Human Resource Machine [Steam store page]

Synopsis:This turns programming into a puzzle-like experience. Simple and intuitive drag and drop code that asks you to use some surprisingly advanced concepts.

The Sea Will Claim Everything [Steam store page]

Synopsis:Weird aspect ratio, but this hand-drawn point-and-click is a fantastic world with unique characters and *tons* of interactable flavor details.

Warhammer Quest [Steam store page]
The base game isn't really complete - it only includes 4 base classes and 3 Dungeon types. You have to buy the Deluxe edition for twice the price to get all the classes and scenarios - or unlock any of the 8 missing ones individually for $3 each.

Seriously sounds like a joke you'd find in DLC Quest.

Nevertheless, I gave it a shot with the choices available in the base game, playing for 9 hours total. The text story before and after dungeons is actually pretty well written and atmospheric, but the gameplay itself leaves a lot to be desired.

One of the biggest annoyances was that the movement is always turn based, regardless of whether you're in combat. Your entire party has to be moved one at a time down long empty hallways, rather than just moving them all at once with no restrictions until enemies are encountered.

When you're moving them you also have to be sure not to reveal a new room until all your heroes are close to the entrance - otherwise you'll have a bunch of characters stuck two or three moves behind, worthless for the start of the battle. There's also a chance that you'll just be randomly ambushed as you're moving your characters, and the placement of these new enemies isn't at all logical. It can be frustrating at times - but I guess it's so that you don't linger in the hallways waiting for your magic to recharge.

It really needs a limit though - I've had it happen multiple times in a row, immediately after I just finished dispatching the previous ambush. Eventually I just had to push forward down the hallway without regrouping and hope that the next revealed section wasn't a room with lots of enemies, ready to pounce on my unprepared party.

Once you get out of a dungeon you can head to town to visit a shop or a few other locations, but the towns also have some annoying random events that can rob you of money before you even have a chance to spend it, if you're unlucky. Just clicking to visit the shop is a risk, which is stupid. The random events (or paying gold at the town shrine) can also add temporary buffs or injuries that last for a certain number of dungeons.

Town is also where you switch out classes if you have more than the 4 base characters, but the location you'll probably use most is the training grounds - paying gold to level up your characters after they have enough XP. They don't really give you enough gold, so it takes an hour or more to even get your first ability, and a few hours until your party actually starts feeling useful and unique.

Before this the game is pretty repetitive, movement and simple hack and slash mostly. The new abilities add passive skills that give you extra chances to dodge or hit multiple enemies in one turn, and eventually new active skills as well.

Missed attacks can still be incredibly frustrating though, even at higher levels - and certain encounters are really brokenly difficult. ("Da Cursed Toof" anyone?) This would be less of a problem, except that even on normal any class that dies during a dungeon gets absolutely no XP, even if you complete it.

So while I enjoyed the writing, the gameplay itself is incredibly flawed and makes this game average at best or frustrating at worst. Although it isn't as strategic, I'd recommend playing Hand Of Fate instead if you want similar vibe without all the frustration.

Synopsis:Pretty good writing, but the DLC-filled gameplay is a disappointment - from repeated missed attacks, to leveling being a huge gold sink for no reason.

Note: this is a repost of an older text-older review, I thought a few gifs would spice it up.

Highlands is a light strategy game that revolves around capturing tiles using very simple turn-based battles. I've seen a few people compare it to the board game Risk, and strategy wise that describes the depth pretty well.

The battles are why I have very mixed feelings about the game - they do require some strategy, but it's a pretty repetitive process. Because all of the damage from the enemy is inflicted on a single unit, you just want to select the one with the lowest health capable of surviving the attack.

This damage is determined by a dice roll each turn of the battle, but as long as the unit you select to tank that turn has more health than the maximum roll, it's guaranteed to survive. Then next turn you select another unit to tank, using the same process.

This preserves higher-health units for future battles - since the only real danger is running into a battle where you can't soak up the first one or two powerful enemy attacks. As the enemy loses health their damage is reduced as well, and it really isn't a fair fight since you often kill multiple enemies per turn - and the most you'll ever lose per turn is your one tank unit - even if it only had 1 health left.

Occasionally the enemy also gets special tank units that can absorb all your damage for a single turn, but once the 2-3 tanks are dead the rest of their army is exposed and often dies in a single turn. You will take more damage when this happens though, since destroying a tank doesn't reduce the overall enemy attack power much - so you'll end up taking a few really big hits if they have a lot of tanks to kill.

Later in the game you get some items to improve attack and defense, as well as some special abilities that give you a random chance of pre-attacking - but the basic strategy remains the same.

The overworld is fairly simple as well, and mostly revolves around a fog of war that hides the massive number of enemy units. These also have a weak AI that tends to keep them in check so you don't get overwhelmed. For instance - if they own a tile that has zero guys, and it's the only path to your tiles, they will not move through that empty tile. They also won't attack a tile that has a higher attack power than the enemy squad. This includes multiple squads, they don't add their power together - so if your squad of 70 power is sitting next to 3 squads of 60 power each, they still won't attack.

There are some other abilities on the overworld like fortifying tiles and building outposts for resources, but you don't really have to use these much - it's mostly just move, fight, and wait a turn or two to heal once your squad gets dangerously low health.

So although it's not a bad game and kept me entertained for a few hours, I didn't feel compelled to play the other half of the levels - even though the writing was actually pretty good.

Synopsis:About as strategically deep as Risk, though the low number of units doesn't allow for any grand strategy. Battles are too simplistic and repetitive.

Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon [Steam store page]
This one intrigued me because it looked like a story-driven game where you play as a spider roaming around a mystery-filled estate, spinning webs and eating bugs. And it sort of is, although the story isn't actually told to you through cutscenes or at a fast pace - you have to slowly discover details in the background and piece it together yourself.

I found this a little less engaging than it would have been with a more explicit story, especially since it's difficult to tell what details actually matter. It's almost more in the vein of an Augmented Reality Game, than a story-driven experience. It's a weird mix since the actual gameplay is pretty casual - spinning webs to catch certain types of insects, and jumping directly to eat others.

In fact I actually enjoyed this part - particularly the ones you can eat directly, since spinning webs can sometimes be a bit awkward. There was a good variety of enemies, some that even try to attack you, or the grasshoppers that you actually have to chase into your webs rather than just waiting for them to fly in on their own.

The game has seven explicit mysteries that you can unlock, although these don't reward you with a cutscene or anything. Each one requires you to find clues on other levels, and these will help you solve the puzzle. For these (unlike the overarching story) it actually does pop up a message when you find one, and saves it in your notebook.

Some of them do seem to require replaying the levels multiple times though, using different combinations of weather and time of day - there are four combinations for each level, and they don't really seem to change much besides the ambiance.

So overall I thought the gameplay was decent, but I was a bit disappointed by the lack of an explicit and well-paced story to accompany it and keep me engaged and coming back for more. I also didn't really see the appeal of playing the same level multiple times. For me it would have been better as a shorter and tightly refined experience, revolving around a cool story.

Synopsis:Decent mechanics but I would have preferred a more direct story, rather than having to infer it from the level environments.

Morphopolis [Steam store page]
This game has about an hour of content, maybe a bit less if you're really good at puzzles. The main hidden object part of the game is extremely rough though - because you don't even know what items you're looking for initially. You have to randomly click on suspicious looking plants or bugs, and hope that a bubble pops up, showing the item to collect.

This happens throughout multiple screens, and since moving your bug character around the predetermined paths is so slow and finicky, this can be a painful process. You can't collect "Bug 4" items from the first screen until you've actually discovered and clicked on "Bug 4" on the third screen. This obviously makes for a lot more backtracking than would be necessary if you just knew what you were looking for from the start.

It takes longer to navigate the bug around than it does to actually find most of the objects, and this ruins what could be a short but pleasant experience. There's also a variety of minigames interspersed throughout, each one triggered by turning in a full set of the hidden objects - and most of these are quick little puzzles and brain teasers. Unfortunately this decent gameplay and the relaxing art and music are ruined by the clunky interface.

Synopsis:Pretty but short (less than an hour), and the pathing is very rough - I think I spent more time moving around than collecting the hidden objects.

You're running a pharmaceutical company, sending out researchers to find new ingredients, refining and possibly combining those into different types of medications. Each step in the refining process has the potential to make the medication more valuable as well - but you have to decide if it's worth the effort to upgrade one of your current assembly lines, or if an entirely different drug combination would be more profitable.

This management game actually has a lot going for it - they have a nice balance of building, research, and puzzling - but a couple elements really frustrated me. One is the lack of a faster fast-forward, since many of the campaign levels have an "Expert" score where you want to build on pause and then let it run for a long time. This means 10-20 minutes at the end of the game just waiting for your score to get high enough, once you have an optimal layout. Give me a 10x speed - that type of waiting is unacceptable.

Second, all the campaign levels are based around a score, but the actual maps are random sizes and layouts. This means some generated maps will be significantly easier than others. I also found that even the biggest rooms often aren't large enough for dual assembly lines if you want to make a level 3 or 4 cure. It's frustrating when you spend an hour building a layout, just to get to the end and find you need a couple extra squares to fit your final machines. And without those machines, everything else you've done is useless.

Even though the puzzle element of oddly sized rooms is interesting, I think they could still do that with a building that you could make infinitely larger in any direction. It already expands in odd chunk sizes anyway.

I did find the loan aspect of the game a bit odd as well - because the game allows you to have a negative bank balance while still paying off your loans. So it's actually really effective to hire a bunch of researchers to make your materials and machines cheaper, and even though their payroll is hundreds or thousands in the red per week they never get fired.

This allows you to streamline your entire company without really costing anything, and if you stagger the loans correctly you'll usually have a bigger one available to pay off your debt and build more machines before being bankrupt again. In other words, the most efficient way to play the game seems to be always being constantly unprofitable. It's a weird mechanic that should probably be rebalanced.

Overall though I really enjoyed the building and research aspects of the game - they're strangely convoluted since the machines don't have standard inputs to line up nicely - but in the end this made it more interesting. At first I was frustrated at having to constantly play a tetris-like game of arranging my machines, but I realized afterward that it would be a bit more bland if you could just line everything up in a single row.

I do wish they let you put machines back to back though - right now you have to use one conveyor in between them, even if the exit and entrance to the next machine line up perfectly. That seems like a strange restriction. It could also use the ability to copy or move an entire layout of machines at once (much like Infinifactory) - to make it quicker to duplicate a working solution.

So if they fix a couple issues I think this game would be excellent - but right now I find it a bit frustrating when arbitrary restrictions block my complex machines. If you're just trying to win the challenges, and not get the "expert" award then it will be perfectly fine though - there's plenty of space for basic gameplay. Some of the harder ones just may not be possible with every random building.

Synopsis:Needs a faster fast forward, and has a few annoyances if you're trying to get Expert achievements - but the normal gameplay is fun and well designed.

Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! [Steam store page]

Synopsis:Gameplay is one-note: click and wait. Click and wait for your worker to craft, to sell, to shop, to explore. The grindy lack of depth destroys my soul.

This is a random-battle simulator where you fight other mechs using match-three combat. The story, style, and characters are pretty well done - and there are some encounters that don't require combat if you talk your way out of them, but these are few and far between. Each of the other encounters has a specific goal, like collecting a certain number of resources, destroying an enemy, or just surviving a certain number of turns.

There are plenty of match-three combat games, but this one avoids the common design flaws - it keeps your game board separate from the enemy's, and uses each color as a different resource rather than just using each match to deal damage. This makes it a bit more strategic - although it isn't a particularly difficult game once you learn the mechanics.

That was my main complaint, it gets a bit repetitive after an hour or two - gaining enough energy to defend yourself by raising shields, and then hammering away at your enemy's shield reactor using an FTL-style targeting system. The enemy AI isn't nearly as competent or powerful at targeting your important systems, so it's pretty easy to win up until the bosses. These have much more powerful weapons and shields than you do, and as far as I can tell it's only really viable to fight them with one specific mech type.

You unlock these mechs by leveling up over multiple games, and by the time I was consistently reaching the first (of two) bosses I still didn't have this best mech unlocked. You also get extra permanent perks as you level up, which makes you more powerful over time. I'm not a big fan of this style of progression, since winning is mostly dependent on time spent rather than your strategy. If you go into a boss fight with stats that are too low you just straight out can't win, since you can't disable his systems fast enough to survive.

The only random element that may sometimes get you killed is if you just can't get enough of a resource that you need on the board - usually coolant or ammo. Ammo is obviously used to damage the enemy, so if you can't get it you can't kill them - but the coolant is used for every type of action. So if you run out you can't even raise your shields or shoot without inflicting damage on yourself.

There are mods you can buy at the shop after each fight that modify how your weapons work and also give you extra special abilities, and some of these will fix this issue - giving you a free full bar of coolant every 6 turns, or maybe turning all of one specific type of resource on the board into a different specific type.

So overall it isn't a bad game, but I do wish the main gameplay was a bit more challenging - I enjoyed it at first but it didn't keep me engaged once I started wiping out all the enemies with impunity, and that didn't take more than a couple hours and a very basic strategy.

Synopsis:Better than a lot of match-three combat games, but a little bit too easy once you're used to the mechanics. Also requires leveling up to beat the game.

Just Cause 3 [Steam store page]

Synopsis:They gave you the wingsuit too early - and forcing you to liberate several zones to unlock each story mission removed a lot of the joy of destruction.