Latest Publications

A short hiatus

Greetings, indie RPG fans! I’m taking a short break from the site to run a Kickstarter campaign for my new board game. Rest assured, though, I’ll be back as soon as it’s over!


New release: Celsius Heroes Chapter 1: The Call of Esther

Gary Laporte writes in to announce that Parisian indie studio Celsius Online just released the party-based, first-person dungeon delver/Match 3 hybrid for mobile Celsius Heroes Chapter 1: The Call of Esther…back in March. (But hey! It’s new to me.)

The premise:

Curses, disasters, invasions of monsters: a deadly shadow is disturbing the peace of the County of Acilion. At the head of a party of heroes and adventurers coming from the town of Celsius, try and discover the origin of evil.

So, your basic, run-of-the-mill RPG plot premise. What makes this game interesting is its particular blend of mechanics: a bit like Might and Magic IV meets Puzzle Quest. There’s an official trailer, but I actually think the 30-second gameplay trailer gets across the overall structure and approach of the game better:

The developers state that Celsius Heroes has more than 100 quests, a roster which they expand with regular monthly updates. They write that in the October update, they’ll be introducing “the possibility for the players to create their own dungeons, dialogues and quests,” which is pretty neat.

Celsius Heroes is free to play, with in-app purchases. You can snag it for Android on Google Play, for iPhone or iPad on the iOS app store, or in-browser via Facebook.

Hellenica announced

Word reaches me that there’s a new tactical RPG in development by Seattle indie dev studio The Dragonloft. Titled Hellenica, it takes place in a sort of steampunk variant of ancient Greece.

Here’s the narrative premise:

Explore a steam-powered ancient Greece as Artemis’ Arktos, her chosen bear warrior, on a mythological quest of technology and magic. In this turn-based tactics RPG, you’ll rewrite the history of an ancient Greece transformed by an industrial revolution. Customize your party’s skills and navigate a labyrinthine storyline where your choices affect the path you take, the battles you fight, and the allies you meet along the way.

From what I can gather, the basic plot changes based on your decisions. To wit: “Help Plato and Socrates maintain order in an Athens shaken by change, fight alongside the technologically augmented king of Sparta against rebels committed to tradition, or join Cyrus the Persian prince on a quest to liberate his people.”

As you can see in the teaser trailer below, the overall appearance of the game is blocky and isometric, with 2D sprites, in a style fairly reminiscent of Disgaea:

The developer writes: “Athens has gone through a serious transformation since the steam revolution, and most levels in the city will feature steam-powered elevators and conveyor belts throughout.” Thus, in a manner similar to some of the levels in Fire Emblem Fates, characters can automatically move around at the end of a round if they happen to standing on a moving platform or other such conveyance.

The planned features include:

  • Old-school tactics combat, enhanced – Familiar Tactics mechanics coupled with pushing, tossing, bouncing, and obstacles. A new battle system that encourages experimentation and careful planning with an interface simple enough for players new to the genre.
  • Customizable party abilities – Unlock party abilities and customize your load out before each battle. Abilities never grow obsolete, but instead provide new tactical options for every situation.
  • Labyrinthine branching story – Live multiple lives, making different choices and exploring different facets of the world. Will you seek guidance from the Oracle or form an alliance with a shadowy network of spies? Stow away on a pirate vessel or follow a mysterious foreigner? Investigate a rebellion in Sparta or seek the aid of the enigmatic enchantress, Circe?
  • Custom narrative experience – Thousands of custom dialog lines ensure that characters recognize and respond to the actions you’ve taken on each of the paths through Hellenica’s story.

According to the developers, Hellenica has been in development since 2013; it is currently slated for release on Windows, Mac and Linux in quarter 4 of 2016. However, it still hasn’t made it out of Steam Greenlight–if you wish to vote for it, you can do so here.

New release: Queen of Thieves

Celso Riva of Winter Wolves has written in to announce the release of Queen of Thieves, a hybrid dating sim / RPG. You play as three sisters, exploring catacombs, robbing the wealthy, and attempting to shack up with various folks around town (which, let’s be honest, most of us try to do in regular RPGs anyway).

So, here’s the narrative premise:

For a long time, the three sisters Joanne, Kira and Thalia were on their own, living their separate lives. They believed their mother Arianna, the Queen of Thieves, to be dead, executed twenty years ago in the town of Ahkra by the villainous Lord Raul Capello.

One day, their father Lysander calls them to Ahkra. He has big news: their mother, and his wife, could still be alive! At least, that’s what a mysterious figure is telling him. They seem to be the only one who knows what’s really going on, and they’re willing to help the sisters, for a price.

They’ll need to follow in their mother’s footsteps, robbing from the rich to meet the increasingly outrageous demands of their mysterious benefactor.

Here’s the trailer, which shows off the game’s art style quite effectively:

Among the reported features of Queen of Thieves, we have:

  • simplified RPG combat and gameplay
  • meet new people, 6 of whom might become more than friends
  • beautiful manga artwork
  • an original soundtrack with a theme song

Queen of Thieves is $24.99; you can snag it direct from the developer, or try a free demo: Windows, Mac, and Linux. Riva states that a mobile version is planned for release later this year, as well as a Steam release.

Fort Triumph announced

Adam Zeira writes in to let me know about a tactical RPG he’s now working on with 10 fellow indie devs in Tel Aviv, called Fort Triumph. (The development team, rather confusingly, is also called Fort Triumph.)

Zeira states that they’re making Fort Triumph (the game) a sort of fantasy X-Com, with procedurally generated battles and campaigns. Ambitiously, this approach extends to the narrative premise as well:

The stories of Fort Triumph are composed of several elements, procedurally generated from a selection of locations, enemies, allies, events, quests, and influenced by the player’s choices.

In one playthrough you may be facing a horde of monsters laying siege to your castle, in another you’re invading the domain of zealous subterranean molemen to rescue the duke’s spoiled son, and in a third you’re rallying an army for a climactic battle against a neighboring kingdom. No two playthroughs are alike.

As befits a game modeled on X-Com, there’s also a strategic layer in which “you can recruit and train heroes, buy and craft equipment, take on quests, travel the world.”

In a conversation at PAX, Zeira informed me that they’re shooting for a depth of interactivity in battle comparable to Telepath Tactics–and based on this description, I can certainly believe that:

Different hero classes can interact with the environment in different ways. This isn’t limited to specific objects, everything in the world is interactable: trees, rocks, barrels, and even enemies or allies can be pushed, pulled, knocked down, used as cover, frozen, burned and more.

Knock down a pillar, and use it as cover for your heroes. Uproot a tree, and use it to cross a river. Push a boulder, and climb on it as a platform to an area you otherwise couldn’t reach. Kick an ally over a chasm to reach an enemy archer – the possibilies are endless.

Here’s a gameplay trailer showing the current state of the game:

Fort Triumph are shooting to release Fort Triumph on Early Access in the first half of 2017; Windows only. (It’s also planned for eventual release on XBox One and PS4.) No word yet on what Fort Triumph–the game, not the team–will cost to purchase.

New release: Realm of Darkness

Dawn Kiefer writes in to inform me about the release of Realm of Darkness, a party-based wRPG with overhead exploration and turn-based combat that the developer claims is similar to that found in Lords of Xulima.

The premise:

The game starts out with the main character in his or her house. and the queen of a distant land comes to the character and asks for help. the character has helped them many years ago, and they need help once again.
The developer states that your party can support up to 5 characters, all of whom can be customized. Here’s a gameplay video:

Among the features, per the developer:

  • There are 8 character classes and over 20 useful skills
  • Over 300 unique types of enemies roam the lands , each capable of posing their own kinds of threats to your adventure
  • Weather isn’t just an effect; severe weather effects gameplay stats and skills
  • 138 side quests
  • Crafting
  • Over 400 different items, weapons, pieces of armor, and magic items
  • More than 100 hours of play time

Realm of Darkness is Windows only; you can snag it for $4.99 over on Checks Out Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire

Whalehammer Games provided me with a review copy of Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire, and as is my wont, I tried it out for an hour or so while recording the results. Here they are!

So, what’d I think?


New release: Avadon 3: The Warborn

Avadon 3
It seems the third and final chapter of Vogel’s Avadon wRPG trilogy–that being Avadon 3: The Warborn–is now out, less than a month after its initial announcement!

The premise remains:

You are a Hand of Avadon, the Black Fortress. You are a warrior and spy, judge and executioner, with nearly unlimited power to fight the enemies of your homeland. Your word is Law.

But your lands have been invaded. Your borders have been overrun by barbarians, monsters, and powerful armies. Cities are burning, and your people are desperate for help. You have discovered a path to ending the war, but your plan will need every scrap of power and resourcefulness to succeed.

The ending to the saga is not set in stone, though. Yes, you can defeat the enemy and save your people. You might also betray your people and bring victory to the invaders. You can even, with cunning and violence, gain great power and wealth for yourself. In the conclusion to the Avadon Saga, the choice will be up to you!

The trailer, too, is as it was:

Here are some of the game’s reported features:

  • Intricate and open-ended storyline with plenty of replay value.
  • Many different endings. Will you save your people or betray them? Help others or grab power for yourself?
  • Five different character classes, with dozens of unique spells and abilities.
  • Dozens of side quests, dungeons, and secrets to discover.
  • Hundreds of magical items to find. Enchant your artifacts to make them even more powerful.
  • Experience with earlier Avadon games isn’t needed to enjoy Avadon 3.

Avadon 3 is $20; you can snag it direct from the developer, or via Steam, GOG, or the Humble Store. (These last three places currently have a 10% launch week discount.)

If you need some more convincing, you can download a free demo of the game for both Windows and Mac, or simply wait for to Check it Out.

Dungeon Rats announced

Word reaches me that Iron Tower Studio, creators of The Age of Decadence (covered previously here), are working on a turn-based, party-based dungeon crawler set in the Age of Decadence universe called Dungeon Rats.

Here’s the premise:

Your adventure starts in the dusty shadows of a prison mine many leagues from any trading post or settlement. The ‘Second Chance’ (as in your second chance to become a productive member of society) is the most feared of all ‘hard labor’ and ‘gladiator camp’ prisons. Once the jewel in a string of rich iron mines, the shafts were long ago exhausted and the ore spent. No longer profitable using conventional slave labor, the prisoners who work it now trade whatever ore they can scratch from the rock for scraps of food.

Having already tested the futility of fighting the guards, you do not resist when you are hurled into a cage suspended above the main shaft. The barred door crashes shut, the crack of a whip signals a pair of slaves to the crank, and the cage begins its slow and creaking descent. A one way trip to hell awaits, past bright fires, screaming faces, and beyond, into the impenetrable blackness of the lower levels.

Over the course of the game, you’ll struggle to rise up the prison hierarchy. The devs state that “you must fight to survive and develop your combat skills, acquiring better weapons and equipment as you go. Recruit allies to your struggle or carry on as a lone wolf, and kill anyone foolish enough to stand in your way.”

Combat has reportedly been deepened a bit from AoD, with Iron Tower adding in flanking bonuses and the ability to position your party members before a battle.

Here are the planned features:

  • Tactical combat system, including standard attacks, aimed attacks targeting specific body parts, and per-weapon special attacks such as Whirlwind and Impale.
  • Detailed crafting and alchemy systems: forge your own weapons, brew potions and poisons, experiment with Liquid Fire and Black Powder.
  • 8 weapon types: Daggers, Swords, Axes, Hammers, Spears, Bows, Crossbows, and Throwing Weapons, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
  • Fully customizable main character, as well as 10 possible companions, not all of them human (maximum party size is 4).
  • 50 challenging fights

Word is, the game’s planned for release next month, in October 2016. Given that it uses the AoD engine, we can probably expect that it, too, will be a Windows-only release.

No video just yet, but they do have screenshots.

New release: Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire

Word reaches me that Australian indie studio Whalehammer Games has at least released its strategy RPG fantasy strategy game Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire.

The game is “set on a world fallen into a medieval dark age after the collapse of a spacefaring civilization”:

You must guide Tahira, the 20-year-old princess of Avestan, on the most challenging night of her life as she fights to save her people from the genocidal Astral Empire.

You’ll fight large-scale tactical turn-based battles using guerrilla warfare tactics, including ambushing enemies, taking cover and knocking foes off cliffs. You’ll also develop relationships with those traveling with you and uncover secrets of a time when man traversed the stars with impunity.

The art style in Tahira is deliberately modeled on the style seen in The Banner Saga, with character actions animated using the same rotoscoping technique. The developers are up-front about this, though it’s obvious enough even from watching the trailer:

Here are some of the game’s features, per the developers:

  • Turn-based Guerrilla Warfare – Control up to 20 characters as you fight against the vast army of the Astral Empire in tactical turn-based battles. You must utilize the environment to even the odds by ambushing enemies, taking cover and knocking foes off cliffs and rooftops.
  • Never Fight the Same Battle Twice – Tahira has no filler fights. Each encounter has been specifically designed to advance the story. Battles take place in large environments and feature multiple phases, ranging from the three-stage defence of a town to a desperate struggle to rescue trapped civilians.
  • More Than Just Fighting – You don’t just advance from one battle to the next in Tahira, between skirmishes, you’ll find yourself exploring the environment, learning Tahira’s thoughts about the world and getting to know the people who are traveling with you.
  • A Rich Cast of Colourful Characters – Including Baruti, an Avestan General; Claw and Hammer, a mercenary power couple attempting to repay a 20-year-old debt to Avestan; and Iba, Tahira’s loyal horse.
  • Tactics for Beginners & Experts – With four difficulty settings, Tahira caters to gamers just interested in the story, seasoned turn-based tactics veterans looking for a brutal challenge and everyone in between.

The campaign in Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire lasts about 10 hours. The game is available for Windows, Mac and Linux; you snag it for $14.99 on Steam, GOG or the Humble Store. As for me, I was offered a copy to look at, so I’ll be checking it on video for you soon!