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One of the core pillars of our roguelike party-based dungeon crawler is the tactical side. In this development log, we cover several of the tactical aspects that will be put forward in the game!

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Devlog #3: Tactical System Overview

Escape the Mad Empire is a roguelike tactical RPG, so one of its core pillars is the tactical side. In this development log, we’d like to cover several of the tactical aspects that will be put forward in the game.

What we consider tactical aspects mostly relate to how to position the party or everything that influences how to decide which enemies to target first. Those mechanics work hand in hand with emergent gameplay, which is another core pillar in our game, which will be discussed in another article. Being as important as they are we’ve been putting a lot of work on tactical aspects and we’ll keep pushing those as far as we can throughout development! Here’s a breakdown of the core game mechanics related to tactical gameplay:

Surface Types

Great examples of tactical aspects are terrain and positioning and our most prominent use of terrain mechanics is through surface types. Right now, we have 6 types of surfaces:

  • Water - can extinguish a creature on fire, it can conduct electricity and will turn to ice if cold is applied to it.
  • Ice - has a chance to freeze a character walking on it and it will turn back to water after some time or if warmth is applied to it.
  • Oil - slows down creatures and will turn to fire if warmth is applied to it.
  • Fire - sets creatures on fire (fire damage over time - dot) and can be extinguished by water.
  • Acid - Applies acid to creatures (high damage over time).
  • Poison - Applies poison to creatures (poison makes creatures less able to fight and causes some damage over time).
  • Pit - Enemies pushed in a pit die. Characters get lost for a while before coming back

Over time, we plan to add more types of surfaces and ways to interact with them. For instance, perhaps we could add the possibility to ‘freeze’ an acid surface and combine dot with freeze status? Another example could be to add more flammable surfaces, like dry leaves or allow the fire to propagate through wooden objects. Another interesting example of terrain effects to add in the future would be height advantages.

Barrels

Barrels introduce another way to have terrain or positioning mechanics.

  • Explosive - Explodes with a large area of effect (AOE)
  • Oil - creates an oil surface.
  • Acid - creates an acid surface.
  • Poison - creates a poison surface.
  • Water - creates a water surface.

What’s cool about barrels and surfaces is that they open-up possibilities for chain reactions. For instance, a fire spell sets an oil surface on fire, the fire propagates to an explosive barrel, which damages the surrounding creatures and objects!

Cover

Cover is a great example of a positioning mechanic, which takes its inspiration from Xcom 2. A creature can be protected from ranged attacks by 2 types of cover, partial and full, both of them increasing the odds to dodge an attack. The cover offers protection only if it’s placed between the defender and the attacker, encouraging flanking. In order to facilitate the understanding of the defensive effects of cover and other mechanics, the hit % of an attack is displayed overhead the target as a tooltip information.

Flanking

At some point of the development, we were using the classic mechanic of attack of opportunity but we felt that it was encouraging having a static battlefield so we replaced the mechanics with a flanking one. The way flanking works is that every time a creature gets attacked by 2 other creatures at once, it gets a defense penalty and that penalty can only be applied once. The reasoning is that if a creature is distracted, it has a higher chance to be hit from behind. The result is a mechanic that encourages watching over the overall positioning.

Blocking

This mechanic also tries to place some emphasis on positioning and it could also be seen as a derived version of attack of opportunity. The way it works is that an enemy directly placed at the side of a character (diagonals not included) will never move away from him. This helps minimize micro-managing chases around the room and helps strategize more easily the use of tanks and weaker ranged characters. Indeed, because enemies try to target weaker characters, the player can use the ‘block/stick’ mechanic to use another character and intercept the enemy before it reaches the weaker character.

Tactical uses of Item

The importance of items and inventory in the game is extremely high. The general idea is to give as many tools to the player so he can find creative solutions to battle problems. This means giving the player a lot of items, making them powerful, diversified in effects and acting differently depending on context. Here’s a few examples:

  • Food - can be used in different ways. It can be used to regenerate a bit of HP out of battles, to replenish the satiety meter (hungry characters fight less effectively) or thrown at monsters to attract and distract them.
  • Drinks - Can also be used to regenerate HP out of battles, to replenish hydration (a thirsty character loses HP overtime) or to create water or oil surfaces when thrown, depending on the drink. Extinguish fire
  • Potions - come in different sizes and types and some of them will act differently whether they are drunk or thrown. For instance, drinking a large health potion is more effective but if you throw it, the vapors can heal multiple characters
  • Arrows - Come in various types, like basic, +1, +2, +3, flaming, ice, lightning, poisoning or charming. Magic arrows work well in combination with the quick attack skill, which allows the player to use a magic arrow instantly on pause. Need to set that oil barrel on fire and you have a flaming arrow? Go for it!

Of course there’s many more types of item and we’ll keep adding more over time because they’re so good at enhancing Emergent gameplay, resource management and tactical aspects!

Classes, Magic System and AOE spells

Obviously it’s hard to talk about the tactical aspects without giving a short introduction about the magic system. The magic system will be built around classes, without necessarily being limited by it. Without giving much details, because the classes will be discussed further in a different devlog but each class will have its strengths and weaknesses and the associated skills and spells will further differentiate those classes. Some classes will be better on defense, some will be better to inflict damage per second, some will have better spike damage, some will perform crowd control better, etc.

In relation to tactics and terrain, the area of effect (AOE) system of the spells is worth mentioning. Many types of spells will have unique AOE shapes associated with them. Some shapes will be squares, ovals, lines, crosses, cones and so on. The general idea is to introduce a mini-puzzle component that will encourage the player to think about the best AOE shape that could match the actual battlefield configuration. To add depth even further, some of the spells can affect friendly targets and some not.

The AOE shape mechanic works very well in relation with other terrain features, like surfaces or barrel. Perhaps your AOE ice spell can both hit enemies and a water surface to turn it into ice to help you trap that second group of monsters? Maybe that fire spell can hit both that monster weak to fire and that oil surface, which in turn can propagate to that explosive barrel near which a couple of zombies are hanging?

Crowd Control

Speaking of spells, an important mechanic worth mentioning because of its close relation to tactics is crowd control. Crowd control statuses can dramatically affect the battlefield in lots of different ways. Here’s some examples:

  • Fear - Running away from enemy
  • Frozen - Can’t make any action
  • Charmed - Attacks his allies
  • Poisoned - Weaker and suffers damage over time
  • Sleeping - Can’t take any action but will wake up if hurt
  • Confused - Will move erratically or even attack his allies
  • Blinded - Suffers attack and defense penalty
  • Paralyzed - Can’t make any action and easier to crit
  • Stunned - Can’t make any action for a short period of time
  • Petrified - Can’t make any action but can’t be hurt either

Other kinds of statuses can also affect the battlefield in tactical ways. For instance a burning creature walking on an oil surface will set the whole surface ablaze.

Conclusion

There’s other game mechanics that will have an impact on tactical aspects but we’ve probably covered the most important ones for now. Obviously there’s other systems from the game that interact with tactical decisions, like resources management, party composition, monster mechanics, magic items mechanics, character stats or combat formulas but those will be addressed in other devlogs. Of course we’ll keep adding even more tactical depth over time by introducing new items and mechanics!

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