Skip to main content

The Lamplighters League is a pulp spy movie turned into a clever tactics game

I’m a sucker for a tactics game built around a setting that’s atypical for the genre. For instance, I was a fan of Paradox Interactive’s Empire of Sin in 2020, which turned prohibition-era mob management into a tactical strategy RPG. So it’s no surprise that I’m already digging The Lamplighters League and the Tower at the End of the World.

The Lamplighters League - Announcement Trailer

Developed by Harebrained Schemes, the unusual game draws on pulp spy thrillers. It follows a ragtag team of 1930s misfits traveling across the globe to thwart a cult’s nefarious plans. Though rather than playing out as a typical adventure game, its a fusion of real-time adventuring and turn-based combat, akin to something like The Miasma Chronicles. As it turns out, that concept works quite well in a pulp thriller. I played a few missions at this year’s Game Developers Conference and found a stylish action game that gets how to translate spy tropes into tactical play.

1930s action

My Lamplighters League demo would serve as a thorough introduction to its basic gameplay, a few characters, and its airtight combat system. My first mission has me stealthily moving across rooftops with a squad of two heroes. When not in combat, I’m able to move around freely, sneaking around enemies and avoiding their line of sight. If I’m spotted, a battle begins and I’m thrown into a traditional turn-based tactics encounter on the fly.

Spies fire at enemies in The Lamplighters League.
Paradox Interactive

The spy theming pairs with that idea naturally. One of my characters, for instance, is a “sneak” named Lateef whose able to instantly knock out enemies if he can sneak up on them before being spotted. It’s a basic ambush idea that’s standard in a lot of tactics games, but its given a natural thematic flair here. Lateef has a few more special abilities too, like the ability to stay invisible in cover and nimbly clamber up walls. It helps that I can split the party up at any time during exploration too, allowing me to sneak into an area with just Lateef, take down an enemy or two before an encounter starts, and get out.

Other agents  have entirely different playstyles and abilities. One character I controlled could knock down loose walls and dash into multiple enemies to knock them out. In a later mission, I get to play as an a spy who wields dual guns and can aim them at separate targets like Mario in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope. Each agent already feels distinct from the others both in how they explore the environment and how they can get an advantage in battle.

The combat is fairly classic otherwise, taking an “if it ain’t broke” approach. Each member of my squad gets two action points during a turn, which can be spent to move, shoot, or trigger special abilities. There’s a bit of environmental mischief in play too. In one mission, I toss a Molotov cocktail at a pool of oil to light up some cultists. Everything in my demo moved smoothly, avoiding some of the genre “jank” that was present in Empire of Sin.

A chaarcter named Locke briefs spies in The Lamplighters League.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

More than anything, though, I’m simply hooked on style here. The artists at Harebrained Schemes seem to be having a field day here riffing on 1930s history and pulpy aesthetics. It has a playful Pixar-like look, with everything draped in a layer of earthy browns that give it an almost sepia-filtered tone. All of that further helps give it a strong visual identity that I’m ready to fully soak into. From its core tactical combat to aesthetics, everything about it feels vintage in the ways you’d want and none of the ways you don’t.

The Lamplighters League and the Tower at the End of the World will launch on PC and Xbox Series X/S later this year.

Editors' Recommendations

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
Evercore Heroes applies League of Legends’ formula to a cooperative game
Key art for Evercore Heroes.

Vela Games, an Irish game studio founded by former Riot Games developers in 2018, unveiled its first game at a digital prebrief event attended by Digital Trends. Titled Evercore Heroes, this game modifies themultiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) formula that League of Legends helped popularize into a competitive PvE dungeon-crawling experience. 
While the basics of gameplay and isometric view of Evercore Heroes are very similar to a game like League of Legends, players aren't directly fighting each other. Instead, four teams of four compete against each other in a cooperative dungeon-crawling experience where players slowly level up their characters, charge the titular Evercore, and eventually win by taking down a large boss. MOBAs, both in terms of gameplay and their community, can be intimidating to get into, so co-founderounder Travis George hopes that the cooperative aspects of Evercore Heroes and other efforts by Vela Games will make this an approachable and friendly game to which platers return.
"We all know that games aren't always known as the friendliest places in the world -- and we're not going to change human behavior on the internet -- but what we can do is be really deliberate about the gameplay, the community, and even the technology choices we make to hopefully orient players to have a more positive experience online," George says. "Hopefully, that keeps them coming back."

So far, Vela Games has revealed eight playable heroes: Shade the assassin, the shield-wielding Fyn, Zari the archer, the creature with a community-voted design named Beko, the melee-focused boxer Blink, fire mage Cynder, tech medic Remy, and short-range healer Lotus. They each have distinct abilities, and most of them look like they could be League of Legends champions or Valorant agents, so Riot Games' influence can really be felt in the design. Definitely keep an eye on this one if you're a fan of Riot Games. 
Evercore Heroes is currently in development for PC, and interested players can sign up for a player test that will run from October 13 until October 16.

Read more
League of Legends fighting game will be free-to-play
Jinx and Echo fight in League of Legends fighting game Project L.

Riot Games and Radiant Entertainment released a video about Project L, the League of Legends fighting game they are hard at work on, ahead of the global fighting game tournament, Evo. The most significant thing announced during this August 2021 update is that Project L is a free-to-play game.

/dev: The Latest on Project L | dev diary - Project L

Read more
Rocket League Sideswipe is a free mobile game worthy of your time
Cars flipping through the air hitting a ball.

Over the weekend, I found myself in desperate need of a simple game. I had just gotten my COVID-19 booster shot, which left me with a touch of fatigue. Halo Infinite and Bayonetta (the games I was playing at the time) both seemed a little too fast-paced for my brain, but there wasn’t much else on my backlog. I racked my brain for December game releases I missed and suddenly remembered Rocket League Sideswipe.

Rocket League Sideswipe Cinematic Trailer

Read more