ESPORTS4INDIE

Joel Hendershott

Joel Hendershott

You merely adopted gaming. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn't see 64 bits until I was already a man". I've been gaming since the early days, playing everything from commodores and Atari to Current Gen. I'm a flip-flopper of the worst kind, constantly jumping back and forth between consoles and PC. I can play most any games, but RPG's, racing games are my jam. I also enjoy the simulator games far more than any one man should. One day I decided to not just play larger than life characters but attempt to be one myself and jumped into training for Strongman and powerlifting. Now the biggest struggle in my life is do I spend more time on Games or Gains?

Conan Exiles is a survival title that successfully immerses you in Robert E. Howard’s brutal Conan setting, but delivers weak combat impact.

Make Sail is a beautiful game that initially is calming, but the primary features of the game, which are building and sailing, don’t hold up and swiftly lead to frustration. This may be a title to keep an eye on, but there’s not enough there at present to satisfy for very long.

Demolish & Build 2018 is a franchise heading in the right direction. While there could be a significant amount of development and tightening of the mechanics and controls, there are many improvements over the previous title. It’s an enjoyable, cooperative sim experience, despite an emphasis on demolishing stronger than on building. A good one to watch for patches, improvements, or to pick up during a Steam sale.

Attempting to blur the line between arcade and simulation, Gravel feels like it isn't sure what it wants to be. While offering a solid gameplay experience, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. More disappointingly, its career mode is a bit of a hit and miss: the series of circuits and sprint races to face “masters” of given disciplines was a cool idea, but incentives to advance are lacking.

The principal concept of We Were Here Too — having to communicate carefully with a partner — is a fantastic addition to a puzzle title. The in-game chat works excellently and limiting the walkie-talkie to half-duplex forces one player to speak at a time, which can make for incredibly hectic situations. The title is well thought through, but even an initial run is relatively short. However, puzzle fans will be entertained.

Odysseus Kosmos and his Robot Quest is a charming title and a solid first entry into an episodic series. The old school pixel graphics and humorous banter give the game a human touch, while it gets hurts by dialogue that feels long winded at times. As a narrative-driven point-and-click the story is paramount, and while the puzzles are interesting there isn’t much character development or narrative so far. Just enough to keep you hanging on for further episodes.

Fighting games are hard to access. The moves, the combos, reading (guessing the opponent's next move) all raise somewhat of a barrier for newcomers. How many times was I pinned down in the corner by Dhalsim, at a loss for how to break out of the combos the other player was laying on me?

Bomber Crew is a rich strategy sim that gets you into the action quickly. The low poly art style will make more bearable the tremendous death of your crew’s airmen, as your plane falls to pieces around them. As for the repetitive nature of missions, it will either become old hat, or, a necessary grind to get the most out of your plane and deal head on with the game's growing difficulty.

The updated graphics and physics engine are sure to bring enjoyment and laughs. Road Redemption builds on a relatively simple concept that has worked in the past, repackages it, and allows the unpredictability of other players a large selection of tracks, bikes, and riders in online death races to round out a uniquely enjoyable experience.

With Divinity: Original Sin 2, Larian Studios creates a title that brings together the best aspects of table-top and classic roleplaying games. The graphics, along with the score and voice acting, are painstakingly detailed and are truly awe-inspiring. Every decision you make, from character creation to dialogue, will affect your experience, giving you a slightly different playthrough every time. This is not a game for the casual player, however. The sheer size of the game and the difficulty of some battles will require dozens of hours and have you loading quicksaves time and again. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is primed to be on many all-time favorites lists; few, if any, have succeeded to this degree.

The expertise of HB Studios in sports titles shines through in the overall experience and swing mechanics of The Golf Club 2. However, that experience, along with the high-quality graphics of each hole and the smooth animations of the character get washed out by poor modeling of the on-course spectators, bland water rendering, and lower-quality background textures, even on ultra settings. Once you take the time to get a solid handle on the controls, the course creator gives you endless possibilities for gamers passionate about golf. Though, with only slightly updated graphics and the inclusion of the swing temp mechanic, is it worth the upgrade from the original The Golf Club title?

The price point of the Farming Simulator: Big Bud DLC is pretty high for the content that it includes. While the models are fantastic and a cut above mods of the same machines in earlier installments of the franchise, the pack will not convert the average gamer away from their favorite FPS title and into tractor seat. However, if you are a solo farmer looking to tackle bigger maps and larger field sizes, but don’t have a community of players with which to work your fields, then this pack may be right up your alley.

The additional content added in the Project Highrise: Las Vegas brings the casino flair, is enough to vary the way you play, and give you an entirely different architectural experience. In addition to base game, the decisions by Sonasim to include, mods, steam cloud and mac support allow for a lengthy, diverse and easily accessible experience.

P.A.M.E.L.A. is one of the most visually solid games on Steam today, in the indie market — and possibly including AAA as well. There was a rash of bad reviews for crashing and loading issues, but the issues were fixed very quickly thereafter. Even with a small development team, NVYVE Studios has produced one of the most polished Early Access games I’ve seen, and it bodes well for the future of the title and the studio.

In its current state, On The Road is highly disappointing for a simulation game. Nothing as of yet really stands out that is going to put this game ahead of a list of already great titles in the genre, and without significant changes, your money will likely be better spent elsewhere.

Train Mechanic Simulator succeeds in the mechanic simulator space. It separates itself amongst its peers, but lacks the driving physics to be an independent train sim. The models are fantastic, but the focus of the sim is constructing and designing trains, so the driving environment leaves something to be desired: you need to be truly hardcore about the details of trains to get long term enjoyment from the Train Mechanic Simulator.

Bomb Squad Academy is more fun than it is challenging. Negative feedback to the player, other than the bomb blowing up (of course), is thin, but this results in an approachable, replayable atmosphere. This is a fantastic puzzler with complex and unique mechanics that are presented to the player in an easily digestible way.

River City Ransom: Underground is fantastic in how it truly captures the feel of retro games, and it’s clear from the experience that Conatus Creative provides the desire and requisite talent. On top of the original beat-em-up feel, additional features round out the title quite nicely, such as RPG leveling aspects and a fighting engine that packs a punch.

Flintlock Studios presents us with a fascinating and entertaining concept, one that could bring a much-welcomed spotlight to a period of American History often overlooked. Yet considering the fierce competition out there, the limited size of the studio, and more importantly, the current state of the game, Northern Regime isn’t off to a promising start. I’m rooting for the British Columbia-based studio, but it’s got a long way to go until it's ready for a full release. A significant amount of work has to be put in before Northern Regime can be considered a quality Early Access game.

We Are Chicago raises real issues that still plague parts of America, and encourages young people to stay away from gang violence, and this goal is praiseworthy – but between the flat graphics, the uninspired characters, and the nausea-inducing camera movement, We Are Chicago isn't an enjoyable gaming experience.

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