Written by Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
It’s 1911 and the coastal cities have been flooded. Avenues are underwater and people move around over the rooftops of the many buildings in the iconic city of New York. The people who remained found themselves in a terrifying crisis, where different gangs have taken over the city and any form of society is now long gone. You will have to help solve the crisis in Empyre: Lord of the Sea Gates, moving around in this steampunk world from rooftop to rooftop in an attempt to save the city.
Empyre is a very story rich game that throws you into an adventure where you will get to influence the direction of the story. In the campaign you get to choose between four characters, each one with their own set of abilities and styles of playing. I went with a character that used a rifle and had a pretty good aim along with it. This helped me to take out enemies from afar, instead of going up close and either sneaking past them or stabbing them in the back.
Since the story still follows a set plot, there isn’t necessarily a lot of moving around in the city by yourself. Frequently you are thrown into a different part of the city, and have to search for a quest objective yourself. The maps aren’t necessarily all too linear, and thus sometimes you will actually have to look around, making you interact with the environment some more. This is a nice touch, especially in turn-based games, that brings the RPG elements a bit more forward. On your journey to attempt to fix the crisis you will meet with different personas with their own set of tools and abilities, and you will have to come up with a proper strategy so you ensure you will get the least amount of injuries progressing through the levels.
I really have high expectations for the controls of turn-based games; after all, the game is mostly played by clicking on the ground, and using hotkeys to use your tools or abilities. The controls seem clunky in EMPYRE: Lords of the Sea Gates. While the game does use the expected control system, sometimes it really is hard to tell what you specifically clicked and what exactly your character is about to do. The game also isn’t really turn based in the traditional way, where you only get a few interactions per character and then let your enemies move; it is instead a constant flow of interactions with no actual breaks in between. The game does pause itself when you are in the specific mode to do your interactions, but you can do almost everything on the fly and the game is rather fast paced considering it resembles turn based fighting.
Since the game tries its hardest to be a RPG, there are a few progression systems in place. Like when a character levels up, you get skill points to spend on skills that make your character stronger in one way or another. But since the characters are all different from each other, leveling is very linear and straight forward. If you have taken a stealth character, you obviously aren’t going to level up a lot ranged attacks, and vice versa. There are a few skills that help you pick locks better, notice things around the world, or improve your social interactions, but so far I haven’t seen a lot of effect from this as the missions are very straight forward, and usually just require you to clear levels. Besides the progression, your character will also be able to find loot and money. With money obviously better equipment or items can be bought, but weapons or other nifty tools can also be found that you can use on your missions.
Empyre tries its absolute hardest to focus on the rich story, and the adventure itself of saving the alternative New York. While saving the city, you will kill everyone on your path, be it gangsters or the police. No one is able to walk away freely, and I do have to say this turns me a little off from the story. You are essentially trying to save everyone and be unlike the rest, by doing the exact same thing the criminals are doing in the game. I’m not really sure that’s the right way of saving the city, but I thought it was a little ironic. Empyre does offer a very interesting RPG in a steampunk world and it is definitely a game to consider if you enjoy isometric RPGs. Find it now on Steam!
Note: A game key was provided for review purposes.