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Dear Haunted MTL Readers,

It’s been a long and crazy ride this year. I’ve been posting a tabletop game review every month (and a few extras), all listed below in case you want to read them. But this is my last hurrah, at least for now (seeing as how I’ve pretty much reviewed most all the games I own that are suited to here except for a few stragglers). It’s crash and burn time. So for my final episode, here’s Ravine.

Ravine a crafty and cooperative card game box
Ravine a crafty and cooperative card game box

Ravine is a crafty and cooperative card game by Stellar Factory.

You can find Ravine pretty much anywhere including Amazon and even Walmart… The art is simple and the line drawings bring just enough focus to story around. Essentially, the luck of the draw tells the story of what happened. Everything is based on cards drawn at random, which creates a lot of different scenarios and stories to be woven. Some of the situations are adult themed and the win conditions can be challenging depending on what cards you draw, so the game is not recommended for players under 10.

Each character is drawn based on a deck of airline passengers, and each has something they can use. Some are better equipped than others, as expected. Since characters are drawn randomly you aren’t super invested in them, so the focus of Ravine is a bit more about the story of their survival.

My Ravine character R Brady aka Captain Cranberries, at the start of the game and at the end, having succumbed to madness and cannibalized another character while engaged in a staring contest in their last moments on this earth.
My Ravine character R Brady aka Captain Cranberries, at the start of the game and at the end, having succumbed to madness and cannibalized another character while engaged in a staring contest in their last moments on this earth.

After the crash, the big question is how will your band of survivors make it through the night in the Ravine? During the day, you look for useful items, but at night you may be attacked by animals or harrowing weather conditions or slowly go insane. You have to try to equip yourself against whatever dangers may come your way until you are rescued. You need to forage for food and materials to make crude baskets, spears and shelter as well as keep a fire going to thwart some of the threats. There is a somewhat magical bent as well, with good and bad powers granted by certain cards if you find them. Once you are reduced to one heart, or as specified in a scenario, you begin to succumb to madness which takes many different forms, again depending on what is drawn.

Some of the myriad of threat cards encountered in Ravine

We played two games recently, and the outcomes were very very different. The first band of survivors perished in a gruesome end while the second actually managed to thrive. Planning things through can certainly help offset the randomness, and building useful items is always a boon, but honestly a lot of this really comes down to luck. Does your group find enough food? What threats are encountered? What are the conditions in which they find themselves? The two scenarios couldn’t have been more different. In fact, we did so well during the second scenario that many members of the group were rescued in better health than they were at the time of the crash.

Because of the variability, I will give Ravine 3.5 Cthulus.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Some games are great, others are just kind of shitty. Some are too easy; others are nigh impossible even if you are totally on top of it. Fortunately the game plays fast and you’re not so invested to want to just flip the table when things aren’t going well. And you can collect bones. They can even talk to you, whispering in some ancient mystical island language. Just don’t lose hope that you can find them again when the island tries to take them back…

Bone Pile card
Bone Pile card

And as promised, here is a list of my tabletop game reviews to date:

Horrified: Universal Studios Monsters are on the loose

Pocket Paragons: One, Two, Three, Now Fight

Sub Terra: We’re going down… down…

The Grizzled: Can you all survive the war together?

Twilight 2000 Campaign: Series of RPG gaming logs and review

Mysterium: Connect the dots across The Void

Elder Sign: It opened up my mind…

Nevermore: Pecketh the raven

Flash Point: Rage against the inferno

Dead of Winter: Get your zombie apocalypse on

Revisiting The Grizzled: Campaign edition

Sentinels of the Multiverse: Comic relief

Making Christmas: Twas the nightmare before

Jennifer Weigel is a multi-disciplinary mixed media conceptual artist residing in Kansas USA. Weigel utilizes a wide range of media to convey her ideas, including assemblage, drawing, fibers, installation, jewelry, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video and writing. You can find more of her work at: https://www.jenniferweigelart.com/ https://www.jenniferweigelprojects.com/ https://jenniferweigelwords.wordpress.com/

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The Sinking City Review: Sunken Lovecraftian Lore

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The Sinking City is an open world third-person shooter developed by Ukranian developer, Frogwares, and published by Nacon. In this game, you play as a private investigator who has come to the city of Oakmont. In this half-submerged city you hope to find the cause of your maddening dreams and the mass disappearances plaguing the city.

Inspired by several H.P. Lovecraft stories, The Sinking City is a love letter to Lovecraftian lore. However, it takes the time to condone problematic themes in Lovecraft’s writings which is always appreciated. It has a massive open world that lets you explore the haunting world of a city driven partially mad. The neighborhoods are painstakingly designed and the found objects tell an enrapturing story. Riding a motor boat through flooded streets was mesmerizing. I also am fond of the novel detective mechanics. Even if they are a little basic, they are still interesting and tell a good story. 

A screenshot of gameplay from The Sinking City, showcasing a great character model.

I cannot stress enough that I wanted to love The Sinking City. The premise and the atmosphere were everything I wanted from a Lovecraftian horror game. But, the game just fell flat. Frustratingly enough, most of the issues with the game are simple quality of life improvements. I had consistent bugs, performance issues, and visual hiccups that prevented the game from coming into its own. The enthralling environments were tarnished by enemies appearing and disappearing and character animations not functioning properly. While the character models were exquisite, the dialogue was comically tacky, once again ruining the mood. I also wasn’t a fan of the combat, which felt undercooked in its difficulty and stealth mechanics. The Sinking City feels like the alpha release of what could be an amazing game. But in its current state I found it to be semi-unplayable.

That being said, the game has an amazing mod community on Steam. They have created community content to fix a lot of the issues I have with the base game, so I recommend checking that out if you already own the game. I have also heard that the game has better performance on consoles instead of on PC, where I played it. So that may be another avenue for enjoying The Sinking City.

Another unfortunate reason I can’t recommend the game at the moment, is current legal battles against Nacon the publisher. Nacon has been accused by several of its developers, including Frogwares, of pirating their game and uploading it illegally to Steam. The legal battles have yet to be resolved, however, it is unfortunate that these accusations have happened twice now by two independent developers.

Maybe one day we’ll have a good Lovecraftian horror game. But, it is not yet that day. 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

However, in honor of Frogwares please consider donating to a Ukrainian Relief Fund as they actively fight on the front lines to keep their country safe. Additionally, consider supporting their new game Sherlock Holmes: the Awakened.

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Röki Review: Family & Scandinavian Folklore

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Röki is an adventure puzzle game developed by Polygon Treehouse and published by United Label and CI Games. In the game, you play as Tove, a young girl on a hunt to save her kidnapped brother. She must engage with creatures from Scandinavian folklore as well as her own guilt surrounding the death of her mother in order to save her brother from a grim fate.

This is a game with an immense amount of heart. From the art to the story to the sound design, you can feel the soul and care that went into Röki. And for the most part, it pays off. I invested emotionally into all of the characters as I played. I was also enraptured by the depth of the story and character interactions as the game progressed. The gameplay is similar to that of a point-and-click adventure game, where you collect items and drag them onto environmental objects to solve puzzles. The items and environments were intricate and satisfying to engage with the majority of the time. Especially in the first third of the game, I delighted at uncovering little secrets and talking with the inhabitants of the forest. When the game was rewarding, it really felt rewarding.

A screenshot of gameplay from Röki.

Despite its enchanting nature, the middle third of the game was a definite low point. As a game that took me about 10 hours to play through, about 3 of those hours were exhausting. The puzzles were especially tedious, requiring a significant amount of backtracking and/or convoluted solutions. Instead of feeling rewarded for solving the puzzles, I just felt thankful I could move on. The biggest issue wasn’t the solutions or placement of items, it was the annoyance that I knew exactly what I needed to do but had to spend at least fifteen minutes stuck in unskippable animations to complete it.

Röki is a gorgeous adventure game that immerses you in Scandinavian folklore through a combination of story and puzzles. However, if you don’t have patience for unskippable dialogue or frustrating puzzles you may want to try a different game. Additionally, I find the price of $20 a little high for how frustrating a third of the game is. But I would consider it a must-get for puzzle fans during a sale! Find Röki on Steam here.

3.9 out of 5 stars (3.9 / 5)

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Ring of Pain Review: An Addictive Dungeon Crawler

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Ring of Pain is a rogue-like dungeon crawler developed by Simon Boxer and Twice Different. In the game, you travel through layers of a dungeon collecting loot and killing monsters. Each layer holds a series of cards containing enemies, curses, boons, and exits. As a character, you gain equipment, spells, items, and stat increases that help you defeat your enemies (or just run away better). 

Ring of Pain is a fantastic game. I received it in a charity game bundle, but it had sat untouched in my Steam library for a year. On a whim, I decided to try it out, telling myself I would play an hour or two and then review it. I ended up playing for four hours, only stopping because I had prior engagements. Every time I sat down to write this review, I instead played another couple of hours in Ring of Pain. The point of this story is not my weak will, but instead the highly addictive nature of Ring of Pain.

A screenshot of gameplay from Ring of Pain.

The gameplay had a good mix of strategy and luck, making it rewarding to succeed. There are also many viable strategies to pursue, which means there are many ‘correct’ ways to play the game and still see success. As someone who can get frustrated with rogue-likes, I liked how each run was relatively short but rewarding. This meant that I didn’t feel like I was sinking hours into gameplay that led nowhere. Also worth a mention is the absolutely stunning artwork that masters being atmospheric, creepy, and comical. 

My biggest gripe is that I wish there was more diversity of items. I sometimes felt as if I was just getting the same boring equipment over and over again. That being said, the developers have been consistently adding new content to the game since it released. Therefore, my largest issue is being addressed. 

Ring of Pain is a great game, and I highly recommend it for those who enjoy quick rogue-likes with dungeon-crawling elements. However, try another game if you get frustrated by random generation that could be impossible to surmount. 

Available on Steam for $20, I would say the price point is a little steep for the diversity of content. However, it’s a must-get during a sale!

4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

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