Dark Envoy Gamescom Review
Dark Envoy is a game that mixes real-time exploration with turn-based tactical combat. By itself that is nothing special, but they have added some extras to this mix. The setting of the game is a combination of magic and technology, which the developers have labeled as Technomancy and to help with the story they work together with Michael Chatfield, an American author of Sci-fi, fantasy and LitRPG books.
You start the game with two characters, a brother and a sister. They want to fix a sky ship and travel the world. But unwillingly they are pulled into something that is much bigger than they are. As they go along, they will meet other NPCs that they can recruit, each of which has their own side story. At the moment there are 15 NPCs designed using different classes. Some of them are very rare special NPCs that are hard to find, but that players probably will want to have in their team. Next to the NPCs, mercenaries can be recruited, who have no story and will fight for a share of the loot.
At the start you get to create the two starting characters. For that you get to choose from the four basic classes: a warrior, a ranger, an engineer and a magic user. Each of these will have five specializations to choose from. You can specialize in one of them and become very good in that or you can mix specializations and have a more diverse character, but a bit weaker in each of the specializations.
Dark Envoy can be played with a party of 4 characters. You can recruit more than 4 characters, but at any given time you can only play with 4. The sky ship your team is in, moves over a world where you can decide to inspect a location on the map more closely. Once you do that you start the exploration of the location and try not to be detected, so that you can find out what type of enemies you encounter, in order to optimize your party for that encounter and lay some traps for those enemies.
Time in the game is a precious resource, while you are exploring a location, time elapses and if you take too much time exploring, the next location you visit might become more difficult as the level of all the enemies in that location have increased too much. So the best approach is to not take too much time exploring a location, but also not to stay in a location that is not that interesting and where the rewards are low. However, you do need to fight in order to gain experience and level up your party, so you do have to fight at some point.
Dark Envoy is an open world game, so you are in theory able to fly your ship directly to the end location, but you are not able to end the game that quickly, as you will need some items that you don't have yet and which you'll need to find.
I was told the game is also a full RPG, with a main story and side stories. It is non-linear and your choices matter. It wasn't shown in the demo, but I was given the example that you could play the game as a bad person and rob the merchants, but at some point they start to know you and you will no longer be able to rob them, but you can still kill the merchants, which will have effects as well. On the other side, if you are playing as a good person, the game will throw moral choices at you.
Based on the way the player goes through the game, there is a different ending. You could for example finish the game in a very bad way. Like you defeat the end boss, but you are leaving a ravaged land behind you.
Dialogs consist of a cut-scene which is then followed by dialog options that allows the player to select one of the options. The dialogs aren't text heavy, they are actually quite light in that area, which is intentional as they don't want the players to spent their time reading a lot of information.
As mentioned before, when your party is exploring a location, the goal is to gain a tactical advantage over the enemies in that location by scouting the area. In order to avoid being detected a circle is being shown around each of the characters, indicating when your enemies will detect you. If they are inside that circle you are detected and the fight will start. To reduce the radius of the detection circle it is possible to sneak.
Combat is turn-based and if you are smart you will make sure to position your party before the combat starts, so that the combat can start on your terms. During combat, moving will require 1 action point, regardless of how much the character moves. As damage that is dealt reduces when a character is behind a cover or far away you could decide to place your weaker characters, like the mage, behind a cover and the engineer, who is shooting guns, further away. Each party member has combat abilities and 2 action points. The abilities are depending on the class and they have a range. A melee ability for a fighter usually has a short range, whereas the dash ability has a medium range and an ability involving a gun usually has a longer range. Using such an ability comes at the cost of one action point.
Participants in combat also have statuses, like burning, poisoned, stunned, etc. The damage done is relative to the level of the character that initiated the status. A high level gives a high damage.
There is quite some information that can be shown about each of the characters during combat, but if you don't like that, you can turn it off to reduce the amount of information shown. Although it wasn't really shown in the demo, certain elements of the environment that play a tactical role during combat are destructible.
Dark Envoy has item sets, including legendary sets that you can try to find during your exploration of the world. The legendary sets will give quite some bonus to whomever wears it. Next to finding items, you can also perform research in your sky ship. You can research weapons, but also skills and items. You could research for a weapon with a longer reach like a spear that is able to reach more than one grid and gives an advantage in combat. Or research very long ranged rifles. Or a short range AOE weapon, like a blunderbuss.
However during your research time passes and the enemies in the world are becoming stronger, so you have to make wise choices on how much time you are willing to spent on research. Research is performed by means of a research tree. You can only research that what you currently know. You will gain knowledge on research items during the game, but certain elements of the research tree will only become available when you have recruited a special NPC. As an example I was told that if you have recruited the mad scientist, you can create special grenades. A gunsmith NPC would allow you to research a special type of gun. But if you have both of them, a very unique item can be researched. That such a thing is possible will not be shown in any way to the player. People need to find this out themselves.
Dark Envoy supports a co-op mode for two players, where each of them will control two characters. In the real-time mode this can be much more efficient, as it is possible to explore more area and laying more traps by splitting up.
Next to that there is also a Player vs. World mode. In this mode, one player controls the party and the other is the end boss who doesn't move, but who controls a lot of opponents for the party. The goal of the player controlling the end boss is to find the party and to kill them before they come for you, as that is the goal of the player controlling the party.
Dark Envoy is scheduled for release near the end of 2020.