Antihero Review - An Honest Review about 'Honest Thieving'
Antihero is strategy game published by indie developer, Versus Evil -- the same publisher who developed the Banner Saga. It is created by Tim Conkling, who created the flash game Corpse Craft: Incident at Weardd Academy, which is also a strategy game with a similar dark aesthetic.
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In Antihero's story based campaign mode, you take on the role of Master Thief, playing either as Lightfinger or his friend, Emma. As Master Thief of your own guild, you must defeat other crime leaders -- using bribes, blackmail, and assassinations to come out on top.
Stab, Plunder, Blackmail. Repeat?
Time to conquer everything!
The Basics of Being a Crime Lord
Overall, I found the gameplay addicting and really easy to learn. Taking on the role as Master Thief, you can hire special units to help you succeed against the AI. There are urchins who infiltrate buildings, bodyguards who block the path of your opponent, gangs to help beat up baddies, and so many others! For the first three levels, the game takes its time to teach you the basics and gradually introduces more aspects to its gameplay.
Time to rob somebody.
At its core, the gameplay reminded me of some resource management table top games such as Settlers of Catan or Lords of Waterdeep, except with a twist of debauchery. To win against your opponent, you have to gather enough "Victory Points" which come in the form of obtaining information to blackmail people, assassinating a specific figure on the map, or gaining bribes.
In order to do so, you need to gather two types of resources: gold and lanterns. Lanterns unlock perks in the guild to assist you in your goals such as gaining more character types to hire or power ups for your Master Thief. Whereas coins are used to hire more thugs to help you against your enemy.
Initially, I was afraid that the formula of earning Victory Points would make the game boring. However depending on the level, Victory Points are achieved differently. For example, instead of gaining five Victory Points the usual way, in one level I had to break into the royal palace and steal their treasure before my other Victory Points counted.
Don't take the children! The urchins like that orphanage! Nooo!
This was a welcome change that prevented monotonous gameplay. In addition, the first few crime bosses I came up against had different strategies on how they obtained their Victory Points. One was more aggressive than the others, and thus assassinated more while the other would wait to gain enough resources in order to obtain blackmail. It made it so you had to adapt to each enemy's strategy, which made it even more addicting.
Creepy and Charming
So it's Lightfoot versus those eight scary, criminal characters? Oh dear.
When I first started playing Antihero's story mode, I found myself drawn to its ironic aesthetic. Even though it deals with dark criminal machinations, the art style has a creepy charm to it -- similar to Don't Starve characters, while still being original.
The cutscenes played out as comics, while a British narrator framed the story. It was a very nice touch to add to its Dickensian atmosphere.
More Game, Less Story
Lightfinger, I don't know why someone wanting to kill you is a surprise. It's not like you're the leader of some uprising guild. Oh wait.
Even though the gameplay is very enjoyable, I found that the "story-based campaign" took a backseat to the over-arching strategy gameplay. Initially the comic book format with a narrator was charming however as it went on, it was only a brief moment before a long tactical battle.
The story presents itself in an overly serious tone while failing to raise the stakes because in gameplay as a Master Thief, nothing can hurt you; only hire-able units could be eliminated.
What I believe could have helped is if the narrator dramatized more while telling the story. He had a very steady tone throughout all the cutscenes that didn't add a sense of dread to Lightfinger's dilemmas.
Overall, Antihero is a fun, addicting game for those who like both resource management and intrigue. It prods players to adapt to different strategies and goals to beat your opponents. Despite its formulaic gameplay, it doesn't tire its concept and alters the winning formula which is a welcome challenge for players.
Although it has a Dickensian atmosphere and charming art, its story doesn't shine through its aesthetic. So it's not for those who are in it for the story. However if you want to plot against your enemies and eventually your friends (once Antihero releases their online gameplay), you'll spend hours on end to defeat them.
Antihero is available for purchase on Steam.
Note: The developer provided a copy of the game for the purposes of this review.