Review: Skyshine’s Bedlam

The world ended, as it tends to happen in the future, and aside from a giant overcrowded metropolis there are just badlands, criminals, mutants and cyborgs, death and pillage everywhere. It’s no wonder they gave it such an apt name: Bedlam!

Genre(s): Tactical | Adventure

Developer: Skyshine

Publisher: Versus Evil

Release Date: March 2016

Played: Main campaign

Platforms: PC

Purchase At: Steam

Good:

  • Interesting world.

  • Awesome art style.

Bad:

  • Shallow combat.

  • Characters lose personality.

  • No meaningful decisions.

Review

The premise of Bedlam is fairly simple: You live in an overcrowded metropolis surrounded by the endless wastelands of Bedlam. But rumours spread of a mythical city, another haven for survivors and a true paradise: Aztec City. But to reach it you need four relics in the hand of Bedlam’s self-appointed ruler, King Viscera—if the name doesn’t give his evil-ness away, I don’t know what will—and of course, survive the various factions.

The world of Bedlam is fascinating. There’s a deep well of history and lore in it, the many wars humanity fought that eventually led to the apocalypse, the radiation poisoning and the mutations in the populace. Everywhere you go you find traces and remnants and get to know this desert world a bit more. In many ways it reminds me of Mad Max, a grim world where survival is the key and hope is scarce, but it has elements of Borderlands as well, because the Bedlam is home to outlandish and some over the top personalities…at least when you meet them. They tend to lose their uniqueness when they join you. There are also dozens of references to other media. I’m only shocked I didn’t run into the Six String Samurai.

Skyshine's Bedlam

Now we only need the Six String Samurai to join!

Bedlam is part strategy game and part text adventure, in the same vein as The Banner Saga or Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! Where your caravan travels across the land and has encounters where your choices determine what happens. The problems is your choices matter very little in the grand scheme of things, they have an immediate effect on the encounter but don’t alter those in the future. I often met the same trader and not once did he show any sign of recognition, even though your armoured truck is very famous in Bedlam, so it’s not likely he’s forgotten you.

Characters, as I mentioned, have unique personalities when you meet them but once they decide to join you they’re just units in battle. Whereas The Banner Saga kept them around for conversations and you got to know them beyond just their stats, you won’t ever converse with your minions, they’re just there to send out to battle. And it’s a shame since many of them have lots of potential for storytelling. Your ‘main’ character is The Mechanic, the last of his kind and yet you never hear from him, there’s no camaraderie between him and the others who joined in this quest.

Skyshine's Bedlam

Riding through this world, all alone…and with a thousand passengers in this tin can!

As you roll out into Bedlam and fight for your life, you also worry about three resources: fuel, meat and power cells. The last ones power optional systems on your truck and power special abilities on the battlefield. Not character abilities, those don’t exist, but instead buffs and weaponry coming from the truck. Of the three, this is the easiest to come by but there are plenty of opportunities to find the others. One thing I love about the game and consider an anti-frustration feature is how victory in combat rewards you a bit of all three resources, as you scavenge and loot for supplies from your fallen foes.

When you’re riding through the great dangerous and psychotic outback, you need some nice tunes and in the Bedlam you’ll find a mixed bag of music. Conversations and scenarios have a western-style tune, but with lower pitch notes, giving it a sombre feel befitting this apocalyptic wasteland. But the overworld map’s music on the other hand is very low in volume, almost muted when a more powerful and memorable piece could’ve done wonders here. Combat has a nice melody but it could use some variety, as it can get repetitive after a while. One thing that never gets old though is the voiced commentary in combat. It’s not a play-by-play but an occasional voice shouting “Headshot!” or some other words. Felt like a spectator talking about a match and I could picture the people in the truck cheering and shouting as the battles rage on.

Skyshine's Bedlam

A recently fixed glitch that plagued my playthrough and delayed this review

From the moment I saw Bedlam’s visual style I found it extremely attractive, as the character portraits, units and maps all seem drawn by the same artists working on the Judge Dredd comics. Stark shadows, strong features and monstrous visages all give colour and personality to the Bedlam. When I realised how similar it looked, I thought of the metropolis you abandon in your hunt for Aztec City as Megacity One.

I love tactics games, I like the strategy of moving around units, flanking enemies and of course customising the characters to match my play style—clumsy, with no common sense but a lot of luck and offense—so I found bedlam’s combat to be extremely shallow. It’s really just point and hit and hope for the best. Character and enemy damage swings wildly and it’s never clear what influences the damage dealt. Reading on the notes released by the developers for the latest patches, I found that movement affected damage—which is thoroughly dislike. Characters that move deal less damage in that turn, but my experience was a lack of consistency on this. Sometimes they would deal minimal damage even while standing still.

Skyshine's Bedlam

Look amazing, but no personality!

Character classes and races have their specialties and passive abilities but they all share them, with no possibility of improving individual characters, giving them skills or make them unique. Means all Frontliners are the same in the end as long as they have the same level. It feels lacking. I do love how much the damage goes up when your characters level up, but I hate that it’s permadeath on characters. You fight enemies dealing monumental amounts of damage to your crew…it feels like playing Iron Man XCOM, it gets that frustrating.

The premise of Bedlam is fairly simple: You live in an overcrowded metropolis surrounded by the endless wastelands of Bedlam. But rumours spread of a mythical city, another haven for survivors and a true paradise: Aztec City. But to reach it you need four relics in the hand of Bedlam’s self-appointed ruler, King Viscera—if the name doesn’t give his evil-ness away, I don’t know what will—and of course, survive the various factions.

Skyshine's Bedlam

I love beating bad guys and getting resources! It’s awesome!

The world of Bedlam is fascinating. There’s a deep well of history and lore in it, the many wars humanity fought that eventually led to the apocalypse, the radiation poisoning and the mutations in the populace. Everywhere you go you find traces and remnants and get to know this desert world a bit more. In many ways it reminds me of Mad Max, a grim world where survival is the key and hope is scarce, but it has elements of Borderlands as well, because the Bedlam is home to outlandish and some over the top personalities…at least when you meet them. They tend to lose their uniqueness when they join you.

Bedlam is part strategy game and part text adventure, in the same vein as The Banner Saga or Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! Where your caravan travels across the land and has encounters where your choices determine what happens. The problems is your choices matter very little in the grand scheme of things, they have an immediate effect on the encounter but don’t alter those in the future. I often met the same trader and not once did he show any sign of recognition, even though your armoured truck is very famous in Bedlam, so it’s not likely he’s forgotten you.

Characters, as I mentioned, have unique personalities when you meet them but once they decide to join you they’re just units in battle. Whereas The Banner Saga kept them around for conversations and you got to know them beyond just their stats, you won’t ever converse with your minions, they’re just there to send out to battle. And it’s a shame since many of them have lots of potential for storytelling. Your ‘main’ character is The Mechanic, the last of his kind and yet you never hear from him, there’s no camaraderie between him and the others who joined in this quest.

As you roll out into Bedlam and fight for your life, you also worry about three resources: fuel, meat and power cells. The last ones power optional systems on your truck and power special abilities on the battlefield. Not character abilities, those don’t exist, but instead buffs and weaponry coming from the truck. Of the three, this is the easiest to come by but there are plenty of opportunities to find the others. One thing I love about the game and consider an anti-frustration feature is how victory in combat rewards you a bit of all three resources, as you scavenge and loot for supplies from your fallen foes.

Skyshine's Bedlam

Choose your adventure and see where they take you!

When you’re riding through the great dangerous and psychotic outback, you need some nice tunes and in the Bedlam you’ll find a mixed bag of music. Conversations and scenarios have a western-style tune, but with lower pitch notes, giving it a sombre feel befitting this apocalyptic wasteland. But the overworld map’s music on the other hand is very low in volume, almost muted when a more powerful and memorable piece could’ve done wonders here. Combat has a nice melody but it could use some variety, as it can get repetitive after a while. One thing that never gets old though is the voiced commentary in combat. It’s not a play-by-play but an occasional voice shouting “Headshot!” or some other words. Felt like a spectator talking about a match and I could picture the people in the truck cheering and shouting as the battles rage on.

From the moment I saw Bedlam’s visual style I found it extremely attractive, as the character portraits, units and maps all seem drawn by the same artists working on the Judge Dredd comics. Stark shadows, strong features and monstrous visages all give colour and personality to the Bedlam. When I realised how similar it looked, I thought of the metropolis you abandon in your hunt for Aztec City as Megacity One.

Skyshine's Bedlam

Lots to do, lots to find, lots to fight!

I love tactics games, I like the strategy of moving around units, flanking enemies and of course customising the characters to match my play style—clumsy, with no common sense but a lot of luck and offense—so I found bedlam’s combat to be extremely shallow. It’s really just point and hit and hope for the best. Character and enemy damage swings wildly and it’s never clear what influences the damage dealt. Reading on the notes released by the developers for the latest patches, I found that movement affected damage—which is thoroughly dislike. Characters that move deal less damage in that turn, but my experience was a lack of consistency on this. Sometimes they would deal minimal damage even while standing still.

Character classes and races have their specialties and passive abilities but they all share them, with no possibility of improving individual characters, giving them skills or make them unique. Means all Frontliners are the same in the end as long as they have the same level. It feels lacking. I do love how much the damage goes up when your characters level up, but I hate that it’s permadeath on characters. You fight enemies dealing monumental amounts of damage to your crew…it feels like playing Iron Man XCOM, it gets that frustrating.

Skyshine's Bedlam

Good thing they fixed this, otherwise the score would’ve been lower!

Conclusion

Bedlam is a fun strategy game but it falls short of greatness. A shallow combat system with no real tactical options and meaningless character choices drag what could’ve been the definite post-apocalyptic wasteland strategy game.

TMA SCORE:

3/5 – Alright

5 responses to “Review: Skyshine’s Bedlam

  1. I think I reviewed this game when it first released. I think Skyshine’s Bedlam had potential to be a great game, but it failed at almost everything it tried to do in my opinion. In the end I thought it was a average game that didn’t surpass any of the two games you mentioned in your review.

    Great review.

    Liked by 2 people

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