Cannons and Castles

One of my earliest gaming memories: A simple Scorched-earth game where two castles on a randomly-generated terrain take turns shooting at each other by typing in an angle and power, adjusting for wind speed. My dad and I played this over and over. At such a young age, I probably learned a ton playing this game, not to mention early exposure to simulation gaming. Continue reading “Cannons and Castles”

Companions in Grimrock

Legend of Grimrock, by Finnish developer Almost Human, puts you in control of four criminals trying to escape a mountain prison. Though rendered in full 3D, the gameplay uses grid movement and owes a lot to classic dungeon crawlers like Eye of the Beholder. At a glance, it’s easy to see Just-Another-Dungeon-Crawl. Don’t be fooled. Grimrock is playful, self-aware, and earnest. It is a heartfelt triumph by a small, passionate team.

I played Grimrock in February and March of 2013. I’m only now managing to write about it because it’s been hard to capture how it made me feel. Now, with a sequel approaching, I think I’ve got it: Rarely have I felt so accompanied while playing a game. That company (both real and fictional) transformed my experience.

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Legend of Grimrock.

Continue reading “Companions in Grimrock”


Wayward, currently in beta, is a survival game by Unlok. Think Minecraft, but with a classic JRPG look and more dying of thirst. You can fire it up in your browser, and it’s turn-based like an old roguelike, which makes it perfect for playing a few minutes at a time.

When Wayward begins, you are stranded on a small island with a few supplies and virtually no skills. Your goal is to find hidden treasure and get off the island. Of course, this is a survival game, so before you go hunting for treasure you’ll want to set up reliable food and water sources, and build a place to hide from bears.

Your character begins with a small crafting menu, which grows as you find new materials and practice your skills. You will cut down a lot of trees in this game, to get branches, to make bark strips, to make string, to make rope… you get the picture. The menu quickly grows large enough that the text search will come in handy.

I eventually got into a stable living situation, even trying to start a farm; this wouldn’t be a bad Harvest Moon replacement with better farming options. I went in search of treasure, but found none – the big dark cave on my island was empty. Since the game is still in beta, the wiki may be necessary to succeed. At that point my interest sort of ran out.

The good: I like survival and crafting games, and the in-browser turn-based nature of this one allowed me to play a few turns at a time. Being able to play a few turns would work well on mobile for me, as long as you can retrieve the context for what you were doing. The crafting options are extensive.

The bad: In time the game becomes an inventory management nightmare – limited stacks, weight limits, sub-containers and the necessity of stockpiling mean there’s way too much to keep track of and not much help to organize it. I never thought I’d turn to Dwarf Fortress for a usability lesson, but inventoried and searchable stockpiles are an awesome feature.

Wayward is free and worth a shot. My tip for getting started – you don’t need an ax, just hit trees with rocks to get going.