Bipedal cupcakes and mushrooms, spiders with knee-length socks, and rainbow-colored unicorns…sounds like a fantasy zoo straight out of the mind of Lewis Carroll or Dr. Seuss doesn’t it? These are just some of the many odd creatures that populate the fantastically bizarre, apocalyptic world of Pit People. Pit People is a strategy role-playing game that features tactical turn-based combat and a heaping portion of humor. It’s been incubating in Steam Early Access for a little over a year and is getting close to breaking free of the beta stage, so I figured now was a great time to give it a go.
You start Pit People as Horatio, a simple berry farmer doing what berry farmers do: minding his own business and trying to avoid all the crazy that surrounds him. Horatio sucks at doing both of these and when we catch up with him there’s acid rain falling by the globule and a pack of roaming ruffians looking to kill him and eat his son. It goes from bad to worse when it becomes clear the game’s narrator—a chaotic-neutral space bear with godlike powers and too much time on his hands—is behind the attack.
You’ve heard of an unreliable narrator? Well this guy is downright evil…and hilarious. I’m talking laugh out loud funny. He gets all the best lines and is a scene stealer to boot. He goes on my Mount Rushmore of game narrators along with the guys from Bastion, Darkest Dungeon, and Dungeon Keeper. [The dealer from Hand of Fate would like to have a word with you. -ed.] Super powerful demi-god narrator or not, Horatio isn’t taking crap from anybody. Certainly not a jerk of a bear who destroyed his farm house and [SPOILER] his son. On that day in the burning rain a quest is born.
There are a lot of quests in Pit People, headlined by this main quest line—Horatio’s story. He and a growing cast of critters band together to go up against the malevolent narrator bear and the world at large. Emerging victorious from one of the story quests also serves to foil the narrator’s schemes, which really pisses him off. The bear is quite funny when pissed so for a good time you’ll want to foil him as much as possible. There are also a bevy of shorter side quests to grab and run whenever you like as well.
You can also just, you know, cruise around and check out the world. It is large, and jam packed with interesting, strange, and downright terrifying things. Exploring is half the fun in Pit People, at least judging by the fact that about half the time I go out on a quest I end up getting distracted by something else along the way. These distractions usually turn into fights with one group of weirdos or another, but they are only getting what they deserved.
Combat is turn-based and focused on board position. Unlike most tactical RPGs you don’t pick your character’s targets, they choose for themselves based on where they stand in relation to their foes. Understanding how best to move and position your fighters based on how their attacks work is central to combat in Pit People and can get your brain twisted in knots. Battlegrounds are littered with hazards and obstacles, meaning a keen strategist can take advantage of choke points and other environmental perks.
Claiming victory in battle earns you coin and also allows you to grow your stable of characters. When you battle another group in Pit People you can capture their last fighter standing, throw them in a cage, and drag them back home. By the time you arrive, voila, you have a new member of Team Horatio. There are a wide variety of different creatures, each with their own style and combat capabilities. Collectors will revel in the joy of catching them all and optimizers will drool at the tactical options of different character combinations in combat.
I’ve only played the single-player game thus far—the co-operative multiplayer looks cool and I plan to check it out soon—but I’m really enjoying it. The art, atmosphere, and overall aesthetic can only be described as bizarre, and while that often turns me off, with Pit People I like it and find it adds a lot of character. Going out into the world, taking on some crazy creatures, and capturing an interesting opponent to use in a future foray is really quite compelling. I’ve found myself picking fights based on the type of creature I think I might be able to cage and convert to my side. The game is also often a riot and the narrator has gotten plenty of laughs out of me. I’m looking forward to collecting all of the creatures, seeing where the story goes, and showing the narrator, he messed with the wrong berry farmer.
Pit People is currently on Steam Early Access and Xbox One and the current version is the last before the full release. The fine folks at The Behemoth are hard at work completing the full campaign, additional story quests, and a new world map with bonus missions. They don’t have a firm release date yet but are aiming for sometime in the first few months of 2018.