Let me list the important "attracting" factors:
- Procedurally generated levels
- Resource collection and crafting
- 6 adventurer party that was fully customisable
- turn based exploration and tactical combat
- elaborate magic school system
- Progression in stats, combat skills, profession, support skills & magic
So I thought "why not?"
Behold, "Equilibrium of Divinity!"
Everything screams "homebrew", but, once inside the game you can see this is a labour of love, and has a depth behind the streamlined interface. You start with an empty party, and can customise your 6 adventurers to your hearts content, saving off specific loadouts/starting skills as templates if you wish. You can swiftly embark, or you can precisely specify what starting equipment to take with you.
You can tailor the difficulty, and you have the option to turn "Ironman" mode on or off. This is basically party permadeath, with a single save - so no save scumming!
A quick embark gives you some food and potions, but leaves you without weapons so your combat effectiveness seemed lacking to begin with, until you had some resources gathered to build rudimentary weapons. This felt like a party based survival game on my first Ironman mode run through.
The procedurally generated levels are intricate enough to have you eager to explore them, but they are not overly complex and opaque, so once you've uncovered the "fog of war", you'll be able to get around pretty swiftly, and will already have your goals set for the next level - whilst you scoop up the remaining resources and bonuses.
The movement of your party is smooth and animated which really helps in investing your concern for the adventurers. Traps, doors, enemies, alters of various effects and loot chests are all uncovered as you explore - roguelike style.
But when you come across an enemy, you enter a tactical combat screen reminiscent of the (Heroes of) Might and Magic series.
Here's where things get interesting.
Each of your party, based on their stats and skills, have an initiative and they are numbered accordingly. The enemy also has an initiative, and it is displayed and interleaves with the adventurers turns, so the combat rounds are reconciled based on this.
You then step through each of your party and choose an action, whether to attack, defend, cast a spell, use an item, equip an item, shift party position in the formation etc. The actions and targets are laid out in a very visual way with coloured arrows (each adventurer gets its own colour).
The combat then plays out, when you Start the Battle and all actions and consequences are listed in a prominent combat log, below the list of enemies and their statuses. Whilst the animations are minimal, you are given the information in a pleasant and engaging way, and that "plan and see" cycle gets more and more intense as the rounds play through.
You can assess your enemy at any point in the proceedings, but you often need quite a high Mythology skill to determine any information about them that might be useful in your decision making process. Here you can see the basics but anything about the Dwarven Militia's abilities, Resistances, or Magical capabilities are masked because my party Mythology skill isn't high enough.
If you can tactically pull off the win, you should be rewarded with XP and some loot.
Your party collects the loot, and any resources it can scavenge from the level, even chopping down trees, looting berries from bushes, milking goats and cows or salvaging weaponry, hair and pelts off your foes.
All resources are valuable if you need to craft your equipment and survive your exploration. This is where the game takes you away from the fantasy combat and pulls you into a more desperate survival game. You need to kill things to get the raw materials, but also to get the XP to level up your crafting skills, to be able to make useful weapons, armour, tools, jewellry, potions or food. Your progress depends upon it, because you don't start out with much in the way of equipment, even if you choose to spend the 50 gold coins before embarking.
The loadout is remarkably easy to organise, although some inventory management needs to be done, depending upon which character in your party does the looting.
The UI is very easy to grasp (which kind of leads me to think it might have been planned as a mobile game at some point). Left click a character to get to Crafting/Loadout screens, Right click a character to get to progression/level up controls for stats, weapons, professions, skills and magic. Very easy to use, but surprisingly deep customisation for such an indie title.
Here are the progression screens:
Weapons showing what has been spent so far, with handy notes on who is the most skilled character in this weapon (so you can spread weapon use/damage type around), as well as having auto-level checkboxes, with the maximum number of points or set a reserve you want keep for future tweaks.
Professions, showing a similar UI setup, but conferring the crafting disciplines employed by each character.
Skills, detailing the general areas of support interests that each character pursues. Mythology helping identify enemy types and their weaknesses. With bonuses like perception for spotting traps and hidden/stealthed enemies, or trap disarming and lockpicking for neutrilising danger and opening up them tough loot chests.
Magic, a gloriously depicted magic school display where you spend experience points into disciplines to open up the layers of the spells available. The system seems quite flexible, and if you sacrifice skill points in other areas, you can adopt two or three magic schools to a certain degree, but from what I can gather, the level of expertise in a particular magical shool determines what spells and how many times you can cast them during battle. I don't think the game adopts a normal "mana" based casting mechanism. It's more limited activations/uses.
With the complexities of each of these systems, the ability to customise your party pretty much how you want it, and the procedurally generated levels, I can see this game providing avid adventurers quite a lot of replayability and longevity.
Once you have fully explored and harvested everything you can from a level you get a summary that scores you and rewards you on how you have done. Before moving you onto the next harder level as you continue your quest.
The story elements may be light on the ground, but there is enough here to keep budding Wizardry/HOMM fans coming back for more, and the game is streamlined enough for you to play it in short bursts and thoroughly enjoy the tinkering, exploration, harvesting and crafting side of things.
If you enjoy your tactical party combat and want a challenge that adds survival gathering and crafting into the mix, you can't go wrong with this title. A shiny gem that flaunts its streamlined cheekiness!
If you're interested in the game, its well worth checking out the feature spotlight videos on Youtube.
Or keep up to date with the devs Twitter feed.