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close enough to being "single player Hunt: Showdown" that i'm eating it right up.
you can't even call this a roguelite anymore. so little is randomized here! even when you're researching things, you still get the weapons in a fixed order. this is just a single-player extraction shooter with meta-progression and souls-style levelling (where your XP is a tangible currency that you drop on death).
anyway, these devs generally have a very good sense for what makes something feel good - the animations and effects are obvious examples of this, the guns all feel great - but they do miss in a couple places, especially notable where they seem to have deliberately prioritized difficulty over QOL. unfortunately for them i am also the person who complains about tutorialization and information availability in every game, and this game's issues did not escape my gaze. it's entirely possible that you'll learn about core game mechanics from a loading screen tip instead of the tutorial, and the description for every single weapon lies to you by describing what the weapon does when fully upgraded even if you've just picked it up for the first time.
those upgrades for each weapon are unlocked by completing challenges (getting kills & using its special perks) and i really love their execution of this idea. they've broken the upgrades up so each stage is a satisfying increase in a weapon's power, with each tier building on previous upgrades until your plain-jane bolt-action rifle becomes an AOE machine, clearing an entire village in a couple shots. when combined with the research system - unlocks that take a fixed amount of playtime(?) - i think they've struck a nice balance in allowing the player to make forward progress from failed runs without incentivizing them to grind out garbage runs for the sake of meta-progression.
on a different note, it's a breath of fresh air to have a game where gear feels so meaningful. each piece of equipment feels like adding a new legendary to your build in diablo. they've all got exactly one effect and it'll always be meaningful enough to change how you play. this is not a game about gear and you're not gonna be staring at menus optimizing your loadout for an 8% buff to reload speed. all gear comes directly from the research system and all of it is unlocked in a fixed order, so you won't be grinding out runs trying to get the right "drop" either.
if there's one thing that i think seriously holds this game back at the moment it's that the level-ups are pathetic. the cost increases so rapidly and your returns diminish even more rapidly. i know the game is supposed to be hard as nails but spending 1000% more
souls witchfire for a level and getting +2 max health in exchange feels like a slap in the face when you've only been playing for a couple hours. as it stands i barely see the point in engaging with this system, since it adds new enemies to the game at a rate that outpaces any gains you're making. this is the kind of thing that seems like it should be pretty important but it's by far the least consequential set of upgrades in the game while also being the hardest to obtain. this is actually pretty similar to the kind of rewards a dark souls game offers for levelling up but the pacing and structure of the two games is so different that it ends up being frustrating, especially in an extraction shooter where making it back in one piece is part of the challenge. you could probably solve this by making each level-up a little chunkier while reducing the payout for killing easy enemies.
last second edit: i totally forgot to mention this because i was only really thinking in terms of broader systems here but man the way that the witch punishes mistakes is fantastic. it creates this tension where your game of cat and mouse feels like it's constantly flipping on its head as you clear a camp with ease, only to reach for a health potion that isn't there and have the air become sour around you as the witch learns about your new vulnerability. i'm really eager to see what they do with this in future updates. it's rare to see games that have that demon's souls mentality of punishing a player that is already struggling and this one does it in ways that are really immediate and memorable, making you better at the game in the process. reach for that non-existent health potion once and you probably won't make that mistake again, but the witch has other ways of learning about you...
This game is not unique in having the player create a character, it is not unique in letting them click on students and read their thoughts, it is not unique in asking you to balance said students' happiness and their grades and the school's budget.
What makes Let's School unique is that its elements come together to create a traditional management sim that frequently has the texture of a life sim, working off its systems in place of a script - a game in which you'll hand-craft a curriculum for each class, period by period, and then sit back and watch as your students go cloudgazing at recess, develop crushes and try to sneak video games into the classroom - apologies to Janet Lewis, who has had her GBA personally confiscated by me on four separate occasions. I am simply too powerful, and you are not.
In playing the game it's easy to see that its developers have genuine admiration for a child's earnestness and enthusiasm, as the game is chock-full of little things for the kids and faculty to do that make your school feel lived-in. These are undoubtedly nice features that add flavor to the game, but more importantly they turn the consequences of any managerial decisions into something more real than just lines on a spreadsheet and a stick figure with a frowny face above their head. In theory, this shouldn't be too uncommon for the genre. In practice, though, Let's School ends up way at the top of the pack by leaning wholeheartedly into its theme. It is unmistakably a game about being the headmaster of a school, about crafting organizational charts, arranging field trips, training staff, balancing budgets, and building a facility that (hopefully) ensures your students are cared-for and comfortable enough to be kids instead of little machines that pay tuition and fill out Scantrons. Perhaps talking about things this way makes me sound like a blowhard, but I emphasize the illusion of NPC interiority because this is the game, this is why you buy Let's School over something like Two Point Campus. Its specialty lies in building your attachment to those kids to the point where - when it comes time to start spending that tuition money - you stop thinking about that "Satisfaction" value like a min-maxer and start thinking like a teacher.
You don't have to love Let's School, but the developers' love for their game is obvious, and I can't ask for too much more than that.
Please stop bringing frogs into the classroom.
Walked right up to my favorite city builders and claimed a spot among them like it was nothing.
This game (the real "TF2") pulls off several impressive tricks, but the most striking is the scale. I hate to be the guy who talks about The Graphics right off the bat but I am perpetually in awe that this game will let me zoom out to a level that could believably be an entire province/country(/etc) before zooming all the way down to individual lots that look far less sterile than any prefab from Cities Skylines, all without any visible changes in LOD or any hitches due to loading. Especially impressive is the countryside between the cities, which feels sufficiently vast from a birds-eye view without making your first-person train ride feel like a trip through a diorama. It's an imperfect illusion, but it works from so many different angles that I have to assume any critiques levelled at this particular element of the game are coming from the most steadfast of sticklers.
Being a transport management game, though, you don't actually need any of that to enjoy yourself. The game allows the rail freaks out there to work their magic, of course, but the gameplay is only ever as complex as you want it to be, and there's a lot of quick 'n' easy satisfaction to be found in a city builder where you're not doing the "heavy lifting" of zoning, determining the fire department budget, providing wastewater service, etc. If you don't feel like futzing around with train signals, you can usually keep your company in the black by cleverly placing some very simple routes: place two truck stops, buy some trucks, click both destinations and - as long as you're linking supply and demand - the vehicles will handle the rest. The half-star missing from my current rating is largely due to small quirks like the way the game displays profitability, which can occasionally be misleading if you're not paying close attention. Specifically, it seems to list the total balance for each vehicle/route over a relatively short amount of time, leading to situations in which an especially lengthy train route seems to be losing two million dollars only to complete its route, correctly display that it's actually making five times that amount in profit, and then go back to displaying a negative total moments later. The game gives you everything you need to figure out the real balance of the line, but 1. I'm not always trying to do those calculations myself, and 2. there doesn't seem to be a way to adjust the intervals it's using to calculate this - you just gotta deal with it.
I could speak more about its allure (e.g. I'm a mark for the way the cities slowly evolve as the eras march on) but I think that realistically, your gut reaction to "city builder where you build the infrastructure, not the buildings" will be accurate enough to decide whether you should play this. You don't have to be passionate about vehicles, you don't have to worry about configuring the logic each vehicle runs on, you uh... I just gotta find someone else to play this game so my coworkers won't think I'm strange for spending all my vacation days creating horsie traffic jams.