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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”.

About the Author

Brendan Caldwell avatar

Brendan Caldwell


Brendan likes all types of games. To him there is wisdom in Crusader Kings 2, valour in Dark Souls, and tragicomedy in Nidhogg.

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