game you are spoilt for choice each having their own pros and cons.
Unlike the majority of half-life mods CoF is not a linear game. You will often find yourself backtracking as you pick up items for areas you have since passed, however the world is far from static. New obstacles will appear within areas you so bravely exorcised on your first pass, familiar routes will change and new areas and shortcuts to old will open up. Players who have ventured into the Dark/Demon Souls games will have a good idea at what I am hinting at. This is all thanks to the above mentioned level loading system where every door you enter loads (rather quickly I might add) a new map within the game. With each new instance the enemies you face will be randomly placed, codes for doors and computers change meaning each new game will be different. The system itself is fantastic, it is a “think outside the box” that just works so well, I might even go as far to say it is the best level management system I have seen in a modification to date. And I have played a LOT of mods.
Following the motif of survival horror, inventory space is quite limited and in some cases extremely frustrating. One example I had to find and carry two fuses from one location to another, each fuse takes up a whole slot within your inventory and if you take into account that each weapon, key, light source takes up as slot well you will be forced (quite regularly) to make hard choices on what you will be carrying with you. I will admit that this system was frustrating for me; I tend to “save” items for more difficult encounters so if I wanted that shotgun again I would need to backtrack. Personal issues aside I believe the whole system could have still worked well if the issues of size and weight been a factor rather than a slot based system.
Now I am imagining you are all saying “Enough about the engine, IS THE MOD SCARY?!?” Yes, Cry of Fear is really frightening! There are a fair amount of “BOO!” moments but CoF really shines in how it builds up the suspense and for that the music plays a very big part. These moments are effective at getting deep under your skin, to the point where it had literally given me shivers. Mix in the removal of ye-old f5 to quick save for a suitably better and far more traditional save point system and the resulting effect will fill you with a sense of dread since you are very much gambling with your progress. For those among us who are weak at heart Cry of Fear does have some downtime that works wonders for the pacing of the mod. The first few chapters will really run you ragged for scares, but when you finally step out into the open streets and the soothing music envelopes your tormented mind you realise how much of a powerful hold CoF has over your emotional state.
So should you try Cry of Fear? Yes, without a doubt. But know this, no matter how much you think you are prepared for what you are about to experience I can tell you right now that you are not. So turn down the lights, put on your favourite headphones and get ready for what will most likely become an all-time classic mod.
Faster Than Light is one of those rare mix of game genres. RTS Spaceship combat, Rougelike and Simulation and just like a Vegemite sanga with cheese Faster Than Light is delicious. You take the role of the guiding hand for an intrepid crew of unlikely spacefaring heroes who are tasked with travelling as fast as they can light years away to warn the good guys about a literal army of rebels hell bent on taking control.
Unique, complex and challenging is what comes to mind when trying to articulate Faster Than Light to other people and that statement reflects my first experience booting up the game, which left me bewildered with the daunting amount of control given. Allow me to let me rattle off a few of the complexities players are tasked with managing on the journey. A space ship has a crew of people/aliens who can all learn, control and repair functions on the ship itself, they can also die and in many ways they are the life blood of the vessel adrift in space. While controlling the movements of your crew you also need to contend with oxygen levels for each room and ship, power management to important functions of your ship, enemy boarding parties, ship expansions, ammo, fuel and natural events. There is a tutorial that tries to alleviate the more complex interaction FTL offers however right now it is nothing more than a friendly tap on the space/alien bum before letting you out that space door. It should be safe to assume this will be worked on later given the current state of the games development.
The interactions of FTL do not stop at ship level management, once you have charged your Faster Than Light Drive, selected a course and made the jump you will be greeted with a random event. There might be a ship that is in distress, would you help them? How about a pirate or a slaver going to town on a smaller less equipped vessel, would you step in, use up your resources and become a hero of the people/aliens (just like good old Jayne)? Space is apparently not as empty as we first imagined as there is plenty of side activities available for those willing to explore.
Anyone familiar with the older generation CRPG's will feel right at home with the stress of combat in FTL. At any time players are welcome to pause the game to issue commands and manage power levels. This (thankfully) does not make the game any easier to complete with even the easiest difficulty throwing curve balls to the ill-prepared or overconfident. You will need to tread a fine line of gun-ho space blazing and premeditated ship expansions if you are to survive. The particulars of ship to ship combat offer some unique puzzles to overcome. A ship heavy with energy shields for example might seem like a daunting opposition, however equipped with the right tools and knowledge of how power systems work will silence those cocky pirates and ultimately bring a smirk of satisfaction to any players face.
Faster Than Light while really fun right now is still in beta, meaning there is a lot to change and a lot to come from this punchy little title. I personally have been awaiting this game with much anticipation and so far it has lived up to my self appointed (read extreme) expectations. As a fan of sci-fi in general it is great to see a game get the management of spaceships down right. This very much is a game to look out for sometime around August this year!
To much choice? Worry no more gamers, we have you covered via our shiny new Steam Indie DB Curator page. Our aim is to highlight the best games and mods Steam has to offer, by picking our favorites, by picking your favorites, by picking past indie of the year winners and everything else we love. So please hop on over and give us a follow!
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A slow month on the Indie front this month, with only a small handful of releases making it onto the Spotlight video, however theses are fantastic releases which you should check out! It was a month of smaller less polished releases for August 2010, maybe next month we can see all of those who didn't make it this month?
Nudo is a platformer on top of a rubik’s cube. It comes with 32 levels that could melt your brain. After the main game, there's a challenge mode that lets you play the game in a whole new way, or the same way if you have OCD.
Till next time mod away my good friends and watch this group for updates.
The second ever IndieDB Spotlight video now will more VO! This month we bring you six of the best Independent releases found on IndieDB.com, both retro and modern, action and puzzle. Also let me know what you guys think of the format, I'm more then happy to change things.
Robotz DX is an unashamedly old-school, single-screen shoot-em-up with strategic game play. Although simple in concept, it is a difficult game to beat; you will die many times before you master all 30 arenas - and even when you do conquer the game, it's randomly generated level layouts will provide a new challenge on every subsequent play-through.
Till next time mod away my good friends and watch this group for updates.
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