Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Nova Aetas: Inane Ramblings About Kickstarter

Nova Aetas


I grew up with Zelda.

I don't mean literally. That would be weird.

But I grew up playing Zelda. However, all that running around and bouncing into people with swords didn't really interest me all that much.

What I really loved was the tactical thrill of crushing enemies on the battlefield in turn-based roleplaying games. I think it's because I was a boardgamer before I was a video gamer, and playing too much Heroquest had ingrained it in my mind that all good games require a little grid of squares for working out movement.

The Shining Force series on the Mega Drive was my favourite. Interesting characters, cool powers and levelling up options, groovy in-fight animations, a challenging campaign, and dynamic music that changes whenever someone attacks. Man, I used to really panic when that music played and one of my healers was in the line of fire.

Best of all, when you look at the battle map where you move your units around, everyone does this little jigging on the spot thing that makes them look like they want to go to the toilet.

It's adorable.

Beyond Shining Force, there was Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem, Valkyrie Profile... You get the idea.

Those games, along with other roleplaying games such as Secret of Mana, Landstalker, and (yes), The Legend of Zelda, sculpted my formative years. It's no wonder that, as an adult, I write children's fantasy adventure stories. You can see the influence of those games in a lot of my work.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled across the Kickstarter campaign for Nova Aetas.

If you don't know what Kickstarter is, it is basically a crowdfunding system. You give developers some money to make something, and then you usually get a copy of the thing they make.

I pretty much swore off Kickstarter after the unimaginable depths of my disappointment with the game Myth, but then Nova Aetas came along.

It's a pretty tempting proposition. Set in an alternative "Dark Renaissance" populated with famous historical figures and monsters such as fawns and centaurs, it promises tactical combat in a linked campaign.

Leonardo
Leonardo... Not the turtle.


Players select a small group of heroes, and advance through a series of battles, levelling up and progressing through a skill tree that is clearly inspired by many video game roleplaying titles. Part of the evolution of the characters involves hunting for creatures, harvesting the corpses, and then crafting your own fabulous weapons. You also get the chance to meet NPCs, and then hire them, or piss them off and fight them instead.

Choices made by players dictate how the story unfolds, and the available missions, and there are three different endings for one campaign.


Apprentice skill tree
The apprentice mage skill tree.


It all sounds pretty interesting, but a campaign means nothing without good mechanisms to back it up, and here I think Nova Aetas offers something special.

Each mission involves opposing forces on a grid, and every character has a certain number of action points. A special device called a horologium marks the passage of time (and the length of the battle). When the minute hand moves around to a space containing character tokens, the associated characters get to activate in speed order. They use action points to move, fight, and use special powers, and for each action point their token moves one space on the horologium. The character is then unable to act again until the minute hand catches up with them.

Now, players of The World of Warcraft: Miniature Game may recognise this as being similar to the u-base system. And it is, but with one massive improvement... No bloody u-bases. Man, those things were crap.


Horologium
The horologium


Furthermore, the villains in the game run on an AI, so everybody gets to be a hero. I have come to realise that, when it comes to this sort of game, I really prefer a co-operative setup where everyone plays against the game, rather than one person having to command the bad guys. Of course, a good AI system isn't easy to create, but from what we know about Nova Aetas, this one seems pretty solid. Each hero represents a threat level, which gets higher as they do bothersome stuff like bashing in the skulls of the bad guys. While the threat level is low, the heroes get ignored, but as the threat level increases, they suddenly become much more interesting.

So, there is is... Nova Aetas. A "Dark Renaissance" tactical roleplaying skirmish thingy, with some very nice looking plastic miniatures, and what appears to be a good set of game mechanisms. The game has already funded, and the combat rules are available to read. That has to be worth a look right?

I'll stick a link...

HERE

So you can see for yourself.


Nova Aetas mage
Look. The link's up there.


Now, before I sign off, I have to throw out the usual warnings and caveats. I am not affiliated with this Kickstarter campaign in any way, it is just a game that I thought looked cool. I do not have any insider information. I do not even know if the final game is going to be any good. If you want to back the game, that's cool. Tell them Kevin sent you.

Just don't blame me if the final product doesn't live up to everything I hope it will be.

Happy gaming, folks.

ADDENDUM (30/03/2015):

Sadly, as the campaign for Nova Aetas progressed, it became apparent that the company had not prepared well. They were translating the rulebook on the fly, and had no adequate gameplay videos to show off all the interesting nuances the game promised. Eventually, backers started to pull out, and even though the game was fully funded, eventually enough people fled the sinking ship to defund the project completely.

It's a shame it happened, and I very much hope Nova Aetas returns in the future. Better videos, the beta rules, and more images of completed miniatures could make all the difference. For now, this is just an example of why it is so important to prepare well before launching on Kickstarter. Sometimes, the promise of awesomeness simply isn't enough to get those backer dollars rolling in (and staying in).


* All photographs are the property of Ludus Magnus Studio LLC. Reproduced here with kind permission.


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