“You are a little mouse with a sword! And you really hate crystals!” Is how I would pitch Beast Breaker if I were in a loud bar and a mysterious stranger asked me for a game recommendation. This has not happened to me yet, but maybe it will someday.
Beast Breaker, the recently released, turn-based pinball RPG from indie developer Vodeo Games, absolutely whips. I’ve given you my loud bar pitch already, but it really undersells why I think this game is so good.
You play as Skipper, a little mouse using their Grandmother’s old, and some newly forged, weapons to defeat massive monsters made of crystal. And when I say massive, I mean massive. These things are hundreds of times your size. To defeat them, you have to break through their scales and reach their vulnerable cores before they Rampage and destroy the settlement you’re defending. This is done via a pinball-esque turn based combat system that also has, to be a bit reductive, some incredible Slay the Spire energy.
Your abilities are made up of three things. The number of steps they move you, their cost, and the effect they have when you bounce off of something. The basic sword ability, for example, sends you a number of steps forward, costs an action, and deals one damage every time you bounce off of a scale or core. Each weapon has four abilities, all with these same three traits.
Combat is all about getting into proper position by cleverly bouncing off of scales, while also managing your resources to set up huge combos. This rhythm, and resource clarity, is what earns the game its Slay the Spire comparisons.
There are four weapon types, which play wildly different from one another. The sword is built for bouncing off of everything you see, zipping around the crystal battlefield with speed and grace. The bow is a slower, more gradual burn, chipping away at armour before setting up huge bursts. And the hammer is all about big swings and building momentum. And a pair of throwing daggers, which I haven’t actually seen in-game yet.
Each of these weapon types have a bunch of variants therein, each with their own special abilities and resources to manage. This makes for a lot of different ways to break beasts.
To give an example, using the Wrecking Bow requires a ton of management. You have three primary resources when using a bow: your health, charge, and ammo. Health keeps you alive, and abilities cost charge and/or ammo. Firing your bow leaves you stationary and costs ammo, which is where the dodge roll comes in. Rolling costs 10 charge, moves you a number of steps equal to your total charge, and gives you 3 ammo. This ammo can then be used to fire the bow’s three shot types. The first is a detonation charge which costs two ammo and, on hit, has a 30% chance of detonating and doing 1 damage in a small area. The second is a priming shot which costs 10 charge and two ammo, and leaves scales unstable. When an unstable scale is hit, it explodes, then dealing 2 damage to any scales or cores around it. The third is a more standard shot that deals two damage on hit and, if it hits the master core, can delay a monster’s Rampage.
Your leftover ammo is directly converted to your next turn’s charge, so leaving arrows in your quiver is essential to setting up big combos. This means that a fight can start with rolling into position to generate ammo, ending your turn early to get enough charge, rolling twice to stock up ammo and get in position, and then unleashing priming bolts with the rest of your charge to set up next turn’s detonation. This bow plays completely differently than any other bow in the game. This is true for basically all of the weapons you’ll come across in your adventuring.
This depth and play diversity is compounded by your ability to combo different weapon parts together. Weapons can be broken into their top and bottom two abilities, and mixed with other weapons of the same type. So you could have the unstable priming charges of the explosive bow, and the scale bouncing primary fire of the [enter bow name here]. The different strategies you’re encouraged to pursue with these combos can be brain-melting to figure out, but once they click, holy shit does it feel good.
All of this depth is made possible, and approachable, by the game’s choice to surface basically all the information you could need from the outset. You know your abilities, you know where the enemy is going to attack, and you know how your resources will be converted from round to round. This takes the guesswork out of the game’s turn-based combat, and allows you to pull off some really impressive shit.
That, coupled with the game’s story about community and found family, makes Beast Breaker an incredible exemplar of what Vodeo Games claim to be all about, cosy-crunchy games. Beast Breaker manages to be challenging, and encouraging. It never asks you to do precision movements, or make quick decisions. It encourages you to take your time, relax, and play a very slow game of pinball. And when you fail, it doesn’t get mad at you. It just encourages you to try again.
It’s the kind of game that you’ll spend way too many nights staying up to play in bed, warm and satisfied.