GLITCHED is an upcoming turn-based RPG with a unique twist – it directly involves you, the player. I came into contact with the developers of GLITCHED, En House Studios, and got to interview them as well as try out their demo. What follows are my impressions of the game, and the Q&A can be found here.
GLITCHED introduces me to its world by way of a sarcastic frog named Ribble, who I learn works at F.R.O.G. Inc – the company that seems to run the world. After a few puns, I answer some more traditional RPG questions such as choice of difficulty before some obscure ones that will shape my future. Ribble’s reactions to my choices made me laugh a few times, and I am impressed by the quality of writing En House has achieved. The first few minutes have tons of personality and charm that have me looking forward to future interactions.
Ribble then introduces me to my character, Conrad, and sends me off to the small town of Betwixt. Here I find Conrad and his friend, Gus, discussing their past and wanting to leave town to explore the world. In the middle of their discussion, the game presents me with what seems to be the first story-driven choice. Oddly, that choice isn’t for Conrad, but rather for Gus. Regardless of my answer, their conversation gets interrupted by a glitch in the sky, and here is where GLITCHED begins to show itself to me.
I Am As Much a Character as Anyone
The screen clears up to reveal Gus standing in a white space. He starts questioning the open space, and I’m prompted to respond to him. Me, Max Moeller. Not me as a character in-game. I want to mess with Gus a little bit, and I straight up tell him he is a video game character. He ends up dying from the stress. I have to restart. An important lesson learned. Though it’s a short distraction, GLITCHED uses Gus’ death to warn me. I will need to stop and consider each decision. No matter how menial it may seem, it will have unexpected consequences. And boy does GLITCHED have decisions.
I’m then introduced to the ESSENCE system, En House’s alternative to a simple good or bad morality mechanic. There are six types of ESSENCE. Each of them stands for a mental principle, though none of them are clear-cut. For example, ZEAL is represented by acts of bravery, passion, and self-righteousness, but the game doesn’t tell me which choices distribute towards ZEAL. It’s up to me to know what type of decisions display those traits.
Choices Are Never Clear-Cut
As I make choices for Gus, his ESSENCES will gain points based on what those choices are, and the more points in an ESSENCE, the more those ideals affect the world, story, and characters around him. The further into GLITCHED I get, the more personalized my story becomes due to the amount of points I have in each ESSENCE. The game begins to limit my opportunities to form other ESSENCE and conforms to the ones I have been focusing on.
This system is applied to all characters in the game, and it gives them all a strong sense of reality. Real choices aren’t made based solely on good or bad, but rather on the experiences and feelings of the person making that decision. A choice can be brave, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was a “good” one.
When it comes to story decisions, I’m going to have to decide which option outcome I like and figure out which ESSENCE it is going to affect. Imagine a situation where I want to save a character from death, but I can’t because I don’t have enough points in HARMONY because I was an ass to everyone earlier on in the game. The mechanic adds an extra layer of complexity to the story.
Gus’ FATE Relies On Conflict Management
One of the coolest looking aspects of GLITCHED is its combat system. There are no random encounters; all battles transform the world in some way, whether it’s big or small. Yet, GLITCHED doesn’t throw me in battle. Whenever conflict begins to show itself, F.R.O.G. Inc steps in and initiates the conflict system.
Here I am given a chance to resolve the conflict before it turns into an actual battle. The conflict menu shows the ESSENCE alliance and mood of everyone involved. There is also an indicator that shows how close the conflict is to turning into a battle. If I can’t settle everyone down, the conflict turns into a game of FATE.
FATE is the name of the combat system in GLITCHED, and it is a bit more familiar. Like games Earthbound and Undertale, combat is party-centric and turn-based. Where it stands out is in its card system. Each party member comes with their own cards, which are different abilities.
These cards have energy requirements, and I only get 8 energy points per turn. Planning my cards out is key. The deck customization seems endless, and I am looking forward to mixing different party members to get a good one.
Finding these cards makes my time in combat easier, and I’m encouraged to explore the world searching for them. They are found in the open, by helping people out, by getting achievements, and a few other ways.
More traditionally, each party member in GLITCHED has their own class. Some are fearsome Strikers. Others are thoughtful Tacticians. On top of the cards, En House seems to have found a winning combat system. It benefits me to think about each encounter. It gives me the option to fight rather than forcing me to. It will stay engaging even in the late game due to all the different possible combinations.
While the game is fun, it’s also freaking pretty. Earthbound comparisons are inevitable, but GLITCHED has moved past that standard indie pixelated look and developed its own distinctive art style. I mean LOOK AT THIS:
It’s gorgeous, expressive, and it’s still reminiscent of our favorite old RPGS. Ridiculous characters such as a fat butterfly cat, and even talking carrots were in the demo. Seeing how over-the-top En House’s creativity goes in the full release will be a real treat.
A Stand-Out Example of the Current Indie Scene
GLITCHED currently has my full attention. The snappy writing, complex mechanics, and expressive art style are all brought to us by the creative geniuses over at En House Studios, and I am crazy impressed that this game is only being made by three people. Though my time with the game was short, I can’t get it out of my head. What happened to Conrad? Why are there glitches popping up around the world? How far does the fourth wall breaking go?
If you reminisce about the good old days playing through Earthbound, are a fan of engaging and tactful combat, or want a great example of where the indie scene is at right now, you may want to check out GLITCHED. This one is going to be big.
Check out more information, and be sure to support GLITCHED by clicking here.
This preview is part of a multi-part series where I follow the development of GLITCHED. The game is to be released in January 2018, and I will be following up with En House Studios every few months until full release. The Q&A that correlates with this article can be found here.