So, for those who read my previous piece on Fabular: Once Upon a Space Time, you’d know that this isn’t your standard SHMUP entrant. Lately, Kickstarter has seen a smattering (perhaps a revival?) of roguelikes, platformers and artbooks, but what about the genre that helped catapult the entire industry into a full-blown audiovisual experience?
I’m talking about space, of course! Honestly, could we really expect to have eye-popping SHMUPS like Darius Force, Radiant Silvergun and even the recently Kickstarted Dimension Drive if it weren’t for Space Invaders, Defender and Galaga?
Granted, the entire genre may have been played out a bit too much, but where some saw it as a greedy cash grab, more savvy gamers saw it as an easy way for developers to save space by rendering a black background with randomly placed stars (sometimes) as opposed to an intricate wave pattern background peppered with multiple hand-drawn incoming enemy ships.
Fabular promises to deliver all of these and then some, but with plenty of modern perks to help keep the fight interesting. Here are some of the reasons why you need to check this one out if your any sort of SHMUP fan.
You’ll Never Play the Same Game Twice
For those who’ve played The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth or Sword of Fargoal, you know that you never have the same experience twice. Sure, the overall rules of the game stay the same, but everything changes every time you fire it up. Items are never in the same place and enemies are randomly selected upon entering the room.
Both of these games have struck a chord with fans for offering a fresh approach to a familiar formula, and Fabular delivers this in spades. Upgrades are offered through in-game achievements to help power up your character, yes, but the environment and enemy encounters are ever-changing.
So while your avoiding being skewered by opposing techno-knight ships, you also have no idea where your going. Encounters can go south quickly and every choice you make effects the outcome of the game. Throw in a few secrets here and there, and you have the very tenets that made roguelikes popular in the first place.
And speaking of encounters and their tendency to sometimes go south…
Text-Based Interactions Give Players Power Over Their Destiny
Having been recently indoctrinated in the holy waters of Shadowrun Returns, one aspect that I immediately fell in love with was the power to drive my interactions with the various denizens of futuristic Seattle. Are you a jerk who hits everyone you talk to with an ice-cold response, or are you a selfless savior of the people?
At one point in Fabular, you have what appears to be a discussion regarding space matters with a giant golden toad. While interacting with said toad, you’re presented with a plethora of choices to respond with, which range from accepting quests to blowing off its (his? her?) problems by suggesting that “admiring the architecture” is the answer to resolving a bloody neo-medieval duel in outer space.
I always tend to be the good guy in video games, but what makes games like Shadowrun Returns and Fabular awesome is that they allow us to explore the darker parts of ourselves. Whether it’s unbridled apathy or a morbid sense of curiosity, Fabular allows players to choose how they want to act without forcing them into a box, which makes the aforementioned roguelike universe all the more fluid and enjoyable.
Action and Tactical Combat Playing Together
As a long-time gamer, it became pretty clear what types of games my friends enjoyed. If I wanted to get in on the latest run-and-gun action game, I’d go to my buddy Tommy’s house; if I wanted something a little more strategic and turn-based, I’d go to my friend Kai’s place. Where Kai favored North and South, Tommy enjoyed Contra, and though they both loved video games equally, you’d never be able to get these guys to agree on what to play. I sure as hell never could!
And that’s another thing that Fabular promises to bring to the table: a healthy mixture of those two vastly different genres. One minute, you’re trapped in a harried space battle doing your best to bury your giant space axe into what equates to your enemy ship’s scrotum, the next you’re negotiating with yourself on what upgrade you should select. Will your ship be a tanky brawler or a distant laser sniper? The choice is literally yours!
And this doesn’t mean just willy-nilly selecting random perks, but rather carefully considering which buffs will complement your spaceship class best. And speaking of classes…
Choose Your Ship Wisely
Those who’ve played the original Final Fantasy understand the importance of selecting the most appropriate character class for your fighting style. I always went with the original lineup of Warrior, Thief, Black Mage and White Mage, but many of my buddies seeking a challenge would typically go half-Monk, half-Red Mage and the even crazier ones would try the dreaded all-White Mage challenge.
Fabular is no different in this respect, and offers multiple character classes to fit different play styles. Of course, there’s the thick-skinned and ability barren Knight that thrives in close combat, the lightning-fast albeit low defense Assassin that can hammer its enemies with big damage from long range, and finally, the ability-friendly and tactical-centric Alchemist.
Further, developer Spiritus Games has stated that as time is invested into Fabular, more ships may become unlockable. Judging from what I’ve already seen on the campaign’s Kickstarter page, it looks like gung-ho players will be rewarded with plenty of perks and eye candy for their dedication.
And about that eye candy…
Fabular Offers Multiple, Different Locales
So why did the gaming public lose their taste for space shooters circa 1985? Much of it was attributed to the fact that titles like Space Invaders and Galage, though extremely awesome, only featured one background. Black space or vaguely blinking black space seemed to be the only choices, and many of the gamers I knew were craving something more to look at.
Earlier, I mentioned that the starmap and locales in Fabular are randomly generated to help keep the game fresh. So imagine throwing in up to fifteen unique locales that range from cloudy desert skies to blasted galaxies on a map that never stays the same?
To put this into perspective, Super Mario Galaxy 2 offers space exploration of sorts, but the map and path remain the same. No matter how many times you play it, you know what you’re in for when you pick a world and you know what bosses or enemies you may encounter.
Fabular takes that straight-line formula and molds it into something that fluid, organic, and above all, pretty to look at and fun to explore.
Where Things Stand Now
If you’re a SHMUP fan and still on the fence about whether you should back Fabular, it’s time to hang up those reservations and check it out. Everything that we love about the genre is lovingly represented along with some roguelike RPG elements to keep you on your toes.
Currently, Fabular has three days left in its campaign and has amassed $27,474 of its $36,050 goal. With a little more help, it will reach its goal and have us all gouging each other with medieval weaponry that combines the epic awesomeness of battling robots in outer space.
And even if they don’t make it, may this massive outpouring of support prove to Spiritus Games that they indeed have something truly amazing going here and, much like heroes they’ve lovingly created, to keep plowing forward into the inky unknown in the name of honor and virtue.