Time to highlight three lesser-known but very worthwhile new releases, as we check out Dead Age 2, 1976 – Back to Midway and This Is My Land.
Dead Age 2 zombie-walks out of Early Access
Headup’s Dead Age was a bit of a cult hit when it launched almost five years ago, and now developer Silent Dreams is back with a sequel. Citing inspirations like Darkest Dungeon, the original Fallout games, This War of Mine and The Walking Dead, Dead Age is now out of Early Access and looks to build on the crossover formula of the first game.
As with the first game, Dead Age combines elements of genres like crafting/survival, rogue-likes, turn based strategy and role playing games into one post-apocalyptic zombie adventure. The story is standalone, so although it helps if you’re played the first game in terms of getting comfortable with the mechanics it’s not a requirement when it comes to understanding the narrative.
Having played the original does help in appreciating the changes and improvements that made it into Dead Age 2 though, like the new upgrade system and more diverse combat thanks to the inclusion of a wider range of enemies and abilities. Even my least favorite aspect of the first game, the crafting, has been streamlined a bit, letting you guide yourself to a certain playstyle rather than making you feel lost during breaks in between combat.
Another reason why experience with Dead Age helps is that the game can be overwhelming with the many mechanics it throws at you. Dead Age 2 could use better tutorials and/or signposting and leaves a lot of things up to the player to figure out. This isn’t bad for those willing to invest the time and ultimately reap the rewards, but there a lot of elements that could have used a more streamlined approach – from the quest system to the core mechanics of turn-based combat, expect frustrations and confusion on your first playthrough.
Having said that, the unique setting that is essentially “Darkest Dungeon meets Walking Dead” is ultimately a rewarding one – it’s just a rough struggle to get there. Not because the streets are riddled with the undead, but because this is an ambitious sequel that could have benefitted from more streamlined gameplay.
1976 – Back to Midway takes off on the Quest AppLab
Developer/publisher Ivanovich Games has been a very prolific VR studio in recent years, and one that has a clear love for the classics. Their Operation Warcade was an homage to games like Operation Wolf and Operation Thunderbolt, Pangman is a VR take on Pang and now 1976 – Back to Midway has arrived on the Quest after an earlier release on Steam.
1976 was inspired by the likes of 1942, a classic arcade shooter from Capcom that had players shooting down nazis in a vertical scroller. And while the year is different, a silly time travel plot quickly transports players back to that era to have a do-over after the Nazi army actually won the war in your current alternate reality version of 1976.
While the gameplay of 1976 – Back to Midway partially unfolds as a classic 2D horizontal scroller, levels also feature ‘immersion zones’ where the gameplay quickly but dramatically changes to a first person perspective, swerving in between bullet barrages and bombing warships from a brand new point of view. For fans of classic shooters like the 1942 games, it’s a great experience that feels like you literally get sucked into a classic arcade game for a short while.
Depending on your choice of controller, these parts are the ones that are best suited to the Oculus Quest. Most players will use their Touch controllers by default, and while they’re not the best for classic arcade shooting (you’ll want a gamepad there), they work great when you’re virtually inside the cockpit. Of course a HOTAS flightstick is an even better option, so you might want to check your collection of compatible controllers before you embark.
You might have trouble finding 1976 for the Quest on the Oculus store by the way – it’s only available through the AppLab so far. It’s great fun though, so we’re hoping it gets mainstreamed sooner rather than later so that a wider audience can enjoy this excellent VR take on classic arcade gaming.
This Is My Land receives a major update
Currently in Steam’s Early Access program, This Is My Land from Game-Labs has one of those premises where you wonder “why didn’t anyone do this yet?” because it makes so much sense. This Is My Land unfolds from the perspective of Native Americans who are seeing settlers invade their lands with their overpowering arsenal of weapons. As a chief of your tribe, stealth is your ally, and your knowledge of the natural world is your friend.
Hunting and crafting, and getting around on horseback, you slowly fight back from the shadows – and it’s one of the most natural fits for the stealth action genre we’ve seen so far. The game has been in Early Access since the end of 2019, but is getting its first major update since September this week. It includes new game modes, additional bosses, as well as a host of options to tweak the level of realism in the game. Find out more at https://store.steampowered.com/news/app/1069640