DREAD XP https://www.dreadxp.com Positively Spooky Thu, 14 Jul 2022 17:12:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9.3 https://www.dreadxp.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/cropped-DREAD-XP-THE-ONLY-LOGO-65x65.png DREAD XP https://www.dreadxp.com 32 32 Dagon Makes an Exhibition of Itself, and That’s Great https://www.dreadxp.com/editorial/dagon-makes-an-exhibition-of-itself-and-thats-great/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dagon-makes-an-exhibition-of-itself-and-thats-great Thu, 14 Jul 2022 19:00:00 +0000 https://www.dreadxp.com/?p=27300 […]

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Making learning fun isn’t easy unless maybe you’re learning how to find the best water slide experience or what beer is nicest on a hot day. Maybe learning about ice cream flavors with a taste test? 

Sorry, it’s really bloody hot here as I write this despite it being nearly midnight, and with no waterslides, cold beers, or even an ice cream close to hand or cheek, I’ve foolishly decided upon drinking a black coffee, so my mind is very much calling me out on my self-inflicted humid festering. Sure, I could have some water, but there’s none in the fridge, and like fuck I’m drinking some tepid tap water.

Anyway, learning! Yeah, that’s a thing that’s hard and sometimes a tad dull, so anything that can make the experience as enjoyable as it is informative can be really helpful. In games, that’s a nice tutorial usually, but sometimes they can educate! Assassin’s Creed has in-game history tours! The Long Dark teaches you how to survive in the frigid wilds of Canada (pretty sure that’s true otherwise they’d put up some disclaimer at the start saying not to use it as a survival guide, wouldn’t they?), and of course, Resident Evil 4 taught us all to pack for our holidays in an optimal fashion.

But what about using a game as the structure for learning about a notable person through their work? In the case of H.P. Lovecraft, plenty have co-opted his work for games to varying degrees of success, but they have largely been about telling the stories themselves or utilizing the many unspeakable cosmic horrors as reference points. Developer Bit Golem finds a way to tell a Lovecraft story as an interactive piece whilst providing context and history behind its creation and its creator (albeit with some notable ‘omissions’).

Dagon is a 3D visual novel retelling of Lovecraft’s short story that ended up as the launchpad for many of his most famous works. It’s got fishy things, cosmic horror, and a guy telling you just how badly the whole thing is scrambling his brain. All the narrative nutrients a growing weirdo needs. For anyone unfamiliar with the story itself, Dagon is cited as the origin of the Cthulhu Mythos. An ex-ship officer with a significant morphine addiction problem recounts his torrid time discovering all manner of eldritch shenanigans. Is it all a product of his drug-addled mind or did he really embark on a trip to the not-so-light fantastic? We’ve all been there.

Playable in VR or on a good ol’ bog-standard regular screen, Dagon is narrated, with real gravitas I might add, against a variety of three-dimensional scenes with limited interactivity. Usually, a paragraph or so is delivered in a scene that does its best to encapsulate the feeling. A strange beach under an odd sky. An unnerving monolith in an impossible sea. You know, that old chestnut. 

There are generally one or two things to interact with in these scenes. One will progress the story of course, but there are also tidbits of info on the story and its author. Some of it will be fairly common knowledge to a casual observer of Lovecraft’s work. It’s all quite informative though, albeit with generous glossing over that side of his personality. For a free sampler of the concept though, it’s a solid start.

After 30 minutes or so, the tale is told, and I felt it did a grand job of mixing horror storytelling with education on it. The biggest takeaway for me was that it worked very well as a virtual exhibit. Given its VR capabilities, I’m even more convinced that’s where Dagon’s strengths lie. It’s mild enough to be accessible for non-horror fans while teaching them about a horror story’s genesis and the legacy it created. 

Sure, it’s not the most complete lesson in Lovecraft, but it sure does feel like the template for something greater in breathing new life into classical horror stories. I don’t know about you, but I think interactive 3D exhibits that tell the stories of Poe, Stoker, Shelley, King, et al with IMDB-Esque nuggets of trivia connected to it would be a cool way to open up the world’s of genre greats to a new audience without compromising or misrepresenting the essence of it (something that continuously occurs with Lovecraft’s work). Real-world experience is still valuable of course, it’s just real-world space is finite and there’s so much potential in what a developer like Bit Golem does.

Dagon is available on Steam. You can check out DreadXP for more articles on horror games.

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Evil Dead: The Game Gains Army of Darkness Update https://www.dreadxp.com/news/evil-dead-the-game-gains-army-of-darkness-update/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=evil-dead-the-game-gains-army-of-darkness-update Wed, 13 Jul 2022 22:03:37 +0000 https://www.dreadxp.com/?p=27295 […]

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Evil Dead: The Game just got eviler and deader. The Army of Darkness update for the PvP and PvE multiplayer game includes a new map, weapons, and plenty of other content. The free update is available now for players on the Playstation 4 and 5, the Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC (Epic Games Store). Of course there’s a trailer, too.

First is the new map, which is the castle from Army of Darkness. The Keep, Fort Gort, the Arthurian Outpost, and even the Windmill appear, faithfully recreated from the film. The Keep held the Necronomicon during the siege from the army of darkness, and it will play a similarly important role in the game’s update.

As for other interesting things in the update, you can now make use of two new weapons. First is the Mace, a slow, powerful melee weapon. Second is the Explosive Crossbow, a similarly slow weapon with a powerful explosion behind it, are new tools in humanity’s arsenal against the Deadites. There’s also a new single-player Exploration mode, which allows players to explore maps entirely alone. Get the lay of the land and warm up by taking out roving bands of the army of darkness.

Lastly, there are some new cosmetics available for purchase. First are the S-Mart Employee and Gallant Knight Outfits for Ash Williams. You can also snag the Medieval Bundle, with new outfits for Lord Arthur, Henry the Red, and Evil Ash and his troop. The former two outfits are $2.99 each, and the latter is $7.99 (and included in Season Pass 1). After generating buzz late 2020, Evil Dead: The Game released earlier this year. Teams for four survivors work together to banish the evil Deadites and their leader, the Kandarian Demon, off the mortal plane. Or, if you prefer, take control of the Demon and conquer humanity for yourself!

Saber Interactive is a developer and publisher comprised of 22 studios located throughout the United States and Europe. They create games for all major platforms, based on both original and licensed properties. Their portfolio includes World War Z, A Quiet Place, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2, and many others.

Boss Team Games creates console, PC, and mobile games with established IPs. In addition to their work on Evil Dead: The Game, the team has recently launched Cobra Kai: Card Fighter. They’re currently hard at work on several other licensed titles.

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Cultic: Jason Smith tells all there is to tell about the upcoming horror FPS https://www.dreadxp.com/interview/cultic-jason-smith-tells-all-there-is-to-tell-about-the-upcoming-horror-fps/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cultic-jason-smith-tells-all-there-is-to-tell-about-the-upcoming-horror-fps Wed, 13 Jul 2022 19:00:00 +0000 https://www.dreadxp.com/?p=27244 […]

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Being a horror games journalist is a lot like being a gritty detective. In the sense that I am always on the hunt for leads, and I will not rest until I have the whole story. So when I caught wind of Cultic, a crazy new title with color-crushed graphics and an art style that captured a nostalgia between Doom and Blood that never existed, I couldn’t rest until I cracked the case.

I walked my beat, hitting up the usual suspects, Twitter, Itch.Io, gametrailers forums, and the rest of the places where indie developers hid away. After getting a solid lead I sent a message and asked Jason Smith, the solo dev of Cultic, to rendezvous in an abandoned parking lot to discuss what he knew. Thankfully, he was eager for the truth to be out there, so he agreed. It was raining hard onto my wide brimmed fedora and trench coat as I made my way into the seedy dive bar that was discord. After short introductions I began my line of inquiry.

Game devvery is a time consuming process, and while I have been hot on the trail of these cultists for quite some time, I could only imagine that a whole lot of work went into the project before it was ever even shown to the masses. So I asked Jason, from conception to the current build, how long had he been working on Cultic?

Jason Smith: So the idea for Cultic as a game like, kind of the storyline and the style of the game has been something I’ve wanted to do pretty much since I was a kid playing Blood, Duke Nukem, and other build engine games. But of course, I didn’t know how at the time. And actually, you know, that would have been when I was like 10, and I am now 30. So it took a while for me to get the game chops to actually start on the project. And I tried it a few times. Like I didn’t even start messing with 3D stuff until 2017. When I finally got into 3D modeling and unity and C sharp, I was just doing Game Maker and 2d stuff before that. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t want to say that condescendingly. But I’ve always wanted to get into 3D stuff. So I did so in 2017. But my models sucked and I, you know, I’m not much of an artist myself. So I kind of just had to get into a time, just get into, like, an art style that I could manage with my limited artistic talent.

And, and, and so finally, in January of 2021, so early last year, I kind of figured out the workflow for turning some of my 3D models into sprites, and like applying that color palette. And I was just showing off some of the results of that work on Twitter and it picked up areata, it picked up a lot of traction, like a lot of people really liked the way it looked. And I was like, All right, I think this might be it, this might be the art style that I’ve been waiting for to finally start on this project that I’ve been wanting to do, because I tried it a few times before, but the art style just never really panned out. Like I just didn’t like the way it looked. So yeah, I started out in January 2021. And then I was just working on it. In my free time, I still had a full time job doing something else back then. And so I just worked on evenings and weekends. And then you know, realms deep happened in August, I think last year, and the reception from the demo was really, really positive. And I kind of had enough steam that I worked it out with 3D Realms that I was able to move to full time in September. So I’ve been working on it for about a year and a half, with about a year of that time, almost now being full time

I followed up by quickly asking Jason, if he felt comfortable, if he had a guesstimate as to how far along the game was?

JS:  Yeah, so like, content wise, I would say I’m probably about 70% Done with the game in terms of maps and enemies and you know, content stuff. But then there’s kind of an ambiguous amount of polish and bug fixing that will need to be done after that. I mean, I lost, I lost like two weeks of dev time just to the next-fest demo, just from all of the balancing feedback that came in and all of the bug fixing and all this stuff. And so, you know, once I get the campaign finished and get it over to some folks to help me QA it, you know, who knows how much stuff is gonna come up that’s going to need fixed. So I’m still really hoping to have something finished and playable before the end of the year. I really don’t want to keep dragging it out. So that’s kind of my target right now. But we’ll, we’ll just have to see. And you know, sometimes if a critical bug pops up, and it takes me a month to figure it out, then, you know, there’s not much I can do until I get it figured out. But you know, hopefully, hopefully that doesn’t happen.

To be 70% done after so many years surely meant that there was quite a lot of love put into this project. But even labors of love or passion projects evolve over time. I wanted to know how the development of the game had affected his vision. So I asked Jason, had the game changed in scope or style since he had first begun work?

JS: I think it kind of looked like a bell curve in terms of scope. Like, I started out really small working on a really minimalistic art style, it was like the original resolution was like 512 by 288, very compressed, the color palette only had 32 colors in it, all the textures were like, 64 by 64. It was very, very, very crunchy, and very low-fi. but that works okay in really small settings, like if it were a corridor shooter kind of like the original Doom, it probably would have been okay. But I wanted to have more wide open environments and larger gunfights and more long range encounters and it just didn’t work with that art style like, when the resolution is that low and everything’s that pixelated, anything that’s more than like, 50 feet away from you, it gets to where you’re like, “what is that? What am I looking at over there? What are those two pixels moving off in the distance?” And the first demo, really, the feedback really agreed with that, you know, a lot of people weren’t really jiving with the color palette, and felt that the lower resolution of everything led to some visual-translation issues. So from there, I started, you know, tweaking the color palette and expanding it a little bit and tweaking the artwork, and a lot of the art from the original demo was placeholder anyway, it’s just, you know, putting that whole demo together in like, eight months, only in my free time. I cut a lot of corners with it.

And so a lot of those elements, like the old cultist sprites, charming as they were, were placeholders. They’re actually models from the last time I tried to work on Cultic. And I wasn’t super happy with the way it was turning out. So they looked better as sprites than they did as models for sure. But after that Realms Deep demo when I was working on it full time, and I had all this feedback. And the game was kind of gaining steam, I had a lot of stuff I wanted to do with it. Like, you know, a lot of features I wanted to add in. And in places I wanted to take the story and all these ideas for maps. And then as I kind of started realizing just how much work all of it was going to be I started to adjust and cut a few things. I had a full, like, abilities system. Just kind of like Bioshock-esque abilities the player could get that were managed by, effectively a mana meter kind of thing. And then I got it coded and implemented, and it worked functionally fine, but it felt really gimmicky in the gameplay, and the gunplay is so simple that all of the abilities felt really gimmicky.

It was like, Yes, it is cool to use telekinesis to pick up a chair and throw it at somebody. But it’s way less effective than just shooting them twice in the face with a pistol. And they’ve probably shot you a couple of times in the time you were doing that. And then it was hard to figure out how to bake it into the story too, and do it in a way that doesn’t take control away from the player to like, teach them about it through cutscenes or long dialogues or anything like that, it just didn’t feel very natural. So stuff like that I wound up cutting out of the game, and kind of trimming it back down to the straightforward shooter with a very focused, utility-based arsenal that it was meant to be originally, so yeah, kind of started out small, kind of gained a lot of steam. Wanted to add a bunch of stuff, then ended up trimming it back down  when it wasn’t feasible to do all of that, you know, with my resources and the timeline I was looking at.

I find that a lot of solo devs often have to think outside the box as far as the design of their game or their levels are concerned. I asked Jason if he had any moments during development where he was patting himself on the back over his work?

JS: Nothing like super behind the scenes but like I don’t know if you saw recently the audio visualizer thing that I put together. Yeah, so like, some people have told me now that that feature is in Fortnite and I actually hadn’t seen it before that, except for in Metal Gear Solid 4, which is where the idea originally came from. I was reading, I don’t remember what game it was now, but it was one of the developers that I follow on Twitter was talking about accessibility features in their game. And they were talking about, like, directional subtitles. And it made me think about how like, so much of Cultic’s combat is audio focused, like all of the enemies have global audio cues, and they kind of like, clue you in to their attacks. I start to think about, like, well, how would somebody who can’t use those audio cues play my game? And the answer is: probably frustratedly, getting shot a lot, and not really knowing where the shots are coming from. And, you know, damage indicators, or the direction that damage is coming from is one solution to that. But I got to thinking about directional subtitles and how to how to make that a more visual sense, because the problem with directional subtitles is you have to kind of take your attention off of what’s going on in the game to read them and to kind of look at them and figure out like, where they’re coming from, and to read “okay, is this subtitle important? Does this subtitle mean I’m about to get shot, or does this just mean that enemies are grumbling off in a corner somewhere?” And so that kind of led to the idea of having that, that visual cue or that visual compass, and it only visualized immediate threats.

So like, as soon as and so you know, it kind of is like that Metal Gear Solid 4 ring that shows where nearby enemies are, you know, it’s not showing you ambient data that you don’t need, it’s only showing you immediate threats. And so that was kind of the inspiration behind that. But I would say that there’s probably other things that I’m kind of patting myself on the back for behind the scenes, but that’s the only one that really comes to mind right now, just because it’s so fun. And the response from it’s been great. And you know, I hope that other people are able to take that and expand on it and make it better, because you know, I’m not really much of an ace programmer. So that was just kind of why most of it’s a physical, like, line renderer in the world that’s watched by a camera. So I’m sure somebody could figure out how to do it as a shader or like just as an on screen effect in a more efficient, less resource intensive way. But that was a lot of fun. And that was just something that I did in an afternoon on a whim and I was really surprised that it actually worked out how I wanted to

In the vein of classic FPS titles, Cultic will give players a variety of tools to help put the cultists into their coffins. With a variety of ways to tackle each combat scenario, I asked Jason what his favorite playstyle or weapon is?

JS: So I actually uploaded a video, I was kind of being a bit snarky. I had an interaction with somebody on the Steam forums who was saying that the difficulty of Cultic is super, super unfair. And that, like, the pistol is so unbalanced, that it’s impossible to use, and there’s no way to be good at the game. And so I recorded a video of playing through the entire demo on very hard with only the pistol and TNT and not getting any of the secrets. And that really illustrates the kind of playstyle that I use going through the game and that’s primarily just exploiting the enemy in every way possible, like exploiting the fact that their attacks are telegraphed very, very clearly. It’s like you can pop out of cover to bait an enemy into attacking and then you know, the pistol cultists always fire the same amount of shots. So as soon as they’re done, you know, you’ve got 30 to 40 frames before they’ll aim again so you can just run out and shoot him in the face. Or you know, like, the stem cultists, they’ve kind of got that Doom 2 chain gunner thing going on where they once start shooting, once you dip behind cover they’ll cancel their attack after a few shots and then you can just pop back out of cover and take them out, or you know if you have a bunch of axe cultists, if there’s too many props nearby then they’ll get sidetracked trying to kick things all over the place and they won’t actually be very effective in combat.

So, you know, trying to lead axe cultists into piles of jibs and stuff will make it so they’re so busy kicking eyeballs around, that they forget to attack you. There’s just stuff like that, really exploiting enemy AI. And the fact that enemies won’t start attacking if there’s another enemy in their line of fire, but they won’t stop attacking if an enemy wanders into the line of fire. So you can like, pop out and, you know, bait a shotgun cultist into shooting at you but then sidestep so that he’s about to shoot one of his friends, and he’ll just unload on them. So yeah, just really exploiting everything in the game that I can. Because that’s, you know, that’s what it’s all there for. All those little tricks and exploits are there to give the player fun ways to go through the environment. And a lot of that gameplay design is based around games like Resident Evil 4 and Killing Floor, the first Killing Floor, where enemy design is very consistent, and enemies are very, like their movement is very technical, like you can almost like play around with an enemy for 10 minutes and kind of like, get a feel for exactly how they’re programmed because everything they do is very consistent. Like if you shoot them in the head, if you get close to them, they’re gonna react in the same way. And it makes it so that combat can be very methodical, and you can, you know, prioritize targets, you can read a crowd and read a combat situation, and be able to tell like, “Okay, I gotta take this guy out first. Otherwise, you know, I’m gonna get sprayed from up there”.

And then you know, you can kind of tell what direction combat is going to go based on what you have in your inventory, and what kind of enemies there are. And it was something that I really enjoyed about Resident Evil 4 and Killing Floor 1 that I think both got lost in sequels and like Resident Evil 6 and Killing Floor 2. The combat became much more frantic, in a lot of cases, like enemy movement was more erratic, their behavior was less predictable. But then the player was also faster, too. And so, in that case, it kind of necessitated making the enemies a little more unpredictable, but it just takes the fun out of the gameplay for me, because at that point, it’s just like you pointed at the enemy and you left click until they die. And there’s not really any planning around it other than that, and that’s not to say I don’t like Resident Evil 6 or Killing Floor 2, I do like them both very much, but I don’t like them as much as their predecessors. And it’s just like, kind of the way that I enjoy gameplay being more methodical and more strategic, and less just like frantic randomness or even less chaotic, I guess. And that’s partially partially because I suck at Twitch reactions, you know, it’s why Cultic is a little bit slower of a game and why play that a little bit slower.

You know, there’s a big trend in the boomer shooter or retro shooter movement, where people are putting together a lot of moving shooters or mobility shooters, games, you know, that are made more in the vein of Doom Eternal, like Postal Brain Damage, and, and like Dread Templar, stuff like that. And, and I have nothing against those games, but I suck at them. I’m so bad at games like that. And it’s just, it’s one thing. My reflexes aren’t good enough, but I also just get like, way too stressed out. Because it’s like, you know, in Doom Eternal, I feel like there’s a very strict set of rules, you have to play by, like you have to deal with enemies in a certain way, and you have to play the game the way that the game wants you to play. Otherwise, you’re just gonna get mowed down. And that stresses me out. Like I said, that’s not to say those games are bad, there’s nothing wrong with them, but like, Oh my God, I am not good at them. And so I’m not going to design a game to be that way, either.

After hearing him talk about how he is actively following the discourse over his game, I followed up by asking if there was anything that he wished more players had seen that most players missed?

JS: Yeah, so I would say, I mean, a big part of it is just a learning experience… for almost all of Next Fest, anytime I would see somebody streaming Cultic, I would hop in and watch at least some of it. But if they were actually engaging with their audience, I would usually stick around and chat about Cultic and stuff like that. And you know, I saw a lot of stuff. Like, the secrets that I put in the game that I thought were pretty easy to find, a lot of people were really struggling with. Or you know, people were constantly running out of ammo because they weren’t exploring very thoroughly. So there’s a bit of a better balance I need to find of hiding things versus requiring exploration versus “Okay, the player needs to have ammo here. So I need to make this more obvious”, and stuff like that is on me. And it’s, you know, really, really valuable feedback to get. But I would say, the one thing that’s really frustrating is that a lot of people go into Cultic expecting it to be Blood, because, you know, they see your retro style and they see cultists and like, Oh, this is Blood. And thematically, yes, there was a lot of inspiration from the, you know, build engine games and Blood included.

But gameplay wise, it’s quite quite dissimilar, you know? They’re very different games, and the biggest thing is that I think a lot of people have rose-tinted glasses about Blood, and they don’t think about or don’t remember, like, just how brutally unfair the difficulty in that game is. Because, you know, you’ve got enemies that can hitscan you with extremely, extremely precise aim. You walk around a corner and half your health is gone before you can even react, because there’s no bullet travel time, there’s no Telegraph’s on the attacks. And so while Blood’s a great game, one of my favorites, there’s no denying that the combat design is flawed in ways. And that’s one thing, people, you know, they come into Cultic, and they assume that they’re getting hitscan, like when the pistol cultists are hitting them from decently far away. They assumed like, “oh, well, I’m just getting hitscan” which isn’t true, there’s no hit scanning in Cultic. If you’re far enough away from a cultist, you can just walk sideways, and they’ll miss you with almost every shot. If you’re running around, and sliding, and strafing, bullet enemies have a really hard time hitting you. Or, you know, like, people, when they get the TNT or the dynamite in Cultic, they assume it’s going to be the same as Blood’s. And it’s not, because the TNT in Blood is basically the grenade launcher, you know, it’s an instant left-click-to-blow-something-up button, you know, it explodes on contact.

And that’s not what I was going for, the grenade launcher in Cultic is what’s intended to be that left-click-to-make-something-blow-up weapon, and TNT supposed to be a bit more of a tool, you know, something you can use to set traps, you can use the tertiary fire to soften up a crowd and then finish them off with with bullets, you know, you can control throw speed and cook time separately, you can set up air bursts and stuff like that for enemies that you can’t quite reach with a well placed throw, and especially stuff like that, you know, when I get people that really harp on it, and I tell them like, well, you know, here’s how the TNT has kind of intended to work, so maybe like, just give it a try with an open mind. Oftentimes, I get folks telling me “Okay, no, I actually really enjoy the way that this is implemented versus blood” which is great. And I don’t mind, I don’t mind the comparison to blood on the surface level, because I know people do it, they do it with the right mindset, like, “Oh, I like Blood and this game looks like Blood, so I’m excited about it”. But when people discard parts of the game design that I’m pretty proud of, just because it’s not the same as Blood. That’s where it gets a little frustrating. And that’s why I don’t use Blood in any of my marketing or anything like that. Because I don’t want to get sued by Atari, and B) I don’t want people to be like “they said this game is like Blood“. You know, they’re going in expecting the same thing. So I’d say that’s probably the biggest, it’s just like, people not giving good game mechanics or parts of Cultic a chance, because they are not the exact same as you know, the game that they thought it was going to be.

I had a laugh about the Blood comparisons, as I had wondered the same thing, so many people online make the comparison, but I think it really comes down to the fact that the TNT animations are similar.

JS: Like, yeah, which is fair. Yeah. And I totally understand it. Like I get it. Like there’s a double barrel shotgun, there’s TNT, there’s cultists, like, I’m never going to deny that there wasn’t any  thematic inspiration there. There definitely was. But the gameplay is derived much more from like, Resident Evil 4 and like Dark Forces to have it being, you know, a shooter with a bit of a slower pace and a lot more focus on like, technical aspects of combat and verticality, and analyzing crowds and stuff like that. But, it’s like I had, it’s just, it’s weird, because there’s like that rose-tinted glasses thing for Blood that I mentioned, that I think, you know, there’s such a big following around it that like, for example, the other day, I had somebody on the, I can’t remember if it was on Discord or steam, or maybe both. They were like, “well, you know, the shotgun in Cultic.  it’s not as you know, it’s not as powerful as the one in Blood” and I was like, “Well, what do you mean, it’s not as powerful” and they’re like, “Well, you know, like, I can run up to a cultist and, and shoot them with one barrel and it doesn’t kill them. But it did in Blood” and I’m like “well both of those things aren’t true”.

Like if you run up to a cultist and shoot them in the face with one barrel of the shotgun in Cultic they will die almost every single time because, you know, there’s headshot damage and it adds up really fast. But that’s not the case and in blood like you know if you’re using a single barrel, the shock and you have to shoot a zombie four times to kill them, or a cultist twice. And yes, you can double barrel them and that does kill them but it’s one of those things where it’s like, people just like, misremember the difficulty or they misremember the shotgun in that game and it’s like the Blood shotgun is very good but it fills two different roles. It’s supposed to be like a pistol and a shotgun all at once because the game doesn’t really have a proper pistol slot weapon. So that’s where you get the tighter spread and the beefed up fire rate, which is great. But in Cultic, you know, there’s two separate roles for those: there’s a shotgun role and there’s the pistol role. So you know, the shotgun in Cultic has a little more spread on it, but the damage potential up close, especially with headshots is extremely high. But yeah, it’s just stuff like that, I’m totally fine explaining it as long as people don’t get frustrated that I do kind of jump to my own defense a lot on that. I’m like, “Whoa, hold on a second. This shotgun is good. Let’s just hear me out. Let me talk about the shotgun”.

On the topic of talking about guns; following Jason on Twitter, I had seen quite a few posts about guns. So I asked him if he was a fan of traditional firearms or if his enthusiasm only extended as far as fiction?

JS: So it goes both ways. I collect novelty 22’s. I don’t know how much of a gun person you are. But, like, 22, so you know, obviously 22 is a very small caliber, very cheap, it’s just kind of for shooting soda cans out at the farm or whatever. But there’s a lot of really Goofy 22’s out there that have been made. And like almost every weapon at some point in its lifecycle gets a 22 knockoff, and I’m really into 22 knockoffs of guns that are traditionally higher caliber. But I have been working on trying to get all of the guns in Cultic in one capacity or another and because most of them are absurdly expensive to get a hold of, I have gotten a couple of BB replicas. So I have a Stenmark 5 and a C 96. But they’re both just replicas because the real one is extremely expensive to get or illegal because they’re fully automatic.

Having seen pictures online, I commented that the Stenmark 5 looked very real to me.

JS: Oh, yeah, it’s fake. It’s a BB gun. So it does shoot, it just doesn’t shoot nine millimeter rounds. But ya know, I can’t afford a Sten and I am not enough of a gunsmith or a gunsmith at all to you know, take one and turn it into a semi auto. So that’s just not going to happen, so I will just settle for the really impressive replica.

I followed up by asking if he could be magically gifted a gun, lady-in-the-lake style, which would he choose?

JS: I would 100% and B, the C 96. But it would be the red nine, the nine millimeter variant with the stock because those are just so cool. But finding one in good condition is really tough and especially the nine millimeter variants they’re really hard to get a hold of, but you know, the Mauser ammo that they’re chambered in typically is like a buck a round right now, o not exactly the kind of thing you’d want to take out for an afternoon of target shooting.

I did not see the orange tip in the other photo, but c’mon, these guns all look pretty convincing.

Moving beyond the mechanical side of things, I wanted to hear more about the world of Cultic and the creepy cultists who inhabit it. So I asked Jason if he would give us the rundown on the story of Cultic?

JS: So a lot of the story of Cultic is going to be told kind of a hands off away, and a lot of that is just because like, I’m not much of a storyteller, I would argue that story, you know, like story writing, and storytelling is probably my, like, my weakest point as a game designer.

So there’s, there’s the themes, and there’s like, vibes and hints, and it’s kind of, you know, it was like those Lacroix sparkling waters that people make jokes about, I feel like, I’m just gonna give you a hint of what’s going on here. And some of that’s because I really enjoy the aspect of like, the horror and untold stories, you know, like, where you get to fill in the blanks of something with your mind. And that’s convenient, because sometimes I struggle to fill in the blanks, actually, because I’m not much of a writer. But the protagonist in Cultic, you play as kind of a disgraced detective, who was working on a case trying to figure out what was going on, and their county’s kind of been dealing with a big rash of kidnappings and homicides, people going missing and people turning up dead. And the text has been getting a little bit closer and kind of picking up on a trail of clues when he’s suddenly ejected from the force entirely and taken off the case. But he decides to continue pursuing his leads on his own, and kind of winds up headfirst in this nightmare. He follows his trail of clues and it turns out, you actually might have been right on the money because you know, as soon as he pulls up to the outside of this abandoned asylum, he’s assaulted from the shadows.

And then that’s where the demo picks up, you kind of wake up in this mass grave, you don’t really know how you got there, and you’ve got a big chunk of your torso missing, but it’s weirdly not bleeding anymore. But you don’t really have time to figure that out, because you were right. All along, all of the clues, and all of the work that your character has done. All of the hunches he had about this cult were correct. And now they’ve personally attacked him and you’re kind of just on a mission to stop them through whatever means necessary, whether that’s shooting, blasting, slashing, or picking up a toilet seat and smashing a cultists head with it. You know, whatever you got to do.

It most certainly seems like what has been shown so far is really only the tip of the iceberg for Cultic. I asked Jason if there were any specific moments in the final game that he was excited for people to see?

JS: Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, the entire process of getting to work on Cultic full time has just been getting to execute ideas for gameplay segments that I’ve had bouncing around in my head for forever, but I’ve just never really had the opportunity or the time to carry them out. So there’s a lot of cool combat segments, a lot of like, light horror elements. Actually, the map I’m working on right now is kind of the interior of the asylum and it’s very, very eerie. And I’m really excited for people to play it. 

But even like, there’s a part in the demo towards the end that’s a little more like on the nose horror, where you wind up getting thrown into a claustrophobic combat situation with a particularly nasty enemy and that it’s such a shift in tone that it is really fun to watch people streaming the game and you know, the first 20 minutes of the demo are kind of just like, I won’t say light hearted but kind of just an action-packed horror-themed romp. And then suddenly, the players are thrown into something much, much creepier. And it was really fun to watch people’s responses. They’d be like “wait, wait, what game Am I playing? What’s happening? Why is there a change though? What’s going on?” And there’s a lot more moments like that. And a lot of stuff that even though I am really bad about sharing everything I work on on Twitter and probably spoiling chunks of the game, there is a lot of stuff I have not shown anybody yet and I’m really excited for people to experience that and I’d love to talk about it right now, but I’ve gotten this far so I can’t spoil it now… 

Like I said earlier, I hope to have the first playable segment of the game done by the end of the year. I’ve just been, like, working a bonkers amount of hours this year, just trying to get everything ready. And I’m ready to get a playable chunk of it out there. So I can kind of like, dial back a little bit and relax. So I really don’t want to, you know, I don’t want to make any promises, and I actually don’t really have a concrete date down yet. But by the end of the year is kind of my target right now. 

Having learned all there was to learn about Cultic and its development, I ended the interview with a straightforward question. Now that he had been brought into 3D Realms, Cultic guy was now among some FPS legends. How does the Cultic commando stand up to the other 3D Realms heroes like Lo Wang, Bombshell, or Duke Nukem?

JS: Oh, man? Well, I mean, I think in terms of like, durability, he’s definitely gotta be up there. Because I mean, you can take a magazine of ammunition to the face and wrap a few bandages around it and be just fine. So as far as like, sponginess goes, he’s probably up there. But I don’t know that you see, you know, Duke throwing as many chairs as Cultic guy does. So you know, in terms of Cultic guy’s willingness to grab anything in the environment and turn it into a weapon. I mean, that’s quite the force to be reckoned with, you know, if you get stuck in a situation where there’s no weapons, you know for sure that, well, then again, Duke can kick with both of his feet, though. So that’s a tough question. And we might just have to see how it shakes out after it releases.

I don’t think Duke’s balls of steel will help once he’s being bombarded with TNT, chairs, and small arms fire from a man who can’t die.

I could understand why he was hesitant to say that Cultic guy would wipe the floor with Duke Nukem, but I think once we get our hands on the final product it will be clear to see who is the toughest in the Realms of 3D. I wrapped up the interview by asking Jason if there was anything we hadn’t discussed that he wanted to mention?

JS: Gosh, that’s kind of tough. I mean, not really. Sometimes when I chat about code, I like to get on the topic of just kind of encouraging and enabling game developers in general. I know that like, the market can be really intimidating right now with how many games come out on a daily basis. But indie games are on the rise. Like, there’s a big wavering of faith in AAA studios lately, whether that’s just because of unfortunate news stories about conduct or, you know, just studios losing sight of what their fans love, or what their fans appreciated about them. And, you know, really destroying expectations and letting people down. And I think there’s been a bigger shift lately, and this is probably old news to anyone who’s actually, you know, a journalist in the industry, but, like, now’s the time, like now is when indie studios, or any developers are getting the spotlight. And you’ve got companies out there, like 3D Realms, and like New Blood, who are looking to help some of those developers get to light and are happy to share, you know, whether it’s just on social media or whatever, boost those people up and help them out. And, I mean, that’s where I’m at.

I mean, I was just a guy fiddling around with a new color palette, when, you know, when 3D Realms was like, “No, we’re gonna make this a 3D Realms game”. So, like, there’s no better time than now to get into game dev. I know that the industry can be intimidating. But like, I’ve met some phenomenal people just in the last year working on Cultic full time, whether that’s through 3D Realms, or just other developers that I know. And, you know, all of the developers working in the retro shooter sphere, it’s been great. So it’s, you know, it’s great, everyone’s really supportive. If you’ve had your eye on making the game, like, don’t give up on it, just keep going. Don’t be afraid to use your resources, don’t be afraid to use assets to get started, like just just do it. Get out there and do it. Phasmophobia is a smash hit, and it was basically an asset flip. So like, just get out there and do it…  make sure that my comment about Phasmophobia doesn’t seem like a dig. That’s one of my favorite games of all time now. But it’s just a shining example of how sometimes all you need is a good gameplay hook. And then the rest of it doesn’t matter, you know?

I thanked Jason again for his time, and the information he shared before we went our separate ways into the night. It seems for the time being we will have to wait until the first part of Cultic is released to get a better understanding of this cult’s makings or machinations. In the interim, you should most certainly snag the latest demo, and wishlist the game on Steam. To stay up to date on development of the title, you can follow Jason on his personal Twitter. And of course, if you are fiending for more ghoulish gossip on the latest and greatest in horror gaming, then head back to Dreadxp.com and read more of our frightful features!

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Monster Stalker: Battle Cards Are The Real Deal Here https://www.dreadxp.com/editorial/monster-stalker-battle-cards-are-the-real-deal-here/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=monster-stalker-battle-cards-are-the-real-deal-here Tue, 12 Jul 2022 19:00:00 +0000 https://www.dreadxp.com/?p=27197 […]

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Over the past few years, we have seen a rise in the card battler genre, from Hearthstone, Gwent, Slay The Spire, and my favorite, Inscryption, which just got announced as coming to PlayStation consoles sometime in the future. But very few of them can hold my interest. I’m not sure if it’s because I played a ton of the Pokemon trading card game as a kid, so I’ve just been looking for something to hit that same nostalgia high for me, maybe? It is rare that they hold my attention, not to mention try to tackle horror. Inscryption did a great job of hitting some tense horror with, well, I shouldn’t spoil that. Also, before I get into talking too much about Monster Stalker, I should mention as of right now, it is just the prologue, with more monsters, battles, and cards are promised in the full version.

But I was pursuing through Itch.io while taking a break in the middle of a move, and I happened to come across Monster Stalker, a horror-based card battler. The story seems to have a little loose of a premise, taken directly from the opening splash screen: This is a fantasy world with both technology and supernatural powers. People work hard to develop technology. Meanwhile, few gifted people have supernatural powers. However, the peaceful world doesn’t know a crisis is coming.

Again kind of a blanket futuristic world with horror elements mixed in. As you start, you are given just a brief scenario of leaving a bar with a woman, only to have her change once your out into the dark street. In typical RPG fashion, what happens next is you get thrown into a battle screen. That being said, these battle screens happen to be some of my favorite things to happen with turn-based RPGs. Once in battle, we get to see some awesome animation of the woman turning into a weird body horror monster. It is very The Thing-esque and looks really good in the art style of the developer.

During the battle, you use your cards to heal, attack, and cause status effects like enrage and weak. Each card has a cost, and from what I played, you have the ability to play three cards a turn. I didn’t ever have more than three cards each turn, so I worked out quite nicely. Once you defeat your enemy, you are given money to spend on cards at the shop, cards, and skill points used in this simple skill tree. Skill trees are something in games that usually have trouble finding a balance between being exciting and being enough of a boost to notice. However, Monster Stalker does one thing I have not personally seen before. Its skill tree is just newer, better cards, so as you put points into the trees, you’re unlocking new cards.

As the prologue continues, you’ll have to change your deck around as the further battles are almost boss rushes, which surprisingly work well here. Of course, it helps that the UI is not too cluttered, and it is a very simple pick-up and play style, with no over-complicated rules to learn about weaknesses or resistances. I should also mention there is this techno kind of beat going on while you play that makes it easy to just kind of vibe with. Also, the creature design is unique and really good.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Monster Stalker and look forward to the full version. It always surprises me when these fantastic projects and games come out of these small teams and even sometimes, like Monster Stalker, a solo developer. If you enjoy card battlers or even have a few minutes, you should check it out on itch.io and follow the developer 333Ba on Twitter for updates and news on his game!

For more interviews, features and reviews, stay locked to DreadXP, and you can still pick up the Worthy of Better, Stronger Together for Reproductive Rights bundle over at itch.io to help support reproductive rights. The funds get split 50/50 between National Organization for Women and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

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Hellpoint: Blue Sun DLC Brings New Terrors https://www.dreadxp.com/news/hellpoint-blue-sun-dlc-brings-new-terrors/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hellpoint-blue-sun-dlc-brings-new-terrors Tue, 12 Jul 2022 18:53:30 +0000 https://www.dreadxp.com/?p=27225 […]

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Wake up babe, new cosmic nightmares just dropped. Hellpoint: Blue Sun is the latest DLC for the Soulslike Hellpoint. It’s available now on all platforms where you can currently find Hellpoint, with the Xbox Series X|S versions launching on July 26. Part of the DLC launch includes a PlayStation 5 version, out now.

The Blue Sun DLC expands the base game with new locations to explore, bosses to fight, and occult and scientific mysteries to solve. While previously available via backwards compatibility, this is a leap forward into the current gen. These enhanced editions feature even better visuals, native SSD support, and support for 4k resolution at 60 fps. You can check out Ted’s impressions from PAX South way back in 2020, too.

Hellpoint: Blue Sun DLC Screenshot Boss
Well, go on then, give it a whirl.

Set in a universe where the line between science and magic is essentially nonexistent, humanity and aliens are learning about the power within their souls. They engage in unholy and dangerous experiments to attempt to steal the power of ancient gods of the cosmos. In the Blue Sun DLC, you’ll deal with Asmodeus and travel to the Blue Sun. This parallel dimension hides the darkest secrets of the city, potentially including the truth behind the disastrous Merge. Three new zones, new two-handed weapons, new bosses, and various respects and improvements round out all the content, allowing you to become the most powerful Spawn.

Hellpoint: Blue Sun is a major expansion of Cradle Games’ debut Hellpoint. The team specializes in next-gen action games and works out of Quebec. Founded in 2015, Mathieu Boudreau (Creative Director) and Marc-André Jutras (Technical Director), the team has worked on titles such as Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Spider-Man, Rainbow Six, and many more.

tinyBuild, based in Seattle, is a video game label boasting over 30 renowned titles. Major IPs include Hello Neighbor, Potion Craft, Graveyard Keeper, and Streets of Rogue. tinyBuild also has officies in Amsterdam, Riga, and Boise, and continues to build their portfolio that spans multiple platforms.

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Kingdom: The Blood Reveals First Gameplay Trailer https://www.dreadxp.com/news/kingdom-the-blood-reveals-first-gameplay-trailer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kingdom-the-blood-reveals-first-gameplay-trailer Tue, 12 Jul 2022 18:26:53 +0000 https://www.dreadxp.com/?p=27221 […]

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Kingdom: The Blood is an upcoming Korean action RPG based on the Netflix zombie drama series Kingdom. Look for it on PCs and mobile devices worldwide when it launches. There is no official release date at this point in time, though Action Square will release more information in the future as it approaches. For the time being, you can watch the short trailer on the official Action Square Youtube channel.

Keeping in theme with the source material, Kingdom: The Blood seeks to recreate the characters, zombies, and visceral action in 3D. The team has worked to ensure that Korean culture is treated with care and respect, both in terms of gameplay and aesthetics. A professional Korean sword dancer provided motion capture to recreate traditional Korean combat styles. The player will journey through gorgeous Korean palaces and the zombie-infested city of Hanyang, taking on both human and zombified foes along the way. Various costume options, including the traditional Hanbok, use colors and textures found in 16th-century Korea. In addition to the care given to cultural aesthetics, the story mode will follow the plot of the Netflix drama. Conquest Mode serves as a series of short, five-minute battles. It will also feature various multi-boss battles and PvP combat. Look forward to more information in future announcements.

The source material, Netflix’s Kingdom, launched on the platform in 2019. The Korean drama has two seasons and tells the story of the crown prince as his kingdom falls apart due to a mysterious plague.

Action Square is a developer focusing on action games. Their first release, action RPG Blade (2014), was the first mobile title to win the Korea Game Award President’s Award. They’ve also launched Blade Three Kingdom and Blade 2. As of August 2021, the team has pivoted to PC and console gaming with action shooter ANVIL. The company, founded in 2012, operates out of the capital city, Seoul. Announced last August, details surrounding their latest project, Kingdom: The Blood have been sparse.

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Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 Launching Remaster July 20 https://www.dreadxp.com/news/baldurs-gate-dark-alliance-2-launching-remaster-july-20/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=baldurs-gate-dark-alliance-2-launching-remaster-july-20 Mon, 11 Jul 2022 20:13:00 +0000 https://www.dreadxp.com/?p=27216 […]

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A remaster for classic hack-and-slash adventure Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 (stylized with II) will launch on July 20. Set in the vicinity of the city of the same name, it is a Forgotten Realms adventure rife with terror and monsters to kill. Find it on Steam (and Steamdeck), the Epic Games Store, modern Xbox and PlayStation systems, and the Nintendo Switch. The Steam version will support Remote Play for long-distance gaming, but all versions include the local play experience in the original launch from 2004. There’s an entire trailer and everything on the InterplayGames YouTube channel. How Vhaidra, a monk, is casting Meteor Swarm is anyone’s guess, but it’s a big triumph for fans of the series, including yours truly.

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 offers four different difficulty levels (Easy, Normal, Hard, and the Ultimate Gamer Test, Extreme), five characters (a barbarian, monk, necromancer, rogue, and cleric), and four Acts full of grueling combat. Drizzt Do’Urden and Artemis Entreri appear as unlockable characters as well, joining the adventure with their iconic equipment. Make your own unique armory, too, using the game’s crafting system to upgrade your gear and get the edge on the monsters running amok. Build the characters to your exacting specifications, granting them new powers and spells as you gain levels. Bunny hop everywhere to get to areas with increased speed, unless that managed to get patched out. The voice cast includes long-time talent in the industry, with veterans such as Grey Griffin and Cree Summer voicing various characters.

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2 Trolls
A gentle reminder to not forget a source of fire or acid damage when fighting trolls.

Interplay Entertainment publishes and develops games. Located in southern California, their properties include Battle Chess, ClayFighter, Descent, Earthworm Jim, Freespace, Giants, Messiah, MDK, Run Like Hell, and Sacrifice. It also has a publishing arm and development imprint in Black Isle Studios.

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The Quarry and the Awkward Gay Summer Camp Romance https://www.dreadxp.com/editorial/quarry-awkward-gay-summer-camp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=quarry-awkward-gay-summer-camp Mon, 11 Jul 2022 19:00:00 +0000 https://www.dreadxp.com/?p=27206 […]

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The Quarry, Supermassive Games’ latest choose-your-own-grisly-end game, continues the developer’s trend of sticking a group of young people in a familiar horror film setting and lets players decide who lives and dies. Similarly to Until Dawn, the progenitor of the genre Supermassive basically created, The Quarry is a slasher with a supernatural twist. 

But this time, there’s gay stuff! Spoiler alert — we’re about to talk about Dylan and Ryan.

Justice Smith plays Dylan in The Quarry.

Dylan is one of the counselors at Hackett’s Quarry summer camp. He does the daily announcements over the PA system (and blasts cool tunes for all the campers), has a dry, somewhat dark sense of humor, shows his tattoo hiding under his short sleeve shirt and pretends to be unfazed by the terrors unfolding around him. Dylan is also clearly gay, and has a crush on Ryan.

A far cry from the devil-may-care Dylan, Ryan is a sensitive and serious soul. He listens to podcasts rather than bond with the other counselors at Hackett’s Quarry and looks to camp director Chris as a mentor, asking him for advice about whether or not to go away to college and leave his sister home with a relative. When horrifying, monstrous events start to occur around the counselors after the kids leave, Ryan is the most obvious choice for team leader and hero.

Is it any surprise Dylan has a crush on Ryan?

Playing as Dylan, I fumbled through my first encounters with Ryan. I tried to flirt numerous ways, from asking about his favorite podcasts to inquiring about his personal life. Ryan didn’t seem impressed. But playing as Ryan, I had the opportunity to kiss Dylan during a game of Truth or Dare, a small but triumphant victory before the real challenges began. 

Dylan is an extremely relatable queer character. He hides his insecurities behind a funny exterior, and when things don’t go well for him, he wears his vulnerability on his sleeve more visibly than any tattoo. As a teen, queer kids naturally gravitate toward the other queer kids in the room. Bisexual Ryan, with his stoic presence and quietly strong personality, is a goofy and awkward gay kid’s dream guy — at least, he would be to this writer.

The Quarry is a spooky and fun-filled romp through teen slasher and summer camp horror tropes. Dylan and Ryan’s will-they-or-won’t-they relationship is a highlight for any queer gamer — you’ll find yourself making decisions specifically to ensure these two, very different boys not only survive the night but end up happy, too.

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Mega Man Zero Makes Disturbing Moral Choices for Power https://www.dreadxp.com/editorial/mega-man-zero-makes-disturbing-moral-choices-for-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mega-man-zero-makes-disturbing-moral-choices-for-power Fri, 08 Jul 2022 22:00:00 +0000 https://www.dreadxp.com/?p=27121 Mega Man Zero ties permanent power ups to the unsettling sacrifice of cute, child-like beings. Will you take their lives to make your own easier?

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Mega Man Zero represented a daunting new direction to the Mega Man series. Put quite simply, this game is hard. Much harder than any of the entries in the baseline Mega Man series or the X series. However, you can get a little bit stronger by grabbing permanent power-ups hidden in each stage, just like in the Mega Man X series. What adds an unexpected hint of horror to this game is that these aren’t just machine parts to improve your robot body. This time, they’re child-like, sentient machines who die to make you stronger.

Are you willing to crush their lives to get tougher? Or are you strong enough to weather the game’s vicious difficulty without their power so that they can live?

Set one hundred years after the events of Mega Man X, the game follows Zero as he fights as part of a resistance force trying to save Reploids (sentient robots) who’ve been branded as Mavericks (threats to humans and others). The trouble is, a lot of Reploids seem to be being accused of being Mavericks these days. And Mega Man X, your old friend, is VERY GOOD at seeing that these robots are ‘Retired’.

You’ll become abundantly familiar with your brutal enemies throughout Mega Man Zero. Basic foes tear through big chunks of your health if you smash into them. Enemies come from all angles with melee and ranged weapons. Stage hazards will smash you to pieces. That’s assuming you don’t fall down a cliff or onto spikes. You die quickly and easily in this game if you’re clumsy. Or if you just mistime a single jump.

Most previous Mega Man games hit pretty hard as well, and were just as full of spikes and pits. In this one, you start off with a small life bar. It’s about half the size of the life bar from the original Mega Man games, and half as big as a full-power life bar in Mega Man X. You could make far more mistakes in Mega Man, and in Mega Man X, you could gather power-ups to make yourself tougher with a bit of exploration. Grab a handful of stat-boosting parts and you were good to go.

You can do the same in Mega Man Zero, but as I said, there’s a moral issue surrounding power-ups this time. Instead of grabbing new parts, you find Cyber-Elves. These are small, shimmering machines that hide in containers throughout each level. When you free one, it flits around until you pick it up and take it with you. You can see the ones you’ve found by poking around the menus.

Here’s where my conscience started to prod at me. These small creatures all look like tiny, cute little robot beings. They’re extremely small, cheerful little beings that look like smiling human children, baby animals, and adorable humanoid robots. If you highlight their picture, they’ll excitedly tell you a little blurb about how they’ll help you store energy, grow tougher, or save you from enemy fire. They are all massively helpful in keeping you alive. You can also bring three into a level at a time! That’s a ton of help in a level where you might be struggling.

mega man zero

Using them feels pretty good in Mega Man Zero. Watching their glowing light flying around you as your power bar increases or as they take out foes is invigorating. Knowing you can take a few more hits, or that an area will be easier, really takes some pressure off. However, when you head back into the menu to check on your little buddy – the one who likely made a difference between life and death – you’ll see their image is grayed out. The in-game text says “It rests in peace.” Your helpful pal? They’re dead. You killed them for that boost you got, or that bit of help.

Picking up power-ups and getting stronger was a fantastic part of the Mega Man X games. It encouraged you to explore and try some odd new things, and rewarded you for being curious. Here, the game instills a disturbing moral choice into the process. Once you’ve found your cute little power source in a level, will you kill it so that your life can get easier? Do you tell yourself that their lives are sacrificed for a good cause, since you’re trying to save Reploids in danger?

Cyber Elves make a massive difference in Mega Man Zero. By the end, you’ll have four times your initial health. Have charge tanks that store extra health if you run low. Take half damage. Be able to shrug off hits without knockback. These little creatures turn a ruthless game into one that feels almost trivial. You can gain absurd power levels from Cyber Elves, but all the while, your conscience will be screaming at you.

This game was the first time I felt myself pause at the idea of using a permanent power-up. Something about the Cyber Elves and their cheerful, child-like faces and their desire to help makes sacrificing them feel monstrous. Like you’re a failure if you need to kill these tiny beings because you can’t hack it at the game. It gives you the opportunity to get stronger if you need it, but not without a sense of guilt twisting in your guts. And if you’re trying to be strong to avoid using them, the game beats you down, over and over again. It feels like it’s pushing you to make that choice through its difficulty.

Mega Man Zero doesn’t do much with this moral choice in the story, but it feels like a central element as you struggle through it. The Cyber Elves make things so much easier that it’s hard not to turn to them when things look bleak. What’s one or two lives in the long run? Except, aren’t you fighting against X to stop him from killing Reploids? Do you think it’s right that X can kill because he feels he is justified in what he does? If so, what do you think you’re doing killing Cyber Elves?

The game asks an uncomfortable moral questions of players who want to get stronger. It asks us what we’re willing to do to win, and if that choice is right. In my own weakness, I’ve made those sacrifices, telling myself it was just a game and to ignore my conscience. Even so, I can’t deny feeling a horror and disgust at seeing all of those small, smiling faces marked as resting in peace. Can’t ignore this sense that I failed the little creatures who mattered most. As such, even as I beat the game, I can’t help but feel that I failed the beings I should have protected.

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The Trash Horror Collection and The Audacity of Asking https://www.dreadxp.com/editorial/the-trash-horror-collection-and-the-audacity-of-asking/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-trash-horror-collection-and-the-audacity-of-asking Thu, 07 Jul 2022 22:00:00 +0000 https://www.dreadxp.com/?p=26884 […]

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I play a lot of horror games. You know that, I know that, we all know that. Every week I sit down to explore the strange and even funny bits of horror. So it should come as no surprise to you that I’ve been shown something so repulsive, so downright unapproachable, so…trashy, that I couldn’t pass it up. Our slogan here at DreadXP is “positively spooky” so I bet you’re wondering why I’m opening this by outwardly insulting the game I’m going to cover. Well, bear with me, because it’s going to get a bit weird before it makes sense.

The Trash Horror Collection, as it’s named, is a collection of 12 short horror games all made by one developer: 616 Games. The definition of “trash” in the title is left entirely up to you. Is it evocative of the exploitation films of the 80’s? Well, the description says it is, so that may be the answer. Is the title instead calling the games poorly made or poorly thought out? Screenshots might lead you to believe that, but you could dispel the notion by playing the games. Maybe it means trash in the sense that they’re not worth what the developer is charging for the game? Who knows? It’s all very open-ended. All I know is that I went in expecting, well, trash, and I came away with a hell of a lot of appreciation for 616 Games. What they’ve done here isn’t unique, but it is special. Follow?

No one ever talks about the dialogue in old horror movies. They want to focus on the few minutes of absolute insanity. No one remembers how slow the first 30 minutes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is; they just focus on Leatherface chasing teens through the woods at night. We’re good at blocking out non-exciting things. If The Trash Horror Collection evokes anything from the trash films of the 70’s and 80’s, it is its ability to lull you into boredom before hitting you with a memorable scare. Almost all the games play out like this: You’re exploring a mostly empty place, something creepy is happening, something gross/violent happens, the game ends. It is audacious on its face in the funnest of way. There are 3 Poop Killer games for crying out loud!

The other thing I appreciate about The Trash Games Collection is that it costs money. I think that developers often undervalue their work to the point of burning themselves out on the craft. It almost seems like a sin these days to bring up charging for a game among indie developers. There is this idea of “selling out” if you actually, you know, sell your game. Why is indie game development one of the few professions where it’s seen as a bad thing to charge for the fruits of your labor? I’ve often seen the argument that indie games are art, and therefore exempt from mass consumption. To that I reply, “Art is regularly the most expensive thing sold at upscale auction houses the world over”. You can put effort, blood, sweat, and tears into something and then sell it. It’s fine. You could paint me as some type of terrifying capitalist for believing in radical ideas like, “you should get paid for the work you do”, but I’ll continue to shout from the rooftops that your work is worth money. The Trash Horror Collection says, “yeah, here are 12 games. I worked hard on them, and I expect you to pay for them”.

It’s almost a repudiation of indie horror standards of decorum and I love it. I hope that more developers will see the example put forth here and go for it more often. In the grand scheme of things I just appreciate the absolute nerve of 616 Games. They come out and say that their games are trash and it feels like almost a dare to people like me. Trash games you say? I’ll be the judge of that! And then I’m sitting here typing a thousand words about labor vs. capital in the indie horror games space while tirelessly promoting and grandstanding a game that has already judged itself trash. Well played, 616 Games. In a world where small indie developers are releasing their passion for free, with only the hopes that a youtuber who makes more money than all of us combined might play the game, with an even smaller chance for them to actually read out loud who made it in their video, 616 Games is saying fuck it, pay me for the experience up front, and tell me what you think later.

They aren’t waiting on the market. They know their audience. They know who they make games for, and it really seems like they make games for me, and you, and everyone out there trying their damndest to make it work. Their work is unapproachable in the most approachable way. A strange mishmash of ideas that sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t, but would make the world a poorer place if it didn’t exist. I salute you, trashmakers of the world. May your reign last forever. Shine on you crazy diamonds. Make up your own mind HERE.

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