In case you missed the first of my round ups from Sony’s Digital Showcase event, Sony recently showed of a selection of digital only titles coming to PSN in the future. On show were a mix of first party titles, and smaller indie titles, with a wide mix of styles and budgets.
For this round up, we’ve got a sci-fi MOBA, a visually unique roguelike, and a brutally hard action RPG.
Kill Strain | PS4 | SCE San Diego Studio | 2016
While MOBAs are now seemingly everywhere, Kill Strain does a good job of representing something slightly outside of the genre norms. While it will certainly look and feel familiar to a lot of MOBA players, it also feels very fresh. Rather than the mouse and keyboard input favoured by most titles in the genre, Kill Strain instead behaves more like a twin stick shooter. Not only does this help to make the game more accessible to console gamers, it also just makes movement feel slicker. Using your abilities is simpler too, with direction controlled by the right stick and a clear UI showing just where it’ll have an effect.
However, perhaps the most unique element of Kill Strain is the game’s dynamic team sizing. Instead of the standard 5 vs 5 affair, Kill Strain takes a 5 vs 2 vs 5 approach. Each of the five person teams consist of mercenaries, while the two outliers are mutants created by the titular Strain. The dynamic element to all of this comes from the mutants, who can drag a prone mercenary into a piece of the map controlled by the Strain, turning them into another mutant.
Mutant and mercenaries feel completely different, and it’s a nice touch that the mercenaries get to select which mutant they’ll morph into should the other mutants turn them. While the mercenaries have high tech, sci-fi abilities, the mutants instead play as huge powerhouses that will charge down mercs and swipe at them. They also have the ability to spread the Strain across the map, bolstering their cause and making the world a lot tougher to traverse for the mercs, who take damage when they venture into the Strain.
Kill Strain feels different enough to its MOBA brethren to potentially gain some real traction. In particular the asymmetric nature of the mutants and mercenaries feels really good, and adds another layer to the gameplay which makes it feel like a remarkably fresh take on genre staples that feel reasonably familiar.
[email protected] | PS4 | Stormcloud Games | 2016
If you reach way back into the depths of history, the origins of the roguelike genre saw you exploring dungeons formed entirely of ASCII text. In fact there were a lot of games that only utilised ingenious combinations of characters for their artwork, mostly because that was all that was practical at the time.
[email protected] pays homage to this history in an interesting way. While ASCII characters still play a big part of the game’s visual style, it’s also a game with 3D art. Yes, StormCloud games have built all of the game’s textures in such a way that every single character looks like they’re formed only of ASCII art, and it gives the game a fabulous, almost Tron like look.
On the gameplay side of things, [email protected] is a roguelike dungeon crawler, featuring a lot of crafting and some rather cruel random elements. Potions perhaps best exemplify this randomness, where the effect of the various coloured potions is decided at the start of the game without informing the player. A green potion might be health on one run, and poison on the next, and there’s no way of knowing until you actually try said potion. You can risk doing harm to yourself by swallowing an attack potion, or take an equal risk by throwing a potion at an enemy, only to find you’ve actually buffed them.
Crafting elements feature similar random generation, with the instructions for items scattered around the dungeon. It if, of course, fitting that if you want to craft some new equipment then you’re forced to collect some letters, and you can enchant it to do elemental damage by including letters that match each element’s colour. While it’s only a very minor tweak on classic crafting mechanics, it fits well with the world and collecting the letters may well bring to mind memories of happy hours spent with the early Tony Hawks titles.
While the game’s visual style is its main twist on staples of roguelikes and RPGs in general, it does enough to make it worth watching out for. In particular, the flow to the combat and movement in general feels really good, and while the crafting isn’t all that unique, it’s still got something about it that’s very appealing.
Salt and Sanctuary | PS4, PS Vita, PC | Ska Studios | TBA
The best word to describe Salt and Sanctuary is “brutal”. “Crushing” would be pretty good too. This is a game with a punishing level of difficulty, although like other action-RPG titles you’ll start to progress if memorising levels is one of your skills. While I was quick to die in the early going, once I’d scouted the locations on traps and hidden enemies I managed to eek out my existance for a little longer.
That’s not to say I managed to survive for any meaningful length of time. In fact I’d love to be able to give you a more detailed breakdown of the game’s RPG mechanics, but I simply didn’t survive for long enough on any particular run to really get into those elements. I will say that it’s a nice touch that upon death you’re rescued by a mysterious clinic, who brings you back to full health in one of the titular sanctuaries. It’s only a small thing, but more games should make some effort to contextualize resurrection mechanics.
What I can tell you about is the general style that Salt and Sanctuary employs. While there are the aforementioned action RPG elements, there’s also a smattering of 2D platformer in the game’s DNA, with a lot of verticality to the ruined city that you’re working your way through. That crumbling world you’re exploring is presented with a distinctive, hand drawn style that has an almost cartoonish look to it.
On first look Salt and Sanctuary shouldn’t be a game I want to play, much like Bloodborne shouldn’t be. I am not good at games this difficult, and it seems like my inability to make meaningful process should push me away. Instead I find myself inexplicably curious about these sort of games, and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for Salt and Sanctuary.