When you think Daedalic, you think point-and-click games. I saw two games from E3 that might not fit the Daedalic norm, but definitely left me more than impressed. I got some hands-on time with Iratus: Lord of the Dead that takes a new spin on the Darkest Dungeons formula. Then, I watched a demo for Iron Danger, which has a unique twist on the typical turn-based RPG. I was left so impressed by the ingenuity of each games' mechanics, I gave both a Best of E3 2019 Nomination. Check out below for more information on these two games!
Iratus: Lord of the DeadIratus: Lord of the Dead looks like Darkest Dungeon at first glance. It's dark, gritty, and features similar town and combat mechanics. Here's the twist: in Iratus, you're the bad guy. You play as a necromancer voiced by Stephan Weyte, known as the voice actor for Caleb from the Blood series. Iratus needs minions to do his bidding, so instead of recruiting adventurers, you create evil monsters. These are created with the body parts of your enemies. These parts vary in rarity and the better quality the material, the stronger your minion is.
During my demo, I saw a large variety of units to choose from, each with different abilities and aesthetics. I recall a giant bone golem, mummy, and vampire to name a few. Expect to see many evil spirits and dark, necrotic units to choose from. Additionally, each have different abilities to serve different purposes in combat. Some units can buff and heal, while others inflict debuffs, health damage, and sanity damage to enemies. The "bad guys" in Iratus have both a health bar and sanity bar. Most of your creations seem to have a specialty, so one unit might excel more in sanity damage rather than dealing physical, health-draining attacks. Either way, dealing enough sanity damage causes enemies to die, the same as health.
Because there are so many units to choose from with different specialties and abilities, I see a lot of great potential in Iratus' team-building. Another factor to consider is that Iratus himself has dozens of abilities to choose from and different skill trees to allocate points into. Iratus can use his abilities once a turn and each have potential to turn the tide of combat. It's a bit complex and overwhelming at first, but those who value deep strategy and player choice will find something to enjoy.
Exploration seems to include regular enemy encounters, story events featuring choices with consequences, and a boss encounter. Moving around the map reminds me of FTL's node system, hopping from one encounter to the next. However, most of my demo consisted of a boss fight. Said boss had tons of health, so I went for his minions first. The second they all died, he spawned new ones, so I was forced to focus on the boss. My team specialized in inflicting stress damage, so I focused my attacks on the boss while maintaining the health of my tanky bone golem minion. After a long-fought battle, I succeeded.
Indeed, the combat is certain reminiscent of Darkest Dungeon (there's even a spooky town area where you can build all manner of nefarious building). Still, I think the idea around crafting enemies along with the different skill trees and abilities for our necromancer protagonist make Iratus: Lord of the Dead a game worth your time when it launches in early access this Summer.
Iron DangerFor games like Divinity: Original Sin and Pillars of Eternity, every move counts. That's why you can pause combat and plan out encounters accordingly. Iron Danger's gameplay reminds me of these titles, but with even more planning and forethought into every action. In Iron Danger, players take the role Kipuna, who early on in the story gains time-like powers. This translates into the game proper with a unique movement and combat system.
When initiating combat, Kipuna and one other companion have heartbeats, and heartbeats dictate how you initiate actions. One step requires one heartbeat, but if you want to cast a spell or swing your hammer, it might take up more space on a meter at the bottom of the screen. Because these abilities spell take up more space on your bar, it leaves you vulnerable to enemy attack since you can't move while using it. If you die though, you can rewind time and rethink your moves. As it turns out, Iron Danger plays like a strange combination between a CRPG and a puzzle game. It's all about planning accordingly for different combat encounters, and a lot of trial and error.
It sounds complicated and the UI seemed a little confusing at first, but watching Iron Danger in action gives me a lot of hope for the title. My hands-off demo included a delve in a dungeon. As the player explored this dungeon, there were a few combat encounters. Combat seems pretty straightforward—use abilities and move when you need to. If you die or take unnecessary hits, rewind and try to find a more effective way of disposing the bad guys. What intrigued me was the possibility to manipulate time and position enemies so they fall victim to certain environmental hazards.
A group of enemies were ahead of the player's party. To dispose of them quickly, the player casts a spell to attract the enemies to a bulb on the ground. This bulb, as it turns out, is extremely lethal and explodes when a fire spell is cast upon it. This turned a difficult encounter into something much easier. I saw environmental hazards in action again during a boss fight at the end of the demo. A weight held a giant object in the air via a rope, but by attracting this bird-like behemoth to a certain point in the dungeon, we were able to make the object fall on top of the boss and inflict a lot of damage. It took some time manipulation to get it right, but in the end it worked out.
I haven't seen a game play quite like Iron Danger. It's promising to see very unique ideas for a genre with fairly little innovation. I hadn't heard of Iron Danger before E3, but now it's my hope that it gets some well-deserved attention early next year on PC.
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