SKALD: Against the Black Priory Interview

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Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:TBA
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GB: Could you also talk a bit about the combat system? If I understand it correctly, SKALD won't feature any combat movement and instead both sides will have two rows of up to three characters simply exchanging blows in a turn-based fashion. How do you plan to keep this seemingly simplistic system feel fresh and engaging in the long run?

AL: For SKALD I have chosen to go with combat that is a bit more puzzle-like and abstract as opposed to more simulationist. There’s a lot of reasons for this. First of all, I was playing a lot of Wasteland 1 and Bard’s Tale at the time and combat in those games is basically like combat in SKALD: Menu based and with positioning limited to checking if you’re in melee range or not. I felt this was a good fit for SKALD since I want an emphasis on having players make interesting choices. By doing menu based combat that becomes a lot easier to implement since you can make each choice in the menu an explicit tactical choice: “Do I move to the rear rank and pull out my bow or do I stay in the front rank and attack even though I’m about to die”. This kind of combat system is also a lot faster than most maneuver based combat systems and it’s very easy to make a simple auto-resolve option (which SKALD has).

In SKALD, characters are expected to use combat maneuvers like special attacks (granted by feats) or spells. There is a lot of room for creating synergies between these for clever players, and the combinatorics of things like initiative order, party composition and what enemies you’re facing should make for a lot of variety.

I’m a huge fan of games like Magic the Gathering. I love how those games create interesting and complex tactical situations by combining a handful of simple elements and then have players continually ask the question “what do I do to win this” or “what’s the optimal play here”.

GB: Additionally, games that go for fast-paced individual battles, oftentimes instead shift their focus towards strategic resource management, be it health, mana, or consumable supplies. Will SKALD have something like this?

AL: SKALD will also place a lot of emphasis on the strategic management element of adventuring. Making decisions on who to bring, how to outfit them and how deep you delve should be a part of a game like this. It comes down to rewarding clever play and encouraging strategic thinking.

Elements like this can certainly make for very grindy gameplay. I try to keep this in mind and try to focus on designing systems that remove boring bookkeeping and grinding whilst offering interesting strategic choices instead.

I’m a fan of roguelike games, and though SKALD certainly isn’t a roguelike, I really admire the grittiness of the choices you have to make in roguelikes (“do I turn back or do I push onwards just a little bit longer and get more treasure”).

GB: Will the game's encounters be hand-placed and static or should we expect random encounters? Will the enemies respawn?

AL: The game will feature both approaches. Certain encounters will be hand crafted but some areas of the game will feature random encounters and monsters that respawn.

GB: What about the game's magic system? Which resources will we be using to cast our spells? How wide will the spell selection be? Should we expect to see powerful exploration-focused spells that will let us circumvent the intended routes?

AL: The game's magic system is still under development. The game will have a classical divide between arcane and divine magic and I want to make two systems that feel different. Divine magic is perhaps a bit less powerful but it’s more reliable and safer whilst arcane energy is a lot more powerful but also much more unreliable and dangerous.

The setting is a bit pessimistic towards magic and it has a sense of magic being powerful but at a great (often corrupting) cost.

Beyond that, I don’t want to say too much about it since it's still very much a work in progress.

GB: How will the game handle itemization? Will we be drowning in magic items and various artifacts or will they perhaps be more rare and hard to find?

AL: The SKALD setting is a bit low in magic and things like true magical items are few and far between. Players certainly won’t be drowning in them. I would much rather have an emphasis on equipping the party with the right non-magical gear and perhaps having to change things up depending on what quests you’re going on.