Sometimes even a good looking campaign can fly under the radar. Once you’ve seen a few hundred RPGs with turn-based combat, even something distinctive like hand-drawn art isn’t enough to catch your eye. It’s only after taking the time to really suss out the Kickstarter campaign that the true beauty of Ekuator Games’ newest project, Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond begins to surface.
Realms Beyond is the second part of the Celestian Tales series that began with the team’s previously crowdfunded RPG, Celestian Tales: Old North. Proceeds from Old North’s sales, combined with the team’s own financial resources have allowed them to complete about 75% of their new project. Now they’ve come back to Kickstarter to raise the remaining $15,000 to complete the next chapter of the Celestian Tales story.
The story is where Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond stands apart from most projects. Instead of the standard RPG tale of an adventurer tasked with saving a doomed world, the game’s focus narrows in on the fate of a single noble household. After the events of the first game, six knights have sworn their service to the heir of House Levant. An heir who happens to be an eight year-old girl.
When a rare cosmic events calls for the heads of the realm’s noble houses to convene, the new heir will find herself tested for the first time. With the reputation of the Levant family on the line, players must navigate the world, taking actions and making choices that will further their cause. Unfortunately, the hundreds of NPCs which populate the world have their own motivations and alliances. This makes morality difficult to discern and trust hard to earn. Even your most loyal allies may keep you in the dark if it benefits their position.
Morally dubious intentions aside, Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond looks absolutely lovely with its use of animated pixel art set against hand-drawn environments with a touch of watercolor brush inspiration. Combat is turn-based and the whole party gains experience during battle. This lets players experiment and customize their party instead of being locked to whichever character happened to hit the hardest in the beginning.
It isn’t strictly necessary for gamers to have played the first game to enjoy Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond. The new game promises to introduce players to the setting and lore of the world on its own. There is even a demo for potential backers to try out. Of course, there are benefits for players who do return. Their save files carry over from the previous story, allowing the choices they made to subtly shape the world.
All of this lends to a project that offers far more complexity and intrigue than it’s campaign would initially suggest. Worth a look if you’ve been passing it over up to this point.