RPGamer https://rpgamer.com "Arr, this vessel now belongs ta Cap'n Raven! Come on, men! We set sail fer adventure!" Tue, 18 Dec 2018 22:23:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://rpgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cropped-rpgamer_shield-150x150.png RPGamer https://rpgamer.com 32 32 Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics Review https://rpgamer.com/review/achtung-cthulhu-tactics-review/ https://rpgamer.com/review/achtung-cthulhu-tactics-review/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 22:20:50 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?post_type=review&p=38360 I Have a Feeling We’re Not in R’lyeh Anymore

The most telling reason why Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics fails to impress is not because of its dull combat scenarios, lazy enemy AI, lack of tactical options, or uninspired presentation. The true culprit behind Auroch Digital’s disappointing adaptation of Modiphius Entertainment’s pen-and-paper tabletop campaigns is its perplexing lack of content related to the Cthulhu mythos. With such an imaginative intellectual property as “Cthulhu, with Nazis”, not to mention the greater Lovecraftian mythos as a whole, it’s a real shame that the developers didn’t see fit to stretch the bounds to include at least a little of the sanity-destroying Great Old Ones connected to its title.

Cthulhu Tactics directly takes its setting and plot setup from its tabletop inspiration: the year is 1944, and World War II is at its height. As part of their global campaign, the Nazi forces have delved deep into occult research, in the process breaching the door to other, horrific universes. Subsequently, two distinct factions within the German military, the Nachtwölfe and the Black Suns, have learned to develop experimental weaponry and harness eldritch forces from the Void for their own twisted attempts at world domination. The Allied forces’ answer to these new threats are four troops of their own, each with experience in the supernatural: French resistance leader Ariane Dubois, Corporal Akhee “The Eye” Singh, Sergeant Carter, and Captain Eric Harris.

This four-man team is taken straight from the game’s source material, including the characters’ concept art. Likewise, the general conflict between the supernatural arms of the two opposing armies mirrors the works the game is based on. In terms of content, Cthulhu Tactics certainly doesn’t overreach by introducing a lot of purely original concepts and characters, which could almost be a good thing. But a bit of post-game research on the tabletop content reveals just how limited the scope of the content included in the game actually is. The majority of enemy units consist of various types of Nazi stormtroopers; they range from sharpshooters to hulking brutes, and from commanders to cultist acolytes, but they’re all human. There’s a grand total of just one single type of eldritch creature that puts in an appearance, and it certainly isn’t The Great Old One himself.

This lackluster forest environment is unfortunately par for the course for a good chunk of the game’s runtime.

Unfortunately, the boredom summoned by the underwhelming enemy variety is just further compounded by the dull, generic settings that play host to the game’s just-over-twenty missions. The story begins in a nocturnal forest, which is understandable as the team is tasked with rendezvousing with troops that have parachuted into this enemy territory. But all hopes of an eventual change of scenery are dashed as mission after mission reuses the same bland forest environment, followed by an equally generic underground military bunker complex. The worst offense here is the lack of tactical options, as there is rarely the chance to, for example, divide and conquer, and there are even entire battles that take place in straight, narrow corridors entirely devoid of opportunities for cover.

Combat itself, especially on the game’s suggested Normal difficulty setting, doesn’t win it many points either. The player’s four-man squad doesn’t evolve too much over the course of the game, save for acquiring some new abilities using earned experience points prior to capping out at level ten. A number of the unlockable skills are interesting and entertaining, but the uninspired enemy variety and point-shoot-win environments all but squander some of the late-game abilities entirely. The team doesn’t grow as a unit, its members fail to evolve or connect with each other in interesting, character-building ways. While other tactical games may give an option to grind in order to even the odds, Cthulhu Tactics‘ main campaign simply begins to feel like one interminable grind to the end before long.

Though Normal difficulty is explicitly suggested for players new to the game, many will realize that doing so is a mistake. Calling the enemy AI at this setting forgiving would be a kind understatement. There are countless times when an enemy unit will rush right past one of the poorly-concealed protagonists, and perhaps remain within range and choose not to attack at all. Other times, enemies just shuffle impotently back and forth from one place to another, expending all their action points without actually going on the offensive at all. Though I feared the AI to be broken, starting a new campaign on higher difficulties, while not improve the enemy or location variety and design, at least gives them some sharper teeth to bite with. An exception to the hastily slapped-together combat encounters, though, is the game’s final boss mission, which required strategy, perseverance, and some tactics not required at any point prior to it; it’s the kind of mission that this game sorely needed more of, but instead just feels like trying to put a band-aid on an open sore; simply too little, too late.

Nothing says “tactical approach” quite like a long, narrow hallway.

The game’s grind is further dragged out by the repetitive musical score during combat. Players are exposed to the same looping audio track that kicks in whenever the group encounters an enemy patrol such that by the time a second, equally repetitive track joins the line-up several hours in, it almost comes as a relief. A nice touch, however, are the vintage radio tunes that play during the mission select screen, and having each mission briefing fully voiced is likewise appreciated. The graphics, however, lack any true polish to help them stand out, while the inclusion of a cinematic battle camera could have done wonders to spruce up the action and highlight some character models more favorably.

Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is the kind of mash-up property that by all rights should have the right ingredients to hit that sweet spot. By all accounts, the original property actually does manage to do just that. But the digital adaptation lacks on several fronts, not the least of which is the unfortunate underusage of the occult element of its namesake. The grindy battle system with little enemy and environmental variety is also nothing to write home about. Cthulhu Tactics sounds like an intriguing mix of its two titular elements, but fails to deliver on the promise of either.

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Obsidian Entertainment Gives Update on Pillars of Eternity II Console Release https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/obsidian-entertainment-gives-update-on-pillars-of-eternity-ii-console-release/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/obsidian-entertainment-gives-update-on-pillars-of-eternity-ii-console-release/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 21:52:31 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39291 Obsidian Entertainment has provided a brief update on the status of the console version of cRPG Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. The company confirmed that the game, which is being ported by Grip Digital, is on course for release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch in 2019. It also revelaed that the console version will come with all of the expansions, updates, and free DLC released for the PC and Mac version.

A sequel to 2015 title Pillars of Eternity, Deadfire takes place five years after the events of the first game in the eponymous Deadfire Archipelago. Players are tasked with investigating and pursuing the god Eothas after his sudden revival.

 

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Smoke and Sacrifice Coming to PS4, Xbox One in January https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/smoke-and-sacrifice-coming-to-ps4-xbox-one-in-january/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/smoke-and-sacrifice-coming-to-ps4-xbox-one-in-january/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 21:47:35 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39289 Solar Sail Games and Curve Digital have announced that Smoke and Sacrifice will be released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 15, 2019. The releases will include a new BACON storyline, no exact details on its contents were given other than it will let players possess the opposing creatures of the underworld the game is set in.

Smoke and Sacrifice was originally released for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch in May 2018. The game follows Sachi, a young mother in a fantastical world inhabited by monstrous creatures and with harsh customs, who sets off to discover the fate of her child. Those looking to read more can check out Pascal Tekaia’s review of the Nintendo Switch version of the game.

 

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Adventure Corner: Earth Defense Force 5 https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/adventure-corner-earth-defense-force-5/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/adventure-corner-earth-defense-force-5/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 20:33:43 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39192 Welcome to Adventure Corner, a column where members of the RPGamer staff can give their thoughts, impressions, and pseudo-reviews for various adventure titles that don’t come under our usual coverage. Adventure Corner is aimed at delivering opinions on a wide range of titles including visual novels, point-and-click adventures, investigative mysteries, and so forth.

Today, we dive to the role of an Earth Defense Force (EDF) recruit, sworn to protect the earth from aliens and monsters, as we play Earth Defense Force 5!


Earth Defense Force 5

Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: 12.07.2018
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Developer: Sandlot

 

Earth Defense Force games, along with Musou games, fall into that category that people either love or hate, and it will come as no surprise that those in the first group will find much to love about Earth Defense Force 5. The Earth Defense Force games allow a single player, or a group of like-minded comrades, to take on waves of aliens, ranging from giant ants, spiders, and walking frogs to saucers, spaceships, and monsters that tower over the largest buildings. As players slaughter them in the name of self-defense, they drop loot boxes that expand the available arsenal of deadly weapons.

Players can choose one of four different classes. The versatile ranger makes a great entry point for beginners as he can equip a variety of useful weapons, call in support vehicles, and has decent mobility and health. The wing diver handles the role of the glass cannon, with the most powerful weapons, limited flight, and quick mobility, but very little health. On the other end of the spectrum, the fencer moves slowly, but makes up for this with the highest health, defensive shields, and an array of heavy weaponry. Last, the air raider provides support. He has access to all kinds of vehicle and mechs the he can call in, as well as the ability to request massive air raids and provide laser targeting for other soldiers.

Each of these classes have been upgraded from earlier entries. For example, the ranger can now take a support item in battle. He can also sprint around, automatically picking up all items in a radius around him. Wing divers can now upgrade their power supply, and perform air dodges.  The list goes on, but suffice to say, while the timeline of EDF 5 places it years before EDF 4.1, the gameplay feels like a step forward.  Players will need these additional advantages to come out on top as the aliens have a few new tricks as well. Huge frog soldiers, roughly 20 feet tall, now lead the assault on mother earth.  Unlike foes from prior games, these walking amphibians coordinate their attacks. They will roll around when assaulted, use cover effectively, and work together to flank our heroes. This adds a welcome layer of depth that moves the series in a great direction after many iterations of just mindless hordes.

Do not fear, however, as players contend with massive waves of gigantic insects as well.  It would not be a true EDF game without them.  And while EDF has never been known for great graphics, both the foes and the heroes look improved with detailed texturing. Cities and backgrounds have a bit more detail than before, but that still means they look empty and sparse compared to most other games.  With that said, aliens now show degrees of damage as they spurt out colorful blood, and they explode into various colors of goo when they meet the business end of a rocket launcher. Larger monsters spew out more of the stuff when hit, making the city-scape look like something right out of a particularly vicious game of Splatoon.

While the graphic engine will not win any awards for awesome visuals, it does the job of handling frame-rate rather well.  Even when dozens and dozens of insects, frogs, and spaceships attack at once, with weapons’ effects flying around in a wondrous array of color, the game continues to run silky smooth.  Frame-rate slowdown does happen on the rare occasion involving an extremely large creatures or spacecraft, however, it does not really hamper the experience overall.  The sound effects are great and satisfying as grenades explode and guns spray bullets.  Even more entertaining, however, is the banter shared by the other NPC soldiers.  Sprinkled into each mission, they spout off lines that fall into the “they’re so bad, they’re good” category.  One such memorable quote happens as one of the EDF soldiers attempts to persuade the player character to join the team.  He quips, “This is the best job on earth, when there are no monsters.”  He says this, of course, as we see a swarm of ants, each the size of a school bus, running towards us.

RPGamers may come for the jokes and the non-stop shooting, but they will stay for the loot.  Among the things receiving an overhaul, the loot system got some of the biggest changes.  In the past, it was easy to grab a few high level weapons by running an early, easy mission on a harder difficulty level.  These weapons could easily carry a player through the game on normal difficulty, invalidating any weapons they would find along the way.  Now, the loot tables have a better progression to them.  Furthermore, weapons now upgrade.  In the past, if one found boxes with the same weapon, they were wasted.  Now, they often upgrade the weapon in question, making it stronger.  As a result, a level 2 rifle fully upgraded may prove more powerful than a level 12 gun found while doing a hard level difficulty run with a friend.  This encourages the player to grind up closer to his ability and skill level rather than farming an easier board at higher difficulty.  It also makes repeated runs on normal difficulties feel more rewarding.

This really scratches that kind of itch we see satisfied by games like Diablo, and Borderlands.  Yet, here, it feels like a more solid, even progression than ever before.  This is despite the fact that some of these weapons cross lines you would never see happen in other games.  The ranger has a missile that moves very slowly, but if it hits, does massive damage.  The air raider can call a enormous mech that knocks down buildings as it walks, but is too large to hit the bus-sized ants that will whittle down his massive pool of health if left unchecked.  The game provide lots of motivation for player to experiment with all of the options on offer.  Add in the ridiculous writing, groan-worthy voice acting, non-stop action, and four fun classes to play the game with, and the result is a game that can be enjoyed both alone or with friends for dozens, if not hundreds, of hours.  It may not impress initially, but if you give it time, EDF 5 will get its insect-like claws into you and will not let go.

Phil Willis

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Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet Teases New Expansion and Complete Edition https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/sword-art-online-fatal-bullet-teases-new-expansion-and-complete-edition/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/sword-art-online-fatal-bullet-teases-new-expansion-and-complete-edition/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 12:51:26 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39282 Bandai Namco has released two new teaser trailers, both focusing on the upcoming Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet Complete Edition. The first teaser is for the release of the Complete Edition itself while the other offers a short glimpse of the game’s final expansion, Dissonance of the Nexus.

Dissonance of the Nexus will add an all-new dungeon rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Sachi. Additionally, new characters will also join the party. Dissonance of the Nexus will be available on January 19, 2019, for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. It can also be found as part of the Complete Edition, which releases on the same day and includes the rest of the game’s DLC. A Nintendo Switch version is planned for release sometime in 2019. For more information on Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet, Alex Fuller’s review of the original release can be read here.

 

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Combat Guide for The Last Remnant Remastered https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/combat-guide-for-the-last-remnant-remastered/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/combat-guide-for-the-last-remnant-remastered/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 04:09:48 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39240 Square Enix NA has released a new video on their YouTube channel depicting the basic flow of combat in The Last Remnant Remastered. The video illustrates the process of combat with a real-time example, identifying important objectives to watch for, as well as how the GUI is utilized in combat.

The Last Remnant Remastered is an RPG developed and published by Square Enix. The game is set in a fictional world divided into multiple city-states that are in conflict over Remnants. The game features a unique, squad-based combat system that allows the player to control groups of characters, called Unions, instead of individual characters. The game released digitally on the PlayStation Network on December 6, 2018 for $19.99/£15.99/€19.99.

 

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Warhammer: Chaosbane Trailer Introduces Elontir https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/warhammer-chaosbane-trailer-introduces-elontir/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/warhammer-chaosbane-trailer-introduces-elontir/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 20:54:06 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39236 Bigben Interactive and Eko Software have released a new trailer for the upcoming action RPG Warhammer: Chaosbane. The trailer introduces the game’s second playable character — the first, Konrad Vollen, was introduced last month — the High Elf mage Elontir. Elontir is a veteran of past battles against the forces of Chaos and specialises in wind magic. His unique ability allows players to fine tune the placement of his area-of-effect spells.

Warhammer: Chaosbane is set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, as opposed to the sci-fi Warhammer 40,000 universe that other recent RPGs have been set in. Players control a human, high elf, wood elf, or dwarf in the Old World, visiting various iconic locations from the setting during the campaign. The game is set to be released for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in 2019.

 

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Kingdom Hearts III Prepares for the Final Battle https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/kingdom-hearts-iii-prepares-for-the-final-battle/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/kingdom-hearts-iii-prepares-for-the-final-battle/#comments Mon, 17 Dec 2018 16:42:27 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39229 Square Enix has released a new trailer for the upcoming Kingdom Hearts III. Titled the “Final Battle” trailer, the video runs for nearly four minutes and shows various places, characters, and events from the game, which include some minor spoilers.

Originally announced in 2013, Kingdom Hearts III is the third mainline game in the Kingdom Hearts series and once again follows Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy as they travel to various worlds from Disney franchises. Kingdom Hearts III is set to be released worldwide on January 29, 2019, for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

 

(Contains minor spoilers)

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Bandai Namco Provides Tales of Crestoria Info, Full Concept Trailer https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/bandai-namco-provides-tales-of-crestoria-info-full-concept-trailer/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/bandai-namco-provides-tales-of-crestoria-info-full-concept-trailer/#comments Mon, 17 Dec 2018 16:41:58 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39226 Bandai Namco has provided more details and media for its upcoming mobile title Tales of Crestoria. In addition to some screenshots, the company released a full two-minute version of its animated concept trailer for the game.

Though billed as a standalone entry in the series, Bandai Namco has revealed that characters from other games will appear in Tales of Crestoria. These versions of the characters are treated as part of the world of Tales of Crestoria and will be involved in new stories involving different characters. There will still be a main scenario featuring previously-detailed original characters Kanata, Misera, etc. Accompanying this will be side stories involving the other characters from the series, including character episodes that are unlocked by using that character in combat. The series’ familiar skits will also appear.

Tales of Crestoria is being developed for iOS and Android. The game will be released worldwide in 2019.

 

 

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Heretic Operative Interview https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/heretic-operative-interview/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/heretic-operative-interview/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 11:54:33 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39135 C Prompt Games is a new studio founded by industry veterans Ian Fischer and Robert Fermier, who previous worked together at Ensemble Studios and Robot Entertainment. They just recently announced C Prompt Games’ first title Heretic Operative, which they describe as a narrative strategy RPG, and it will be available early 2019 on Steam. Ian and Robert were kind enough to take the time to answer several of our questions about their upcoming game.


Johnathan Stringer (RPGamer): What is the goal and vision of C Prompt Games? Is there a back story into the studio’s creation?

Ian Fischer and Robert Fermier (C Prompt Games): Ian and I have worked together for years and we share similar perspectives on design. Among these, we are motivated by system-based design and emergence in games. We feel the best stories in games are the ones that players make for themselves as they play, and we like to think about how to best deliver those experiences. That is not something that everyone understands or enjoys and our time working in larger teams let us experience some of the problems you can have trying to get unique designs to retain their uniqueness in that environment. We started C Prompt to create a place that was about making games that focus on strategy, systems, and deep, player-created narrative.

JS: What is Heretic Operative? Can you give us a high level description of the game? What are some of the design and gameplay highlights that sets it apart, and what is the planned release date and platform?

IA/RF: In terms of gameplay, Heretic Operative is a “narrative strategy RPG” — which basically means that it takes story and character elements of an RPG, and merges them the resource management and structure of a board game.

You play as the leader of a band of Heretics — a secret society of magic users in a world where magic has been outlawed by the Church. Magic is being used to bring about huge disasters by a rival group of mages called the Cultus Arcanum (or just “the Cult”). Caught between these two warring factions, the Heretics have to find a way to save the world while being hunted by both sides.

Turns play out fairly differently based on a player’s strategy (and how well things have been going with that strategy). In general, you think a lot about locations. There are different places on the map and every place has a certain character, which is produced by the kinds of adventures likely at the location and the kinds of actions that can be taken there. So, first, you are thinking about the skills your operative has (or operatives have if you have been recruiting) and how they can be put to use. Are you trying to build up your ability in magic and learn new spells? You might want to try to get into the Elven Archive. Do you have an agent with high corruption that you are worried about losing? If you can get them to the Desolate Isle, there are a lot of options there for cleansing. Are you trying to gear up a bit more? There are shops in the Museum District, but you are likely to run into Templars from the Church there, so make sure you are sending an operative with high social skill, who can talk his way out of the situations he’s likely to get into.

Of course, the Cult has plans too, so these are going to alter some of that planning. You might have wanted to go to the Elven Archive, but they Cult has agents back at your Hideout. You should probably deal with that first. (Because this is something of a shadow war, with both your Operatives and the Cult moving about secretly, there are not really front lines. The Orcs, however, are more overt and obvious.) Similarly, if the Cult’s plot has been progressing, there are other conditions that can change things for you. You might have wanted to go to Copec’s Tavern to recruit a new Operative, but maybe the Cult just found and killed her. Or perhaps they flooded the location between you and the Tavern, so you cannot go anywhere at the moment.

So, you are limited in your movement and action — there are items and spells that can change this (and some Operatives have special abilities that alter it too) but in general you have two actions per turn. You decide who you are going to move and where they are going to go. Once in the location, you can take an action there. Assuming you have the resources required, you can, for example, visit a shop at the location to buy an item or recruit one of the townsfolk to work for you. (The townsfolk can do different things — a spy could provide you with rumors every turn, a ship captain could provide you fast movement to different locations.)

At the end of your turn, if you have Operatives in locations with enemies, you have combat. Combat or not, there is also a chance for an adventure at the location at this point, so you often have something occur and have to make a choice about what to do. Maybe you sent your Operative to Woodbridge because it is a good location to earn some gold but while she is there a bull gets loose and starts rampaging about. Will you put your Operative at risk and have them try to stop the bull and save people? Is your Operative and their mission too valuable to risk and the people need to deal with the bull on their own?

The loop of movement, action, adventure, and combat is the heart of the gameplay.

It is a Steam release for Windows, and will be out in early 2019.

JS: Are there any future plans for a console, handheld, or GOG.com release?

IA/RF: Not that we are talking about now.

JS: Many video game RPGs have board game or table-top elements baked in, especially with dice rolls, but they are fairly hidden to the player. Why are you going with the board game focus? What advantages does this design decision give the game?

 

IA/RF: From the beginning we knew that we wanted to bring some of the resource management and strategy elements that we loved into a more RPG-flavored format. So we started more from the board game side, and moved into the RPG side once we realized there was a great opportunity to merge the two. The mechanics of a board game allow for you to make some really impactful decisions with your characters. Sometimes the scale is more intimate, like whether or not you can save a troubled mage from falling into corruption. Sometimes it is broader, like whether you can spare a town from destruction or how you are going to execute your plan to stop the Cult.

JS: An issue that some narrative board games have is once the player has played through certain card or story elements, they know many of the outcomes and then the story events have less impact. How do you avoid this, and what sort of replayability will Heretic Operative have? Is this a plot-driven story, or more of an adventure shaped by events, for example drawing specific event cards?

IA/RF: Having a lot of replayability is very important to us. The highest level story beats of a game play out the same depending on which Story deck you are playing with — basically which magical disaster the Cult is using to wreak havoc on the world. But this is really just the skeleton that everything else hangs off of. The real meat of the game comes in what happens along the way. You have a lot of freedom in where you go, who you are going to recruit, and how you are going to answer the threats that arise.

In our opinion, the most powerful stories are the ones that arise organically from your decisions and your interactions with the world and the characters in it. Seeing a character fall into corruption because you pushed them too far, or narrowly escaping disaster because of the plan you came up with and executed… this is what creates a very compelling and very personal story. Of course, on top of that there are hundreds of cards in the game that tell their own pieces of the story, so it never really plays the same way twice.

JS: How are the campaigns structured, and approximately how long will they be? 

IA/RF: There are six Story decks and four Cult decks that, in combination, change up how the game plays out. You start out with only one of each unlocked but as you complete games (win or lose), you open up additional ones.

Each combination plays out a little differently, but typically a game takes 45-90 minutes to play.

JS: Can you lose in Heretic Operative? Many boardgames allow the player, or players, to flat out die or lose, and game over, but most video games offer save points to restart after failure. Being able to reload a save impacts many design decisions around a game, how does Heretic Operative function in this regard?

IA/RF: Yes, you can definitely lose, and in fact much more so than a typical linear RPG. Your decisions can lead to defeat in a number of different ways — one of the strengths of the RPG plus board game format is that your decisions can have real and wide-ranging consequences!

You can save your game freely, and players are more than welcome to use their save games to experiment with different approaches. However the “design intent” is closer to a roguelike philosophy of accepting the outcome of your decisions and trying again to see how they may play out differently. Progress towards opening up new Story / Cult decks or new Operatives happens even when you lose, so that there’s never pressure to play a perfect game or penalize experimentation.

JS: You have described Heretic Operative as a narrative strategy RPG, can you share some info on the character progression system?

IA/RF: There is intentionally not a traditional XP or leveling system, but as your operatives go on adventures they can gain additional stats or inventory items, and there are 50+ spells to learn. In addition to a fast-paced combat system, a character’s skills are also really important for non-combat challenges like being diplomatic or deciphering an ancient text.

JS: Can you describe the combat mechanics? What makes it a fast-paced combat system?

IA/RF: Without going into too much detail, when you go into combat your opponent has a rank. Your Operative has a set of options — abilities, equipment, and (especially) spells. Each of your abilities allows you to throw dice to get Battle Points. You have three rounds (so three choices) to equal or better the enemy’s Combat Rank. Some enemies have special abilities that change how you think about your attack options. Your options all have a certain character as well — fire attacks give you bonus damage when you roll the same dice, iron attacks are boosted by your Operative’s physical skill, blood magic generally does a lot of damage but there is a chance that you will hurt yourself too.

In all of this, there is also the question of corruption. Your magic abilities are generally the strongest and can get very strong if you develop your Operative well. However, every time you use magic, you gain some corruption. Too much corruption, without doing something about it, and you can lose your operative. (This is what happened with the Cultists, by the way — they are all magic users that fell too in love with magic.) So, your thought overall is about moderation — how do I do just enough damage to win this fight but take the smallest amount of corruption possible? (Or, if you think you are going to lose the Operative anyway, how do I go out in a blaze of glory here?)

By design, the combat is fast. Early in testing, we felt that having to “pause” and complete fights had problems, as it disrupted flow and could risk becoming tedious. The current system allows play to flow along well but still provides a really (deceptively) deep combat model — the limited turns, different schools of magic, and need to balance corruption combine for some fun decisions.

JS: Can you give a few examples of the strategic elements of the game?

IA/RF: The most direct example of this is probably the resource management part of the game. There are five resources to manage: Lore, Gold, Influence, Rumors, and Fate. You can gather more of these through adventures but also by recruiting new members to the Heretics. But you have to be careful about how you choose to expand, because the Cult and the Church are constantly hunting down Heretics and this can reduce your strategic options.

At a higher level you make a lot of strategic decisions in how you set your own overall goals in the game. You have a very limited number of actions to spend each turn so you have to balance growing the strength of your characters with putting them in risky situations to try and stop the Cult. We take a lot of inspiration in this regard from games like Arkham Horror or Pandemic where you have to make a lot of nail-biting decisions.

JS: What are some of your influences and past experiences that have helped shape Heretic Operative? Are they from other games and media, and/or from projects you have personally worked on?

IA/RF: There are a lot of them! Both of us play a huge variety of games and have been making games for well over two decades. The board game influence from games like Arkham Horror is most obvious, both on the mechanics and on some of the themes of the game. Crusader Kings II, and the Paradox series of grand strategy games more generally, have really influenced our opinions on mechanical transparency and how to use gameplay dynamics to address a lot of complex emotional themes. While Heretic Operative is pretty different from Age of Empires or System Shock, the lessons we learned making those games have really enabled us to create a game with our own individual vision from start to finish.

Thematically, there are some obvious historical parallels to the relationship between religion and technology in the real world, and even more broadly the way in which powerful new technologies, whether they are industrialization or nuclear energy, can also present new dangers. There’s also a pretty strong social theme in the game that revolves around how those without magic view those who have it — kind of like the X-Men, the Heretics are often feared by the people they are trying to save.

JS: Who is this game for? Can you give some other examples of games whose fans would also have interest in Heretic Operative?

IA/RF: Heretic Operative defies some of the traditional genre boundaries. We hope it appeals to people who enjoy the fantasy of being these renegade mages, trying to save the world while being hunted down. But we also hope it appeals to people who enjoy the fusion of board game and RPG mechanics, or who appreciate the kind of dynamic, emergent story you get that is very different in pacing and structure from a traditional linear story.

There’s not a lot directly like Heretic Operative out there to compare to, but people who like board games with a strong narrative element like Arkham Horror, Pathfinder Adventures, Talisman, or Legends of Andor should check the game out. As should anyone who likes non-traditional or experimental RPGs — games like Minit, Banner Saga, Thea, or Thronebreaker.


We would like to thank Ian and Robert for answering our questions and giving us a closer look into Heretic Operative. We wish them the best of luck and success and are looking forward to playing the game next year.

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Kingdom Hearts III Gets Some More Screenshots https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/kingdom-hearts-iii-gets-some-more-screenshots/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/kingdom-hearts-iii-gets-some-more-screenshots/#respond Sun, 16 Dec 2018 17:53:34 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39176 Square Enix has released new screenshots for Kingdom Hearts III ahead of the game’s launch next month. The new batch of images includes characters from Chip ‘n’ Dale and Frozen, plus some of the members of Organization XIII.

Originally announced in 2013, Kingdom Hearts III is the third mainline game in the Kingdom Hearts series and once again follows Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy as they travel to various worlds from Disney franchises. Kingdom Hearts III is set to be released worldwide on January 29, 2019, for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

 

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Granblue Fantasy: Relink Gameplay Showcased https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/granblue-fantasy-relink-gameplay-showcased/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/granblue-fantasy-relink-gameplay-showcased/#comments Sun, 16 Dec 2018 17:51:24 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39172 Cygames held its Granblue Fantasy Fes 2018 event this weekend, during which it showed off the upcoming action RPG being developed by PlatinumGames. Previously known as Granblue Fantasy Project Re: Link, the game has now been officially titled Granblue Fantasy: Relink with its official website launched in both Japanese and English.

In addition to confirming the game’s title, Cygames also released some new screenshots, a new concept trailer, and fourteen-miutes of gameplay footage. The gameplay footage is taken form chapter three in the game, and follows the party as it heads through an area while a mysterious green entity rains destruction.

Granblue Fantasy: Relink being developed for PlayStation 4. No release date has been announced, but Cygames has stated that localisations into English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish. The game will feature multipalyer for up to four players.

 

 

 

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RPGamer Round-Up: Dec. 9 – Dec. 16 https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/rpgamer-round-up-dec-9-dec-16/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/rpgamer-round-up-dec-9-dec-16/#respond Sun, 16 Dec 2018 17:40:51 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39186 Welcome to the latest edition of RPGamer’s newest column, where we take a quick look back at some of the articles we’ve posted throughout the week. This article is designed to help give reminders for some interesting editorial content and stories that our less regular visitors might have missed. We very much appreciate any feedback or comments on its usefulness. With that said, let’s get to the articles!

 


Editorial Content

Sam Wachter offers a personal editorial piece looking back at Stardew Valley. She examines how the game provides empathy, something that could be said to be in short supply in the world at present.

Big Bad Wolf’s narrative adventure The Council has been released in five episodes spread across 2018. With all five episodes now out, Alex Fuller uses the opportunity to see how the full season holds up.

Mike Moenhke takes a look back at Vanillaware’s Muramasa Rebirth. The game joins the hefty list of reasons why many members of the RPGamer staff are fans of the PlayStation Vita.


Major News

A couple of holdovers from last week’s Kinda Funny Games Showcase. Lapis x Labyrinth is confirmed for a western release, while Away: Journey to the Expected receives some release dates.

Those eagerly awaiting the release of Kingdom Hearts III can now check out its opening movie. The video features “Face My Fears”, the collaboration between Hikaru Utada and Skrillex.

Capcom has announced an icy expansion for Monster Hunter: World, coming in 2019. Geralt will also soon be testing his monster hunting skills in the game.

Bandai Namco has announced a Japanese release date for its newest Super Robot Wars title. Importers will be happy to learn the Southeast Asian, English-subtitled version will be releasing on the same day.

Spike Chunsoft has revealed the western release date for survival RPG Zanki Zero. A new trialer also showcases the game’s English voice cast.

Anthem will be getting a couple of demos before launch in February. VIPs will get a first look at the game at the end of January, with everyone else able to check it out a week later.

Additional Selected Stories

Podcasts

Q&A Quest returns, answering various reader questions. Discussions this week include potential future Pokémon species and the Breath of Fire series.

The RPGCast returns for its last episode of 2018. Chris, Anna Marie, Kelley, and Josh chat about what they’ve been playing and the week’s RPG news.

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Join the CRPG Club https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/join-the-crpg-club/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/join-the-crpg-club/#respond Sun, 16 Dec 2018 17:20:37 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39121

You have likely heard of book, wine, or movie clubs. But, as a reader of RPGamer, you might find more interest in our new gaming group, the CRPG Club!

Over the last decade, GOG and Steam have released many older role-playing games, enabling them to work in new Windows environments. This has made playing retro games on your favorite laptop or computer easier than ever!  Because of this, and their deep libraries, a solid argument can be made that the computer leads the pack as the best retro machine of all time. In an effort to demonstrate that one of our RPGBacktrack hosts, JCServant, brings you the CRPG Club, where we play computer role playing game from the way back when, right up through yesteryear. Each month, we dive into classics of varying ages and types, while working our way through series, as well. JCServant will share his experiences with articles here on RPGamer, and during our new CRPG Club segment on the RPGBacktrack podcast. Most importantly, you can join in on the games and discussion! Lucky individuals may even win a free game or two.  Read on for more details.

“Month of” Rotation

Each month we rotate out various games, and we try to break up series so we don’t play them all in a row. For 2019, we start off with a classic JRPG, Final Fantasy VI. We will proceed through the rest of the year by tackling a couple of Gold Box games, knocking out the Witcher and Half-Minute Hero series, as well as diving into a couple of games from the Sacred series. You can find all of these games on GOG.com or Steam.

  • 2019 (Year of the Witcher)
    • January — Final Fantasy VI
    • February — Secret of the Silver Blades
    • March — The Witcher
    • April — Sacred Gold
    • May — The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
    • June — Half-Minute Hero
    • July — The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
    • August — Pools of Darkness
    • September — The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt expansions
    • October — Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming
    • November — Sacred 2
    • December — Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales

 

On a side note, for the full Witcher experience and imaginary bonus points, feel free to read or listen to the Witcher book series this new year as well! Most will want to read the short stories first, and then dive into the other books in order of release. The books take place before the games, so you may wish to read them before starting the games.

CRPG Club Rules

There really are no hard or fast rules. You can play all of the games on the list in order, or you can skip around. You can take longer than a month on some and zip through others. You can talk about them on Twitter using the hashtag #CRPGClub, chat on Discord, or use the comment section below! Really, this is just an excuse for us to play some awesome CRPGs and talk about them with each other and our friends.

Prizes!

Share your experiences on Twitter using the #CRPGClub tag, or chat about it in our CRPG Club discord channel. For doing each of these, you are entered into JCServant’s monthly drawing to be able to choose one of the games listed below. If you share on both Discord and Twitter, you get two entries for that month into the drawing!

Current GOG.com Grab Bag
  • Saints Row 2
  • Battle Realms + Winter of the Wolf
  • Torchlight
  • Heroes of Might & Magic II
  • Heroes of Might & Magic III
  • The Witcher 1 & 2
  • Xcom: Enemy Unknown Complete
  • The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
  • Ember
Current Steam Grab Bag
  • Defense Grid
  • Left 4 Dead 2
  • Portal
  • Rise of Nations
  • Rome: Total War – Collection
  • Sanctum 2
  • Witcher 1 & 2
  • Trine 2

Good luck, and happy gaming!

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RPGCast – Episode 485: “The Christmas Zone Treaty” https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/rpgcast-episode-485-the-christmas-zone-treaty/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/rpgcast-episode-485-the-christmas-zone-treaty/#comments Sat, 15 Dec 2018 19:40:26 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39128 Happy Holidays! We wrap up the final podcast of the year affirming it’s OK for Anna Marie to play casual games, even if Chris disagrees. While Josh and Kelley are making New Year’s resolutions, Chris also disagrees about what should be a brief story. We’ll see everyone in 2019!

Question of the Week
What are your gaming goals of 2019?

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Muramasa Rebirth Review https://rpgamer.com/review/muramasa-rebirth-review/ https://rpgamer.com/review/muramasa-rebirth-review/#comments Sat, 15 Dec 2018 02:28:05 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?post_type=review&p=38901 Two Dimensions Are Great, Three’s a Crowd

Everything Vanillaware has created shows how excellent 2D graphics can look when put together by a supremely talented team, but Muramasa Rebirth is the company’s pinnacle of achievement for me. Its environments are gorgeous and fascinating to explore, its narrative kept me interested throughout, combat moves fast but requires paying attention, and the presentation is spectacular. As the Vita recedes from popular consciousness, many of those titles that were formerly exclusives have been making their way elsewhere, but Vanillaware has so far refused to bring this one anywhere else. Unless and until that happens, Muramasa Rebirth provides an extremely compelling reason to keep the Vita around.

Two main narratives are related in Muramasa. One is the story of Kisuke, an amnesiac ninja being assaulted by those who proclaim he did something unforgivable to his fellow shinobi. Kisuke’s initial quest to simply survive is given more purpose upon meeting the noblewoman Torahime, whose pursuit of redemption for her family is supported by all the force he can muster. The other tale is that of Jinkuro and Momohime, respectively a swordmaster whose original body is lost and the young lady whose frame is currently housing his soul. Jinkuro’s goal was never to wind up in Momohime’s body and getting into one more suitable to his purposes is ideal, but the woman occasionally shows enough strength of will to force some alterations to the plan.

Vanillaware’s president George Kamitani wrote the script for Muramasa, and it’s a continually fascinating succession of events occurring to interesting characters. The presentation of these events also deserves credit, given that it conveys the happenings in a visual manner and holds the player’s interest throughout. The narrative may not be airtight in terms of logic, but it errs on the side of keeping the player wanting more instead of overloading information. Aksys Games’ localization complements the setting by being entertaining to read and featuring numerous memorable lines, even though it clearly isn’t concerned with remaining rigidly faithful to the original Japanese line readings. This vastly improved localization elevates the Vita’s version of the game over what was released on the Wii.

 

Of all the things I expected to be fighting, this was pretty far down the list.

Exploring Muramasa‘s locations is done by traversing detailed 2D environments in a style similar to a platformer, but combat is closer to a beat-em-up. The protagonist faces off against opponents with a large area of the screen available for mobility, hacking them to bits with blades while enduring counterattacks. The best defense often is a good offense in this game, due to the ability of a blade to absorb incoming attacks without damage to the player. Doing this will rapidly deplete the blade’s endurance though, and if it breaks the player must wait for it to replenish while having no effective means of attack. Three blades can be toggled in combat to alleviate this, but against powerful adversaries all of them may be broken. Each weapon also has a unique special ability that depletes its endurance just like enemy attacks, but may be the key to victory in certain circumstances. The player can only hold three weapons to use in combat, though replacing items within this trio between fights is simple to accomplish.

Combat is fast and arresting, but also requires more than simply button mashing to achieve victory. Two difficulty levels are available every time a save file is begun.  The game is no pushover even on the easier setting, while comprehensive knowledge of the combat mechanics is required to survive the challenging mode. Due to most healing items filling a character’s stomach temporarily, simply chowing down to recover from damage isn’t a viable stratagem either. Enemies come in a wide variety that cannot all be approached in the same way, while each boss is distinct and impressive.

Food consumption remains a central point in Vanillaware’s catalog, as in addition to experience points, the characters need to obtain spirit and souls from devouring delectable dishes whenever possible. New weapons are not purchased in Muramasa but are unlocked by allocating spirit into the necessary armament, plus multiple blades require prerequisites be met before they can be obtained. This structure of obtaining new abilities closely meshes with the linearity of the story, whereby new areas are blocked off until the player is able to access them after completing a narrative mission. Keeping the player limited in terms of exploration is not the ideal, but it is at least clearly indicated and the game progresses quickly enough to not make it a major issue.

This isn’t a diplomacy simulator, so chop these idiots into pieces.

Vanillaware is known for showing off what 2D art can do in recent years, and Muramasa upholds the company’s fine visual standard. This game depicts a specific period in Japanese history, the Warring States era, using an art style that seems reminiscent of early Disney animation. Incredible levels of detail are visible in every environment, from tormented souls shuffling through Hell to silhouetted figures inside rooms with paper walls lit by lamps. Character and enemy animations are intricate works that help convey information about those pictured. Every part of Muramasa shows how Vanillaware’s attention to 2D done right can pay off spectacularly.

Also contributing to the effectiveness of the presentation is its score, which manages to sound authentically Japanese to reinforce the setting. A wide range of tracks accompany exploration, and many of them are extremely memorable long after playing. Japanese voice acting is also present throughout the game, and it is effective at conveying certain emotional moments that text alone would not make as effective — though the physical actions onscreen also contribute to how engrossing events are.

Unique to Muramasa Rebirth is Genroku Legends, a collection of four additional stories that are separately purchased DLC. These tales tell of a loyal cat seeking vengeance for a wrong done to her owner, farmers protesting unsustainable taxation upon their village, a ninja’s effort to escape assassination attempts, and the inadvertent engagement of a would-be Don Juan with one of the daughters of Hell. Each of these chapters offers a captivating additional narrative that does not directly expand what was told in the original game, instead filling out the game world by showing a variety of other lives within it. All four tales are worth experiencing due to the care put into their construction.

Faintly in the distance, TLC can be heard urging us not to go chasing these.

Mild disappointment results from the only new adversaries present in Genroku Legends being the bosses, with all other opponents familiar from the original Muramasa. The characters in Genroku Legends play a bit differently than Kisuke and Momohime though, as instead of using swords each one has three unique attack methods. Combat’s essentials of weapons being depleted until temporarily broken are still the same, but each DLC character plays in a unique manner that prevents their battles from feeling like a repetition of what was already seen. Plenty of new music was also composed for Genroku Legends that enlarges an already sizable score, and the bosses to be found showcase more interesting and memorable designs from Vanillaware. Completing all of this content adds at least twenty hours to the original’s play time of roughly thirty, but the additional material is definitely worth the commitment.

It’s true that Muramasa Rebirth won’t do much for those seeking something with a less frenetic pace in its combat. It addicted me from start to finish though, to the point that I felt compelled to spend an additional thirty hours seeking out the alternative endings available in the original game and Genroku Legends. Months after completing everything I fondly remember great swathes of the content in considerable detail, something that’s becoming harder to achieve as I get older. Vanillaware made a true gem here, one that is among the highlights of the Vita’s library and should be promptly experienced by everyone with the slightest interest.

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Omensight: Definitive Edition Now Available https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/omensight-definitive-edition-now-available/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/omensight-definitive-edition-now-available/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 23:21:09 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39081 Omensight: Definitive Edition has launched on the Nintendo Switch. To accompany the release, Spearhead Games has released a new launch trailer. The Definitive Edition includes the content in the free update released for PC and PS4 in October.

Omensight is a 3D action murder mystery game with cel shaded visuals. Take on the role of Harbinger, a mythical hero chosen by destiny to save the world, and relive the last day of mankind until you destroy the power of the Dark God. Omensight originally launched on PC and PS4 on May 15, 2018, and released on the Nintendo Switch on December 13, 2018, all priced at $19.99.

 

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Anthem Demo Release Date Revealed https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/anthem-demo-release-date-revealed/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/anthem-demo-release-date-revealed/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 23:10:05 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39076 EA has provided the release date for its VIP demo of Anthem, along with the date of the open demo. The VIP demo will only be available to individuals who pre-ordered Anthem, and to EA Access and Origin Access subscribers. It will be available beginning January 25, 2019, for Origin on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. The open demo will be available on February 1, 2019, for all others waiting to experience the game. Players who participate in the demo will receive an in-game item to commemorate their participation.

This announcement also accompanied a new trailer, further detailing the world of Anthem. The details showcased an in-depth look at the game’s villain, The Monitor, as well as some of the dangers players will face while playing.

Anthem is an upcoming online multiplayer action RPG being developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. The game is slated for a worldwide release for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on February 22, 2019.

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New Shadows: Awakening, Pillars of Eternity II, Ni no Kuni II DLC Released https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/new-shadows-awakening-pillars-of-eternity-ii-ni-no-kuni-ii-dlc-released/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/new-shadows-awakening-pillars-of-eternity-ii-ni-no-kuni-ii-dlc-released/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 20:43:12 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39033 New DLC for three RPGs was released this week. Shadows: Awakening‘s Necrophage’s Curse, Pillars of Eternity II‘s The Forgotten Sanctum, and Ni no Kuni II‘s The Lair of the Lost Lord are all now available, with launch trailers for all three DLC packs viewable below.

Necrophage’s Curse sees players confront the Necrophage, the Eater of the Dead, as they investigate a deadly curse. Those who have the DLC can access the content by starting a new game or by returning to Kyallisar in an existing game. Like the main game, Necrophage’s Curse is available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

The Forgotten Sanctum is the final paid expansion for Pillars of Eternity II and launches along with the game’s 4.0 patch. The DLC, which is available for PC, Mac, and Linux individually for $9.99 or as part of the game’s season pass, sees the Archmages of Eora seeking out the player character to prevent an apocalypse being caused by one of their number.

The Lair of the Lost Lord introduces a new villain, the Prince of Wraiths, who resides in a deadly labyrinth and seeks to destroy the Evermore Kingdom. The DLC is available on both PC and PlayStation 4 and also includes new weapons, enemies, and sidequests along with an expansion of the combat system through two new fighting styles.

 

 

 

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Mages of Mystralia Coming to Switch Next Month https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/mages-of-mystralia-coming-to-switch-next-month/ https://rpgamer.com/2018/12/mages-of-mystralia-coming-to-switch-next-month/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 20:37:50 +0000 https://rpgamer.com/?p=39052 Borealys Games has announced that it will be releasing Mages of Mystralia on Nintendo Switch. The action-adventure RPG — which released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2017 — will be released on the console on January 29, 2019, with pre-purchasing available January 15, 2019.

Mages of Mystralia stars a young girl named Zia who discovers she has the ability to use magic. Since the game has no pre-determined spells, each spell must be created by combining runes. Some runes offer simple effects while others will be used to modify spells in different ways. These spells will be used to solve environmental puzzles and defeat enemies.

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