My first foray into Skyshine’s BEDLAM was certainly an interesting affair and one doozy of a learning experience. Having played many titles from the RPG, rogue-like and tactical genres, I decided to dive in head first. This was a horrible mistake as I quickly found myself and my rag-tag crew of wasteland survivors being gunned down by nasty shotgun-wielding mutants. After beating a hasty retreat to the main menu, I decided to take a gander at the tutorial videos that explain nearly all of the basic concepts. The next run went more smoothly, but the crew still met an untimely demise.
Skyshine’s BEDLAM is a rogue-like tactical turn-based RPG set in a vast post-apocalyptic wasteland full of strange characters and random encounters. As the Mechanic aboard your very own Dozer (a mobile tank-like base, of sorts), it is your mission to guide your passengers and crew to Aztec City, where apparent salvation awaits. Sounds simple enough, right? That’s what you think. While the Dozer is a veritable tank, and an impenetrable fortress on wheels, it is not without it’s downsides. For starters, it requires fuel, and that fuel can be found scattered about the wasteland in the form of Crude. Crude is earned by winning battles, finding it on the map, or as a reward for random encounters.
The Dozer eats up Crude at certain rates per day, but once you run out, your Dozer no longer moves and the game is considered over. The other resource you need is Meat, and it’s use is pretty obvious: every day spent exploring is another day of your freeloading passengers eating more of your food. The last and possibly most useful, and rarest, resources are Power Cells. These are also earned from battles and random encounters, and are used to increase a few key abilities, like decreasing the amount of Crude and Meat you consume each day. These abilities are important to grab extremely early on, as they help you to make it further in the wasteland and inch ever closer to the Aztec City.
The combat scenarios you find yourself in are where you are going to spend the majority of your time with BEDLAM. The game utilizes a grid-based tactical system, where each character occupies a square on the grid. Each side has two action points with which to spend on any combination of their characters for any combination of actions. You can move a character then have them attack, or move that same character twice to cover more distance. Two characters can also attack the same enemy, or retreat away from the heat of battle to recover. There are a lot of options with this system, and the most time is spent figuring out the best moves for each turn.
The crew is made up of four different classes: Deadeyes, Frontliners, Gunslingers, and Trenchers. Deadeyes are the long-range snipers, able to deal a hefty chunk of damage per turn, provided that are in the sniper “sweet spot” and can hit their target. Deadeyes have extremely low health and mobility, and are only able to move a couple of spaces per action. Keep these guys out of harm’s way and you can get a lot of use out of them. Frontliners are the damage sponges, boasting the highest HP pool out of any of your characters. Armed with what resembles an elongated plasma hack saw and a huge steel riot shield, these guys are going to be out in the heat of battle drawing enemy attention. Frontliners are best used to distract enemies while your other classes do their jobs and tear enemies to shreds.
Gunslingers are a balanced class, able to move a respectable distance each turn and have decent attack ranges. Wielding dual-pistols, these characters are able to engage most enemies on your terms and come out on top. Hit and run tactics work best for them if you can manage it. Last but not least, we have the Trenchers: shotgun-wielding units that excel at in-your-face combat, blasting enemies backwards several spaces giving your other units some breathing room. With decent health and movement ranges, the Trenchers are very useful alongside the Gunslingers in dealing massive damage to your opponents.
Careful planning can prevent unnecessary deaths, which is extremely important considering that permadeath is a constant feature within the game, as with most other rogue-likes. Take extra care when planning your attacks, as one wrong move can result in your entire team being wiped out, and you will then have less units to work with in future encounters. Speaking of being wiped out, something your enemies might do if battles drag out for too long is a Blitz Attack. This enables your team to take several actions at once, which usually results in the death of one or more of your units — if not all of them. This Blitz generally occurs after 10-12 turns, so it’s in your best interest to wrap up combat encounters in as few turns as possible. While this mechanic adds a sense of urgency or desperation to encounters, it feels a bit overpowered and unfair.
During combat, you encounter quite a number of enemies from a few different factions: Rogue AI, Cyborgs, Mutants, and Marauders. Each faction looks and feels different, and also behaves differently in combat. You can also find Crude, Meat, and Power Cells scattered around each battlefield. Picking these up significantly increases your stock of resources and helps your Dozer make it further into the wasteland, meaning access to higher-tiered content and tougher encounters. You can attempt to collect them all, but beware — sometimes these resources are traps, that explode on the unit that picks them up.
In addition to your units, you also have access to Powers and Special Weapons for your Dozer. These cost Power Cells to use, but are extremely helpful, providing one of the few ways to heal your units or to deal damage to a group of enemies. As your units get kills under their belts, they grow in rank, earning them boosted health and damage output as a result. Units that have ranked up can change in colour and appearance. Higher ranking units are much tougher to kill, so ensuring that kills are accumulated as much as possible means that units can survive in even tougher situations.
The game itself is pretty gorgeous. Offering a unique art style, it’s very pleasing to the eye and can be extremely detailed. This is especially true on the map when your Dozer is travelling in between locations. Battle animations are very fluid and well-done, and sometimes a bit over-the-top. One time, I had an encounter with a uniquely designed gunslinger fellow who literally shot the skin off of several of my units…and it was a glorious sight to behold. I ultimately lost that battle, but if I had won, I would have been able to recruit that guy to my team of units. Special encounters with named units are rare and fairly spread out, but if you are able to defeat them you can then persuade them to come aboard your Dozer to join your team. These special encounters are among the most challenging of all, meaning that careful planning is critical to success. These characters are powerful and a great asset to have on your side.
Skyshine’s BEDLAM, overall, is an extremely challenging rogue-like RPG. It offers a fresh take on the genre, with a futuristic setting and an interesting mish-mash of mechanics. While battles can sometimes feel extremely unfair or one-sided, it does offer what hardcore fans of this genre really enjoy – a challenge. It is definitely worth checking out and spending several hours playing into the wee hours of the morning. I highly recommend this title for all, as it can provide endless hours of brutal but enjoying adventures trying to perfect your route to the Aztec City.
Superb rogue-like with great tactical battles
Use everything at your disposal to reach the Aztec City. Make some friends and enemies along the way.