Tactical battles with that familiar Behemoth charm
No, the next game from The Behemoth isn't a sequel to Castle Crashers. I mean, yeah, that'd be nice to have one day, but I'm loving how the studio is continuing to try new things. And its next project, the to-be-properly-named "Game 4," is most certainly a New Thing for the team.
It's a turn-based strategy role-playing game with the style and humor we've come to expect from The Behemoth. So, pretty freaking great. Will Stamper even returns from BattleBlock Theater to narrate again. What begins as a typical fantasy adventure with swords and shields quickly morphs into a tale of robots, vampires, and anthropomorphic cupcakes. Knights getting extracted via space shuttle? Yeah, something's not quite right here.
As shown in the teaser trailer, a space bear has crash landed into a planet -- your planet -- and the universe hasn't been the same ever since. Just chaos, left and right. I was fortunate enough to spend well over an hour with Game 4 at PAX Prime and in that time, far more questions were raised than answered. I laughed more than a few times, though, and really dug the combat.
In Game 4, battles are turn-based and take place on a hex grid. You move your units around the map, one at a time, and end your turn when everyone is where you think they should be. That's when the attacking begins, automatically and throughout your whole team. You see, you aren't actually in control of who your characters target -- not directly like in, say, Fire Emblem. But you can often position them such that there's only one specific enemy within reach.
Certain unit types counter others so, for example, you'd want to bait archers by putting a heavily-shielded soldier close enough to draw their fire away from others. Or you'd want to use a mallet, not a sword, against a helmeted foe. Mallets smash faces real good; swords, not so much. Axes, when thrown one space away from their target, can stun. Positioning is crucial.
In an early level, my half-cyclops Yosef was getting shot to hell by an enemy who happened to be dual-wielding Uzis like it was no big deal. This was a teachable moment meant to show that yeah, I should probably stun and kill that guy as soon as possible lest he wipe out my whole team. I almost lost a unit to him (death isn't permanent) but got real lucky with a mid-fight level-up, which completely restored its dwindling health to full capacity. That'll come in handy.
Although my demo only scratched the surface of Game 4, I got the sense that one of The Behemoth's main goals with its mission designs is to make them unexpected and far removed from the stuff SRPG players have seen countless times before. The fact that there are so many unusual characters to draw from given the story premise should help tremendously.
One quest I was shown involved bringing mail to a cupcake who wouldn't accept the delivery unless you gave him a bloody nose first. Units bleed visibly when they're hurt badly. To win, the sugary treat's forces needed to be ignored -- they were simply too powerful to defeat.
Outside of battles, you can run around in real time on a world map in search of new quests. Enemies are physically represented here -- no random encounters -- meaning you can attempt to bypass unwanted engagements. Yes! And should you want to lay down a "breadcrumb trail" on the map -- it's going to be huge, from what I'm told -- there's a button to do so. Except they aren't crumbs, they're poops. I mean, this is a Behemoth game after all. Gotta have poop.
When not exploring the world, you'll likely be back home at Game 4's central city, which is where you can swap in new party members and change their gear earned through battle. Underneath your house, there's this monstrous conveyer belt that will store all of the units you've captured on the field because, yes, this game has a capture mechanic. So long, free time.
Using the right equipment, the last enemy standing in a fight can be caught and brought over to your side, which means, in theory, you could build a team full of nothing but zombies, or have a bunch of archers on spider ladies so they can move and fire in a single turn instead of taking two.
You can have up to seven active characters in your group, and if you're playing cooperatively with a second player, they can have their own full team as well. I didn't get to see this or the two-on-two versus mode in action, unfortunately, but I'll be curious to see how those are balanced.
Game 4 definitely won't be out this year, but beyond that, The Behemoth isn't committing to a time frame. It's coming to both Xbox One and Steam and shouldn't be quite as long of a wait as the studio's past games have been. Hope so. Strategy players and long-time Behemoth fans should expect to sink a silly amount of hours into this when it hits. I know I will.
Neverending Nightmares is eerily evocative, and set for release on September 26
6:00 PM on 09.09.2014