Core So Hard It Cuts Diamond: Serpent In The Staglands

There’s old-school and then there’s old-school y’know? Buried somewhere under the copies of White Dwarf and signed AD&D Monster Manuals, past the cloth map of the Sword Coast and sketches of Zork dungeons lies Serpent in the Staglands [official site]. It’s party-based RPGing in the mold of all your favourites, and I first came across it when one of you fine readers recommended it as a game to add to the RPS 2015 omni-list. Kickstarted for $28k in April last year, beta builds have been with backers for a while, but this trailer is the finest the game has looked. It also gives a hint as to the final release date, which I believe I’ve managed to decode. Come see below.

Something about Serpent really appeals to the part of me that never had the cash or computer for a copy of Baldur’s Gate at the time. It’s right on the razor’s edge of looking like it was made in 1996 without actually looking like it was made in 1996. The dark ‘n’ hopeless medieval look, the spells, even the menu positioning to the sides just bellows of hours spent meticulously crafting characters with 2d4 hit dice.

As you’d expect, combat works on a realtime-with-pause system of strategic decision making. Keep allies out of your fireball radius, stay away from that ogre, you know the drill. It’s trying to improve on that formula though, as the site states:

  • Combat designed for minimal pause spamming and without cooldowns, instead focusing on pre-buffing, positioning and auto-triggering skills

No modernisation when it comes to pursuing quests though:

  • An unmarked map filled with wilderness, cities, towers, temples, dungeons and caverns to explore.
  • Write your own journal notes for quests, puzzles and leads as you investigate. The game won’t hold your hand.

Now, as for that release date. The final part of the trailer is written in the runes that are translated to “Windows, Mac, Linux” on the frame before. Clicking back and forth between them shows shared characters, spelling out “COMING MA” and then one character that was not used and a series of dashes. Taking the dashes as numbers we get “28 2015.” Making the logical leap that it is indeed a date, the missing character is Y, giving us the release date of May 28th, 2015 – or in just a couple of months. You can pre-order at all sorts of levels on the official site, or grab it through Steam when the time comes.

22 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    Sounds good!

    (Psst Mr Barret needs a shave)

  2. sendmark says:

    Does look very interesting, the more rpgs the merrier for me.

  3. Wizardry says:

    Looking good.

  4. April March says:

    Not a fan of ye olde medieval fantasy, but this one says it’s bronze age? Maybe I’ll remain barely cognizant of its upcoming existence.

  5. Sin Vega says:

    Someone recommended this after I did Darklands, and I’ve had an eye on it since (but not my purse, as I need that to keep my moths safe). It does sound interesting.

  6. noodlecake says:

    The low pixel animations are strangely charming.

  7. Anthile says:

    Well, now I can no longer call it “the game RPS doesn’t want you to know about”. Mission accomplished.

  8. P.Funk says:

    I was about to scroll past the story but you know what dragged me back to click on it? The iron gauntlet mouse pointer. Yes… apparently thats what hooks me.

  9. BrickedKeyboard says:

    Well. A harder game with less artificial rules sounds cool, of course.

    But why do all the events have to spam into a log on the left side of the screen? Why do you have to dig each spell to cast out of a menu instead of some more intuitive system? Why do you still need to micromanage each party member’s inventory?

    That last one I find especially irritating with games in this genre. See, what happens is, once your inventory is full, every additional item in the world you find, you are forced to compare against every item in your inventory to see if you want to swap it for something you have. The larger your inventory is, the more time consuming this search becomes.

    I always wanted a system where I only have to grab stuff I need right now, immediately. And the game won’t punish me for leaving items behind – once I beat a dungeon or something, minions will pick up all of the rest of the loot and give me the same benefits of having gathered it as if I grabbed it myself.

    • AngoraFish says:

      This man speaks great sense.

    • Hex says:

      This could really be a game in itself — control an entrepreneurial fellow (or felless) with a trusty donkey, and follow (at a safe distance) ye adventuring party, scavenging whatever loot they have no room to carry.

      Take your findings back to town to sell, build up your shop and hire more scavengers. Keep tabs on the successes of various adventuring teams to determine which ones should have a donkey-team following them, etc etc. Expand your empire!

      Also, to address the issue at hand, I would again propose a donkey. It’s silly to look at your team of 6 killers running around lugging a bunch of crap. It would just get in the way. Keep everyone’s non-immediate-use inventory on the donkey, and you’re all set.

      • Hex says:

        The point is, donkeys make everything better.

      • BrickedKeyboard says:

        Does the donkey have sufficient inventory space to carry all non-secured items in a dungeon?

        • dajt says:

          No, the donkey can only carry 4 items.

        • Hex says:

          There would still be limited space, requiring being selective about inventory, but the player would have to worry less about combat and none at all about quests.

  10. Mr Coot says:

    This does look interesting, good luck to Whalenought. Looking forward to seeing it on Steam.

  11. AngoraFish says:

    Colour me interested…

  12. ansionnach says:

    Looks pretty interesting. More inspired by Darklands (semi-historical setting coupled with plenty of superstition) and Ultima (open world, take your own notes, against gear and stat grinding)… but of course with the real-time pause combat popularised by Baldur’s Gate. Maybe that shouldn’t be “popularised”? Wish it had popularised it – turn-based combat is grand… but it really drags over the duration of a long RPG and there are times when you’d prefer to fast-forward through the bits that don’t really demand your attention (like you get to do in infinity engine games or Phantasy Star III).

  13. bill says:

    I heard it was inspired by Darklands? Does it have a similar character generation system? Cos that was awesome…

  14. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Looks pretty good. I’m now officially excited for this.

  15. dajt says:

    So disappointed they are deliberately going for the pixel-art look. Looks great aside from that.