Latest Publications

Underrail public alpha released

We last covered real-time, isometric, sci-fi wRPG Underrail way, way back in 2012 (not counting the time we showed an updated trailer for the game two years ago).

Word now reaches me that Underrail–which is still in alpha all these years later–has now been released for public consumption on Steam Early Access, Desura, and Gamersgate at a $10 price point (minus a few cents).

You can watch me playing a very old build of the game here if you want a sense of how the game plays before plunking down money.

New release: Worlds of Magic

Worlds of Magic
Robert Łukaszewski writes in to tell me that fantasy turn-based tactics / 4X game Worlds of Magic has been released. Developed by Wasteland Interactive, WoM bills itself as “a true spiritual successor” to Master of Magic.

As a Master of Magic clone, WoM follows a similar formula. You select several spheres of magic to specialize in, pick character perks, then procedurally generate a world in which to do fantasy strategy. Combat and character development proceed according to the D20 ruleset, which is an innovation unique to WoM. The trailer gives a sense of how it all looks in practice:

Now, I actually tried a beta version of the game back in September 2014 with the intention of making an Checks Out episode on it. However, it didn’t quite work out. I should probably preface this by admitting that the one time I played Master of Magic, I bounced off the game hard. My play session consisted of me starting the game, struggling for a few minutes to figure out the interface, finding a tower right near my starting city, sending my spearmen into it, and then immediately getting slaughtered–by pixies, of all things. That was around the time I decided MoM might not be for me.

Worlds of Magic’s tutorial told me how to use the interface, but due to my lack of MoM experience, I was left with zero clue as to how I should actually proceed in playing the game. One email to the developers later, and I learned how to start out. Their advice: “max out Craftsmen in your city, but leave enough food to maintain your starting units. Begin building Granary, then Sawmill (for Dracs) or Armory (Elves). Cast city-improving spells if you have some (Tranquility, Fertilize Soil, Prosperity to name a few). After the second building has been constructed, recruit 2-3 javelineers or 2 glaive guards and an archer unit.”

Even with this advice in hand, the early game proceeded so slowly that recording the thing just wasn’t a viable option. We’re talking dozens of turns to build those first two structures and produce my first set of cannon fodder units. During that period, all I could do was slowly, painstakingly scout a few spaces around the map with the one unit the game started me with, then click the button to end my turn, then wait for the two other AI players to move–scout a few more spaces, click, wait. Rinse and repeat that several dozen times, and you basically have the video. I think it might have actually literally bored you all to death.

Due to the above, I never got very far into the game despite starting a play session 3 or 4 times. Consequently, I don’t really have an opinion on WoM right now other than to say that it has a really slow start. Then again, Alec Meer of RPS fame thinks the game plays briskly by 4X standards, so maybe my expectations are off. If you liked Master of Magic, it’s likely that you’ll have an easier time getting into this than I did.

Worlds of Magic is available on Steam or direct from the developer at a $39.99 price point; Windows (64-bit only), Mac and Linux.

Back to Back: Indie RPGS to fund

Greetings, esteemed readers of blogs and backers of projects! It is once again time to peer into the misty depths of the Vale of Crowdfunding and see what we might see.

Of those we last spied, Edge of Eternity, Infernax, Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire, Underworld Ascendant, and WarRab: Veteran have emerged victorious; the corpses of Legends of Pixelia, Seaworthy, Unraveled, and Windwalkers scatter the valley floor.

But wait! What new souls brave those musty depths?


New release: Enemy

Tom Johnson writes in to announce the release of Enemy, a squad-based tactical RPG modeled in large part on X-COM and Jagged Alliance.

The narrative is fairly minimal, set in a self-consciously video gamey world:

Four evil kings (a cyclops, a slime, a vampire, and a rogue AI) are terrorizing the land and a squad of classic game heroes bands together to put a stop to it. The name of the land is never given, but there are four types of areas within it: a tropical zone based on classic action games, a forest inspired by classic adventure games, a swamp inspired by classic horror games, and a plains inspired by classic platformers.

You start the game with one player-created character and two procedurally generated recruits with randomly chosen classes and attributes, and can recruit more characters (including 10 uniques and an unlimited supply of randomly generated townspeople). Though most characters are generated by the game, you can guide the progression of all characters upon level up by assigning skill points among eight skills (melee, ranged, bomb, throw, health, mind, endurance, and reaction).

There is a procedurally generated overworld that you can direct your squad around and explore. Meanwhile, combat takes place in turn-based fashion with time units a la X-COM. The main attraction here, in the dev’s own words, is that “[e]verything in the environment is dynamic: roofs collapse, trees topple, and fire spreads out of control, so you are always veering from one disaster to the next.”

The trailer shows what this looks like in practice:

The price of complexity and dynamism, it seems, is that everything must be rendered in voxels. No matter: this looks promising, and I imagine I’ll be checking it out shortly.

Enemy appears to be available exclusively through Steam; $14.99 for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

New release: Echo Dawn: Shattered Visions

Echo Dawn
Word reaches me that there’s a new jRPG out for iPhone by the name of Echo Dawn: Shattered Visions. Developed by Pixel Light Games, Echo Dawn features original art and what appears to be a custom engine, meaning that you won’t be staring at default RPG Maker assets for hours on end while playing it.

The premise:

Explore an epic fantasy where the first humans face corruption and ultimate destruction. A story of memories, blood, death, corruption, betrayal, love, life, friendship and the future of all things.

Echo Dawn features player-directed stat growth upon level up, as well as different builds for each class that let you focus on different tactics.

The devs assert that Echo Dawn has a 15 hour running time, featuring 7 character classes, “hundreds of items and abilities,” 4 difficulty levels, and 4 optional challenge bosses.

Echo Dawn is available for iOS at a $3.99 price point.

New release: Elliot Quest

Elliot Quest
The past few months have been tough–I’ve had to pour enormous amounts of time and effort into game development, and that means that I’ve missed certain things that I really should have been on top of for Alas. One such a thing is the PC release of Elliot Quest!

You may recall Elliot Quest, the side-scrolling Zelda-alike inspired by Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. We previously covered it here back in mid-2013. In November of 2014, Ansimuz Games (i.e. Mexican indie developer Luis Zuno) released Elliot Quest on PC; and today, it is available for WiiU as well.

The premise:

After Elliot’s wife disappears, he falls sick and attempts to take his own life–only to discovers that he can’t die. Plagued by nightmares and growing weaker by the day, Elliot seeks out a local Sage, who tells him that he’s the victim of a rare curse. A demon called a Satar is slowly consuming Elliot’s vitality. If Elliot can’t find a cure to the curse before it’s too late, he will become a Satar. His only hope is to ask for the help of one of the island’s Guardians, who have kept the Satar from taking over Urele. Elliot can’t die—but he’s still running out of time.

There’s a trailer right here:

Elliot Quest is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux on Steam and direct from the developer at a $9.99 price point; and for WiiU for $12.99. It seems to be available for OUYA too, though I can’t find a price listed. Zuno has stated that he’s going to port the game to the Amazon Fire TV as well, though I haven’t been able to find a link to it.

A Dragon Named Coal announced

A Dragon Named Coal
Rachel Blue writes in to announce a new side-scrolling Metroidvania / action RPG called A Dragon Named Coal. In development by Clever Crow Games, ADNC features branching dialog options, open-ended exploration, and the ability to play as a baby black dragon who runs around hacking people to death with an improbably large sword.

The premise:

Civil war hollows out a legendary kingdom to a husk of its former glory. In a last effort to save his people a king embarks on one last quest. But a young outcasted dragon named Coal may be able to accomplish what the king’s great armies and sorcerers cannot. For his decisions will echo throughout generations to doom or save everyone.

The planned list of features reads as follows:

  • Explore a dark fantasy open world that reaps what you sow
  • Cleverly composed levels that reward exploration and experimentation
  • Your decisions drastically change how villains and heroes develop
  • Upgrade your skills with a Skyrim style system reworked for metroidvania mechanics
  • Flexible companion system with characters that change based on playstyle

Though A Dragon Named Coal is in pre-alpha, the devs have already made a browser demo available in order to gather player feedback. I have played through a bit of it myself; it’s still quite rough, but that’s to be expected of a pre-alpha. The game already has some lovely music and voice work, though, and I believe it will turn out worthwhile if they can just improve the game’s controls and combat mechanics.

Blue estimates that A Dragon Named Coal will see final release sometime in 2017 for Windows, Mac, Linux, XBox One, and Playstation 4.

Blackfaun announced

Tim McMahon writes in to announce Blackfaun, a top-down action RPG in development by Wild Guess Software that he describes as a mix between Diablo and The Binding of Isaac.

It doesn’t have a narrative premise just yet, only this: “Thematically, Blackfaun is a game about perspective – how each character’s point of view and actions determines the narrative.” So, I’m guessing they aren’t relying on a story to hook us here.

Mechanically, the game features a Diablo-style leveling scheme, 8-directional movement, and large mobs of enemies. McMahon writes: “The player’s main hand (left click) is all projectiles a la Isaac, modified by items that are equipped. The player’s off hand (right click) is a “mana burst” which by default pushes enemies away from the player. This is also augmented by equipped items.”

You can see this reflected in the game’s latest trailer:

Blackfaun is already Greenlit on Steam; it’s planned for release late this year below or around $15. Windows, Mac, and Linux.


Star Crawlers now in paid beta

Star Crawlers
The Star Crawlers team has emailed me to announce that the beta version of their sci-fi first-person dungeon crawler (previously covered here) has now been made available to purchase on Steam Early Access.

It’s $19.99, though there is presently a discount. Windows, Mac and Linux.

Edge of Eternity announced

Edge of Eternity
We previously covered Edge of Eternity on Back to Back–but given that it’s close to 300% funded, I think it’s safe to treat this one as a game that’s going forward with development.

In development by the four-person French outfit Midgar Studio, Edge of Eternity looks to me like the latest of a series attempts to capitalize on Square Enix’s recent failures. (And indeed, with a studio name like “Midgar,” how could it not be?)

In case there was any doubt that this is basically going to be a 3D Final Fantasy clone, the devs describe Edge of Eternity as a “tribute to JRPG classics,” with an active-time battle system and a mixed fantasy and sci-fi world. They write:

Edge Of Eternity s’inspire des mécaniques de jeu qui ont fait le succès de titres mythiques (tel que FFVII) pour en proposer une vision modernisée.

Which, loosely translated, means that they want to create a modern take on the jRPG using mechanics from mythic titles like Final Fantasy VII. The main thing that seems to set Edge of Eternity apart from FF7 and the like is the devs’ apparent commitment to breaking with linearity, providing an open overworld and a branching, nonlinear story.

Speaking of story, here’s the premise:

Heryon was once a peaceful world. For years, the crystals gave the three realms of Astrya, Junor and Dehostra, the same access to powerful magic powers and created an harmonious balance.

Then They came…They came above Junor first. In no time, their massive spaceship destroyed everything that was once a majestic capital city and they took possession of the realm. Reynan, Grand General of Dehostra’s armies, took leadership for the defense of Heryon. He founded the Consortium and used all the magical power the crystals could give to launch the counterattack. Battles after battles, the Consortium pushed the invaders back and got them trapped into their landed spaceship transformed into an invincible fortress. Unable to break the siege, the enemy made a dreadful move: unleash of a terrible biological weapon people will soon call “The Metal Sickness”.

Now, 30 years later, the siege is still going on and Heryon lives in pain and in fear of a new open war.

There are just under 11 days left on the Edge of Eternity Kickstarter. The “digital copy of the game tier” lists an estimated delivery date of December 2016; Windows, Mac, Linux, XBox One, and Playstation 4.