World's End Chapter 1
The heroes of Mezzanine Stairs' turn-based strategy RPG World's End Chapter 1 are surly, drunken, rude, violent, and more than a little bit potty-mouthed... but then, so is everyone else in this crumbling society. When the opportunity presents itself to make a bit of cash off of a crate of stolen cigarettes, laconic Ivan, hot-headed Ysabel, and deceptively scatter-brained Tevoran decide to seize the chance... and batter, slice, shoot, and stab anyone in their way. Including the criminal cartel who wants their loot back. Fortunately, our heroes(?!) can handle a bit of a scuffle... but can they handle the rest of the trouble and mystery headed their way?
The game is broken up into combat, party management, and cutscenes in a very Final Fantasy Tactics sort of way, with control typically handed over to you when things get violent or you need to equip or otherwise set up your group. During battle, you move your characters around the map on a grid, positioning them to attack enemies, use their special abilities to their most effectiveness, and take advantage of the terrain to defend themselves. Many attacks or abilities are best used from a distance, or when enemies are arranged in a certain way, making strategic thinking a must. Back at the hideout, you'll be given the opportunity to stock up on supplies and buy new skills or increase your "heroes'" abilities... though you'll want to weigh your options since they all share a limited pool of skill points. Cash is, perhaps fittingly given the dystopian setting, very hard to come by, and items are expensive, so make sure you think carefully about what you need.
Though it does suffer a bit from some slow pacing and world building, World's End Chapter 1 largely succeeds as a bleak, comedic strategy RPG in a unique setting. Some people may find the constant barrage of slang and unfamiliar lingo a bit hard to swallow (even Ysabel complains about it at one point), but if you've ever visited the Planes or Seattle, you'll take to it like a foul-mouthed duck to water. The overall tone and setting aren't what you'd call pleasant, so you'll need an appreciation for dark humour and party members that are about as anti-hero as you can get. A lot of the subject matter herein is both fairly grim or mature, and treated somewhat flippantly, so player discretion is advised.
Though it does take a while to get the ball rolling, however, World's End Chapter 1 eventually reveals itself to be an extremely ambitious piece of storytelling and gaming in general. It's a challenging game, and the amount of work gone into crafting everything from the setting to the strategy is clear. It may sometimes feel like its dragging its feet, and I wish it would have made more of an effort to incorporate its world building into the main game instead of hoping you read the in-game Codex Mass Effect style, but it's a meaty chunk of RPG strategy gaming that has an enormous amount of potential to grow from. Just make sure you hold on to your save file for chapter two!