With AAA titles like God of War, Red Dead Redemption, and many others on the horizon this coming year, more modest indie games can’t help being overlooked. One title whose premise is certainly as intriguing as any big-budget production, however, is Griftlands, a turn-based, sci-fi RPG from Klei, the Canadian development team behind Don’t Starve, Invisible Inc., and many more.
First unveiled at E3 2017, Griftlands is distinguished by its striking 2d art style reminiscent of comic books and ’80s fantasy/sci-fi, and gameplay revolving around negotiation as much as combat. On its site, Klei characterizes Griftlands as “an RPG where everything is negotiable: money, loyalty—even morality. Choose your character and make your fortune.”
But what is Griftlands actually about?
Some light was shed on the mystery in October, when the game’s designer, Kevin Forbes, spoke to Rock, Paper, Shotgun about the project. According to Forbes, Griftlands is “more of a pirate/mercenary sandbox than a sequence of story battles. You are put into a simulated economy and set loose to make your fortune.”
Hinting at an intriguingly dynamic world, Forbes added that the game would feature a small cast of player characters in “a dynamic world with procedurally generated NPCs. The land and the factions that inhabit it are fixed, but their state and the front-line NPCs that populate the world are systems-driven.”
Narrative-wise, Griftlands is a major departure from what has arguably been Klei’s most popular title, Don’t Starve, an open-world survival game in which the player must struggle to survive in a dark, otherworldly environment. Klei’s most recent outing, Invisible Inc., features turn-based combat and stealth, sans Griftland’s sci-fi setting. Klei also garnered critical acclaim for 2012’s Mark of the Ninja, a side-scrolling stealth game released for the Xbox 360.
With Griftlands, the team appears to be tackling something far more ambitious than its previous projects in both the storytelling and game-play departments. The excitement surrounding the game’s potential is shared by fans of the studio’s previous work, judging from comments left on PC Gamer’s coverage of the title.
“I’m totally behind this,” one user wrote. “I enjoy Klei games, and Pirate games rank up right next to Western games in terms of “Settings that I wish games exploited more.”
Others observed that the game represents the importance of supporting independent developers and the innovation and creativity they bring to the table.
“They make great games,” another user said, “these are the devs that deserve to be supported by us.” Another praised the studio for “always experimenting with new genres and mechanics.”
In addition to Griftlanders, Klei has two other titles, Hot Lava and Oxygen Not Included, set to release in 2018. The former is an adventure game revolving around childhood dreams and fears, while Oxygen Not Included is a space survival simulation currently available on Steam in early access.