Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Thunder And Steam

Back in April I posted a couple of times about a game called SteamWorld Quest:Hand of Gilgamech. It was a Prime game for that month and it turned out to be one of the best giveaways I can remember. 

As you might imagine from the name, it's one of a series set in the same world. Perhaps we should call it a "Universe". That seems to be the current usage. All the characters are steam-driven mechs and there's a hybrid cowboy-steampunk vibe to the whole thing. 

So far, so indie but the really odd part is that every game released so far is in a different genre. Well, okay, not the DLC. Oh, alright then, not the sequels, either. The main games, though:

  • SteamWorld Heist (Turn-based Strategy)
  • Steamworld Dig (Metroidvania)
  • SteamWorld: Hand of Gilgamech (Card Battler)

Much though I enjoyed the setting and style of SW:HoG, the others aren't really the kinds of games I normally play. I probably wouldn't have bothered to pick up either of them had it not been for a pop-up I saw on Steam this afternoon, when I logged in to play Chimeraland.

Steam always opens with some sort of pop-up. I usually ignore them but once in a while something about one of them will catch my eye and I'll click through. In this case it was the striking, fifties/sixties design and iconography and the bold, retro red/white color scheme. Good marketing pays.

I wondered what kinds of games a publisher with such good taste might have to offer. I wasn't disappointed. Almost the first thing I spotted was the SteamWorld game I'd already played and a quick delve further into the offer revealed the entire SteamWorld catalog, all on sale at extreme discounts.

For a brief moment I considered buying the lot. There's a package deal available: all SteamWorld games, DLC and soundtracks for a little more than £17 the lot, a saving of 76%. I thought about it but I don't really want the soundtracks and as I said the genres aren't my favorites. Better not get carried away.

I took some time too look at the games individually. The discounts on all of them were good but the two, core games I didn't already have were each a whopping 85% off. That's very nearly giving them away.

Of course, it's more than likely that in a month or two someone like Amazon or Epic literally will be giving them away but that's then and this is now. I try not to pay money for games unless I plan on playing them immediately but in this case the amount of money was so insignificant, I felt I might make an exception. 

I bought Heist and Dig for a grand total of £2.77. As for whether I'll actually play them, I needn't have worried; I've already clocked up almost an hour in SteamWorld Heist. Chimeraland didn't get a look-in.

What's more,  the game opens with the exact same warning I was talking about the other day, the one that led me to invest in an XBox-style controller. The further I tiptoe away from my comfort zone, the more often that warning seems to come up. (Not the bit about the hat, sadly...)

It seemed like an excellent opportunity to continue my experiments with alternate control systems. It's still ongoing as I'm sure everyone will be relieved to know.

In that regard, just last night I finally managed to locate DCUO on my system, by way of the Start Menu, a place I very rarely visit. Even there it doesn't have an icon, just a generic folder. The game files turned out to be buried deep in the Users/Installed Games filepath, where nothing has really gone for years. SOE used to use that route a lot, something I'd forgotten. I guess it's been there ever since I installed it back at launch. 

It works, anyway, which is the important thing. It also only took a matter of minutes to patch, unlike bloody Elder Scrolls Online, so I was able to give it a trial run with the controller almost immediately. 

It went fairly well. I need to take the time to do some actual content - a few missions perhaps - before I reach any kind of conclusion but it felt like a good start. 

I was able to potter around quite happily for half an hour or so, moving from place to place with reasonable ease. I visited the Watchtower, my Lair and Metropolis. I talked to NPCs, picked up missions, hoovered up collectibles, opened my map and my inventory and generally had a fun time. 

It felt, at least, no worse than using the keyboard and mouse. DCUO has always been a game I've felt clumsy playing so I'm cautiously optimistic that, given some practise, I might find it more comfortable with the controller. If so, it would certainly encourage me to play more often. I'd like that.

As for Steamworld Heist, it plays beautifully with the controller. It felt comfortable within a few minutes and by the time I stopped I wasn't really thinking about the controls at all. I was just playing.

"Just playing" is, of course, just what I'm looking for from the controller. It's all very well running trials on various games for academic interest and to fuel the blog but the real point is to get to the stage where I can sit back and play without worrying about how I'm doing it. That still feels a long way off but at least I get the sense of it, hovering somewhere on the horizon, just out of sight.

I wonder, too, if a modicum of facility with a controller might open the way to some gaming genres I've previously avoided. Platformers, for example. It would be nice to think so. I often see games with aesthetics, settings, characters and storylines that appeal to me, only to find on closer examination that they involve platform gameplay, at which point I don't even bother to go on.

Case in point: Planet of Lana, which I discovered by way of the Thunderful sale, even though it's not. On sale, that is. It's not even out yet. Later this year, apparently.

The trailer looks amazing and its called "Planet of Lana" ffs! Of course I want to play it. I really am that predictable. 

Unfortunately, I know I'd be wasting both my time and money. I'd never get out of the tutorial. If using a controller could raise me even to the heights of "Not very good"  at platforming, that might just be enough.

Anyway, that's about all I have to say on the matter, other than to recommend visiting the Thunderful sale if you fancy a bargain. There are some good games with some very deep cuts. 

They even have a game on my wishlist, Crowns and Pawns, although sadly it's only 20% off. I'm still thinking about that one but I'm going to have to make my mind up soon. The sale ends 28 July.


  1. Planet of Lana looks very interesting indeed, although when I saw the name the first thing I thought of was "Huh, who knew Lana Del Rey had a video game?"

    1. I wish! And she did have her breakthrough with "Video Games". It would be fitting.

      It's kind of strange just how little crossover there is between pop/rock/hip-hop/you-name-it music and video games. Just about every other area of popular culture - TV, movies, comics, books, sport and more - turn up regularly as the subjects or protagonists or IPs of all kinds of games but about all musicians seem to manage is the soundtracks (And that very rarely.) and the increasingly-comon personal appearances in quasi-metaverse games like Roblox or Fortnite (George Ezra being the latest I've heard about.)

      Hmm. There might be a post in this...


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide