RPG Time: The Legend Of Wright just became one my most anticipated games of 2020. I still understand the appeal of seeing Cloud's journey beautifully remastered and hanging out with Keanu Reeves in the future. It's just that playing RPG Time was an experience full of charm, nostalgia, and inventiveness that I don't think I'll see again anytime soon.
RPG Time had a showing at the recent IndieCade in California. The festival itself took place on a college campus, and many of the gaming areas were relegated to various classrooms. That's where I found RPG Time, crammed into a space with many other games that all only had one TV available for demoes. Fortunately, the developer thought to bring tablets with him. The fact that RPG Time is being developed for mobile (as well as Xbox and PC) worked to its advantage. I played it because it was one of the few games with an empty seat.
Although I would have made time for it regardless. The developer set up the most attention-grabbing display in the room. As you can see from the game's E3 trailer, RPG Time takes place in a classroom. A classmate of yours made his own RPG, influenced by both tabletop and '90s JRPGs, and wants you to play. Thus begins an adventure rendered in notebook sketches, cardboard, and whatever your DM friend can gather from the classroom. Likewise, the developer conjured a display using papercraft to mimic the props seen in his game. He also gave away a replica of the notebook RPG Time takes place in.
If there's one takeaway I have from actually playing RPG Time, it's that mobile is the ideal platform to play the game on. You're asked many times to interact with the DIY world placed in front of you. The game begins by you "pressing start" on a fake controller, bringing a tiny light bulb to life. Combat consists of swinging your sword (a pencil with a hilt made of cardboard). If you want to change the music, the DM's phone is on the table with a playlist open. All of these things felt quite satisfying on the tablet. I hate to sound like a lame E3 presentation, but there really is power in touch. Seeing the toy props my DM so thoughtfully set up react to my pokes and prods added to the immersion of this play world.
The game itself plays mostly like an old-school RPG, albeit with mobile-inspired twists. The demo took me through a cave where the DM would sometimes erase my path or draw new obstacles. There are simple puzzles that play out more like mini-games. The DM seems especially fond of these, as he likes to show off his creative handywork. Even battles will require more than just beating the enemy. The one fight in the demo also presented an environmental puzzle. Only by interacting with various objects on the battlefield was I able to discover my enemy's weakness. I did gather experience points from that, but never leveled up. As it looks now, RPG Time seems like a breezy good time rather than a true throwback to the grind of old RPGs.
This Kid Will Make A Great DM
I think RPG Time's emphasis on fun over challenge makes it better. From the moment the notebook opened, that feeling of adventure I got when starting a new Game Boy RPG rekindled. But unlike my recent return to Dragon Quest, the dated elements never snuck in to rip off my rose-colored glasses. RPG Time uses the simple fun of mobile gaming to recapture the playfulness of being a school kid in the age of '90s RPGs. I can't wait to take up my pencil sword again when the game launches in 2020.