19 August 2022
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a bit about some of the games we’ve played in the last few days. This time: eternal war, cults and a game that invokes Hungy Hungry Hippos.
If you’d like to catch up on some of the older editions of What We’ve Been Playing, here’s our archive.
Warhammer 40,000: Tacticus, Android
Yes, that’s on point for me. Yes, it is a free to download mobile game with microtransactions. And yes, it’s unnecessarily bloated, with more resources to collect and progression ports to grind through that even the Emperor himself might have lost patience. But I’ve found some fun in Warhammer 40,000 Tacticus, a fast-paced turn-based strategy game in mobile phone form that I’m itching to be a little depressed about, but not surprised to find myself bothered by.
Maybe it’s the promise of unlocking some of my favorite characters from the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Legendary Ultramarines Chapter Master Marneus Calgar sits there, on my phone screen, locked away. I need 500 character scores to unlock him – I don’t have any. It’s the same eye-popping 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 blessing whispered in my ear by a demon full of smallpox, it feels like this Warhammer 40,000 game was made to tempt me alone.
The gameplay is basic, but fast enough to have a “one more round” feel. I am currently soldiering through the Indomitus campaign, a squad of ultramarines under my command as I face hundreds of necrons. There’s a story of sorts, though so far all it’s been offered is a bunch of Space Marines declaring they’re going to kill a ton of Necrons, which they would I guess.
There’s nothing too demanding here – think about your team composition and environment, as some tiles offer bonuses. Placing my characters smartly and using their special abilities at the right time usually does the trick. The Fall of Cadia campaign is available to purchase for the ridiculous sum of £25.99. PvP is available, but of course it is profitable to win. I have joined a guild and we are currently working on taking down a Hive Tyrant from the Tyranid Hive Fleet Gorgon. You understand what type of game this is.
And yet I play a lot. I spent two quid to unlock the Imperial Hero Commissar Yarrick straight off the bat – or should that be a stolen Ork Power Klaw? He is very useful in battle, and can summon up to four Cadian Guardsmen who are surprisingly durable. The Emperor Protects! I’m not sure I’ll spend more money and I have plenty of time with the campaign. But I can also see a progression block looming over the horizon like a booming WAAAGH! ever closer to the front line. 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 true endgame and doing so at high levels requires items that are hard to come by.
Maybe I can buy them… for the Emperor!
Cult of the Lamb, PS5
Cult of the Lamb is already off to a great start on 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 power because it has both of these aspects. It has the laid back busy work of base building and management that allows streamers to chat and interact with viewers at their own pace. It’s then punctuated by short bursts of roguelike action against squishy little creatures and demonic bosses to keep viewers hooked. It’s a 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 sweepstakes to get cults named after them. The game has a wonderful sense of dark, macabre humor that is entertaining on its own. But when a cultist from your Twitch chat suggests that another viewer is a picky eater and therefore must literally eat shit, forcing you to literally cook up a bowl of steaming turds (which happened to me), infinitely more fun. 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 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 very good way to put demos in the hands of gaming journalists in these tough times, but I missed leaving my house ever.
Aside from the simple act of seeing the outside world, one of the main reasons I missed going to press events was because they gave me a good excuse to get up to some good old handheld games. It’s something I neglected while locked down, so I love the fact that I can finally put a cart or two into a game 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 Amiga, and so it rightfully holds a large place in my nostalgic gaming memories.
The version of Rod Land on Evercade’s Jaleco Arcade 1 cart is one I’d never played before – the original arcade release from 1990. It seems pretty much identical to what I remember the Amiga port looking like, which means it’s cute, bright and just an absolutely enjoyable platformer to spend some time with.
And speaking of nostalgia, I had some 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 elephant boss that bounces around and shoots 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 today it’s still a pretty decent game. And most importantly, on the Evercade version, you can add extra credits at the touch of a button, so if your aging reflexes aren’t what they used to be, you can still get Tam and Rit to the top of Maboots Tower without too much trouble !