Latest Publications

New release: Dex

RPG news has been a bit slow lately, or so it has seemed–I keep digging down into my inbox and deleting dozens of emails from PR flacks about games that aren’t even arguably RPGs, then getting frustrated and running off to do something else. But wait, what’s this? Imagine my delight to find out that Dex (previously covered here) is now out!

Developed by Czech indies Dreadlocks Ltd., Dex is a side-scrolling action RPG set in a grim cyberpunk future. The premise:

Explore the dark alleys of Harbor Prime and a host of diverse locations in both physical reality and the wild reaches of cyberspace.

Discover the truth behind an enigmatic AI striving to reach the Singularity, a theoretical “event horizon” in which artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence and all bets about the future will be off.

How will you play your part in the story?

Here’s the release trailer:

And here’s the feature list:

  • Rare melding of realism and creative vision: Realistic action, mature storyline, and complex character interactions meld with hand-drawn characters, animations, and locations, arcade-style melee combat, and an original conception of cyberspace.
  • Multiple solutions to problems: Operate in cyberspace or normal reality. Overcome obstacles using skills, weapons, special equipment…
  • Meaningful character progression choices: Will you be a silent assassin, a hacker, or a straightforward gunfighter? Improve your character and gear to unlock gameplay-changing upgrades that reinforce and customize your gameplay style.
  • Unique hacking mechanic: Transfer your consciousness to your avatar, overcome intrusion countermeasures, take action, and then return back to your body in a fraction of a real-time second to see the results – deactivated turrets, overloaded devices, enemies with crippled implants…
  • Neo-cyberpunk: Story deeply inspired by the cyberpunk novels of William Gibson and other classical cyberpunk authors, flavored with a contemporary concept of augmented reality.
  • Rich game world and mindful level design: Visit diverse locations in Harbor Prime, a futuristic city complete with luxurious skyscrapers, run-down shantytowns, and seedy red-light districts. Take part in street brawls, steal corporate data, overcome environmental hazards, and, of course, stay alive – no easy task.
  • Full voice acting: Interactive dialogues using hand-drawn sprite animations, fully voice-acted by professional actors.

Dex is available for $19.99 (minus any release discounts) on Steam, and in DRM-free form via the Humble Store. Windows Mac and Linux; the developers state that WiiU and OUYA ports will be forthcoming.

Battle Brothers enters early access

Battle Brothers
Word reaches me that the fantasy strategy / tactical RPG Battle Brothers (previously covered here) has been released to early access purchasers. In development by German indies Overhype Studios, Battle Brothers involves creating and equipping small armies of characters on an overworld map, maneuvering them to various locations via said map, and then “zooming in” to engage in turn-based tactical battles. It’s fantasy X-COM, basically.

There isn’t actually a proper story yet, though that’s on the list of planned features. For now, you’re just a mercenary company taking on whatever jobs you like without any overarching goal. To wit:

The game consists of a strategic worldmap and a tactical combat layer. On the worldmap you can freely travel in order to take contracts that earn you good coin, find places worth looting, enemies worth pursuing or towns to resupply and hire men at. This is also where you manage, level up and equip your Battle Brothers. Once you engage a hostile party the game will switch to a tactical map where the actual fighting takes place as detailed turn based combat.

The world map is procedurally generated, death is permanent, equipment is extensive, and character development is open-ended rather than class-based. It sounds great, basically. It also helps that the graphical style is beautiful and painterly (though at the cost of your characters having legs or torsos or animations):

The devs caution that BB is far from finished; they expect development to continue for another year or so. You can snag the current alpha of the game direct from the developers for $19.99, or on Steam Early Access for that same amount. Windows only.

New release: Telepath Tactics

After many years in development, the strategy RPG Telepath Tactics has now been released. Developed by Chicago-based indie Sinister Design*, Telepath Tactics is modeled after Fire Emblem (albeit with mod support, largely deterministic mechanics, and a wider variety of tactical systems).

The main game consists of a single player campaign; the premise:

It was deep winter when young Emma and Sabrina Strider fled slavery in the mines of Kovit. Exhausted and on the verge of starvation, they were found and taken in by a tribe of Lissit, reptilian warriors, who raised the sisters as their own.

Now Emma trains tirelessly, bent on revenge and the prospect of rescuing their ailing father from bondage. But the years are never kind to a miner, and time grows desperately short. The sisters will need all of their wits–and the help of some unlikely allies–if they are to succeed…

Story aside, the biggest thing that sets this game apart from other tactical RPGs is its systems design; Telepath Tactics combines determinism with numerous mechanics to offer the player a high degree of both control and tactical flexibility. This trailer offers a whirlwind tour of some of the game’s available mechanics:

On top of its breadth of tactical mechanics, Telepath Tactics also offers mod support, with a map editor you can use to create your own campaigns (and tweak existing ones). There’s an ongoing series of tutorials on how to do that on the developer’s website.

Some of the game’s remaining features:

  • Build an army from among 23 different classes! Learn more than 110 distinct attacks as you level up your units, then promote them to powerful prestige classes!
  • Confront aggressive enemy AI that reacts to your moves, grabs items, breaks down your barricades, doggedly pursues your most vulnerable characters, and shoves you into the lava every chance it gets!
  • Deal with merchants to keep your army well-supplied; make hard choices about your priorities both on and off the battlefield as you march against the slavers who imprisoned your family.
  • Undertake missions in both hand-crafted scenarios and procedurally generated dungeons and forests!
  • Tired of single player? Play 2-6 player hotseat multiplayer matches with randomized item drops, multiple play modes, and support for team matches!

Telepath Tactics is $14.99; Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can get it direct from the developer (Windows/Mac/Linux); on Steam (Windows only); and on (Windows and Mac only). Linux versions will be coming to Steam and GOG at some point, but it’s not yet known just when; likewise for Mac and Steam.

*that’s me. I’ve tried to keep this post objective and fact-based, but I’m naturally going to be sort of partial to this game. Just a heads-up.

New-ish release: Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria

Dragon Fantasy Volumes of Westeria
Hey there, indie RPG fans! I’m still busy as all heck, but I’ve managed to slip away from post-release craziness for a moment to tell you about a game that released recently: Dragon Fantasy: Volumes of Westeria.

You may recall Dragon Fantasy Book I, a jRPG by Muteki Corp. that released almost exactly two and a half years ago for the PS3 and PS Vita. One enhanced version and a full sequel later, it seems that Dragon Fantasy has finally made its way over to the PC! The PC version features extra content, to say nothing of that snazzy new “Volumes of Westeria” subtitle.

You can nab Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria for $9.99 on Steam; Windows, Mac, and Linux.

(A brief note: although the game now has a publisher, in accordance with our guidelines, DFtVoW was developed before that arrangement took place. Thus, for our purposes here, it is indie.)

A short hiatus

Hello gentle readers! You may have noticed that the site has been a bit quiet this past couple of weeks–that’s because I’m gearing up to release a game of my very own, an undertaking which sucks up a surprising amount of time. Since I’m the only writer for this site, that means coverage is on hold until Telepath Tactics come out.

Not to worry, though–coverage will resume shortly! In the meantime, why not take a trip down memory lane and review some of my first impressions write-ups / videos from the past few years?



New release: Rack N Ruin

Rack N Ruin
First announced nearly two years ago, Tyler Hunter of LifeSpark Entertainment writes in to announce that indie Zelda-alike Rack N Ruin has now been released for the Playstation 4.

The premise:

Take control of Rack, a little demon whose sole pleasure is to bring about unwanton destruction. Heroes will rise, Guardians will awaken, and Gods will descend to defend their doomed planet from the little invader. The path to world domination is wrought with exploration, puzzles, and heated battle. See the world change from a lush idealistic fairie tale into a nightmare as Rack slowly corrupts the planet.

Hunter, formerly of Blizzard, hand-painted the game’s artwork himself–and his handiwork is on full display in the game’s PS4 release trailer:

The whole thing looks to have turned out a little more arena-shootery and bullet-hellish than I was first expecting. Between that and the slidey character movement, I expect this should appeal to anyone looking for a Binding of Isaac-esque experience.

The feature list:

-Burn through hordes of foes with an arsenal of over 28 different spells, items, and abilities.

-Weave through complex bullet patterns while smiting titanic bosses and over 30 unique enemies.

-Explore an enchanted benevolent world, and then transform it into a nightmarish image of its former self.

-Ransack castles, pillage dungeons, escape eternal prisons, navigate gloomy caves, and awaken ancient evils.

-Meet a charming cast of townsfolk, and collect their souls to upgrade your weapons.

-Unravel devious puzzles, and scour the land for over 100 secrets.

-And of course, destroy the world.

You can snag Rack N Ruin for Playstation 4 now for $14.99; a Windows release is planned to follow.

Rain of Reflections announced

It appears that there’s a new sci-fi RPG in development by the name of Rain of Reflections. Swedish indies Lionbite describe Rain of Reflections as a “cyberpunk noir” RPG that seeks to avoid filler and grinding, with a story told through multiple perspectives.

The premise:

Rain of Reflections tells its noiresque story through three protagonists, two of which are female. The player will get to experience life in the futuristic, dystopian city through all three perspectives, ranging through society’s layers and social classes, interweaving the highly choice-driven journey.

The devs state that Rain of Reflections will employ a morale mechanic in combat that allows the player to “use environments, ruse tactics, threats and even smart dialogue choices to handle confrontations without resorting to mindlessly blowing enemies to pieces.”

Rain of Reflections is in development for Windows, and currently planned for release sometime in 2016. The devs state that ports to other platforms may come afterwards.

Flamberge public alpha released, release date announced

Word reaches me that Flamberge, the simultaneous turn-based sRPG we featured in a Back to Back late last year, was just released this past week for purchase by early adopters.

Created by Michael Savage-Benoist and Ben Cohn (now going by the developer name Hydezeke), Flamberge addresses the problem inherent to melee attacks and simultaneous turns–namely, that characters will just end up running past each other and missing one another every single turn–by essentially turning your melee units into human guided missiles:

The alpha version of Flamberge is available direct from the developer or on Steam, priced at $10. There’s also a free alpha demo available. Windows, Mac, and Linux.

The full release is planned for April 24, 2015 (which is pretty damned soon for a game that’s not even in beta yet, but hey, who knows–maybe it’ll release on time).

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.