Game Spotlight

Wobbledogs First Impressions ”Is it worth playing?”

Welcome to another spotlight for a different game than Gwent. Today a new game called Wobbledogs is being released on Steam. We of Team Bandit Gang had a look at it and want to share our first impressions with you.

When you start your first game you will be given helpful tips & tricks regarding the game mechanics and you will start in a single room with a single Wobbledog. From this point on you can start feeding the dog and interact with it. Eventually you get a hatching machine in order to breed more Wobbledogs. Wait a minute, since when do dogs hatch from eggs?! Well, these are not conventional dogs but mutated ones and you better forget anything you learned about mammal anatomy in school. Because it’s not only the hatching from the eggs but also the metamorphosis in a cocoon when they grow up. It’s a bit weird in the beginning but you get used to this relatively quickly.

You can tell that the developer had a lot of fun creating this. In fact the breeding aspect is at least as important as the petting itself. By the choice of the diet for the dogs you influence their gut flora, which in return shapes out in the physical appearance of their kids. From then on you can mix and match these features as you like and unleash the creativity within this game. It’s a sandbox game after all.

Another aspect of this sandbox game is the creation of different rooms and decorate them as you like. You can create multiple rooms for your dogs to play in and give them different themes if you like. And if you are hesitant to do so, your Wobbledogs will change their surroundings anyway. For example by building a cave out of mud.

While playing alongside your Wobbledogs you also have challenges to complete. This way you can unlock new features to use. This includes decorations, flowers, carpets, wallpapers and then some. But generally speaking, this game remains very relaxed and slow paced so you can just have fun with these weird ass doggos.

Throughout today, our streamers will cover this new game on their respective channels on Twitch so feel free to stop by if you would like to check the game out! We had quite some fun playing it in advance and we hope that you might as well!

What do you think about Wobbledogs? Are you excited for it? What features are you looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comments down below!

Game Spotlight: Vault of the Void (Early Access), Bandit Gang’s First Look

Team Bandit is excited to present a first look into a new early access game: Vault of the Void. Akaean and Decode  discuss their thoughts on their experiences so far.

Introduction

Vault of the Void is an indie card-based roguelite developed by Spider Nest Games. True to its origins, it tells the age-old story of an adventurer spelunking into the darkness of a dungeon to expunge some greater evil.  In this case, the Void itself.  Along the way, you will collect cards, build your deck, collect a variety of powerful artifacts, and use everything at your disposal to survive the trials ahead. 

That old adage stemming all the way back to Dwarf Fortress is certainly relevant here.  Like most Roguelite games, Vault is a relatively short experience that relies on random generation and high difficulty to increase replayability.  Each trip through the dungeon may be similar, but no two trips through the dungeon will ever be the same.  Different cards in your decks, different ways to upgrade those cards, and even a variety of end-of-stage bosses that you can encounter along your journey add to the sense of novelty. The game also has multiple difficulty modes, allowing players to challenge themselves both through increasing the difficulty of the base game or through various “challenge coins” that add additional unique handicaps to change the game experience.

The game never ends, when your whole world depends, on the turn of a friendly card

Card games are a natural fit for roguelites- as we have seen with the success of other indie games such as Slay the Spire.  Vault of the Void is no different in this respect.  Randomness is part and parcel of the roguelite experience, indeed randomness is where the replayability of these games comes from.  Vault of the Void takes full advantage of this natural fit to create an enjoyable experience.  There is that element of randomness in what cards you find to put in your deck, what cards from your deck that you draw into your hand each turn, and what upgrades you have available throughout any given run will all change the experience and add to the replayability of the game.

Yet, like any good roguelite, what ties the experience together is the element of skill.  A good roguelite player is one who is adaptable, the skill to be able to meet whatever challenges lay ahead using anything and everything the game has given them to work with. 

Game Overview

Each run of Vault of the Void consists of progressing through two randomly generated floors, defeating the boss at the end of the floor, and a final boss rush.

Unlike many roguelites, Vault of the Void does not encourage exploration.  The game provides you with full information of what enemies are on the floor, and what loot you can find on that floor.  It will also show you what boss will be waiting for you at the end, so you can prepare as best as you can.  There is a hitch though, whenever you progress a tile, it will close off access to other tiles!  This means that a core part of the gameplay comes from planning a route through each floor of the dungeon.  Carefully picking and choosing based on what is available to be able to best meet the challenges ahead.

Path Building

The meat of the gameplay comes from the card battles.  The card mechanics are easy to learn but difficult to master.   The game uses a mana system where more powerful cards cost more mana to cast.  The player can generate additional mana by discarding cards that they don’t want to play, and at the beginning of the turn, some mana will be restored.  Cards have a variety of effects, such as dealing- or blocking- damage directly, applying buffs and debuffs, or even drawing additional cards.  Openers gain additional effects if they are the first card played, and Chain cards gain additional effects if they are played after other cards. 

Boss Fight

The monsters you face along your journey all approach the game from different angles.  Some of them have resistance to the various status effects in the game, others may buff themselves or debuff your character.  The game is open about the enemies you face, and even provides helpful hints.  This allows players to strategically make use of the resources they have and plan out their fights in advance.  If you are using a deck that makes use of a particular status effect, such as vulnerability, you can either purposefully avoid an enemy with an immunity or resistance to vulnerability, and maybe lose out on certain rewards in doing so, or you can use the cards and relicts you have found along the way to put together an alternate strategy to get through the encounter.  

Difficulty and Tactical Challenge

Vault of the Void offers a wide variety of intense difficulty modes and challenge modes to offer more and more challenging play experiences.   The game also offers a series of optional challenges, called challenge coins, which change the way that the game is played and offer unique strategic advantages and disadvantages.

There are three different characters that you can choose from, each with a unique playstyle and associated deck. These player character options are each generally focused around two or three keywords, and the cards in their deck are focused on these keywords as well.  This leads to a streamlined feel for each character with a bit of strategic depth in terms of how you use the keywords available to you.

The Hidden One, for instance, has a package of abilities associated with Bleeding. He is more targeted towards people learning the game, and applying direct damage and blocking direct damage.  The cards in the Hidden One’s deck focus on playing off Bleeding, his signature keyword.  There are cards that may apply a debuff to a bleeding enemy, or increase the ability to block an enemy with bleeding.   Each deck you build will test your limits to find combos and synergy with your chosen character’s keywords.

Switching decks Opportunity

The biggest limitation of this system is that it doesn’t allow a player to use cards from a “different” deck to build their characters in different ways.  If you don’t like the bleeding mechanic, there is no way to play without it when using the Hidden One.  You would need to use one of the other two characters. This can result in games with the same character feeling similar to each other and it makes it easy to fall into old habits.  In some sense it also almost requires scarcity to encourage deck diversity, because the limited way to build the decks can often lead to an optimal build.  

This isn’t a huge issue though, as anyone who has played games like Nethack are painfully aware that there is very frequently an optimal build to win the game.  I mean, whose first wish isn’t for Grey or Silver Dragon Scale Mail afterall?  In fact the three different character options in Vault of the Void means that endgame decks for these characters are going to be considerably different from one another. Unlike Nethack, players won’t be decked out in near identical “ascension kits” by the end.

Replayability

As with most roguelites, Vault of the Void offers a fairly limited set of choices to the player as they progress through a run. What makes it feel fresh and engaging is the different combinations of paths and abilities that you encounter, greatly adding to the sense of novelty and the game’s overall replay value. A successful run should generally take only a couple of hours, cruising through the two floors and conquering the final boss.  That said, not every run will be successful, and due to the randomness built into the game each run will be different.  The replay value comes from the varied experience and challenges that each run will invariably offer.

Losing is fun!

The replayability of the game comes from approaching challenges in a different way.  There are three different characters at the time of writing, each with his or her own unique playstyle and available deck.   Yet due to the randomness of the drops within the dungeon, no two runs with the same character will ever be exactly the same.  As you play through the game, you will unlock a growing library of enemies, abilities, and cards.  Unlocking everything will require completing the game, with multiple characters, a large number of times.  For completionists, the goal of unlocking everything will offer new and exciting challenges to players.

Vault of the Void by Spider Nest Games is available now in early access on Steam. Check the game out here

In case you decide to get the game, you can redeem the code ” banditgang ” to get your very own Team Bandit Gang cardback!

Game Spotlight: Draft of Darkness (Early Access), Bandit Gang’s First Look

Team Bandit Gang is excited to present a first-look into a new early-access game: Draft of Darkness. Bigdaddy843, Dr. Corchit, and Decode discuss their thoughts on their experiences so far and give some helpful tips

Slay the Spire on Newgrounds anyone?

What’s the game about?

843: Slay the Spire is the immediate thought everyone will probably have. I love Slay the Spire and Draft of Darkness (DoD) mimics some key aspects of the game, such as the rogue-like experience, card drafting and turn-based combat with energy management. DoD does add very interesting twists to this formula, particularly in the horror and resource management aspects. 

Decode: I’m not going to lie, I don’t scare easily and this game made me scared! DoD has a neat approach to a card game, but really shines at the atmosphere and spooky effects. DoD successfully captures me with the rogue-like hook, and I keep telling myself “I want to get further”. 

Dr. Corchit: The game reminded me a bit of Throne Breaker, the singleplayer version of Gwent. Exploration and combat were closely intertwined, and it was easy to run into monsters while navigating the game’s atmospherically dark rooms. It reminded me of some of the classic flash games I played back in high school, particularly the Sonny series. I don’t mean that as a bash–many of those games were very well done!

843: Yeah, especially with the pixel-art style, I think the game is heavily reminiscent of games from the 2000s. The atmosphere, turn-based gameplay and slower pace and movement evokes Darkest Dungeon, though that may not be to everyone’s taste. 

Decode: Helpful tip! If you don’t like the pixel-art style, you can turn it off in graphics options. I very much preferred the game in that way and enjoyed the game’s excellent 2.5D art assets in that form. 

Dr. Corchit: The gameplay isn’t anything you haven’t seen before–you run around a map and fight monsters in turn based combat, in a manner reminiscent of Pokemon. What this game brings to the genre is its atmospherically dark theme and card-based combat mechanics.

Pixelation on.
Pixelation off.

What’s the gameplay experience like? Also any advice?

Decode: The bread and butter of the game is actually resource management. While the game system is a rogue-like dungeon-crawl with deck-building/card game-play, the key to succeeding is Resident Evil-like in that if you can use your consumables correctly, you’ll do well. 

Dr. Corchit:  I liked the survival features implemented, whereby the player has to maintain energy, ammunition, and batteries. This was one of the more well-developed mechanics of the game as it was intuitive to understand and hit a sweet spot of complexity. Despite my best efforts though, I was thrashed by the boss on my first play-through. Looking back, I tried to fight every monster in order to gain XP, a strategy that works in most games. It seems that Draft of Darkness may require a more tactical approach when choosing to engage enemies.

843: I definitely agree one should avoid fights initially, at least until you pick up better gear, maybe a companion, and some resources. Dodging fights to explore before engaging for loot is helpful. One has to take care not to over-explore as ticking down some status effects require new ground to be covered. You also don’t want to accidentally walk into an encounter unprepared or in a bad state. I’ve managed to clear out stages fine with this general strategy. Speaking of status effects, Decode, as our key theory-crafter, what do you think of some of these mechanics?

Decode: Hah, I sort of just sped through it with a mix of exploration and some unavoidable fights. On decks, the best way to play is having one draw/tutor card and a boost card or two in the deck. You only need one tutor card, since, starting deck is 10, so you can achieve consistency quite easily, then it’s about stacking boosts and maintaining defenses before getting your finisher. You should also really bear in mind the game’s “conserve” feature that allows you to use weaker attacks without expending resources. 

Dr. Corchit: Personally, I felt that the game could develop its TCG aspect more thoroughly. I found that I wasn’t paying much attention to the cards added to my deck, and many of them were duplicates anyway. In my opinion, a truly challenging and well-designed card game should feature rare cards and precise strategy. Merely drawing and playing the same attack cards every round of combat doesn’t really scratch that itch.

843: DoD’s game-play is super engaging to me, you have to do the math before you execute a plan in terms of energy and resources, a combination of different moves (conserving or not), the order of moves (e.g. performing attacks before using a move that consumes your offensive boost). I really need to think my moves through. 

Decode: Yeah, bear in mind each character’s equipment/weapon specialties and perks as well. These can hugely impact your strategy in exploration and the deck/equipment builds that you go for. Personally I find dual-wielding and specializing in one particular card type to be the best way to play so far. Also, be persistent. You need to finish the game to unlock things, so even if you keep dying, getting more cards unlocked to improve your starter deck, learning from your experiences and getting to completion is the path to success. 

Cards and Resources for Your Precious Pennies.

What’s the state of the game?

843: Ok guys, bear in mind this is early access, so there’s a lot more all-important fine tuning to be done for a deep detailed game like this. How do you feel things are so far? For me, I like what I see in terms of potential, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. The pace is on the slow side for me. I understand that it’s horror-survival, so it sort of wants to be slower? But in terms of frequency of adding/removing cards, getting new items/relics to play with, and having excessive equipment/loot, it could be faster paced like its counterparts. 

Dr Corchit:  I think the game has decent potential. Games in early access are a mixed bag, and can vary from barely playable to virtually complete. This game has a considerable amount of polish and feels almost ready to be released. At the same time, the core game-play is a bit on the shallow side, though the graphics and vibes are impressive. One suggestion I have for the games developers: when you play cards from your hand, it might be interesting to have the player only redraw the cards they didn’t play from the last round. This would encourage tighter deck-building, and would punish players for having cards they never play in their hand. Additionally, I think that some persistence between hands is required for the game to feel like a card game. Redrawing your hand every round ruins that feeling.

843: Yeah I totally agree that this is really good for an early access stage. 

Decode: Same, but there’s some large issues, regarding the procedural room generation. One run, I got an unavoidable boss in the third room.  

843: Hah! I got one in the middle of my first run and died a painful death. So we all agree that pacing and the instance dungeons need work. 

Decode: That said, there are some super cool things that surprised me considering where the game is.

*SPOILER ALERT*

Story-line actions have consequences via a hidden mechanic. Good actions increase the light stat while being evil increases the dark. Also, try staying on a level for a really long time. If you stay still too long, there’s a HORRIFYING surprise waiting for you.

*SPOILERS END HERE*

The game is scary. Yeah. I do find the lore somewhat under-developed, the dots don’t connect yet even though I have completed the existing content twice. I am curious to learn more though. 

Dr. Corchit: Yeah, I don’t know, the cut-scenes don’t make sense? I think I accidentally skipped the first cutscene, though I remember reading something about being a hacker with access to a couple hundred servers. I found my character starting in a rather dark area that looked like an abandoned office building, with little explanation as to who I was or what I was doing. To be fair, I didn’t progress much past the first level.

843: Things do pick up at stage 2 when we learn a bit more about the world. Personally I’m just super curious in general so it was alright. Hah, Decode probably ran through stage 1 so fast he got right to the hooks. Alright, so people will have to be aware that the game is still in development and things are improving. 

Stage 2: The Streets. Where things really pick up.

What do we hope to see moving forward?

Decode: Well we know the developers are going in a good direction. Their Discord says they’re working on the UI and that’s something that sorely needs improvement. For instance, the HUD on the upper left is too small to catch. There’s a lot of unused space at the bottom which can be put to good use. Some UI customization options could go a long way. 

Possible HUD options for the future.

843: Yes I think improving the UI would help with many of the game’s teething problems. There are transparency and clarity issues. Card rarity is indicated but not explicitly explained, nor are any number of mechanics such as dual-wielding and many of the status effects. 

Dr. Corchit: I was confused by the massive number of status effects that I found in only the first level. There was even a status effect for being covered in spider webs! I’d prefer if the devs toned it down, introducing only a few per level. Status effects make the game more complicated, but they don’t always make it more fun. At least that’s an easy fix, and the sort of thing to be expected from a game in early access. 

Decode: Yes I saw all of them on level 1 and it was overwhelming. 

Dr. Corchit: I’m still not sure what the meta objective of some statuses is, such as radiation which is especially confusing. The status effects did have an explanation that displayed when you hover over them, but reading them all–especially when there’s so many in just the first level–can be a slog.

843: According to their Discord, radiation may be made positive later in the game with the right items. I guess it’s one of the added layers of complexity in trade-offs that are present in the game or will be developed further. 

Dr. Corchit: Speaking of complexities, I noticed there was an option to use or conserve ammo. Conserving ammo was often a beneficial strategy, and definitely an aspect of gameplay that I’d like to see in the final version. Yet, I noticed that turning on ammo conservation mode costs one energy, which felt counterintuitive. Besides that, default builds on companions can be really silly, like the cop having flashlight cards but no flashlight equipped. Also, it would be nice to use consumables during battle, perhaps for a modest cost in energy.

Decode: That’s some good quality of life stuff which would be nice. I think we could do away with the need to manually save every time you modify the deck. We also desperately need a profile screen. Having the option to start from scratch, save, override, delete multiple profiles is essential to roguelikes. Enhancing left click functionality will also go a long way, like allowing us to use it to examine things on the map or bring up tooltips/details/explanations in menus, inventory, etc. 

843: Well not to worry, I believe the community has noted the developers’ receptiveness to feedback and no doubt we’ll see at least some of these implemented in the future. We look forward to seeing this game in its full fledged form! 

 

Draft of Darkness by Crawly Games will be available for Early Access on Steam from the 31st of July 2021. Do check the game out here!

Update: The developers Crawly Games have proven immensely responsive, immediately rectifying bugs reported by Decode.