The funniest game you’ve (probably) never played

It may be coming up on being three years old but if anyone ever asks me for recommendations on something “light” or “fun” to play on PC, one of my go-to responses will likely always be “have you heard of West of Loathing?”

The initial sell may not be the catchiest – it’s an indie, stick-figure adventure RPG entirely in black and white – but the humour is what draws you in and keeps you there from the very moment you begin your journey into the Wild West.

Now, this is a game which is very much better enjoyed going in blind so I’ll do my best to avoid anything which could be considered a spoiler. The game sees you set off to seek your fortune – after saying farewell to your family, of course – but it has gameplay mechanics to go along with the jokes. Whether you choose to specialise in being a smooth-talking snakeoiler or a fist-first cow-puncher does genuinely affect your experience. And as you level up you can invest skill points into various attacks and abilities and tailor your cow-puncher (come on, we all know it’s the right choice to go with) to your own style.

Once you’re out of the tutorial area the map opens up and you’re free to wander to various locations as you discover them, though some of the game’s wide range of NPCs might give you a warning to steer clear of particular locations until you’ve levelled up a bit. And indeed, levelling up a lot can make the turn-based combat less than challenging, but whether they pose a threat or not, fighting demon cows in the Wild West will never get old.

I had worried that the humour might begin to tire after a while but I have to give credit to the writers, no matter how much I play it still makes me laugh. The humour is written into pretty much every aspect of the game to the extent that in every location you’ll be exploring every inch to see if there’s some hidden joke you might have missed.

It’s childish, silly and I played through the whole thing with a ridiculous grin on my face. If you need a break from improving your K/D or grinding for that perfect armour piece for your build, you will not regret spending a good seven to ten hours in the company of this charming game.

Oh, and one tip I’ll give you. Search every spittoon.

If you’re looking for a community of gamers whose humour level is about the same as that found in West of Loathing, then the Thumbs Up Discord is the place for you. We have never knowingly missed the opportunity to make a childish joke.

Free Game: Civilization VI

We all like free stuff. Especially when it comes to games, free games are great. And free games that are actually worth having are even better. Hot on the heels of the Epic Games Store offering the behemoth GTA V for free last week – a deal so popular it actually crashed their launcher as everyone scrambled to claim their copy – they are now giving away the daddy of the world-building genre, Civilization VI (maybe they just have a thing for games with Roman numerals).

Civ VI may have initially released back in 2016, but it’s no creaking relic as developer Firaxis Games is continuing support for the game. Having already dropped two major expansions in 2018 and 2019, they recently released a ‘season pass’ for content over the upcoming year, which will see six smaller content drops released every over month through to March 2021.

Obviously the ‘Frontier Pass’ as it has been named is not included in Epic’s free offering – instead selling that add-on content to the influx of new players is how Firaxis and publisher 2K Games will make their money on the endeavour. But getting a base game of the quality and polish of Civ VI is nothing to be sniffed at, whether you choose to just the standard version or go on to invest in the upcoming content.

My own journey with Civilization began back in computing class in high school, when a friend managed to sneakily install a copy of Civ II on a couple of the machines. We’d spend lessons trying to build up our worlds while still being able to switch quickly back to whatever work we were actually supposed to be doing if we sensed the presence of a teacher close by. I may not have put serious time into a game in the series since Civ IV, but thanks to this offer from Epic I’ll be jumping back into Sid Meier’s world and reliving the illicit joy of managing to play video games during school hours.

And if leaks are to be believed, this isn’t the last major offering that Epic has planned during their ‘mega sale’. Usually a collection of smaller, indie titles – many of which have nonetheless been very worthwhile picking up for the princely sum of £0 – Epic have swung big with GTA V and Civ VI. And over the coming weeks a Reddit leaker would have us believe that Borderlands: The Handsome Collection (which contains Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel) and Ark Survival Evolved will be next in line. So whether stylised looting or taming dinosaurs is your thing, it looks like there’s going to be plenty of good on offer over the next few weeks.

Civilization VI is free on the Epic Games Store until May 28th and if you’re looking for a group of like-minded gamers to discuss world domination strategy – or any other type of game – then join the Thumbs Up Gamers Discord.

Indie Game Roundup – May

The current global situation has everybody spending a lot more time indoors and, naturally, a lot more time playing games. However, given the financial strain the pandemic has placed on many of us, buying new games may not be at the top of your list. Fear not though, there are still plenty of titles available to play for free, and in particular some indie gems available on Steam.

To help you while away a few hours, here are three short indie titles released on PC in May that are well worth taking a look at.

Outpost
Developed by Open Mid Interactive, Outpost is a roguelike survival game, something I hadn’t quite experienced before. You begin in a randomly generated environment and need to gather resources in order to defend a crystal which will be attacked during the night. Your means of defeating these attackers is by building automated turrets and a bow and arrow for yourself. 

The aim isn’t to survive indefinitely, instead more a case of delaying the inevitable end as long as possible. The longer you survive, the more XP you gain which you can then use on persistent upgrades to help you in future runs.

It’s a fairly simple but potentially engrossing gameplay loop that, should it hook you, will have you striving to survive a few nights longer each time, and you likely will as it rewards that XP grind more so than skill and strategy in your defence placement. The game is entirely free to play without – as far as I could see – any microtransactions, but if you do wish to support the developers you can purchase the soundtrack for £3.99.

Black Book: Prologue
If turn-based, point-and-click RPGs are your thing, then this taster for the upcoming title Black Book is definitely worth a look. You play as Visilisa, a young sorceress who is determined to bring the man she loved back from the depths of hell. To do so, she must break the seven seals in the titular black book, defeating various demons in card-based combat along the way.

The game leans heavily on atmosphere and Russian folklore and the prologue, though short, hints at more depth to come in the finished game. Your first battle against a demon is standard tutorial fare as you’re guided through the spell cards you can learn and use, but I expect that as the game progresses things will get much more difficult to master.

Helltaker
Last but by no means least, we have Helltaker. Developed solely by Łukasz Piskorz, this puzzle game with a seriously catchy backing track sees its protagonist attempting to fill a harem of demon girls.

The gameplay sees you with a set number of moves in which to negotiate a puzzle – mostly moving rocks, dodging traps and kicking skeletons around – with another demon girl at the end of each, waiting for you to either win their heart or to viciously murder you. 

The puzzles can be surprisingly tough – especially if you’re something of a 4head like me – and finishing them in the given number of moves you have takes plenty of trial and error. However, if any puzzle gets too tough, you do have the option in the menu of simply skipping it and heading straight to that level’s demon girl, so all isn’t too bad.

As with Outpost, the game is entirely free to play but should you wish you can buy a digital artbook and pancake recipe for £7.19.

There are plenty of indie titles being released on Steam all the time and I heartily recommend checking some of them out as a break from your latest AAA grind.  I’ll be doing a monthly round up of some of the best here on Thumbs Up Gamers, so if you spot any gems then make sure to give me a shout. 

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