Coverage Club is our weekly series of smaller impressions in the style of full reviews. Games can range from brand new titles hitting Early Access to older hidden gems that never got their due. No matter your preference, you’re sure to find something off the beaten path here.
Covered by Alex Santa Maria
As mentioned in a recent episode of the Bombcast by one Jeff Gerstmann, no one should remember Dark Messiah of Might & Magic. It’s a middling effort from a studio that would go on to do much greater things. In fact, the only thing notable about it is an utterly broken combat system. In a game filled with melee weapons and magic spells, there’s only one true standout in the arsenal. That is, of course, your character’s mighty boot. With ample high cliffs and spike traps, your best bet was almost always to kick your enemies into hazards and watch them crumble before you. The developers of Elderborn have probably played some Dark Messiah. Their first-person slasher updates this hilariously broken system into something that could work out.
Elderborn places you in an underground crypt full of zombies. Each enemy glows neon, seemingly infected by spores from a broken bar sign. You have nothing but a sword and your spiked shoe to start. Quickly, you get a war hammer and a pair of spiked gauntlets to add to your arsenal. As you head towards your first enemy, you start to learn the unique dance that the developers at Hyperstrange are working towards. Combat is equal parts attacking, dodging and stunning. It’s similar to the melee combat of City of Brass, but your foot doesn’t have the reach of that game’s whip.
Early parts of the first level involve spiral staircase-esque chambers. I found this to stunt my initial progress towards learning the gameplay. Since there’s a giant pit in the center of the room, you forgo learning the combat and just kick everyone to their death. As fun as it is initially to kick enemies around, it gets pretty boring fast. It wasn’t until I got to rooms where I needed to engage foes that I found myself engaged. Kiting hordes of enemies around and narrowly avoiding a fatal strike is a hell of a lot of fun.
Elderborn is launching into Early Access this week, and you can feel it. This is a game that needs some testing to smooth out its rough edges. For one, the control scheme is equal parts unique and infuriating. I can deal with some interesting button placements. Still, in no world should you have your main attack be on a bumper in a first-person game. Jamming on side buttons rather than the right trigger feels like a mistake that there’s no way to fix.
There’s also no way to get around the game’s frustrating checkpoints. You don’t get sent back to the end of the level if you die, but you’ll need to repeat several rooms in order to proceed. Combine that with the character’s lumbering walking speed, and you’ll find it hard to keep playing for longer than twenty minutes at a time. The advertising for Elderborn pitches to the “GET GUD” crowd, but the only truly difficult thing it offers is a test of patience.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s fun to be had in kicking Elderborn‘s undead enemies down a pit. The game seems to realize how silly everything is, stating on its store page that it takes inspiration from DOOM. There is a way for this dumb action movie design to work. It’s just that the version launching into Early Access doesn’t reach that goal quite yet. With a tweaked control scheme and better checkpoints, Elderborn definitely could be a game to look out for.
TechRaptor covered Elderborn on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
Covered by Robert N. Adams
Adventure Island was a cute little platformer series by Hudson Soft back in the heydey of the NES. I loved the games, especially Super Adventure Island on the SNES. When I saw Dinocide, I couldn’t help but take a look at something that sought to emulate these classics.
Dinocide starts in a similar fashion to its spiritual predecessor: the bad guy kidnaps your girlfriend and it’s up to you to save her. You’ll use ridable dinosaurs and primitive weaponry to combat enemies as you work your way across the land towards your ultimate goal. That’s where the similarities with Adventure Island end and Dinocide’s own unique spin on the formula begins.
This game features an interesting life system. Your hit points are continually decreasing throughout the level and are only restored by eating food. Pieces of fruit restore five ticks of the bar. The much-rarer meat will give you back a full health bar. Outside of this gradual decline, you’ll also lose life from environmental hazards or hits that you take from enemies. Your life can deplete at an alarmingly fast pace even if you avoid taking any hits from the game’s various bad guys. Thankfully, most of the levels can be completed in less than two minutes and the boss fights suspend the hunger portion of the life drain.
There are a number of different weapons and ridable dinosaurs in Dinocide. These aren’t just temporary power-ups – you can actually keep them for use in later levels. Whatever mount and weapon you have at the end of the game are available for picking in future levels, but you only have so many of them available. If your mount dies in the course of a level or you die with a weapon from your inventory equipped, you’ll lose it forever. It’s perhaps best to go through each level using just the rock at first. You can scout it out and see if you can beat it without making use of your valuable power-ups. You effectively have infinite lives; the only things you risk are any mounts or weapons you take at the outset of a level.
One of the interesting things I discovered was the control scheme. You could choose to make use of the arrow keys and ZXC or the WASD keys and 123 on the keypad. This might be the first game I’ve seen that had both of these options available at the same time. It’s a nice little innovation.
Some of the enemy designs were interesting, but one or two of them seemed vaguely familiar to existing creatures in other games. A particular caterpillar looks awfully close to Weedle from Pokémon minus the spikes on its head and tail. The cactus enemy seems to have a bit of a Creeper vibe to it, too.
A number of classic platformer goodies are available. Secret areas, secret items (including an honest-to-goodness battle mech mount), and a level where you have to outrun moving lava all make for a great bit of variety in Dinocide.
As much fun as I had with the game (despite the occasional frustration at tough levels), I beat it in roughly 1 hour 45 minutes. Branching paths on the world map, a speed run mode, and a boss rush mode can give you a bit of replayability, but I feel like Dinocide makes for a poor value prospect at its current price point. Grab it if you’re a hardcore platformer fan and it’s at a steep discount.
TechRaptor covered Dinocide on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer
What do you think of this week’s Coverage Club selections? Do you know of an overlooked game that deserves another chance? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow our Steam Curator to keep up to date with all our reviews.