One of my favourite genre hybrids just got a huge kick in the pants, courtesy of Robot Circus' Ticket to Earth. It combines tile matching and strategic positioning in a way I've never seen.
Available today for iOS and coming soon to PC, Ticket To Earth is an evolutionary leap forward in the puzzle/RPG hybrid genre. Instead of the puzzle being where the action is and the various characters and enemies little more than portraits framing the board, Ticket to Earth hero Rose fights atop the board, running along the paths traced by the player as they connect coloured squares.
As she travels the board, two actions per turn, Rose gains attack power for each space she walks, using it to take out the robotic, human and mutant enemies she encounters. The four colours represent disciplines Rose has access to, each assigned its own special skill that charges as she treads on the corresponding hue. Fill a discipline's power meter and Rose can unleash a special attack, damaging foes and manipulating the board with her special skills.
There's also positioning to consider. Enemies move around the board each turn as well, travelling the colours in the same way Rose does. It's up to the player to decide when to keep their distance and when to close in for combat.
Check out the video below for a better sense of how this all plays out. It's pretty outstanding.
On top of the supremely satisfying game mechanics, Ticket to Earth also has a killer sense of style and an actual story that will unfold over multiple chapters. Rose lives on a remote Earth colony in the far future. The first ship from the colonists' home planet is arriving in a few weeks, but the high price of a ticket home is causing extreme civil unrest among the downtrodden citizens. In the midst of this chaos someone starts waking the massive insects that rest beneath to colony's soil. Then the robots start doing horrible, horrible things.
Ticket to Earth is a premium game with no microtransactions. Currently on sale on iTunes for $5.99, the initial purchase covers the dozens of missions in the first chapter of the game as well as subsequent chapters. It would be a bargain if it were only what I've managed to play over the past couple of hours.
This is where I hoped the puzzle RPG would be years ago, when the Puzzle Quest folks decided they'd rather do licensed free-to-play games instead of furthering the hybrid genre. Well done, Ticket to Earth.