Latest Publications

Dungeonmen: Men of Dungeons announced, playable

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Developers K.F. Harlock and Shizuma have been working on a jRPG-style dungeon delver called Dungeonmen: Men of Dungeons. Harlock describes the game as follows:

“Dungeonmen: Men of Dungeons” is an RPG that mixes classic dungeon-crawling mechanics with the design sensibilities of 16-bit JRPGs. In it, you can build a team of up to 40 heroes, selecting from among twelve unique classes such as Knight, Ninja, Pirate, Samurai, Crusader, Hunter, and more,, each with ten distinct abilities. Moreover, each class has a unique ability that helps with navigating the dungeon itself, such as lighting up dark hallways, sending a parrot back to town to shop for you, or disarming traps! Only those who can master this complex array of dungeoneering challenges will survive to face the final showdown with Zagon, the destroyer of worlds!

The developers state that the game is currently in beta; however, there is already a playable version available for free right here. They were also good enough to release a manual to help you navigate the enormous array of options present in the game: nab that here.

Shattered World: Beneath a Stone Sky announced, playable

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A Twitter follower recently brought a small treasure trove of freeware RPGs to my attention. The first one I’m going to talk about is called Shattered World: Beneath a Stone Sky.

Mechanically, it seems to be a pretty straightforward Disgaea clone. Plot-wise, it’s…you’re already downloading it, aren’t you? Fair enough.

Shattered World was initially released on July 31st as part of an RPG design competition. However, the developer (who simply goes by the name “Yaru“) gave the game a major update two weeks ago, including the addition of a brand new chapter, so I’d be surprised if this were the final release of the game.

Grab the current build here; you can use the arrow keys, X (select), Z (cancel), and Enter (menu) to control the game.

Demon’s Revenge announced

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Whitney White writes in to announce Demon’s Revenge, a jRPG currently in development by herself, Tyrell White, Ricky Gunawan, Michael Correa, and a programmer who prefers to go by the moniker “derula.”

The premise:

Demon’s Revenge is about a young woman name Sen. She has gone through hell her whole life, having accidentally killed her brother and being disowned by her parents. She is finally done with it, the way she’s living, the past that she’s had to live with, the guilt and loneliness. She vows to be the demon that everyone thinks she is and tries to set out on a rampage, but realizes it’s just not her. She gets help from a ridder (a person who gets rid of demons), and they both end up on the run. Sen for being a demon and the ridder for helping her.

Demon’s Revenge has an early demo out. Some thoughts: This game has some pretty solid original sprite work for the battles. It eschews RPG Maker’s default environmental tiles as well, though I personally find the replacements too busy and difficult to read.

The developers choose to conceal the amount of damage that your attacks do in combat, which I find quite interesting. It forces you to pay very close attention to cause and effect during battles. I found myself keeping mental notes about how many attacks it took to take out different enemies, depending on the sort of attack used.

There is still some balancing left to do, however. For instance: it takes two low-tier magic point restoration items to recoup the points lost by casting even a single spell, meaning that it usually makes little sense to do anything other than select a normal attack in battle.

The narrative needs some work as well. On the antagonist front, Sinara is a sadistic caricature who would work much better rewritten as an anti-villain. Meanwhile, Jagen’s heel-face-turn comes much too early and much too easily. For my money, it’d be much more effective to spend a chapter or two with him as he rises up through the ranks of the ridders before giving him a crisis of conscience over the whole affair.

Speaking of money: the developers are looking for funding to help them with improving and finishing the game. If you like, you can pitch in here. Either way, Demon’s Revenge is still early in development, so there is time for the developers to fix its problems and capitalize on its strong points.

New expansion: The Castle of N’Mar

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Loren the Amazon Princess (previously covered here) has just been graced with a brand new expansion by the name of The Castle of N’Mar.

It all begins when Amazon scouts have gone missing while investigating disturbances in the cursed land of N’mar … It is now up to Loren and her companions to find out what is really plaguing the dark castle by the sea.

From the looks of it, the castle is mostly plagued with an abundance of attractive single people:

Here is the expansion feature list:

3 New Playable Characters – Sauzer, Mesphit, and Chambara from the original game can now be yours to control! They’re dynamic new characters that behave differently in battle than anyone else. Two of them also come complete with full romance arcs. See how having them in your party now changes the main story!

Non-linear Storyline – You decide how and when to complete the myriad of new quests that await you. No way is more correct than others, but everything has its own consequences.

New Endings – Change the fate of the world once more by completing certain plot lines. There are many new surprises for both an old and new player to discover!

Personal Quests – Get to know your party members much better by helping them complete a task that is very important to them. You’ll travel all over the world and meet interesting new characters, all while forming a stronger bond with your allies.

Optimized Gameplay – The battle system has been tweaked and rebalanced to provide you with a better gaming experience.

You can pick up the expansion for $9.99. (If you don’t already own Loren the Amazon Princess, you can get them both at once for a grand total of $34.9–$9.99 plus the game’s normal $24.99 price tag.)

New release: FTL

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So, FTL. In all likelihood, you’ve heard about this game already, which is part of why I haven’t been in a rush to write about it. The other part is that I wasn’t convinced that it was actually an RPG. Having now seen its mechanics in action, however, I’ve decided that (a) it is definitely an RPG and (b) I need to cover it. So here we go!

FTL is an outer space roguelike by Subset Games that plays a little like an extremely lethal series of Star Trek episodes (or a series of Firefly episodes without the wit and charming characters, or a series of Battlestar Galactica episodes without the Cylons, or…you get the idea). You make FTL jumps between sectors that contain unpredictable (and frequently deadly) situations for you to handle as you flee an approaching enemy fleet, making your way across the universe with an important missive for the Federation.

The developer writes:

FTL is a spaceship simulation roguelike-like. Its aim is to recreate the atmosphere of running a spaceship exploring the galaxy (like Firefly/Star Trek/BSG etc.) In any given episode of those classic shows, the captain is always yelling “Reroute power to shields!” or giving commands to the engineer now that their Warp Core is on fire. We wanted that experience, as opposed to the “dog fighting in space” that most videogames focus on. We wanted a game where we had to manage the crew, fix the engines, reroute power to shields, target the enemy life support, and then figure out how to repel the boarders that just transported over!

Which brings us to the trailer:

Your crew levels up various skills as you play FTL depending on what they spend their time doing. You also collect scrap, which you can use to upgrade your ship’s various systems as you go. Also, there is exploration and combat. So as far as I’m concerned, this is basically a sci fi RPG in the (largely abandoned) tradition of Starflight.

FTL is available for Windows, Mac and Linux for $10. You can buy it direct from the developer via Paypal, Amazon Payments or Google Checkout; you can also find it on GOG.com or Steam, though of course the developer sees less of the money if you buy it there.

New release: Choice of the Star Captain

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You know who puts out a ton of games? Choice of Games, that’s who. Dorian Hart is the latest author to produce a choose-your-own-adventure / RPG hybrid via the Choice of Games engine, a sci-fi space epic entitled Choice of the Star Captain.

About that:

Fight on the front lines of the war between humanity and the hideous Blobs. (Not that anyone has actually seen a Blob up close, but everyone knows they have tentacles. Surely they’re hideous!) Go on stealth missions, run alien blockades, and investigate mysterious planets, “aided” by Lloyd, your insufferably obnoxious shipboard computer.

Choice of the Star Captain is the hilarious interactive science-fiction novel where your choices determine how the story proceeds. The game is entirely text-based—without graphics or sound effects—but powered by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

If you don’t know who author Dorian Hart is, let’s put it this way: he spent 7 years at Looking Glass Studios and then joined Irrational Games. Hart has worked on such titles as Ultima Underworld, System Shock, System Shock 2, and Bioshock. So basically, this man has one hell of a pedigree. I find the fact that he nonetheless decided to sit down and make a text-based indie game delightful.

Also rather delightful: the storytelling in Choice of the Star Captain. Give it a try here via a free browser demo. You can pick up the full game for $2.99 on Android or iOS, or via the Chrome Store.

A treatise on skill-based character creation

Hello, gentle readers! Yesterday, I released a brand new (and quite long) article about the evolution (and design implications) of skill-based character creation systems in RPGs. A snippet:

To revisit the computer analogy from earlier: it is easy to find a good Apple computer because it only comes in a few configurations, and it is easy to ensure that that handful of available configurations works flawlessly. By contrast, the sheer variety of possible PC builds means that while there are far more possibilities, many of those builds are bound to be deeply flawed. So it is with skill-based character creation systems: any cRPG with more than a small handful of skills is going to provide a near-infinite variety of possible character builds.

This presents a serious design challenge for any developer. Each new skill requires a new system, or–at the very least–a new branch or skill check in the game’s conversation trees. In turn, the more systems and skill checks one adds to the game, the harder it becomes for the developer to ensure that each skill is more-or-less equally important to the game.

You can read the full article here.

New release: Swords and Sorcery – Underworld Gold

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OlderBytes has released Swords and Sorcery – Underworld Gold, a first-person turn-based dungeon-crawler reminiscent of older Might and Magic games.

If there is a plot, the game’s page doesn’t mention it. The developer describes the game as follows:

Swords and Sorcery – Underworld Gold is a kickback to the 80s dungeon crawler, featuring old school party creation, adventuring, storyline, turn-based tactical combat with spells, skills, tactical options and hundreds of mystical, sharp or bludgeoning loot…
You’ll need them to survive over 100 monsters… And THEIR spells, skills, tactical options…

I’m pretty sure he means “throwback” and not “kickback” (unless there’s an illicit world of 80s dungeon crawlers extorting money from indie developers that I’ve never heard about)–but otherwise, that description sounds pretty good to me. Check out the trailer below to see the game in action:

Swords and Sorcery – Underworld Gold is Windows-only, and available for $19.99. Buy the full game here, or try out a free demo right here.

IndieRPGs.com Checks Out Cardinal Quest 2

Along with last week’s announcement that Cardinal Quest 2 is on the way, developer Ruari O’Sullivan was good enough to give me a pre-release beta build of the game for me to check out. Below, you can see my first (and bar a few hiccups, surprisingly successful) attempt at playing as a thief. Check it out:

Worlds Beyond heads to the great beyond

Damn. We’d gone more than a year without having a (real) game obituary. Naturally, I’m a little sad to buck that trend with the news that the recently announced jRPG Worlds Beyond has gone under due to unspecified “recent events” in the life of one of the creators.

Josiah, the artsy half of the two-man team that comprised developer Bridge Unit Orzo, explained in a Kickstarter update Saturday morning:

There’s some big news I have to deliver to you guys, and it’s not entirely pleasant. Due to some recent events in my life that I’m not comfortable discussing, I’ve realized that I can’t commit myself to this project in a way that’s fair to you guys or Ruben. I know it’s hard to get across in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m taking the easy way out or being lazy, but what this project demanded from me I am not able to provide. The stress became too much for me, personally, to handle and it’s become clear now that the only option is to quietly back away from this project and go our own separate ways.

The game’s engine and editor will continue to be developed by Ruben as his own project (He can elaborate more on that if he chooses), and there is a good chance that I’ll continue to develop Worlds Beyond by myself on my own time, but I will definitely be taking a break for a while.

I’d just like to make it clear that this decision is my responsibility. I’m not good at dealing with pressure, and it’s clear that I wasn’t able to keep up with what was expected of me. That wasn’t fair at all to Ruben, who is a brilliant programmer and has shown me understanding and patience through this — but ultimately, it’s best for both of us if it ends this way.

The Kickstarter project will be cancelled and all pledges returned.

It’s a shame to see this happen, as Worlds Beyond looked like a promising attempt at a straightforward Chrono-Trigger-style game. That said, I am glad to see that they didn’t wait for the Kickstarter campaign to wrap up before making this decision. We wish the developers good luck going forward.