Latest Publications

New Release: Sunless Sea

Sunless Sea
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Word reaches me that there’s a new top-down, real-time roguelike-like in town by the name of Sunless Sea, influenced by such titles as Elite and FTL.

Developed by Failbetter Games, Sunless Sea gives you a ship, lets you hire a crew, and sets you off to explore a procedurally generated, pitch-black underground ocean where you must manage your resources to survive:

The Unterzee is a realm of sombre beauty. It is always night – where that light off your starboard bow might be a friendly port or the glowing teeth of a zee-beast. Turn up your lights to see farthest, let them sink low to escape detection… or to become the hunter.

Like everything else in Sunless Sea, light has its cost, and not just in the fuel it takes to power your glim-lamps. If you can see your enemy, they can see you, and you’ll risk leaving yourself adrift at the mercy of the tideless black.

Improve and customise your ship as you prowess on the black waters improves. Begin with a Splinter-Salvo and Evasive Manoeuvres: aspire to the Rarefaction Cannon and the terrifying Unclear Bomb…

And if that isn’t enough to intrigue you, perhaps this launch trailer will change your mind:

Sunless Sea is available for Windows and Mac on GOG, on Steam, and via the Humble Store. $18.99.

Darkest Dungeon released on early access

Darkest Dungeon
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Remember Darkest Dungeon? Not quite a year after achieving smashing success on Kickstarter, the dark, psychologically fraught dungeon delver has now been made available for us to play via Steam Early Access.

Here’s an early access trailer that developer Red Hook Studios just put out:

Mac and Windows; $19.99.

Himeko Sutori announced

Himeko Sutori
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Nathaniel Ayer writes in to announce Himeko Sutori, a new strategy RPG that he’s developing solo.

Two things promise to make Himeko Sutori really stand out, in my estimation: first, the finished game will have (and I quote) “over 100 unique named units that you can customize, equip, and level-up as you uncover the schemes and betrayals that have thrown the kingdom into civil war.” Whoa. Holy hell is that ever a lot of characters. I mean, I’m on the tail-end of developing a strategy RPG with less than 30 playable characters myself, so you can trust me when I say that the thought of writing one hundred characters is making me hyperventilate just a little.

The other thing that’s interesting to me is that you won’t be fielding these characters individually, but rather in squads with AI governing the behavior of individual characters. Ayer writes:

In combat, each of your individual and unique characters will use his or her special abilities automatically to heal allies, pick off weak enemies, or deal out massive damage to enemy commanders.  As you build your squads, you will have to make strategic decisions:  Do you make a squad of all archers in order to maximize your ranged damage?  Or do you mix in knights and clerics to make the squad more rugged in close combat?

You know what that reminds me of? Square Enix’s The Last Remnant, that’s what! Here’s hoping that Ayer can make that formula work better than Square Enix did.

Ayer states that there’s an exploration mode planned as well:

In exploration mode you’ll be able to wander through city and countryside, talk to NPCs, get quests, buy equipment, hire and promote soldiers, and discover new places.  The events in exploration mode can thrust you into combat mode, where you and your AI opponent will take turns moving your armies squad by squad across the battlefield, positioning them for the best tactical advantage.

Although Himeko Sutori is still fairly early in development, Ayer steered me toward this video blog showing combat mode in action:

Himeko Sutori is on Kickstarter right now, where it is seeking a modest $15,000 in funding (though Ayer assures me he’ll stick with it regardless of the outcome). If this game sounds like it’s up your alley, why not kick it a few bucks?

Himeko Sutori - Combat
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Dead State demo released

Dead State
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Christina Ramey of DoubleBear writes in to announce the release of a free demo for Dead State, the zombie-themed survival wRPG that I last covered here.

The demo, much like the game itself, is Windows-only; it’s available right here on the game’s Steam page.

Sui Generis announced

Sui Generis
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Okay, this was actually announced quite a while ago, buuuut I never got around to posting about it, so here we go regardless! Sui Generis is a 3D isometric action RPG that’s been in development by Bare Mettle Entertainment for a few years now.

The premise:

On a treacherous world with a tortured history the meagre remnants of humanity live in awe of a misconceived past, haunted by forgotten gods and fearful of the very ground they tread. A vast sprawling underworld ever present below their feet, baleful demons lying in wait. Thaumaturges, people with powerful psychic abilities, have abandoned their once benevolent nature turning to cruel and dark activities in their quest for ultimate power. Awoken by impending threats, an abandoned and damaged being gives rise to its ancient weapons who now walk amongst the people again.

The thing that makes Sui Generis stand out–and it really makes it stand out–is its real-time, physics-based combat. There hasn’t been a new video of this uploaded since November 2013, but the pre-alpha gameplay video remains impressive:

(There’s a bonus video showing how the game controls as well.) The developers have written that they want the finished game to be open world, and that they want it to feel as much like a simulation as possible, with everything in the world mutable and reactive.

Despite the rather long time lapse between the last video and today, the developers have kept up with posting updates every few months or so; in October 2014, for instance, they released a playable alpha of a prelude called “Exanima” to their alpha access tier Kickstarter backers. So far as I can tell, it seems that the project remains alive.

As for when this will be released…well, your guess is as good as mine. The prelude was originally scheduled for a full (read: not alpha) release in May 2014, five months before the prelude’s alpha version actually came out. Given the pace of progress, I would not expect this game to be completed any time before 2016.

Sui Generis is planned for Windows, with a Mac port very likely.

Starcrawlers announced

Star Crawlers
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Word reaches me that there’s a sci-fi first-person dungeon crawler in development by San Diego indie studio Juggernaut Games called Star Crawlers.

Star Crawlers employs a narrative AI that procedurally generates missions and dungeons with enemies, traps, and loot. This reminds me a little bit of the classic 1990 dungeon crawler Captive, though presumably Star Crawlers will not just be generating the same sequence of dungeons every time using the same seed, as Captive did.

Anyway! The premise of Star Crawlers:

[A] massive colony ship, the Stella Marin,…has drifted into your sector on the fringes of space, its colonists and crew mysteriously vanished. You run a crew of freelance adventurers, and you’ll investigate the ship and its strange history as you take on jobs from powerful megacorps all of whom have their own agendas regarding the ship and its secrets.

Star Crawlers is not a Dungeon Master-alike–combat in it is turn-based and employs a time unit system, more like Lords of Xulima by way of X-COM than Legend of Grimrock.

It looks pretty darn nice, frankly–as well it should, given that the game raised over $100,000 on Kickstarter.

Star Crawlers is being developed for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It isn’t clear when it’s releasing just yet, but it’s available for pre-order on the developer’s site for $15;and $25 will get you access to the beta.

Balrum announced

Balrum
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Word reaches me that there’s an isometric 2D wRPG called Balrum in development–not only in development, in fact, but late in development.

The premise: “A maverick ballroom dancer risks his career by performing an unusual routine and sets out to succeed with a new partner.” Oh, wait…that’s the premise of the 1992 Australian comedy Strictly Ballroom. My bad. Here’s the premise of Balrum:

Now that Nasrus revealed his plot, the kings of Balrum sent their armies to the borders of the unknown lands captured by Nasrus. The power of the undead armies had been greatly underestimated. No one survived  the battles. Without the armies of the kings, chaos has overcome Balrum. Large bandit clans formed and started to live by their own rules. Soon the kings of Balrum had fallen. Two little village stood up against the new bandit rulers and decided that the only way they will survive is if they hide in the Dark Woods. No one dare enter the Dark Woods and this is what the villagers took advantage of. A horrible deal has been made, but the villagers are safe for now. The undead hordes of Nasrus are still waiting at the borders, but they can march into the heart of Balrum anytime their lord commands and there is no one to stop them. The people wonder why the good gods of Balrum, Adacus and Eogor don’t seem to be interested in the events that took place..

Although exploration of the world of Balrum occurs in real time, the game shifts into turn-based mode for combat. According to the developers, the combat system features both backstab damage and friendly fire.

The game also features a stealth system, a crafting system, farming, hunting, and the ability to build a custom home (which NPCs can then visit to leave notes or offer quests).

Here’s a very short gameplay video from March 2014, the last time the devs uploaded a new video:

Developer Balcony Team wrote in November that they plan to release Balrum in a few months, which should mean we’re getting quite close to release. It’s planned for Windows, Mac and Linux.

New release: Ramble Planet

Ramble Planet
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Marek Naum writes in to tell me about Ramble Planet, a strange sci-fi RPG developed by A. Hagen using the OHRRPGCE game creation engine. (It released almost a year ago, but that’s recent enough that I’ll just count it as a new release.)

The premise:

Your spaceship has crashed on Badmark, a frontier planet and tourist hotspot. To escape, you must scour this hostile landscape for replacement parts while befriending or battling its strange denizens.

The game features strange, colorful, iconographic tile graphics. There’s a gameplay trailer that shows off off the start of the game, where you can see everything in motion:

The world seems interesting, although the game’s battles all appear to auto-resolve, which means the game’s challenge is likely to come more or less exclusively from exploration and puzzle solving.

According to the developer, Ramble Planet’s features include:

  • Free-roaming exploration of a sprawling world.
  • Numerous puzzles and secrets.
  • 3 playable alien races with unique agendas.
  • Groovy original music.

Ramble Planet is free; download it for Windows, Android, or OUYA.

Vidar announced

Vidar
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Dean Razavi writes in to announce Vidar, which he describes as an “RPG puzzler” with a partially-randomized narrative that changes each time you play. Razavi, the project lead, has been developing Vidar in RPG Maker in collaboration with 2D pixel artist Becca Bair and musician Adrian Jakubiak.

The premise:

Once the capital of a thriving Kingdom, Vidar has fallen into ruin. Tensions between the remaining citizens are high as a terrible snow storm blocks the exits, supplies run low, and the Beast continues to strike.

Because NPCs will be chosen at random to die, each person will experience different cutscenes out of over a hundred possible interactions between the cast. If you’re lucky, you’ll learn the deepest secrets of a handful. If you’re not, Vidar will be forgotten.

As you journey through the mountain, you’ll find remnants of the old Kingdom; although buried, their legacy forever haunts Vidar. Depending on your actions – and the Beast’s appetite – you may even stir some old spirits.

Perhaps the best way to describe Vidar is as an “adventure game by way of Werewolf.” Vidar isn’t a proper RPG, as there isn’t any stat progression (or even combat) in the game. Challenges are mostly puzzle challenges; all advancement occurs by way of item collection. Most items, in turn, are received as quest rewards. Because the quests you receive differ with each playthrough, you will only collect a subset of the game’s items on any given run.

Perhaps this trailer will help explain:

Vidar’s main features are narrative in nature, although the way you progress through the quest changes from a mechanical perspective with each playthrough as well:

  • Random puzzle-driven exploration. In the depths of the Beast’s lair, you’ll encounter dozens of dungeon-exploring puzzles. The rooms a player is sent to, the path they take, and the actual puzzles displayed are all randomized. What this means is that a player can return to Vidar to see a new story and not be forced to solve the same puzzles they solved on their last playthrough.
  • Random NPC deaths. The 24 left in Vidar each have something (or things) to help you on your journey. A loaf of bread. A campfire. A pocket watch. But you’ll need to help them before the Beast takes them. Every night, an NPC chosen at random will die; playing through a second time, you’ll discover new stories, relationships, and items that you didn’t have the first.
  • Random Quests. Each of the 24 NPCs can have dramatically different story arcs, depending on who dies when and what quests you’re able to complete. Quests they give you are entirely dependent on their needs, with some quest-lines chaining from one NPC to the next – and that means that in every game, you’ll see a brand new set of quests.

Vidar is currently on Kickstarter, although Razavi assures me the game will be completed regardless of the campaign’s success. Still, if you want to help Vidar hit its goal, you can do so right here. There is also a Windows-only, pre-alpha demo here if you want to see what the game is aiming at.

Ambition of the Slimes gets English language update

Ambition of the Slimes
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Developer Masaya Takahashi writes in to tell me that Ambition of the Slimes (the oddball mobile sRPG we previously covered here) has been updated to version 2.50, with support for English text.

Even without the English, I managed to muddle through the first battle, eventually figuring out what all the Japanese menu options stood for through trial and error. However, getting everything in English is going to make the task of knowing what I’m doing a lot easier (and will also allow me to know just what the heck is going on in the game’s madcap story).

Ambition of the Slimes is free; more info on how to get the game here.