Castle Crashers Dev's New Game is Unlike Anything it's Done Before
Life is different down in the Pit.
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As a creative team, The Behemoth is amorphous. It planted its roots in game development with Alien Hominid HD, a side-scrolling shooter. Then came Castle Crashers, the beat-em-up laced with RPG leveling and a wide array of collectible weapons and characters. And with the hectic platforming of BattleBlock Theater, The Behemoth cemented itself as a prolific purveyor of action games.
But Pit People is something different. The game heretofore known only as Game 4 still has The Behemoth’s slapstick humor and hand drawn graphics, but its turn-based combat is the first foray into strategy for a studio often focused on real-time action.
"We're learning as we go, really," Dan Paladin, Behemoth co-founder, designer, and artist said during a recent demo at PAX Prime 2015. "I've always wanted to do a strategy game with hexagonal tiles and turn-based combat, but until now, it was always just an idea."
Paladin and I played Pit People cooperatively recently, and he showed me the layered combat at work here. We began by selecting members for our battle group, ranging from warriors dual-wielding swords, to bipedal cupcakes with healing abilities. The equipment and weapons themselves are also interchangeable, and with several different character classes, the level of customization results in a nuanced planning phase before battles.
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When we jumped into our first quest, two things were apparent from the outset: Pit People is chaotic, and Pit People is unabashedly lowbrow. As it turned out, there were piles of poop scattered across a field in the Pit, and a rival group framed my team for leaving them lying around. So there are two possibilities for victory: we can destroy the fecal matter, or eliminate all the enemies who framed us. I chose the latter, while Paladin and his team went for the poop. He was laughing the whole time.
"We try not to take ourselves too seriously," he said, while one of his gladiators slashed through feces with a battle axe. "There's a sense of humor through all of our games. And it is here as well."
All jokes about juvenile things aside, as I played through more of the quest, it became clear how much thinking Pit People requires. Every turn, we moved each of our characters to separate hexes, positioning them for both offense and defense. After moving, our fighters automatically attack adjacent enemies. If there are more than one, a dice roll decides which will take the hit.
There were a variety of enemies, some of whom have their own unique abilities. Floating pixies did area of attack damage, so I tried to keep distance between my fighters. Walking mushroom caps secreted a poisonous cloud, forcing me to keep moving as often as possible. And these are just a couple of the opponents I encountered during the demo with Paladin.
To push the strategy angle farther, Behemoth has implemented a clever recruiting system. By equipping one of my warriors with a net, and another with a cage, I could have captured one of the enemies, granted they were the last one standing. It adds another layer of tactics, as I had to protect my fighters with the important equipment, while trying to isolate the enemy I wanted the most.
"I find new things every day I'm working on it," Paladin said, after the enemies were gone and the field was clean. "Recruiting by capturing is just another thing that presents new possibilities and challenges. Making a strategy game is so new for me, and for the team, so finding these new ideas come out has been a great experience."
I'm looking forward to having more time with Pit People. The demo was more than promising, and I'm a huge fan of The Behemoth's prior work. This strategy game will require planning, forethought, and a willingness to change strategy on the fly. It's the best excuse yet to return to The Behemoth's signature style and bravado. For now, though, Castle Crashers Remastered will have to suffice.
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