As part of Games Workshop's annual Warhammer Skulls event, Owlcat unveiled a new Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader feature trailer today. As some expected after last week's lore update on the official website, the trailer offers us our first look at Ulfar, Rogue Trader's Space Marine companion. There are other things to see here as well, including a glimpse at the game's strategic layer and an overview of various enemy factions, including the forces of Chaos. The trailer concludes with the announcement that the Rogue Trader beta will be starting a week from now, on June 1st.
Unlike the alpha, Rogue Trader's beta build will be available to all who preorder, even at the cheapest $40 tier. Hopefully, that means more gameplay impressions from your fellow Codexers in the near future.
The Palace of Ice DLC for Solasta: Crown of the Magister was released this evening. As our users quickly discerned, while the new campaign does see the return of the Soraks, the primary antagonists appear to be their new demonic allies. With Palace of Ice, Tieflings and Gnomes are now available as playable races, and the accompanying patch increases the game's level cap to 16. That means a host of new high level abilities, which Tactical Adventures described in a thorough development update last month. Interestingly, the new patch also features a significant overhaul of Solasta's itemization, including crafting mechanics and item distribution in the original campaign's shops. A sampling of some of the new high level abilities is described by Myzzrym in the community video released alongside the DLC's launch trailer.
The Palace of Ice DLC is available on Steam and GOG for $15, as befits what is clearly Solasta's most substantial DLC yet. The patch notes for the accompanying update are available here. It probably truly is the final DLC this time, since Tactical Adventures also put together a new Lightbringers Edition which includes all four in a single package. I wonder what they'll do next. A sequel, or something entirely new?
Nearly six years ago, a fellow by the name of Bantichai showed up on our forums to talk about a game he was working on, a Battle Brothers-inspired open-world tactical RPG called Dead Monarchy. Today, nearly four years after it went into Early Access, the game's full release is finally here. Bantichai was pretty young when he began working on Dead Monarchy so many years ago. His release announcement reflects on how far he's come since then and what he has planned for the future. But first the release trailer, which has a heavy focus on visceral combat animations.
Initially, when I set out to create Dead Monarchy, I thought I could work on this one game forever. I know, it sounds naïve, a large amount of developers that go into early access don't finish their games and countless games don't even make it into the early access stage. I felt confident that I could do it though.
I have to say, that after 6 years, it does feel like forever, especially when it's just you. Day in and day out, solo development becomes extremely "insular". I say that because at least for me, it feels like I stuck my head in the sand and popped out half a decade later. Everyone and everything around me has changed and moved on but I still remained the same. To me, time stalled but the reality is that time keeps flowing.
After that realisation, I took some time off and realised that I myself had also changed, I had become more experienced, but I never realised that until I took the time to think about it. While I still have those lofty ideals and the same amount of enthusiasm and passion, I also now have a more realistic plan to achieve my dreams.
I have decided that I will create a series of games, essentially standalone expansions. They will all relate back to Dead Monarchy, as in they will all share the same setting but they are separate games. Combat will be the one consistent thing that will improve upon each game. I will continue to add new perks, new weapon types, new armours and new enemies and they will be built upon each new game. So the combat system will remain intact and be expanded upon each new game but other features such as the open-world exploration, may be removed and other major features added in such as base management.
The reason I am doing this is because I realised that it is impossible for me to balance and design the game that I want in a single game. It also isn't exactly financially viable.
My dream is to just be able to make a living from creating games, to be able to work on my games full-time. If I made a modest 50k AUD a year from games, that would be enough to go full-time or if Dead Monarchy somehow made a million that would secure me for life and I would have all the time in the world to just work on a single game.
Both scenarios still seem so far away and deep down I knew that going in as Dead Monarchy is a niche game, but that's why dreams exist, so you can chase them and in my case, gives meaning to my life.
Once I have created a few more games and the major features that those games will be based around have received adequate feedback and have been polished, I will then combine all the games into the "ultimate" version and that game will then ultimately be my "dream" game and the game I will then continue to work on.
That is the plan and the route I have decided to take. I need to be able to work in sections, if the game gets too big, it becomes too unwieldy, sections need to be locked down, if I have multiple things that need my attention all at once, it becomes extremely messy.
Thoroughly inspiring stuff. Dead Monarchy is available on Steam for just $10, with a 40% launch discount until next week, which means it's practically free. Give it a try if you like what you're hearing.
Things were quiet for a long time after Jagged Alliance 3 was announced by THQ Nordic back in 2021. That changed at the end of 2022 when they finally began publishing dev diary updates on the game's community website. These updates have been pretty well-received. Many developers have tried and failed to produce a worthy successor to Jagged Alliance 2 over the years, but with Ian Currie on board, Haemimont Games have vowed not to fuck it up. We'll know soon whether they succeeded, because today THQ Nordic announced that Jagged Alliance 3 will be out on July 14th. Rather than a mere release date trailer, they put together a hefty feature trailer describing the game's three main pillars: a simulationist approach to tactical combat, large cast of mercenaries with distinct personalities, and free-roaming open world.
Sofia, Bulgaria / Vienna, Austria, May 17th, 2023: When people talk about turn-based tactics games, very often Jagged Alliance is mentioned as one of the legendary forefathers of the genre. So creating a new installment in the series, almost 25 years after the first one has electrified gamers around the globe, is not a simple task: The memories of those iconic games remain cherished, but times have changed, and players now have different expectations. Nevertheless, developer Haemimont Games and publisher THQ Nordic are proudly adding the long-awaited "3" to the iconic title, indicating nothing less than: Jagged Alliance 3 shall be a worthy successor and an outstanding strategy game when it releases on July 14th, 2023 for PC!
In the latest trailer, we're gonna spill the beans on what Jagged Alliance 3 brings to the table - and what it doesn't. Battle-hardened mercenaries who've conquered the previous installments might scoff and say, "Been there, done that." But for you unfortunate souls who've never tasted the thrill of a Jagged Alliance game yet (shame on you!), this rad new trailer will answer the burning question you've been dying to ask: What is the gameplay like? Does it focus on tactics or strategy? Is there a crafting system? And so much more... Find all the answers you seek in the thrilling new trailer!
Mod support coming soon after launch
After Jagged Alliance 3 has launched, the developers will focus on giving the players the exciting opportunity to customize the game according to their preferences. Initially offering basic mod support, allowing players to modify weapon statistics, adjust difficulty levels, and even display the "chance to hit" percentage, the mod support for Jagged Alliance 3 will continue to expand and evolve post-launch. In due course, players will wield a powerful tool that empowers them to create and share their own campaigns, introduce new mercenaries, and explore possibilities beyond our current imagination!
Jagged Alliance 3 is currently in development for PC and is set to release on July 14th, 2023 at an SRP of $ 44.99 / € 44.99 / 39.99 £ and will receive a launch discount of 20% on Steam - wishlist here: https://thqn.net/ja3-steam
The Jagged Alliance 3 Tactical Edition is available for pre-order now at an SRP of € 129.99 / £ 114.99 and will release along with the game on July 14th, 2023. Please note: this edition is strictly limited.
As mentioned above, mod support will be added to the game after launch. That 20% launch discount is going to be pretty nice too. Seems everybody involved is trying to do their best with this one. What do you think, Codex?
Some of you may recall that Archaelund, the promising Realms of Arkania-like RPG from Codexer DavidBVal, was supposed to have gone into Early Access last year. Obviously, that didn't happen. Judging by a development update from November, it sounds like much of 2022 was spent overhauling the game's core mechanics. The good news is that's been nailed down now and in the latest development update, David announces Archaelund should be ready for Early Access within four to six months. The update comes with a five minute reel of alpha gameplay footage that demonstrates just how far the game has come.
Looks great. Hopefully things will go faster now that David can focus purely on content creation.
The well-received post-apocalyptic fantasy sandbox RPG Vagrus - The Riven Realms has received quite a few updates since it launched in late 2021, including two free DLCs last year. With all of its originally planned features complete, Lost Pilgrims set out to develop the game's first proper expansion, which was announced today during Steam's Tacticon event. The Sunfire and Moonshadow expansion will add a new region to the game world called the Bronze Desert, a vast territory contested by three different factions. Here's the announcement post:
The time has finally come to announce our upcoming expansion for Vagrus and go into a little detail about what we’ve been working on for the past seven months. It’s been a long, hard road, and while we’re slowly making our way to the finish line, we still have a great deal of testing to do, plus numerous final touches to iterate upon. It’s a terribly exciting time at Lost Pilgrims Studio, and it’s time to share at least some of it with those who made it possible: you, the players. The expansion’s store page is available for viewing and is ready to be wishlisted on Steam, GOG, and Epic.
Those of you who watched Tacticon may have already seen our short teaser, but rest assured, we’ve embedded it in this post for your perusal (and speculation!). First, we want to answer the most pressing question, however – what exactly is this expansion about? We’ve put together some of the key details below, as well as the trailer beneath it:
Occupying the northwestern corner of the continent of Xeryn, a desert older than the Calamity lies between the Brown Mountains and the River Lethe: the Bronze Desert. It is a realm torn by war in more than one way. The Empire rallies its immense legions here, sending them north toward the Green Continent to lay waste to its lush lands while the elite Chimera Legion remains behind to oversee this arid staging ground. Deep in the desert, however, lurks a different threat – that of the Ahari. Birthed by the native Bandul and tempered by their unwillingness to yield in the face of Imperial oppression, the Ahari seek to win back their sacred oases and holy sites, fighting an impossible campaign of terror. Amidst it all are the Handjari, sworn allies of the Empire and stewards of the greatest city in all the Bronze Desert – Kabur, the Jewel of the North.
The stage is set, the stakes are high. Who will you, a mere vagrus, align yourself with? The mysterious Ahari and their Sun God or the cruel Chimera Legion and their ruthlessly pragmatic leader, the Legate? Your decisions will shape the fate of the region writ large, paving the way for a new, uncertain future throughout the Realms.
Sunfire and Moonshadow offers a new, vast region to explore complete with a swathe of new settlements, new enemies to conquer, new stories to be a part of, a large cast of characters, and new quests to complete through which your vagrus may make their mark on Xeryn. With all this, as well as the introduction of a central conflict involving three new core factions – the Ahari, the Chimera Legion, and the Handjari – the expansion features content roughly one-third the size of the core game.
We hope you’re as excited as we are to return to the Riven Realms and explore and exploit an entirely new region. We’ll keep updating you on the exact date of the release as we know more, but for now, rest assured – the expansion will drop sometime in Q3 of 2023. Until next time, stay vigilant, stay awesome, and conquer the wasteland!
As mentioned, the Sunfire and Moonshadow expansion is scheduled for release sometime in Q3 this year. You can wishlist it on Steam here.
We haven't seen much of Tim Cain in recent years, other than a couple of interviews when the The Outer Worlds: Spacer's Choice Edition was announced. Yet last week, he quietly launched a new YouTube channel called "Cain On Games" where he apparently intends to answer questions from fans on a regular basis. He's already recorded videos about Fallout, the unmade Arcanum sequel Journey to the Center of Arcanum, and the Lords of the Rings RPG pitched by Troika when it was turned down. Now, you might be wondering how he has time to do this. As has been rumored for some time, Tim has been "semi-retired" for almost three years now, having left Obsidian in June 2020, though he still does contract work for them and two other studios as well. I'll post the video about that along with the channel introduction.
This seems like it's going to be pretty great. Hat tip to user Goral for spotting the channel first.
Nox Archaist: Lord of Storms, the expansion pack for Ultima-like retro RPG Nox Archaist announced last summer, was released today. The expansion features a major new quest in which the party is sent to investigate the recent increase in storm activity throughout the isles. The new content is intended for mid-level characters and requires starting a new game to access, though pregenerated characters of an appropriate level range are provided. Here's the full description:
You have learned of Lord Estintar’s suspicions that the cult has something to do with the increase in storm activity. He charges you with investigating. The task will not be easy, but you accept this duty. Your quest will take you to uncharted reaches of the Isles of Wynmar. Traps, puzzles, and powerful magic items await, which may or may not be able to help you. Those brave and foolish enough to face these perilous perils will come face to face with the Lord of Storms!
The Nox Archaist: Lord of Storms digital download includes:
15+ hours of new content, including a new quest line
New mobs and new unique items
New features, including character renaming
PDF of the manual
This is an expansion pack for Nox Archaist, and requires the full game to run. To play the Lord of Storms expansion, you must start a new game of Nox Archaist. You cannot import a saved game from the pre-expansion version. The Lord of Storms Expansion includes the complete original storyline along with the expansion content, so once you start a new game you will be able to play the full Nox Archaist scenario. To activate the new content, talk to Lord Estintar in Nourtheld Castle. Ask him about STORMS. After doing this, you can continue with your current quests, or you can work on the quest given by Lord Estintar.
Like all of the Nox Archaist quests, you can start the Lord of Storms with characters at any level. Nevertheless, the Lord of Storms content is designed for a level 4 or 5 party that has been trained and is using level 4 or 5 gear. For players who want to focus more on puzzles and have less challenging combat, a level 5 party would be better. Parties below level 4 may find the adventure too challenging, while those significantly above level 5 may be overpowered. For players who want to dive into the new content, the expansion includes two pregenerated parties of levels 4 and 5.
The Lord of Storms expansion is available on Steam and GOG for $8, with a 10% launch discount until next week. You can also get it directly from developer 6502 Workshop's official website.
As you may recall, Together in Battle is the next tactical RPG from Telepath Tactics creator Craig Stern, based on the new Unity-based engine he created for that game's Liberated edition. The game has been featured on Steam Next Fest several times since it was announced back in 2020 and it's now come along far enough to merit a proper Early Access release. As its launch trailer demonstrates, Together in Battle's core gameplay is in the same vein as Telepath Tactics. Unlike that game, it also features procedurally generated arena battles alongside its handcrafted campaign, with CYOA-style events in between battles that determine relationships between its also procedurally generated characters. Here's the trailer and Early Access FAQ:
Why Early Access?
Together in Battle leans heavily on procedural content; early access will allow me to continually build up the constituent pieces of endless different adventures while adapting to player feedback.
Approximately how long will this game be in Early Access?
The baseline is 1 year; if it does well enough, however, I may decide to take longer and add in more content and features for the 1.0 release.
How is the full version planned to differ from the Early Access version?
The full version is planned to feature full gamepad and SteamDeck support; a completed main plot quest with hand-designed battles; a finished arena quest line wherein the player can become champion of the arena; and many more random events, side quests, skills, and character background dialogue.
(I'd also like to commission updated character sprite art that better reflects individual character portraits, but whether that will be financially feasible depends upon how well the game sells.)
What is the current state of the Early Access version?
At the time of Early Access launch, the game is feature-complete with all core systems working exactly as intended and the core loop firmly in place. The arena quest line is 50% complete, with more than a dozen regular battles and two league qualifier "boss" fights; the main quest line is approximately 15% complete with dialogue-driven cut scene events. The relationship sim systems are fully functional and there are several dozen random events and side quests currently in the game as well, most of them with alternate outcomes depending on player choices, the character(s) involved, or both. In total, I'd estimate the game already has enough content for 10-hour runs.
Will the game be priced differently during and after Early Access?
The game will cost approximately 25% less during Early Access.
How are you planning on involving the Community in your development process?
I plan to check the Steam forums (and my own forums) regularly, replying to comments, reading player feedback, and taking on ideas that I think will benefit the game.
Together in Battle Early Access is available on Steam for $15, with a 10% launch discount until next week. As stated in the FAQ, it's scheduled to remain in Early Access for at least a year, after which the price will increase.
Way back in 2016, we reported about an ambitious mage simulator sandbox RPG called Archmage Rises that was seeking admission to Steam via the Steam Greenlight service. Steam Greenlight no longer exists, but development on Archmage Rises has meandered along this entire time, with frequent development update videos but no end in sight. A few years ago, creator Thomas Henshell began hiring a team to help finally finish the game. Judging by the demo released during the most recent Steam Next Fest event, there's still plenty of work to be done, but it's now in a state where they're comfortable releasing it as an Early Access title. There's no launch trailer, so here's the trailer they put together for the demo.
The Archmage Rises Early Access build is available on Steam for $30 with a 15% launch discount until next week. According to the Early Access FAQ, the final version is scheduled for release a year from now. I guess we'll see about that.
Last month, alongside its latest price increase, the release schedule for Colony Ship was quietly pushed back. The game is now scheduled for release in the fall, closer to the end of the year. Furthermore, the next update for the Early Access build was split, with the first part released today. Players can now visit the Yellow and Red Zones in Hydroponics, where judging by the lore quote in the update's announcement, they'll encounter a variety of hazardous genetically engineered critters. I quote:
You can continue your adventure and explore Hydroponics Yellow and Red Zones:
Esteemed members of the Synod,
Our division has been tasked with protecting the precious crops and plants, the everlasting gift of Mother Earth to Proxima, our promised land.
We know that the dangers will be many: pests, fungi, pathogens, even the soil itself, but with the right tools the pests can be driven off, the fungi controlled, the soil enriched.
Our Forefathers have given us these tools: keystone species that define entire ecosystems and hold them together, and like any tools they must be shaped and even reforged, if needed, to fit the task at hand.
These species will be our first line of defence in the battle that's yet to come. They will safeguard our fields and tirelessly protect them from any local threat that burrows, crawls, or flies in the most humane and environmentally-conscious way possible.
Our floaters can disrupt brain waves, gently turning away anyone approaching a designated perimeter. Should it fail they can rapidly generate an electric charge of up to 1,200 volts - more than enough to make the trespasser leave and never return.
The frogs can easily hunt down any intruders ... but you've already seen what they're capable of. Suffice it to say, our little friends have shown a remarkable capacity for learning, and their genetic variety makes the possibilities truly endless.
Our most interesting project is a sand striker, uniquely suitable for any desert environment. It's an ambush predator that can detect vibrations and anticipate its prey's movements.
What's fascinating is that its nutrient-rich waste is a perfect fertilizer that can enrich the soil and feed the plants. In this way, it turns threats into gifts that will help grow the land.
This update brings us closer to the release, so let's take a look at what's left:
- Mission Control lower levels and the Armory, level 3
- Endgame events
It will probably take us 3 months to do the next two updates, so by the end of July we should be done with level design and creatures, and we'll be able to fully focus on the endgame events.
Thank you for playing.
As mentioned, the next update for Colony Ship will include the promised new Mission Control content along with the final level of the Armory. After that comes the Bridge, which is now a standalone update expected by the end of July.
It's easy to forget what a surprise Pathfinder: Kingmaker was when it launched back in 2018. Its unlikely success turned Owlcat Games, a previously unknown Russian studio, into one of the primary isometric RPG developers of our time practically overnight. Released three years later, its followup Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is viewed in a somewhat different light. The game is definitely extremely popular, including on our forums, but there's a sense that some players have grown a bit weary of the Owlcat formula. "The same, but even more epic and extreme" might sound good, but it amplifies the parts of a game that people don't like as much as it does the parts that they do like. In his review of Wrath of the Righteous, the esteemed Roguey reached a similar conclusion, though he ultimately still finds the game worth playing for fans of the genre. Here's an excerpt:
In my Kingmaker review, I hoped for a pseudo-isometric fantasy RPG without lengthy exposition dumps. Well, once again, that isn't this one. Walls of text are a frequent occurrence, which is made all the more exasperating when they're fully voiced. Lengthy books, notes, and letters you can collect in the world are fine — I could just do without the long monologues.
Like Kingmaker, the journal entries are written by someone who isn't the player character. It soon becomes obvious that they're written from the perspective of the primary antagonist, which I believe may be a first for the genre. It's an amusing novelty, even if I found myself annoyed by the verbosity, though I'll admit it fits the character's personality. It also led to a giddy sense of pride when my character asserted ownership of the journal with the final quest entry.
WotR has another colorful cast of characters, though this bunch is far more queer in both senses of the term. Owlcat wasn't afraid to be polarizing, though I found myself not ultimately disliking how any of them were written. As an example, Lann's Whedonesque quipping aggravated me at first, but as the game progresses, he behaves more seriously and gets less obnoxious with the jokes. I don't know if that was a deliberate character arc, but it worked for me.
Naturally a game where the player character gains mythic powers to defeat a demonic invasion will be as ego stroking as it gets. The various mythic paths cover a wide variety of motivations: you can be a lawful zealot who corrects all wrong-doing, a tough but fair judge meting out justice with mercy, a free spirit who defeats demons with the power of friendship, a rival evil who wants to eliminate the competition, or someone just having fun. Unlike Kingmaker, there weren't any spots where I felt unsatisfied with the number of decisions available for the character I had in mind.
The story covers themes of corruption and redemption. Unsurprisingly, your allies aren't entirely good or infallible, and some of your enemies aren't entirely bad. As a good character, I had to make some pragmatic decisions for the greater good. For example, early on I met a commanding officer who's revealed to have ordered one of your companions burned at the stake out of belief she was a secret cultist. My initial desire was to execute him on the spot (which would be justified and isn't considered an evil action by the game), but given the dire circumstances of the war, I decided I didn't have the luxury of being too particular about who my allies were. Sure enough, his presence had a beneficial effect on an event many dozens of hours later.
Reactivity like that is abundant throughout the game. The first act has a soft time limit with changes to certain maps after you reach it (or a potential reward if you manage to initiate the act-ending quest before the event can trigger). The second act has reactions to how long you take and your crusade's losses and morale. The availability of certain companions changes depending on what decisions you make, and some can permanently turn on you. Your choice of mythic path will open up certain exclusive options (including at the end) and each has its own particular questline. Multiple companions can have interjecting conversations among themselves and with other characters. Sometimes characters you meet will react to certain magical items you have in your inventory. There's even an ending that requires meeting a very precise set of requirements to unlock (you're gradually given the instructions how to do it throughout the game, with the last set of requirements revealed at the very end; I would recommend against metagaming it the first time you play given that it might not even fit your character concept).
[...] Before release, it was my hope that Wrath of the Righteous would address the biggest issues I had with Kingmaker and become an undisputed classic. Instead it's a whole-lot-more-of-the-same sequel that does some things better and some things worse. That's fine, but once more I find myself not wanting to go through it again even though I would like to explore more mythic paths and make different choices. Nevertheless, if you can accept that Owlcat is dedicated to filling their games to the brim with text and enemies and strategic management minigames, and you have the time to commit to it, then it's certainly worth playing.
Instead of a dev diary, Owlcat released a new Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader trailer yesterday showcasing various locations from the game. As a rogue trader, your character will have to oversee the multitude of imperial planets within his domain, with environments ranging from palaces to starports to industrial hives. The main highlight of the trailer, however, is that at some point the rogue trader and his party will find themselves in Commorragh, the horrific interdimensional city of the Dark Eldar.
The trailer was preceded by a lore update on the game's official website describing some of its other locations in further detail. Perhaps we'll see more of Rogue Trader during the Warhammer Fest event next weekend, although it might just be an opportunity to hawk its Collector's Edition.
Wartales, the open world mercenary band RPG from prolific French indie developer Shiro Games, was released today after over 16 months in Early Access. The game has received a hefty final update, adding a new region to its world map, full voice acting(!), various graphical improvements and plenty of other tweaks. It seems like it's come a long way, though its release trailer is identical to the release date announcement trailer from last month.
There are a handful of launch day reviews of Wartales. Some are quite positive, while others found the game still incomplete feeling or simply boring. That doesn't seem to be bothering most of its 9000+ reviewers on Steam though, so I suspect it's going to do all right.
Wartales is available on Steam now for $35, with a generous 25% launch discount until April 24th. If the idea of a more accessible Battle Brothers without procedural generation and with legs is appealing to you and you've been putting it off, I'd say now is the time to check this game out.
While all of the tactical RPGs from Eldiran of Rad Codex have been well-received on our forums, his first title Voidspire Tactics remains a favorite of many. Its metroidvania-style world design was a happy medium between the linear gauntlet of Alvora Tactics and the massive open world of Horizon's Gate. Fans of Voidspire will be happy to learn that Eldiran's next game Kingsvein is a return to that style. Set in the subterranean realm of Graven, in Kingsvein players will assume the role of a "Wisp Slayer" tasked with reclaiming the titular city from the evil forces that have overtaken it. It looks it's got all the familiar elements from previous Rad Codex titles, such as dynamic environments and an extensive class system. Here's the game's announcement trailer and description:
All contact with the city of Kingsvein has been lost. As Wisp Slayer, your role is to investigate and exterminate whatever evil lurks there.
Adventure through the castle and its outer reaches as you see fit - secret treasures and skulking beasts hide around every corner!
Dynamic and deep tactical combat - toss your enemies into spikes then electrify their blood, or cover the battlefield in flames
Customize your team by mixing and matching 15 different classes, each with upgradeable abilities and equippable passives
Use your abilities to explore - freeze rivers with your magic, blast through cave walls, and throw chains to topple statues
Ride your loyal steed in and out of combat, and train it to be as fierce as any Knight
Set in the realm of Graven, a weird subterranean world of living soil and half-stone Diecast
After making System Shock 2 but before they become known as the BioShock company, Irrational Games released several other titles from a variety of genres. Among these was 2002's Freedom Force, a colorful superhero-themed real-time tactical RPG inspired by the so-called Silver Age of comic books. Although well-received at the time and successful enough to merit a sequel in 2005, Freedom Force ultimately seems to have been too niche to remain in the public memory for long, its homebrew setting obsolete in the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I'm not sure why Mr. Magniloquent decided that now was the time to write a (magniloquent) retrospective of this underappreciated title, but we're happy to publish it. As you'll see, he's a big fan of the combat:
Did I mention this game is true real-time with pause? There are no hidden pseudo-rounds. Timing is everything. From how fast you move to how fast you can act. The real-time action makes it possible to micro your character to dodge attacks--it’s often vital to do so. Hustling your hero behind a car for cover from a gangster robot raking his Tommy Gun across the avenue will feel genuinely cinematic. The duration of the execution and action point costs is correlated with how potent a power is. In true comic fashion, ultimate attacks are flashy and highly telegraphed, giving you time to respond by marshaling your defenses, fleeing for cover, or attempting to interrupt them. Interruption is an important tactic, and made the Alchemiss character’s quick and inexpensive Repulsion ability invaluable.
Freedom Force makes full use of its 3D environment. Beyond your character’s own RNG, your attacks will have to contend with constant movement, line of sight, and range itself. It will be commonplace to miss your intended target or hit unintended ones. Collision is consequential, as both bystanders and environments are destructible. This isn’t pop-a-mole. Vantage points and cover will be destroyed, so don’t get too comfortable.
Prestige will be lost from harming innocents and destroying civilian infrastructure, no matter the perpetrator. Your priorities will be impacted by the nature of the enemies you face because of it. A grenade wielding maniac who demolishes a building because you’re atop it will still incur prestige loss. It is frequently necessary to put your heroes in danger for the greater good in true comic book fashion. Collateral damage also makes discretion the better part of valor. Large explosions and penetrating ray attacks are dangerous to more than the villains. Non-urban environments where you can let loose will become cathartic because of it. On the same note, environments are often usable. Freedom Force was tossing exploding barrels 10 years before Larian made it cool. You can also throw cars, mailboxes, and other objects if strong enough. In melee, wield traffic signals and streetlights for wide and satisfying swings.
No comic can be complete without rooftop action. Solasta made much ado about elevation, but this is another feature where Freedom Force was decades ahead. A higher position provides unimpeded line of sight, or can be a refuge from a blundering brute. Furthermore, fall damage is significant. Knocking a knucklehead from a lofty ledge or flying felon is often more damaging than a direct attack.
All powers cost Action Points. Even the lowliest of basic punches will cost a few AP. All powers can have their potency increased or decreased, which also modifies the AP cost. The savvy player can be economical by diminishing their powers against weak or vulnerable enemies. This can often be a crucial tactic for success on certain missions. Likewise, you can also elevate your powers when you need it to count, or overcome a powerful foe's defenses. Be fore-warned, if you use more AP than is currently available, there is a scaling risk that the action will both fail and stun that character. Gripping scenes emerge when you execute a double-empowered ultra-attack just in the nick of time to save the day. Everything about Freedom Force works to exude super heroic style. Play this game already!
Most of the classic Dungeons & Dragons RPGs developed and published by SSI in the 1980s and 1990s have been available for sale on GOG since 2015, and last year they were released on Steam as well thanks to retro publisher SNEG. However, SSI published numerous other D&D-branded titles back in the day, none of which have been available for sale since their original releases. Although most of these titles were not RPGs and they certainly lack the prestige of the Gold Box series, SNEG are to be commended for completing the SSI D&D catalog by releasing them today on Steam and GOG. For Codexers, the most notable of these titles is probably Cybertech's Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace, a space exploration and combat game set in the Spelljammer setting that also featured party-based tactical combat. Also of interest is the so-called Silver Box, consisting of four loosely related Dragonlance-based titles. Here's the official press release from SNEG:
London, United Kingdom (March 27, 2023) — Today, SNEG — boutique publisher of long-lost titles — is launching eight long-dormant Dungeons & Dragons games for Windows PC via GOG and Steam. The list features many of the first D&D video games, some available for the first time in over 25 years, and includes Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace, Fantasy Empires, DragonStrike, DeathKeep, and Heroes of the Lance, Dragons of Flame, War of the Lance, and Shadow Sorcerer available in the Silver BoxClassics bundle. Each game contains digital bonus materials from their original releases, such as manuals, rulebooks, and cluebooks.
“D&D has a long history of great video game adaptations, and it’s a dream come true to be able to bring many of them back to modern players,” said Oleg Klapovskiy, Director at SNEG. “With the Silver Box titles, plus the previously released Gold Box titles, I think we’ve provided a lot of games to make D&D fans, old and new, very happy!”
The release of these eight classic D&D titles coincides with the D&D Franchise Event happening now on Steam. Players can enjoy discounts on many D&D titles, including Gold Box Classics previously released by SNEG, by visiting the Steam sale page here: https://store.steampowered.com/sale/dnddirect2023.
Embark on epic fantasy adventures in these classic Dungeons & Dragons titles:
Fly the mighty dragons of Krynn into battle in the first ever dragon combat simulator! Play through 20 missions set in the world of Dragonlance; intercept enemy dragons, destroy enemy ships, and protect the forces of good in order to advance in rank, gain magical items and hit points, and acquire better dragons!
Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace (1992) - GOG | Steam
Pirates of Realmspace leads the player into a fantasy world to pilot a ship (a Spelljammer) that may travel into Realmspace and visit eight worlds of inner and outer planets for exploration and trade. Experience spectacular first-person flight combat and classic tactical encounters as you uncover the terrible conspiracy that threatens to conquer Realmspace itself!
In Fantasy Empires you play as the ruler of a fledgling kingdom. Your objective: take over adjacent kingdoms one by one using magic, brute force, or strategic planning. It features real-time combat in an overhead view, as well as a computer-controlled Dungeon Master, who provides insight as well as comic relief. Form alliances, recruit armies, train heroes, send them on quests, cast spells, and manage resources.
DeathKeep is a first-person single-player role-playing game with a touch of medieval AD&D gameplay in a fully 3D environment straight out of the ‘90s. Players must find and defeat an evil Necromancer located somewhere in the lower levels. Make your way through 25 dungeons filled with brain-busting puzzles and 30 types of horrific monsters who’ve never heard of dental care.
Based on the latter parts of the Dragonlance book, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the heroes descend into a ruined city in search of the disks of Mishakal. The gameplay consists of side-scrolling fighting with a maze-like map using doors to change the view. The party consists of the eight Heroes of the Lance, which the player can switch between at any time.
Set between the AD&DDragonlance action games Heroes of the Lance and Shadow Sorcerer,Dragons of Flame follows the Heroes of the Lance formula with a side-scrolling, action-oriented view. Choose from 10 playable characters and use weapons, spells, and character specific abilities to battle Trolls, Griffins, Draconians and Zombies.
Command armies, heroes, and special units against the evil Highlord Dragon Armies. Have your heroes search for magic to help in battle, use diplomats to gather nations to your side, and send armies out to the field to do battle or hunt down enemy heroes.
Shadow Sorcerer is a tie-in with the Dragonlance series of novels. The player controls a party of four adventurers that have just rescued 800 slaves and must shepherd them through the wilderness before the evil Red Dragon army catches up with them. With real-time strategic, tactical, and political gameplay, danger is around every corner. Can you find a safe haven for your followers?
Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace, Fantasy Empires, DragonStrike, DeathKeep, and the Silver Box Classics bundle are available now for Windows PC via GOG and Steam. Get them for 15% off during the launch week.
Spelljammer, Fantasy Empires and the Silver Box are available on Steam and GOG for $10 while DragonStrike and DeathKeep are priced at $6, all with a 15% launch discount until next week.
Come with me on a murky journey through 3 lawsuits about a man's reputation.
3 years ago, back before masks suddenly became hip and cool, Chris Avellone got cancelled. Specifically, he was accused of using his "star power" (lol the man writes RPGs) at conventions to make passes at women (there are women at these things?). 3 years later we don't even know what a woman is. How time flies. But according to Business Insider at the time, "Karissa, told Business Insider that Avellone forcibly kissed her and then tried to put his hand down her pants while she was "blackout drunk" at a 2012 convention. She says he stopped when she told him 'this isn't a good idea.'" For his part at the time, Chris Avellone made the mistake everyone was making, and apologised on Twitter... for breaking up with her friend:
Karissa does hate me, it is true. Very much, and I do not know how to fix it, but recognized when you hurt someone's friend, there may be no fix at all, except between the two people involved. And there's never any need to "support" me, I do not wish this.
He doubled down for good measure, once again apologising for how his relationship had ended with her friend:
Also, @GeekyFriedRice, as I've said, I am so sorry how things worked out. I did care about you very much, and I do appreciate your friends both trying to get us together and then backing away from that.
Without getting too legal, Chris had sued Karissa Barrows and Kelly Bristol in California. Initially, the case went well. The trial judge rejected the anti-SLAPP motion from Karissa and Kelly (which is to say, the judge felt the case wasn't a frivolous waste of time and was worth proceeding with). However, the judge did agree that California did not have jurisdiction over Kelly, so she was removed as a defendant. The judge ruled that the lawsuit against Karissa could go forward. Karissa filed an appeal against that.
Almost a year later, the Appellate Court ruled that California did not have jurisdiction over Karissa either and asked Chris to pay her attorney fees. Her attorney was working pro bono for her, so she did not have any fees per se... But the U.S. legal system allows pro bono lawyers to get paid as if they weren't pro bono in situations like this. Chris, we thought, had lost.
Kelly attempted to have the Oklahoma case dismissed but it was allowed to continue. There was some attempted counter-suing from Kelly. The Illinois lawsuit was also allowed to go forward. Eventually though, there were trial dates and everything. And discovery was supposed to begin... but not before court mandated mediation.
... and the parties settled, issuing a joint statement. Chris Avellone posted the joint statement on his Medium account:
The parties resolved the matter and claims were dismissed with prejudice pursuant to a confidential settlement that provides for a seven-figure payment that includes the return of the attorney fee award entered against Mr. Avellone in California.
I understand that Ms. Barrows has requested to retract her comments to the media about me.
Statements are as follows:
“After engaging with Mr. Avellone, we have prepared the following statement:
Mr. Avellone never sexually abused either of us. We have no knowledge that he has ever sexually abused any women. We have no knowledge that Mr. Avellone has ever misused corporate funds. Anything we have previously said or written about Mr. Avellone to the contrary was not our intent. We wanted to support women in the industry. In so doing, our words have been misinterpreted to suggest specific allegations of misconduct that were neither expressed nor intended. We are passionate about the safety, security and agency of women, minorities, LGBTQIA+ persons, and every other community that has seen persecution in the video game industry. We believe Mr. Avellone shares a desire to protect and uplift those communities. We believe that he deserves a full return to the industry and support him in those endeavors.”
- Karissa Barrows, Kelly Rae Bristol
“I appreciate the willingness of Ms. Barrows and Ms. Bristol to work with us in addressing issues within the game community, and their advocacy is to be commended and supported.
There are still many very real challenges that we face but am confident we can face them together.
In the spirit of these goals, I would ask everyone to respect the privacy of Ms. Barrows and Ms. Bristol and use this opportunity as a means to listen to all voices in improving our culture and our communities.”
- Chris Avellone
It's a little vague but we've been able to confirm that the settlement is in Chris Avellone's favour. And both the Oklahoma and Illinois cases are now settled.
Shiro Games' open world mercenary band RPG Wartales has been in Early Access since the end of 2021. The game has received several interesting-looking updates since then, including a major update which added the great city of Gosenberg to its world map. It looks it's picked up a decent following on Steam and to some extent on our forums as well, despite the developers openly describing it as a streamlined take on Battle Brothers. Today Shiro announced that Wartales will be leaving Early Access on April 12th. Here's the announcement trailer:
This could be the first major release of Codexian interest this year. I guess we'll see in three weeks.