Childhood nightmares, medieval plague zombies, and cyclopes in Japanese schoolgirl uniforms. No, it’s not convention season – it’s another edition of Keep An Eye On It! These turn-based RPGs and Strategy Games, currently in development, have piqued our interest and we think they’ll pique yours too.
Whether you’re hoping to explore an open world in Archaelund or Crystal Project, or to show your deckbuilding prowess in The Zone or Battle Bands, this KAEOI list has the weird, the wonderful, and the wonky. These titles are all from independent developers, and some are solo projects – if a game looks even a little like something you might play, be sure to support these hard-working devs by wishlisting and following their project on Steam.
Battle Bands: Rock & Roll Deckbuilder
Why shred monsters when you can shred a guitar solo? Battle Bands is Slay The Spire meets Rock Band. Each card in your growing deck represents a slick riff, killer beat, or showstopping stunt as your band competes to bring the house down. The game boasts a single-player campaign where you’ll go on tour to do battle with (sometimes literal) monsters of rock, and multiplayer includes a Battle of the Bands tournament mode.
The game has a grungy, cartoony look that’s perfect for the theme and (of course) a headbanging rock & roll soundtrack. Battle Bands enters early access on 17 March, so turn your speakers up to eleven and get ready to melt some faces.
Monster Girl Manager
From famous racehorses to World War II battleships, nothing is safe from being re-imagined as an anime lady. RPG monsters are a favorite of the musume subgenre, and Monster Girl Manager is a (safe for work!) dungeon-crawler where you’ll lead a team of procedurally-generated mutant schoolgirls to treasure and glory.
Each character’s appearance, personality, traits, and stats are determined by their random seed, and players can share seeds to help each other build their dream team. The game’s pixel graphics are quite nice as well. The game is available in early access – just be careful which titles you click on when searching “Monster Girl” in Steam, or you’ll see some very different graphics instead. No judgment here.
Woblyware’s Royal Frontier puts players in charge of a caravan traveling across a dangerous frontier filled with fantasy monsters. It’s FTL meets The Oregon Trail as you outfit your travelers, choose your route, and do your best to survive.
While the game looks to be a fairly simple affair of leveling party members, fighting battles, and resolving events, it has an undeniably charming look and the combat purports to be a blend of turn-based and real-time. Also, the wagons are pulled by giant bears which is a nice touch. No release date has been announced, but the game is listed as coming “soon.”
As much as we love tactical fantasy RPGs, it’s hard not to be envious of the expansive, immersive worlds that more freeform games let players explore. Archaelund seeks to solve that problem by letting the player traverse a beautifully-crafted fantasy setting in first-person, jumping to grid-based map battles when combat starts. The battlefields are pretty intricate themselves, making Archaelund very visually-appealing overall.
Fans of Baldur’s Gate should feel right at home in this game, commanding a party of adventurers against dangerous foes. Encounters are designed to scale with the party, so each fight is a battle for survival. Archaelund enters early access later this year.
Voor De Kroon
Future Minimalism’s project Voor De Kroon looks to be a promising title for fans of the Mount and Blade series. As a 13th-century European lord, you’ll need to manage your kingdom from turn to turn, then take the field for real-time, third-person battles with up to 600 soldiers on the field.
Unlike Mount and Blade, where you largely just ride around in combat stabbing enemy soldiers and hoping your subordinates do the same, Voor De Kroon will have players issuing orders to up to five sections of their army. It’s an intriguing blend of combat and tactical gameplay, and the turn-based strategic layer looks to be a delightful finishing touch. Voor De Kroon enters early access this March, so you’ll be able to give it a try soon.
While the influence of classic Final Fantasy is readily apparent in the look of Andrew Willman’s Crystal Project, the game is so much more than a retro tribute. The game is a mashup of JRPG and Metroidvania, allowing players to explore the entire world how and when they like. There is a story and a quest to collect the titular Crystals and save the world, but the game makes it clear that what it really wants you to do is go out, explore, and strike your own path.
While we won’t be able to tell for sure until the game launches on 31 March, Crystal Project‘s Steam page seems to hint at some meta elements. “Maybe it’s for your own good that you stick to collecting Crystals, just like everyone else,” the description says, “but where would the adventure be in that?” Color me curious.
The Zone: Stalker Stories
Post-apocalyptic horror usually focuses on the depths of depravity to which humans can sink when pushed to the brink. While The Zone: Stalker Stories likely has plenty of monstrous humans in its expertly-written cast of characters, the game’s world is full of strange, unknowable horrors that make it much more than just another trek through the nuclear wastelands.
The Zone plays like a mashup of Slay The Spire and the original Fallout games. You’ll outfit your character with both equipment and a combat deck, which you’ll need against the frightening creatures that live in the wastes. A demo is available right now, and the game will enter early access sometime in 2022.
F-Team is an indie take on King’s Bounty-style gameplay. With parties of customizable heroes, you’ll explore the map in search of quests, points of interest, treasure, and monsters to slay. When battle is joined, the perspective shifts to a grid-based tactical map where you can put your party to the ultimate test.
Each map has an overall storyline that comprises a Chapter. The two Chapters currently available combine to provide about 30-40 hours of gameplay. This format means F-Team could be endlessly expanded upon, perhaps with player-made content as well. The release date is currently TBA.
Korean developer Pastel’s roguelike Underground Dungeon takes us way back to the old days. The game’s simple, text-heavy interface is reminiscent of some of the earliest dungeon crawlers. With the benefit of modern game design, though, this retro title offers a bevy of playable jobs, skills, and gear, as well as an optional endless mode.
Underground Dungeon favors proactive, aggressive play. Waiting around will allow your enemies to prepare, and you don’t want that. If you’re the kind of player who seizes every opportunity and likes to take risks, Underground Dungeon is something to look forward to soon; it’s launching for Steam on 9 March.
Plague Lords is an intriguing tactical sandbox from Red Unit Studios, set at the height of the Black Death. A new strain of the Plague has started turning people into berserk monsters, and the player is tasked with keeping their village safe. Each villager has unique traits and skills, and you’ll need to manage them effectively if the town is to survive.
This is a hardcore permadeath title, so characters who become sick or injured risk being removed from your roster permanently. Additionally, characters who become infected by the Scourge gain formidable new powers but will eventually succumb and turn you. A demo is currently available, and the title is listed as “coming soon.”