PREVIEW – The return of the classic Disciples role-playing saga surprised fans after several years without any games. Disciples Liberation, the new instalment of these turn-based strategy RPGs, leaves a good impression: we may be facing an exciting title within the genre, with a lot of content and different mechanics.
The new Disciples Liberation is a role-playing game with turn-based tactical combat, which puts us in the shoes of Avyanna, the one in charge of liberating the Nevendaar region. Frima Studio, the studio in control of the game, explained some exciting details about the gameplay and development. We are facing an RPG more ambitious than it might seem, and the company ensures that the game will offer more than 80 hours of campaign for one player, a very high duration.
Disciples Liberation mixes three profound and different mechanics with each other, and they all have just the right weight. It is a role-playing game, with decisions that promise to affect the development of the story significantly; It is a strategy game, with tactical turn-based combat; and it is a management game because as soon as we start our way, we arrive at Yllian, a city that will serve as the base of our operations, which we will have to develop to have different improvements and to improve our army, obtaining new units and training them. In addition, we will be recruiting numerous companions throughout our trip, characters more important than the basic units and who will even have their missions). As if all this were not enough, we will also need to get resources through the stage to, for example, build new buildings in our city.
An RPG with freedom of choice
With RPGs, something curious happens: the genre includes so many video games that sometimes it is challenging to satisfy the fans’ tastes. An RPG is much more enjoyable when my decisions affect the video game and the adventure, but it does not mean that it is worse for guiding us more in the story. Of course, the role has been made great precisely by trying to get fully into the account, and that our performance changes the course of Disciples Liberation is a lot of fun. The Fallout series does that wonderfully, but we have other more recent and humble examples just as remarkable, like the fantastic Griftlands.
Disciples Liberation ensures that it will be a game in which all our decisions, whether in the main story or the secondary missions that we will find in Nevendaar, will impact Disciples Liberation. As soon as we start, for example, we can decide whether to kill all the guards in the church of Saint Darkchild or just the priest Sebastien, our real target. In this case, you will see that history pushes us not to be able to finish the job, but there is indeed a lot of freedom in how the dialogues are approached. Ayvanna has the option to ask, reason, threaten, attack, calm, even flirt … I have felt that we can be different characters depending on what we want to reflect on our protagonist and of course, I have been able to please characters, lie to them, avoid battles, make alliances and in general do what I wanted in each situation, based on the available options. Even so, I cannot assure at the moment, with what has been seen and played, that everything will have such a significant impact in the long term and with the advanced game as the study indicates, but there is no reason to doubt it.
We can also kill one of the characters, thus changing the course of Disciples Liberation, but only if the option appears to us in a specific circumstance. Freedom will not reach a Fallout level: it is not a matter of going anywhere and killing everyone, but it does not have to go to that extreme for this feature to be meaningful. “In narrative composition, if there is the option to participate in the battle or the action to stay away from it, both actions will have an impact on the story. So whether you decide to kill the characters or not, both decisions will have an impact,” said Louis Lamarche, the creative director of Frima Studio and Disciples Liberation.
Nevendaar, a living world
Disciples Liberation is a video game with an isometric view, and we can move through an open world and return whenever we want to the city of Yllian. It must be taken into account, for example, that the entire scenario is not available from the first moment. As we begin, we will make the first important decision: we will choose which lands to go to to try to find allies and fight our main enemy. Disciples Liberation features four different factions, and we can have a position concerning them, be it neutral, friendly or the opposite. This will also affect which companions and units join, which buildings we create in Yllian and other story aspects. Each of these factions is at a different point on the map, and we will have to unlock the stage gradually.
The stage is complete and alive. We can find neutral, friendly, and others that are not so neutral, places to conquer to obtain resources periodically (for example, a sawmill to get wood), chests, dungeons many more secrets. When I played, I made little progress with the mapping since practically every step I took, I found something new to stop, whether it was an NPC that needed my help or a place to conquer in Disciples Liberation. Something interesting is that there are places that we cannot enter, either because we have no possibility of reaching at that time or because our level is much lower than the enemies that populate that place. The company indicated that there would be much backtracking: we will return to visited areas and continue discovering new things to do.
Strategic Combats: Action Points and Rearguard
Beyond the exploration in the open world and in places that we can enter, which will act as dungeons, one of the most critical elements of Disciples Liberation is its combat, and there is a lot of fabric to cut here. Avyanna will not be alone, and one of our goals will be to recruit new companions, something we will do during our adventure. We can also get other more basic units in Yllian, building new buildings. Be that as it may, the comrades who join can be deployed in battle and, of course, we will have to equip them properly, train them and take care of them so that they do not fall fighting, mainly because if at the end of the fight they are still in the Cemetery, the place where the units if weakened will die. As I have mentioned, the combats in Disciples Liberation are turn-based and tactical on a screen that we enter when we approach an enemy. The space is divided into cells to move our characters and kill the rest of the enemies, the usual thing. The characters carry out their actions according to their statistics, and we can improve the specific characteristic to move earlier.
Something interesting about Disciples Liberation is the Action Points (AP). Each character will have two AP, but the striking thing is that there will be three types: blue, red and gold. The first ones refer to the ability to move, the second ones to the ability to use commands to attack and the third ones are more like a wild card with which we can do anything. However, certain characters will only be able to use their abilities with these APs. For example, with Avyanna, we find a blue PA and a gold one. This is curious because it comes into play to consider what type of actions each of the characters can perform, although we can do them in the order we want. With Avyanna, I know I have two options: one is to move because she has a blue AP, and another is the one I want since gold allows me to use any ability (even spells, exclusive to the protagonist) or to continue moving around the stage.
Another distinctive aspect of Disciples Liberation’s battles is the Rearguard line. Both the enemies and we can use this system to balance the fight in our favour. The Rear is the last line of our army, and we can place the units we want there to obtain certain benefits in combat. These combatants cannot move and act more as a passive enhancement item than an active one. Each unit has, in addition to its different statistics, specific Rearguard abilities. It may happen that a team that we recruit is not very useful to us on the battlefield, but it is on that line. It is a new addition to the saga and engaging within the tactical RPGs. By the way, something that has also caught my attention and can play an essential role in the development of the battle is that boxes with effects sometimes appear on the stage, both positive and negative. Therefore, placing our character in one of those cells could, for example, cure part of his life and save him from a complicated situation. In general, the game seemed somewhat harsh on the player in these early stages, and it gave me the feeling that I should have followed the story more in the first hours without wanting to venture out on my own because I have died many times. Disciples Liberation will not have difficulty modes, and it looks like it will be challenging.
Disciples Liberation may come as a surprise, but its duration worries me
All of Disciples Liberation’s mechanics may not go to an extreme level of depth, but the variety and unique features of the game make the title one to have on the radar. Keep in mind that the role, the strategy of the fighting, and the management of our city and our army in Disciples Liberation combine and flow to give life to the game. It has caught my attention that he dares with all of them when separately they are already a challenge. The best of all is that Frima Studio told me that it had not been challenging to put them all together to be related to each other. In addition to these three pillars, we will have to find resources and manage them since they will be critical to developing. Yes, I have to comment that I think this graphic section is one of the aspects in which the game lacks the most: even playing it at 4K, I have the feeling that it lacks definition and is not very remarkable, although I consider that on an artistic level it is more than enough.
The game promises dark fantasy and a mature, adult story that will also be liked by fans of the saga, who will find references in the game to the entire universe of the franchise. I think we can be facing an intriguing title within tactical RPGs. However, I am concerned that its duration may be too long because although it has interesting elements, I am not sure if fighting will continue to be so fun when we spend a lot of time playing; Keep in mind that we are not facing long and very calm battles, it is all straightforward and with an extensive range of movement of the units. Eighty hours is a lot and, although there are different things to do, you will have to catch the player with a good story and exciting missions. I sincerely hope it is not an artificially lengthened duration because it could feel bad for you. Even so, I think Disciples Liberation looks excellent; it shows that there is special care in its development because I have not found bugs in the beta version that I have been able to test, the texts are careful, and it is perceived that there is an outstanding work behind. We will have no more doubts when Disciples Liberation launches for consoles and PC on October 21.