XCOM, Dungeons of Dredmor, and to a lesser degree Hack, Slash, Loot
High level of strategy in gameplay Missions require a careful monitoring of line of sight and placement, even choosing which mission types to take on can affect the player’s success Humor is quirky and tongue-in-cheek, but always amusing All the typical fun RPG tropes are here! Hacking, converting an enemy, and stealth Also some uncommon ones like turrets A plethora of different starting bot types to suit all gaming-types Assault (goes in first), Siege (carries the big guns), Ninja (Silent, but deadly), Science (hacking specialist), and many more The bots have a variety of imaginative weapon types that drastically change gameplay strategy when switching them A large amount of loot that can dramatically impact the outcome of mission, so proper inventory management and planning is key (but thankfully quite fun!) Within the inventory management system is a power balancing mechanic that limits the amount of powerful tech that the player can have equipped on each bot, which adds another wonderful layer to the strategy There are fun “rogue-lite” elements of random chance events that can change the outcome of a mission (a positive… honest!) For example, when hacking an unknown terminal and watching it explode and take out my bot in a brilliant display of fire sprites Another “rogue-lite” addition of random procedural maps, enemy types, enemy placement, and traps Knowing which equipment to use is made easier by the easy to read comparison stat screen at the bottom of the inventory (similar system to a diablo-like) A pretty awesomely cheesy song starts during the menu screen that shouldn’t be missed Any options that I felt the game should have after playing it for awhile, were surprisingly available in the extensive options screen For example, the option to navigate the game with a “grab and move” mouse function A Gamer’s Glance at my favorite gameplay moment: Being chased by a suicidal “bomb-bot” and knowing it would take my exo out if it continued its advance, but then realizing that I had enemy conversion points left and ending up sending it back to its friends armed and ready to go!
Tutorial could have been much more extensive For example, using and understanding the inventory screen took a lot of trial and error (NOTE: this has been improved greatly by the implementation of patch 1.005) Not knowing that the player can blow up friendly terminals was an issue at first, because I favored the Siege class Hovering over an enemy will show the player how much damage will be done with the equipped weapon While some of these may be a “RPG” fan give-in, going through each of the numerous fun mechanics of the game at the front end would have sold me on the game that much faster Certain mission music is repetitive and grating, but thankfully changes its “tune” after a short time The voice over work (while well done) on the tutorial and mission end screens seems unnecessary Jokes are hit and miss, though luckily hit more times than miss There are repetitive canned voice over lines from the bots during battle Heard “Why was I programmed to feel pain!” more times than it was funny Difficult to tell visually when stealth is active, which can lead to some trouble when playing on mute Would have loved to have seen some variation in the environments, which understandably would be difficult given the setting Just would have been nice to see some color and “life” to the tilesets Maybe throw in some secret areas that could be found by blowing up a wall (there are enough explosions that the chance of finding one would be relatively frequent, yet surprising) Can you play it while the children are awake?:
Absolutely. The game is quite tame and all battles take place between robots. The strategy element is quite advanced though, so little Jimmy might not get the most enjoyment out of the game playing by himself.
Did I make time to complete it?:
I played for 15 hours and found it very enjoyable throughout. The game has so many layers that I never found myself bored. Highly recommended to the rogue-like and XCOM-like crowd!
55 of 59 people (93%) found this review helpful 1 person found this review funny
43.9 hrs on record
Posted: November 3, 2014
I thought I'd put up a review for this really underappreciated little game.
Developer Arcen Games makes wildly creative, deep, and eccentric genre-benders, the most celebrated of which is their asymmetrical space RTS/4x/tower defense, "AI Wars." AI Wars is clearly a great game, but somehow it's this one that I keep coming back to.
Bionic Dues is Arcen's take on a "roguelike," but of course in proper Arcen style it is totally unique.
Basically, it has a lot in common with a proper roguelike: you guide your characters through a series of procedurally generated dungeons. But there are a *lot* of interesting twists:
- You have 4 characters, (which are actually some sort of mecha exoskeleton?) in any combination of "classes," but can only use one at a time, and it takes a turn to swap them out.
- Loot and inventory customizaton is of primary importance. Each bot has *tons* of inventory slots, in several categories, and each class is different. Carefully poring over the hundreds of components you find, and optimizing their arrangement on each robot chassis, balancing your overall strategy, is the part of the game that I find utterly addictive. (It feels a lot like ship design in Gratuitous Space Battles, another of my favorites.)
- There is a sort of top-level strategy layer linking the dungeons. In between runs, you re-arrange robot parts, and choose your next raid target based on likely risk/rewards and your overall position in the map, with a global counter ticking down to a final level full of particularly nasty enemies.
- Understanding enemy AI and abilties is really important. There are a lot of enemy bot types, with simply-defined behaviors that are nevertheless complex in their interactions, and they appear in randomized combinations that can really change the way you approch a given dungeon.
- The game can be played with a number of different difficulty options, and core gameplay modifiers like the addition of permadeath, ironman mode, and time-limits on turns. This really allows you to tweak the game to your liking; you can choose to allow save-scumming, seeking the perfect run, or you can make it a much more tense and chaotic affair.
One thing that needs mentioning: a lot of the art assets are just awful-looking, especially on the strategy and inventory-management screens. To enjoy the game, you will have to be able to get over this, and see the item illustrations as purely functional conveyors of data. This works fine for me, but I'm sure it turns a lot of people off. Thankfully, I think the dungeon art is pretty nice-looking.
Frankly, I also found the music and voices to be awful (though a lot of the sound design itself is pretty nice,) and I tend just turn it off and listen to my own music.
Despite all the ugly warts, I keep coming back to this one. If you like procedural turn-based dungeon crawling, and find yourself spending a lot of enjoyable time comparing stuff on inventory screens, this might be a good one for you.
I also like that it lends itself well to short play sessions; you can pop in for a quick dungeon or a bit of stat-crunching without feeling too committed. It's also a good game to have running in the background while you're doing something else, taking a turn now and then.
All in all, this is a deep little game that's well worth its price tag - at the time of this writing, it's available at the ridiculous sale price of $1.99, and no roguelike fan should miss it.
119 of 166 people (72%) found this review helpful 1 person found this review funny
24.1 hrs on record
Posted: June 22, 2014
While the basic formula for a rougelike strategy game is here, Bionic Dues ultimately falls short due to balancing issues, bad information management, and generally poor presentation.
Walls of text and disorganized information are repeated issues in Bionic Dues — a problem that begins as soon as you begin your campaign. With no introduction, you're shown a screen with the portraits of four exos (your remote-controlled mechs) and a pilot, and are asked to select your team for the rest of the game. You can only take four of six exos with you; and can only select one pilot of, again, six. Each exo is armed differently, though you're only given a small description of their capabilities on a hovering text box. The same goes for the pilots: each their own brief backstory, and a special ability that affects the performance of the team. "+50% to all propulsion stats—" "A Mark-4 part will have stats like a Mark-6—" "He was able to sneak into the Bahamut Device installations—" But you've been given no story and have no idea what the gameplay is like yet. What's a Mark-6? What does the propulsion stat do? What's a Bahamut Device? None of this has any context, so you're just guessing at what might make an effective team and hoping for the best. If you later don't like your choices — well, tough; you're stuck with it.
Upon selecting your team, you're dumped into a map screen and given a one-page briefing of the situation and your mission. It's then explained that the city is under attack by a robot rebellion, and as the sole remaining pilot, it's up to you to prevent annihilation. That's the extent of your story. No characters are introduced, your pilot is never addressed by name, and the voiceover guy doesn't even explain who he is. As no real world-building is done, and your choice of pilot has no effect on the extremely-minimal story, it makes the whole process of choosing a pilot superfluous. Who cares what their names are, what they look like, or what very brief backstory they each have when it doesn't change anything in the campaign and is never addressed again? "Choose your pilot" could have easily been "choose your buff," then addressed the player, themselves, as the pilot of the exos.
Pressing OK clears the introductory text, and then several more bulletpoints of information are thrown on screen at once, explaining several basic gameplay mechanics before they're necessary. You can go straight to a mission, but the screen is flanked by icons of your exos and enemy bots, with a big green arrow reading "Customize" pointing to your team. Clicking on that gives you another text box of info, and behind it, way more info as you're shown the stats of each exo and every item in your inventory. This was the biggest and most repeated problem encountered: just way too much disorganized information at once, often without context. Each exo has 14 base stats to keep track of, and then as many as five weapons with up to 23 more stats, determined by equipping items to a potential 30 inventory slots.
Get used to the customization screen; with up to 50 missions in the campaign, you'll be spending a lot of time here between fights. This does allow you to specialize each exo with careful delegation of items and theory-crafting, but eventually I got tired of sinking so much time into figuring out exactly which item would be best-equipped where and on which exo, with so many possibilities and little nuances, that I skipped it unless I picked up something that was an obviously big upgrade. This may have been easier with better information management, but everything in this game comes as a wall of text in the same typeface. There's very little colour differentiation, and absolutely no graphics or icons used for quick identification. I started skipping the customization, because it wasn't fun; it felt like homework. However, you can only neglect dedicating yourself to this process so much, as the enemy forces get stronger with every mission. Do it, or eventually you will be outclassed.
See how much information is written here so far? We haven't even gotten to the first mission yet. Each mission is represented on the map by a different icon branching outwards from your headquarters. You have to complete them in succession to explore the city, until the final battle on the fiftieth day. Bionic Dues outright tells you that the final battle is on day 50, which is unsuspenseful. Your basic objective is to grind through the missions, upgrading your exos with loot and potentially weakening the enemy forces in preparation for one final and massive battle of attrition. If you mess up enough along the way, you can reach that final day, fail the battle, and lose the whole campaign.
The battles are turn-based. Your team has to explore a randomly-generated, grid-based battlefield, eliminating enemy robots and potentially destroying certain objectives along the way. All four exos move together on the same grid point, like an old RPG party. Only one of them is active at a time, and that will be the one who can fight and take damage. Moving, firing, using a special ability, or switching between exos takes one turn. Most of the enemies will remain inactive until you aggro them, and then they'll each take their turn after you make your move. They're not particularly challenging; most bots can be dispatched easily by being outranged or lead into traps. However, if you're not tactical, there are times where you can find yourself flanked, cornered, and overwhelmed. You can lose one of your exos in an instant with a poor choice of moves. So what happens then? Can you repair the exo, or is there some sort of penalty? Do you need to replace it, or go through the rest of the campaign with only three on your team? The game never explains, beyond that you'll receive one less piece of loot at the end of the mission.
The way each battle plays out varies depending on the type of mission, represented by the icon on the map screen. For example, some turn all destructable objects into powerful explosives, some have hostages that must be protected, and some power up every exo and bot to perform one-hit kills. This adds a little gameplay variety. However, the battlefields, themselves, are visually very bland and repetitive. They all take place indoors, and the scenery doesn't change from one part of the city to the other. Their dark grey floor colouring offers low contrast from the black, unnavigable negative space, sometimes making it hard to distinguish where you can and can't move your exos.
Once you complete your objective, you have to navigate to the exit of the level. While this does give a chance to explore and pick up any missed loot, this is often dull, as the main objective and the exit aren't necessarily going to be placed nearby each other. Often you'll find yourself navigating empty corridors as you search for the way out, which may not be easy to find. The exit isn't an actual physical exit from the battlespace, but a circle on one of the tiles, which may be hard to spot at times when it's in the fog-of-war shadow. Poor contrast plays an issue here again. Making it to the exit, in itself, is anticlimactic. You'll be immediately dumped back to the map screen, with no victory fanfare or continuation of a story.
Once you've done that, go spend a while calculating how to best upgrade your exos, then repeat the process 48 more times to make it to the final battle. There's no build-up to this moment — it's treated the same as every other mission. The final battle is an endurance run, pitting your four exos against the remanants of the enemy bot army, or as many as can fit in the map at once. It's not harder, just longer. And once you win, your reward? A "congratulations" text box. Then you just sit on the map screen. That's it.
While the basics are here, Bionic Dues falls short, still having massive room for improvement in its gameplay and presentation. Not recommended.
Another gem from Arcen, highly recommended if this genre is up your alley! Bionic Dues is a turn-based strategic roguelike where you control four exos (remotely piloted mechs, basically), only one at a time but hot swappable, through a variety of missions towards a final showdown with the enemy robot force. It shines in all the right areas: intelligent randomization, loot, equipment options, a variety of different mission types, lots of different weapon types, exo specializations and commander perks, plus a bunch of achievements. Individual missions are typically pretty short (5-10 minutes tops), so it can be played in short bursts if desired. I've already sunk a ton of time into this, with much more on the horizon. It can be challenging, but good strategy will usually bring you out on top. A demo is also available at Arcen's site. http://arcengames.com/
Bionic dues is a roguelike, and plays pretty similar to standard rogue games. You take an action, then everything else does, repeat untill enemies are dead or an objective is complete. You get four party members that you can switch between at any point (costs an action) but only one of them can be on the field at a time, so you're really always controlling a single hero, not a squad.
First it should be said that, like most arcen games, Bionic Dues has amazingly good music. Although they are merely adequate as a game developer, they have the amazing Pablo Vega on staff doing all their music. This is especially noticeable in the hauntingly beautiful title track, The Home That We Once Knew. A song so brilliant i'd recommend buying this game JUST to hear it, despite its other flaws. It really sets the scene and is a truly amazing first impression, sadly it's mostly downhill from there.
This game has an unfortunate problem shared by other Arcen titles, in that the game bombards you with information right from the beginning, telling you in pointlessly explicit detail about the final battle you'll eventually have and how to win it. Aside from being overwhelming and working very poorly as a tutorial, this also instantly takes away any sense of novelty or mystery from the game, and you're never really in doubt about what will eventually happen. The final battle is hyped and foreshadowed repeatedly, and warnings about it are shoved in your face constantly.
At the beginning you choose four of the six classes, and one of the six available leaders. this is probably intended to encourage replayability, but i didn't really feel any desire to play it again.
After every mission your'e rewarded with a tide of loot with witty descriptions that modify lots of stats, and you can equip your party between missions using these parts. Each squad member has 20-30 equipment slots, so you'll spend a lot of time in there tweaking with equipment loadouts, which is kind of fun at first. However after a while of playing, the system starts to feel shallow, as there's a pretty small range of values that can actually be adjusted, and thusly not much room for "builds" or any real modding strategy. You basicalyl want everyone to be reasonably tanky, and all their weapons to be strong enough to 1-shot enemies, with reasonable amounts of range and ammo. this isn't hard to accomplish.
Eventually you'll stop caring about most of the loot you get, and just briefly scan the inventory for unusually high values, there's too much of it, and once you've seen one +50% damage mod, you've seen them all. There's no unusual combinations or interesting unique equipment, just ever-increasing generic values, the novelty fades quickly.
Each squad member has a small (preset, non-changeable) selection of weapons, and with certain missions they can get a permanant upgrade which gives them additional weapons and equipment slots (again, preset). These upgrades are nice and add an interesting power spike to things, but there's exactly one for each squad member, and they're no-brainers you'll want to grab asap.
Despite the constant warnings and foreshadowing, and especially the warning that i'd have to hold off a massive assault from hundreds of enemies, the final mission was a colossal letdown. It threw a grand total of 80-ish enemies at me (there's a counter) in a single, boring mazelike interior environment, much like any other mission. There was no colossal assault, it was literally a hunt-and-destroy mission like hundreds of others. I had to go and find THEM hiding in tiny pockets of resistance, and just nuke them with aoe weapons.
I spent a long time building up a perfectly engineered sniper and engineer-scientist combo, and created a huge fort of sentry guns expecting to have to fight off thousands of bots, and maybe some colossal monster. What i got was a pathetic skirmish with only slightly more enemies than an average mission. it was a dismal and hollow end to the game. There's no real reward or sense of closure either, after the battle you jsut get a "congratulations you won, now go and relax" textbox, and the game just stops on the main map screen with nothing being clickable. No ending cutscene, no conclusion to the story, just nothing.
I spent £1.74 on this game, and my initial thoughts after buying it were that i'd gotten an amazing deal. But as the novelty wore off, that seemed like a pretty reasonable price. It's great fun for an hour or two, and mildly entertaining for a few more after that, but there's no real reason to replay it.
You should probably quit before you finish the game, and just imagine that it had a good ending.
28 of 33 people (85%) found this review helpful 2 people found this review funny
75.6 hrs on record
Posted: August 13
Basically, Bionic Dues is a rogue-like mix of rpg/strategy dungeon crawler with hi-tech setting, where you fighting ever growing hordes of killing droids with your own droid. War of the machines, basic "save the humanity from annihilation" stuff - that's all you'll ever catch about story. You can think of it as of another small thing for touchpads, but no, it's not that simple. Actually, it is like an iceberg, where major part of the game is hiding beneath the surface. And yeah, if you're looking for light walk with painless achievements - that's a very wrong game for you! While its quite easy to catch an opening pattern, farther you go - more skill and luck you need. On Every Turn.
Now, the real game is where its mechanics. You have dozens of basic options like which droid class do you prefer, what strategy will be the best with grading that given droid, and how do you planning to save the world? Destroying every enemy bot in the reach from the start, when they are still weak? Or just cutting their numbers by destroying their factories and supplies while building up your muscles for the final battle? Dozens of basic strategic options - and thousands choices on tactics. Will you prefer to raise power of single shot or ammo capacity? Range of sight or splash effect for your rockets? Stealth and traps or brute force and assault? Closer to the end of each match you'll get enough mods for your droid to make him an ultimate death machine of choice. And still you'll be vulnerable, remarkably outnumbered and outgunned in every mission. So you have to consider many steps forward. Always. And that's why I'm satisfied with that "small looking, gross bearing" tactical game.
There are minuses, of course:
- very basic visual part. No, it is not XCom or Jagged Alliance with destroyable 3d environment, that's top-down view rogue-like indie project. Surely not for DOTA kids who are filling about half of Steam auditory.
- while it's quite easy to get along with, if you are in any way familiar with rogue-like games... finishing Bionic Dues even once can be very challenging and sometimes boring.
- if you're an achievement hunter, that game is a disaster, for to make complete of this game, you'll need to invest Hundredz of Hourz. Not dozens, but hundreds hours of your precious time. And there will be no detailed video guides, like for the Civilization, "how to prosper on Deity". To get all 220 achievements, you'll need to master all combinations of battle classes, beating the game about 20-30 times in average. And except diversity of tactics related to these classes, the rest will be repeated again. And again. And again...
- inventory, the part of the Bionic Dues, which makes it RPG-like, by selecting a combination of two dozens of attributes installed on your war machine... that's exactly the most boring part in the whole game. In the start, where you have about 5 spare parts, it's ok. But after 10-15 missions you'll be buried with dozens and even hundreds of items, from which you need to choose from. So many players get stacked and bored at this point! But after 20-30 hours of play you'll overcome it, hopefully. Managing one droid is much easier than all 4, and real challenge is where you making through with just one robot, not a squad of them.
Pluses are less:
- never ending challenge and need to think much forward
- many different strategies, which always should be adapted to every mission
- fantastic music! to the point where I can start a game not for playing, but just to hear that ambient again. Starting song is gorgeous! I can listen to it over and over again, for hours
Overall, I would recommend Bionic Dues to all fans of turn-based tactical games and I would NOT recommend it for achievement hunters and casual players. This game may looks nice and cosy, easy like the most of the games for touch screens... But in fact it is a very engaging time-killer.
36 of 51 people (71%) found this review helpful 3 people found this review funny
1.5 hrs on record
Posted: July 14
Not my thing. I expected a team strategy game, I got a turn-based roguelike dungeon crawler where you control one mech at a time and swap them out like they are stances or armor sets as opposed to actual units.
After getting over my confused expectations, I still found the game lacking. It's closer to a puzzle game wherein the goal is to maximize use of your resources (ammo, health, etc) to clear the boards in hopes of collecting loot you can use in upcoming missions.
44 of 66 people (67%) found this review helpful 3 people found this review funny
4.7 hrs on record
Posted: April 24
At first this seemed like the perfect game for me: A roguelike with a tactics and strategic aspect on top of it. Unfortunately all the missions play very much alike and the game gets repetitive fast. Also, the loot is quite boring, since it's just an unending stream of similiar equipment with slightly different numbers. This also means that way too much time is spent between the missions comparing all these slight differences. Maybe some people like this aspect, but i don't. The loot should have been less frequent but more significant. I also question the aesthetic consistency of the game. It's very very ugly and the music is incredibly cheesy. The menu music seem straight out of some cheap anime movie.
Wonderful unique turn based and creative game, fun and addictive. If you like turn based strategy games you will love this. The game is finish able even on the first try. The ability to save whenever you wish is a big plus. The interface is easy and straightforward as long as the option for mouse movement is NOT selected (If it is, then placing mines and turrets in a specific location will be a nightmare). The mission variation is fantastic and constant trying to choose which mission to do next and trying to decide when to fight the final battle adds tension to the already tense and fun dungeon crawls. There are several types of missions, and which one you choose can have a significant impact on how the game progresses. A new game starts on the city map where you choose from a web of different mission types. As you complete or fail missions, more are revealed. You win the game by either surviving the inevitable final bot onslaught, or lose when your headquarters are destroyed. There is a lot of replay ability value as your strategy will need to change depending on the lead character you select and the mech team you select. During the missions, you only control one mech (called "exos" in game) at a time, but you have four in your stable. There is a ton of generated loot you can use to improve your exos with, which you get from completing missions, find in chests, or buy from the shop. You can swap your exo for another at any time, though it will cost you an action. You lose the mission if all four exos are destroyed. There are six different exo classes, with an epic variation of each. There are also six different pilots to choose from, each with a unique ability. A solid game, that gives you a deep tactical experience.