Restoring our faith in Early Access – The Nightmare Cooperative
Scotland is the home of many great things, such as: Bagpipes, kilts, this website, haggis and a crippling obesity problem. Okay, so some of those things aren’t so great, but did you know that Scotland is also home some of the world’s finest game developers? We’re sure you already know of big developers such as Rockstar North, but away from the AAA glamour there are studios trying to carve out their own piece of the games market. Lucky Frame, from Edinburgh, are a small indie studio who have, since 2008, been developing games and music software; their latest project, The Nightmare Cooperative, might just be the game to make them a household name.
The Nightmare Cooperative is one of those deceptively simple titles that will, once you have grasped its quirks, delight and frustrate. The premise is very simple: after falling on hard times, your village send you out on a mission to acquire vast wealth with which the town can be saved. You and your band of adventurers are tasked with collecting loot, killing monsters, avoiding traps and making new friends. Each self-contained level is small in size but packed with money and danger.
At its core The Nightmare Cooperative is a strategic roguelike game. The most basic goal in each level is to navigate your adventurers to the exit with as little damage as possible. However, all characters move in the same direction at the same time, which can lead to some interesting conundrums. Moving in the wrong direction can leave one or all of your characters boxed in against a horde of monsters, so you will always need to think a few steps ahead. The pursuit of loot can also endanger your characters if you aren’t careful. We found that the best strategy was to move most of our characters to safety and then navigate the map with a lone adventurer. This lowers the overall threat to your team, but raises the immediate danger to your lone character.
Each level features health and mana potions and various chests. Opening a chest will award you with gold, but could also unleash a number of nasties into the level. You aren’t entirely defenceless though
.Each character comes with its own class and special skill. So far we have encountered mages, warriors, archers and ninjas. As you’d imagine, warrior characters are great for dealing massive damage to enemies, face-to-face, archers can attack enemies at distance, ninjas can teleport across the map and mages can cast spells on enemies that are on a tile diagonal to the on that they are on.
As well as featuring items and monsters, some levels also feature a selection of characters that can join your party. Depending on your style of play you can veto one class for another – depending on the classes you have to choose from. On our more successful runs we found ourselves impatiently waiting for new characters to appear, so that we could bolster our party’s defences.
The Nightmare Cooperative sounds like a simple game, and it is, but it also has some real depth, too. Each level is randomly generated, meaning that you can’t rely on the same movement patterns and strategies. To be successful you must survey the area and know when to cut your losses and limp towards the exit. The game is cripplingly difficult, but joyfully so. We never felt hard done by whilst playing, and were compelled to continue playing to better our previous scores.
Early Access games have had a bad rep recently, and it is no surprise with some of the garbage that is floating around, but The Nightmare Cooperative singlehandedly restores our faith in the initiative. It may still be early in developement, but it is truly a delight to play.
You can play a prototype of The Nightmare Cooperative here