Reviews by Daniel Steven Oles

Lords of Xulima Icon
A Charming, Old School Dungeon Crawler
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Feb 20th 2017

I love games like this! Highly customizable characters with varying abiltiies, rewarding battle with feedback, plenty of exploration and loot: this kind of RPG is what I live for. The progression is slow but that's kind of appreciated. You feel like with each battle you're improving, you're gathering materials and gear. It's a fairly simple system to get into but has a lot of depth and with more classes than you can play at a time it has replay value.
It is NOT easy. Enemy's don't scale with you but are instead fixed difficulties so you need to grind a bit or take your chances. There's a food mechanic which is required to rest and heal outdoors, you need to buy torches. You spend a fair amount of time running back and forth between dungeons and town, but that's really how it should be. There ARE shortcuts available for a price. You can hold shift and run. This game is practically designed by lovers of the genre and feels like a love letter to classics old and new.
One hint: wait for at least two minutes for the game to start at first. I thought the game was frozen but the first load takes a LONG time to run. Still, now it works fine (there was one crash but autosaves made this no problem) framerate is fine, music and sound is great.
If you like turn based combat, exploration, gathering resources from the environment, and a nice old school feel to things this comes highly reccomended!

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Retroism Classic Adventure Pack Icon
Great Combination Platter!
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 27th 2016

There's a lot of classics here, and by 'classic' I do mean to indicate both in terms of charm, complexity and difficulty. Bloodnet, Darklands, Dragonspehere, Rex Nebular, and Sword of the Samurai work fine and have a lot of tweaks to at least the general interface to make it easier to access and play. There's a lot of pixelated graphics on display but masterfully made examples of the artform and the roleplaying options in most examples (not Rex which is a status-less adventure game) are VERY involved: you will need to talk as much as you will need to fight. Another thing to keep in mind is that these games require a dip into the manuels to understand their intricacies but luckily Steam provides these along with purchase. If you enjoy old school games optomized for a new generation pick this up!

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Strike Suit Zero Icon
Probably a Bad Idea to Play Without a Joystick
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 27th 2016

This game requires VERY intense speeds to maintain a lock on the darting enemies. I didn't find any way of manually locking onto targets so a lot of this game for me was flying through beauitful space locations but soon being blown to pieces by speedy fighters I could not track or hit. This game works fine, looks great, sound fantastic, but without a joystick I can see this being much more irritating than it needs to be. Turning into a robot is a plus but getting zapped from fifty different directions was a bit annoying.

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Divinity: Original Sin Icon
Ambitious In The Extreme
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 25th 2016

This is a brand new engine with an old school heart to it. Despite really beautiful graphics and a streamlined interface this still feels like a VERY classic RPG in terms of how much freedom you have to go and do whatever you feel like. Want to move crates for the heck of it? Done! Cast spells that compliment like an oil slick you set on fire with a fireball or use a rain spell to douse a burning ship. It's all possible and more even than this is the system which allows you to determine the characterization of your two companions by choosing their conversation options and actively improving their skills.
Fun voice acting, great music, flashy spell and combat effects! The story is a little convoluted but again feels very much like a 80s/90s era roleplaying game with it's far flung concepts of alternate dimensions. Great fun if requiring a LOT of time to get the most out of it.

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Mount & Blade: Warband - Napoleonic Wars Icon
It Just Doesn't Work
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 20th 2016

This looks fantastic but it will not load. Mount and Blade is a fantastic game and adding this time period to it (one of my favorite) sounds great, but right now this is a broken mod, at least for me. I'd love to hear if someone manages to fix this.

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Tempest Icon
A Charming Piratical Adventure!
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 20th 2016

The interface is a little bizarre and unwieldly at times but for an independant game this is fantastic! My favorite aspect of the Total War games in the naval combat and this game is a lot like that expanded into an open world game, complete with different ammo types to cripple ships for boarding and crew you can improve over time. The graphics looks nice and it runs relatively smoothly. It's clearly a work in progress in many ways but what's here is enjoyable as you sail around trading cargo, blasting bandits and improving your standing with the various factions. Fine music, sound effects, and just a fine piratical expeirence all told.

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Crowntakers Icon
My Friend Got Hooked
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 20th 2016

I enjoyed this game quite a bit by myself but although it isn't multiplayer it was also fun to see how deeply my friend got into it. While playing this game by yourself you can't quite picture what it must be like to witness from without, but while watching him you realize how very involved this game can be. There's so many choices, so many tactical manuverings, so many things you miss in one playthrough thanks to that everpresent and merciless time limit. This game is unforgiving but feels so satisfying when you spring a trap or tackle a superior force and win out. We exchanged a lot of high fives and no matter how frustating things could be we were always up for just one more playthrough, just one more upgrade: the sign of a game that's harsh by fun and fair.

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Mount & Blade: Warband - Viking Conquest Reforged Edition Icon
Open World at its most Open!
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 20th 2016

This is not so much a game as an experience you build yourself: like a Universalis game except with more action packed battles. There are quests to do and factions to please but like Minecraft this is a game where you set your own goals and strike out to achieve them, sinking hours into becoming the best warrior, ranking up to be a noble, pleasing a king enough to be a vassal, trading until you become rich. Everything you do reflects in someway on your character in surprising detail. Armor and weapon types effect your speed and effectiveness and you can use your own ensign to designate your eventual warband. The graphics are minimal but realistic and work great on practically any system. It's a rare game where you feel like you're living the medieval life and I at least can't get enough!

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The Dwarves Icon
A Role-Playing Game About Roleplaying!
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 6th 2016

The modernday requirement of all RPGs to be about making proxy characters has the downside of those characters not really existing in the framework of a story. Every player character is Dragon Age or Skyrim or even Tyranny feels pretty interchangable because they're fully customizable and therefore cannot have much of a footing in the world except as a generic 'chosen one'.

But The Dwarves does something different I've been hoping for: you play as a character who already has a backstory, already has a voice and attitude and skillset. Some might argue this makes the game predicatable but as a fan of story I GREATLY enjoy discovering by degrees how my character and the other characters as well fit into the grander scheme. I also like how the character is not intrinsically a masterful warrior or hallowed chosen one...he's a blacksmith. Most of the time he has few allies and is more tollerated than cheered for his efforts, and it's a unique experience!

As to the game itself it's quite an enjoyable pause-and-play system although at times it seems a bit chaotic. Still for all the massive amount of units on screen it handles fine, the music is epic, the acting fantastic.

This game makes me want to read the book the game is based on but as good as that might be it won't quite match the experience of unraveling the story from the inside by actually looking at things, talking to people, and making decisions.

I do hope that there's still a market for strong storydriven experiences centered on as well written characters as these. It's highly enjoyable!

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Hard West Icon
The Most Visceral Turn-Based Game Out There
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 2nd 2016

The only major issue I take with this game is how difficult it is, but the title makes it clear this game is HARD. And it is: often unfair in randomness, unforgiving in it's tactical necessisity to survive superior odds.

But everything is great: the story, the artstyle, the music, the gameplay...all fantastic!

You cannot save between missions which gives an 'all or nothing' feel to things some might not like, but at least for me I found myself going back to the same missions over and over to use new abilites, take different approaches, try and beat my time or solve optional objectives.

This is the meatiest and grittiest turn-based game I've ever played. Shadowrun and XCom are comparisons, but nothing compares to how brutal this game feels with bullets zipping zig-zags of smoke and punching through walls. Enemies struck stagger and bleed and blood is a big gameplay feature such as stalking retreating wounded enemies or even canibalizing the dead.

If you like the wierd west genre, satisfying as hell battle, and light roleplaying this is your game. It's hard but it's so much fun you'll barely notice!

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Total War: ROME II: Emperor Edition Icon
Crashes and Poorly Optimized
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Nov 29th 2016

I'm warning people to regard closely the 'no return' policy on this game.

Despite my Mac meeting minimum requirements the game looks terrible and crashes almost immediately even on lowest settings.

Looks like fun if it would work, but right now I'm poorer and that's about it.

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Trulon: The Shadow Engine Icon
Simple and Charming!
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Nov 17th 2016

I didn't have any technical issues with this. To me it's like a classic if MUCH stripped-down JRPG and it makes up for somewhat repetative cardbased combat with a lovely art aesthetic, enjoyable characters, and a nice mix of fighting, object hunting, and just wandering around diverse environments. The music has a classic feel and so do many aspects. It's a labor of love on behalf of fans of the genre and a fine discovery, especially as a simpler game to play in windowed mode listening to a podcast or waiting for something work-related to finish rendering.

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Blackguards 2 Icon
Not Optimized
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Oct 1st 2016

It's an enjoyable strategy game, but good lord it barely functions on my powerful Mac. The story, the characters, the setting is enjoyably dark but it's hard to reccomend in its current state when although the system requirements are met by my rig it still chugs to an unplayable halt.
If it functioned it would be a fun game, but as stands it's just too shaky to reccomend.

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The Darkness II Icon
Not Quite the Original But Still Fun
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Oct 1st 2016

I loved the atmosphere of the original The Darkness and this one largely dispenses with the realism and grit for a cell-shaded almost cartoony look, likewise changing out some of the more brutal combat animations. But it's still an exciting and psychological thrillride with a lot of variety in foes and how to dispense of them. I especially liked that the level structure is very unpredictable. One minute you're battling mobsters in the city, the next you're hobnobbing with your own crime family in a luxury manor. The collectables in this game are great too: each coming with an excellent story read to you by the breathless, panicky narrator. Reccomended for fans of shooters, gothic stories, and gangster lore.

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Omerta: City of Gangsters Gold Edition Icon
Best Kind of Guilty Pleasure
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Sep 30th 2016

Honestly this game has it's issues in places but otherwise the theme, the ecconomic and action gameplay, the amount of content and options makes up for these in spades. I love gangster lore and this is a lot like a street-level version of the excellent Mafia game series mixed with Tropico. Problemwise the major issues stem from a slightly wonky combat interface but with so much to do I don't mind a few strange AI quirks of an iffy camera.
Runs smooth, sounds great and if you're someone like me it's great fun!

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Skyborn Icon
Charming Roleplaying Adventure!
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Sep 30th 2016

The only reason it isn't rated higher is it's aggressively linear, but the story and characters are enormously entertaining and there's a LOT of plot to work through here as well as new enemies to fight and allies to befriend. Play through it once and you'll get the total experience but that's not bad if the experience is fun and intriguing the first go through. If you like classic RPGs, especially JRPGs and don't mind turn based combat this is a fine addiiton to your library.

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Max Payne 3 Icon
My Opinion but the Worst Max
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Sep 30th 2016

I've played Max Payne since the first game and even played the Gameboy version, and this is still my least favorite of the series. It might be different if I played multiplayer perhaps but to me the combat felt sloppier and more of a frantic series of running from bullets pouring in from all directions as opposed to ballettic dueling like the original games. Also Max is entirely unlikable here, swearing more often, drunk and whiny and surrounded by unpleasant people. Graphics are nice and it might be fun for awhile but I found the new setting kind of boring, the story dull, and the writing grating. Not happy with this Max.

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Tropico 5 – Complete Collection Icon
It's Good to be The Presidente!
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Aug 6th 2016

This is as much a grand parody of the world's dictators (hillariously emphasized by the loading screens which include real and unbelievable facts about dictators) but it's also like owning your own private island. You set the crops, build the infrastructure, set the trade routes, determine the fate of every individual citizen (yes, you can execute them!)
The graphics are charming and it's genuinely soothing to watch the paddle boat dock letting loose new citizens or smuggled goods or exporting your hard earned resources for a fat bonus. Combined with a great selection of latintype tunes and the fact that you can pause of fast forward any time you want this is the ultimate casual management game.
The only reason it misses a star is probably my fault: It is HARD. On higher difficulties juggling the responsibilties of satisfying factions, importing goods at a premium and exporting at a profit, rembering to build guard towers to contend with pirate attacks, dealing with the aftermath of a tornado and other disasters...it can get a bit hectic.
But I still think it's an intelligent and very entertaining journey and by the time you reach the end game and have built a giant laser to cement your super villain status you will have gotten your money's worth in spades.

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Hotline Miami Icon
HARD but fair and brutal fun
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Jun 9th 2015

This game will beat you until frustration will set in on some higher difficuty levels, but there is an undeniable (if disturbing) excitement to be found in slaughtering enemies in the worst way. The 80s theme is almost unique. It reminded me of Grand Theft Auto Vice City with lots of primary colors and a hip edge, the thrumming electronic music being a particular highlight.
Only issues I had is the graphics are a little iffy (enemies and blood fall through walls a lot) and it is unforgiving with how fast you can die. There's also actually very little strategy so much as twitch reflexes employed to win with any kind of score.
But it's a great way to work out some agression or have those moments of 'so hard it's hillarious' gameplay that a lot of mainstream games can't manage.

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The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Icon
Not The Best but Not Terrible
by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Jun 9th 2015

I heard scathing reviews of this game, but now that I finally have it I'm not nearly as unhappy as the criticism would have it. I really like the original time period and setting which translates into a compelling approach to aliens from the perspective of the cold-war era American heartland. The controls and interface are a lot like Mass Effect but that's not a slight against the game either as they're smooth and responsive. The aliens have interesting appearences and there's a sense of the real origins of X-Com is a way no other game has managed, not even Enemy Unknown I'd argue.
The lowered score is because of hardware issues. The game is fun but it stutters and crashes despite the MacStore saying that the game is playable on the lowest settings. I don't doubt the Macstore so apparently there's some issues, or at least I had some.

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