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 Robert N. Adams
I'm a bit fan of farming RPGs. The boom of new titles coming out since the success of Stardew Valley is something I've rather been enjoying. I played the heck out of Harvest Moon when I was a kid and I would have loved to check out all of these different takes on the same formula. Gleaner Heights aims to mix farming RPG elements with a Twin Peaks-style story for a game with a stronger narrative focus than this genre typically has.
Gleaner Heights is a mysterious mountain town with a bunch of interesting characters - pretty much par for the course for a farming RPG. Players are allotted a generous plot of land for their farm with all the caveats a fan of the genre might expect. You'll have to clean up your property, plant some seeds, and eventually upgrade your tools in order to remove some of the tougher rocks and stumps.
Combat is a pretty important feature in this game. Unlike some titles that confine enemies to a dungeon zone, you're liable to find strange monsters out in the forest and wild areas. I didn't have a dedicated sword or anything of the like, so I just wailed on the little buggers with my axe. They didn't seem particularly challenging, but I couldn't be careless around the bad guys, either.
Another interesting item in Gleaner Heights is the mine. Set just underneath the mountain road to the hotel, you actually have to chip away at the wall with your hammer. This will reveal chunks of ore that you can sell or use to upgrade your tools. The mine is randomly generated every time you head down there and is quite dark in most spots.
The basic mechanics of farming RPGs apply - you have energy and a health bar, crops must be planted and watered, you can raise animals, etc. Some little changes here and there are interesting. For example, planting seeds while it's raining can cause them to be washed away. What is typically a boon in this genre is instead made into a hazard in Gleaner Heights.
There are a number of flaws here. The sound of a waterfall absolutely assaulted my ears upon booting the game. Everything feels a bit slow overall, and the art style might seem a bit dated to some. It's pixel art, but it's a different style of pixel art that feels somewhat unique. This may be a plus or minus depending on your tastes.
What really sets this game apart from the rest is the narrative. Early on in the game, I had a mysterious visitor come to my doorstep late at night. Suffice to say, it was freaky. Gleaner Heights is a farming game with a spooky backstory, and I think players searching for a good tale above all else will find something to like here.
Gleaner Heights is still in development. If you're new to the farming RPG genre, I'd recommend you check out something a little more forgiving like Stardew Valley or Staxel. If you're a hardcore fan, the interesting story and more challenging gameplay might just be something worthwhile to play.
TechRaptor covered Gleaner Heights on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
Covered by Kyle Johnson
FMV games have a bad rap. Typically associated with shovelware adventure games and Command and Conquer in the 1990s, FMV almost disappeared as a medium entirely.
After a long silence, FMV games made a triumphant return in 2015. Two releases in Contradiction - Spot the Liar! and Her Story showed that great FMV games are doable, despite their earlier history. Then in 2016, CtrlMovie stepped up with Late Shift.
Considerably shorter than its counterparts, Late Shift is still nonetheless a rapid-fire crime thriller that doesn't overstay its welcome. Providing quality acting and action, Late Shift is a good addition to a resurrected genre, even if it doesn't take many risks.
At the center of Late Shift's plot is Matt, a nighttime security guard for a parking ramp. One seemingly innocuous event leads to another, and Matt quickly finds himself caught up in a gang of thieves aiming to steal a priceless bowl from a powerful Chinese family. As is usually the case in heist films, things go horribly, horribly awry, and Matt is forced to join up with thief May-Ling in order to survive.
While the plot isn't anything special, Late Shift makes up for it by peppering decisions throughout its numerous chapters. Many of the decisions don't do more than change a couple lines of dialogue, with the major decisions coming near the end. Still, even in a full two-hour playthrough, you'll easily make 50 decisions or more. On to of that, each one gives you only seconds to choose between two or three options.
If anything, the biggest knock against Late Shift is that there's not enough divergence between the different options. A cursory glance at a decision tree shows that there are not many different scenes to see. If you're hoping to see all seven endings, you'll end up re-watching the same sequences again and again. Late Shift could have easily been longer to rectify these issues, but it's hard to say just how much longer it could be.
Even so, Matt and May-Ling are fun to watch and presented believably. Matt's persistent narration provides good grounding as the pair find themselves in over their heads. Conversely, May-Ling plays up her mysterious nature and helps drive the plot.
Despite its shortcomings, Late Shift is an FMV game that is worth your time. Boasting impressive production, good acting and constantly engaging decisions, it more than makes up for the relatively short run-time and largely meaningless choices. With the quality of work here, hopefully, CtrlMovie continues to bolster FMV's renaissance.
TechRaptor covered Late Shift on PC via Steam with a code 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.