We live in an age where slow, tactical RPGs are hot again. Games like Larian's Divinity: Original Sin and upcoming Baldur's Gate 3 have brought the genre to the forefront in a huge way.
While at PAX East 2020, we took a look at a game that's attempting to do things a bit differently with tactical RPGs.
It's inspired by a pen and paper RPG called The Dark Eye, which is one of the more popular RPGs in the world, the video game called The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes has found a way to differentiate itself from the crowded RPG space by offering a bite-sized experience.
The biggest thing that prevents some people from playing RPGs like Baldur's Gate, Divinity: Original Sin, Divinity: Original Sin 2, and other games of the sort is the time commitment. They generally require tons of hours to really get into, and they're built for extended gameplay sessions.
The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes aims to throw that notion out the window, bringing a bunch of bite-sized stories together that can be played one at a time in just about 20 minutes each.
That means players looking for long sessions can play multiple stories at a time, and players who have families and other responsibilities can jump in, get their hardcore RPG fix, and get back to business.
Even the character creator is streamlined to make getting in and playing faster. Instead of complicated blocks of text and long stories, you simply choose from a series of cards to make your character. These help you determine your professions, which is like a class in other RPGs (there are 12 to choose from including Assassin, Mercenary, Blessed one of Rondra, Knight, and so on).
Don't take the shorter session design to mean this game is going to be easy. I got my hands on it at PAX East 2020, and it's brutally difficult if you don't use careful tactics.
Also, even though the game is designed for short sessions, it's also built for replayability, as the worlds are procedurally generated. This means that no story or quest will feel exactly the same if you go back and play it again.
I ran the same story twice during my demo just to see how different it felt, and I have to say that the map was completely different between the two sessions.
The game can be played with up to four players, and at PAX East I dove in solo. I'd imagine the combat would be quite a bit easier with other players working in tandem, but thankfully the game has a mechanic that lets you hire henchman to fight alongside you. This eases the difficulty substantially, as having someone to tank some damage goes a long way.
As you'd expect from this sort of game, there is plenty of crafting and looting to be done, so your character will improve as you play. This is critical for any sort of PRG. You'll also level up, which unlocks new spells, skills, and abilities. This adds more depth to the gameplay as you reach higher levels.
Unfortunately, due to the constraints of playing on the show floor at PAX, I wasn't able to dig too heavily into these systems, but they were most definitely there and I look forward to really seeing what kind of unlocks you can earn when the game launches.
Thankfully, we won't have to wait too long, as developers Random Potion Oy and publisher Wild River Games plans to launch the game on PC in Q2 of this year. It definitely looks promising overall, and it looks like a game that could be perfect for people who think they don't have time to dive into a hardcore RPG.