Where the first two weeks of 2021 were very quiet in terms of new releases, the second half of the month has certainly made up for that. Here are four that perhaps escaped your attention but are well worth checking out.
Baba Yaga is out on Oculus Quest
If you’re interested in what VR can do for narrative viewing experiences, then Baobab Studios is going to be a familiar name to you. Their production “Invasion!” is one of the go-to showcase demos for a lot of VR headsets out there, and the studio’s been awarded with several Emmy Awards for their work.
Later productions have become more interactive in nature, and their latest release is no exception. Baba Yaga is a tale with several different endings – though the narrative doesn’t branch out as much as you’d think. Things are mostly linear in nature and the story will always wrap up just before the half hour mark, but your choices do affect the final scenes.
You’re the story’s protagonist in a narrative that centers around the familiar witch Baba Yaga (who also featured in a recent Tomb Raider game). Here, your mother falls ill, and you and your sister have to set out to find Baba Yaga in search for a cure. The story borders on the occult, but is told in a family friendly manner with a visual style that is never as scary as it can be thanks to cartoon-like visuals – making this a solid choice for younger VR users. Being in the dark woods can still be scary to youngsters though, even in a cartoon-like world, so make sure your little one isn’t spooked too easily.
What helps Baba Yaga is that the production values are truly excellent. Its visuals aren’t as detailed as those in Invasion, but of course that was a production where you were static and Baba Yaga sees you moving through the story along with the other characters for a far more immersive experience. What certainly adds to the experience in that sense is that the voiceover work was done by Kate Winslet, Daisy Ridley, Jennifer Hudson and Glenn Close – who all put in solid performances. If you enjoy the non-gamey side of VR, this is another Boabab title to check out.
Conarium comes to the Nintendo Switch
During the Halloween season, we reviewed Transient from Iceberg Interactive – a title we really enjoyed thanks to its great sense of atmosphere. They previously gave us Conarium as well, and now that game has finally appeared on the Nintendo Switch, roughly three and half years after first appearing on PCs. How does it fare in the conversion and is it worth picking up?
Conarium was inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”, which we recently reviewed in a new illustrated edition from Free League Publishing. Set after the events of the novella, you explore the Antarctic base that features in the original story as you uncover what has happened and slowly delve into madness through strange and haunting visions and horrible creatures.
As with any port to the Nintendo Switch, a large part of how well it works has to do with the developer’s ability to keep the visuals and performance intact. For Conarium, it’s easy to spot that the level of detail has taken a considerable hit during the conversion. Surfaces and objects look less detailed than before, but this is to be expected. What the developers kept intact, however, is an excellent use of lighting to create atmosphere and tension – making this one of the more impressive Switch ports from a smaller developer, at least in the visual sense.
There aren’t a whole lot of first person horror titles out there for the Switch, and the horror genre as a whole is under-represented on the system, so if you missed out on Conarium before then this is a good opportunity to dive in. Possibly the most impressed we’ve been with a first person game on the Switch since Doom Eternal came out.
King Arthur – Knight’s Tale is in Early Access
We mostly remember NeocoreGames for their work on the Van Helsing games and Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr, but if you were playing PC games back in 2009 you might also remember their King Arthur series. A blend of role playing games and wargames, it quickly spawned a few add-ons and a sequel, but then it disappeared when the studio/publisher shifted its focus towards their The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing games.
Now, King Arthur is back in King Arthur – Knight’s Tale, and our early impressions of the Early Access version tell us that the series has evolved along with the studio. To start with the latter – the production values for Knight’s Tale are excellent, with gorgeous cutscenes that have full voice acting that really make the older games in the series look dated. Character models are far more detailed as well, as are the environments.
The gameplay itself has also changed considerably. I remember the first game in the series as being a blend of real time tactical combat and RPG, whereas the new game features turn-based mechanics not too unlike those in the XCOM games. Although, with its King Arthur setting, the game is perhaps more like Kalypso’s Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars when it comes to the setting and combat mechanics. It’s also worth pointing out that Arthur isn’t the hero this time – you’re Mordred, tasked with slaying the corrupted version of Arthur that now lives in between the realms of life and death.
The RPG portion of the game also feel much more fleshed out than it did in the past, with a lot more focus on narrative development, moral choices and vastly improved visuals. The current Early Access build is rather low on narrative/quest content, but more much is expected to be added in over the next three to seven months – and we’re guessing that three is overly optimistic, as we also haven’t seen the full extent of the party/hero management systems that the game will have. Still, if you want to jump in early and get a head start, then King Arthur – Knight’s Tale is available in Early Access right now.
Project Starship X is now on consoles
Eastasiasoft continues their very prolific run of releasing games across all platforms with Project Starship X, which is out now for consoles after an initial release on Steam for PCs.
What initially looks like a typical bullet hell shooter is actually an original take on the classic shooter with rogue-lite elements as well as plenty of references to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu – all with an over the top comedic flavor to it. You’ll encounter the latter in the enemy designs, the characters you’ll encounter, the crazy weapons and power-ups you can use and some (at times) surreal visuals.
Despite the almost silly aspects of the game, the actual gameplay is very challenging – despite a dodge mechanic, you’ll quickly learn why your difficulty modes range from hardcore to ultra-hardcore. In that sense, it’s not surprising that our initial reference was to the bullet hell shooter – and like most games in that genre, this one also comes with retro style visuals and chiptune music. If you’re interested in a bit of a different approach to the classic arcade shooter then definitely give Project Starship X a look.