Whereas some developers were interested in modern, 3D action-RPGs, others at Too Many Games 2015 wanted to relive the glory days of classic 2D turn-based RPG combat. Enter Wimbus Studios and their new retro inspired with a modern twist PRG, The Island of Eternal Struggle.
I had to wait an entire convention day to finally get a crack at this title. Every time we passed Wimbus Studios’ booth, there was a small congregation of gamers crowded around the two demo units they had on display. After a whole day of pacing and waiting, you must be wondering: was the wait worth it? The answer: Yes.
When I finally get my hands on the demo, I have to do a double take. I’m holding a PlayStation controller, but I’m seeing SNES style graphics. That’s all part of the retro charm with this title. Wimbus Studios is looking to bring modern conventions and concepts to the classic hallmarks of retro RPGs. The team stressed to me that the game has more adventure quality to it than other RPG, which are sometimes XP grind heavy. They spoke briefly about mini-games, class-based mechanics and jobs, and action elements similar to Super Mario RPG. They seem fully committed to maintaining some tried and proven elements while also breaking free of many of the old-school expectations.
I start my demo stranded in the middle of wild, underground rave with hundreds of people bobbing up and down to music and lights. This unique environmental twist is a departure from the doom and gloom dungeon and cave exploration of other RPGs and is a welcome, if slightly confusing, sight. If the rave demo level is any indication of Wimbus Studios’ take on classic RPG tropes, it’s clear that gamers will be in for a game full of flavor and style completely different from standard fantasy offerings. As I wind my way through the crowd with my team of that includes a chain wielding soldier, an oracle nun lookalike, and a viking-esque warrior. I encounter an old RPG staple: random encounters. These popped up no more and no less than with other games in the genre, but the combat was more challenging than a typical random encounter with low level mobs. Unlike most modern games, I found myself reaching for my “revive” potions, called “adrenaline” more than a few times. Or maybe I just suck, who can really say for certain? (Shut up! I know it’s the latter one, ok.)
Combat is primarily an old-school, turn-based system. However, I noticed that many of the attacks featured timed button presses or Quick Time Event-like combos to unleash the full power of an ability. This keeps you engaged in the combat, removing that “fire and forget” mentality. Your actions and attentiveness ties directly into how much damage your team is dishing out in combat.
At the end of the rave maze, I come face to face with the boss of the level, none other than the rave DJ himself. In a fun change to combat, the DJ brings two speaker enemies with him. They don’t attack my party, and they can’t be killed, but the developers warn me to keep on top of them. Every turn, the DJ tries to turn up one of his speakers. I don’t wait around to find out what they do as I keep them in check with a handy area-of-effect spell. Like all good bosses, this one comes in stages. Unfortunately, it’s during the DJ’s second stage, in which he sends a seemingly endless string of raver enemies at me, that I finally succumb to his overwhelming force.
These concepts coupled with non-traditional environments (such as the underground rave in the level I demoed), make The Island of Eternal Struggle a fun and different game that still calls back to an older era. Wimbus Studios isn’t stuck in the past though. Lead programmer Steve Sefchick confirmed to me that they have a contact with Sony and are trying to obtain some devkits so that they can bring the game to the PS3 and PS4 sometime next year. The developer recently launched a crowdfunding campaign in order to obtain said mythical devkits. If The Island of Eternal Struggle’s mix of classic and modern sounds intriguing, head over to Wimbus Studios’ Kickstarter page and check out their project.