Latest Publications

New release: Heroes of Steel Episode 3: Whispers Over Steel

Heroes of Steel
The tireless Trese Brothers have now released a third episode of their top-down tactical dungeon crawler Heroes of Steel.

Prior coverage on the series can be found here; but for those who need to be caught up, the gist is that you play a group of four characters navigating the labyrinthine Underdeep after an apocalyptic event renders the surface of the world uninhabitable. There’s lots of dungeon delving and turn-based, action-point-based combat.

The premise of this latest episode is as follows:

The lights have burnt low, and the black gloom in the caverns shows it is the dead of night in the Underdeep. Your Heroes have talked late, for they while know what path they must take, there are hard choices ahead. The baleful threat of the City of the Dead hangs over the eastern regions, straining the relationships of the Braeys Family and Baron Koda to the breaking point.

It is time now to take up your weapons and ready your magic. Dark sorcery and even darker secrets await you in the City of the Dead. As does the surface of the world – the broken, shattered old world that your people once ruled.

The Trese Brothers write that Episode 3 adds 20 new dungeons, 20 new monster types, and more than 200 new types of weapons and gear to the game, enlarging the content in Heroes of Steel by an additional 33%. Character level caps have been increased from 28 to 36. Additionally, the update includes balance changes, a new option to make the game go faster, and an auto-buff feature.

You can snag all four episodes of Heroes of Steel on Android or iOS for $3.99, or for Windows at an $11.99 price point via Steam or Desura. (Or, if you’re a mobile gamer and the masochistic sort, you can download the prologue for free and download each subsequent episode a la carte via IAP.)

Unraveled announced

Criss Oliva writes in to tell me about the existence of Unraveled, a platformer / jRPG hybrid being developed by two-person indie team RosePortal Games.

The premise: Unraveled tells

the story of a little girl whose family has gone missing at a ship breaking yard. Based on real events, Unraveled takes you through a child’s imagination as she seeks out her parents.

As you travel through the ship breaking yard in search of her parents, the ghastly rotten environment transforms into various fantastical settings. Accompanied by flashbacks and exciting events, Unraveled subtly gives you all the pieces of a story.

The story is based on real events — inspired by the documentary The Wire Nest. Ship breaking yards and those who live around them are hardly ever covered by media and news. These families have to cope with horrible living conditions while facing the daily threat of their extinction. We wanted to cover this obscure aspect of our world!

The devs write that Unraveled is heavily story-driven, and that combat is “infrequent, smooth and strategic — each battle plays like a boss encounter.” There’s an early teaser trailer out that gives a taste of what we can expect:

Unraveled is planned for release in early 2015 at a $7.99 price point, Windows only. In the meantime, you can upvote Unraveled on Steam Greenlight if this looks like the sort of thing you’d like to have on Steam.

New release: Tales of Aravorn: Seasons of the Wolf

Tales of Aravorn Seasons of the Wolf
Celso Riva has written in to announce the release of Tales of Aravorn: Seasons of the Wolf, a new jRPG from indie developer Winter Wolves set in the same universe as Loren the Amazon Princess (itself previously covered here).

The premise:

The twins’ tale starts on a day like many others, when one of the siblings finds a young wolf and decides to take it with him/her. Thus begins the long journey which will take the siblings from the ice-shrouded Ninim to the desert-wrapped city of Dingirra to the storm-shrouded port of Shacklesplit. Explore the corruption-riddled halls of Dingirra, and contest with the crimelords who claim it as their own domain. Sail the high seas, battle mighty pirates, and discover their hidden treasures!

Travel alongside your old friend the ex-mercenary Vaelis, the illusionist Riley, the barbarian Krimm, the assassin Chalassa, the bard Jariel, and last, but not least, the crazy–ahem, the warlock Rowinda! As your relationships deepen, you may discover love with one of your companions. As you spend time together, you will find yourself influencing their very own storylines!

It seems that Winter Wolves’s trademark “Attractive People Hooking Up” mechanic is in full effect here–and if the description left you any doubt about that, the game’s release trailer will dispel those doubts:

Gratuitous titillation aside, this game is actually a pretty decent RPG, as documented in my video preview of the game’s beta from May. Also, I must say, good on Riva for giving the game a theme song; I can’t promise that I won’t still constantly get Duran Duran in my head when I think of the game, but that should help.

The game’s feature list reads:

  • - Fantasy RPG set in the world of Aravorn, like Loren The Amazon Princess
  • - Play as male (Shea) or female (Althea)
  • - Four characters to romance: Krimm, Riley, Jariel or Chalassa
  • - 8 unique party members each one with different skills
  • - Advanced isometric tileset maps for a bigger world to explore

Tales of Aravorn: Seasons of the Wolf is out for Windows Mac and Linux direct from the developer; and given that it’s been Greenlit, I imagine we’ll see it on Steam sooner or later as well. It’s $24.99, with a free demo (Windows / Mac / Linux). Checks Out The Age of Decadence

So: The Age of Decadence! This highly anticipated indie wRPG has been in development for approximately one zillion (ten) years. With release finally looming, Vince Weller of Iron Tower Studio was good enough to provide me with a beta copy of The Age of Decadence to check out, and so I went ahead and made a video out of it for you to see. The results:

So, what did I think? On first impression, the Age of Decadence is very much my speed: a deep, non-linear wRPG with lots of well-written dialog trees and choices that impact your play experience down the road. Your choice of character background determines how you start off the game, and has real effects on how other characters perceive you. AoD also features a fairly deep action point-based, turn-based combat system (one that I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to show off during the video, but which you can try for yourself in the game’s freely available combat demo).

One thing I cannot stress enough is just how text-heavy The Age of Decadence is. Not only is there loads of character dialog, there is also a surfeit of descriptive prose. You will frequently find yourself in little pocket scenarios where the scene and the behaviors of other characters are set forth in text–scenarios which you are restricted to navigating via dialog choices (and the concomitant skill checks that accompany them). In these moments, The Age of Decadence feels more like a choose-your-own-adventure hybrid more than it does a pure wRPG.

I can very easily see this bothering some people, though I myself am more than fine with it. The world of AoD is delightfully seedy and full of intrigue, and its characters are convincingly rendered. There’s a real payoff to carefully reading through everything, and so I find myself genuinely enjoying trawling through all those wordy passages. That said, if you’re the sort of person who just reflexively mashes the Escape key during character dialog so you can get back to “the good parts,” you’re probably going to want to keep your distance; to a large extent, the text passages in The Age of Decadence are the good parts.

There are loads of different skills that come into play when navigating the game’s dialog; and thankfully, Iron Tower Studio adopted the very approach that I recommended here and divorced your character’s combat skills from non-combat skills. Consequently, you don’t have to be useless in combat to get the tools needed to engage with the game’s dialog-based challenges (though with that said, you do incur some penalties by creating characters with non-combat backgrounds).

With the caveat above about this game not being for people who hate reading, my early play experience with the Age of Decadence was very positive; assuming the mid- and late-game hold up as well as the start, I’d endorse this game heartily.

The AoD public beta is currently available for $24.99 on Steam, on GamersGate, and direct from the developers. (There is also a public beta demo for you to try out if you want to take a crack at it yourself prior to shelling out.) The Age of Decadence is planned for full release sometime in late winter/early spring 2015.

Graywalkers: Purgatory announced

Graywalkers Purgatory
After hitting their Kickstarter goal on the second attempt, indie developer Dreamlords Digital is officially good to go on developing their apocalyptic strategy RPG Graywalkers: Purgatory.

The premise: the apocalypse has happened, and

parts of Heaven, Hell and Earth have merged together in an event called “The Rupture”.  Your story begins in the new island of Purgatory, a place made up of displaced land masses located in the Bermuda Triangle. In this game, you play the prophesied leader of the Graywalkers, the 36 Hidden Ones who walk the line between the darkness and the light. It is your task to gather them all, unite the different factions of Purgatory under your banner, and lead the war to reclaim the world for humanity against the supernatural forces that have dominated the world.

Graywalkers will employ a structure somewhat reminiscent of Jagged Alliance 2, in which you send individual squads around the island completing various missions. The world will be dynamic: the developers state that “the world acts on its own motivations, but its destiny can be changed and shaped by you. Each of your actions (or inactions) will shape the economy and politics of the world.

The game will feature several factions with individualized agendas for you to interact with, and you’ll be able to recruit characters to pursue your own. Between missions, you’ll have to manage resources while researching technology and crafting tools to ensure your survival.

The list of planned features includes:

  • Races- Choose from races such as Human, Dhampir, Nephilim, Cambion, Wolfkin, Hunterborne and Faechilde
  • Character Paths- Choose from different paths/classes such as Arcanist, Armsman, Diviner, Martialist, Soldier, Agent and others.
  • Recruitment – Find, convince and recruit your team members from at over 40+ playable NPCs, each with own style, personality, motivation, relationship and history.
  • Strategic Management- Manage your resources, personnel, influence, technology, research, crafting and scavenging.
  • Factions- Each faction has their own agenda to pursue and do so on their own. Your action can influence their next move.
  • Resources – Scavenge for resources, rebuild lost technology, recover ancient relics, research new technologies, and craft objects from ordinary items that youfind.
  • Special Abilities- Each character has a series of special abilities such as spells, combat maneuvers, and special advantages based on his Race, Path and preferred Style.
  • Enemies – Encounter enemies such as cultists, gangers, criminals, demons, fallen angels, vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts, witches and other supernatural creatures.

Graywalkers: Purgatory is being developed for Windows, Mac, and Linux, with a tentative estimated release date of January 2016. The developers plan to port the game to Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, iOS and Android tablets, and OUYA after its initial release.

Old/new release: King of Dragon Pass

King of Dragon Pass
This is actually a really old release–King of Dragon Pass was developed and released independently by A Sharp wayyyy back in 1999. Despite its age, A Sharp remains around today, and has released mobile ports of King of Dragon Pass over the past few years: for iOS in 2011, and for Android and Windows phones quite recently in August 2014.

For those not familiar with it, King of Dragon Pass represents a unique melange of elements: a choose-your-own-adventure / fantasy strategy game hybrid with randomized content and a focus on story and characters.

The premise:

Set in the fictional world of Glorantha, King of Dragon Pass is the saga of colonizing a magical frontier.

That’s about as close to narrative summary as the official materials ever provide (though the developers have made much more information about the game’s setting, its races, and its history available on a dedicated website). You are basically trying to guide a clan through a series of randomly selected challenges throughout the game, making hard choices and trying to manage your resources as you go.There are 550 different events that can occur during any given play session, and you’ll have different clan leaders with different strengths and weaknesses available to execute your decisions on any given playthrough.

Here’s a trailer:

You can snag King of Dragon Pass for $5.99 for Windows via GOG; for $9.99 on iOS and Android; and for $10.99 on Windows Phone. You can also custom-order the game on CD for Windows or Mac, though it’ll set you back $19.95 plus shipping.

New release: Coin Crypt

Coin Crypt
Word reaches me that indie studio Dumb and Fat (a.k.a. Greg Lobanov / Banov, creator of Dubloon and Phantasmaburbia), in collaboration with an artist and a musician, has a new game out by the name of Coin Crypt. He describes the game as a “roguelite deckbuilding adventure game.”

The premise:

Chaos ensues when the ruins of an ancient coin-based civilization is discovered in the Pacific. Lootmancers battle for control of the ancient magical coins, while the old coin deities reawaken and begin manipulating events.

You play as a lootmancer, who can unlock the hidden power inside of coins and use them in magical duels. The loots you take from chests and enemies also become your next moves, so plan carefully!

The game is ostensibly inspired by “Dominion, Spelunky, an RPG prototype made by Terry Cavanagh, and the formative experience of playing a version of Pokemon where monsters had to be released when they fainted and all Pokemon Centers were banned.” So…deckbuilding, procedural level generation, permadeath, and whatever was in Terry Cavanagh’s prototype.

I admit, as someone who enjoys roguelike-likes and is borderline-obsessed with Dominion, I find it hard not to be at least a little intrigued by the proposition here. Here’s a release trailer showing what happens when you combine all of these disparate ingredients:

There’s also a short gameplay trailer up to show a bit more of what play sessions are like.

The game’s feature list:

  •  Roguelike structure: randomly generated levels and permanent death!
  • 19 unlockable character classes that each have unique gameplay!
  • One of those classes is a monkey! (!!!!!)
  • Constant tension: You always need to spend coins to get more coins
  • A grandma that packs a whollop!
  • SECRETS! (duh)

Yeah. If Dubloon taught me anything, it’s that Lobanov really likes his monkeys.

Coin Crypt is now available on Steam for $9.99 (though you’ll benefit from a 15% launch week discount if you nab it now). Windows and Mac.

Back to Back: Indie RPGs to fund

Welcome back to Back to Back, loyal reader! The time has come once more to survey the field and take note of indie RPG crowdfunding campaigns that litter it, clamoring for the life-giving essence of the almighty Wallet.

Since we looked last time, a number of campaigns have passed into the beyond. Battle Chef Brigade, Bedlam, Fortune’s Tavern, Legena: Union Tides, and That Which Sleeps all ended successfully funded (and in a few cases, much more than that). Unfortunately, Blossom Tales, Hartacon Tactics, Immortal Empire, and Weedopia did not succeed. But those are the ones that have ended–what of the indie RPG crowdfunding campaigns that soldier bravely on into the start of November?

(more…) Checks Out Sproggiwood

Megan Fox of Rocketcat Games has evidently been doing PR duty for Sproggiwood developers Freehold Games these past couple of weeks. She sent me a build of Sproggiwood to check out a few days ago, and in true fashion, I did so with my headset on and FRAPS a-running. The result:

So! What did I think?


Forward to the Sky announced

Forward to the Sky
Wei Chen writes in to announce Forward to the Sky, a 3D Zelda-alike in development by Taiwanese indie devs Magichnology.

The premise:

Reveal the story of the sky tower. Forward to the Sky is a third person action adventure game in the sky tower ruin. You are going to collect all the crystal pieces to connect the story and everything will be revealed once Princess reaches the top level.

If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because we covered this game as part of a Back to Back back in May. The game focuses on puzzles, combat, and platforming; 3D Zelda, essentially but with more of a platforming focus, and set in a giant tower. There’s a trailer which shows off the gameplay pretty well:

Forward to the Sky is planned for release for Windows, Mac and Linux in early 2015 at an estimated $9.99 price point. In the meantime, it’s on Steam Greenlight, where it awaits your upvote.