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Appease Eldritch gods in this dark fantasy roguelike strategy game

New roguelike The Deadly Path is all about appeasing fantasy gods, and we learned more about the management and strategy game at WASD 2024.

New dark fantasy roguelike strategy game The Deadly Path A figure with light and dark blue halves of their face.

Take the card-based strategy of Cultist Simulator and blend it with the fantasy town management of Against the Storm and Dungeon Keeper, infused with a light-hearted but nightmarish dark fantasy tone reminiscent of Darkest Dungeon or Cult of the Lamb, and you’ll be some way to understanding promising new roguelike strategy game The Deadly Path. At WASD Live 2024, PCGamesN got hands-on with the current build and spoke to Tim Sheinman of developer Owlskip Enterprises about its new game.

“We like to say it’s a game about distracting you with shiny things and then punching you in the face,” Sheinman says of The Deadly Path. “It is a little harsh; you will die – you will die a lot – and the most important thing to understand is it is not my fault. We’ve been very transparent about the transaction here.” Of course, the best roguelike games are all about failure, and more specifically what you learn from it, and The Deadly Path is no different.

The core here is that each showdown in The Deadly Path sees you attempting to appease one of the various Deities of Dread and pave their way to ascension. To do so, you’ll gather all manner of materials, which are then used to build and upgrade facilities to process resources, defensive structures and buff-spreading upgrades, and places to train units to help you deal with incoming threats. The result is a delightfully satisfying fusion of building management and roguelike strategy games, perhaps best served by watching its trailer, which will instantly tell you if it’s extremely up your alley or very much not.

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Sheinman lists the likes of Stacklands and Cultist Simulator as obvious inspirations, but also cites Eremite Games’ breakout hit Against the Storm as a big influence on The Deadly Path – and despite its more abstract approach of tiles, cards, and on-screen timers, the fantasy management and intricate infrastructure construction definitely shine in a way that makes that comparison feel extremely valid. It gets quite deep, but if you’re a newcomer, don’t be afraid – while our demo skipped over this, Sheiman confirms that there are “many tutorials” to help you get to grips with all the mechanics.

In the core campaign mode, you’ll go through a series of sequential missions dealing with various gods. Currently, there are around 25 gods, each with their own rules and restrictions, and Sheinman notes that “no god has a repeated victory condition, so they’re each their own puzzle to be figured out.” He remarks that, during the demos at WASD Live, players quickly got good at beating the first god “quite comprehensively” after a few attempts – although that’s just the first of the bunch.

So how long might a run of The Deadly Path last? “If you’re playing really well, it shouldn’t take you that long, actually.” Sheinman says he likes to think of the game as a “palate cleanser” you can wrap up your evening with. “You might be playing 7 Days to Die, or something like Terra Invicta or Civilization, and then you take 40 minutes [to jump into a run of The Deadly Path].”

The Deadly Path - Gameplay of a grid of tiles with countdown timers on them.

While there’s a lot of traditional dark fantasy in here, Sheinman says the team was eager to draw on British influences in particular. “There’s a touch of 2000 AD, there’s that heavy metal, Iron Maiden quality, definitely classic Pratchett is in there, Neil Gaiman, and then the likes of Dungeon Keeper, Black and White, that kind of stuff.”

I’m a real sucker for both that tone and also the intricate, interwoven systems at play here. Sheinman points to recent success story Balatro, the card-based roguelike that stormed up the Steam charts to sell over a million copies. “Balatro is now in many ways the high watermark, and it doesn’t even have bosses – the boss is the blind, right? And it works, it pulls together. If you like systems, it’s quite a good time to be an indie designer.”

All of this leaves us with one very important question: can you romance the deities? “That definitely could be a win condition,” Sheinman replies, “we actually have had some talk on this in the forum, someone made little Valentine’s cards for the gods.” He mentions one for Maw, who boasts a giant mouth stretching down their entire torso, that read “I want to maw your face off.”

The Deadly Path - 'The Maw,' a pale humanoid with a giant mouth streching down its front, described as "an incessant famine made manifest, intent on ensnaring and devouring all but the very fabric of reality to sate its twisted appetite."

He jokes that he actually had to speak to the team’s lead artist, saying, “The gods have been getting sexier, and we’ve still got twelve months to go [in development] – it’s a problem, right?” The concept of romance is certainly something on the team’s mind, however. “You could definitely have a building that you have to build, the lovers’ temple or something like that.” We’ll keep our fingers crossed for that one.

The Deadly Path is set to launch in 2025. For now, you can head over to the game’s Steam store page to add it to your wishlist, which will keep you up to date with development and send you a notification when it arrives.

In the meantime, here are all the best management games you can play on PC right now, along with some more of the biggest and best upcoming PC games to look forward to.

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Additional reporting by Nat Smith for PCGamesN at WASD.