Haven Review: Empires of Creation (Early Access)

EoCFirst up is our disclaimer. We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this review are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

Empires of Creation is an upcoming combat strategy game from Bundle of Sticks Studios. The title is currently in early access, and by that I mean really early. The game features neither tutorial nor instructional documentation. The developer offers a 3-page “Guidance Document“, but it’s merely a rundown of backstory, game objective and key-mappings.

The first thing you’ll see when you’re ready to play is the Galaxy Generator. Here you will create a spiral galaxy consisting of 2 to 5 arms. Each arm can have between 40 and 80 stars. You must then choose to populate your new galaxy with 1 to 5 enemy empires.

EoCGalaxyMapEoCSkullAs you fly around the galaxy you’ll run across individual stars…some with a skull-and-crossbones icon next to them. This indicates the presence of an opposing AI fleet (the game currently lacks multiplayer). Each time I maneuvered one of my fleets to engage the enemy, I saw that I was grossly outnumbered. The idea apparently is to get several of your fleets in position before diving in. Upon entering combat, the screen switches from the galactic map to a tactical arena with the local star and planets prominently in the center.
EoCBattleCloseupBy pressing TAB, you can take over one of the individual ships in your fleet and fire a red laser at an enemy ship. The idea is to line up the shot billiards style, with the laser acting as a pool cue, and the targeted ship as the cue ball. Blast the opponent just right and it will careen into one of its teammates, doing damage to both ships. This amounts to the only direct combat control available in the game, as of this writing.EoCPool1Ultimately, the goal is to take over the entire galaxy through an eventual balance of strategy and tactics…including a crafting & upgrade system, as well as negotiating with enemy forces. For now, Empires of Creation remains a future recommendation from me, despite is reasonable cost on Steam. I will be keeping my eye on this title and writing more as updates become available.

-Chris Roberts-


Haven Review: Sonic Lost World

First up is our disclaimer. We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this review are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

I love Sonic the Hedgehog. He’s one of my favorite game characters and he had a huge impact on my childhood. I remember sitting around the Sega Genesis and running through each stage to stop Eggman, and also the cheats to unlock Super Sonic early on!

Sonic the Hedgehog has come a long way since then, and the launch of Sonic Adventure brought him into the 3D era and was amazing. The open world, game-play and unique cast of characters was great, and Sega has since been trying to become more and more innovative with this universe they’ve built. This includes, but is not limited to Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations.2015-11-24_00009

The newest iteration of the Sonic franchise is Sonic Lost World. Now I have played the newer games, and I must tell you they feel a lot better than this. It seems like Sega can never stick to their initial good formula; they keep trying to go back to their roots but also remain innovative.

The level designs are horrible…a good try at best…but still fail to be entertaining. They feel like they are struggling to make Sonic the Hedgehog more of an item-based hero like Mario with the introduction of an inventory system. It’s like someone tried to take an mobile app game and threw it together with Sonic the Hedgehog, much like Sonic Dash. Upon completion of various challenges, you are rewarded with in-game items, which you can draw from inventory during the stages you play.2015-11-24_00010

Another issue I had when playing this game is that it’s trying to throw together pieces from aforementioned Sonic titles. You can go around during stages and collect various little critters to help boost you through the stages. That is all well and good, but it’s starting the feel like they’re choking the franchise, straggling their mascot and shouting “This is what you have to do, so do it!” in hopes of being innovative.

However I think the biggest issue with this installment is how they changed everything control-wise. If you have played Sonic Adventure, Sonic Colors, and Sonic Generations you know how the controls are. They’re set a certain way and haven’t been changed in years; a good thing. However this has literally made me spend a good fifteen to twenty minutes just trying to figure out how to control my Blue Hedgehog. Hell, even trying to spin-dash is a pain now. Normally you’d just press “B”, but now on a controller its the Left Trigger (LT). Right Trigger (RT) just makes you run like your old-school Genesis Sonic..2015-11-24_00013

Despite these numerous issues, I can say this: the music as always is spot-on and I love the sound track and the character interactions and development. This title introduces the “Dangerous Six.” and besides falling in love with their design, they make for some very hilarious cut-scenes. It’s good to know that Sega, despite failing in the design aspect of the game, is still is succeeding in their story telling and musical composition. Is it enough to make up for all the game’s faults and issues? Not really. The only consolation is that it gives you a beautiful, vibrant world to look at; something we all love and really enjoy in Sonic titles.

The best way to explain it is to look at Sonic Adventure, the gem of the franchise. It had open-world game play where you could run around and interact with various stages that were easy to figure out and learn. Even my mother got into playing Sonic Adventure…that’s how good it was. Yes, a lot of the stages were closed and small, and in comparison to Sonic Lost World some areas are a bit like that, as well. But ultimately it boils down to the control aspect.2015-11-25_00017

You have things from Sonic Colors here; they’re trying to throw out a new set of villains and enemies. You are also building on classic Sonic lore with a lot of the stages, and you are also trying to build up with previous characters. It’s all well and good but somewhere in there it’s starting to fall apart with too much going on.

If I had to choose the things that were wrong with the title, it would be the following: inventory options, adding various games to a new Sonic title, level design and the controls.
The best thing about Sonic games in the past is how they always made Sonic a side-scrolling character. In some stages, yes, it would change camera angles from behind, but it always felt fluid and complete. This newest game doesn’t have that. All-in-all I’ve only been enjoying the character interactions and story. The game play for me just feels forced and it fails. I don’t find it enjoyable at all.

-Daniel Clatworthy-


Haven Review: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut

FinalCut1First up is our disclaimer. We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this review are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

How do we begin a Van Helsing game review? Over the last 2½ years this 3-part franchise has had more discussion…both positive and negative…than most in its genre. Now we’re back for round four; the final round. (Re)introducing The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut. While the title currently sells on Steam for $45 (USD), owners of the original Van Helsing trilogy can have Final Cut free of charge. Without going too deep into franchise history, I’ll just say that the first game in the series rated a score of 7/10 from me. The second episode was somewhat improved…an 8/10. However the third installment seemed a regression from its former fine formula, earning a 6/10.
FinalCutBattleSo what does developer NeocoreGames have for us this time? A great product, I must say. At it’s core, Final Cut is a compilation of the original three-game series. Extra content, of course has been added, and old features have been revamped and polished. For example, the characters’ skill trees have been reorganized for easier viewing and point assignment. Characters themselves can now grow to Level 100; a 66% increase over earlier titles!

FinalCutInventoryThe actual game-play remains largely familiar. Van Helsing titles fall into the action-RPG (ARPG) genre. Basic tenets involve taking your character out into a dangerous realm, filled with virtually nonstop combat. The world itself is presented in top-down ¾-view, and a simple mouse click tells your character where to go. Inventory and skill menus are just an icon-click away and are easily moved and customized on screen.

FinalCutSkills1Before you deal with any of that, you must first select one of the six spiffied-up character classes. Each has completely different attack styles, skill trees and passive perks…so choose wisely. The following is a brief rundown of each class:
FinalCutClassesProtector: The traditional “sword-and-board” fighter. If general melee is your style, this guy is for you.
Bounty Hunter: A master of firearms. A good choice if you prefer medium to long-ranged combat.
Elementalist: A summoner of the elements. If you fancy yourself a mage, this class fits the bill.
Umbralist: A master rogue. Hides in shadow until ready to unleash dual-wield blades at unsuspecting foes.
Phlogistoneer: A one-man arsenal. With flamethrower and heavy machine gun, this guy represents the traditional short to medium-ranged “tank”.
Constructor: Master of long-ranged combat. Builds turrets, gun platforms and a variety of mechanical creatures to take out enemies.
FinalCutBattle1The story begins with you, son of the original famed monster-slayer. You embark on your long quest accompanied by Katrina; bound to service after being rescued long ago by your ancestor. Yes…Katrina is a ghost!

FinalCutBattle2If you’re new to Van Helsing games, welcome…you’re in for quite a ride. If you’ve already completed some or all of the previous installments, I believe you’ll enjoy returning to discover the additions and enhancements that make this game amazing. Perhaps you’ll try a new character class and experience the game in a new light.

Overall, is The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut worth it? Absolutely, yes! If you’re a fan of ARPGs in general, or simply enjoy reading the classic Van Helsing stories, this game should make it to your top shelf.


-Chris Roberts-


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