Hands-On With City Of The Shroud: A Narratively Experimental RPG

Nowadays terms like ‘Kickstarter‘ and ‘Steam Early Access‘ have something of a stigma attached, I can’t personally blame anyone for avoiding titles in such programs I mean, really, who could? It’s because of financial mess ups such as Ant Simulator and Yogventures that I’ve only ever invested in one such Kickstarter project myself. I just happened to be fortunate enough that it was the highly successful Pillars of Eternity.

On the last day of Rezzed I came across another title currently in the middle of its crowdfunding campaign that has been the first of its kind to spark my interest for a good while. 

City of the Shroud, the new tactical RPG by Abyssal Arts had a small stand hidden away in the vast space known as ‘The Indie Room’ at Rezzed. It was here, surrounded by dozens upon dozens of devs wanting to spread the word of their hard-work, that I met Producer and Game Director, Keaton White, who proceeded to tell me all about the latest project by his up and coming studio.  

Abyssal Arts want to plunge players into the stylistic world of Iskendrun and through visual novel style storytelling share the tale of a city already on the brink of civil war, that finds itself attacked by a mysterious enemy. Plunged into darkness by a mystical shroud that stalks and attacks all it surrounds, no one appears safe.

mage screenshot

From what I managed to play at Rezzed, City of the Shroud features a pretty damn unique combat system based around a ‘combo wheel’ that feels somewhat reminiscent of a fighting game. String your moves together in a range of combos and slowly you’ll find how best to take down certain enemies types. Combine the system with special abilities and real time combat elements and you’ve got battle gameplay that feels deep, well established and above all, refreshing. 

Playing Field

The title also promises the inclusion of a tense and highly replayable PVP multiplayer component. How that is to work I’m not sure yet. I do worry how they plan on retaining committed online players when the main appeal of the title, for myself at least, has been its proposed emphasis on a heavy and fluid narrative. 

City of the Shroud also plans to implement a community driven tale, where their writer, the chart topping Moira Katson, will  develop the story of each upcoming chapter depending on what choices the majority of players made in the most recent one. While the concept is incredibly cool, particularly to another writer such as myself, it presents a few dilemmas. For instance there’s the possibility of disregarding choices made by minority groups among the playerbase, rendering their play experience to be driven by others. There also exists the time constraint issues that will come with writing out a narrative and implementing it each episode. 

Brute Fight

Only time will tell if the system is a viable development style for such a small team but with a concept that sounds so innovative, and having spoken to a dev that had such a passion for his project I sincerely hope they get a shot to deliver the exciting narrative experience I have dwelling in my mind.

To find out more and check out their demo check out the Abyssal Arts site here.

What are your experiences with crowdfunding campaigns?