Review: Shardpunk: Verminfall [PC]
Developed and Published by Clockwork Pile in partnership with Retrovibe comes a scenario of hopelessness and grit. Experience Shardpunk: Verminfall, a turn-based Survival RPG that will have you crawling through heaps of bodies and avoiding the underground menace. Can you survive the streets of a war-torn world? Or will you fall prey to the blighted pests that roam the hallways? The Capital lies in ruins, but our work is not done.
They came from the sewers…
After weeks of grueling siege, the Capital has fallen. In the dark of the night the rat swarm came from underground and caught the peoples unaware. Now, most are dead, and few remain alive. But all is not lost. A new weapon has been made, one that is powerful enough to turn the tides and win back the war. It is up to the brave and the few survivors remaining to escort this technology and get it into the hands of those who can use it most.
Shardpunk: Verminfall captures an air of isolation that few games with guns and explosions can pull off. As you journey through the streets and buildings you will find fully crafted worlds with excellent levels of detail. The music and sound design create a host of emotions, from tense battle themes to the somber moments of quiet as you prepare for the next fight. The graphics of the game are a retro-style pixel art, everything from the characters to the over-world and the cutscenes. The level of detail is astounding and doesn’t feel like it repeats, something I’ll touch on later.
Every step could be your last…
If you’ve ever played any of the older Fire Emblem games or something more recent like XCOM, Shardpunk: Verminfall will feel somewhat familiar. As a Survival Turn-Based RPG you will command your units to move about the randomly generated maps to make it to the extraction zone. Your game starts with picking three survivors and an automaton as your base party. Every unit has their own skills and weaknesses, allowing for varied playstyles and strategies. The goal of the mission is the same: get the automaton out of the map and to safety.
How you go about that, however, is very dependent on your level of skill. One problem I have though, is the amount of reading you have to do. The tutorial has a ton of reading, and even after, you have more reading to fill in the blanks. There is just so much going on that if you don’t read and comprehend everything, there is a good chance you will miss a vital bit of info that can save your life.
Gameplay in Shardpunk: Verminfall has you commanding your team in conjunction with the enemies. You can move as an action, then take another action such as attacking or using an item. You may also search the area around you for interactive points of interest, loot, and resources. The rats that swarm the map will keep coming at random times, causing you to have to adapt to the situations. Remember, the objective is to get to the end of the map, not to kill everything. Survival is better than a skirmish victory. After a battle you will have an opportunity to upgrade your characters, have them perform pre-combat activities, and scavenge for resources. Every little bit of advantage you can get, may save you in the next battle.
A trail of blood and bullets
I won’t mince words. Shardpunk: Verminfall is hard. In the early game, it is unfairly so by its own admission. You are going to die a lot more before you are able to make it through this game with only broken bones and trauma to show for it. There are many facets of what can go wrong in a mission, and each of them can affect a run in different ways. One of these things can be stress.
Every action that happens in a mission can increase your overall stress level. Once this level is peaked, you can get a mental strain that is locked into that character. One that happened to me was causing my damage dealer to have a hatred for automatons. Which is awkward because the automaton in the party could help out if close to other units. Things like this can add up quick and bring a hopeful run to a devastating end.
Keep calm and carry on
Shardpunk: Verminfall is complicated. It is a brutally difficult strategy game that can seem unfair, but rewards thinking and planning ahead. Make no mistake, you will get worse before you get better, but coming out on the other side victorious is what makes it rewarding. If you want to test your mettle against the scourge of the sewers, give it a try.
Shardpunk: Verminfall is available on PC through Steam and GOG. Review code provided by Retrovibe.
Shardpunk: Verminfall is complicated. It’s brutally difficult and at times can seem unfair. But it is a brutally difficult strategy game that rewards thinking and planning ahead. Make no mistake you will get worse before you get better, but coming out on the other side victorious is what makes it rewarding. If you want to test your mettle against the scourge of the sewers, give it a try.