If you like miniature battle games and enormous fantasy books that are sure to do a d12’s worth of damage if you throw them at someone, then fantasy author Brandon Sanderson and Subnautica developer Unknown Worlds might just have something cool in store for you. Moonbreaker, a new “turn-based strategy, tabletop tactics game,” as the title’s Steam page describes it, is due out this September and it promises some engaging gameplay, vibrant visuals, and the ability to paint your own miniatures with an in-game set of tools.
Announced today at Gamescom’s Opening Night Live, Unknown Worlds game director Charlie Cleveland took to the stage to chat with Mr. I-Don’t-Drink-Coffee Keighley about the studio’s next game. Noting that the team behind Natural Selection and Subnautica “love changing genres,” Cleveland described Moonbreaker as a “digital miniatures game” inspired by the tone of Guardians of the Galaxy and Firefly. The title will feature an in-game set of painting tools to customise your own virtual minis. Cleveland also discussed some of what we can look forward to in the gameplay, but that wasn’t all. In a pre-recorded video that rolled just before the gameplay reveal, celebrated fantasy author Brandon Sanderson announced that he’s dedicating his talents to building the universe of this new title.
Sanderson’s no stranger to epic fantasy worlds or video games. A dedicated worldbuilder who devotes considerable amounts of attention to gritty in-world details such as intricate magic systems with their own internal logic and rules, he’s not only written wildly popular titles like the Mistborn series, but he had the distinct honour of finishing Robert Jordan’s legendary Wheel of Time novels, as the original author passed away in 2007. He also recently challenged the status quo of publishing with his “Surprise! Four Secret Novels” Kickstarter, where he pretended to retire from writing before revealing that he just randomly wrote four novels during the pandemic, because ok, fine make it look that easy, Mr. Sanderson. He regularly dishes about the writing process on his YouTube channel.
In the Gamescom announcement video, Sanderson described his work crafting the “expansive sci-fi universe” of Moonbreaker as a difficult secret to keep. Following that, the first trailer showed off what looks like the best parts of Dungeons & Dragons tabletop combat distilled into a very vivid sci-fi tactical brawl fest. The combat sure looks engaging and fun, and according to Charlie Cleveland, you’ll get to take on the role of a captain with a crew, deploying unique minis with a variety of “game-breaking” powers that Cleveland described as “Hearthstone meets XCOM, kinda.” But that’s only one side of what makes this game look so interesting. The other, of course, is that it aims to bring the fun of painting your own miniatures to life by giving you, the player, the tools to tweak and customise the look of your minis.
Inspired by Cleveland’s own discovery of the joy of drawing and painting, a hobby he got into to cope with the lockdown during the pandemic, the director said “you can’t have a miniatures game without painting.” He described the in-game tools as very approachable, “not like Photoshop or special technical tools.” It cuts to the chase to simulate “washes, dry brushing [and] decals” to capture the most fun moments of painting. He also revealed that all the miniatures in the game were painted with the in-game toolset, so you’ll get to use the very resources the team used to bring these minis to life.
Moonbreaker is playable at Gamescom, if you’re lucky enough to be there, and it’s set for a Steam Early Access release date of September 29. You can sign up for the playtest on the game’s Steam page, which will run for a few weekends next month ahead of the 29th.