Review: Antihero28 Jul 2017 0
Released 10 Jul 2017
Oi, guv’na! Fancy a little game of Dickensonian theft? The cartoon Adventures of Oliver Swift might have ruined an entire generation with treacherously sweetened version of this dismal story, but Antihero takes you to the foggy streets of London(ish city) to really get your robbery on.
You have the choice of being one of the few colorful thieves. There’s really not much difference between them besides the look, and you can unlock more by completing the very much training oriented campaign. It follows the steps of Lightfinger, the iconic thief of the game. You see, a city’s neighborhood is too small for two competing thieves guilds, so your task is to gather victory points – in the shape of bribes, blackmail, stolen cargo and so on - faster than the enemy and force them out. Presumably, the loser is shipped off to the New World and the colonies.
No matter which way you start a game, you begin with your guild headquarters and you Master Thief ready to do his or her job. Those are the two assets you will never lose, and the MT will grow in power and ability throughought the game. You start with two action points, which you’ll use to scout streets and neighborhoods (separately) and burgle buildings. Streets and ‘hoods start covered in smog and fog, and the thief can uncover a few tiles of the road in one action – or an entire neighborhood with one burglary. Your hired help – starting with the humble orphan – can only act in buildings and streets that the MT uncovered. And, putting T in the MT, the MT is the only one able to burgle stuff.
Meanwhile, your hired help – you’ll have to upgrade your HQ to enlist them – are a lot more limited, but their uses are very special. Orphans infiltrate trade buildings, such as banks, churches and orphanages. One orphan will generate income from the building or grant its simple bonus. Get two more in there and you’ll unlock the second, more powerful bonus. For example, a thoroughly infiltrated church will grant you a victory point… as long as you keep it infiltrated!
For you see, a lot of the specialists exists not only for you to expand your empire, but also to diminish the enemy’s. Thugs can block streets for a couple of turns, preventing movement, or they can add health to Gangs. Gangs can kill (and raise levels through doing that), gaining money, or evict orphans. Higher level help costs a lot, but is extremely powerful. An assassin is a one use killer that can destroy any gang – or kill high level assassination targets. Truancy officer evicts all of the urchins from one house at once. Saboteur either plants bombs in a building – effectively protecting it from enemy attack for two turns or until triggered – or scouts neighborhoods. It is up to you to decide how and when you’re going to use your forces.
Especially when you consider that most investments are one and done. Once you commit an orphan into a building, he’ll stay there unless evicted. A thug will block a tile for only a couple of turns before going away (probably to drink away his commission). Only the gang stays around – or until it invariably runs into an assassin. Money comes from burglaries and infiltrated buildings (and gangs whacking people off), and is never that plentiful. And when the enemy starts working against you, the funds seem to dry out a lot faster.
The other resource in the game is lanterns, which are used to buy – once a turn – an upgrade for your HQ. Those can endow the MT with additional actions, increasingly potent ability to kill (take that, Adventures of Oliver Twist), various exciting new ways to burgle, and upgrades for his specialists. The HQ can also be used to claim charity (if you haven’t built anything because you’re too poor) in resources or buy bribes, thus giving a person who invested in the lantern economy a way to gain victory points just like anyone who has a lot of gold would.
Of course, there are other ways to gather VPs and some maps have fairly specific ones in addition to the usual lot. The Masquerade requires you to steal goods required to infiltrate an orphan into a ball. The wharf has ships that come to the pier – those must be infiltrated to steal their cargo. I am sure that if the developer sticks around the game, they’ll come up with more ways to skin that VP cat (cats do not appear in this game, however).
And the game is customizable, too, as before you start the match you can sets starting rates of resources, prices for specialists, and so on. So while I think that game does a great job minimizing the chances that one of the two will become an unstoppable runaway juggernaut, it’s always possible to do your own balancing. Make the game either slower or faster by fiddling with specialist prices or starting resource pools Maybe nerf assassins by making them a lot more expensive to field. The game is your oyster, and you just happen to have a dagger.
To weer a little into the technical side of things, Antihero is a very small game that makes great use of its stylized 2D art style. I’m a great fan of not using 3D where 3D isn’t needed, and Antihero is only better for it. The art doesn’t make the game look too grim, but it serves well to infuse the atmosphere that they’re aiming for. It’s more than just a little bit cheeky, especially when all the people in the game have bobble head syndrome. The sound department didn’t drop the ball either. The audio quality is good, and the infrequent unit barks, while not too special and not too varied, are good enough, and certainly aren’t heard often enough to get annoying.
Overall, Antihero is a good game about throw downs between Master Thieves. It puts in work to make it feel balanced, and you’ll spend most of the game feeling that you have a chance to win. Sure, someone might pull victory by buying the assassin upgrade, then using the free assassin to kill a target, then spent their money buying cheap orphans to a cram a church full of them – thus getting 2 VPs – but you’ll know that this was a result of careful planning. And the game will not have that lasted that long anyways!