Latest Publications

UnderTale announced

Solo indie dev Toby Fox has announced a surreal jRPG by the name of UnderTale., which he describes as a “traditional role-playing game where no one has to get hurt.” You might remember this game from our last Back to Back–while it remains on Kickstarter, UnderTale has long since surpassed its funding goal, which means that it’s now officially A Thing.

So what’s the premise here?

A long time ago, two races ruled peacefully over the Earth: HUMANS and MONSTERS.  One day, a terrible war broke out between the two races.  After a long battle, the humans were victorious. They sealed the monsters underground with a magical spell.

In the year 201X, a small child scales Mt. Ebott. It is said that those who climb the mountain never return.

Seeking refuge from the rainy weather, the child enters a cave and discovers an enormous hole.

Moving closer to get a better look… the child falls in.

Now, our story begins.

As for what promises to make this game special–well, just read the list of planned and existing features:

  • Fighting is wholly unnecessary: negotiate your way out of danger using the unique battle system.
  • Time your attacks for extra damage, then dodge enemy attacks in a style reminiscent of top-down shooters.
  • Use the format of a video game to tell the story: traditional fourth-wall breaking tropes such as “SAVING,” “EXP,” and “LV” are an intergrated [sic] part of the game’s world.
  • Obligatory puzzles. Lots and lots of obligatory puzzles.
  • Original art and soundtrack brimming with personality.
  • Captivating story with an emphasis on humor.
  • Become friends with all of the bosses!
  • Hilariously bad dating sim segments!
  • Seriously, you can literally have a robot husband.

UnderTale is planned for release on Windows in mid-2014; there is a Windows demo and a Mac demo currently available if you want to try the game out in its early state.

Isle of Bxnes announced

Isle of Bxnes
Whalenought Studios writes in to announce that they are working on a new caveman-themed action RPG called Isle of Bxnes (pronounced like “Isle of Bones.”)

The premise:

Isle of Bxnes is the brutal adventure of a caveman’s odyssey though savage islands where he hunts, collects supplies and grows his tribe while following a mysterious guide. The player uses a combination of attacks, dodges, and voodoo traps to navigate the largely hostile islands on his journey. At the same time, he’s upgrading his raft, increasing his offspring that will replace him as you die, and collecting relics for his totem.

This game sports a variety of roguelike features, plus locational damage and the increasingly common (but in my opinion, still really cool) mechanic of trying again as your progeny after your character dies:

  • Permadeath
  • Reincarnation through your sons (who have randomly chosen skills, attack dmg and stamina)
  • Variety of enemies, non-hostiles, missions and bosses
  • Skill tree with 27 skills
  • A health system divided by body parts

The developers have just released a trailer in which they introduce themselves and invite the public to playtest the game’s alpha build:

Isle of Bxnes is being developed for iPhones, iPads and Android devices. The developers tell me that Isle of Bxnes will be out in a few months “in a few weeks” (though that might be a touch optimistic given that the game is only just now in alpha), with the alpha release coming in a few weeks. It will be released on iOS to start.

New release: Ravenmark: Mercenaries

Ravenmark Mercenaries
Ian Gregory of Witching Hour Studios has dropped me a line to let me know about the release of Ravenmark: Mercenaries, a new fantasy strategy title out for iOS.

The premise:

In the events of Mercenaries, set six years after the events of the original RAVENMARK, the world of Eclisse has been scarred irrevocably by the vendetta of Estellion’s vengeful new ruler, the Scarlet Empress. Players may delve into the world’s rich lore and discover the evolved power struggle between the three warring nations: once-glorious Estellion, the fledgling Varishah, and silent but stern Esotre.

Ravenmark: Mercenaries currently lacks a formal campaign, instead offering contracts and border skirmishes against AI in addition to asynchronous multiplayer play. The developers state: “Major contracts will involve larger-scale world events that further the main plot of Mercenaries, and we intend to launch periodic expansions to this ongoing story.”

Gregory says that Ravenmark: Mercenaries is inspired by tabletop wargames like Warhammer and De Bellis Antiquitatis. The game features a We-Go system (read: simultaneous turns) with standing orders and formations. You can customize your mercenary group and load out your commander with a variety of traits that impact battles.

Here’s the trailer:

Ravenmark: Mercenaries is free by default and supported by ads and optional in-app purchases–you can remove the ads by purchasing the “Collector’s Edition” for $4.99 in-game. The game is out now for iOS; an Android port is planned for release towards the end of the year.

New release: SLAMMED!

The latest from Choice of Games, SLAMMED! is a professional wrestling themed title. Written by Paolo Chikiamco, SLAMMED! reportedly weighs in at 250,000 words.

The premise:

You’ve always dreamed of becoming pro wrestling’s biggest star…but a wrestler’s world is fraught with hardship and betrayal, in and out of the ring. Become a powerhouse, a technician, a high-flier, or focus on your promo skills. There’s more than one road to success.

But none of those roads will be easy. This is a world where your biggest fans are your harshest critics; where the front office is more dangerous than the squared circle; where friends can become enemies with a single heel turn; where, sometimes, the only way to win is to lose, spectacularly.

This is professional wrestling. And you’re about to change it, forever.

The author states that “the outcome of your final match, your choice of opponent, and your relationships affect the ending,” and that “your trash-talking ‘promo’ ability is as important as your core strength and wrestling technique.”

As with all Choice of Games titles, SLAMMED! has a free browser demo. You can nab the full version for $2.99 on iOS and Android, and for PC via the Chrome web store.

Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients expansion for pre-order

Steven Peeler, one man army behind Soldak Entertainment and creator of Drox Operative, has written in to announce that Invasion of the Ancients–the first expansion for his sci-fi action RPG Drox Operative–is now available for pre-order.

You can pick it up for $8.99 (i.e. 10% off) over on Soldak’s website. Windows and Mac.

Dungeonmans announced, playable pre-alpha

So–Dungeonmans! This ambitious graphical roguelike has been in development since last summer, when ex-Bioware developer Jim Shepard (insert Mass Effect joke here) left the AAA world behind to join the ever-swelling ranks of the indies.

Dungeonmans is more open-ended than most roguelikes, lacking even the basic plot premise (“retrieve the amulet,” etc.) that often structures games in this genre. Shepard writes:

There’s not so much a plot as there is a bit of sandbox adventure. The names of locations, dungeons and monsters are generated at random, but they’re based off of the idea of pulpy adventure novels: Robert E. Howard’s works, Dr. Strange, the idea that man is fending for itself in a world of monsters, always a step away from being consumed by some unknowable evil from beyond the stars. Relics from a forgotten time litter the land, and there’s power to be had but it is always mysterious, lost lore from a distant age that we can barely control. However, it’s also lighthearted. Heroes slide in with swagger and a cocky smile, monsters chitter and snap with names like Kikpug Blue-Toe or Stank Flaps, and the whole thing has that snarky and slightly adversarial feel of a good tabletop game. The DM is playing by the rules, but boy would he like to kill you.

The game starts with the Headmaster telling you to “stride the land, tame wild beasts, and ease wicked men of their lives,” and off to the nearest dungeon you go. The story from there is up to you!

As the description above suggests, Dungeonmans features an overworld with multiple dungeons. It also features a skill-based combat system, “free-form character growth,” and an Academy that lets you carry certain discoveries forward between generations of adventurers.

I find the Academy to be an especially neat twist, in that it permits a bit of in-game progress despite the presence of permadeath:

Each new Dungeonmans is a graduate of the Academy, and the Academy is bolstered by the efforts of previous Dungeonmens. So unlike in (the completely awesome) Rogue Legacy, the heroes aren’t descendants of each other. When a hero finds something like a piece of Alchemy equipment, or a dusty text of Necromansy, they can bring it back to the Academy to offer it as an upgrade. This results in immediate rewards for the current hero, such as a stack of potions, and a bigger reward for future heroes, such as having all potions of rank 1 pre-identified. Heroes can bring back trophies from crushed champions that they can use to increase their base stats. Future graduates get a piece of this action as well! The idea is that the Academy is ever growing and represents the player’s progress toward victory.

If this sounds a bit like the way Rogue Legacy handles things, you can chalk it up to convergent evolution–Dungeonmans has been in development for about a year now, and there is actually a playable pre-alpha “Summer Preview” available right now if you want to give it a try.

As mentioned in Friday’s Back to Back, Dungeonmans is now raising money on Kickstarter; it’s currently about 1/3 of the way to its goal. You can give it a boost here.

Dungeonmans is planned for full release on Windows in March 2014.

Back to Back: indie RPGs to fund

I have a big backlog of new games to talk about, but it’s been nearly a month since I last ran Back to Back, so those will have to wait until next week as I peek in on the world of crowdfunding.

A number of games from our last line-up have completed their campaigns. Unrest ended its campaign with more than 10 times its asking amount; Combat Cats met its goal with plenty of breathing room, as did Rising Evil; and Our Darker Purpose barely squeaked over the line. Of this latest batch, only Old Legend did not make it (though there was one RPG I never found out about, Sidequest, which evidently failed to make its goal as well).

To my astonishment, the line-up moving into July has practically exploded in size. There are a lot of games here to check out, folks; I’ll give you the run-down:


About that splash

Good day, darling visitor! You may be wondering why there’s a weird splash screen about the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when you visit the site today. The short answer is that the Internet Defense League has undertaken a campaign to protest the surveillance and collection of personal effects (read: emails and phone calls) of both U.S. citizens and international citizens without probable cause in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment. We joined in the SOPA black out, and this is every bit as important as that was, so we’re joining in here as well.


Another Star announced

Another Star
An intrepid reader writes in to tell me about Another Star, an 8-bit jRPG in development by one-man army Dale Johnson (a.k.a. Vision Riders Entertainment).

The premise:

Our story begins with Tachi, the prince of Clan Minas. Sent by his father to retrieve a falling star that promises to upset the balance of the clans, the young warrior gets caught up in a sudden chain of events that will affect the entire planet. The fledgling warrior will journey across entire continents, slowly unraveling the mysteries of the world around him and encountering countless new people and places.

Another Star is deliberately minimalistic: “Inspired by the 26th Ludum Dare competition theme of Minimalism, Another Star uses but a single 128×128 tile sheet to bring you a vast world to explore. Secrets are hidden everywhere, and you never know what you might find on the next screen.”

Combat is minimalist as well, with the whole notion of targeting removed from abilities entirely. Attacks damage all enemies simultaneously, and likewise, all enemy attacks damage the entire party.  Finally, there’s an interesting mechanic that allows you to opt out of most random combats:

Random encounters are only initiated by accepting them when the yellow “!” icon appears over your head. Just watch out for sneak attacks. If you see the red “!!” icon appear, you better press the button quickly to accept or else you’ll be taken by surprise.

Another Star is planned for release quite soon on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Dungeon Lord announced

Ian Hawley, one half of the two-man studio Bovine Software, writes to me with details of his upcoming OUYA dungeon delver Dungeon Lord. (Note that there are no proper websites for these yet, only Facebook pages.)

The premise to Dungeon Lord is straightforward:

[T]his is a tile-based dungeon crawler inspired by Dungeon Master principally, so the story is a relatively typical case of being trapped inside and having to get out. I guess it’s more of an action RPG in today’s terms, because the game is real-time, first person and there is a good degree of skill required to dodge around the various denizens of Darkwurm to avoid having to toe to toe it.

(Note: this game was called Darkwurm right up until Monday, when it was abruptly renamed “Dungeon Lord.”) Anyway! That does indeed sound quite a bit like Dungeon Master; and if anything, this trailer made from footage of the game running on an OUYA only reinforces that impression:

It looks good so far, though I do hope the finished game is a little less spoiler-y. (I have to imagine that by the time we get to “the key is in the alcove,” we’d be able to figure that out ourselves.)

Dungeon Lord is being created in Unity. According to the developers, Dungeon Lord will feature 10+ weapon types and a unified skill system with 50+ skills. They state that their skill mechanics are more modern than the ones from Dungeon Master, with rebindable hotkeys. They also state that they’re using both skill cool-downs as well as energy costs. Thus, “there’s a lot of choice about how to play and whether you want to be that toe-to-toe warrior, a long distance spell caster or something inbetween.”

Hawley tells me that he and Dan McCaul have been working on Dungeon Lord for more than two years now, and that they are now nearly feature complete with a lot of content already in the game. Dungeon Lord is planned for release later this year on the OUYA and iOS (3G S and above), with Android ports to follow.