Fantasy RPGs always felt like a desk job anyway

There’s a lot to manage in a role-playing game. It can almost feeling like having a desk job—managing inventory, grinding work, looming bosses. Add with crafting, foraging, and upgrading gear on top of that it’s no wonder I keep asking myself why I repeatedly subject myself to RPG work. Not everyone loves crafting, after all. Andrew Morrish’s upcoming Kingsway is a fantasy RPG that riffs on the idea that the game is like a desk job, “pointing out the similarities between managing an RPG and daily tasks on a computer,” Morrish said. Players will have to rifle through a Windows 95–inspired operating system to navigate a…


Masquerada is about as enjoyable as a dictionary

Delivered in the middle of Big Game season, Masquerada looks at first like a welcome relief from war, VR, and Watch Dogs 2’s emoji mask. The masks in its world are a different kind of grotesque. They separate the haves and the have-nots in a rigidly stratified sorta-Venetian society, granting elemental powers to elites who dress like every day is carnival. The conceit feels fresh, and the city of Ombre is boldly drawn, with heavy black borders around tents and troops to set off freehand suggestions of grass blades and thin ruled lines of stone. The protagonist, Cicero Gavar, dashes…


Slayer Shock is the videogame equivalent of a vampire B-movie

Slayer Shock is an effort to make a tense, smart vampire survival game, but it ends up feeling more like a B-movie version of a classic genre. It’s not offensively bad or anything like that—it has a worse fate. It is bland. In the wake of a vampire epidemic, Slayer Shock tasks you with wandering a procedural Nebraskan town, completing tasks such as going on patrol or killing elders. As you walk around exorcising vampires, you can collect “vampire dust” that can be exchanged for weapons or abilities. You can sneak through tall grass, surprising enemies or come at them head-on and…


YIIK’s demo probably has everything you love about 1990s JRPGs

To say the Japanese role-playing game is a prominent genre is an understatement—it has influenced videogames tremendously over the years. From Final Fantasy VII (1997) to Earthbound (1994), Dragon’s Quest (1986) to Persona (1996), JRPGs introduced expansive stories and memorable characters that still live on in popularity today. Not to mention, the JRPG is a genre that’s constantly reinventing itself, exploring new problems, themes, and design styles. You can look at the overlapping cartoon realities of Kingdom Hearts and the World War II narrative of the Valkyria Chronicles series for a taste. Ackk Studios’s upcoming game YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is not only interested in…


Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire only adds to the noise

According to its Kickstarter campaign, the first seed of what would become Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire was the game’s emblematic image: a woman in blue looks down at her red, burning city. There’s a paucity of details that add to the drama; the mountains are uniformly dark, while the desert is boundless and bare. Both are supported by the game’s plain, unsophisticated aesthetic, charmingly complete with rotoscope animation. All of the above combine to create an interesting drama out of drabness: two splashes of color set against a dun disaster. But this image represents the whole of Tahira…


Undertale, one year later

September 15th marks a full year since the arrival of Undertale, Toby Fox’s 16 bit-style role-playing game for PC. Its auspicious reception, which even delivered the game into the Pope’s hands, seems now more than ever to have been a flashpoint in current debates as to what constitutes excellence in videogames. Standing apart from the colossal world-building efforts that typically crowd year-end lists, Undertale offered something else: an epic-in-miniature, the latest entry in a tradition that might also include the animated shorts of David OReilly, Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), and Chopin’s preludes, which served…


Moon Hunters is about legends, but isn’t quite legendary

Our ancestors courageously spoke their minds, fought against tyranny, ended wars, and along the way also probably made a lot of really stupid mistakes. Just because we don’t care as much about our time-honored heroes’ failures doesn’t mean they didn’t happen, it just proves that history has a way of selective forgetfulness. The truth? Our legends aren’t always necessarily as legendary as we’d have liked them to have been. Johnny Appleseed’s countless apple trees bore mostly inedible fruit, designed to produce lucrative cider, rather than out of an altruistic goal to feed the masses. Paul Revere may have ridden to…

Lotus Dimension

New boardgame is like Dungeons & Dragons without all the violence

Lotus Dimension, a tabletop game by Scott Wayne Indiana that’s currently on Kickstarter, riffs on the best-known parts of Dungeons & Dragons (1974)—lots of adventure, deep storytelling, and actively encouraging creativity—but removes another: combat. Gone is the hack’n’slash, the destructive sorcery, the sharp but hidden blades that sawed your way through oh-so-many dungeons; you’re going to have to be more clever now. Lotus Dimension has sworn a vow of nonviolence, and you have no choice whether to follow it. Now pacifism has outgrown its adolescence of achievement runs and takes a seat with its grandfather at the tabletop, it’s time…

The Banner Saga 2 header

The Banner Saga 2 still goes at it hard

The world is breaking. This is what you’re told at the outset of The Banner Saga 2. It’s delivered in a sigh, an exhale, and carries with it the weight of responsibility you bear—not all of those entrusted to your care will make it through the ordeal. There’s an inevitable doom to the proceedings but your choices will give those that follow you a chance, at least. Those choices are there in the dialogue, in the small esoteric details of conversation, in the events that unfold, and in the combat that ensues. Decision-making is woven into the tapestry of play…