Posted in November 4, 2013 ¬ 8:00 amh.Craig Stern2 Comments »
After last year’s glut of first-person dungeon crawlers, things have quieted down substantially. Luckily, we now have Paper Sorcerer to get the ball rolling again!
Created by Ultra Runaway Games after a successful Kickstarter last July, developer Jesse Gallagher describes Paper Sorcerer as “a single player turn based RPG focused on strategy, party-building, and environmental puzzles.”
A powerful sorcerer is on the cusp of dominating the land. A group of heroes bands together and seals him away inside a magical tome. Now as the sorcerer you must escape from this ancient prison and find a way to regain your magical powers using your wits and an array of summonable creatures to aid you. There may be more powerful forces at work as you navigate the dungeons and fight the heroes sent to subdue you…
If that sounds just a smidge like the set-up of Wizardry IV to you, you’re not alone. Luckily, things have come a long way in the art of game mechanics since that old Sir-Tech title, so I imagine we’ll have a much better time playing Paper Sorcerer than we did struggling to free Werdna.
Another thing that’s improved since the days of Wizardry IV: graphics. Just look at this game’s neat ink-print style!
Right on the heels of Hunters Grimm (previously covered here) comes Onyx, a jRPG collaboration between Aldorlea Games and Valkyria Games. (How is Valkyria games putting out this much stuff in such a short period? Beats me! Maybe they just contributed assets while they worked on Hunters Grimm?)
Regardless, here’s the premise of Onyx:
Play as Rowen, a secluded witch with a bad temper, who has to run after the people who stole her treasured ring given to her by her dead mother. But… could it be that the ring hides more than just emotional value?
Personally, I’m going to guess “yes,” but I suppose there’s technically only one way to find out: wait for someone else to buy the game, play it through, then spoil it for you.
…wait. Maybe there’s a second way to find out: get the game yourself and play it! Onyx is $19.99, Windows only. You can get a taste of what you’re in for by trying out the game’s free demo.
You are an agent of Avadon. The Black Fortress. Your job is to protect your homeland from the limitless threats that surround it. Titans. Monsters. Barbarians. Fading, jealous empires. The warriors and spies of Avadon must keep them weak and divided. Your resources are unlimited, and all must obey you.
But then Avadon was attacked. A sneak raid shattered the fortress, and, with it unable to keep order, madness has resulted. Civil war, barbarian raids, even conspiracies to destroy your people. Avadon’s power and influence has faded, and yet your people need it more than ever.
Everything is falling apart, and a shadowy power has risen to destroy your homeland. What will you do? Will you fight your enemies? Or will you join them and end Avadon’s power once and for all? The choice is yours!
What’s wrong–is a narrative summary not good enough for you? All right, fine. How about the official trailer?
“But Craig,” you say, “I don’t want to see an official trailer; I want to see you playing the beta.” Oh! Well, of course you do, dear reader! Of course you do. Luckily, I have that very thing.
Satisfied? I hope so! You can get Avadon 2 direct from the developer, or on Steam or GOG.com. The game costs $20 if you buy it direct, or $9.99 from GOG.com or Steam (with an additional 20% launch discount). So, uh, y’know. I always encourage you to buy direct from developers in the name of supporting their work, and Jeff Vogel is no exception, buuuuuuuuut I can’t say that Vogel’s made that choice especially rational in this instance, so I dunno. Maybe you should just let the small angel and devil on your shoulders fight it out?
Urthvas Williamson writes in to tell me about Breath of the Dragon, a strategy RPG he’s developing with procedural world generation and highly deterministic–some might even say spartan–mechanics.
The plot premise:
Bandits are scheming to topple the foundations of human society from within. There are rumors that the Orcs, who have not been seen in a century, are now being seen, with strange technological items that make them fearsome in combat. Who is supplying the Orcs, who is encouraging the bandits in their delusions of grandeur? You begin as a lone adventurer, a newly-escaped prisoner of the Bandit Camp. Just one person in a big world, what could you possibly do to change the course of events? But perhaps you can band together with some like-minded people and become a force of your own…
Now, about those mechanics. I’ll let Williamson explain them in his own words:
Breath of the Dragon is a procedurally-generated tactics RPG where your decisions matter more than in most games. We avoid crutches like ever-increasing hitpoints and attack power. As your characters level up, each new ability is a discrete new action, and these actions produce combinatoric results. This combinatoric power is how your party really gets stronger.
We work carefully to take Looking-Glass-style emergence, and a Binding of Issac-ish feeling of an ever-growing world full of tons of stuff, but we keep these things in a very crisp container. All actions are discrete, and there is no randomness in combat. Your characters have 4 hit points, even as they become very powerful! This crispness amplifies the importance of your decisions.
You can see how it looks in action in the game’s trailer:
In theory, I ought to enjoy this game quite a lot, as it plays to a lot of my own design sensibilities. My only concern is about the game’s graphical presentation. I can forgive crudeness (I mean, I didplay and enjoy His Dark Majesty)–but I find the stylistic inconsistency among the character sprites a bit jarring. I haven’t received any response from Williamson about whether he intends to make any changes there. Luckily, the developer tells me that “the visuals are going to be completely replaced. Everything you see is temporary graphics! The focus right now is on getting the gameplay right.”
Breath of the Dragon is being created for Windows, Mac, Linux, and unspecified “upcoming console platforms.” The game is planned for release near the end of 2014.
Posted in October 28, 2013 ¬ 7:27 pmh.Craig Stern2 Comments »
Lars Doucet of Level Up Labs writes in to tell me that a sequel to last year’s delightful tower defense/RPG hybrid Defender’s Quest is on the way. Defender’s Quest II: Mists of Ruin takes place in an entirely new setting with an all-new cast of characters and a story wholly unconnected to what transpired in the last game.
While that might distress those of us who rather liked the setting and characters of the first game (written by a real-life English major!), the premise of the sequel seems to hold some promise of its own:
Mists of Ruin takes place in a new setting — a world whose surface has been covered by toxic gas for all of recorded history. Humans shelter in crumbling domed cities, sealed tunnels beneath the earth, or small islands of land jutting just above the toxic clouds. Your party is a domed city scavenger squad, sent into the wastes to recover ancient technology, hoping to keep the systems alive for one more generation…
That reminds me of the plot to the original Fallout in all the best ways. Also heartening: Kevin Penkin (responsible for the excellent soundtrack to the original game) is returning as composer, and Lars has somehow enticed Dean Dodrill to handle animation duties as well. (If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Dodrill is the incredibly talented animator and designer behind Dust: An Elysian Tale.)
Defender’s Quest II is still early in development, with no planned release date as of yet. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t gawk at some mockups and concept art, now does it? Oh, also: you can pre-order the game right now if you like. Lars has been fairly vocal about his distrust of Kickstarter, so he’s decided to alpha fund via his own site. You can participate in that right here.
Posted in October 25, 2013 ¬ 8:56 pmh.Craig Stern2 Comments »
Word reaches me of a side-scrolling roguelike-like, an aRPG platformer with procedurally generated dungeons. The name? Catacomb Kids.
Developer Tyriq Plummer (a.k.a. Four Bit Friday) states that the game is deliberately named after the Aesop Rock song–interesting trivia, though perhaps not super relevant to what the game is about. The actual premise:
Traverse procedurally generated dungeons and hack, slash, burn, and blast your way through hordes of things that want to kill you.
Become a force to be reckoned with as you delve deeper into the deadly Catacombs. Perhaps you will emerge as the hero who slays Abys, the Demon Sorceress who calls the dungeon her domain.
Or maybe you’ll just be another poor soul who succumbs to the reaper.
When will it be released, and on what platforms? Great question! All we know right now is that it’s “still a ways off from being done,” which I believe translates from developer-ese to “not until 2014 at the earliest.” That’s just my guess. I’ve reached out to Tyriq for more info–I’ll update when I have it.
Posted in October 24, 2013 ¬ 5:04 pmh.Craig Stern4 Comments »
Oh, hm. Another day has passed. I suppose I should post some more indie RPG news? Very well! Let’s do that. Word reaches me that Valkyria Games (not to be confused with Sega’s Chronicles of the same name) has come out with a new jRPG by the name Hunters Grimm. Suddenly, that image to the right makes perfect sense!
Anyway. The premise:
For Sarai and Nicholas Grimm, life is simple: find the monsters, beat the monsters, take the money, frosty chocolate milkshakes and boring old research books for all.
But one night, one favour to a friend has set them on a path neither can predict. An attempt at a selfless act has them branded outlaws, hunted by an old rival, and trying to understand just what is happening alongside their personal hero. What awaits them is the beginning of an adventure neither of them are prepared for.
There’s a quality to this prose description here that makes me more interested in this game than I usually am in RPG Maker jRPGs. This isn’t just another hero’s journey, it seems, and the person writing it can actually put words together in arrangements that call to mind top-shelf young adult fiction. (That might not sound like a compliment, but given the rather low bar set by most jRPGs, this is actually pretty darn good.)
And speaking of top-shelf young adult fiction: is it just me, or does the brother look just a smidge like Harry Potter?…
Sorry, got off topic. Where was I? Ah, yes. The game. It’s out now for Windows–the full thing costs $14.99, but you can try the free demo first to see if you like it.
We have reached a new milestone in indie RPGs. Up until last week, Jesus Christ had one role and one role only in jRPGs: to have his name muttered angrily under one’s breath after running into the 15th random battle in a row. No longer! As of October 15, 2013, Jesus Christ has his very own jRPG. Three of them, in fact: Baby Jesus Christ RPG, Jesus Christ RPG, and Rise Jesus Christ RPG.
you can play as Jesus Christ and his friends and also his parents and the three wise kings.
So, you know, there’s that. Given the proliferation of god-killing plotlines that we commonly find in jRPGs, the decision to use this particular genre as a vehicle for telling the story of Jesus seems almost subversive (if not a little cheeky). I had to know: why a Jesus Christ jRPG? The author, Felipe, responded:
Before deciding on Jesus Christ, I was looking into adapting any story into an RPG. It occurred to me that I would love to play a game about Jesus that was neither too reverent (thus off-putting) nor disrespectful. As a player, I would like just a fun game that kept some basic principles intact.
This decision helped in shaping the gameplay:
- I would not write any of Jesus’ words, which were all quoted straight from the bible. His words and other bible quotes in this trilogy are between quotation marks.
- Jesus, for instance, cannot attack and he’s also immune to any status effects. Why? because status effects are cured by miracles and Jesus never performed a miracle on himself.
On top of that, I also tipped my hat to the Final Fantasy series (which explains why I wrote an arpeggiated theme song) and Dragon Quest (with the curved logo).
Summing up, just tried to do something amusing and non-preachy, while respecting the characters.
Given that Jesus cannot attack, I can only assume that he’s portrayed as a character in the healer mold. Here’s a trailer showing a bit of what you’ll be in for:
Posted in October 22, 2013 ¬ 11:50 amh.Craig Stern1 Comment »
Remember Fantasy Kommander: Eukarion Wars? (I hope so–I just posted about it a few days ago!) The developers were kind enough to give me a copy of the game to look at–per tradition, I have done so, recording the affair and providing my thoughts in real-time as I go.
Without further ado! (Note: I recommend watching fullscreen in HD, as some details won’t be legible otherwise.)
All in all, Fantasy Kommander: Eukarion Wars strikes me as a reasonably competent fantasy strategy title. I quite like the game’s leveling and skill tree system–it’s pretty rare for a fantasy strategy title to give you that level of control over your units’ development.
There were a few rough edges in terms of the game’s presentation, but nothing too heinous. The game’s text would have benefited from proofreading by a good English-speaking editor, but the writing does what it needs to do: it establishes context and gives you the sense of fighting a campaign rather than a bunch of disconnected micro-battles. Likewise, although there were a few missteps in the way the game’s voice-overs were implemented, the voice acting itself is of high quality, and helps lend character to the game’s various NPCs.
The one thing that worries me about this game so far is the third battle; it’s very early into the campaign, and yet it’s hard as nails. I sat down this morning to try to finally beat it. I did so, twice. But it took a very specific strategy. And even then, if the enemy’s stronger attacking units get lucky hits on you, you’re done. I tried the battle three times; even knowing the correct strategy, I still ended up losing once when an enemy got a critical hit on my hero unit.
My feelings on games that rely heavily on randomized results are well-known, so I won’t rehash them here. Suffice it to say that by requiring the player to fight against an extremely narrow time window for victory, this particular battle brought three big design weaknesses right to the fore: the game uses highly randomized damage (which means that the same attack can have wildly differing results in any given playthrough); lack of clear information (I had no way of knowing for sure what direction enemies were facing, how far enemies could move, or how far their spells could reach); and the use of critical hits by enemies (which is one of the most maddeningly anachronistic and un-fun mechanics you can use in a game like this).
So basically: FK:EW has a lot of strengths, but it’s not without flaws. With all that said, this is still a first impressions piece–I really need to play through more of the game’s missions before I can reach any sort of final conclusion about whether it’s ultimately worth picking up.
If you like what you see, you can nab Eldritch on Steam right here. The game’s full price is $14.99, but it’s currently 20% off during launch, making it $11.99 for the next week and a half or so. It’s Windows only for now, but the game’s site states that it is “Coming soon to Mac and Linux!”