Developer: David Vinokurov
Release Date: 27 March, 2023 (EA)
Platform: Windows, Linux, MacOS
Genre: Turn-based Tactical
By Chris Picone, 28 March 2023
Netherguild's a "roguelike turn-based tactical dungeon crawler RPG" - a mouthful, but all necessary. Also, I love the Lego-esque voxel art style; unusual for the genre, but it works.
Voxel art, a form I'm normally somewhat ambivalent toward but David's done an excellent job; the UI could use a bit of decorating but otherwise it all looks great. The characters are quite blocky - not like Minecraft but more Lego-ish. As I said, it's a little unusual, but I like it. The game appears isometric but you can rotate, pan, and zoom, which is super handy when you're trying to explore or for when you're trying to control your party in combat.
Above ground you can sell your loot, hire new characters, buy gear, and outfit yourself for adventuring - and as you progress you also unlock new buildings which you can even upgrade. Underground is sort of like a Diablo-style dungeon crawler, where you're left to wander around, following passages to see what you can find, occasionally bumping into either mini-events or monsters. The events are dialogue-based; for example, I found a crushed skeleton and was forced to make a decision - I could loot it, but that might leave me vulnerable to whatever killed him in the first place. When you encounter monsters you're thrust into a fairly traditional turn-based tactical experience. Each character has their own weapons and abilities, some usable all the time, and plenty with cooldowns or limited uses or other conditions. There's a nice range of both melee and ranged attacks and good scope for trying to work out synergies between your party and trying to make the most of the terrain; the underground caverns allow for some interesting map layouts. As expected, the further down you go, the stronger the monsters but also the richer the loot. Finally, the game features character progression, factions, a story that ties everything together, and roguelike elements that prevent repetition and allow for greater variety in each consecutive run.
I'm not far in yet, and the game's still in Early Access, but so far I've been impressed with the visual style, the gameplay, and the amount of polish. Very impressive for a solo developer. I feel pretty confident saying this is a solid purchase that will appeal to any tactics fans.