Hydezeke’s booth at the MAGfest Indie Showcase this past weekend was the talk of the festival amongst con-goers and developers alike. After sitting and playing the three-stage demo, it was clear to see why. Their upcoming strategy RPG, Flamberge, is as unique as it is hard to describe.
At first glance, its the art that hooks you. The locales are expansive and tell their own stories of a once beautiful fantasy world torn apart by conflict. It’s abstract in that the color palettes and shades are minimalistic and character sprites are small and efficiently evocative. But its brevity gives power to the imagery. It’s familiar, especially with the popularity of pixel art nowadays, but great nonetheless.
When you get into the first mission, where a group of enemies attack your party of three unexpectedly, you find the mechanics are equally familiar-yet-unique. Like Frozen Synapse—a comparison lead programmer/designer Michael Savage-Benoist was more than happy to accept—actions for each character are plotted out in advance like drawing football plays. Special abilities that involve charging or shooting at opponents requires a bit of foresight, because your enemies actions are hidden from you in the planning stage.
“It’s definitely a guessing game at points, but I wouldn’t say its ever a game of chance,” Ben Cohn, sound designer and artist for Flamberge told me. “There are many indications as to what the enemy is thinking, and you have to use your tools to plan for all possibilities.”
Context is key from round to round. If the enemy used a big ability last round, there’s a good chance that he’s on the same cooldowns your characters are susceptible to. If the aggro (denoted by a red line pointing from the enemy) is on a particular character, it’s up to you to move them out of the way, or move someone in to intercept. As rounds pass, it becomes a very cerebral game of give and take when the system is at its best.
There are some balancing issues that are still being worked through, the duo admitted. I found that the second of three missions was incredibly easy due to how powerful and long the ranged attack of your archer was. I could eliminate the small groups of enemies before they had time to react. The few that would make their way to the archer would be dispatched by my other two warriors soundly.
There are still many more playable characters being worked out, with 20 missions being the goal for the full single player campaign. Story details and multiplayer are both tightly under wraps, but Michael and Ben believe they will be ready to shed more light on the project as it nears completion, a goal they hope to reach by the middle of 2015. After a successful Kickstarter back in November, and a strong showing at MAGfest, the people are definitely chomping at the bit for any piece of info available.
“It was easily the best thing here,” one onlooker told me, after finishing the demo a third time. “Not only is it good on its own merit, but it really elevates the image of the MAGfest indie scene as a whole.”
The demo I played can be downloaded now at Hydezeke’s website, and I couldn’t recommend it more.