Justice Playthrough #132: FLAMBERGE

Your plan will not survive contact with the enemy. Flaberge is in many respects very raw and clearly a work in progress, but its central conceit of watching your choreographed battle plans go straight to hell over and over again makes it fun and damned compelling just the same.

Page 10, Game 20: FLAMBERGE by msb /// hydezeke

Long ago, the land was savaged by war. So, your ancestors said Fuck This and violently ripped your homeland out of the ground and turned it into a floating island in the sky. For centuries you’ve lived in peace. But something has found you.

You take the role of a young soldier, last survivor of a squad devastated by mysterious invaders from below. You’ll explore the land and, in proper adventure game fashion, assemble your team of heroes as you attempt to put right what has gone so terribly wrong.

Flamberge brings an old-school brother-can-you-spare-a-pixel graphic style that I find immensely appealing. Check out this map of the overworld:

Follow the flag to adventure!

It also sounds fantastic, with a standout piano soundtrack. (My wife actually commented that the music for my game was suddenly “bangin'” and wondered why it had gotten so awesome. I’d earlier been playing Gloomhaven, a game from a much larger publisher.) The sound effects have a nice “crunch” quality to them in general, and just feel satisfying.

But the real selling point here is the combat system. It’s turned-based, but with one hell of a twist. You have to plan out what you’re doing ahead of time. You tell your people where you want them to go and when you want them to attack, and they’re off!

Unless you caught them by surprise, the enemy will promptly turn this into a huge clusterfuck by not being where you want them to be when you want them to be there, the bastards.

All right, I’mma come up on him from behind, you get right up in his grill, you shoot him, and assuming he remains perfectly stationary….

It’s not uncommon to botch a charge and end up hauling-ass WAY farther than you intended, possibly stumbling into visual range of another group of foes that you would preferred to have dealt with later. Whoopsy-doodle.

Combat mechanics are simple. Your attack does X damage; subtract your target’s armor (assuming they were where you wanted them to be) and subtract the result from their hit points. Easy-peasy.

You can even reduce the power of your attacks to account for uncertainty — which is often the smartest move. In exchange for a smaller attack strength, you can designate an area to go looking for foes instead of a straight line. It adds a very nifty gambling element to the proceedings, particularly when dealing with crunchybois with high armor values.

But as I mentioned, the game is still under development, and it shows. The developer says that it’s half done; they have three chapters in the can, and have three more to go to complete the story. I’m really hoping they’ll come back and polish some of the core gameplay elements, however.

There’s no “undo” mechanism for plotting your moves, at least none I could find. This results in a very unforgiving interface, where a single errant mouse twitch could spell disaster by taking one of your peeps too close to the enemy. There’s a timeline displayed, but I couldn’t figure out how to manipulate it; if I want something to happen later in the turn such as the healer holding off on his heal-bomb until everybody has congregated, I have no idea how to make that happen without the guy running in circles.

There’s also a weird thing where if you don’t collect loot while the fight is in progress, the game won’t let you collect it after you’re done, even if you wipe the field of opposition. Also, there’s one guy in the enemy camp who’s clearly recruitable, but I have no idea how; I was hoping getting closer to him would trigger some sort of dialog, but nope. I didn’t recruit him so much as … murder him. Maybe I have to ignore him completely? That seems counter-intuitive.

But what I most desperately want is a slow-motion replay option. When you hit the “Execute” button, things happen VERY quickly. My plans often went wrong, but I was often very unclear as to WHY. Did the target move before my archer could get the shot off? How close was the miss? Why did that guy get flattened? Didn’t I have his “defense” option selected? The game makes it harder than I want to learn from my mistakes — even though I’m clearly showering myself with learning opportunities.

The story is all right. I suspect English isn’t the dev’s first language, as the exposition and dialog can both come off a tad stilted. It also suffers from the problem of not telling me enough while telling it to me too slowly; the story stuff can really drag, and yet at the beginning of the game, I honestly didn’t know I was up in the floaty-island defending it from invaders from below.

That having been said, the story takes a turn for the weird in the third chapter, and I am fucking THERE for it.

You KNOW the party’s gotten real when they bust out the dancing diamond

You meet the people of the town you just saved. They are sheep. Literal sheep. So is their king. Nobody thinks this is in any way odd.

This is like ten times as much personalty as the game had displayed up until this point, and I would have loved a lot more of this loopy creativity.

It feels like there should be more to explore; the overland map is often just an exercise in going from point to point. There’s a shopping mechanism, but it feels weirdly half-baked. I would have liked my protagonist’s personality to have had a trait beyond “dutiful.”

It’s one of those games where it’s easy to lose yourself picking at what it’s getting wrong, which is a mistake. It DOES have a ton of room for refinement, but that shouldn’t distract you from the core truth:

It’s fun as hell.

I’m going to set this game aside. At some point in a year or two when I’m poking through these entries, I’ll stumble across this one and be all “Oh, yeah, Flamberge! That was actually kind of awesome. I wonder what it looks like now.” And then I’ll download the latest version and see what the developer has managed to improve.

This game can only get better — and it’s already pretty damn good.

This is absolutely worth a look.

Will this next game allow me to use a sheep as a motherfuckin’ tank?

Page 55, Game 17: Analog Zine Issue 1-9 by Analog Fanzine

“All the issues so far”

As balls-out weird as the zines have been in this trawl, there’s absolutely no way to know for sure, is there.