On Sunday we got to try Pit People, the upcoming game from indie game dev, The Behemoth. The studio has made a name for itself with off-beat silly games with colorful art styles such as Castle Crashers and Alien Hominid. Pit People is a title definitely in that cartoony style. First announced in 2014 as “Game 4”, Pit People currently has no release date and is planned for release for the Xbox One and the PC only.
Pit People is a hexagonal turn-based tactical RPG set in a vaguely medieval world where an astronomically huge bear has crashed into the planet causing green blood to rain over the Overworld. This is not your traditional Tolkien-esque fantasy. Bad guys use space shuttles and ’50s hot rods, there are healing cupcakes, there are female Spanish conquistadors, you never know what is going to show up next. But the most fascinating element is that your character, Horatio, dies in the very first battle.
Or at least, that’s what the fully-voiced narrator says. In fact, Horatio lives on, killing off the enemies attacking his house and family. Increasingly angry that the story isn’t going as described, the narrator crushes Horatio’s son. While you continue the fight, you’ll collect new heroes, such as princesses, cyclopes (that’s the plural of ‘cyclops’), and healing cupcakes. The demo at the Behemoth booth had about five battles and was roughly a half hour of story campaign, but the final game will be much longer.
Producer and The Behemoth founder, John Baez, mentioned that the strategy game is actually inspired more by titles such as Starcraft II than Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem. You can direct your characters over to the hexagons you want them to stand in, but they will choose their targets on their own. Baez and his team hope to streamline the strategy RPG experience this way, making for faster and more action-packed battles. Of course, certain characters are better at fighting certain enemies. Horatio fights with a sword and uses a chunk of his fence as a shield. He’s great to have out in the front rows to block arrows, but he’s worthless against armored enemies. That’s when you need a princess you rescue in the second battle to violently beat them over the head with her mace-like scepter.
The lack of control actually becomes an interesting puzzle in certain levels, such as the final stage in the demo where the goal was to recruit a cupcake. You can only recruit enemies if they’re the last ones standing and if you throw a net on them. The goal here is to try to kill off all the cupcake’s allies before he’ll join your side. Unfortunately, if you put characters on the wrong tile, they’ll attack the cupcake and may kill him. You have to think about what each AI is going to do, not what you would order them to do if this were, say, Fire Emblem. So Pit People is using what sounds like a frustrating concept, taking control away from the player, and turning it into another layer of strategy.
The battles were very different from other strategy RPGs and Pit People definitely has something new to say in the genre, but what might keep you playing is the narrator. Negative reinforcement can be a great driving motivation for players. The narrator has terrible plans for Horatio and his cohorts. You really want to see what’s coming next – and ruin the story that evil narrator has in mind. He’s a real jerk and a half, it is going to be a lot of fun to take him down when Pit People finally releases… well, sometime in the future.