Turn-based strategy set in the back streets of Victorian (19th century) London, incorporating thievery, murder most horrid and all manner of underhand skulduggery.
Type: Single-player, Multi-player
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Developer: Tim Conkling
Publisher: Versus Evil
Release Date: 10 Jul, 2017
My team-mate here at SoQ Previewed this game three months ago. There was only Skirmish mode in single-player back then and I remember feeling totally confused about it all. We played a few matches together and I was still none the wiser. So now that the game has been released I thought I’d give it another try and award it a Save Or Quit rating. I’m glad I did because the light has dawned (cue clouds parting to reveal ray of sunlight and angelic choir)!
Turn-based strategy games can be basic affairs but this is pretty complex and there’s still a lot to get your head around, but now there is a full single-player campaign with built-in tutorial, so the game tells you exactly what to do as you play the early levels, and the tips gradually stop appearing as you progress. Hand-holding at its best.
I’ll attempt to give you a quick outline with the proviso that even after a few hours of play there are still new mechanics being thrown at me regularly, so this is by no means a full description.
A level – or a match, if you’re playing Skirmish or multi-player – is won when you achieve a certain number of Victory Points before your opponent. There are various ways to gain Victory Points, including paying bribes, killing assassination targets or infiltrating (in order to blackmail) churches with your Urchins.
Your main character is the Master Thief. You start on a map which is obscured by smog and you have to use turns of your Master Thief to scout/reveal streets and buildings which you can then burgle (note the correct term, you heathen Americans!) which a) gets you some coins or lanterns and b) opens up the buildings for potential infiltration by Urchins (the schoolboy type, not the prickly ocean type) which you can purchase with coins… which then provide regular income each turn. You can (and always do) start a gang which can be bolstered with extra Thugs in order to attack enemy characters and neutral Thugs for coinage and upgrades.
There are two forms of currency in the game: coins (for purchasing new characters) and lanterns (for upgrade items). At the end of each turn (or during if you like) you can spend your earnings on new team members and abilities/upgrades. This dictates the type of tactics you will use. You can go all-out in the race for Victory Points at the expense of building your empire; you can upgrade your gang for better attack/eviction power; you can go for economy by buying loads of Urchins and infiltrating buildings for higher income… the options are many and varied, and wherever you build strength it’s always at the cost of weakness somewhere else.
An important part of your strategy is to use Thugs to block access to your occupied buildings, especially towards the end of a match when your buildings are loaded up with Urchins. I discovered this to my dismay when I was ignominiously defeated by an AI on EASY difficulty. I was well ahead on Victory Points and had just one more to get so I thought I was sitting pretty. Then my AI opponent suddenly swooped at the last minute, evicted all my Urchins and claimed my Victory Points! How rude!!
Being a native Londoner I have a very keen sense of whether or not the visuals, dialog and voice acting in a game are genuine. I’m pleased to report that this has my 100% seal of approval. Every detail and nuance of the game is spot on. Dickens would be proud.
Multi-player Is Alive!
I’ve reviewed a fair number of multi-player games and, more often than not, if it’s a newly released game and/or it has less than 100 Steam reviews, chances are there will be no matches available online. So before I’d even tried the single-player campaign I went to the multi-player options to check and make sure it was dead, just to get it out of the way so I could confirm it in my review…
There are two multi-player modes here. You can play ‘live’ online against an opponent in real time or you can send turns to each other, like an email chess match. Well, I was quite startled to find matches for both modes IMMEDIATELY. There was a player right there online ready to play live with me! Erk!! So having not played yet I was unprepared and had to apologise profusely in the chat window and resign the game. That’ll teach me!
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s even hot seat mode so you can play with your friend on the same computer.
In singleplayer mode (campaign or skirmish) you have Easy/Normal/Hard. The game in general does have a fairly steep learning curve due to the rich variety of options that need to be taken in. I feel like I’m still in the learning phase at this point but I can already tell that once I’ve mastered the mechanics there will be a wide scope of devious tactics to employ. I’m sure that watching/anticipating your opponent and reacting to their moves will be a key aspect of the game.
30 achievements and the global achievements list shows nice gradual progression, there’s no falling off a cliff as with some games. No Trading Cards yet; no Steam Cloud; no Leaderboards and (sadly) no Linux. I would like to see some of this stuff later maybe.
I’m not going to mention the name of it, but I’ve just been playing another new turn-based strategy game which is slightly more expensive than this one. I’ll take Antihero any day. It goes way beyond the basic (often tedious) formula and will exercise your brain. The campaign will hone your skills and then you have endless replay value online.
This has been transformed since I last played it, from a baffling mess to a polished, intricate chess-like strategy game where you can use many different tactics to outwit your opponent (human or AI). The tutorial phase is excellent and it’s all wrapped up with wonderful cartoon artwork and humour. I prefer this over a couple of other rather famous TBS games I can think of. To top it all off, the multi-player is a real prospect, unlike so many other games which have the framework but no players. Highly recommended.