A Gloomy RPG With Innovative Combat
Bonfire feels like both a bite-sized adventure and a romp through an endless forest. The story begins with a young warrior, Hildie, waking up in an enchanted wood with no way out. Joined quickly by her friends Ephrem, a monk, and Zivko, a mage, she leads a charge through the seemingly endless forest to find an escape. Bonfire is, to a degree, procedurally generated. But, it does seem to have a loose critical path, which is the X factor that so many procedural games seem to lack. The game advertises its streamlined turn-based combat first and foremost, and I will confirm that as someone who generally finds that tedious, this iteration is indeed innovative.
Quests consist purely of combat, with no exploration involved. At first, this was off-putting, as I generally enjoy poking around the environment. After just a few quests, however, I was able to see what MoaCube was shooting for. The endless nature of the adventure combined with the quick combat does work to invoke a large, infinite forest in the player's mind without having them actually walk from place to place.
Each day, the player chooses whether their party should rest to regain health or head out on another adventure. Each adventure is a 5-10 minute series of rapid battles that will either progress the story or to yield gold and resources. Embarking on a mission brings up a map with about five or six missions. As stated before, these are procedurally generated missions (but definitely level-scaled) so each one will end up quite different. One path may have you take on a pack of wolves; another may bring you to fight a powerful dark wizard.
Before choosing which quest to take for the day, you'll see the difficulty of the mission and its rewards. If the player needs gold or food badly, they can look through their quest options and choose one that will yield the rewards they need. Before setting out, the player can assemble their loadout of magic items to bring on this specific quest. Items do stack, but good ones aren't plentiful by any means. Keep an eye out and store whatever you don't need for an emergency!
This game plays entirely with a mouse, no keyboard involved. A yellow circle appears under each character on their turn, which could be a little more prominent. A small "Next Turn" floats above the health bar for the next fighter in the turn order, which could also be a bit more visible. There is some math to figuring out what the turn order is, but it seems unintuitive. Your characters are always in the same spot top to bottom, regardless of the turn order, so it's hard to keep track of what's going on without taking a moment to look around.
Bonfire promises one-click combat and delivers - each character has three abilities they can perform on their turn. On Ephrem's turn, he can click on himself to perform one move, click on an ally to perform another move, and click on an enemy to perform a third move. Naturally, the first two are boost/healing spells while the latter is an attack. Once the player learns what each of the characters' moves are, the turn-based combat becomes faster than live combat is much of the time.
As stated before, combat actually seems to move faster than the player's eyes. The limiting factor here is being able to utilize the UI to track the turn order; as it is, it genuinely slows down the mechanical speed at which you could be fighting. I'd suggest that the developers add a turn order listing along the top of the screen on top of increasing font sizes to streamline the idea even further. Using boosts and power-ups from the bottom menu feels quick and easy, and you'll never open up a menu in this RPG. One interesting feature I've not mentioned is charge attacks - holding down the left-click will drain experience points and add them to your attack power. I'll confess that I haven't played a lot of turn-based games, but this mechanic strikes me as entirely new. Weighing the value of XP vs. taking down an enemy quickly and surviving the battle at all can be thrilling in the quick succession of combat.
Other than some desperately needed UI changes, which could come in time (this is an Early Access title, after all), my only real complaint about Bonfire is that after just an hour or two it began to feel a little stagnant. The environments are all the same forest floor, at least in the beginning, and there wasn't a huge pool of monsters for the procedural algorithm to pull from. More party members will join the group as the players continue, which will definitely keep it feeling fresh, but creating about a dozen more backgrounds for combat would do wonders for keeping player attention.
With those comments in mind, the core conceit of the game is rock-solid: Bonfire has succeeded in streamlining turn-based combat so much that it feels as fast as live combat, akin to Persona 5. With no menus to sort through, no pauses between animations and no cooldowns, you'll likely forget there's a turn order at all. There's plenty of content in Bonfire as it is, but if you're on the fence I'd recommend putting it on your wishlist for when it's a bit more filled out. I'll certainly be keeping an eye on it.
TechRaptor previewed Bonfire on PC via Steam Early Access using a code provided by the publisher.