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I love PC game developer Tilted Mill.  Their games (most notably Children of the Nile: Immortal Cities) have amazing concepts, though the execution is often flawed in some way.  There's plenty of playable life in these games, though not as much as the concepts would suggest.  Tilted Mill is also very supportive of their games after release.  For instance, their SimCity: Civilizations was very broken out of the box, but they patched it for free until it almost resembled a game.  That title is the least successful of their games, possibly because it was entangled with the SimCity brand, so they didn't have full control over its direction.

On the heels of re-acquiring the rights to Children of the Nile (and releasing an expansion pack for it), they've released a new single-player RPG, Hinterland.  Unfortunately, the game was only available through Steam, something I'd avoided until then, but for Tilted Mill, I signed up.  At $20, Hinterland was a steal, especially because of who developed it.  Hinterland came out on September 30th and by October 10th, they'd already released the first free content pack.

In Hinterland, you play a noble who has to pacify a small region of the countryside and build a village.  The twist is that your citizens double as your party members (up to three + you).  If you take the farmer out to hunt monsters, he's not producing food.  The hammer-wielding smith in your party isn't back in the village making stuff.  Et cetera.

It's a very interesting concept, capably realized.  There's also a lot of room for expansion. 

First, the problems:
  • You can't scroll out.  This is the deal-breaker.  I'm used to a wider field of vision for these "run around and kill things" games.  Enemies shoot (magic and arrows) at you from off-screen.  You can't effectively play an archer, since you can't take advantage of the full range of your weapon.  I end up playing with the region map open so I can see where I'm going, but it takes up a lot of the screen and I often get hung up on scenery.  The lack of higher view levels makes the game even smaller that it needs to be: claustrophobic and sad.
  • No auto-attack for your main character.  Sometimes, in the heat of battle, it's hard to click on the enemies' attack spots, which seems pretty small.  I'm my character isn't walking or running, but is taking damage, it should automatically attack whatever's hurting it.  Some people don't like this.  I get it.  Let them turn it off.  Or let us turn it on.  I think more people would like this than wouldn't.  (Though, probably not from the subset of beta-testers and people who post on the forums.)
  • The town's borders are too close to the outermost buildings.  You can set your followers in town to defend it when the enemy raids.  (Though you have to click on each follower individually to do this.)  If you have high-enough level followers, armed and armored well enough, they can sometimes survive the raid without your main character (and party).  Besides the townspeople's AI not being too good, enemy spellcasters and archers can stand beyond the town limits and shoot into town.  Since the enemies are outside of the limits, the townspeople won't react as if it's a raid (by fighting or running away).  Instead, they'll stand there and get killed.  It's very, very annoying.
  • Followers' character cards overlap, hiding their class and/or level.  The buzz on the forums seems to indicate only people playing at the widescreen resolutions have this problem.  I play at 1920x1200.  'Nuff said.
Now, the awesomeness:
  • The concept.  Hinterland is a quick game, especially if you play a small map.  There's the rush of hiring your first followers (a couple at a time visit the town, more if you have a hostel) and the strategy of deciding who to take with you into the wilderness.  There's no campaign, no ongoing story, just this match.  I always play on Hardcore (permadeath for your main character, resulting in a loss) to up the stakes.
  • The humor.  Tilted Mill included some hilarity in the game.  For instance, the character portrait of the female goblin is just the male portrait with lipstick and a wig.  The game doesn't take itself too seriously and encourages you to follow suit.  Sure, you died to a bunch of dire wolves and there's no saved game.  Just fire it up and try your luck again.
  • Followers in town auto-equip.  This was included in the first patch.  The cynical part of me thinks Tilted Mill held it back so they could appear to respond quickly to player demand.  What probably happened is that they were working on it, but knew it would take another couple of weeks.  The game shipped a little late and they didn't want to delay it any more.  Either way, it's cool.  This was a necessary addition to the game and now all players will have it.
  • Tilted Mill's commitment to the game.  It's very clear from the forums that the developer is deeply invested in this game.  They've quickly corrected some issues (like early minimap troubles at widescreen resolutions) and offered players fixes and additions free of charge, only a couple of which seemed like they should have been included in the first release of the game (see above).  I believe they enjoy working on Hinterland and delighting and amazing us with more of it
I've had way more than $20 of fun out of this game and I look forward to future patches and expansions (including those that I'll pay for).  I hope the lack of scroll out isn't due to some basic property of the Torque engine, but is instead something that's relatively easy to fix.  If they do that, I'm with them for the duration.

In short, this is Tilted Mill's usual: fun and flawed.

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