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Druidstone Preview at Rock Paper Shotgun

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Druidstone Preview at Rock Paper Shotgun

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 13 December 2018, 01:38:21

Tags: Ctrl Alt Ninja; Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest

Rock Paper Shotgun's John Walker appears to be the first journalist to get his hands on a preview build of Druidstone, the upcoming turn-based tactical RPG from the former Legend of Grimrock devs at Ctrl Alt Ninja. The preview appears to consist of a multi-stage combat scenario, with resource attrition playing a major factor. John finds the game's emphasis on tactics and resource management over system mastery and powerbuilding appealing. It certainly sounds quite challenging, although keep in mind we are talking about John Walker here. Here's an excerpt:

The last thing I was expecting Druidstone: The Secret Of The Menhir Forest to remind me of was a deck-builder. Not least because it doesn’t feature any decks. And yet, there’s something about this deeply tactical isometric RPG, from Legend Of Grimrock’s creators, that contains the same spirit of gradually gaining a deeper and more refined understanding of a limited set of tools, through repeated failure, and incremental improvement.

This is at first glance a very traditional turned-based RPG – much as Grimrock recalled the glory days of the first-person dungeon crawler, this visually suggested memories of late-90s BioWare-ish battling. But playing it, it quickly becomes apparent this isn’t going to be a game that lets you spam your most powerful attacks at repeated mobs, but rather something that’s going to demand a lot more planning, a lot more forethought. This is going to be tough.

Gosh, it’s so tough. At one point over the weekend I emailed the game’s creators, Ctrl Alt Ninja, to say, “Ha ha, you got me. This is impossible, isn’t it?” They’d warned me it was hard. “Pretty hard for first timers, so good luck!” they said when first sending me this single level, before deploying a telling smiley face. But, I thought I’d realised, they were teasing me. Because once I’d managed to survive the first two mobs (three attempts), I then took about five goes to get past the third. (This is no rogue-like – the game checkpoints you within a level, although I was soon to learn this is as much a curse as a blessing.) But I did it! I was mastering this thing!

And then the level’s boss appeared, and started conjuring four other utterly lethal enemies every third turn, while at the same time turning the floor on which my team were standing into some terrifying roulette of death. I had a single go at just attacking everything, and that quickly proved suicide. So I thought: tactics! I left two of my three heroes on the other side of the door before triggering him, perhaps sacrifice the one guy while the other two sprint for freedom? Oops, nope, because a) the key to rescue the prisoner we were here for in the first place was in with the boss, and b) it turned out that coming in the way I wanted to escape were approximately 49 billion skellingtons, priests and demons, and they were flipping raising other monstrosities from beneath as they went.

So it was that I sent my you-got-me email. “Oh haha, it’s literally impossible!” I began. “You meanies,” I finished. And yet when their reply came back, it was a list of tips. They were for real. I’m meant to be able to do this. “Now, go and defeat that sick bastard,” Petri Häkkinen concluded. “I’m counting on you!”

Yeah I think I know who’s the sick bastard mumble mumble.

One of the most important points Häkkinen made in his hints was to say,

“If you have wasted a lot of abilities early in the mission (it can easily happen to beginners because they don’t know the basic premise of the game yet), it could be easier to just restart the demo and replay the early parts. You will find the early fights much easier this time.”
Yup, that really was it. Because as I mentioned, Druidstone is a game that makes me think of Slay The Spire meets XCOM 2 before it makes me think of Neverwinter Nights. At the start of this level, each of my characters has a healthy list of abilities, spells, attacks. But a lot of them have little numbers alongside. Aava, a ranged character with a bow, also has the ability to raise a companion from defeat! Except that has a little “1” by it. And that means she gets to do it precisely once this entire level. That’s not per encounter, but per whole mission. Her volley attack that allows me to hit two enemies in one shot also comes with a dreaded “1”. Meanwhile little Oiko, a sort of mage-thief, can stab up close as often as he likes (which isn’t often with his paltry health pool), and fire ranged Forcebolts with alacrity, but his AOE Fire spell only has three charges, and powerful chaining Lightning just the one.

And yes, of course, I’d used them all up when fighting the mob of rats, then the small gang of skeletons, and indeed mopped up any remaining taking on the even more powerful band of druids who appeared after. My cupboards were bare but for the simplest attacks come the big boss, my heals and revives had gone, and I wasn’t in any fit state for anything. And you know what else? He was right. Playing again those earlier fights that had left me so ragged? They weren’t so tough! Without any of the limited abilities, too!

It’s that sense of having a far better understanding of my ‘deck’ from each repeated attempt at each set of encounters, which cards I really don’t want to exhaust, as it were, that made this the case. Except, that is, until the priests and their guards.
See the full preview to learn how John's Druidstone adventure ended (spoiler: he failed to finish the scenario). Although still in alpha, it sounds like the game is in very good shape. Hopefully we'll get to see some footage from the preview build ourselves at some point.

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