Humble Choice March 2021 Review – Big headliners, but not much else.

I’m Kinglink and I’m here to review the Humble Choice for March 2021. 

So there are a couple of changes for this month.  First, the bundle now releases on the first Tuesday of the month, instead of the first Friday.  Not a major change to anyone except for people trying to review the games, but something to keep an eye on. 

Second, we have one game that’s available on your choice of platform, either Epic or Steam.  That’s at least a choice, and something I can get behind if that becomes the standard because it’s a net positive

But with that said, we’re using the same rules as always.  One hour with each game, I’ll give you my opinions and recommendation if you should pick up the game based on who will enjoy it.  

Speaking of that game that’s available on Epic or Steam, we’ll start with…

Control.  Oh man, what a first hour.  This is a weird freaking game with a lot of story, but that’s what I expect from Remedy who previously made Alan Wake and Quantum Break.  

This is a trippy experience though. I noticed something strange with the level geometry and sure enough, there’s weird paranormal shifting going on.  There’s already been a few moments that have made me very curious and I get the feeling this is a game where you’ll be able to beat and replay the game and see clues you missed or have new insight into the story.  

The main gameplay is a third-person shooter, but this is very much a story-driven game, similar to Remedy’s previous titles, and it’s that story that just makes me want to play more of this game.  I have a ton of questions, though I will mention I have a friend who beat the game recently and wasn’t as impressed with the story after the opening. Time will tell, And I’ll probably have a review for this game on my website before the month is out. 

Pick this up if you like a game with a strong but strange story.  If you like a little action that’s what this game is, but guessing from the studio’s previous work this is more a narrative experience than an action game.   There’s also a little horror so far.

XCOM: Chimera Squad.  This is a scaled-down version of XCOM, more focused on breaching rooms and a smaller squad than fighting to save all of Earth, however, it’s the same great XCOM flavor, with just smaller more controlled maps.

Chimera Squad is heavily focused on breaching doors and enemies, rather than large maps, but the intimate nature of these encounters makes them more interesting.  Also, the character has far more personality which is a good change from the generic soldier you usually field. 

I’ve been impressed by what’s on display here, and how the entire game works.  I think the breaching is a more interesting mechanic at first, and there is a stronger story being told in this game.

If you like XCOM or any tactical games like Fell Seal or Fae Tactics, this is perfect.  It’s a budget version of the main XCOM releases, but that doesn’t take anything away from the formula.  However, if you’re not a fan of XCOM, this probably won’t change your mind.

Elex  This is an old-school RPG. It’s made by the same company who made the Gothic and Risen series, and it shows, but it’s also one of their most user-friendly games.

Elex however isn’t playing around.  Rather than a fun safe adventure where the game constantly holds your hand, Elex feels more like an open-world RPG and reminds me of Morrowind more than anything else.   

The combat is good, though challenging. I find it interesting that there’s an old-world style of axes alongside futuristic guns and even jetpacks that are quite fun to fly around with.  Players can scavenge off the beaten path as well, and I find this style of gameplay which pushes the player to do more than just follow a dotted line interesting. 

Check this game out if you want an RPG that expects more from the player.  If you like the Risen or Gothic Series, this is a no-brainer, but I also think people who wrote off those series before might want to take another look at this.  Of course, if you prefer the hand-holding style of quests, you might want to skip this one.  

Kingdom Two Crowns.  This is what appears to be a minimalist town builder.  You play a queen who is running her Kingdom and recruits peasants, She can instruct her citizens into a few roles by paying for their gear.  

This is a hard game to understand, as there’s a bare minimum of a tutorial, and after that new players might not understand exactly what they’re doing, but after an hour I was able to build a ship and move on to the second island. 

I’m not 100 percent sure if I beat the first island though or solved some puzzle, there’s not a very strong feedback loop but it’s usually clear when you’re making some progress or at least gaining some wealth. 

I would recommend this game if you like what you’re seeing or want to puzzle out some of these elements.  I even used a bit of a guide and even there, I’m not sure I fully understand the flow of the game… After the hour I don’t know if I like this game, but I also don’t hate it. It’s not a problem with the playtime, it’s a game I’m completely ambivalent about, but I will return to play a little more either way. 

WWE 2k Battleground.  This game looks great.  A ton of new and classic wrestlers?  Arcade-style gameplay?  This sounded like an easy slam dunk.

But the more I played WWE 2k Battleground the more I realized how much I disliked the game.  Most of the famous wrestlers are locked behind paywalls.  While you can grind coins, you’ll probably get bored of this game relatively quickly before you unlock a couple of characters. 

The fighting itself is decent, though there are not many unique moves between characters, and there are pieces of this game that show this could have been a great game, the career mode just feels awful.  There are microtransactions if you just want to unlock characters faster, and generally, this feels like it was slapped together to get some fast money rather than a loving homage to some of the greatest entertainers ever.

Pick this up if you want to have every WWE game, but I dare say you probably won’t play this for more than a couple of hours.  It feels very shallow for what it is and disappointing.  This is what I’ve come to expect from 2k and the WWE license and it feels pretty gross.  I was excited when I saw this game, but I’m leaving it heavily disappointed. 

Hotshot Racing.  This probably reminds some people of Outrun with the clock counting down and the player trying to outrace it.  The only problem is this isn’t a beat-the-clock game, but a circuit racer that has a checkpoint timer system.

I’m not sure of the exact goal of Hotshot racing but it’s a decent arcade-style circuit racer.  It’s not made to be ultra-realistic so trading paint with opponents is allowed and players are incentivized for big drifts with huge boost rewards.

The levels look good the first time you race on them but I have no reason to return to each one. For a game coming out in 2020, the graphics feel very dated.  It’s a style choice, but not one that works. A good attempt but I think this formula would have worked far better in a true-to-form Outrun style game, rather than a track racing game. 

Pick this up if you want to play an arcade circuit racer.  There are no weapons, and it’s not a kart racer, but it has physics similar to those.  It’s fine for what it is, but not something I’d recommend.

Peaky Blinders: Mastermind.  This is a strange puzzle game where the player uses different characters to accomplish a variety of goals.  While a level might span out over 2-3 minutes, having to scrub back and forth to get your characters in the right places will take you multiple times that runs usually in the 10-minute range. 

Conceptually it’s a good idea, but in practice, the controls are a little stiff. Perhaps it would be better as an RTS, where you could point and click, having to move the characters around with a controller or keyboard and mouse gets cumbersome.

As for the story, I want to watch Peaky Blinders, but I haven’t yet.  However, this is set before the first season of the show and doesn’t seem to require people to already be a fan of the show, though that might help players become more familiar with the characters, though it’s more of a puzzle game than a story. 

I was able to beat four out of 10 missions in my hour, so length may be a bit of a problem here. 

Pick this up if you like novel concepts.  I haven’t seen a game quite like this, though that might be for a reason.  However, if you don’t want a time-based game you can safely skip this. Even the puzzles are relatively simple. 

Cyber Hook.  The name is fitting, you have a cyberspace aesthetic and a grappling hook.  Cyber Hook is a game about beating levels as fast as possible.  This is a pure speedrunner with a great look and tight controls.  

The grappling hook can latch on to blue or purple objects.  Red Objects kill you and you have to reach the portal in each level, now go go go!   This is a game purely built around speed and when you do well on a level you’ll feel amazing.  

There are different levels and a lot of variety, though levels will take less than a minute to beat successfully.  There’s also workshop support though only 26 items in the workshop, and I had issues when I tried to use the workshop.  I hope that was just a glitch because this game feels great, though with only 80 levels or so it definitely will need more. 

Pick this up if you like speedrunners. Especially if you enjoyed Verlet Swing from last year, or ever played SEUM: Speedrunners from Hell.   Though I think there will be a longevity issue.

Pesterquest.  I’ll be honest I gave this game only ten minutes because within ten minutes you’ll probably know if you will like this game.  Probably just by watching the text on the screen, you’ll know if you want this. 

This is a visual novel based on the Homestuck webcomic, which is a very large and popular webcomic and Pesterquest is a continuation of the epilogue of the webcomic but also claims it might spoil the ending of the webcomic. 

The writing and style of this game are definitely for the fans of the original comic, and in that case, it’s perfectly fine.  Yet it’s a strange addition to Humble Bundle because people who liked the comic probably already own Pesterquest.  People who don’t own the game probably don’t want it. 

Since this is a visual novel, there’s no gameplay, just a story where you’re given a couple of choices every so often, one which fails the story and the other continues the story.

Pick this up if you already know what Homestuck is and want more of it.  Everyone else… well since it has spoilers, maybe start with the webcomic and go through the 8000 pages there as well as Hiveswap Friendsim which this is a sequel to or something. 

And if you’re that passionate, I probably would recommend buying Pesterquest on Steam to directly support the creator. 

WIldfire.  So the demo has now become the full game, and I think I like this game even more than the demo.  This is a rather interesting platformer where the main character is a witch and fighting against a bunch of crusaders.  Every level seems to have a small amount of story and it’s well told.

The gameplay mostly seems to revolve around elements, so far I’ve only worked with fire, but lighting the foliage on fire is rather entertaining as is watching the knights run from it.  The last level even had me playing as a bobcat and just slaughtering knights, so I hope to get that ability eventually. 

There’s a lot of replayability as there are multiple goals for each level including a level-specific optional one, and each completed goal gives the player a special skill point.  

Pick this up if you liked the demo in August of 2020 or pick it up if you like what you see.  It’s an interesting platformer with what feels like a lot to offer. And that demo is available on steam as well.

Boreal Blade.  Thank you Humble, you made this month’s worst list easy.  And Frozenbyte, I liked Trine 4 last month, I’m taking back all the credit I gave you last month.

This is a multiplayer game that isn’t just a low player count.  It’s dead.  It had a max of 88 players at launch, it had a max of 12 on the day the bundle launched.   Boreal Blade isn’t very interesting from the tutorial.  It has no offline mode.  It’s just a sword fighting game like Chivalry Medieval Warfare, but at least Chivalry has a small group of active players. 

This shouldn’t be on the Humble Bundle, it shouldn’t be for sale, and the fact this game goes for 4 bucks is kind of insulting.   It’s also Early Access.  Maybe, somehow, this game will get an audience in the future, but it doesn’t have one as I tried it the day of the bundle released and I’m not waiting around for it. 

Don’t get this game.  Period.  There’s no reason.  Even if you have a group of friends, go put your money into a different game, I’m currently playing Deep Rock Galactic, I’ll recommend that.  But games like Boreal Blade have to stop being part of the choice. 

Ageless.  This is essentially Celeste Lite. It lacks a lot of the polish and fine detail of Celeste though, such as just talking about the character’s mental problems in the first minute instead of weaving an intricate story that doesn’t directly rely on that. 

The core gameplay is that the main character gets the ability to age living things up and down, and then she can become “ageless” thus the name and springboard or air dash off of any living object.  It’s an interesting concept though it feels like it’s a single note game, and there are just different enemies per chapter. 

There are a lot of difficulty spikes here as well, and oddly enough not in bonus rooms but on the main path.  However there are parts where Ageless feels awesome, but there are also a lot of parts where Ageless needed to get its controls or puzzles to be a little more developed. 

Pick this up if you loved Celeste, or just want a good platformer, though I would recommend getting Celeste over this.   If you’re not a fan of platformers, you’re probably not going to enjoy this one, even though it has a unique concept.

So that’s the choice for this month’s Humble Choice.  But of course, there’s one more title, the bonus game. 

Ruin Raiders. This is a full game I believe, but also advertises that an enhanced version will be released on Steam later this year.  It’s a good concept.  Take a tactics game and marry it with rogue-like.  When you lose your characters, you start a new dungeon and try to get to the end of those ruins.  

There are two problems with Ruin Raiders.  First, the hit rate is abysmal, shooting back and forth for four minutes because no one has a hit rate above 40 percent is just a dull experience, even flanked enemies seem to have low hit rates.     

Second, we already have XCOM: Chimera Squad this month and that game far outclasses this one.   If you love XCOM you might enjoy this one, but you probably can just stick with Chimera Squad.

It’s weird timing for adding this game, but a good concept, though I found myself wanting to switch back to XCOM: Chimera Squad.

So what about this month.  It’s been a roller coaster.  We have what I consider three major games. 

Control does come with a small caveat in that it is only the Standard edition when maybe it should have been the ultimate.  That was the only version available to buy last month, but suddenly there’s a standard version on Steam.

There is the option to get Control on Epic or Steam, and if that’s how this works going forward, I don’t see a major issue with that.  That choice is good. 

XCOM: Chimera Squad and Elex are both great games as well.  It’s just a shame that I felt like I had to dig through weaker titles after those.  Well, all three of those games were easy recommendations, the worst list this month has had competition. 

And just to repeat it.  Humble, don’t give us dead multiplayer games.  That should be obvious.  Also, don’t give us games that are only going to appeal to a specific fandom.  I have no personal opinion on Homestuck but having to go read a massive webcomic isn’t good, and the style here is only going to appeal to existing fans of Homestuck.  On the other hand games like Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is a bit better where new fans can at least enjoy it. 

Ehh, we’re already there, let’s do the Strongest and Weakest.  For new viewers, I choose the three weakest games, and the five strongest, why?  Because that’s what I chose over a year ago, and I’m afraid of change. 

The third weakest of this month is WWE 2k Battleground.  There’s a lot of reasons for this. Microtransactions suck, a game that feels needlessly locked off for microtransactions is worse.  But the real problem is WWE 2k Battleground is boring.  This should have been a fun game for anyone who has ever liked wrestling and it’s not.  Damn. 

The second weakest of this month is Pesterquest.  I don’t think this is a bad game, I think it’s an awful choice.  People who like Homestuck should buy this directly, people who don’t already like Homestuck are probably not going to be interested in a sequel to Homestuck or another game since it’s a story-based game.  Come on. 

The weakest of this month is… Boreal Blade.  Seriously, what was the thought process here?  It’s a dead game that’s online only and not that unique.  The only thing I can think is this was a further payment for Trine 4 from last month, and in that case just eat the cost.  Or give players less than 12 choices, but make them better. 

Alright with that said, let’s switch over to something more positive.  

The fifth strongest this month is Cyber Hook.  I usually try to find something I just purely enjoyed rather than being an expensive game, and Cyber Hook brought me a ton of fun just playing it for an hour.  I like the controls and experience and will try to return to see more. 

The fourth strongest this month is Wildfire.  This game impressed me, and I love the style of the graphics.  The ability to replay the levels in different ways will keep this fresh, and I want to see more of the abilities you’ll get in the game.  The first few are excellent.

The third strongest this month is Elex.   This is a big RPG, and while it might not appeal to everyone, I think there’s a good system at the core that’ll be enjoyable to most players.  The three different factions in the game lead to replayability, and the combat is solid for what it is.

The second strongest this month is XCOM: Chimera Squad.  It’s XCOM which is a great system that still works even in a smaller scale game.  I like the breaching idea, and there’s a good challenge.  It’s a good spin-off. 

The strongest this month is Control.  I wanted to play this game, I now get the chance, and what I’ve seen means I need to finish this review soon so I can go play more.  I like Remedy’s games, and I think the gameplay on this one is excellent. 

I tend to like to give more than the headlines on the top three spots, but this month they earned it and if you like any of those three games, I recommend the entire bundle, or at least the headlines for the lower price.

With that said, this video should be coming out on Saturday after the release.  This is probably the best I can do without taking time from work which I honestly don’t feel right doing. I’ll probably try to aim for Saturday or Sunday in the future depending on how much of these games I can grind through.  Not having to play all of Pesterquest and Boreal Blade did help this month.  

Though next month if there is interest, I could try to stream a few of the games with my review process, so you guys can check it out with me, and get more of a hot take from my first impressions.  It would be from somewhere around 6 PM Pacific Time to potentially midnight. Though I’d probably be taking short breaks to write.  Who knows I might even consider showing my face as well. 

Admittedly, that stream might suck and involve a fifteen-minute discussion with my dog about how he was taken out only an hour ago but if there’s interest, I’d be willing to try that out.  Let me know down in the comments if you’d watch.

Of course give me a thumbs up if you like this video, subscribe if you want to see more, and ring that bell to get notified, and just generally have a great day.

I’ll pop up a video on Music and Rhythm games and my take on that, and something else if you want to see more from me.

Until then I’m Kinglink and thanks for watching. 

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