Wartales, the next game from Northgard developers Shiro Games, is coming to early access on December 1st. It's an open-world RPG set in a plague-ravaged medieval world, where you'll lead a pack of mercenaries as you all try to survive. I played the demo this summer, and it's good! It's a simple ye olde setting, no magic or wizards, but also has no main quests to bog you down. You're free to follow little story threads as you please, or just exist in the harsh world with your merc pals.
There's a bit of plague and fantastical weirdness going on somewhere in Wartales, but you don't have to mess with it if you don't wanna. Your one job is to lead a mercenary party, pay them, feed them, and turn them into whatever sort of squad tickles your fancy (be the goodies and take bounties on bandits, or be the bandits that folks advertise bounties for).
"With Wartales, you're free to do what you want," game director Nicolas Cannasse told me during an interview in September. "We have content and stories going on, and you can intervene, maybe fight and kill some guys, but the rest of the world is still waiting for you. It's less epic, but gives a lot of freedom to the player."The game won't tell you that you need to complete a certain number of missions to do something. You have to accept or choose every mission you get, you get to decide," he added.
You can lead your band through a huge overworld, passing through settlements, forests, camps and the like. Combat is turn-based, and you can collect different companions with various uses in battle, like rangers, rogue-types, or more brawly lads and lasses.
In Nate's Wartales preview from August, he praised its low fantasy setting, and described - in detail - his difficulties fighting the game's surprisingly tough wolves. Don't be fooled, those fluffy beasts aren't the sort of tutorial-level battles you might see in other medieval games.
Wartales hits early access on Steam on December 1st. It'll stay in early access for around a year, while the developers add new regions, enemies, battle rules, modes and more. If you fancy trying it before then, you can still play the free demo on Steam too.