Video Game Day: Review of Helldivers 2 & Cryptmaster

Video Game Day: Review of Helldivers 2 & Cryptmaster

By: Alex Tilton

For National Video Game Day, I bring you two radially different games. One is a gloriously over-the-top arcade style co-op shooter from a big-name studio, and the other is a dungeon crawler word guessing game made by one guy.

Helldivers 2 (HD2) is about as simple as games get. Pick a planet from a map. Land on it. Kill bugs or robots depending on which planet. Rinse and repeat. It was so refreshing to just blow things up for a change. No convoluted plot, nothing to figure out, just drop in and go. The central gimmick is that once you land on a planet, you request weapons and equipment by inputting a combination of arrow keys. It’s essentially a video game version of the movie Starship Troopers. It was a huge success, but several months in it was marred by a tremendously stupid decision from the publisher, Sony. They tried to force PC players to sign up for a PlayStation Network account after they’d already bought the game. The backlash was massive, ugly, and instantaneous. Players started review bombing the game and the distributer, Valve (who owns the platform Steam) started issuing refunds to anyone who asked, regardless of how long they’d owned the game. Even the developer (Arrowhead Studios) was vocally upset about it. Players felt bullied and lied to, and they got angry. Eventually Sony backed off, but the damage was done. Double-crossing their customers shot their reputation to hell. The phrase ‘published by Sony’ is now a red flag.

While this was happening, I went looking for something else to play. I saw an ad for Cryptmaster. It was an indie dungeon crawler…word game? That was a new one to me. So, I tried the demo, and I’ve only ever seen one game somewhat like it; Return of the Obra Dinn. It was a massive indie success a few years back. Done in monochrome colors to resemble an early PC game, created entirely by one guy, with a dark story and an amazingly good atmosphere for its humble graphics. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Cryptmaster is similar, except that everything in the game depends on typing. Very briefly, there’s a necromancer who is sick of being dead and wants to change that. To facilitate this goal, he resurrects four dead heroes who (it is suggested) were the ones who originally stopped him from taking over the world. To do this you wander around a dungeon opening chests. The cryptmaster looks inside it and you can issue one-word requests such as ‘Look’, ‘taste’, ‘touch’, and you get vague descriptions of the object inside. If you correctly guess what it is, you are rewarded with some letters of the alphabet which fill in blank spots next to the character’s names. If you can guess what word those letters are spelling out, you get a new power for one of your characters, or you unlock a memory that tells you a bit about their history. You also gain letters by solving riddles, harvesting bugs from cave walls, fishing, and fighting enemies. Combat is done by typing one-word commands for actions your characters can perform. There’s also a game within the game that involves selecting pairs of letters from a random assortment, in order to spell out the names of cards in your hands, in exchange for dealing damage and generating special effects associated with each card.

Cryptmaster is dark, very funny, and refreshingly original. It can get a little frustrating at times, because it doesn’t (in my opinion) do a great job of indicating where you need to go. That said, this is a solo-developer and he did a great job. If you want something truly different, you can’t go wrong with Cryptmaster. It’s also good to support these solo developers whenever you can. We get more fresh, original games that way. It’s an easy recommendation to make.

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