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 Samuel Guglielmo
I know it’s not good form to say that I went to an indie party specifically to play a game. When I looked over The Mix’s games, however, Bad North stood out to me. I was already aware of, and excited for, the game. So knowing it was there caused me to beeline for it. I’m really happy I managed to get some hands-on time with the title, as I think there’s something rather cool in the works.
Bad North plays like someone stuck tower defense, RTS, and roguelite into a blender, hit pulse a few times, and then smashed it together for good measure. Your goal is to order around troops to defend houses on randomly generated islands from invaders. These invaders come sailing slowly, and creepy, out of a fog. You’ll want to position your troops to counter them as they arrive, and prevent them from getting to the houses and burning them down.
At the start of my demo I only had two battalions of swordsmen, but later on, I could earn archers and spearmen to assist me. Each of these groups had advantages and disadvantages, and tactically placing them was a large contributing factor to my success or failure. I want the archers to be somewhere they can hit enemies, for example, but not somewhere that enemies can easily reach.
Watching my little soldiers fight was really entertaining, and this was thanks to just how beautiful the game is. The minimalist graphics style really does wonders, making the game feel smooth and having every element stand out. It also helps that the island designs are smart. I could see several different ways to block enemy troops and at least one instance where missing a side passage almost screwed me over.
After surviving a level (assuming you survive), you gather gold coins that you can spend on upgrading your troops. Troops respawn into battalions assuming the captain survives the fight. If you lose a battalion’s captain, that squad is gone for good. You then can choose which island you move to next from branching paths, with each island having special features and risk/reward scenarios.
Eventually, my army fell, the island I was on was raided, and I was no longer apart of what I assume is the Good South (or at least the Average West). However, I came away excited to take on the battles of Bad North again. This is an extremely clever mash-up of many different elements that absolutely meld exactly as they should. Also, it’s just super pretty, so I bet I can get a stunning wallpaper from it.
Bad North was sampled at E3 2018 during The Mix. The game will be launching this summer for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android devices.
Covered by Robert N. Adams
Minako is a game that is half tower defense, half village builder. The premise is simple: you begin the game with two people and a cat. A bad guy wants to kick your butt. It’s up to you to build up your village’s population and equip them well enough to fend off increasingly tough attacks for a grand total of thirty days.
Right off the bat, I had a bit of difficulty with Minako. The game explains very little to you. It’s a tiny indie game and it doesn’t have much in the way of guides at the moment since it’s less than a month old. I eventually figured out that the old man with a backpack who visited my castle every day was a merchant. He sells a variety of goods, most of which are listed in Japanese terms. I’m a weeb so I know that a bokken is a wooden sword and a yumi is a bow, but I had no idea what a tanko was or many of the other items. (Tanko, just so you know, is early Japanese armor.) Some of the things were easy to figure out and some were not.
The game’s mechanics are relatively straightforward. You can assign villagers to clear away trees, stone, or plants to generate wood, iron, and food, respectively. The map is small, so you will eventually hit a point where you are going to need to build fields (for food), woodlots (for wood), and quarries (for iron) to generate resources long-term. Buildings like the kitchen allow you to prepare meals which I assumed were somehow better quality than regular old food. I also learned that the yellow bar above characters represented their hunger and reduced their maximum HP, a stat that can be drained in combat or after working for too long.
Every day begins with your villagers recovering from the day before. They’ll say hello to one another and then get right to work. The merchant arrives a bit into the day, and visitors will come to the village to rest in your houses or avail themselves of other services in exchange for money. When the sun sets, your villagers will have a meal (if they need one) and prepare to fight the bad guys who will surely attack once night falls.
Each successfully-completed day will reward you with one ration and one scroll. A ration will permanently increase the Strength, Dexterity, or Intelligence of any villager. A scroll will reveal one of the two skills that a villager has, providing some kind of bonus like a percentage chance to find an item while working or an increased aptitude in a particular field. Judging by my experience with the game (and my reading of the Steam Discussions), it seems that each character has fixed stats and abilities. You likely won’t beat Minako the first go, and the knowledge of each character and their abilities will allow you to figure out who you plan to hire and how you plan to develop and equip them in future games.
I made it to the 15th night (out of 30) in Minako on my second try. I encountered a couple of bugs, and I still don’t understand some of the game’s buildings or mechanics. That aside, I think it makes for a fun experience for tower defense fans and village builder fans alike. You’ll have to figure out some things on your own (at least until someone writes up a comprehensive guide about the game), but you’ll have fun doing it.
Minako was covered 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.