Game release: “Phoning Home” (PC)

Sci-fi games don’t always have to be about big guns and marines fighting aliens, as ION LANDS’ exploration adventure Phoning Home shows that there can still be some storytelling innovation in the genre.

The title might be reminiscent of a certain extraterrestrial being stranded on planet Earth and uttering the famous line “E.T. phone home”, but this time it’s an exploration robot called ION crash-landing on an alien world, and one can’t help but feel watching an alternative version of Wall-E. Soon ION meets ANI, a female service unit, that is stranded there as well, further highlighting the influences of the Pixar animated movie. Having an A.I. from the crashed ship help out and prodding the robotic hero in the right direction of gathering resources and trying to find a way to contact home adds a third likeable character to a setting that is very hostile with all sorts of creatures making it difficult for the two to survive.

It’s certainly a touching story and despite its cinema references feels surprisingly fresh in gaming. Gameplay revolves around crafting tools from resources, traversing the harsh surroundings, discovering clues to an alien civilization, but also solving puzzles and fighting enemies. In how far all these elements fit together to create a coherent whole remains to be seen, but suffice to say that the game looks gorgeous and sounds even better with some great voice acting and music, something that is rather impressive considering that it was done by a German indie developer and not a big studio.

The game is now available on PC with a 10% discount that ends on February 14, 6PM UTC. It’s possible to buy it on its own, together with the soundtrack or get them separately.

Buy the game for PC on
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Buy the game for PC together with the soundtrack on
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Steam

Buy the soundtrack on
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Official Website

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Game release: “Hearthlands” (PC)

The building sim genre is pretty crowded these days, but Sergey “Sergio” Pershakov and Alexey “Simon” Lyukshin’s indie strategy game Hearthlands still manages to add an interesting fantasy twist to it.

Even if the game can’t quite compete graphically with the genre stalemates Anno and The Settlers series despite an obvious love for small details, it’s an impressive effort to bring together all the elements fans of the genre love, i.e. building a medieval city, trying to keep its citizens happy by gathering resources, producing goods and therefore establishing a well-working economy while listening to a soothing soundtrack and watching the busy life of little characters moving about. Aggressors don’t only come in the form of other realms, but also fantasy monsters, so using spells together with diplomacy is key to success.

The fantasy element isn’t only of a cosmetic nature, because leveling up heroes to build a strong army or even integrate them in the city building process as workers is an essential part of the game. Having been so long in development and still updating its mechanics due to its Early Access status, it’s difficult to say how all these things gel together, but it’s certainly an interesting take on the genre.

The game is now available for PC with a 30% discount that ends on February 13, 4PM UTC, at least on GOG and the developer’s website.

Buy the game for PC on
GOG
Steam

Official Website

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG link and buying the product also helps ;).

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GOG release: “Virginia”

Last year’s first-person interactive mystery thriller drama Virginia from Variable State has finally arrived on DRM-free digital shores thanks to GOG.

Walking simulators have become part of gaming culture, and even if many gamers, especially adventure gamers, bemoan the loss of puzzles or actual challenges besides going from one place to the next, interacting with objects, persons, or triggering something in the environment to move the story forward, this sub-genre still tries to innovate to set itself apart from cinema. Virginia can’t be any more divisive, as it actually embraces the use of montage, giving the player room to watch scenes from different perspectives, while having clear visual and narrative references to David Lynch’s work like Twin Peaks.

The story about two FBI agents investigating the disappearance of a young boy in the surrounding area of small town Kingdom in Virginia doesn’t sound particularly new (especially in the wake of the resurrected X-Files series), but having no spoken or written dialogue to convey it is unique. Aesthetically, it looks very much like Firewatch that was released in the same year, meaning that its warm environment color palette and expressionist character models create an unreal atmosphere. Its on-rails gameplay and lack of inventory combination puzzles or brain-teasers as in Puzzle Agent or Puzzle Agent 2 won’t be for everyone, but as an interesting storytelling experiment for those curious enough to venture into surrealism it should deliver.

The game is now available on GOG with a 20% discount that will end on February 14, 2PM UTC.

Buy the game for PC on
GOG
Steam

Official Website

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG link and buying the product also helps ;).

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GOG release: “Lost Eden”

Cryo Interactive was a company synonymous with 90ies adventure games that were visually impressive back in the days despite some problematic gameplay, so it’s great to see a title like Lost Eden resurface on GOG.

Even if I’ve never been a fan of first-person adventure games like Myst due to their obscure machine puzzles and orientation problems, I’ve always been interested in Cryo’s output, mainly for the visual, auditory, and otherworldly narrative experiences. While Lost Eden might have lost a lot of its shine compared to when it was released back in 1995, there’s still something rather unique about an alternative reality where dinosaurs and humans live in discord and main protagonist Adam trying to reunite the different species.

Promoted as a mix of strategy and adventure game, the former aspect is due to traveling from one place to another and trying to resolve conflicts on a tight time limit, as an enemy force approaches the citadel, the stronghold of Adam. It almost feels like an RPG without the battling and leveling up, but with an emphasis on exploration of a believable and fantastic world.

The rendered cut-scenes and character models might not have aged very well, but the soothing music is what I remember most fondly about it when I played the demo ages ago. Of course the nostalgic way of looking at it could cloud one’s judgement, but with the release on GOG it might be the right time to revisit it together with all the other Cryo games and see if story and cinematic presentation are enough to overlook their outdated technology and flawed puzzle design.

Buy the game for PC on
GOG

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG link and buying the product also helps ;).

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Game release: “Memoranda” (PC)

Memory loss is a staple of the JRPG genre, but it can also work in adventure games like Bit ByterzMemoranda.

Games can be a wonderful medium to convey surrealism, as can be seen in Kentucky Route Zero: Act I and Kentucky Route Zero: Act II which had a dream-like quality to them with the help of its use of warm colors, expressionist backgrounds, and light acoustic guitar soundtrack.

Memoranda also plays with the perception of reality by asking the player to talk to people in weird places or even animals like an elephant who wants to become human. The idea of amnesia is handled in a more subtle manner than in the JRPG genre, as the main protagonist’s not remembering her name isn’t simply a narrative device to explain the hero’s or heroine’s place in the world, but it’s a way to show how fragile people’s minds are and how hard it is to cope with this illness.

The game’s story is inspired by the work of author Haruki Murakami. Even if I haven’t read his short stories, it seems that the topics of loneliness and insanity are reflected in the small town the female lead traverses in and its strange inhabitants she tries to help out. Puzzle solving could be quite obscure, but just like in The Cat Lady, this could actually work to emphasize the weird atmosphere. Needless to say that the hand-painted backgrounds and characters are a joy to behold, while the voice acting sounds as great as the musical accompaniment.

Buy the game for PC on
GOG
Steam

Official Website

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG link and buying the product also helps ;).

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