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Sky of Tides - isometric sci-fi narrative game

Abu Antar

Turn-based Poster
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13,659
Enjoy the Revolution! Another revolution around the sun that is. Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
My first impression is annoying voice acting, and I dislike the character art.

Environments look okay.
 

just

Liturgist
Joined
Feb 6, 2019
Messages
1,311
if i see the narrative tag one more time i swear
im gonna make another post like this
 

Darkozric

Arbiter
Edgy
Joined
Jun 3, 2018
Messages
1,713
Narrative-driven, cringe characters, different shades of magenta, and why is the old man tided up like he's about to be raped? Looks like infinitron has another darling to shill.
 

Beowulf

Arcane
Joined
Mar 2, 2015
Messages
1,973
Oh, it's inspired by one of the greatest computer crpg's of recent years:
se4NkcK.png


It's gonna be good.
 

Infinitron

I post news
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Messages
97,744
Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/sky-of-tides-is-the-anti-disco-elysium-in-which-balance-is-queen

Sky Of Tides is the anti-Disco Elysium in which balance is queen​

In this lush sci-fantasy RPG adventure, min-maxing is a sin

Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man is a legendary drawing of a nude with his arms and legs reaching towards the rim and corners of a circle and square. It's often invoked as an archetype for the humanist worldview of Man the Measure and Centre of all Things, holding a perfectly proportioned universe in shape. Rin D'Lorah, the heroine of new narrative RPG Sky Of Tides, is a bit like the Vitruvian Man, and the result is a game I find at once bewitching and powerfully offputting in its refusal to satisfy the conventions of the genre.

Created by Ontario-based Lofty Sky Entertainment, the game takes place in the sci-fantasy realm of Numen, which has been shattered into nine planetoids floating within the titular sky of tides, and is contested by two groups: the Syndicate, who run a monopoly on ancient magical tech, and the Sovereign, a rebel faction dedicated to the lost ways enshrined in the banned Numen Tomes. Rin is called upon to mend this ruptured civilisation while searching for her missing father. You'll do this not just by following the plot to its conclusion or levelling up, but by keeping Rin balanced as a character. For Rin, you see, has a peculiar gift of currently unexplained provenance: she's a mirror for everything else. Or perhaps, everything else is a mirror for Rin.

"She has the power to heal this broken world by becoming more balanced as a person," creative director Judith Cheung explains. "So you'll be making choices and you'll see your stats, but it's a little bit, I guess, 'anti' the RPGs in which you're trying to max and min your stats. We're actually trying to get people to become balanced by having like all their stats kind of going in sync, so that they can bring the world back together."

Rin's five character traits are intelligence, courage, compassion, humour and luck, which are increased via dialogue choices and collecting items or equipment of various kinds. In the average RPG, you're encouraged to concentrate on a couple of stats with a view to a particular playstyle. But in this case, you're expected to improve them all at an equal rate, so as to not only achieve but model within yourself the reconciliation of the setting's warring ideologies and energies.

Doing so has some immediate benefits: for each tier by which all of your stats increase you'll unlock bonuses and new powers, such as accelerated movement. Skewing Rin toward one or other trait might throw up some fun scenarios, initially, but the impression I get is that it'll eventually bring your playthrough to a premature halt, and in any case, it's very much against the developer's intention. If a location contains a certain number of objects that boost your traits equally, the preferred result is that you'll track down them all.

A character stats screen in Sky Of TidesAn item screen in Sky Of TidesImage credit: ESDigital Games
What happens when the player favours one trait over the other? "One, you won't unlock things, and then two, in the end, you're not going to get a favourable outcome," Cheung says. "So each stat actually is linked to some kind of relationship or some aspect of the world. And if you're not in balance, maybe like your friend is no longer in your life, your father has died, the chairman who is this authoritarian figure maybe has taken over. So there's kind of different endings, and if you're completely balanced, then the player will get a chance to have the worlds come back together."

There's a character in Sky Of Tides who guides you through these metaphysical twists and turns, and there are also talking statues throughout Numen that sort of appraise your personal equilibrium in passing, as though X-raying your soul. "Depending on your stats, they'll say oh, you know you're really intelligent, but you're kind of a coward - that kind of thing." Sky Of Tides is divided up into chapters, and you can replay chapters if you find yourself out of balance. The game also has a "failsafe" feature that resets you a bit if you make a particularly ill-advised decision.

I find Sky Of Tides hypnotic inasmuch as if I understand the game correctly, I suspect I'm going to hate it. I routinely end up playing an all-rounder character in RPGs because I am hopelessly cautious and get ferocious FOMO about progression paths-not-taken, but I do feel that at their most engrossing, RPGs aren't supposed to be played that way. The point is to doodle in the margins of morality and practical capacity, to bend and twist personalities into keys for a simulation's worth of mishappen locks.

Won't there be times, I ask Cheung, where players find it much more satisfying to end up out of balance - flipping to the dark side and all that? "There will be some choices that give you like, access to different people and information about themselves. But in terms of like wanting to become unbalanced, I don't think we built that into the game - I think we are emphasising the balance."

A character talkin in a purple and white urban location in Sky Of TidesImage credit: ESDigital Games
Cheung adds that the theme of balance reflects "our philosophy as developers as well", and cites her own academic research as an inspiration for the choice of character stats. "We wanted to do something like 'head', 'heart' and 'luck', because we kind of see luck as similar to virtue. I kind of study Eastern philosophy, and in some Eastern philosophies, virtue is actually a substance you accumulate by doing good deeds or enduring suffering, things like that, and how virtue can manifest in one's life is almost like luck - you just always seem to get a break, or you meet the right people at the right time. So that's the concept for luck. But in terms of intelligence and humour, those we associate more with like your mind, and then courage and compassion we associate that with the heart." Cheung comments later that "in Chinese, they tell you to walk the middle path. So you don't want to be too extreme in any other way."

The game's ideas about balance are pre-existing and imposed, it seems, rather than resulting from any particular set of beliefs and values you might encounter on the road. Rin always knows, on some level, what balance is, however much her experiences shape her. "I think it's kind of like a meta that's adjacent to like, her discoveries in the world," Cheung notes. "She's always trying to maintain the goodness that has always existed."

A lot of thought has gone into the metaphysical make-up of Rin and her world, then. But still, I find the game's emphasis on consolidating the "middle path" perverse. I'm intrigued to compare it with two other RPGs that loom large in my understanding of the genre, and which draw upon their own peculiar philosophical traditions. One is the recent Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, which - as ever with Warhammer - is set in a universe of clownish extremes. There are no True Neutrals in Rogue Trader - the middle path is a foot-wide strip of gouged and bloodied No Man's Land. I don't think the writing quite nails it, in hindsight, but trying to walk that path is an enjoyable challenge simply because that's really not how the setting would have you behave. I'm interested to discover if Sky Of Tides has a similar fraught chemistry: it doesn't really feel like it, given that Rin is established as a force for good from the outset.

A desert town in Sky Of TidesImage credit: ESDigital Games

The other game - the one that is a direct inspiration on Sky Of Tides's visual presentation, as Cheung acknowledges - is Disco Elysium. ZA/UM's game has minimal patience for the middle path in RPGs. It associates calls for balance with the privileged creed of centrism, that deceptively wimpy, crushingly civil, quietly draconian call for everybody to just somehow put aside their differences and rub along in an increasingly brutal and unjust world.

I'm not sure Disco Elysium's writers and designers would appreciate Sky Of Tides: this is a game that has a whole set of Option 4 dialogue responses dedicated to mocking players who refuse to take sides. But if the two games seem wholly unlike each other on this count (and in the tenor of the writing, with Sky Of Tides adopting an upbeat anime tone rather than Disco Elysium's flamboyant literary despair), they do share a Vitruvian geometry. They both take place in shattered worlds, with planetoids and isolas drifting apart, and they are both, in their own ways, trying to re-establish that world by means of the journey of a single character who is attempting to solve a mystery.

The key difference, I guess, is the degree of hope or anguish at work. In Disco, history and reality remain fractured and dispersed whatever road you take, however adroitly you play; in Sky Of Tides, it's seemingly possible to reach out, compose your limbs against the chaos, and push the universe into its rightful, perfect shape. I know which outlook I have more sympathy for, but they're fascinating to compare.
 

Tyranicon

A Memory of Eternity
Developer
Joined
Oct 7, 2019
Messages
6,380
I was gonna shit on the game a little bit but then I found this in the steam discussions.

1714674652205.png



:( Shit, bro.
 

taxalot

I'm a spicy fellow.
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Messages
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Location
Your wallet.
Codex 2013 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015
The RPS article basically describes it up as an RPG with stats but you can only play it one way else you lose.

Sounds tons of fun.

Fucking dicks.
 

Baron Tahn

Scholar
Joined
Aug 1, 2018
Messages
358
So, 'narrative' game. What does that mean exactly? Does that even have a fucking meaning, or is it just saying 'Imagine a game, then strip all the game out of it until you are left with only the plot?'
 

Tyranicon

A Memory of Eternity
Developer
Joined
Oct 7, 2019
Messages
6,380
So, 'narrative' game. What does that mean exactly? Does that even have a fucking meaning, or is it just saying 'Imagine a game, then strip all the game out of it until you are left with only the plot?'

I use it to mean "artsy fartsy donut steel OC content."

It basically means the writer has more power here than most other gamedev teams.

Quality really depends on the talent of the writer.

Which explains why my games are porn, I guess.
 

Gandalf

Arbiter
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
426
There's something cool about this game's look. It reminds me of X-Com Apocalypse and Deus Ex: Invisible War a bit. It has this late 90's, very early 2000 sci-fi look.
It's a shame that trailer and description give me a feeling that this game is made for girls.

4_lCvVvKj.jpg
 

HoboForEternity

sunset tequila
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Mar 27, 2016
Messages
9,226
Location
Disco Elysium
Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
Honestly i wont ever shit on small devs, except for obvious scam, but those dead eyes character portrait during dialogue arent helping anyone. The environment ans actual 3D characters looks good enough zoomed out, but otherwise there is nothing that differentiate this game from aby other disco clones / isometric point and click games.

Let's see its competitors:

Sovereign syndicate: dunno how its sales fare, but i like the demo enough but i havent played it because i dont think it's full price worthy. Steampunk fantasy and it has unique enough look.

Esoteric ebb:

The most interesting one and the one that differentiate most because it use dnd ruleset and the spells can be used in creative ways during dialogue. The look is very simple but charming. Expecting a lot of fun monty phyton esque adventure.


Glasshouse: this could be nothingburger because the demo was very barebone, but the look itself is immediately appealing that it looks like grittier, cinematic disco.


There are point and click subgenres like stasis which have built their reputations and loyal fandom over the years and the brotherhood is unparalled in building setpieces and atmosphere. We also have rauniot that's released recently that also have its own unique look.


And i will be honest, the people who said "graphics doesnt matter" are liars. Not talking about it having the latest tech, ray tracing that reflect environments off a character's sweaty butts, but actual cohesive style that's appealing to your target audience.


Edit: now i remember those portraits looks like those semi-crappy pendulo point and click games.
 
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Keshik

Arcane
Joined
Mar 22, 2012
Messages
2,132
Played the demo, the voice over work is not great but I've dealt with worse. Might grab this when it's super cheap. The whole "balance your stats" thing is ridiculous though. Not much in the way of puzzles, I guess running around hunting for objects is something.

Ran into 2 bugs in the abandonded beach place, one item got me stuck in a loop and the other triggered a cutscene that didn't happen, I guess.

But what can one expect from a Canadian production :P
 
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