It’s been a while since I’ve written about an unreleased indie game, meaning I’ve not made that Linkin Park pun for a while. Recently Archean Games got in touch with me and asked me to take a look at their turn-based strategy game, Heralds of the Order. It’s just a demo right now, but I do like a good strategy game from time to time, so I popped over to their Gamejolt page and downloaded it.
So, ‘demo’ might be a bit of an overstatement, as there’s very little here right now. No title screen, no tutorial, no context, just being plonked straight into a turn-based battle. I was immediately struck by the quality of the art and animation on display. Clearly inspired by The Banner Saga, we have brightly coloured characters with that distinctive Saturday morning cartoon style. The environment fits this aesthetic well, and the different aspects of the map provide the sort of benefits you might expect.
Anyway, without a tutorial, I guessed that I needed to click somewhere! Perhaps on a unit? Ah yes, there we go! A blue grid that indicates where they can move! Now how do I attack? Click on an enemy? No, that did nothing. Oh, how about these buttons by the character portrait? There we go, red marks to indicate where I’ll hit. Click on an enemy and POW! He lost some health. So did my ally though, so I suppose all those red marks get hit.
That was pretty much my thought process through the first few minutes. I know it’s a demo, but a simple explanation might have helped. Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually a pretty good system that forces you to think carefully about all of your units positions every turn, as you don’t want to hurt your allies by being careless. Each unit has their own pair of attacks to pick from with different attack layouts. Success will come from drawing enemies into positions in which many can be hurt with a single strike whilst spreading your units out to avoid a similar fate.
And you’ll need to think carefully, as you’re significantly outnumbered in this mission, and with seemingly no way to heal your units, every hit matters. Your enemies start off far enough away, but before long they converge on you and start to cause some serious damage. They aren’t the smartest right now, spreading their attacks out rather than focusing on a specific target. I imagine in the final game they may be more vicious in this regard.
Whilst there is only a single level in the demo, what’s there works quite well. It reminds me of Fire Emblem to an extent (although I’m hardly an authority on those games), and the three-man team promise a 20 mission campaign with a branching story and boss fights when the game is released. It’s due to come out in the middle of next year, so there’s quite a bit to do (there are no sound effects right now for example), but there is a solid basis here that hopefully can be built on. I look forward to seeing what a such a small team can do with such a big ambition.