A Few Good Indie Titles

Since the inbox just keeps filling up, my excess is your boon.  More game reviews to help you choose what new games to buy.  This week I’ve got two easy games (Plantera and Dungeon Boss) and one hard game (Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire).  Let’s get started.
At its heart, Plantera is a very simple clicker game.  One with more going for it than just repetitive clicking.  As a novice gardener, you have been given a plot of land to cultivate.  As your plants grow and bear fruits, you click on the fruit to harvest and sell them.  You also start with one helper, who moves back and forth to help you with the harvest.  Rising in levels unlocks points where you can earn an additional helper.
Just like real world gardening, there are creatures who will steal from your garden.  Plantera has moles, rabbits, crows, and more who look to take a meal from your garden.  By clicking on them it startles them into running away and if they did manage to grab something it makes them drop it.
As your garden grows you are also able to buy things to help scare away the woodland thieves, such as scarecrows and dogs.  You also unlock different plants that can bear other fruits , which generate more income.  Eventually, you’re able to unlock farm animals such as a chicken, that drops eggs you can sell, and pigs, who find random things.  These, in turn, bring their own predators such as foxes and wolves, who take more than one click to scare away.
With its retro 16-bit style graphics and side-scrolling platform, Plantera is one of those games you can sit and zone out, playing for hours. The screen does eventually get pretty busy with fruits, vegetables, and whatnot waiting to be harvested while workers scurry about picking them up and animals try to steal them.  Adding to the commotion is the ability to side-scroll; you’re able to expand your garden to either side increasing your income potential but giving you more area to patrol against fruit thieves. Eventually, you will get to a point where you can just let the game play without any input from you.  Then it becomes something like a fish tank of harvesting workers and failing predators.
Plantera is a cute and simple clicker game that can take up a lazy Sunday afternoon.  While it's only available on Steam at the moment it seems like a game perfectly built for mobile.  Maybe, at some point in the future, the developer, varagtP Studios, will port it over.  I give Plantera a 4 out of 5
For more information on Plantera see their official website.
Dungeon Boss
Dungeon Boss is a mobile “hero collector” game.  There are quite a few of these available on iOS, and Android.  Some of the bigger ones are obvious license cash-ins like Marvel Future Fight, and Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes.  The basic gameplay of a “hero collector” game is, starting with one or two heroes, enter a “dungeon/arena/battle,” fight through some quick and simple battles, and then fight a boss battle.  All the while you earn some kind of currency that can eventually be used to buy more heroes.
Dungeon Boss’ take on this formula is that you find character tokens for specific heroes in the dungeons.  Find enough and you can unlock that hero.  You can also find tokens for heroes you already have, which lets you evolve them into better heroes.  This is in addition to leveling them up and equipping them with runes stones to improve them.  
In fact, there is a lot going on in Dungeon Boss at any one time.  There are some things you are locked out of until you reach the proper levels, like treasure raids.  At player level 10 you gain "My Dungeon" where you have a treasure chest that generates gold for you.  Sounds great right?  Free gold, "Woo Hoo!"  Not so fast.  You have to choose four heroes to guard it.  This isn't too bad since you can still use them if you wish in the regular game.  But wait, why do you have to guard it?  Well, because other players can raid your treasure and, if they defeat your heroes, they steal your gold.  There are additional ways of guarding your treasure, improving the chest is one.  You can also join guilds, play with friend's heroes, fight friend's heroes in player versus player, and so much more, but this is just a small sample of the things going on in Dungeon Boss.
Now Dungeon Boss is a free to play game with microtransactions, but I have yet to hit a real paywall.  I've been playing since the end of August, it's been my "just before bed game."  The closest I've come to a paywall is when I've run out of "energy" to enter a new dungeon before I’m ready to be done playing the game.  On the flip side is in the dungeons there are occasional hidden "shiny bits," that when found and tapped, reward players with gold, energy, or both.  There are also quests that as you complete them reward you with all sorts of different things varying from gold to energy, to hammers used to improve your treasure chest, hero tokens, and many other bits and bobs.  There was one night I had managed to find and be rewarded with so much energy that I quit out of the game with a large surplus because I was tired and wanted to sleep.
The heroes you collect run the gambit of fantasy role-playing games: fighters, wizards, ninjas, orcs, werewolves, and so on.  Each hero has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, which allow players to use a bit of strategy when assembling teams to go into dungeons.  They are all drawn in the square-headed chibi, style, which makes even the fiercest demon hero look cute.  
Of all the hero collector style games I’ve played, Dungeon Boss is one I actually like playing.  Heck, I’m a big Star Wars fan and I got bored quickly with Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes.  Dungeon Boss has just the right balance of rewarding players and gameplay action that you can (shockingly!) play for free.  Microtransactions can be used to unlock other heroes or other improvements quicker, but from what I’ve seen nothing that requires a “pay to win” type situation.  
Cute heroes, a balanced player reward to gameplay ratio, I give Dungeon Boss a 4.5 out of 5.
For more information see the official Dungeon Boss website.
Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire
Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire takes place in a pseudo-Babylonian fantasy world.  You follow the story of Tahira, a strong-willed princess who has been on a long, self-imposed exile after a falling out with her father, the king of Avestan.  He appears to her one night to plead with her to return because the kingdom is under attack.  When she finally arrives home the kingdom is in ruins and under siege from a vast army.  Tahira finds Baruti, the Avestan Army General, a few soldiers and a few people left behind, who are buying time for most of the kingdom's residents to flee to safety.  Baruti gives Tahira her father's magic staff of light.  She finally realizes the gravity of the situation.  She must unite her people and fight back to save the kingdom!
The tactical turn based fighting really isn't as hard as I made it sound.  A lot of it is making wise choices and using the game's tactics to your advantage.  Things like surrounding enemy units with your own will give you bonuses when attacking, knowing when to rest units as opposed to pushing them into confrontations and using special attacks in the right circumstances will help you triumph.  How to do this?  The game will point things out in the tutorial, then it’s up to you to put them to use as the game unfolds.
Along with the tactical gameplay, Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire, offers a rich story that peels away slowly give depth to both Tahira and also her world.  And what a lovely world it is too.  The look and animation are of the rotoscoped style of old cartoons like Lords of the Rings and much of the 60's and 70's Hanna-Barbera cartoons of Space Ghost or Thundarr the Barbarian.  Something you rarely see in video games these days.
With the art and strategy RPG gameplay style, Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire has a sweet retro feel.  I will say battles did seem to take a long time, especially when enemy reinforcements would show up, but that is strategy gaming; each unit you play needs to be planned out for the best advantage, just like a good game of chess.   I give Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire a 4.5 out of 5.



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