Checking out 11bit Studios at BGS 2017

Brazil Game Show 2017 was in full swing a couple of weeks ago, and I stopped by 11bit Studios’ charming booth to check out their wares on display. I came out extremely impressed by what the Polish studio brought over to the show.

I was even more impressed by the fact that only one of those games is actually being developed by them — Frostpunk, a post-apocalyptic city management game set in the frozen tundra which just happened to be one of E3’s darlings. I sat down with 11bit’s senior marketing manager Karol Zajaczkowski as he walked me through the motions of getting a town up and running.

Frostpunk already made a fantastic first impression with its presentation alone, but the gameplay also helped keep my attention in the noisy hall of BGS, thanks to some potentially cruel opportunities that a temporary leader like myself had at my disposal. Basically, Frostpunk puts you in the leader’s set in a small settlement whose only means of surviving is keeping a gigantic engine up and running out in the middle of a crater melted by its heat emissions. Thing is, you also have to keep your fellow humans alive and well, and that’s where those possibilities come in, thanks to a book of laws that works as a development tree for your town.

By enacting certain laws, other paths in the tree are blocked while others open up, and so forth. The one that made me feel a little like Scrooge was enacting that children could be put to work, starting at safe jobs like gathering resources, and later potentially moving to more dangerous activities. Since I needed resources right away in order to get things going in the demo, I took the plunge and put everyone to work, got what I needed to build a handful of different buildings, like a hunting shack, cookery, tents, as well as a hospital, and got on to upgrade my engine to the next tier, which added another row where I could plop down more streets and constructions.

While I’m certain that I’ll probably take a different approach when I actually get down to playing the full release once it’s out sometime next year, one thing’s for certain: decisions bear consequences in Frostpunk, and the little that I saw of the book of laws, there’s no way of making everyone happy and alive. It’s either or none at all, a cruel but downright refreshing take for a city management game. Also, the prospect of expanding the initial settlement by sending scouts to investigate the frozen wastes makes me think that the game has plenty of room to evolve the further you get into it. This is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Next came Moonlighter, by Spanish dev Digital Sun, a rogue-like dungeon crawler with the fairly unique hook where you’re collecting items in order to sell them in your shop. While the concept isn’t exactly new, Recettear comes to mind, I came out impressed by the presentation and general gameplay, which is clearly inspired by Zelda and the splurge of indie games that play like it.

The most interesting aspect of this, though, was the part when the adventure ended and I had to put items up for sale that full-time adventures would actually be interested in buying. It’s not just a matter of finding rare and sought after things, either, which became quite obvious once I started to throw things onto the showroom and customers started pouring in. I was also forced to be quick on my price labeling, since some of the stuff I marked happened to be more expensive than what anyone would shell out, or worse, I had mistakenly unknowingly undervalued some merchandise that ended up going out the door just as I caught wind of my mistake. So for all the fun I might end up having procuring those trinkets, it can all be for naught if I’m not checking the market for prices and think about the value of the things my shop is selling, which in and of itself is something particularly singular for a game to have.

Now, whether or not there will be depth to be found in these bartering mechanics, ah, that’s an entirely different matter. Surely enough, we’ll hear more about Moonlighter as it approaches release sometime in early 2018.

Children of Morta was the last of the games I checked out. Developed by Iranian studio Dead Mage, it’s also a retro-inspired pixelized isometric action game, but instead of focusing on only a single protagonist, it shines the spotlight on an entire family of adventurers, the Bergsons. They just happen to be the guardians of Mount Morta, a sacred mountain that’s been overrun by the powers of darkness. It’s up to them to rid their home of corruption.

The thing that grabbed me right away with this one is the diversity of playstyles I was able to pick from right from the start, as each family member’s focused on a particular set of skills, such as the older daughter, who’s skilled at ranged combat, and just happened to be the one I picked for my co-op demo with one of the devs minding the booth. He went with her mother, who just happens to be a pretty powerful mage. I found the game to be fairly difficult, as waves of enemies just swarmed us from all sides at all times, but thanks to a few of our unique skills, like the girl’s bombardment shot, we were able to make it relatively fine.

The demo itself was pretty short, but during the time I had, it was clear that this game, albeit relatively close in terms of visuals and gameplay with the many other indie downloads out there, definitely has room to grow into its own if its mechanics are as fleshed out as they seem. Given that the world in the game is touted as being completely different in layout for every playthrough, it’ll definitely be interesting to put different character combinations up against whatever Children of Morta might throw at me. It’s also set for release sometime in 2018, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it.

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