19th of August, 2022
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we've found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: eternal war, cults, and a game that invokes Hungy Hungry Hippos.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
Warhammer 40,000: Tacticus, Android
Yes, it's on brand for me. Yes, it's a free-to-download mobile game with microtransactions. And yes, it's unnecessarily bloated, with more resources to collect and progression gates to grind through that even the Emperor himself might have lost patience. But I have found some fun in Warhammer 40,000 Tacticus, a fast-paced turn-based strategy game in the mobile phone mould that is scratching an itch I am somewhat depressed but unsurprised to find myself afflicted with.
Perhaps it's the promise of unlocking some of my favourite characters from the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Legendary Ultramarines Chapter Master Marneus Calgar is sitting there, on my phone screen, locked away. I need 500 character shards to unlock him - I have none. It's the same eye-watering grind to unlock the Warmaster of Chaos himself, Abaddon the Despoiler, and Helbrecht, High Marshal of the Black Templars. There are even Death Guard characters here! Like Nurgle's boon whispered in my ear by some pox-riddled daemon, it feels like this Warhammer 40,000 game was made to tempt me alone.
Gameplay is basic, but fast-paced enough to have that 'one more round' feel to it. I'm currently soldiering through the Indomitus campaign, a squad of Ultramarines at my command as I face down hundreds of Necrons. There is a story of sorts, although so far all it's offered is a bunch of Space Marines declaring they're gonna kill loads of Necrons, which, well, they would do that I suppose.
There's nothing too taxing here - think about your team composition and your environment, as some tiles offer bonuses. Positioning my characters smartly and using their special abilities at the right time usually does the trick. The Fall of Cadia campaign is available to buy for the ridiculous sum of £25.99. PvP is available, but of course it's pay-to-win. I've joined a guild and we're currently working towards taking down a Hive Tyrant from Tyranid Hive Fleet Gorgon. You get the idea what type of game this is.
And yet, I'm playing a lot. I spent two quid to unlock Imperial Hero Commissar Yarrick straight off the bat - or should that be a stolen Ork Power Klaw? He's really useful in battle, and can summon up to four Cadian Guardsmen who are surprisingly durable. The Emperor protects! I'm not sure I will spend any more money, and I'm having a decent enough time with the campaign. But I can also see a progression block looming over the horizon like a rumbling WAAAGH! inching ever closer to the frontline. I think (and I'm not sure, because Warhammer 40,000: Tacticus has so many progression tracks and things to unlock and items to collect that I have yet to figure out how it all works), that improving the stats of my characters is the true endgame, and doing so at high levels requires items that are hard to get.
Perhaps I'll be able to buy them… for the Emperor!
Cult of the Lamb, PS5
Cult of the Lamb is already off to a great start across Steam and Twitch. That’s because it’s the perfect game to stream.
The top categories on Twitch are usually high action esports titles - Fortnite, League of Legends, Valorant, and the like - but just as important are the relaxing, wholesome games that bring people together as a community.
Cult of the Lamb works on stream because it has both of these aspects. It’s got the laidback busywork of base building and management that allows streamers to chat and interact with viewers at their own pace. That’s then punctuated by short bursts of roguelike action against fluffy little critters and demonic bosses to keep viewers hooked. It’s testament to the game’s interlocking systems that this all works so seamlessly.
There’s Twitch integration too, which also keeps viewers involved: contributing to a cult’s totem and entering raffles to have cultists named after them. The game has a wonderful sense of dark, macabre humour that’s entertaining alone. But when a cultist from your Twitch chat suggests another viewer is a picky eater and therefore must literally eat shit, forcing you to literally cook up a bowl of steaming turds (something that happened to me), it’s infinitely more amusing. Your cult isn’t just a collection of cute virtual animals, it’s online and very much alive.
Rod Land, Evercade
Nature must finally be healing because in the last couple of weeks I’ve attended more in-person press events than I have done in the last two years. During the Covid years, physical press events were a no-go, so enterprising PRs instead hosted virtual hands-ons using streaming and chat software.
To be fair, this was a really good way to put demos in the hands of games journalists during those tough times, but blimey did I miss leaving my house ever.
Aside from the simple act of seeing the outside world, one of the main reasons why I missed travelling to press events was because they gave me a good excuse to get up to some good old handheld gaming. It's something I neglected whilst locked down so I'm loving the fact that I can finally insert a cart or two into a games system.
Which (finally) brings me to what I've been playing this week; the arcade classic Rod Land on the Evercade. Rod Land was a game I've played many times in the past on both the ZX Spectrum and the Amiga and so it quite rightly holds a big place in my nostalgic gaming memories.
The version of Rod Land on the Evercade's Jaleco Arcade 1 cart is one I’d never played before - the original 1990 arcade release. It seems pretty much identical in visuals to what I remember the Amiga port looking like and that means it’s cute, bright and just an absolutely pleasant platformer to spend some time with.
And talking about nostalgia, I had serious flashbacks while playing it too. This was especially true when facing some of the bosses, like the Hungry Hungry Hippos-esque crocodiles or the cute as a button button baby elephant boss that bounces around and fires mini elephants out of its trunk.
Rod Land is probably the most cheerful game about smashing adorable creatures to death with a wand and even nowadays it's still a pretty decent game. Oh and most importantly, on the Evercade version you can add extra credits at the touch of a button so if your ageing reflexes aren’t what they used to be, you can still get Tam and Rit to the top of Maboots Tower without too much hassle!