A quick peek at the trailer above should be sufficient to get the nostalgia-glands pumping amongst truly old-school RPG fans. Vaporum – debut from new indie outfit Fatbot Games – is a game that wears its inspirations firmly on its creaking metal sleeve, representing a venerable old subgenre of RPG wrapped in lovely modern graphics and an in-vogue steampunk aesthetic, and it’s out now on both Steam and GOG.
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For the less venerable, rusty and/or well-versed in videogame history, Vaporum’s closest relation is the well-received Legend of Grimrock series. This particular blend of real-time movement, combat and puzzle-solving on a grid-based map dates back to the 90s and the Eye of the Beholder series, and even further beyond to Dungeon Master in the 80s, and has remained largely unchanged in three decades.
Despite its eye-catching launch trailer, Vaporum’s release seems to have flown somewhat under the radar. Not too surprising given the number of major RPG releases this month, but sad nonetheless. User reviews thus far seem overwhelmingly positive, however, and it seems that the 30-year-old formula still holds strong today, with Vaporum bolting a few interesting new bits of its own onto the framework.
Unlike the party-based Grimrock before it, you control a single character in Vaporum, clad in a modular and customizable steampunk exo-suit. Rather than limiting your options at any given time, your abilities in combat are largely determined by what parts you have equipped, and multiple loadout slots mean that you can effectively switch class mid-combat, offering an interesting spin on a classic framework.
While we’ve yet to get our grubby mitts on Vaporum for a full technical shakedown, those tempted to take the plunge on the game should take this tip to heart: In RPGs like this, pit-traps have the potential to be your best friend and worst enemy. They can be a shortcut to a lower floor, or a tedious hike waiting to happen, and in combat they can immediately remove threatening foes from play, at the cost of losing out on experience and loot.
Respect pits, and they won’t let you down.
Vaporum is out now on Steam and GOG for £15/$18, with a launch discount of 10% available at the time of writing.