The Lamplighters League Developer Diary #4 - Infiltration
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Harebrained Schemes' upcoming pulp adventure-inspired tactical RPG The Lamplighters League will feature plenty of turn-based battles preceded by real-time infiltration sequences akin to those in Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden.
If you'd like to know more about this system that will let you soften up your foes prior to engaging them directly, as well as some of its limitations, then you should check out the latest developer diary penned by Evan Pongress, the lead tactical designer on the project.
Here are the text bits:
Hi everyone, I’m Evan Pongress, Lead Tactical Designer for The Lamplighters League. Let’s talk about what has become one of my favorite parts of the game: Real-Time Infiltration!
In the game, you’ll control a small and desperate handful of Agents who must contend with a much larger and far more dangerous foe: a vast and sinister organization calling themselves the Banished Court. Facing them in a head-on battle would be suicide, so covert tactics – stealth, theft, sabotage, and assassination – is the order of the day.
Nearly every mission involves you secretly entering enemy territory, going where you’re not supposed to go and doing what you’re not supposed to do. “Infiltration”, then, has been a key core fantasy that we wanted to build our tactical game around from day one. Features like Takedowns, Hiding and Cloaking, Noise, and AI Awareness all exist to support that infiltration fantasy, which we’ll look at in further detail below.
Early in development, the team made a decision that would profoundly affect all game and level designs from then on: when not in turn-based combat, the player would infiltrate enemy territory in real-time. It was simply more intuitive, more exciting, and less effort for us to sneak around in real-time than when we play-tested in turn-based mode. Infiltration wanted real-time. There are many reasons for this, but a good example of what fun moments real-time can provide is when you hide an Agent on the opposite side of a statue or pillar, scooting around to stay out of sight as a patrol of Enforcers marches by. We found that moment, fraught with tension and suspense, harder to achieve in a turn-based context.
Over the course of our development, we ventured down many, many roads. It was a long journey, but in the end we had to listen to what the game itself wanted, providing us with a set of principles and features that brought everything into focus and gave us the real-time experience we were looking for.
Let’s dive in!
Every mission, you will choose three (and later, four, in larger, more complex missions) Agents to complete a particular objective, whether it be to destroy, steal, sabotage, or assassinate an important target. Each mission begins in real-time mode, and you’ll control one Agent at a time with either the keyboard/mouse or a gamepad. Non-controlled Agents can either tag along in “follow mode” or be detached to hide out of sight. You can switch between Agents at any time.
Your Agents walk by default, but you can also sprint with the added risk of making more noise.
Exploration and Ambush
Throughout real-time infiltration, your goals are to:
There are many rewards for exploration. Hidden items can be found tucked away both within combat areas and in shadowy corners: consumable items like Bandages and Frag Grenades; campaign currencies like Supplies and Intel; and even Lore items that shed more light on the world of The Lamplighters League. Some of these items may be behind locked doors or impassable walls; the traversal abilities of the Real-Time Roles will help there (more about them below).
- Explore the environment
- Locate, keep tabs on, and avoid enemies
- Look for Takedown opportunities
- Look for opportunities to use the environment to your advantage
- Set up to execute an ambush and enter combat
Perhaps the biggest benefit to exploring is seeing where the enemies are, and how they’re moving around. Enemies have Awareness – sight and hearing – and can detect and investigate suspicious activity. They’ll come looking if you pique their curiosity, so it’s in your best interests to stay hidden until you’re ready to strike. Your Agents can Hide behind cover or even in tall grass, letting them surveil the area without being detected themselves.
Combat is inevitable; at some point you will have to “go loud” to accomplish your objectives. You do, however, have a lot of power to shape that fight before it happens. First, each of your Agents has a special Takedown ability depending on their Real-Time Role, allowing you to quietly (or not so quietly) remove enemies from the fight before it happens. In addition, the environment itself has many opportunities to exploit. Oil barrels can be punctured to flood the area with flammable oil, ready to be set on fire with a Shock Mine, or a precariously hanging torch, or a crate of dynamite conveniently surrounded by goons. Water barrels can similarly be emptied and then electrified (again with a Shock Mine) to shock unsuspecting enemies standing within. Be creative!
Once you’re ready to fight, you can position your Agents for the perfect ambush. You’re able to manually enter Turn-Based Mode at any time, which gives you access to each Agent’s combat abilities. You can move your Agents into position, set up Overwatches, then attack to start the fight. Your Agents always receive a 15% to-hit bonus on the first round of combat, so make it count!
Once you take the shot and the enemies are alerted, they get a “defensive move” to either seek cover or advance. If combat starts because they detect your Agents first, however, then they take their defensive move immediately.
If you do get caught, it’s not the end – combat begins! Each of your Agents has their own unique set of attacks and abilities that give you plenty of tools to turn any stealth slip-up into a combat success. We’ll be talking more about combat in next week’s dev diary.
Real-Time Roles and Takedowns
Each of your Agents is assigned one of three different Real-Time Roles:
These roles give your Agents at least two abilities each: one for traversal and one to permanently KO enemies, also known as a Takedown.
Examples: Celestine, Jian, Lateef, Purnima
Sneaks have a variety of tools to move through enemy territory undetected and get to where they are not supposed to be. First, enemies cannot detect a Sneak when the Sneak is behind them, which is important for their Takedown, Sucker Punch. Sneaks are also much more quiet when sprinting, allowing them to cover ground quickly without arousing suspicion.
For traversal, Sneaks can Clamber up the side of certain sheer surfaces without a ladder, accessing areas that other roles cannot.
For the Takedown, the Sneak can creep up behind a target and Sucker Punch then, quietly dropping them to the ground with a single hit. Sucker Punch is best used on lone sentries or single patrols that stray too far into the shadows.
Examples: Alexandrite, Ana Sofia, Eddie
Saboteurs use their knowledge of technology to outwit their opponents and access restricted areas. They can Pick Locks to open most locked doors, giving you access to whatever is hidden on the other side without needing to find the corresponding key.
By far the most versatile Takedown, the Shock Mine is a small noise-maker that can be thrown near an enemy to lure them away from their post. No mere toy, the Shock Mine will detonate in an electrical burst when stepped on, knocking out the target – and both igniting any oil or electrifying any standing water beneath it. Shock Mines reward creativity and are best used to lure single enemies away from groups to dispatch them at a safe distance.
Examples: Fedir, Ingrid, Judith
Bruisers are not concerned with subtlety; their approach to infiltration is hard, fast, and loud. They can Bash through any weak walls in their way, opening new paths for you to explore or use to escape. The crash of tumbling stone may draw enemy attention, however, so be on your guard.
Their Takedown, Slam, is equally brusque: when engaged, the Bruiser charges forward to knock out up to three enemies in a line. Brutally powerful, but also loud, Slam is best used on small groups of enemies or as the first flying elbow into combat.
Takedowns are a powerful weapon in your arsenal and can turn an impending difficult fight into an easier one. They do have limitations, however.
More to Come
- Takedowns are only available in Real-Time Mode. Once in Turn-Based Mode you’ll need to rely on your Agents’ combat abilities to down your foes.
- Takedowns are limited by charges. You’ll have a finite number of Takedowns to use per role, so choose your targets wisely. Be on the lookout for a “Second Wind” pickup, however, which can refill one Agent’s Takedowns and Signature abilities!
- Takedowns leave bodies behind that patrolling enemies can find, sending them into a frenzied search for perpetrators. Keep your location in mind when planning Takedowns!
- Some of the stronger and more… unusual enemies are immune to Takedowns! You’ll know them when you see them, so if they’re around, you’ll need to be extra careful!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at the Real-Time Infiltration mode of the game. Just as infiltration inevitably leads to combat, our next dev diary will take a closer look at the Turn-Based Combat part of the game, where your individual Agents and the nefarious foes they face really come alive.
Want to keep the conversation going? People in our alternate take on the 1930s communicated via letters, telegrams and psychic visions, but most of you only have access to two out of the three, so you can drop by the Forum or the Discord to talk to Harebrained Schemes developers and other fans about The Lamplighters League. The bravest among you may even venture to follow us on Twitter.