“I find myself wondering what life was like before the Bear crashed into our frail planet…”
From this opening line of dialogue and the accompanying cinematic, it becomes immediately apparent that the world of Pit People is nothing like anything we’ve quite seen before. While you can see inspiration is taken from all kinds of places, the world of Pit People is something completely different. Of course, game studio The Behemoth has built a reputation of creating absurdist genre-breaking games that are an absolute pleasure to play. Pit People looks to continue that trend, but perhaps in a genre that I can truly get behind. I’ve had the privilege of playing Pit People last year at RTX 2015 and earlier this year at PAX East 2016. Behemoth built custom arcade cabinets for their demos at these conventions and made it a truly unique gameplay experience. At PAX East they were asking taking sign-ups for the closed beta on Xbox One, but I had hoped they would eventually do one for PC. That wish came true this past week. Behemoth has been running a closed Beta for PC players through Steam the past few days. What is now playable is much bigger than what I’ve played before, and getting a feel for the game of PC gives me a better of what I can expect when the full game hits sometime next year.
Just tell Horatio where to go
For those of you not familiar with the concept behind Pit People, the game is a turn-based strategy RPG akin to Fire Emblem where you control a group of characters to defeat the opposing side. Each fight takes place on a map of hexagonal tiles and players must use a combination of unique skills, equipment, and strategies to lead your team to victory. Your crew of heroes will automatically attack enemies after moving, so all you have to do is think carefully where you tell them to go. There’s a bit more to it than that, but you learn what you need to know as the game progresses.
Outside of combat, the player can explore an open world to fight enemies, recruit new allies, complete side-quests, or progress the story through larger quests. Players can also fight in the titular Pit to gain experience or fight against strangers or friends online. Even though the beta doesn’t carry over progress to the full game, there’s a ton of stuff to try out and explore. This all might seem somewhat generic, but in typical Behemoth fashion a lot of these mechanics are tweaked and twisted into something unique. And that’s particularly true for the story.
As you could probably tell from the first line of dialogue at the beginning, the story of Pit People is insane (in a good way). You’re introduced to a chaotic post-apocalyptic world where a Bear with acidic blood has crashed causing all kinds of Mad Max inspired insanity. All be it far more colorful. The main character of the game is Horatio, a simple blueberry farmer whose world is turned upside when bandits attack his farm and kill him and his son. This is all ordered by the narrator and primary antagonist, who is voiced by absolutely hilarious Stamper. What follows is a hysterical adventure where Horatio is joined by badass princess Pipistrella (the names are great in this game), Demiclops Yosef, Spanish Conquistador Sofia (for L’Espania!), and sentient Cupcake Gluten. Did I mention the names are great?! And that’s just to name a few as you recruit all kinds of characters to join you to build up your army and take on whatever comes your way. For the record, my sixth recruit was a “Rainbow Horse” named Paige.
A Feast for the senses
In case you couldn’t tell from the footage the game is stunning. The beautiful 2D art style that The Behemoth is known for comes to life in Pit People with diverse and creative environments. You get the sense that while this is a dangerous world, it also seems like a ton of fun. My kind of apocalypse. Combine the environments with an amazing soundtrack and you’ll find there’s a lot to enjoy. There’s also a lot to take in as you might find your eyes darting around the screen trying to take everything in. One of the downsides of Pit People is that the game is visually very cluttered. While the game attempts to explain everything to you, it’s very easy to miss something and not be aware of what certain menus or options do. Perhaps that’s something they’ll fix in the full game.
Speaking of Curveballs
As I mentioned earlier, this was the first time I had played the game on PC. This was also the first time I played with a mouse and keyboard and also immediately noticed the differences. I’m not talking about different buttons; the game feels much more loose with a mouse and keyboard in comparison to rigid movements of a control stick. In fact, it’s too loose. You will occasionally lose track of your cursor and wonder what you’ve selected when you’re attempting to make important strategic decisions. Plus the UI is geared for an Xbox controller. Green ‘A’ button prompts just have the word “Space” on them instead. Hitting the enter button to end a turn shows the same ‘Y’ button animation if you had hit the ‘Y’ button on a controller. It’s jarring enough that I hope that they’re going to change that in the final PC version.
Never know when to quit
My minor gripes aside, I’m looking forward to full version of Pit People. The combat is immensely satisfying, the writing is hilarious, the world is vast, and the difficulty is just right. The game should be out sometime next year (hopefully) so get ready to enter the Pit to fight for your life. Or just make friends with Cupcakes named Scrumptious, it’s up to you.