Fantasy X-COM

by Kyzrati on 20130107 , under

Ever wanted to play a deep tactical fantasy game based on the great X-COM mechanics? Answer: Yes.

"A Rookie's Tale" is exactly that and much, much more.

Our protagonist, Victor Wade, alien-fighting soldier turned interdimensional traveler, suddenly finds himself in a world guided by magic rather than science. How he got here we've already seen, how he gets back is another story.

Not every story will be the same, though. To call this mod a single mission would be an understatement. Perhaps "epic single mission" or "game-in-a-mission" might be more appropriate. Making full use of the engine's greatly expanded and improved mod support, Rookie's Tale is a highly dynamic experience that shows much more of what the engine can really do--the R7 scenario Cataclysm was an interesting experimental introduction to the new dynamic content system, but barely touched the surface compared to the variety you'll see in this mod.

Victor is not alone, at least not for long. As he explores the world he can recruit party members from the local population (you control them this time around) and take them along on the search for a way home. There are seven standard character classes, each with class-based special abilities, and a host of other unique characters that may come to Victor's aid. On your travels, you'll talk to NPCs, recover artifacts, topple paranoid warlords, stop rampaging ogres, repel goblin invasions, uncover demon-worshipping cults, delve into ancient ruins, open interplanar gates, pilot gnomish inventions, loot treasure troves, face (or run in fear from) liches, demons, and dragons, and a whole lot more. Okay, maybe not all at once, but you'll definitely use magic from among 50+ arcane spells and holy incantations (mostly of the fun and interesting kind, not a bunch of cookie cutter direct damage stuff), along with 25+ special abilities. Under the right circumstances, your allies will even raise levels to gain better stats and more abilities. And be on the lookout for others, friendly or not, who may have made the dimensional jump as well...

The fantasy setting is obviously not original. It's D&D meets X-COM meets my imagination (that last one can be considered the glue--or crazy glue depending on your perspective). This is both intentional and necessary at this point because X@COM is still lacking UI support for providing detailed info about objects/units, so I'm trying to rely on your existing knowledge to help you get into the game, and [maybe] survive. Don't worry, there is plenty of unexpected content of my own design to catch you off guard, but having your traditional RPG hat on while you play won't hurt.

So this mod brings X@COM somewhat closer to a more traditional roguelike setting: fantasy RPG with lots of interaction. Thus you can:
  • quaff potions,
  • harvest herbs,
  • set and disarm traps,
  • use scrolls and magical artifacts,
  • read magic tomes and cast spells,
  • find secret doors/stairs...
There are a good number of emergent possibilities given the large number of utility spells, abilities, and items, some with side-effects you may or may not expect. In any case, there's usually more than one way to overcome (or circumvent) whatever obstacles you encounter, of which there will be many. Experiment. Depending on your circumstances, you could even be faced with what could be called a "get creative or die" scenario--this mod is not a hackfest, but if you're not on your toes it will become one, and Victor and company will be on the receiving end.

Unlike previous scenarios, the maps generated are a lot more organic: forests, sloping hills, caves and the occasional structure as opposed to roads and buildings on an obvious grid. Each one is generated from a large collection of possibilities, giving you many unique starting areas and different ways to accomplish Victor's goal. Even if one journey starts similar to another, I can guarantee you the similarity will end there as you explore the map.

So this is normally the part of the post where I show you screenshots of the diversity of maps, revealed in their entirety. But seeing as this mod is really about exploration (you even earn points for it), and there are quite a few secrets and surprises out there, screenshots could spoil some of the fun for those of you who are going to play. That said, a post without any screenshots just won't do, so here are some relatively innocuous and generic excerpts:

Checking out the local village for potential allies. Hint: They're all in the tavern.

Heading deeper into the forest.

Crashing a party. Definitely uninvited.

Spelunking. At night. With Giant Web Spiders. Oh, and about seven other kinds as well.

I'll also be posting an in-depth guide with gameplay details later. After all, unless you play a *lot*, you almost certainly won't see/find everything anyway, so it may be a fun read :). Because it will no doubt include some major spoilers, I'll wait on that until you've had a chance to explore the world yourself a bit first. EDIT: This guide is now available here.

Until then, here's a guide to the essentials (definitely read through this before playing!):
  • Most terrain/environment objects can be manipulated ('n')--i.e., almost everything is searchable/usable. (I was going to use the same feature to enable manual talking to NPCs as well, but decided to make conversation automatic on walking up to someone, if they have something to say.)
  • Most units have special abilities ('z'). Some may be passive and thus won't show up on the list--I'll tell you about those in the guide, others probably have restrictions on their use. Party members that raise levels also gain new abilities.
  • Lots of items are usable ('u'), especially those represented by '&' (no different from Cataclysm). Use them.
  • Special/magical armors may imbue the wearer with new abilities (some passive, some must be activated with 'z'). Remember you can remove/exchange your armor now! (Though note that party members are unlikely to be able to wear armors named for specific units, or those for non-Human anatomies.)
  • You start with only one unit, our hero Victor, and can always gain a few allies in your immediate vicinity; others can be found elsewhere--you generally just walk up to blue NPCs and they'll join you. Allies in the starting area can only be recruited by Wade himself.
  • Victor Wade must survive to "win," since this is his story, after all. Keep him safe. If he dies you can continue playing to explore the map and earn a better score, but won't be able to see the cool ending and learn what happens next.
  • Every map will have at least one area with a powerful enemy, which you should avoid until you've gained enough allies/weapons/spells/items to have a chance of defeating (warning: in some maps that enemy will leave their starting area).
  • Despite the lack of UI info to confirm your intuition, assume that weapons you'd expect to be better actually are.
  • If you have any non-controllable allies following you (like certain summons/servants), press/hold 'F' ("friendlies") to highlight them, even if outside your FOV. (This is a change from the 'C' key used in earlier versions to highlight only civilian followers in Cataclysm.)
  • Probably the most annoying thing about using spells/abilities is that if one is red on the list, it won't tell you why (instead giving you a stupid message saying you can't use any abilities at all, which may or may not even be true). If not because you lack sufficient TU/EN (which should be obvious because it shows the numbers), it's almost certainly because you're missing a spell component or focus required to cast that spell, or don't meet some other special condition like the cooldown wait time. Re-reading the tome(s)/book(s) you find to be sure you know the casting requirements for each spell will help clear that up.
  • If you have enough screen space (1280x960), you'll notice I included a new fantasy style text font which will be loaded by default, but you can always switch back to a different font or smaller window. There's actually a second fantasy font choice at that same size, but I don't think it looks nearly as good. Note that if you have a slower computer the larger window size can slow down the game as the engine is not yet optimized.

So get out there and come back with a tale for us! Share stories in the comments, Bay 12, or the forums, and if there are enough interesting ones I may highlight them in a future post.

Note: A Rookie's Tale does not come with the standard X@COM download. As a mod, you'll find it as a stand-alone program under the mods section of the files page.

Technical/Modding Addendum:

So to re-cap why I'm modding my own game (which may seem like an odd thing to do during alpha development): Rookie's Tale is an example of the wide variety of content you can include 100% by mod--every bit of content you see is scripted in text files that are parsed and run through the X@COM squad-based tactical simulator which sits on top of Rogue Engine X (the same engine that runs Cogmind, which kicked butt in this year's RotY poll, btw).

Because I know the engine best, it made sense that I create an extensive mod to both make sure everything actually does work (Cataclysm only used a subset), and provide examples for other modders to learn from. In fact I myself even learned a hell of a lot doing this, since it's a very generic system which can do things I never planned nor expected. (It's alive!) I'll be posting a lot of the tips and tricks I found on the forum so other modders can make their own missions more expressive, too.

On the coding side, the dynamic content system was fleshed out considerably as I encountered little things here and there (everywhere...) where adding just another setting or two could open up a whole new range of possibilities. This eventually resulted in a massive number of internal changes/improvements. My changelog since the last release (8.2) is crazy long--not much for the public changelog, though, and no major new features, so this isn't R9.

One of the more noteworthy non-technical improvements that came about as a result of this mod is different FOV shapes, set by race. Armors can also modify the wearer's FOV and sight range, such as restrictive medieval armor or high-tech armor with extra sensors that pass on more information about the surroundings. In Rookie's Tale, the few armors that do this will warn you with a message, and you can always check your FOV visualization ('f').

There's a heck of a lot more that could be done with this mod, and it could easily be expanded into a true full game given more map chunks (which would make for fewer chaotic maps due to a wider pool to choose from, thereby enabling finer control over what pieces are placed near what--I didn't actually use that feature) and even more interactivity with objects and NPCs, but I have to stop somewhere.

If you would like to make your own fantasy mod, you could always rip parts from Rookie's Tale, or just use all the data objects to create a different scenario by creating new areas (though that's probably the most annoying part until we have a proper map editor).

Also a heads up: There's a WH40k mod in the works now. Interested players can check it out on the forum and give it a run to provide the author with some pre-release feedback if so inclined.

Special thanks to all the forum members who helped playtest this mod prior to release, especially 10101, our resident binary German :) Seriously, without him I wouldn't have been able to both test and fix all the issues we resolved and still release on time. With so much content to play through, though, there could be some issues we didn't find. Report them and they shall be fixed. I'll even throw in some new areas in the update.

A Rookie's Tale is actually the first in a four-part series following Victor before he makes it back to Earth (the other three parts being sci-fi/alien), though I doubt I'll actually go through with the others. Anyway, Now that I've gotten my fantasy fix and made good use of it, next we're back to your [ir]regularly scheduled tactical sci-fi program[/game].
4 comments more...


  • Kyzrati

    Glad you like it! This particular mod was intended to be the first in a series, and I was thinking about doing the second this year, but going to be too busy with work :/. Oh well, at least this one was completed and has a ton of content! (I surprise myself by how much free time I used to have :P)

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