The game is based on a mixture of genres, like traditional roguelikes, tactical party-based RPG (or CRPG), management/base-building RPG and even a touch of action-RPG by its format, pace and art.
Because it tries to offer the best of both worlds: fast combat and precision in controls. Generally speaking, real-time combat allows for faster gameplay and a greater sense of action but usually makes the party more difficult to control compared to turn-based combat. The game uses an instant-action system on pause (There's no pre-casting timer) that gives a similar level of control over spells and skills as in turn-based RPG. By using instant-actions and bonus actions at key moments on pause, your party can chain a series of precisely controlled measures that can turn the tide of the battle instantly.
The underground empire mined and used powerful magic crystals to create abominations and crazy experiments which all backfired dramatically. The empire has now fallen and lies in chaos and disarray. As you discover the various apocalypses caused by the Mad Empire, will you be able to rescue the surviving citizens trapped in the locked-down underground? Can you even save yourself?
Party management, real-time combat with instant-action on pause, cover, flanking, terrain, surface effects (like fire, water, ice, oil, poison, acid, etc.), positioning, tons of usable items with contextual effects, lots of statuses affecting creatures, magic items with special mechanics (and more), all leading to emerging gameplay and a rich, non-repetitive, dramatic and intense experience.
In its madness, the empire also used the crystals to create a whole class of absurd and cursed magic items. Those items are usually very powerful and bizarre. For instance, the effect of Brittle Daemon that transforms your base damage to fire, gives you +2 damage, 2 Ignite charges and 1 Fireball Charge, Immunity to Fire but weakness to cold, -10 to defense and sets you on fire (Yes you will set oil surfaces ablaze if you walk over them inadvertently). This helps give personality to your characters and adds to replayability and emerging gameplay.
Over the course of a mission, manage your spell charges, hunger, thirst, health, injuries, instability and consumables (potions, scrolls, food, drinks, etc.). Will you dare to equip that potentially cursed unidentified item or use that powerful unidentified potion right away? Perhaps you should wait until you have more scrolls of identification? Well, half your party is unconscious on the ground, you have to make a choice! Maybe you'll sacrifice that legendary chicken to distract monsters as you run? You'll starve to death but at least you'll live another day...
The core of the game is a rogue-lite dungeon crawling experience with randomly generated maps, random items or monsters spawns and perma-death.
Those ‘runs’ are organized in mission structures that you complete for rewards and progress. As you progress through missions, the story will evolve and new apocalypses, quests, threats and environments will be revealed.
Between each run, you’ll have the chance to manage your team and build your base. Recruit characters, train and equip them, craft or buy items and upgrade your base infrastructures to increase your management efficiency.
The game also features boss battles, hundreds of items and spells, a whole bunch of monsters based on different mechanics, numerous environments, quests, epic runs, etc., and will keep adding content during EA and after release.
Escape the Mad Empire is a roguelike tactical RPG, so one of its core pillars is the tactical side. In this development log, we’d like to cover several of the tactical aspects that will be put forward in the game.
What we consider tactical aspects mostly relate to how to position the party or everything that influences how to decide which enemies to target first. Those mechanics work hand in hand with emergent gameplay, which is another core pillar in our game, which will be discussed in another article. Being as important as they are we’ve been putting a lot of work on tactical aspects and we’ll keep pushing those as far as we can throughout development! Here’s a breakdown of the core game mechanics related to tactical gameplay:
Great examples of tactical aspects are terrain and positioning and our most prominent use of terrain mechanics is through surface types. Right now, we have 6 types of surfaces:
Over time, we plan to add more types of surfaces and ways to interact with them. For instance, perhaps we could add the possibility to ‘freeze’ an acid surface and combine dot with freeze status? Another example could be to add more flammable surfaces, like dry leaves or allow the fire to propagate through wooden objects. Another interesting example of terrain effects to add in the future would be height advantages.
Barrels introduce another way to have terrain or positioning mechanics.
What’s cool about barrels and surfaces is that they open-up possibilities for chain reactions. For instance, a fire spell sets an oil surface on fire, the fire propagates to an explosive barrel, which damages the surrounding creatures and objects!
Cover is a great example of a positioning mechanic, which takes its inspiration from Xcom 2. A creature can be protected from ranged attacks by 2 types of cover, partial and full, both of them increasing the odds to dodge an attack. The cover offers protection only if it’s placed between the defender and the attacker, encouraging flanking. In order to facilitate the understanding of the defensive effects of cover and other mechanics, the hit % of an attack is displayed overhead the target as a tooltip information.
At some point of the development, we were using the classic mechanic of attack of opportunity but we felt that it was encouraging having a static battlefield so we replaced the mechanics with a flanking one. The way flanking works is that every time a creature gets attacked by 2 other creatures at once, it gets a defense penalty and that penalty can only be applied once. The reasoning is that if a creature is distracted, it has a higher chance to be hit from behind. The result is a mechanic that encourages watching over the overall positioning.
This mechanic also tries to place some emphasis on positioning and it could also be seen as a derived version of attack of opportunity. The way it works is that an enemy directly placed at the side of a character (diagonals not included) will never move away from him. This helps minimize micro-managing chases around the room and helps strategize more easily the use of tanks and weaker ranged characters. Indeed, because enemies try to target weaker characters, the player can use the ‘block/stick’ mechanic to use another character and intercept the enemy before it reaches the weaker character.
The importance of items and inventory in the game is extremely high. The general idea is to give as many tools to the player so he can find creative solutions to battle problems. This means giving the player a lot of items, making them powerful, diversified in effects and acting differently depending on context. Here’s a few examples:
Of course there’s many more types of item and we’ll keep adding more over time because they’re so good at enhancing Emergent gameplay, resource management and tactical aspects!
Obviously it’s hard to talk about the tactical aspects without giving a short introduction about the magic system. The magic system will be built around classes, without necessarily being limited by it. Without giving much details, because the classes will be discussed further in a different devlog but each class will have its strengths and weaknesses and the associated skills and spells will further differentiate those classes. Some classes will be better on defense, some will be better to inflict damage per second, some will have better spike damage, some will perform crowd control better, etc.
In relation to tactics and terrain, the area of effect (AOE) system of the spells is worth mentioning. Many types of spells will have unique AOE shapes associated with them. Some shapes will be squares, ovals, lines, crosses, cones and so on. The general idea is to introduce a mini-puzzle component that will encourage the player to think about the best AOE shape that could match the actual battlefield configuration. To add depth even further, some of the spells can affect friendly targets and some not.
The AOE shape mechanic works very well in relation with other terrain features, like surfaces or barrel. Perhaps your AOE ice spell can both hit enemies and a water surface to turn it into ice to help you trap that second group of monsters? Maybe that fire spell can hit both that monster weak to fire and that oil surface, which in turn can propagate to that explosive barrel near which a couple of zombies are hanging?
Speaking of spells, an important mechanic worth mentioning because of its close relation to tactics is crowd control. Crowd control statuses can dramatically affect the battlefield in lots of different ways. Here’s some examples:
Other kinds of statuses can also affect the battlefield in tactical ways. For instance a burning creature walking on an oil surface will set the whole surface ablaze.
There’s other game mechanics that will have an impact on tactical aspects but we’ve probably covered the most important ones for now. Obviously there’s other systems from the game that interact with tactical decisions, like resources management, party composition, monster mechanics, magic items mechanics, character stats or combat formulas but those will be addressed in other devlogs. Of course we’ll keep adding even more tactical depth over time by introducing new items and mechanics!
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Discussion about Escape the Mad Empire' game genre, upcoming development logs and development roadmap!
After over 4 years of development, Escape the Mad Empire is finally officially announced! The roguelike party-based real-time base-building tactical RPG...
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