From the creators of Northgard comes WarTales, a gritty mercenary epic.

Shiro Games, the company behind Northgard, Evoland, and Darksburg, presented its latest project, WarTales, at the PC Gaming Show. WarTales is a strategy game set in a medieval setting that puts you in command of a mercenary force and tasks you with keeping them fed and paid while you traverse plague-ravaged nations. It has a strategy component that is half survival and half management simulation. Then there is the turn-based combat.

“I’ve always been a fan of the ancient Heroes of Might and Magic game series,” game director Nicolas Cannasse adds. “We wanted to have fascinating battles between various soldiers, but in a new environment, with broader areas, not hexagons, and greater opportunity for the player to fight and do so skillfully. As a result, we looked at titles like Baldur’s Gate 3 and Divinity, which are more typical RPGs. We aimed to establish a balance between traditional strategy, a very tactical strategic game, and RPG games that place a strong focus on player choice.”

One example is the engagement mechanism. When opponents are trapped together in a close battle, maneuvering becomes important, but your mercenaries have skills that may allow them to escape contact or compel foes to swap who they’re engaged with. These mercenaries are produced at random, with “various occupations, distinct weapon styles, and varied skill sets,” and maybe further trained in camp.

These abilities will be required to vanquish WarTales’ most formidable foes. “We also have the notion of a champion,” Cannasse explains, “which is a single unit, similar to a boss fighter, that may play several times around and is incredibly strong.” To tackle this type of character, you must take a completely different approach.” ith. These mercenaries are produced at random, with “various occupations, distinct weapon styles, and varied skill sets,” and maybe further trained in camp.

Despite being inspired by RPGs, don’t anticipate magic or elves in WarTales. “There will be no magicians, goblins, or trolls,” Cannasse explains. “It’s not the typical fantasy environment you’ll find in a lot of games. It’s definitely medieval.” This gritty environment has its own take on medieval institutions and events, such as the Church and the Great Plague, but with a twist. “For example, in our reality, the disease does not kill people.” No, it just creates a thirst for flesh that, if unsatisfied, robs them of their minds and effectively converts them into zombies.

So, brace yourselves for a bleak future. One in which wolves and robbers stalk the forest, leaving the route is dangerous, and hunger is a possibility. While there is “certainly a survivalist component to the game,” Cannasse says the company toned it down during production “because it was very, very hard at first and we were dying.”

Iron man mode is an option if you want to make WarTales harsher, and the normal difficulty setting only provides you two checkpoints—one at the start of your most recent combat and one at the previous town you visited. “When you save, it basically overwrites your existing save, and you don’t get to save elsewhere,” Cannasse explains.

You may, however, go wherever you wish. Each region on the map may be visited in any order, however, certain encounters may be more difficult and will need you to return to them later. If you do, it will not affect the story. “Unlike some other open-world games, WarTales lacks a major plot,” Cannasse explains. “Each location has its own side story, and they all contribute to the overall tale of the universe.”

WarTales will be released in Early Access on Steam later this year and will remain in Early Access for “roughly a year and a half” before being completed. Only a subset of the areas will be available in this release, but each will be finished before it is included. Cannasse says that even at launch, WarTales should have at least 10 hours of exploration, combat, and attempting not to hunger, “but of course, the eventual objective for the game is much more than that.”

WarTales will have a trial available during Steam’s NEXT Festival, which runs from June 16 to June 22.

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