Project Shore may be one of the worst kept secrets on IndieDB. The three person development team opted to release a public alpha of their game to openly seek feedback from gamers on the fantasy TRPG.
At the time of this article, the game popularity ranks #564 out of 45,653 on Indie DB. In other words, it is within the top 2% of games looking to make its mark on the platform. So why is it so popular? There are plenty of fantasy based RPGs both in the form of AAA and indie titles.
The answer is likely to change based on playing experience, but after playing the demo through to completion, we have some observations.
One of the most challenging and yet rewarding items to master in Project Shore is the combat system. The system is based on an action queue and is round based. Prior to even entering combat you set your “union.” Unions are a grouping of characters in which you delegate tasks to at the start of each round of battle. How you group your party will ultimately determine how flexible combat is.
You have the option of allowing the game to automatically dictate the actions of your characters or assigning the tasks yourself by union. You do not directly control the cast of characters in combat so the strategy is based on the union grouping and the order in which you take down your opponents union(s).
Each character has a distinct role in combat. In the alpha, your party consists of: a melee warrior, a support/healer, and a caster. Based on several play throughs of the final battle, we found it most effective to group the damage dealers in a single union and put them on auto-attack. We opted to put the healer in her own union and focus our efforts on healing the party. After trying different strategies, this one proved to be most effective.
Additionally, you are able to speed up the actions of combat by up to 2x normal speed. This is a nice feature since all your actions are queued up before entering the next round of combat. You can also pause the action as needed to analyze where things may be going wrong so you can make adjustments accordingly on the next round.
The strengths and weaknesses of your party are ultimately determined by your choices and actions in combat. In other words, healing party members will allow that character to be more effective at healing and learn the associated skills accordingly.
Characters will learn skills in combat and those skills are made available immediately for use. Outside of skills learned and used, the overall potency of your party members will, in part, come down to the gear they use. Like most other RPGs, battles and skirmishes will result in finding loot and gear. Any gear that is an upgrade should be equipped.
Based on the alpha, there is less of an emphasis on gear in Project Shore when compared to similar games. The character panel allows you to pick your weapon(s) of choice, and ultimately it boils down to two one handed weapons, one two handed weapon, or a sword and board. After that, you can customize character skills by activating or deactivating the skills you have learned.
The story in Project Shore is choice based. The decisions you make will ultimately determine the outcome of the game. An example of this comes during a scene in a cave when you are tasked with distracting the lead henchmen so that one of your allies can sneak up behind him and take him out.
Our first attempt at this resulted in our ally being found and promptly killed with an axe to the head. This allowed for the head honcho of baddies to get away and his band of merry men to overwhelm us in combat.
Having learned from our mistakes, we replayed the scenario and made better conversation decisions. This time around, our ally managed to put a dagger in the back of our foe and the battle that ensued gave us better odds with the extra party member surviving the encounter.
Two very different outcomes to the exact same scenario that was 100% dictated by the choices we made.
After playing through the alpha, a few things became obvious.
The combat system felt simplistic, yet strategic. The fear when you cannot directly control your own units is strategy goes out the window and combat almost becomes an afterthought. This is not the case in Project Shore, as the union system allows you to approach a battle in multiple ways.
Character advancement lacks the bells and whistles found in a lot of RPGs, but the end result is very similar. There may not be extravagant skill trees, but your party member’s strengths are directly determined by actions in battle. Additionally, the lack of focus on loot and gear makes the game much less grindy.
The story allows for multiple outcomes which makes each play through feel unique. This feature alone screams that Project Shore is a game destined for consoles one day (if everything falls in to place). Gamers are always looking for RPGs that encourage multiple play-throughs, and the Project Shore story with emphasis on choice delivers on this front.
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