Many folks are probably tiring out on roguelikes by now. The genre has just been played out so much over the past few years with innovative releases such as Spelunky, FTL: Faster Than Light, Rogue Legacy and others. Even so, there’s something so compelling about these types of experiences the genre allows for. Skyshine’s Bedlam proves that even with a huge library of games out there, there’s still room for tremendous (and outrageously enjoyable) new experiences. If you recall the name then it might be due to Skyshine Games’ successful Kickstarter back in 2014 where $166,541 was raised by excited gamers. The addition of the studio’s name to the project may also be related to the fact that another game by the same name is already out there.
Here’s the thing: While on the show floor, I played Bedlam for a good chunk of time but have very little memory as to the actual storyline. It had something to do with bringing a crew of characters safely across a vast wasteland without everyone getting killed. The specifics have since fled my memory. The thing is… None of that mattered. All that I can remember all these days after the demo is that it was one of the best demos I was fortunate enough to play during E3. It’s an incredibly fun, challenging new strategy game that is poised to take the gaming community by storm.
But enough with all that hype. Let’s dig into how Bedlam actually plays. The game is primarily a turn-based strategy experience, though there’s a fair bit of The Oregon Trail thrown in for good measure. You see, as you take your caravan of folks through the wasteland they use up supplies such as meat. Of course, the vehicle itself uses up power and such to drive about for miles on end. Players get a great big map of their trip and can choose which way to go. On occasions, this leads them toward caches of fuel or food. In a few instances random events popped up which turned out fortuitously. I was granted more crew and even a new battle-ready character! Things might not always turn out for the better, though.
At times you’ll need to engage in battles. As such, you’ll want to make sure your main crew are a nice mix of types (ex: a tank character, sniper, etc) to be best prepared for whatever enemy group comes your way. Each different class has its own attack radius which makes sense. Snipers can shoot enemies super far away, while others require an enemy exactly adjacent to them. The underlying grid shows attack radiuses clearly, though it seems likely to take a while before players will be able to perfectly judge attack distance without needing to check first. Honestly, that was the only point which slowed my progress in battles. Everything else just flowed.
Honestly, Bedlam feels a ton like a game of chess dipped in a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max style sheen. Players and enemies each have a restricted turn amount, but can do tremendous damage if they pre-judge enemy movements well enough. With a fairly easy to understand battle system, it’s exactly the type of game which can suck players in for hours. Had there not been other appointments to attend to, that’s exactly what would have happened to me!
The quality of Bedlam oozes beyond its excellent playstyle. There’s also the visuals which are suitably both steampunk and post-apocalyptic. Crew members look ripped straight from ’80s sci-fi films while some of the game’s signature vehicles (known as Dozers) are completely over the top. Animations follow in suit. After successfully killing an enemy, they simply seized up like a plank of wood and fell backward in a surprisingly hilarious fashion. Also of note is the warp animation in which the warped character’s guts spew out of their body for a few seconds before being reinserted after the warp. Touches like this are disgusting, but also a great show of how much care was given to the game’s visual design.
All in all, Bedlam is exactly the kind of strategy game that people will fall in love with. Honestly, it feels like it has the ability to become the next FTL for fans of the genre. Those looking for a new game to settle in with should keep an eye on Skyshine’s Bedlam’s fall 2015 release window.