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This old-school RPG looks like a retro Baldur’s Gate

Skald Against the Black Priory is an indie RPG that draws from the genre's low-res 1990s roots, but its tactical combat will keep you on your toes.

As slick as modern role-playing games tend to look, they owe a massive debt to the low-fidelity RPGs of yesteryear. Skald: Against the Black Priory is steeped in throwback vibes, while adding tactical complexity informed by more modern tabletop rulesets and videogames.

If you’ve ever played RPG games like Ultima 7 or the Wizardry series, Skald: Against the Black Priory will look familiar right away. There’s the 256-color palette, the chunky low-res pixels, and the hand-drawn character portraits shaded with evocative dithering. Developer High North Studios says it combines “modern design and compelling storytelling with authentic 8-bit looks and charms,” allowing you to explore a “dark fantasy world, full of deadly creatures, tragic heroes, and Lovecraftian horror”.

The latest trailer is a fun throwback, too:

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Combat is turn-based, and when a fight breaks out, you’ll begin by deploying the characters in your party. Skald uses its own bespoke combat system, but the devs say it’s inspired by familiar systems like Dungeons & Dragons (particularly the third edition) and Pathfinder. Turn order is determined by initiative, and you’ll be able to combine characters’ skills into powerful synergies to gain the upper hand in combat.

You even get to watch the dice rolls, just like in Baldur’s Gate 3 (although here it looks like everything is handled on 2D6 instead of a D20).

The Skald: Against the Black Priory release date is set for May 30, but you can download and play the free demo on Steam right now – it’s a game that can double-dip in Steam’s Lovecraftian Days and Turn Based Thursday fest, which are both going on at the time of this writing.

Check out our roundup of some of the best retro games, or browse our selection of the best indie games to play in 2024.

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