25 people found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Recommended
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 3.6 hrs on record
Posted: Feb 3, 2019 @ 3:10pm
Updated: Feb 3, 2019 @ 3:11pm
Product received for free

Early Access Review
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Necken is a new rogue-lite grid-based (but not turn-based) indie game that is new in Early Access on Steam. The focus is around gathering resources, crafting, and surviving, while in the pursuit of adventure. There is not really a story at the moment as far as I can see, but I have only played a couple of hours as of writing and haven't gotten all that far. It is thoroughly enjoyable with beautiful pixelated graphics and really nice accompanying music. And despite it being in early access with limited content, the base game mechanics are totally intact and functional. There are flaws with the game, yes, but nothing that limits the player from having some fun even now.

One outstanding feature of this game is the availability of the technology tree to the player. There is nothing that requires you to work hard at obtaining blueprints, etc. Everything is readily available at your finger-tips. The available craftable items are not visible to the player until you have acquired some of the materials that are used in order to produce them. So the crafting screen and technology tree remains mostly blank when you start, and with gathering of more materials, you will see more and more without having to work too much to unlock them. This unique and refresh way to play really takes away any grinding except for what you need to do within the run to survive.

Grinding is perhaps too harsh a word to even apply to this game, strategic thinking is more like it. Only with repeated gameplays will you learn the intricacies of this game, and of the fine balances that will prevent you from getting too overzealous with your decision-making. What seems like a perfectly good idea does not carry into the next run, if your supplies are distributed differently. There are simple materials that you can gather with your hands, while others you will need to craft the appropriate tools to obtain. But everything costs resources, and that balance of needing to use resources to obtain other materials or to try to stay alive with the current things you have will constantly weigh upon your mind. The underlying game is not turn-based either, enemies will move, they will attack if you sit still. Engaging enemies will mean potential for you to wear down your equipment or lose health yourself (and in an indirect way affect your resource supplies), so you may not wish to battle everyone on the map before moving on. Then again, you may decide that is your best plan of action, depending on your wants and needs.

There are some flaws in the system currently, the most noticeable is that the controls are fixed and are keyboard only. WASD for movement and additional bindings on E and Space. I used a DS4 controller and used DS4Windows to emulate the keyboard and the game played very smoothly. Granted, I know that a lot of people would prefer to also have the ability to use the mouse to play, especially in such a simple grid-based playing surface with two simple in-game buttons as controls. (I don't have a problem with the keyboard bindings, just that my keyboard is way too loud with Cherry MX Blue switches and my microphone picks up the keystrokes clearer than my voice.)

My biggest problem with the actual controls in gameplay is the default weapon selected as the protagonist's fists. Even with a weapon or shield equipped, the default combat selection remains those bare fists. While this is usually not a problem in many other games, this game drains your health each time you attack with the fists, just like the durability of your weapon or shield should you use them instead. So there have been recurrences of me accidentally attacking with my fists while I have a sword/spear and a shield equipped. Nobody, in reality or in-game, should be foolish to default to bare fists when your survival is dependent on the current battle and those that ensue.

My other minor objection is the lack of an inventory, and the associated inability to equip another weapon or shield should your current one break in the middle of a fight. I understand if you are in the middle of a battle and you cannot sit down and calmly craft another piece of equipment, but having a backup on your person is not currently possible. Some fights you can escape from, craft something and reengage, but there are some fights that your chances of escape are so low that by the time your equipment breaks, you are just sitting around waiting to die. Or you can active fight with your fists until your health drains to 0, and of course, that means game over.

You will have at least one fight before leaving each map, as there always seems to be one enemy who is guarding the exit to any map, and as far as I can tell, they need to perish before you can move on.

In terms of why this is a roguelite, is that there are in-game trinkets to be unlocked so that you can use them for future runs.

Controls
Keyboard bindings currently are WASD, E, and Space, they are fixed. I tried this and it worked fine, but when I was recording my video, I used DS4Windows to emulate the keyboard to remove the loud-sounding keyboard strikes.

Graphics
Beautiful retro-style pixel graphics.

Music
I love the introductory song and the in-game music is really smooth as well. I hope to hear more.

Audience
If you are a roguelike/roguelite fan, this is a game for you for sure. It's pocket-sized and has a good amount of replay value. The campaign is not too long, though future updates may change that.

Pricing
The price is a bit high at $14.99 USD/€12.49 Euro, but the developer has made it clear that the plan is to keep the price the same for the final product. I do think that the final product will be well worth this price.

Positives
+Well designed core game mechanic
+Easy to learn, with a significant learning curve
+Beautiful pixel graphics
+Wonderful sounds (though wish there were more selections to hear in-game)
+Positively fun for a crafting/survival game without grinding

Meh
~Could use some more difficulty settings, though not necessary
~Lack of story doesn't seem like a major missing part
~Priced a little high at the moment for early access content available, though I feel that it will have enough in the final product to justify the price. And there are no current plans to increase the price.
~Achievements would be nice, but not necessary either.

Negatives
-Keyboard only with fixed binding of keys
-Default weapon to fists that lead to decreased health, nobody in his/her right mind would fight a menacing boar, vicious garden gnome, or rock troll with fists while already wielding a spear/sword in one hand and a shield in the other
-Lack of inventory/backup equipment, yielding in some unfortunate ends

Conclusion
Necken is an awesome game, with plenty of potential, and a solid foundation that is already in place. I think that while the price is a bit high for the currently available content, it will continue to see improvements so that it will be well worth it in the end. This seems to be a sole indie developer, so I would encourage anyone interested to dive into the current build and offer your own insights and suggestions to make this game even better. If that's not your cup of tea, that's fine, but definitely try it when it reaches official release.

As I mentioned above, I made a first-look video of this game with some immediate thoughts and reactions at the end (just me jibber-jabbering away) after 2 quick runs. If you are interested, the link is here:

https://youtu.be/qIBjd9TGpGg

I received the product for free. I did not receive any compensation to write this review. The opinions represented here are entirely my own and were not influenced in any way.
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2 Comments
YQMaoski Feb 4, 2019 @ 8:04am 
You are very welcome! I do enjoy the game very much, and I look forward to seeing it develop over the next few months!
Joccish  [developer] Feb 4, 2019 @ 6:53am 
Thank you for an excellent review. I will make sure to address the issues you mentioned as soon as possible.