Telepath RPG: Servants of God

I've been following the development of Telepath: Servants of God for a few years now but actually not checked out the demo seriously before. Sinister Design's ambitious upcoming game combines a strong emphasis on story and dialogue with top-down turn-based combat. The battles take place on differentiated grid-based maps similar to what you'd find in an isometric SRPG like Tactics Ogre (and the Japanese RPG tradition is referenced explicitly by the developer), but still on a small enough scale that more Western-oriented fans of PC classics like Pool of Radiance or Betrayal at Krondor should feel right at home. I played on Normal difficulty in the demo and even early on the combat design and enemy AI was challenging enough that I was rewarded for thinking ahead a few turns and paying attention to tactical aspects like flanking and unit direction (most party members can be revived between battles, but the playable character's death results in instant Game Over). A noteworthy feature of the battle system is that various individual unit abilities work at very specific ranges - such as one, two or three grid squares away from the character in any of the cardinal directions - which obviously makes unit positioning even more important. Apart from some neat portraits the game's graphics are best described as functional, but the music is nicely atmospheric and adds a lot to the experience.

Narratively speaking the writing seems very good so far, and it's clear that a lot of work went into characterization (as evidenced by the voice actor interviews on the developer's YouTube channel) as well as the game's intriguing and original Middle Eastern/Steampunk setting. The plot revolves around a classic "religious fanatics vs the good guys" conflict, which the main character is immediately drawn into at the start of the game. In general I'm tired of seeing such a complex and multi-faceted social phenomena as religion being reduced to irrational totalitarianism in the vast majority of pop cultural works, but Sinister Design's Craig Stern appears to have crafted a distinct and believable socio-political context in which this age-old drama takes place and I very much look forward to seeing where the story goes in the full game.

Telepath RPG: Servants of God will hopefully be released by the end of this year (2011), and is available for pre-order here (where the very generous demo version is also available for download, as well as earlier freeware titles which can be viewed as less ambitious predecessors to Servants of God).

9 Comments
10 Comments
Edited by Egge

I've been following the development of Telepath: Servants of God for a few years now but actually not checked out the demo seriously before. Sinister Design's ambitious upcoming game combines a strong emphasis on story and dialogue with top-down turn-based combat. The battles take place on differentiated grid-based maps similar to what you'd find in an isometric SRPG like Tactics Ogre (and the Japanese RPG tradition is referenced explicitly by the developer), but still on a small enough scale that more Western-oriented fans of PC classics like Pool of Radiance or Betrayal at Krondor should feel right at home. I played on Normal difficulty in the demo and even early on the combat design and enemy AI was challenging enough that I was rewarded for thinking ahead a few turns and paying attention to tactical aspects like flanking and unit direction (most party members can be revived between battles, but the playable character's death results in instant Game Over). A noteworthy feature of the battle system is that various individual unit abilities work at very specific ranges - such as one, two or three grid squares away from the character in any of the cardinal directions - which obviously makes unit positioning even more important. Apart from some neat portraits the game's graphics are best described as functional, but the music is nicely atmospheric and adds a lot to the experience.

Narratively speaking the writing seems very good so far, and it's clear that a lot of work went into characterization (as evidenced by the voice actor interviews on the developer's YouTube channel) as well as the game's intriguing and original Middle Eastern/Steampunk setting. The plot revolves around a classic "religious fanatics vs the good guys" conflict, which the main character is immediately drawn into at the start of the game. In general I'm tired of seeing such a complex and multi-faceted social phenomena as religion being reduced to irrational totalitarianism in the vast majority of pop cultural works, but Sinister Design's Craig Stern appears to have crafted a distinct and believable socio-political context in which this age-old drama takes place and I very much look forward to seeing where the story goes in the full game.

Telepath RPG: Servants of God will hopefully be released by the end of this year (2011), and is available for pre-order here (where the very generous demo version is also available for download, as well as earlier freeware titles which can be viewed as less ambitious predecessors to Servants of God).

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Posted by ahoodedfigure

Yeah, religion is often either about obvious bad guys or flavor text, although thankfully there are some exceptions. Darklands did the weird thing of showing both the ugly side AND the believed benefit, that the Church was the only thing thing standing between humanity and damnation. Since it's from the perspective of mythology then being true, you start to get a bit paranoid when visiting the towns after a while, knowing what you might uncover. Religion in DnD is practically absent, by comparison.
 
Telepath pretty much blind-sided me, probably because the title doesn't suggest fantasy-ish settings at all. It may have some sort of plot relevance, but I wouldn't imagine this sort of game from that title. I'm all for this kind of game, it's just so hard to keep all these projects straight.  Even if the gaming market never crashes, I still imagine a lot of companies will go under because they can't break through the marketing clouds to find the people who desperately want to play precisely their type of games.

Edited by Egge

@ahoodedfigure: As long as we're talking specifically about "this kind of game" it's not as if the world is overflowing with new turn-based/party-oriented RPGs or anything - so I can't imagine keeping track of the major indie games in the subgenre would require that much mental effort (or even divide the market, for that matter; since most old school fans are simply starving for new releases and will support at least more than one of these developers at the same time).

And at the end of the day, it still mostly boils down to one or two comparatively big titles for each year or so - such as Knights of the Chalice (2009), Eschalon Book II (2010) and Frayed Knights/Telepath (2011) - and perhaps two-four smaller projects of some importance plus whatever Jeff Vogel over at Spiderweb Software is doing at the moment. By comparison, keeping track of all the manly military shooters vying for the exact same share of the market (...and in that case we're talking about a true zero-sum game) is a much steeper challenge... ;)

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Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Egge: To me, it's not the amount; it's finding them. Everything feels scattered and under-promoted. We have to depend upon newsies, who have their own interests to meet, and readers and sponsors to please, or independents like you and me who follow projects or accidentally stumble upon stuff via the grapevine. If you're talking relatively major releases, there may be enough noise generated that we'll at least get a blurb in a quickly scrolling blog-format news site, but all the independent projects, including a few of the ones you covered recently, completely blind-side me when I finally learn about them. Not to mention those projects that may be major but don't know the first thing about self-promotion, often with people who aren't very familiar with social networking or possibly the English language.
 
And yes, since I've been completely outside the contemporary shooter genre since it flared up some years ago, all the names floating around blend together for me. I wouldn't even know the first thing about all that stuff, though I imagine some research would eventually make things clearer.
Posted by CraigStern

Hi! Thanks for the write-up Egge; I'm glad you're enjoying the game so far.

@ahoodedfigure: I actually run a website that rounds up the latest indie RPGs. It sounds like something you might find helpful.

Posted by kingzetta

is there any actual Telepathy?

Posted by CraigStern

@kingzetta: I don't want to intrude on Egge's write-up by answering questions here, but the answer is "yes."

Posted by Egge

@CraigStern: Feel free to intrude as much as you like; you're certainly in a better position to answer questions like these than I am (...and since this thread is in the General Discussion forum, merely updating and thus moving it further to the top is guaranteed to give the game a tiny extra bit of exposure). Also, it's worth mentioning that apart from this short write-up I did add a barebones Giant Bomb wiki page for the game here, which could use some fleshing out. I guess any links to other parts of the site (such as Related Pages and Related Games) increases the likelihood that interested GB users will find out about Telepath RPG.

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Posted by CraigStern

I thought you might like to know that Telepath RPG: Servants of God has been released. :)

Posted by Egge

@CraigStern: Thanks for letting me know! That being said, given that I've been impatiently checking the official website several times during this Valentine's Day (...which started much earlier in my European time zone) I very much doubt I would've missed the release. ;)

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