Heading into October, it was no secret that this month was going to be one of the most hectic ever for video games. Several notable game franchises are receiving brand new entries; this week alone saw the arrival of a new Assassin’s Creed game and the opening of early access for Forza Motorsport. Still, these flashy AAA games are far from the only ones to be coming out right now, and even just eight days into the month, we recognize that some fantastic games have already flown under the radar.
Particularly for those who like games that force them to think strategically, the first week of October featured three new games that haven’t gotten the attention of Forza Motorsport and Assassin’s Creed Mirage, but still deserve it: Silent Hope, The Lamplighters League, and Wargroove 2. These are three solid games that are worth a play while you’re waiting for Spider-Man and Mario.
Did you know that Harebrained Schemes, the developer behind fantastic strategy RPGs like the Shadowrun Trilogy and Battletech, put out a new game this week? Well, on October 3, the studio dropped The Lamplighters League, a supernatural strategy game inspired by the pulpy stories of the early 1900s. That’s reflected in the game’s cartoonish art style and charismatic voice acting, which I found very charming.
When it comes to gameplay, it’ll be familiar to those who played Harebrained’s previous games or the XCOM series. Players can sneak around in real time between fights. During those segments, they can explore, take in more of the world and lore, properly position their soldiers, and even pick off some enemies before an encounter begins using each character’s unique abilities. This setup makes The Lamplighters League’s missions more intense and sprawling than its peers.
Although it’s not revelatory for the strategy game genre, it makes you feel like the mastermind behind an eclectic team of spies outsmarting overwhelming forces working against them. While many of this month’s biggest releases are fast-paced, action-focused romps, The Lamplighters League will make you stop, think cleverly, and soundly execute smart tactical strategies to complete a mission with as few mishaps or casualties as possible.
Next, there’s Wargroove 2, released by Chucklefish on October 5. While it’s also a strategy game like The Lamplighters League, it approaches the idea differently. Advance Wars is the inspiration here, rather than XCOM; the original Wargroove came out when the Advance Wars series was MIA, and a strategy game genre truly needed a game like it. The fact that Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp launched earlier this year seemed like it could reduce the necessity of a game like Wargroove 2, but that’s not the case.
Wargroove 2 is a deep and engaging strategy game that emphasizes terrain and the tactical relationship between standard units and powerful Commander ones, which are active on the field in this game. Commanders are strong, buff certain units standing near them, and have powerful Groove abilities, like forcibly moving enemies from one space to another, which opens up new combat strategies.
You have to be careful not to overextend these Commander units and minimize damage taken by trying to fight on terrain that buffs your unit’s defense. This becomes even more important in Conquest, the game’s roguelike mode, where players move along choice-filled paths of tactical challenges, collecting new units and abilities while trying to keep everyone healthy along the way. Conquest gives Wargroove 2 a sense of endless replay value, which works well in a genre that’s all about mastering mechanics to develop the best strategies. Instead of just a mission in The Lamplighters League, you could be fitting whole Conquest runs between other games for the rest of the year.
Wargroove 2 is available now for PC and Nintendo Switch.
Finally, there’s Silent Hope for those who just want to fully immerse themselves in a roguelike experience with lots of replay value. Released on October 3 by Marvelous and XSEED, this is a roguelite set in a world where no one but a Princess encased in a giant teardrop can speak. After seven heroes manifest from crystals, they work with the Princess to delve into a giant abyss and search for the king trapped at the bottom of this abyss.
In practice, that all means players must venture through the abyss across multiple runs as one of seven character class archetypes, fighting enemies and gathering resources to improve the character’s stats and chances at survival incrementally each time. Although its combat and story aren’t as slick as something like Hades, Silent Hope features a cute and welcoming quirk and charm that could only come from a Japanese developer.
It sticks to the core gameplay loop that makes roguelikes immensely enjoyable, while infusing a lot of charm into the world and visuals. While other games this month might be much more ambitious or refined, something as simple as a good roguelike will be just as entertaining in the few quieter moments nestled throughout the rest of 2023’s release calendar.
Silent Hope is available across PC and Nintendo Switch. A free demo will give you a solid feel for all of its basic gameplay systems and loops, letting you play through the first area as much as you want, so that alone should be worth a download.
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