Building the X-Carve: A Journal of Our Experiences

Day 1: 3 1/2 Hours

Unpacking – 1/2 Hour: Everything arrived very neatly packed, and basically on time, there was a minor delay on UPS’s end, but Paul over at Inventables worked with us to figure it out. Every type of component came in its own bag that was clearly labeled, but, as a side effect, this creates a lot of wasted plastic. I would highly recommend getting the toolkit, mainly because you are guaranteed to have tools that fit and it is a good backup just in case.

The X-Carriage – 2 Hours: I will say right off the bat, the instruction guide’s pictures are not that great. They are at weird angles, show things that we have not even neared starting, and it is very difficult to discern how things are to be assembled. The videos are even harder to understand, which led to an hour of fiddling with the V-Wheels to arrange them so a maker slide could actually slide through them. Since I am already talking about the V-Wheels, I have encountered another issue. The instructions do not mention at all how tight the V-Wheels need to be to the MakerSlide and how easily it needs to slide along it. We were able to put on the Smooth Idlers, the terminal blocks, and the NEMA 23 motors without incident and those instructions were very clear on how they were put together. We decided to hold off on putting on the Drag Chains because the connectors were already attached and, while trying to remove it like the instructions said, it felt like they were going to break. We also held off on putting on the Limit switches because they look and feel very fragile, we did not want to break them before even starting the machine and we want to pick up some shielded wire for the limit switches.

The Y-Plates: Part 1 – 1 Hour: After the learning on how to assemble the V-Wheels correctly, we were able to assemble the Y-Plates without any major issues. We did run into an issue where one of the pulleys would not smoothly slide onto the NEMA motors, so we had to tap it with a screwdriver handle to get it into place. Again we skipped the drag chains and the limit switches. We were not able to get the terminal block on tonight because we ran out of time. As I was writing this post, I realized we might have forgotten to mirror one of the Y-Plates, so we need to fix that tomorrow.

Day 2: 4 Hours

The Y-Plates: Part 2 – 2 Hours: We did forget to mirror the plates and we had the motor cabling facing the top instead of the bottom. Fixing that took up most of our night. After we fixed our mistakes, assembling the Gantry.

The Gantry – 1 Hour: The gantry, was fairly straight forward, it just took a long time to build because we had to slowly put in all the self tapping screws. After we assembled everything, we realized that we would not be able to attach the limit switches with the Gantry Assembled.

The Limit Switches – 1 Hour: We took off one of the Y-Plates and slid off the X-Carriage. We were able to attach the limit switch, but in the process, we lost one of our M2 nuts. This brings me to a huge issue we have run into, there are 0 spare parts and many of these parts are extremely tiny. We had to go buy an M2 nut before we could continue adding the Y-Plate Limit Switch. We were able to remount the Y-Plate to the gantry without any issues.

Day 3: 6 Hours

The Limit Switches: Part 2 – 2 1/2 Hours: The Y-Plate Limit switch itself was not hard to put on and we were able to put it on without incident, but we had to drive to 4 different stores to get an M2 Nut, Shielded Security wire, and a few parts for basic stiffening mods.

The Drag Chain Clips – 1/2 Hour: The drag chain clips were very easy to install, but it we felt like we were going to crack the clip trying to remove it from the chain.

The Y-Axis – 1 Hour: The Y-Axis end plates went on much smoother than the Gantry plates and we had little issue with them. We also started building the basic framework and now it is fairly rigid. There is some bowing in the gantry, but the stiffening mod should fix that.

The Pulley Belts – 1 Hour: The Pulley belts only took ~15-20 minutes, but we were at a standstill waiting for an answer to a question we had. The instructions do not say how long we had to cut the belts down to, so we had to post on the forums asking for help. We received a response in ~30-40 minutes. We used thin zip ties to lock the teeth into place and we got the belt tight while only having the nut flush with the end of the screw. This is to allow the belt to stretch, while still having enough of the screw to calibrate it once it has been broken in.

The Z-Axis – 1/2 Hour: The Z-Axis went on very easily. The drive rod bearing was very easy to lock into place and the Maker Slide appeared to be pre-tapped, which made the thread forming screws basically slide on. The main issue with instructions at this step is they do not show a picture of the front of the X Carriage when you were sliding the Z-Axis assembly on, so it is very hard to tell how high up it needed to to be locked in. The Z-Axis limit switch was very easy to put on, with the whole Z-Plate acting as a nut for it.

The Drive Rod – 1/4 Hour: The drive rod was probably the easiest part of this entire build so far, but it definitely is easier to do with 2 people. You have to hold the pulley in place, the rod in place, and screw in the set screw, without messing up the alignment of the pulley.

The Z-Motor – 1/4 Hour: Putting the Z-Motor almost requires 2 people, not only do you have to line up the motor, you have to hold it in place, and tension the Closed Loop Z-Belt, while screwing it in. We tried to attach the motor first without the belt, like the instructions described, but we could not get it over either pulley. We had to put it on before hand and tension it while screwing it in.

Day 4: 5 1/4 Hours

“30 Minute Stiffening Mod” – 1/4 Hours: I used a variant of this stiffening mod using M4x50mm screws, flat washers, wide washers, and nylock nuts to stiffen the Gantry. Now there is no flex to it, but the X-Carriage is a bit harder to move by hand. We will probably end up fixing that during calibration.

Wiring – 4 Hours : The wiring took a lot longer than expected, mainly because we had to add color coding to all the wires, ferrules to the ends of the wires, and strip & solder shielded wire for the Limit Switches. There were no real outstanding issues with wiring. just that it got a bit cramped under the motors, by the terminals. In the middle of soldering the limit switches, we had to make a run to Home Depot for more shielded wire because I did not get enough.

The Gantry Drag Chain – 1 Hour: The Gantry Drag Chain was mostly easy to put on, with a few exceptions. You had to take off the female end, which does not have the specific tabs for removal or reconnection, so it felt like you were going to snap it at every moment. A major issue is they have you remove the 2 of the self tapping screws in the MakerSlide so you can put on the drag chain mounting bracket. This makes you run the risk of breaking a screw head while removing or adding it.

Day 5: 5 3/4 Hours

Spindle Mount – 3/4 Hour: I used a variant of this Z-Axis stiffening mod using M5x40mm screws, flat washers, hex nuts, eccentric nuts, and nylock nuts to lock the V-Wheels in place and make them easier to adjust. The order is Screw, Washer, V-Wheels, Nylock Nut, Hex Nut, Washer, Eccentric nut (only on the eccentric side), and another Nylock Nut.  I tried using M5x50mm screws, but there was not a lot of clearance. The 30mm washers that were used in the original post do not work because the DeWalt Spindle plate is a few Millimeters thicker. The router is much easier to mount with 2 people, one to check the height and to hold it while the other clamps down the mount with screws. The top of the router housing has almost no clearance with the Z-Plate. It moves fine, but there is less than 1 Millimeter of space between them.

Work Area – 4 Hours : The instructions for the work area caused a lot of problems. The instructions call for the extrusions that you mounted to the Y-Plates, however, the instructions have no mention of removing them from the frame and I was worried doing so would harm structural integrity. We called support, but we caught them in the middle of the meeting, so we turned to the forums for help. We waited about an hour and a half for a responses. In that time, we debated and put on the inserts on the back of the board. We managed to get the board mounted by mounting the center extrusion to the board and the outer 2 short extrusions loosely to the frame. We inserted all the preassembly nuts beforehand and we slid the board on at a tiny angle with the fulcrum on the back screws of the machine. We slid the front board mounting screws into place, carefully removed them, lowered the board into place, and reinserted them. We then aligned the side mounting screws and slid the extrusion inward until the screws were at the end of their respective holes. we tightened the screws down until the wasteboard was held firmly into place. With 4 people, we carefully lifted and moved the machine onto our rolling cart. By this point, the machine weighs 70+ pounds. We tightened the middle and the outside short extrusion brackets to the long extrusions by hanging ~6″ off the edge of the cart and using the short side of the Allen wrench. We mounted the Y-Axis Drag Chain after feeding the X Axis, the Y-Axis, and the Z-Axis wire bundles through the chain. We ran into another issue with not having spare parts, we lost one of the screw to attach the female Drag Chain end, so we had to run to Home Depot to pick up the closes sized one. We mounted the DeWalt router cable to the Gantry Drag Chain using Zip-Ties. This did add a few pounds of weight to the drag chain, but otherwise there are no outstanding issues. The wasteboard itself was slightly damaged in shipping, a minor scuff/crack on the bottom of one of the mounting holes, but it was packed full of foam and bubble wrap, so it is not a packaging issue.


The Electronics: Part 1 – 1 Hour: We did not do much to the electronics tonight, we just attached the interface, the case, and the Arduino board. The video for the electronics says to use nylon washers, but the written instructions say they are not needed.

Day 6:  8 1/4 Hours

The Electronics: Part 2 – 7 Hours: The electronics have arguably been the single longest part of constructing the X-Carve. One reason it took a long time is we had to attach terminal blocks to a board, strip 4 3′ shielded wires, attach ferrules to both ends and the ends of the stepper tables, and clamping the wires to the board. Soldering the connectors did not take long. The biggest issue we encountered was was connecting the wire clamps that went into the connector for limit switches. The clamps would not fit the wires inside the shielded cables, so we soldered some of the black and white wires to the ends of our shielded cable wires. We still encountered an issue where the clamps would not fit on the black and white wires and the connector were very loosely fitting. We started the machine, but my windows laptop was unable to even connect to the X-Carve. We eventually ended up using my brother’s Macbook Pro and were able to jog it.

Calibration Part 1 – 1 1/4 Hours: While jogging the X-Axis, we realized that we Zip-Tied the cable to the drag chain the wrong way. The way we originally Zip-Tied it so it would pull on the cord as it moved down the gantry. We ran into an issue where the motor would not move the spindle above the halfway mount on the Z-Axis. Loosening the wheels helped, but we are still encountering the issue and the instructions say to tighten them so they can not be moved by your finger. We jogged the X-Axis and the Y-Axis. We noticed that the V-Wheels were hitting some of the Zip-Ties, so we had the ends facing the inside of the machine. In the end, we might end up using heat shrink once the belt finishes stretching.

Day 7: 6 3/4 Hours

Calibration Part 2 – 6 Hours: We were able to track down the Z-Axis issue to the Stiffening mod we used on the Z-Axis. We remove the 2 nuts between the V-Wheels and the Spindle Plate and we replace them with the aluminum spacers. We also removed all the washers. after we did this, the Z-Axis moved without any issues. we did keep the Nylock nuts on the ends of the M-5x40mm screws just to help secure the eccentrics in place. We encountered issues getting the Limit Switches to work, but that was tracked down to 2 issues, the connector not fitting correctly and us wiring the ground into the connector like the diagram shows, but the ground in the connector is for the spindle control. Once we connected the Ground to the G-Shield ground, removed the clamps from the connector, and placed the clamps directly onto their corresponding spots, wrapping them with electrical tape, the limit switches partially work. They will stop the Z-Axis, but they do not continue to testing the other axis. After we came back from lunch, we were unable to jog the Z-Axis down, both buttons were jogged it up. after a reset, none of the Axis moved at all. we were able to track it down the the G-Shield being unmounted during fixing the limit switches. We ended up not activating the limit switches because we were still having issues with them.

The First Cut – 3/4 Hour: Using a 1/4″ High Speed 2-Flute bit, we cut a gift box with a bow into a sheet of pine plywood. We had to use the Macbook b/c we still have not figured out how to fix the Windows problem. The cut is very clean, aside from some splintering. I did hear some chattering. The cut only took about 7 minutes, but we had to arrange our secondary wasteboard, clamp down the plywood to it, design the carve file, and check all the electronics.

Final Thoughts – 39 1/2 Hours Total

The Good:

  • The machine is very well built, sturdy, and everything fit snugly.
  • For an uncalibrated first cut, it cut very cleanly.
  • The machine itself did not require a lot of finicky calibration after building

The Bad:

  • The Machine comes with almost no spare parts to speak of, especially no spare parts for the tiny nuts and screws.
  • The Limit Switch Connectors don’t seem to snugly fit the supplied wires and G-Shield Pins.
  • The instructions are woefully vague and the pictures are taken at weird angles

Parting Tips:

  •  You can buy most screws, nuts, bolts, and parts at Home Depot and ACE Hardware.
  • Some people refer to security cable as in-wall speaker wire.
  • place your zip-ties as close as you can to the Y-Plates because the Smooth-Idlers can hit them.

 

Disclaimers: I DID NOT receive a free X-Carve From Inventables. This review is based on the Version available on 11/27/15.


[BossConstructor] Build Your Way to the Top of the Food Chain

Price as of Writing: $14.99

BossConstructor is a top down physics based shooter where you build your ship using the modules in the game. The game is being developed by a singular developer, Mirko Seithe. The current game is filled to the brim with content, over 60 modules, several game modes, and a ship editor. The current game modes are Exploration, Skirmish, Wave Survival, and Random Skirmish. In Exploration, you start with one of several basic ships or a ship you create in the main menu ship editor that fits the criteria. 330100_2015-12-05_00005Your goal is to fight your way from one end of a galaxy to the other, mining resources, buying from shops, and fighting bosses along the way. You gain more modules to add to your ship through combat and through the store, those modules will vary in effectiveness based on prefixes assigned to them and how much you bought them for. Skirmish and Random Skirmish are where you chose a ship and battle a predetermined or random number and type of ships. Wave Survival is fairly self explanatory, you fight waves of enemies until you are destroyed. 330100_2015-12-05_00002There is a passive game mode called Evolution that has 3 sub-modes, Ship Evolution, AI Battle, and Evolution Pool. Ship Evolution where you chose a base design and it creates anywhere from 15-100 variations that are then battle simulated. The winner of each generation can be added to your hangar as a ship that you can use in other modes. AI-Battle pits 2 AI factions of 8 ships against each other. Finally, there is Evolution Pool, which allows you to watch a smaller portion of ships fight in real time 330100_2015-12-05_00003and it allows you to spawn in as the selected template to participate in the fight.

There are just over 60 modules, not including all the variations between different qualities and traits. There are blasters, missile launchers, mine layers, armor, and others tools at your disposal. You can build a ship that is just a wall of guns or you can build a flying battering ram. Your ship designs are limited to a 14×14 square, but you are able to increase that in the setting files outside of the game.

330100_2015-12-05_00004For most of development, you would control your ships with a standard Keyboard and Mouse, but, as of a few updates ago, you can use your mouse and controllers to control your ship. With the keyboard, the game uses the arrow keys for direction and you can use whatever keys you want for the weapons and utilities, but it defaults to WASD.

Combat is pretty standard, you have to account for inertia and rotation, much like the classic game Asteroids, and you must have thrusters on facing away from a direction to move that direction. Inertia and Rotation does eventually reach 0, but it is enough of a delay that the mechanic is meaningful in combat. You can turn and move with only rear facing thrusters, but turning will also push you forward. The AI can be very dumb at times, pushing against asteroids and shooting their allies, but for the most part they are challenging enough to enjoy. The game offers a large variety of settings that allow you to optimize performance to your machine.

Graphics: 9/10

The graphics, while a somewhat simple looking art style, are very clean and easy to understand. Each module has a very clear sprite that tells you what it is and what direction it is facing. The game, is fairly well optimized, as long as you keep the particles settings down on lower end machines

Gameplay: 8/10

The gameplay is great, if you are interested in physics based games. I believe there are things that do need to be added, but the core gameplay is there and very playable.

AI: 7/10

The AI is one of the weaker parts of the game. It can be less than intelligent in combat, but other parts of AI, like the Evolution game modes are very well thought out and well structured.

Content: 8/10

There is a lot of content for you to dig into for the price. While 60 modules may not include exactly what you are looking for, there is enough variation for you to create a unique ship and the game is still being developed, with an estimation of 80 modules at release.

Setting: 6/10

There really is not much setting in the game currently, besides space, but this game does not necessarily need a defined story setting for the mechanics and gameplay to work well.

Audio: 8/10

The module sound effects, like weapons and engines, can be very repetitive to listen to, but the soundtrack is great to listen to and helps you tune out the repetitive sound effects.

Promise: 10/10

Mirko Siethe maintains a detailed roadmap and puts out regular updates. He also hosts live coding sessions on his YouTube Channel where you can watch him create content that will be released in the next updates. In-Game, there are regular polls where he asks for community feedback on what should be added next and what should be focused on. The dates for the last 5 updates are 11/17/15, 11/08/15, 10/26/15, 10/17/15, and 10/15/15.

Total: 9/10

BossConstructor is very much worth $14.99 in its current state. The developer is very driven towards creating a great product and much of the core components are present and properly balanced. The developer has also shown a great ability to listen to community suggestions and implement them in a meaningful manner.

OS Windows, Mac, Linux
Single Player Yes
Competitive Multiplayer No
Co-Op No
Price $14.99
Rating on Steam 98%

Disclaimers: I DID NOT receive a key from the developers. This review is based on the build published on 11/17/15.

[Angels Fall First] Combined Arms 2.0

Price as of Writing: $17.99

Angels Fall First is a 64 Player Multiplayer First Person Shooter developed by Strangely Interactive Ltd. Strangely Interactive is the same team that developed the other mods set in the Angels Fall First universe. There are 2 factions in the AFF universe, the United League and the Antarean Empire. There are currently 9 distinct vehicles for each faction, 4 ground vehicles and 5 space vehicles. The ground vehicles are a buggy, a tank, an APC, and a gunship. The space vehicles are a fighter, a bomber, an interceptor, an assault fighter, and a dropship that boards enemy capital ships.367270_2015-12-01_00001 There are also over 75 pieces of equipment and weapons, many of which are faction specific. There are 3 types of armor that affect your movement, Light, Medium, and Heavy. Each faction also has 4 capital ships, a battleship, a corvette, a destroyer, and a frigate.

AFF does not use a standard loadout unlock system. Every piece of equipment is unlocked at the beginning, but you must spend combat, command, and/or support points on them. You gain these points by completing objectives in multiplayer game, there is singleplayer/offline mode, but you do not gain points in it.367270_2015-12-01_00012 The gun combat is very straightforward and you have to lead targets with some weapons.

The matches either take place in space or on the ground in one of 2 modes on 6 maps. The modes are objective completion, which is an offense/defense mode, and territory capture, similar to Battlefield’s “Conquest” mode. There are 4 ground maps and 2 space maps. 367270_2015-12-01_00004 One space map takes place around a station cluster while the other takes place in an asteroid field. There is a destroyed city ground map, a desert fortress, a mining facility, and a military distribution depot. Each team has multiple squads and one commander, the commander gives orders to the squad leaders, who pass it on to the squad members. In space, once a breach opens up in a large capital ship, you can take a dropship and board it, allowing you to fight it on the inside. If you destroy the engine core, you have ~45 seconds to escape before it overloads and you blow up. In an unusual twist for games like this, it has bots, much like the Battlefront series.  The bots are actually very intelligent and it is very hard to tell the difference between a bot and a player. 367270_2015-12-01_00006

The developers host numerous official servers and there are a few unofficial servers that are also reliable. You can also host servers yourself, depending on your specs and network speed. Although the game does not have a huge player base, it is a fairly dedicated playerbase. The art style is very well thought out, leaning heavily towards a realistic gritty look, but still remaining colorful on some maps. There are some optimization issues on weaker systems, but for the most part, it is playable. Every model looks high quality and very distinct between factions, except for player models. 367270_2015-12-01_00005It can be difficult to differentiate between faction soldiers. The weapons have unique sounds to them, so you always know what is firing, but they do sound somewhat weak, which is reflected damage wise in some of them.

Strangely Interactive does not maintain a roadmap, that I have seen, but they do release semi-regular updates and they will respond to your suggestions and bug reports. They also have been very responsive to fixing bug reports. There were sever optimization issues at launch, but that was quickly fixed within the first two weeks and they recently fixed an issue that prevented loadouts from being edited or loaded in the menu.

 

Graphics: 8/10

The models are great and the textures work very well with the chosen art style.

Gameplay: 8/10

The gameplay is very solid and the boarding mechanics work very well. There can sometimes be progress stagnation, but that is usually because of evenly matched teams.

AI: 9/10

The AI in AFF is some of the best multiplayer bot AI I have ever seen, much better than Battlefront 2’s Bot AI.

Content: 6/10

There are a lot of weapons, which are mostly balanced, but there are not many maps and the combat on the maps can become very predictable because there is no randomization.

Setting: 7/10

AFF has a very solid sci-fi setting and the factions are very distinctive.

Audio: 6/10

The vehicles sound find and fit their vehicle, but the weapons sounds sound light and sometimes don’t fit their power.

Promise: 5/10

The developers are active on the steam forums and they do have a semi regular update schedule, but they do not maintain a roadmap, which can harm peoples trust in the future of a project. The dates for the last 4 updates are 11/17/15, 10/27/15, 10/13/15, and 10/07/15.

Total: 7/10

I believe that AFF has a bright future, given that they fix all the outstanding issues that can put off new buyers. The bots are especially promising.

 

OS Windows
Single Player Partial
Competitive Multiplayer Yes (up to 32v32)
Co-Op No
Price $17.99
Rating on Steam 76%

Disclaimers: I DID NOT receive a key from the developers. This review is based on the build published on 11/17/15.

[PULSAR: Lost Colony] The 5 Hour Mission

Price as of Writing: $25.00

PULSAR: Lost Colony is a 5 Player Coop First Person Starship Bridge Simulator developed by Leafy Games. There are 5 roles, Captain, Pilot, Weapons Officer, Chief Engineer, and Science Officer. Everyone can do everyone else’s job, excluding the captain’s job, but with lesser ability. This allows for groups of 2-4 people to fully control a ship. The game also has AI, which allows a player to play alone with an AI crew or a small group to fill the rest of their crew slots. The captain has the ability to control the priorities of the AI crew members. The AI is one of the weakest parts of the game, being very limited in their scopes. I usually set the pilot priorities to man weapons turrets and repair systems while I pilot the ship. The Science Officer is not that helpful, but they sometimes use programs, but beyond that not much else. The weapons officer does not fire rockets, but is fairly well-built. The Engineer has trouble managing the heat sometimes, but is otherwise also well-built. 252870_2015-12-01_00007The pathing for all AI can start to break during combat, leading them to shoot at doors and run against walls. As it stands, only the captain can plot Warp Jumps or access the ship stores.

PULSAR also allows you to board enemy ships, capture enemy ships, beam down to planets and stations, and use cyber-warfare against the enemies. When beaming down to planets with hostile atmospheres and ships with destroyed life support, there are Exo-Suits that protect you from the environment. 252870_2015-12-01_00009The Captain can give orders to the AI, plot jumps, and buy from space stores. The Pilot pilots the ship and lines up jumps. The Weapons Officer can fire missiles, the main gun, secondary guns, and nukes. The Chief Engineer controls the warp core, controls core temperature, controls power management, puts out fires, and repairs damaged systems. The Science Officer controls the shields, deploys viruses, activates anti-viruses, uses boosts, and does sector scans. After battles and other successful events, you will gain experience that you can spend to level up your character, which are several class specific skills.

There are close to a hundred different modules that you can attach and use for your ship, including rail guns, armor, jump drives, computer programs, and other ship essentials. There are currently 5 starter ships, ranging from a small frigates to heavy warships. 252870_2015-12-01_00004Most of the story content is not in the game yet, but there are a few missions to keep you sated or you could just take your ship and go exploring.   The gameplay mainly consists of you and your crew battling enemies, running around the ship repairing systems & putting out fires, beaming down to planets, and upgrading the ship to match your enemies, which appear to scale with your experience. 252870_2015-12-01_00006The art style of the game is nice and flow well, but there are issues with bad textures and the character models are not that great.

The game is not amazingly optimized, but it should work for most systems. It is available on Windows, OSX, and Linux. The gameplay can get repetitive if you are not interested in the game, but it is mostly about the shared experiences with your crew rather than gameplay elements. The game is set in a sprawling galaxy that has 2 main warring factions, the W.D. Corporation and the Colonial Union. There are also infected sectors which have noxious clouds that damage your ship. The audio can be a bit tinny and there are issues with it “breaking” and looping, but the sounds themselves work well and don’t feel out of place.

The developers have a roadmap on their site and they are somewhat active, releasing video devlogs and updates every few weeks. PULSAR uses a cloud gaming service called Photon Cloud, which sometimes has network issues, but the developers want to use their own system, which would allow for LAN play as well.

 

Graphics: 6/10

The ship models are great and the general textures are good enough, but there are some texture stretching and player model issues that need to be addressed

Gameplay: 7/10

The gameplay is still being worked on, but the core systems are there and can provide a fun enough experience for a group of friends. The Multiplayer service, Photon Cloud, can sometimes have outages, but they are working towards their own system later down the line.

AI: 4/10

The enemy ship AI is very good, leading to great space battles, but AI crew logic still needs a lot of work.

Content: 8/10

There is a fair amount to explore and a lot of upgrades to add to your ships. This allows you to create memorable stories with your friends.

Setting: 5/10

The setting for the galaxy is well thought out, but without the core story, it feels empty and without context.

Audio: 6/10

There are abundant audio issues that need to be addressed soon, but besides that, the sounds fit the atmosphere.

Promise: 7/10

Although Leafy Games does maintain a roadmap & devlog, their update schedule is somewhat slower than others. The dates for the last 5 updates are 10/28/15, 10/23/15, 10/21/15, 09/30/15, and 09/26/15.

Total: 6/10

I personally love PULSAR: Lost Colony, but I can easily see how these issues could put people off. I have had fun with my friends, but it can get difficult and it is missing core story components.

 

OS Windows, Mac Linux
Single Player Yes
Competitive Multiplayer No
Co-Op Yes (2-5)
Price $24.99
Rating on Steam 95%

Disclaimers: I DID NOT receive a key from the developers. This review is based on the build published on 10/28/15.

[Epsilon] Bringing Non-Lethal Back to Gaming

Price as of Writing: $7.99

Epsilon is a squad based tactical FPS from Serellan LLC, the developers of the infamous Takedown: Red Saber tactical FPS. They are back and they seem to have learned their lesson, bringing with them the great early access Tactical FPS, Epsilon. Epsilon is still in its infancy, with only 2 missions, one set in an office building lobby and another set in a subway+lobby+basement. For those 2 missions, there are 2 game modes; Elimination, where you neutralize all the enemies, and Story Mode, where you complete objectives. There are currently 9 weapons in the game, 5 primary weapons and 4 secondary weapons. There are 3 variants of a basic carbine, which can all attach red dot sights and silencers. There is also a shotgun and an SMG, which can also attach a red dot sight. TA grenade launcher is available as a sidearm that is unable to receive any upgrades. There are 2 fully automatic standard pistols, which are based off the Glock G-19/G-18 designs. Each of those can receive a silencer and an extended magazine. This is where it gets interesting; there is a 3rd pistol, identical to the rest, but it has an orange slide. This pistol fires special taser rounds, which cause enemies to surrender.300760_2015-12-01_00005Although it cannot receive any attachments, it gives us a glimpse of the non-lethal combat of future updates.

It is possible to get the enemies to surrender with normal guns, mainly by leg shots, arm shots, startling them (unconfirmed), and shooting their guns, but it is less successful and killing them nets you a lower score. If you do not secure the surrendered enemies quick enough, they will return to fighting you. The AI is still very much a work in progress; your allies will regularly take strange and long paths, sometimes walking around a facility to get to the other end of a hall. The enemy AI is more passive than active, they will only engage you once they see you and you can shoot people right in front of them without them flinching. The squad control mechanics are solid, albeit rudimentary, and mainly consist of telling them to move to a specific location, telling them to hold, and telling them to fall in. You can tell them to clear rooms, but you have to open the door for them.

Speaking of doors, you have the option of using a opti-snake300760_2015-12-01_00006 to see under doors. You can also hack locked doors open or breach them with a charge. Unlocked doors allow you to open them incrementally, providing you cover and a clean shot. Finally, we have an interesting mechanic, but, ultimately, the weakest in the game. Before each mission, you get access to the local camera network, which allows you to mark the enemies that300760_2015-12-01_00002 you can see with the cameras on your map. You can also plan squad waypoints, but they do not currently work well and are more hassle than they are worth.  The mission planning system needs a lot of work and, after the first few times, it feels like a chore.

300760_2015-12-01_00001 The game itself is actually well optimized for higher end machines, but I do not know about lower end machines. The art style is a cell shaded futuristic look which performs nicely and sets it apart from other hardcore Tactical FPS games. The models are well made, aside from some minor issues here and there.

 

Graphics: 8/10

The visuals mesh well with the models and they set it apart from other Tactical FPS games.

Gameplay: 7/10

The gameplay is solid, but lacking in areas. Some areas, specifically the mission planning, need a lot of work.

AI: 7/10

The AI, while it still needs work, is solid for your allies. The enemies are not quite as responsive though and need much more work.

Content: 2/10

The content itself is pretty barren. With only 2 missions, 2 game modes, and 9 weapons, there is not a lot of content currently available, but the interface does list several things that are to come, including co-op.

Setting: 8/10

The semi-futuristic setting and art style are a good break away from the gritty, realistic, SWAT/Rainbow 6 type Tactical FPS that we are used to.

Audio: 6/10

The sounds for the guns sound a bit light and hollow. The AI sounds very rigid and will repeat the same lines over and over.

Promise: 9/10

The developers actively maintain a Trello board that shows you what is in the pipeline for future updates and they are very active with the community. The dates for the last 4 updates are 11/19/15, 10/26/15, 10/21/15, and 10/07/15.

Total: 7/10

Epsilon is a very promising Tactical -FPS that has some issues with content, AI, and audio, however, the currently available content is well put together and the developers are very active and public about the future course of the project.

OS Windows
Single Player Yes
Competitive Multiplayer No
Co-Op No
Price $7.99
Rating on Steam 83%

Disclaimers: I DID NOT receive a key from the developers. This review is based on the build published on 10/25/15.