Galactic Keep: Dice Battles Preview

With the release of Galactic Keep: Dice Battles early next year, role-playing games will officially have come full circle.

The role-playing genre began with what are often now referred to as pen and paper or tabletop role-playing games. Imagine it: A group of nerds (and we use the term lovingly) show up with a twenty-sided die, a bag of Doritos, and a rule book for a game like Dungeons and Dragons. Everyone sits around a table with their character cards and pen and paper as the designated DM, or dungeon master, weaves a fantastical adventure for the other players to take part in. Geekdom flourished, and it was good.

This image is concept art, but the rest below are screens.

With the advent of videogames, developers hungry for ideas have turned to tabletop RPGs for inspiration. They adopted some play mechanics, ignored others, and filched the name “role-playing game.” But over the years, as role-playing videogames matured and branched into the likes of World of Warcraft, the Fallout series, and Zenonia, they left behind many of their pen and paper roots.

That’s where Galactic Keep: Dice Battles comes in. Designed by Gilded Skull Games, this is a role-playing videogame that looks like a tabletop RPG. If the game lives up to its potential, the experience will be less like playing a videogame and more like taking part in a tabletop RPG with a wildly creative DM.

Rob Lemon, the president of Gilded Skull Games whom we spoke with via e-mail, never lost his passion for the tabletop RPG experience. To him, the exciting part of RPG gaming is “the tactile nature of the die, collecting cards, drawing maps, moving a token that represents this amazing hero that you’re in control of.”

To that end, the onscreen graphics in Galactic Keep depict what you would see if you were playing a tabletop RPG. Well, everything but the Doritos. The screen shows a pencil drawing of the environment your character is in, a ten-sided die, and stat cards for your hero and the people you’ll meet in the game. Instead of watching the action of the story take place onscreen, the plot is advanced by text boxes that are written to sound like a DM describing an elaborate and amazing world to you.

The game’s story and mood, Lemon explained, are borrowed from “serial sci-fi” classics of the 1960s and 70s. While plot details are sparse, the universe of the game sounds very intriguing. Expect the usual multitude of alien races, blaster fights, and space ships. But, he also hinted that missions might include religious zealots, human enslavement, time shifting, and a murder mystery on an orbiting trading post.

The game will ship with five missions, each with branching story paths and about twenty minutes of content. However, Lemon says, playthrough time “will all depend if you run through a mission and make snap decisions or not. That said, there will be hours of play in the game. Replay is key, and we are working on ways to create missions that are in some cases infinitely replayable. Like a ‘gamebook,’ different paths you choose in the branching story will lead you to different maps, different enemies and different items.” Once the game ships, Gilded Skull Games also plans to release updates and additional missions that will include new characters, weapons and special items.

Also adding to the game’s replayability will be its Bluetooth “Two Player Duel” mode, where you and a friend can fight each other with characters you’ve built up. Fighting in this mode will earn you “Gauntlet Points,” which you can use to unlock additional playable characters. Once you’ve unlocked them all, you’ll be able to choose from at least ten different heroes. You will assign your character one of seven different jobs, including Pirate, Hunter, and Time Master.

One notable omission is cooperative play. After all, playing a tabletop RPG without friends is not only impossible, but also incredibly depressing. Lemon assures us that he’s aware fans will want this mode. “We’re working on the game one step at a time,” he said. Once they’ve nailed down single-player missions, they’ll start looking at how to implement a co-op mode. It won’t be available when the game ships, but plans are in place to release it as part of an update.

If all of this sounds ambitious, it is. The iDevice platform is home to few games aimed at a hardcore audience. Needless to say, we’re hopeful Gilded Skull Games can pull this off. The game won’t be out until early next year, but at Slide To Play we are praying for a luck roll of ten so we can snag a hands-on preview and give you more information.

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