It’s with a tentative fondness that I see the success of the Grimrock games might be bringing about a minor revival of grid-based first-person RPGs. Tentative because it has to be done for the right reason. Nostalgia isn’t enough – such games need to understand the advantages a lack of free movement offers. Grimrock certainly does, allowing you to develop (or rediscover, if you’re an oldie) the skills inherent to 90 degree turns and one-square-at-a-time dungeon crawling. So that is my hope for Vaporum [official site], a steampunk dungeon crawler from veterans-turned-indie, FatBot Studio, which is already looking most attractive in its very early footage.
Clearly just the word “steampunk” sets this apart from the usual fantasy dungeoneering. I have no doubt I’ll be corrected below, but I can’t think of vaporous robots appearing in the genre before. It has always been the realm of D&D-a-likes, and indeed of course, official AD&D licenses. The exceptional Captive cannot be forgotten, but that was pure sci-fi. So good start! Then comes the footage, which certainly appeals.
It’s interesting to note that it’s a single character being played, rather than a party. They’ll have to put a lot into that lone chap/chappess to keep it as interesting as looking after four people/creatures of different classes and skills. FatBot have said that instead of upgrading the character themselves, instead the focus will be on the suit worn, alongside “items, skills and traits”. They go on,
“Vaporum uses a simplified character development system that despite its simplicity makes every player’s choice matter. The player can develop their own personal playing skills rather than number-crunching power to defeat enemies and overcome obstacles.”
It’s still a way off. The team is currently looking for funding, and pondering a crowdfunding campaign. Certainly what I’ve seen so far makes me want to see some more, which is always the best possible start.