For the week of April 1 through 7

Click here to see the games I played last week

We are now into month four of this project of mine and, this week we’re all over the place. I played one new release, one demo that carries your progress further. I also caught up with the Epic Game Store‘s free game from last week that I didn’t cover last week and played one of this week’s offerings.

An airship battle in Islets

April 1 – Islets

I didn’t get a chance to play last week’s free game from the Epic Game Store, so I used my first game for the week to finally try it out. While I’ve sampled a few Metroidvania games this year (such as Hollow Knight and Owlboy), Islets is the first of the bunch that I enjoyed. Like the other ones, the adventuring is fairly open-ended but here, I was enjoying the combat. 

The two boss battles I faced were quite fun and challenging. One in particular, I thought I got to by accident. This was just after acquiring an airship, but I didn’t have any way of attacking it. But after avoiding attacks for a bit, I realized that one of its attacks caused damage to itself. Once I figured that was the whole point of the fight, I took it down fairly quickly. 

With me playing so many different games, I tend to discover ones that I wish I had played sooner. I also want to play more of them later. Islets is a game I’d love to spend more time with and maybe I will return to it at some point.

Tess talking to her mom in Open Roads

April 2 – Open Roads

Open Roads is the latest game from the people who developed the popular and much-talked Gone Home. I was a bit conflicted playing through this as I went into it expecting something very different. I initially thought this was a road trip game where you’ve learned about this mother and daughter during a pivotal time in their lives.

While that is kind of the situation, you spend more time outside of the vehicle, examining and essentially trying to solve a ‘mystery’ involving your mother’s family. The story structure is very linear with the game wanting you to explore it in a very specific way. Nothing feels organic. You just have to snoop around each location looking at things until you trigger a “Hey Mom…” which moves the plot forward. 

For a short game, lasting probably 2-3 hours at most, I still felt disappointed. Again, I wanted more. Be it more drama, exploration, or anything that could take the story in some interesting directions. 

A dialogue conversation between two characters in Heaven Will Be Mine

April 3 – Heaven Will Be Mine

This was a game I saw recommended through Kotaku during Steam’s recent Spring Sale. Heaven Will Be Mine is a visual novel set in an alternative timeline Earth where space conquest went in a very different direction. Since I enjoy space sci-fi, this felt like a good story to experience.

From the hour I spent, there is very little gameplay, with a few “choose your action” which dictates the next sequence of events. The story is ok, but because there are three different characters, I think you need to play through the game three times to fully grasp everything. Based on what I read on How Long to Beat, one playthrough takes about 2.5 hours, so you can get the whole story in about 6-8 hours depending on how the three characters play out.

I think I can easily go through one storyline (since I’m probably more than halfway at this point). If their conclusion encourages me to continue, I will. Otherwise, it was a nice experience but not one I would recommend to others.

April 4 – SaGa: Emerald Beyond

I’m familiar with the SaGa series, so the upcoming SaGa: Emerald Beyond is my first experience with it. It’s kind of cool that with its release in a few weeks, they are offering a demo that carries over progress if you buy the full game. What’s more interesting is that they released three different versions for PlayStation 5, PC, and Switch that focus on a different playable character. I decided to try the Switch version and I’m a little indifferent.

The character available in this version is a magic user, who is also posing as a child in middle school. The interactions between her and her classmates are odd because they always seem to get into dangerous situations. Still, she will disappear only to reappear as the adult magic protector who saves the day. I’m not feeling the story but the RPG combat is what I’m enjoying.

You can have up to five members in your fighting party but combat is based on a star system. Attacks use up stars and you begin with only four. Each round increases the stars but, it puts you in the position where you need to determine who attacks and what kind of attack you use. Not all attacks are one star, so strategizing is important.

I only put in just over an hour so far, so I don’t have a fair assessment. I’m not sure how much more of the demo is available. At the same time, I’m contemplating trying one of the other versions (most likely PC if it’s Steam Deck compatible) so I can see if the other playable character’s story is different or appeals to me more. Lastly, I’m super curious about how the characters intersect. If it’s what I enjoyed about Octopath Traveller II, then I could see myself playing more.

An action sequence from Zoeti

April 5 – Zoeti

One of the things I love about trying a different game every day is experiencing a game wishing I had learned about it sooner. Zoeti is such a game. This is another card-based, action-roguelike that I am enjoying and wish I played sooner. While its story is nothing special, its combat and randomization have me hooked.

This plays very similar to Balatro (my favorite 2024 release). You draw playing cards and the hands you play correspond to a different action your character performs. For example, a three-of-a-kind might grant you a +12 to your armor, while a straight might attack for 9 damage but for three times. As you finish a battle encounter, you might unlock new moves, consumables, or equipment that will help you along the way. 

But, this isn’t an easy game either. After the first two hours of the game, I still haven’t managed to finish the first story campaign that’s available to you. The battles get much more difficult as you play, so it does require some smart strategizing to be successful. Characters do level up after a run but I don’t quite see what that entails as the stats are small to begin with.

I see myself playing more of this. It’s incredibly easy to grasp its mechanics, so this is an easy recommendation for those who enjoy card-based combat games. 

A healer healing you in Outcast - Second Contact

April 6 – Outcast – Second Contact

I’ve been hearing about Outcast: A New Beginning, which was released a few weeks ago and it got me interested in the original game. Rather than playing the 1999 original, I picked up the remake, Outcast – Second Contact, since it was heavily discounted during Steam’s most recent Spring Sale. While this has a lot of weird glitches, it’s actually kind of interesting.

After a very lengthy intro cutscene, as Cutter Slade, you wake up in a strange new world where they think you’re a special deity meant to save them but you’re also there looking for the rest of your crew and the probe you’ve been sent to retrieve. Once you complete the game’s tutorial, you’re given free rein to explore this world to locate the probe and find your crewmates.

I quite like the open-ended nature given to you. While your objectives are clear, how you complete them is entirely up to you. It feels like they want you to interact with the inhabitants of this land and help them solve their problems, but I think you can completely bypass that and stick to your objective.

I don’t know if I will keep playing this but I did enjoy the combat, even though the AI of the enemies is pretty stupid. Also, I encountered a few glitches where Cutter got stuck in the environments, which forced me to restart the section. Those weren’t game-breaking but I can see its B-movie feel in a video game being off-putting for some.

A cutscene from Thief, featuring the main character Garrett

April 7 – Thief

When this week’s free games from the Epic Game Store were announced last week, I had a hard time remembering if I ever did play the 2014 Thief game. I played and even wrote about The Outer Wilds many years ago but for Thief, I thought for sure I played it at some point on the PlayStation 4. But upon starting the game, I knew this was my first time. 

The early parts of Thief reminded me of the Dishonored franchise, which is one that I could never get myself into even after multiple attempts. And like the first Dishonored, I couldn’t get into Thief, but for entirely different reasons.

The prologue does a decent job of introducing you to the mechanics. But my problem is that the story and Garrett, the protagonist, don’t do enough to keep my interest. The entire sequence is extremely formulaic and doesn’t allow you to branch out. They want you to play it a specific way and I was hoping for more. I still felt that way after the first chapter, which is also very straightforward and doesn’t give you too many opportunities to play the game you’d like to.

I can safely say that this game isn’t for me. Had the story had a better introduction and I felt interested in Garrett, maybe I would have felt differently. Seeing how this game wasn’t a commercial success back in 2014, I don’t think it being free will help give it the resurgence that its current holders, Embracer Group, were hoping for.

I’ll be heading to Hong Kong next month, so I’ve been saving up a lot of Nintendo Switch and retro games. Because of that, I’m trying to focus more on PC and console games until then. With the release schedule being fairly light for April, coming up for games here is becoming a slight challenge. I think you’re going to see more classic games but I am looking at featuring some 2024 releases if I can get my hands on them.

There are still quite a few big releases from earlier in the year that I haven’t had the chance to play, so this could be a good time to do them. On top of that, I’ve mentioned a few games in the past that I want to cover, so this might be the time to do so.