I was surrounded on all sides. I’d managed to rescue the prisoner, but now we had to fight our way back out of the dungeon. Reinforcements poured in from the south, so I sent my beleaguered party north. When we made it to a room with pressure plates and fireball-spewing statues, more reinforcements spawned at the entrance and quickly closed in.
What followed was a harrowing, tense turn, as I carefully positioned my warden for a whirlwind strike, blasted out a fireball with my acolyte, and tried to figure out what I could do with a useless unarmed prisoner. That’s when I remembered the pressure plates, and smiled as I noticed the bad guys were standing pretty close to those statues. He may have been unarmed, but his legs were working just fine.
That wasn’t the first dungeon escapade I just barely scraped through in Druidstone: The Secret of Menhir Forest, a new tactical RPG from the creators of Legend of Grimrock.
When I unlocked the Bone Prison specialization for my Mark for Death spell, I forgot to read the fine print. Though a wall of bones now encircled my enemies, my once insta-cast spell now had a nasty side effect: a 20-second cooldown. But I was delighted to find that I could now cast another spell on each individual bone piece, turning my new bone prison into a cascading wall of death.
Last Epoch‘s skill system is a brilliant evolution of Path of Exile’s labyrinthine web of upgrades and Diablo 3’s rune modifications.
In most eldritch horror fiction, the heroes’ goal is to prevent the end of the world. In Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones, an isometric tactical RPG, the end of the world has already happened.
“We define Stygian as a role-playing game about horror, loss, and madness,” says Can Oral (pronounced Jon Rahl), lead designer and creative director at Cultic Games. “It takes place after the awakening of the great old ones. Your goal isn’t about saving the world, it’s already too late.”
The story takes place in the city of Arkham, which has been torn loose from the ruins of Earth and floats under an alien sky beneath a perpetual lair of gloom and despair. The city has been divided up between pagan cultists and ruthless mobsters, and many of the residents have either gone insane, or are teetering close to the edge.
At age 21, Jon Shafer was asked to be the lead designer for Sid Meier’s Civilization 5. It was a dream come true for a young designer who had been creating mods for Civ, just a few years before. Within three years of shipping Civ 5, though, he’d quit lucrative jobs at Firaxis and Stardock and suffer the crushing reality of being an isolated programming prodigy with ADHD, trying to make his dream game. It all came crashing down in 2015. “I had nothing left, financially, physically, or mentally,” he wrote. “The last shreds of creativity and productivity finally slipped between my fingers.”
Since 2015 Shafer has been slowly building his life back up from ruin. He spent six hard years on his passion project At the Gates, finally finishing and releasing it this January. Here’s how he got there.
A pig, a duck, and a mutant walk into a bar. Pripp’s Bar, to be precise, located on The Ark, the last safe haven amid the crumbling ruins of a world ravaged by global nuclear warfare and a deadly pandemic. That’s a scene that’ll play out a few hours into Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, but it just as likely could’ve happened more than 30 years ago. The new game translates the Swedish tabletop RPG Mutant, originally published in 1984, into an XCOM-like tactical strategy game.
Much of the actual RPG gameplay from the tabletop game, most recently published as Mutant: Year Zero in 2014, was changed, streamlined, or abandoned in the genre shift. But the classic 80s post-irradiated setting and lore are much the same. Here’s the backstory you might not get if you just straight in, and how the new game differs from its origins.
Six years, two Kickstarter campaigns, and one home equity loan later, Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption has finally been released. “A year after the first Kickstarter we were approached by an outside investor,” says Corey Cole, part of the husband-wife team behind Hero-U. “We would’ve gotten half a million in additional funding. The problem was they wanted 50% of the game’s sales for life. At the time we felt it was too much to give up. Had we looked into our crystal ball in 2015 or 2017, we would’ve jumped on that.”
I spoke to both Corey and Lori Cole about the lengthy, yet passionate development of Hero-U, an adventure-RPG modeled after the 1990s Sierra series that once made them design icons: Quest for Glory.
The life of a cloned, intergalactic bounty hunter is about what I expected, though with a lot more loot boxes. Brig 12 offers an interesting mix of character class progression, tactical turn-based battles, and crew management, but it’s hampered every step of the way by free-to-play card mechanics that turn the gameplay into a repetitive grind.
The basic loop of Brig 12 is simple: Select a bounty target, track them using my crew—a fun mechanic I’ll talk about more later—then beam down with my landing party for a series of turn-based battles.