Tag Archives: Rendercode Games

REVIEW: Crypt of the Serpent King

Despite some stellar-looking titles in the bunch, I haven’t always enjoyed Rendercode Games‘ releases. They’ve occasionally been more about style over substance. But, generally speaking, each new title has been slightly better than the last in terms of its playability1. Crypt of the Serpent King ($1.00) is the developer’s swan song on XBLIG, and while it feels like the culmination of Rendercode’s work on the service, it’s still lacking in some spots. Important spots.

Crypt of the Serpent King - Screen

This dude is pretty and ugly. Pretty ugly.

Crypt is best described as a first-person hack-and-slash dungeon crawler, with some light RPG mechanics. Traversing a series of labyrinthian and randomized floors (don’t worry, the minimap fills in as you explore), you’re tasked with finding a certain number of keys to unlock a boss room, fighting dozens of baddies in-between. The RPG aspect comes in the form of gaining experience, used to level up your personal attributes such as health, melee attack power, and speed. Finding gold in chests scattered throughout allows you to purchase new weapons between stages, choosing from melee (sword, halberd2, etc.) and a pair of ranged bow options.

Depending on the level of difficulty chosen, you’ll find less food (recovers your health) and gold, which should force you to play conservatively and purchase new gear wisely. Then again, dying in Crypt isn’t as roguelike as you might think; you keep all experience and gold you’ve found even after death3, mitigating any disasters that might befall you. On the reverse side, ‘Hardcore’ mode attempts to please masochists, taking away the map and the chance to heal.

There’s enough variety in the enemy and boss types, to be sure, but the same can’t be said for the way you approach each of these fights. Essentially, so long as you start your attack animation and ‘walk into’ your foe by the time you’re swinging whatever weapon you have equipped, you’ll deal damage and avoid taking any yourself. This makes all basic encounters a cinch, and reduces every boss fight to a simple, repetitive exercise of attack and retreat, attack and retreat.

Crypt of the Serpent King - Screen2

Less tense than it looks.

And ‘repetition’ is the operative term in Crypt of the Serpent King, as each level looks and plays out exactly the same, regardless of the randomized layout you’re given4. There’s only a handful of room / hallway types, and the visual ‘sameness’ that greets you at every door opened and every corner turned begins to wear out its welcome by a few stages in. Add to this the increasing key requirements (each floor tacks on another missing key) and the requisite backtracking that implies, and you’re all set for tedium.

To be fair, messing around with different weapons can be fun, and Crypt of the Serpent King‘s art and enemy design may be impressive, but ultimately, the varying difficulty levels and only slightly-changing layouts can’t do enough to mask the game’s more serious flaw of repetition. As is, it’s merely a pretty and passable dungeon crawler that’s capable of more.

__

EDIT 10/16: There’s been an update to the game that addresses some of the issues I mentioned above, adding enemy spawns in the corridors between rooms, as well as a few tweaks to the flow of combat, which should make things a little more varied.


  1. There’s definitely been improvement if you’re counting from The Monastery (terrible) up to Assault Ops (decent) and onward, which I am. 
  2. My personal favorite. Excellent range, and the piercing attack is quick enough to stop most of the enemies’ attack animations. 
  3. Depending on who you talk to, this can either be a very good thing, or a very bad thing. 
  4. Enemies come in pairs, and are only ever found in ‘key rooms’, which basically takes away any tension or surprise that random exploration might have supplied. Even with the dull combat, random enemy placement would’ve helped to mix things up further. 
Advertisements

REVIEW: Assault Ops: Warzone

Assault Ops: Warzone ($1.00) has a lot in common with the plain-old vanilla-no-subtitle-here Assault Ops. No doubt that’s intentional, and easy enough to spot anyway1. Developer Rendercode Games released the latter shooter in October, to very little fanfare and critical acclaim (I thought it was generic). While that game gave you an isometric view of the action, Assault Ops: Warzone offers up the more typical— and ‘mainstream-friendly’— first-person shooter.

Assault Ops - Screen

And outside of the change to your viewpoint and a new-ish map to do battle on, the gameplay itself is entirely familiar to anyone that’s dabbled in the genre. Assault Ops: Warzone allows for up to six players online2 in a deathmatch setting, with a supplemental offline mode using A.I. bots as a competent stand-in. You can once again choose from a collection of soldiers, each with his or her own stats for agility and firepower, but it largely comes down to preference more than one character being stronger or better than another.

Ditto for the weaponry, which pulls from the well-thumbed book of videogame guns; assault rifles, shotguns3, LMGs, and pistols. The first-person setting does improve on one of the original’s most glaring faults— the limited sightlines. No such issue here, as navigating corners and planning moves ahead now comes with much less surprise and / or a hail of unseen gunfire. Also, headshots(!).

Assault Ops - Screen2

Enemies still drop the always-helpful ammunition and health packs upon death, letting you string together killstreaks with relative ease; the A.I. runs from ‘go ahead and shoot me’ on Easy to ‘bullet sponge-y’ on Hard. Which you better get accustomed to. Likely you’ll be left only with the single-player option, and that mode stales pretty quick. Online play would doubtlessly fare better and provide more of a competitive spark (it comes with online leaderboards), if there was anyone left on XBLIG to duel against.

Which is the real shame. Sure the idea here is ‘generic FPS’ personified, but the sharp visuals and decent control scheme makes Assault Ops: Warzone play better than certain other first-person shooters on the service. It’s just a game that’s come too late in the cycle, putting all of its focus into an online community that really no longer exists.


  1. Because titles, man. 
  2. And before you ask, no, I never once found an online lobby and / or opponents to spar against. Oh, you didn’t ask? Well, I’m telling you anyways. Forewarned is forearmed. 
  3. Extremely over-powered, I might add. Just as in games like Call of Duty, Destiny, and the like, you can pretty much wreck shop with a shotgun from any range. Good for you run&gun types. 

REVIEW: Assault Ops

Playing at war online can be a lonely place on XBLIG. Pick any game and it’s an epidemic, even for new releases. The majority of the service’s already-infinitesimal audience is scattered between a handful of popular titles, with the rest of the online games left to fight for stragglers, or, sadly, abandoned altogether1. Rendercode Games‘ newest, Assault Ops ($1.00), is no exception.

Assault Ops - Screen

Not that you’re missing out on much excitement here. Assault Ops is a twin-stick online shooter, featuring your typically-generic combatants / weapons, but an atypical isometric view. You can choose from a handful of soldiers, with only slightly-varying stats. One might have more agility, while another boasts higher firepower. Really though, the differences are cosmetic, as they (and the guns) all play the same. Defeated foes drop health packs and ammunition, ensuring you’re always topped out after each confrontation.

The online component is a nice option to have, but it’s exceedingly-basic and as generic as its character choices. It supports up to eight players, in a Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch scenario. Tweak the score conditions for victory, or the amount of time on the clock for each round, and that’s about it. Unfortunately, you’ll likely never find a match or other players online2. The game does offer A.I. bots in place of human competition, ranging from Easy to Hard, and this will probably be your only means of trying out the game.

Assault Ops - Screen2

Four soldiers on-screen at once!? Never happens.

Assault Ops has just one arena, albeit a very large one, with plenty of buildings and and corners to peek around. Of course, that size works against it as well. Given the length of the map, and the pseudo-intelligence of the A.I., you’ll wander for a bit between the (almost entirely) 1 vs. 1 firefights, eventually stumbling onto an opponent, or they you. The isometric camera doesn’t give you the longest of sightlines, either,  making it hard to spot threats until they’re practically on top of you.

You may prefer those odds in a straight fight, but don’t expect any massive battle of wills or heavy firepower. Otherwise, Assault Ops plays fine, and controls well enough. It just doesn’t do anything new or interesting, at all, and the complete lack of a community means you’ll be fighting this war all by yourself.


  1. I used to fault indie games for ignoring online components. Now, I can completely forgive them for it. It no longer pays off. I’m no fan of local multiplayer either, but it’s certainly the safer bet these days. Sad state of affairs, my friends. 
  2. I tried on four occasions, different times, weekdays and the weekend. Not once did I find a single game, and no one ever joined my hosted match. A shame, but to be expected. 

REVIEW: Avatar Fear

You have to admire persistence. Rendercode Games has been on a mission to create a Slender-like worth playing for more than a year now. First there was the dreadful The Monastery, followed up by a an FPS / Collection hybrid that just didn’t work, Hellhounds. Whether this game is the product of that constant iteration, listening to criticism and adapting, or something else entirely, that dogged persistence to Slender-ize has now paid off. Somewhat. Avatar Fear ($1.00) is still just plain boring as a solo act, but in teaming up with four friends (or randoms, even) online, it’s a bit of alright.

Avatar Fear - Screen

Switching the traditional perspective to a third-person view, Avatar Fear drops you on a large map containing a number of Mayan temples and buildings, some you can enter, some not. You’re asked to collect a certain amount of coins— ranging from 10 to 24 depending on the difficulty chosen— with the knowledge that an ancient monster (er… a giant lizard with wings and tiny human skulls for a belt) will be stalking you and / or your crew the entire time. Bet you regret that decision to visit ancient ruins1 now, don’t you?

Conveniently, your avatar walks very slowly (to dial up that tension, natch), but you do have a limited ability to run, essential in escaping the monster. In multiplayer, your endurance is wisely tied to that of your teammates. If you don’t stick close to the group, you won’t be able to run as far when the creature picks up your scent. This also means you shouldn’t cast too wide a net in your search, as lone-wolfing it is a surefire way to get yourself killed off early.

There’s no real way of dealing with the lizard when it appears, or defending yourself if you’re caught out. You simply have to run, hopefully finding a corner or building to duck into, breaking the line of sight. Even then, you’ll have to mumble a prayer and hope it gets bored with the chase. You can also, in effect, throw your partners under the bus and walk away, leaving them to ditch the monster or suffer a cruel fate. Upon death, you turn into a ‘ghost’ camera of sorts, and can watch the survivors search for the remaining cash.

Avatar Fear - Screen2

Similar to White Noise Online, playing what should be a scary game with others doesn’t dilute the fear as much as it makes things more fun and genuine. Having others conduct their own search while you do yours cuts out a lot of slow busywork, and it’s certainly a little unnerving to look up and see the distant glow of your friends’ torches, and realize you wandered a bit too far. Then the music starts, and its too late. The reverse is also true, as being the last alive means your name is next on the list.

Still, was I able to find the final two coins, play the hero, and bring down the lizard king’s evil grip on… fictional ancient currency? You bet I was. Shame the global leaderboard only tallies scores made during the duller solo runs, but I digress. It still pales next to the likes of White Noise Online and, you know, the actual Slender, but Avatar Fear is quick entertainment for a group of people that aren’t afraid of the dark. Or giant, stalking lizards with skull belts2.

 


  1. Partially-related (as least the part about Mayan ruins), The Ruins is an under-appreciated horror flick. Killer weeds, man. 
  2. Seriously, how did it get the belt? Its fingers are way too long to be of any help with precision work. Not to mention cleaning the skulls and putting the belt on. Something don’t add up. 

REVIEW: Mummies Rising

Oh, Rendercode Games, didn’t we just do this a month ago? Well, somewhat. Rather than awkwardly-animated hellhounds, this time we’re treated to more-convincing mummies, once again pulling antagonistic duties in your standard wave shooter. Mummies Rising ($1.00) thankfully forgoes the Slender-style collection minigame that plagued Hellhounds, in an attempt to have things play out more like a straight-up FPS: Shoot first, and shoot second.

Mummies Rising - Screen

Which it does, throwing four visually-different varieties of wrapped-up undead at you to perform your best Brendan Fraser impression, spread out over ten waves / levels and using the same tried-and-true weaponry. The guns you’re allowed to outfit with alternate over each stage, ditto the amount of enemies you have to kill before advancing to the next… and you’ve seen and read this all before.

Level layouts are limited to two types; the corridor-like shooting gallery, where you simply walk straight ahead picking off targets, and the typical arena format, forcing you to branch out into the pervasive (and very effective) darkness to hunt down your objectives. The level design alternates with each wave, although the Egyptian textures and art style are rather well done here, which helps to somewhat mask the repeating layouts.

Mummies Rising - Screen2

To its detriment, Mummies Rising keeps the molasses-slow movement speed that its predecessors implemented. This isn’t so much of an issue through the first three-quarters of the game, as your enemies are naturally the slow, shambling type, though it does present problems in the last few levels. That’s when a faster enemy type is introduced, leading to instant death (and a more-or-less impossible final level) whenever you’re attacked by a larger group.

Even putting aside the slow movement and unfair finale, though, Mummies Rising is your average first-person shooter. It looks great, but the game recycles the same staid objectives and brain-dead AI, taking no risks, offering no thrills.