“Life is hard.
Then you die.
Then they throw dirt in your face.
Then the worms eat you.
Be grateful it happens in that order.“
– David Gerrold
WAIT, LIFE IS EASY
Have you ever thought watching the intro of a game, “oh no, why do I have to always be the damned hero!“?
Well if your answer is in the affirmative then this game we are about to discover might be exactly what you are looking for.
If you are wondering as to why, well it’s simple – because in this latest project by developers Wiggling Eyebrows, you begin as…. well, a nobody. And when I say “a nobody” I literally mean a sloppy vagabond. Poor and homeless. The refuse of society possessing one and only one redeeming quality – enormous ambition!
Oh yes! For the dream of our anti-hero is simple, they wish to become… uh… only a mere emperor!
WAIT, WAS IT JUST A DREAM?
Someone is attacking our palace. There is fire, smoke and blood everywhere. Our loyal subjects are being terrorized by a group of monsters who have ambushed the palace, as we return from a hunting trip. We are their only hope to survive. A fortuitous stroke of luck, as for the time being nothing is lost. We are rich, strong and we cannot lose! So we enter the fray. Entering battle after battle! To defeat these fiends. All in the name of freedom. So we can retain our well-earned moniker, that of – the hero of the kingdom.
Was it just a dream? Well to be honest… yes!
WAIT, I WANT TO DREAM AGAIN!
When you eventually wake up you find yourself in a scruffy tavern surrounded by drunks, with no money in your pocket, only a well-defined goal to achieve: To become emperor!
At the beginning of the game you can choose which among numerous scenarios are to define you. To be your background stories. Providing bonuses like starting money, properties etc, for your character.
Outside the filthy tavern – a lovely medieval town full of activities awaits you. Obviously for a person that wants to become rich the first order of business is the nearby bulletin board. The focal point of some quite original “missions”. Well in actuality they aren’t exactly “real missions,” rather a desperate workaround to gain some money and experience. Choose to become a “test subject” for the experiment of a crazy doctor, or even take on the role of “grateful listener” for the joy of someone who has a lot of things to say. If that does not take your fancy or you are skilled enough, you can try the career of an acrobat or seize the opportunity of being a bruising, tough lad.
The goal of all these activities is evident: to gain the money and experience to recruit mercenaries to your cause and achieve enough victories to become famous. This objective can be reached in many ways. For example, you can raise a formidable army and smash all your adversaries. Alternatively you can try a more adventurous approach, by surviving dungeons and finding fantastic treasures. In any case the core of gameplay revolves around the exploration of the procedurally generated world; full of towns, points of interest and obviously the quests.
Mind you a “clear goal” does not necessary mean a “simple goal!” I must be honest even if I’m officially considered a world-renowned lame player, this game is extremely difficult. Trust me! I’ve found The Vagabond Emperor very hard to play. Especially at the beginning when you possess virtually nothing to your name. Almost no money. No equipment. Nor henchmen. Forced to beg or even sell yourself on the market! This could be a downside for many of you (masochism has no boundaries), but I strongly hope that in the near future the developer will balance the difficulty level of the game a bit more.
WAIT, I WANT TO WIGGLE MY EYEBROWS!
That being said let’s talk about the art style.
A Vagabond Emperor has a peculiar art style, with almost no animations, with the notable exception of the wiggling eyebrows! A choice that somehow reminds me of the classic adventure games of the past.
Strangely the lack of animations does not have a negative bearing on the game, rather it gives to it a nice charming style. Moreover in recent times we have already seen many games without a single animation become undisputed cult classics (let’s think Battle Brothers, for example).
Even the combat system is peculiar. The Vagabond Emperor was born a real-time strategy game, with fast (and somewhat chaotic) fights. Something which the developers changed after a while by adding a turn-based option. I have tried both styles and I can safely say that the latter is far better. Even if it needs additional work to reach a satisfactory level.
For example at the time of writing there is no way to move your units. So initial placement becomes very important for the player’s strategy. At this stage the AI’s behavior seems too predictable, choosing to focus on a specific unit until it is eliminated with unfortunate results.
Imperfections aside, The Vagabond Emperor has a lot of potential and what it promises seems extremely fascinating, with for example, the possibility to create factories, towns or even kingdoms. It is even possible to create a family and continue the adventure with your heir, when their parent dies.
All said and done, if you think I have piqued enough of your curiosity, you can go to try the demo here!