PAX East Leap of Fate Preview: Procedurally Generated CyberPunk Action RPG

By Published March 18, 2015 at 4:00 pm
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Randomly and procedurally-generated content is becoming more prevalent in independent games created by small teams. I discovered at PAX East that this is extending to a variety of game genres and genre hybrids.

Montreal studio Clever Plays has designed a unique twin-stick action RPG, Leap of Fate, that blends elements of magic and cyberpunk lore within a randomly-generated setting. Game Director Mattieu Bégin took me through half a standard playthrough and broke-down the game’s premise, core mechanics, and replayability.

Quick Overview

Leap of Fate takes players through a series of six levels, each of which contains multiple battle stages and, in between them, opportunities for players to level up their character and unlock items. There are four playable characters, each of whom utilizes twin-stick mechanics consisting of primary attacks and secondary specials. The game uses permadeath, so the player starts from the beginning upon death – but with the level content further randomized for new experiences.

The battle stages, level-select zone, and item-unlock stages use an isometric perspective, differing from the top-down or 2d perspective most twin-stick games take on.

Leap of Fate is currently on Steam Greenlight and is expected to release on Steam this September.

Level & Character Progression

The level progression system is based on a tree of cards. The first card is a battle card that teleports the player to a small battle stage, where he faces a series of enemies. Following the successful completion of a battle, the player has the option to select from the next tier of cards in the tree. Those cards lead to additional battle stages, ability power-ups, and additional unlockable items that the player needs in-game keys for. All of this content is randomly generated & assembled.

Each battle stage has a rating on the card of 1-3 skulls – 1 being the easiest, 3 being the hardest; this is in addition to the game’s three difficulty modes that the player selects upon startup. There’s also a treasure chest rating to indicate the significance of the reward once the player finishes a battle.

There are also special challenges that reward the player with highly desirable items if they can, for example, complete a battle stage without taking damage. This is quite challenging even in easy mode.

The character does not automatically regenerate health but can unlock health power-ups through power-up cards – each of which randomly generates the type of power-up. Players use mana acquired from battles to upgrade abilities. Additionally, there is purchasable Karma that give the player extra charges for the character’s special attack, if the player runs out of charge for his special.

Core Combat

Leap of Fate’s twin-stick combat feels familiar upon the first battle. One stick controls the player’s movement, while the other stick rotates the character 360 degrees to control his or her aiming. I played as Aeon the Shadow Mage and had a ranged primary attack that continued firing as I held down the button, along with a special attack that consumed mana. Pressing the 'A' button brought up a reticle that I could move around with the left thumbstick, and once I pressed 'A' again, my character would “shadow walk” in that direction.

Battle stages are intentionally small in scale to create intensity as enemies chase the character. Enemies spawn in waves, and even after a player finishes a wave, he can freely move around the stage to pick up health or Karma before stepping into the “enemy spawn” circle. I particularly liked this because I could have a chance to recover before being overwhelmed again instantly.

Environments are destructible, so some of the objects can create additional damage for enemies.

Upgrades and Replayability

The character has four abilities that players can level up between battle stages: movement, armor, primary attack, and special. Each skill will have several available upgrades in a given playthrough, but the set of upgrades will always be random. For example, when upgrading my dash move, I could pick from freezing enemies upon jump, slowing down time, dashing through enemies (like teleportation attacks in Aaru’s Awakening), and a few more. There will be approximately 25 skills to choose from, but only after playing through the game several times to see what they are. Skills also cost mana – the value is randomized so that the player can occasionally upgrade abilities that are new to them and at a low mana cost.

Bégin mentioned that the PAX build randomly generated the character’s primary attack and special upon starting each game; this is not necessarily final for the shipped game but would vary replayability some more. The player will have to unlock Normal and Hard difficulty modes, but more items will become unlockable in those modes.

More central to the storyline, unlocking certain achievements will allow the player to explore the various alternate endings for each of the playable characters. Bégin explained that the game is called Leap of fate because the player is likely to get a different ending each time.

Storyline

Bégin likened Leap of Fate’s theme to what he called “magic in the modern world with a cyberpunk twist.” The player character travels to an arcane temple that will test them with a series of challenges reflecting inner demons; it’s a rite of passage. Each stage represents a certain fear, such as paranoia in the urbanized level, and each level presents different enemies.

Bégin appreciates cyberpunk films like Blade Runner and games such as the Deus Ex series, but he felt that the genre was being underused – especially in today’s technologically-advanced world.

“I think that right now with technology, we’re starting to be at a point where cybernetic enhancements start to happen in the real world with medicine,” he said. “And so I thought that we’re just at a junction of where cyberpunk reality could start existing basically, so I wanted to explore that a little bit.

Clever Plays is targeting a September release on Steam and will attempt to publish their game on consoles.

- Nick "stuBEEF" Pinkerton.

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