Latest Publications

Balrum announced

Word reaches me that there’s an isometric 2D wRPG called Balrum in development–not only in development, in fact, but late in development.

The premise: “A maverick ballroom dancer risks his career by performing an unusual routine and sets out to succeed with a new partner.” Oh, wait…that’s the premise of the 1992 Australian comedy Strictly Ballroom. My bad. Here’s the premise of Balrum:

Now that Nasrus revealed his plot, the kings of Balrum sent their armies to the borders of the unknown lands captured by Nasrus. The power of the undead armies had been greatly underestimated. No one survived  the battles. Without the armies of the kings, chaos has overcome Balrum. Large bandit clans formed and started to live by their own rules. Soon the kings of Balrum had fallen. Two little village stood up against the new bandit rulers and decided that the only way they will survive is if they hide in the Dark Woods. No one dare enter the Dark Woods and this is what the villagers took advantage of. A horrible deal has been made, but the villagers are safe for now. The undead hordes of Nasrus are still waiting at the borders, but they can march into the heart of Balrum anytime their lord commands and there is no one to stop them. The people wonder why the good gods of Balrum, Adacus and Eogor don’t seem to be interested in the events that took place..

Although exploration of the world of Balrum occurs in real time, the game shifts into turn-based mode for combat. According to the developers, the combat system features both backstab damage and friendly fire.

The game also features a stealth system, a crafting system, farming, hunting, and the ability to build a custom home (which NPCs can then visit to leave notes or offer quests).

Here’s a very short gameplay video from March 2014, the last time the devs uploaded a new video:

Developer Balcony Team wrote in November that they plan to release Balrum in a few months, which should mean we’re getting quite close to release. It’s planned for Windows, Mac and Linux.

New release: Ramble Planet

Ramble Planet
Marek Naum writes in to tell me about Ramble Planet, a strange sci-fi RPG developed by A. Hagen using the OHRRPGCE game creation engine. (It released almost a year ago, but that’s recent enough that I’ll just count it as a new release.)

The premise:

Your spaceship has crashed on Badmark, a frontier planet and tourist hotspot. To escape, you must scour this hostile landscape for replacement parts while befriending or battling its strange denizens.

The game features strange, colorful, iconographic tile graphics. There’s a gameplay trailer that shows off off the start of the game, where you can see everything in motion:

The world seems interesting, although the game’s battles all appear to auto-resolve, which means the game’s challenge is likely to come more or less exclusively from exploration and puzzle solving.

According to the developer, Ramble Planet’s features include:

  • Free-roaming exploration of a sprawling world.
  • Numerous puzzles and secrets.
  • 3 playable alien races with unique agendas.
  • Groovy original music.

Ramble Planet is free; download it for Windows, Android, or OUYA.

Vidar announced

Dean Razavi writes in to announce Vidar, which he describes as an “RPG puzzler” with a partially-randomized narrative that changes each time you play. Razavi, the project lead, has been developing Vidar in RPG Maker in collaboration with 2D pixel artist Becca Bair and musician Adrian Jakubiak.

The premise:

Once the capital of a thriving Kingdom, Vidar has fallen into ruin. Tensions between the remaining citizens are high as a terrible snow storm blocks the exits, supplies run low, and the Beast continues to strike.

Because NPCs will be chosen at random to die, each person will experience different cutscenes out of over a hundred possible interactions between the cast. If you’re lucky, you’ll learn the deepest secrets of a handful. If you’re not, Vidar will be forgotten.

As you journey through the mountain, you’ll find remnants of the old Kingdom; although buried, their legacy forever haunts Vidar. Depending on your actions – and the Beast’s appetite – you may even stir some old spirits.

Perhaps the best way to describe Vidar is as an “adventure game by way of Werewolf.” Vidar isn’t a proper RPG, as there isn’t any stat progression (or even combat) in the game. Challenges are mostly puzzle challenges; all advancement occurs by way of item collection. Most items, in turn, are received as quest rewards. Because the quests you receive differ with each playthrough, you will only collect a subset of the game’s items on any given run.

Perhaps this trailer will help explain:

Vidar’s main features are narrative in nature, although the way you progress through the quest changes from a mechanical perspective with each playthrough as well:

  • Random puzzle-driven exploration. In the depths of the Beast’s lair, you’ll encounter dozens of dungeon-exploring puzzles. The rooms a player is sent to, the path they take, and the actual puzzles displayed are all randomized. What this means is that a player can return to Vidar to see a new story and not be forced to solve the same puzzles they solved on their last playthrough.
  • Random NPC deaths. The 24 left in Vidar each have something (or things) to help you on your journey. A loaf of bread. A campfire. A pocket watch. But you’ll need to help them before the Beast takes them. Every night, an NPC chosen at random will die; playing through a second time, you’ll discover new stories, relationships, and items that you didn’t have the first.
  • Random Quests. Each of the 24 NPCs can have dramatically different story arcs, depending on who dies when and what quests you’re able to complete. Quests they give you are entirely dependent on their needs, with some quest-lines chaining from one NPC to the next – and that means that in every game, you’ll see a brand new set of quests.

Vidar is currently on Kickstarter, although Razavi assures me the game will be completed regardless of the campaign’s success. Still, if you want to help Vidar hit its goal, you can do so right here. There is also a Windows-only, pre-alpha demo here if you want to see what the game is aiming at.

Ambition of the Slimes gets English language update

Ambition of the Slimes
Developer Masaya Takahashi writes in to tell me that Ambition of the Slimes (the oddball mobile sRPG we previously covered here) has been updated to version 2.50, with support for English text.

Even without the English, I managed to muddle through the first battle, eventually figuring out what all the Japanese menu options stood for through trial and error. However, getting everything in English is going to make the task of knowing what I’m doing a lot easier (and will also allow me to know just what the heck is going on in the game’s madcap story).

Ambition of the Slimes is free; more info on how to get the game here.

New release: Avernum 2: Crystal Souls

Avernum 2 Crystal Souls
Word reaches me that Spiderweb Software has released a spiffied-up remake of the classic wRPG Avernum 2, titled Avernum 2: Crystal Souls.

The narrative premise:

The end has come. Years ago, your people were imprisoned in the underworld, doomed to end their lives in the darkness. Then that was not enough. Your captors have invaded your caves, determined to kill you all. They are winning the war.

All known lands are commanded by the Empire, the eternal power that controls the known world. Everyone who spoke out, who misbehaved, who didn’t fit in was cast into the dark, volcanic pits of Avernum, far below the surface. There, these exiles survived, gained power, and struck back. They assassinated the lord of the Empire.

Now the Empire will have revenge. They have invaded Avernum, taking cave after cave, destroying your people. Your land needs a hero, and it needs it now. If you can’t find a way to stop them, and soon, you are all doomed.

The Avernum series is turn-based, party-based, and employs a 2D isometric presentation. As you can see, the game now looks much nicer than it did in its incarnation from 15 years ago:

The feature list:

  • Epic fantasy adventure with over 40 hours of gameplay.
  • An enormous underworld, with multiple nations and alien cultures.
  • Over 100 towns and dungeons.
  • Three separate game-winning quests. There are many ways to fight the invaders. Do just one of them or all three!
  • Unique races and settings make Avernum different from any adventure out there.
  • Dozens of side quests and hundreds of magical artifacts.
  • Rich game system with over 60 spells and battle disciplines and a multitude of beneficial character traits to choose from.

You can download a free demo of Avernum 2: Crystal Souls for Windows or Mac. The full game will run you $19.99; you can nab it from GOG, The Humble Store, or Steam. Vogel writes that he plans to port the game to iPad as well.

New release: The Depths of Tolagal

The Depths of Tolagal
Words reaches me that there’s a new graphical roguelike out. Developed by British indie developer Angry Toad Studios, this one’s called The Depths of Tolagal.

The premise:

You are searching for your missing apprentice within the deep, dark dungeons of Tolagal. Did he go there willingly, or was he kidnapped? You don’t really care, you just want your damn apprentice back!

So, uh, it seems it’s not big on story–but that’s pretty much par for for course in the roguelike universe. Besides: according to the developer, this game’s emphasis is on tactical combat.

While movement in exploration mode is of the traditional one-step-at-a-time variety, combat employs an action point system that expands the possibility space pretty considerably. You can see how this looks in the trailer below:

I have yet to see any media for the game which shows you playing any character class other than a butcher, but the game does let you shape your character as you level up by selecting from different perks, so it has that going for it.

The Depths of Tolagal is available for $9.99 right now via The Humble Store and Steam. Windows, Mac and Linux.

New release: LISA: The Painful RPG

Happy new year, indie RPG fans! It has just come to my attention that LISA: The Painful RPG (first announced in December 2013) has been released.

The premise:

Lisa is a quirky side-scrolling RPG set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Beneath the charming and funny exterior is a world full of disgust and moral destruction. Players will learn what kind of person they are by being FORCED to make choices. These choices permanently effect the game play. If you want to save a party member from death, you will have to sacrifice the strength of your character. Whether it’s taking a beating for them, or chopping off limbs, or some other inhuman way. You will learn that in this world being selfish and heartless is the only way to survive…

The main thing on offer here seems to be the world, which is a grotesque, over-the-top post-apocalypse. The latest trailer doesn’t show too terribly much, so I’m going to post a slightly less recent (but still pretty recent) one instead:

Per the devs, LISA’s list of features includes:

– Visible character sacrifices that effect your stats (removing arms, eyes, scratches)
– Recruiting 30+ new party members in towns and camps.
– Ruthless choices that permanently effect towns, characters, life…
– White knuckle shopping cart races.
– Expending party members in Russian Roulette for huge profit, but perma-death if they lose.
– Countless hidden secrets in the world for you to explore.
– A life ruining gaming experience.

Developer Dingaling Games seems to have let its website lapse in favor of making the game’s Steam page be its new home on the web. You can find LISA here for $9.99; Windows, Mac and Linux.

New release: Secret of QWERTY

Secret of QWERTY
Hey folks! With the year ending, we’re in a slow news period for indie RPGs, but there are still things happening.

Gryphon writes in to tell me about the release of Secret of QWERTY, a jRPG in which battles require you to correctly type out a sequence of words under time pressure in order to attack your opponents:

Secret of Qwerty is an educational game inspired by The Typing of the Dead and Dragon Warrior. You explore, interact with characters, and fight enemies as in a typical role-playing game, but when you enter battle you damage enemies by typing words! You can also cast powerful spells and collect magical items on your way to defeat Qwertz and his four guardians forever.

When in battle, failing to type out the word correctly in time results in the enemy attacking you, damaging your health. If you mess up, however, you can use the number keys to quaff potions and cast spells that should help you recover. You can see how all this plays out in the gameplay trailer below:

Secret of QWERTY is free; Windows only. You can download it here. Checks Out Dungeonmans — 50th episode!

Merry Christmas, Christmas-celebrating indie RPG fans! (And for those of us who do not celebrate Christmas: Happy Gratuitous Day Off From Work Day!)

Adventurepro Games was good enough to send me a build of their (now finished and released) graphical roguelike Dungeonmans. I had a look at a pre-alpha version of this game last year, but I had strangely little to say about it in my write-up at the time. I expect this post should make up for that. On to the video!

So, what did I think?

(more…) Checks Out Letter Quest

Bacon Bandit Games was good enough to provide me a copy of Letter Quest, and as is my wont, I played through part of it and recorded as I went! You view the results below:

So, what did I think?