Griftlands is a ‘pirate sandbox’, says Klei

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We haven’t seen much of sci-fi RPG Griftlands [official site], apart from a short trailer featuring a drunk frog-man getting turned in by his space pal for a sweet bag o’ cash. But developers Klei have a good track record with their cartoony games. So I annoyed them with some questions and got a few more details. As expected, it’s a game of money-grubbing and turn-based battling, but it’s also a world where characters will hold grudges against you, say the creators.

Looking at the town-to-town traipsing and Cartoon Network-ish animation, you might be forgiven for thinking of viking RPG The Banner Saga. But it’s not as cemented in its storyline, says Klei.

“Griftlands is much less directed than Banner Saga,” says Kevin Forbes, designer on the game. “It’s more of a pirate/mercenary sandbox than a sequence of story battles. You are put into a simulated economy and set loose to make your fortune.”

“There is a small cast of written player-characters / companions who have their own questlines, but these take place in a dynamic world with procedurally generated NPCs. The land and the factions that inhabit it are fixed, but their state and the front-line NPCs that populate the world are systems-driven…”


So it sounds like your own heroes will be set in stone, with the rest of the world reacting to your dastardly deeds or friendly feats. Meanwhile, battles themselves sound like a mix of traditional turn-based timing (there’s a “front row” and a “back row” of fighters) but with an emphasis on subduing your enemies, not murdering them.

“Individual fights are designed to be short and impactful,” says Forbes. “Morale and NPC personality effects factor in heavily – many fights are not to the death, but rather until one side surrenders. Killing people can lead to mechanical repercussions down the road, and NPCs remember what you did to them in the past.”

It’s still an unfinished piece of privateering, he points out. “We don’t want to build up expectations for work that is still very much in progress,” he says, adding that the game is, as ever, subject to twiddling and fiddling. But it sounds like a good direction for Klei. They’ve done spoopy survival game with Don’t Starve and madcap management sim with Oxygen Not Included, why not indulge in some sci-fi chicanery? It’s due out “some time in 2018”.


  1. syndrome says:

    Sounds good. And Klei has repeatedly and consecutively shown to have a mature (and rather excellent) think tank in the game design department, so it’s not just the looks. And I like how they’re “spraying” with their concepts, similar to what Image & Form does.

  2. Banks says:

    I must admit that what they’ve shown so far hasn’t been very appealing to me. Maybe they are waiting to show proper gameplay closer to launch.

    Anyway, I’m a huge fan of some of Kleis’ games and I will check this out when It’s available.

  3. geldonyetich says:

    So basically Sid Meier’s Pirates! with space pirates, with a whole new perspective more appropriate to a close-knit cast of characters, and Klei design philosophies throughout. There’s not a single thing I don’t like in that sentence, so I find myself optimistic.

  4. criskywalker says:

    So it’s kinda like Darkest Dungeons? I slight prefer games without conventional storytelling these days and where it is more procedurally generated by the gameplay, which allows for more unique and engaging stories.

    Klei has some really good games and an amazing graphical style, so I am really looking forward to this.