RPGs in 2019, Part IV

Here are a few more RPGs in 2019 that I’m curious about or looking forward to in no particular order.


Dying Light 2

Release date: 2019
Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO
Developer: Techland

This is the sequel to the zombie mashing, first-person parkour/survival ARPG, Dying Light, slated for sometime this year. It even has that venerable RPG scribe, Chris Avellone (Planescape: Torment, Pillars of Eternity, KOTOR II) working on the story to give players even more to think about — and worry about — with the choices that they may be confronted with.

That’s a nice looking necropolis.

There’s little known about the game other than the obvious — that it’s the sequel to Dying Light, which took place during a zombie apocalypse where survivors are holed up in what remained of a city. Dying Light featured a day and night cycle (zombies tended to be more docile during the day, and more brutal ‘things’ would come out at night including a more frenzied zombie population), survival and crafting aspects, and skill trees that could enable you to drop kick your way to victory or smother yourself with zombie blood as camo.

The sequel is said to be taking place fifteen years after the events in the first game. Society has evolved into distinct factions out for survival and the story, with Avellone on board, will be more shaped by your actions and decisions than in the first game. It’s a new “Dark Age” for mankind as it struggles to survive not only the zombies but each other as everyone fights tooth and clawed nail for what resources are left.

Expectations going in — it’s going to have skill trees like the first game, great combat moves, a huge area to explore, and plenty of side quests to gather gear and loot with. Co-op will also be there (as it was in the first game) and it will be replayability friendly.

I enjoyed the first game as a fast, monster mashing action RPG with a decent crafting system and loot table, especially when you could just jump in and out of others’ games to help them out. But Techland also supported Dying Light with quite a bit of free content post-launch along with solid DLC that expanded on what it did best with even more options for mayhem (such as vehicles). Can’t wait.


Living Dark

Release: 2019
Platforms: PC (so far)
Developer: Rocketwerkz

This one’s a bit of an anomaly — it’s tagged as an action RPG on Steam but the description and what media is available doesn’t exactly specify what the main goal of the game is. What is out there paints the player in broad strokes as a social climber in the living city of Vox that reacts to the choices made as they try and improve their lot in a near future setting.

The slick, neon noir look of Living Dark hints at a future society on the edge and leaves to the player to decide just how much closer they want to push it there.

Gameplay will revolve around multiple options for accomplishing tasks (hack, talk, or shoot you way through certain situations), the importance of “identity” by turning people into potential commodities (everyone in Vox is implanted with a “metachip” that contains everything about them from bank accounts to medical history), and a procedural storytelling system that creates situations based on your past actions. Players can even replay the game in a city shaped by a previous playthrough’s actions.

But to what end? And that might be the point of the game’s emphasis on a narrative shaped by the player’s actions — that they create their own goals and endgame using the tools available to them. There might not be a “bad guy” or a syndicate/government entity/boss monster to take down, only the barriers to their success at being…well, whatever you can be in Vox. While that kind of ambiguity can be a bit off putting to players used to motivating elements planting flags to reach for, Living Dark seems to be taking the gamble that exploring what it has to offer and making the most of it as its own best reward.


Grimshade

Release date: Q1 2019
Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO, Nintendo Switch
Developer: TALEROCK

This one is another Kickstarter survivor reaching its goal last year in June. This one takes place in a world that has been devastated by an event called the Great Flood, splitting the Kingdom of Easeon into the three states and plunging the land into civil war among the heirs of Amon Darvish the Great. Eighty years later, civilization is once again sprouting from its post-apocalyptic ashes as lost technology and the secrets of their ancestors are brought to the surface but many secrets are still hidden from all. And now new threats are rising up from the shadows endangering all.

This is a turn-based, tactical RPG featuring an amazing art direction that creates a striking comparison to Stoic Studios’ The Banner Saga. Gameplay is split between two modes — an adventure mode where you can explore villages, towns, and cities to meet new people and discover secrets. And then there’s the combat mode. Characters can develop skills, geared up with plenty of loot, and each one has their own colorful, background story.

The game promises plenty to explore and choices to make that could alter the course of your adventure.

Combat is a tactical, turn-based system that’s a hybrid of ideas. Players pick four characters (from a small pool) to engage in combat against enemies on the other side of the screen.

Characters and enemies are then listed on a sort of initiative bar showing their place in battle (if you’ve played a game like Octopath Traveler, this might be familiar to you) determining when their turn is. This can also be altered based on actions taken by the characters in question that can move them up or down their place in “line” for even more tactical options. There’s also a concept called “tension” that can affect characters — some thrive on it, while others may suffer in combat instead.

The meat and potatoes of any epic-sized RPG — the inventory and equipment screen. Party management for everyone!

One thing that the description makes clear is that once you fully explore an area — its side quests, dungeons, etc.. — and leave, you can never return to it which sounds a bit odd. At the same time, the game doesn’t boast of itself as an open-world RPG and seems focused on presenting a more focused approach to the story it wants to tell, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. From the details in their Kickstarter and the media that they’ve been showing of a world inhabited by a lively mix of anthropomorphic animals and humans emerging from the ruins of the past, Grimshade looks like it has a lot of surprises in store for players when it finally releases.


Disjunction

Release date: 2019
Platforms: PC
Developer: Ape Tribe Games

The demo (which you can download on its homepage) for this cyberpunk, action RPG shows off an impressive slice of what is has in store for players. It takes place in New York City. The year is 2048 and the world is starving for natural resources while its cities have only grown higher and denser bringing with them sophisticated criminals hiding within these urban jungles. Players will take the role of three characters as they each weave their own story through the cyberpunk mystery that confronts them.

You can go in guns blazing, but that health bar beneath you can also burn away faster than nerve endings after a botched cyber upgrade.

In the demo, you take on the role of an augmented detective with a few cyber-tricks up his sleeve. He’s a decent shot, but he’s also pretty stealthy. By using the shadows, and even a smoke bomb and stun gun, he can drop his enemies before they can even react. Think of those moments as akin to Hotline Miami’s frenetic chain kills because while our detective is pretty tough, he’s not immortal or indestructible. And by finding upgrades or surviving long enough to get through an area, you can earn points that are used to enhance abilities (such as giving his smoke bombs a better duration).

Sneak attack success. Now to wait for his friend before you try to do the same thing. You can even drag bodies around to get them out of sight.

The 16-bit look, fast action, and stealthy mechanics felt really great to work with. There’s a hint of the story in the demo and the areas offer a number of puzzle-oriented opportunities on how to take down enemies efficiently, sneak by them, or figure out how to get that guarded upgrade point. Enemies also come in a few different flavors from simple grunts to shotgun wielding brutes. And the music is pure cyberpunk.


Time Golf Squad

Release date: June 3, 2019
Platforms: PC
Developer: Ponywolf

The universe is under threat and four heroes from across space and time have come together to save it with the power of golf. Revel in its “faux-pixel art style” and 1980s aesthetic as you journey to battle nefarious foes and courses with golf moves, special abilities, and a healthy dose of humor.

One of our heroes, an astronaut coming back from a five year voyage from the future, golfs her way across this area.

The game plays from a sort of top-down, side view perspective and it’s filled with plenty of areas to try and keep the universe from doing something terrible. The mechanics look pretty simple to grasp — use your cursor to aim and shoot your golf ball to make it through each area (and maybe blow up a few bad guys along the way) while utilizing the unique skills of our four heroes.

The game will also feature mini-games that can be played outside its 1980s inspired story campaign that can help unlock special gear and items to help the party out. Multiplayer is also planned for later where you can challenge everyone’s high scores and be the golfiest player in the multiverse.

 

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