The 1930s comes with two different realities.
First, there is the truth that the world was in turmoil. A great depression swept America, affecting the world financially, following the boom of the 1920s. And fascism was on the rise, Nazi Germany trying to take over countries one by one.
But in the fantasy world, there were stylish clothes and adventure fables, as swashbucklers and hard-nosed adventurers in faraway lands went fighting the occult, all while drinking gin cocktails.
The Lamplighters League is a game that embraces that fantasy side with an alternative version of the 1930s. It’s able to deliver a great mix that is full of atmosphere and some solid gameplay.
That gameplay combines some X-com styled turn-based strategy fighting with real-time action adventuring. But let’s first look at the intriguing story and setup. The Lamplighters League is a roster of interesting characters that you can call upon to help you in this quest, working through the 1930’s fantasy environment.
There are three evil cult groups called the Banish Court. One has a thing about squid magic and bringing back an old god. Another is using the classic Egyptian magic and mummies to cause havoc. The last is the American capitalist with a way of capturing ghosts… or something. Most importantly, all of them want to end the world and it’s up to you and the rag-tag bunch of reluctant heroes to stop them.
The setup and story work as a homage to those great adventure films of the period. It has some elegant bits of writing and the characters are all great, but you will want to find your favourites, sticking them on the frontline of the battle against evil.
In the main campaign, you are looking at selecting a three-person team to take on a mission over quite large maps. The gameplay takes place in two arenas. The first is like a real-time game where you move the characters around, hiding, collecting resources, and finding the best way forward. The next stage – and the style – will appeal more to those who have a love of turn-based strategy. Mixing these two styles works brilliantly though. The Lamplighters League feels ultra fresh, coming together successfully.
In the turn-based combat, each of the members of The Lamplighter League you can call upon has their own range of skills; different from each other. For example, one is great for sneak attacks and surprises from behind. Mind control is another element from a character called Celestine which I loved. Others make the most of brute force.
All these different ways of attacking and defending or stealing and rushing in are completely up to you, letting you approach the game in a number of ways. It’s a challenging game too – even on easy – and you will make mistakes. But even then, it’s still a lot of fun to try different ways to tackle a fight, even after you have failed before.
There is a lot of game here as well. The Lamplighters League takes a few hours before it sinks its hooks into you. By then you’ll be completely invested, working your way through the lengthy campaign even when the battles seem to continue getting trickier and trickier.
Visually, it utterly nails the 1930’s pulp fiction vibe, with some great map design and a perfect atmosphere. The character designs are also solid. There are the occasional bugs and a few glitches which pop up from time to time, but there’s not too much in the negativity to write home about.
The soundtrack is amazing and once again plays as a brilliant homage to the pulp fiction action adventure journey. It is fully voiced-over with great wit and panache from all the performers.
I am not normally a fan of this genre, but there is something about the story and tone of The Lamplighters League that has pulled me in – and it will do you too. Get used to the gameplay, the possibilities and the strategies at play and this is a game that becomes highly addictive.
In fact, if you’re in trouble, you should know who to call – The Lamplighters League.