Skyshine’s BEDLAM Review
Skyshine’s BEDLAM is a tactical roguelike that throws together Mad Max, Oregon Trail and X-COM to great effect. Originally backed by Kickstarter and set in the titular post-apocalyptic landscape of Bedlam, the game sees you play a nameless mechanic leading a caravan from one end of the wasteland to the other – crossing paths with mutants, cyborgs and the forces of the tyrannical King Viscera along the way.
Each run of BEDLAM starts you off in the city of Bysantine, before setting you free to traverse the wasteland as you wish. From there, the game gives you a large degree of freedom in exactly how you travel in search of the mystical and utopian Aztec City.
Bedlam itself is divided into different regions and it’s up to you whether you want to keep your convoy to the main paths or whether you want to investigate each and every last point of interest on the map. This metagame element is very much tied to resource management and risk-versus-reward with the danger level of combat encounters increasing over time.
Said combat encounters keep things simple – playing out on an isometric grid – but nail-bitingly difficult – with players limited to two actions per turn. Though the characters themselves are often pretty generic, BEDLAM does a good job of letting you tackle combat the way you want. The game lets you scale your team size how you want it, with smaller teams netting additional loot bonuses.
There are four different character classes but – for better or worse – there’s little in terms of customization. Frontliners have high health but are restricted to melee combat, Trenchers are capable of pushing foes back with shotgun attacks, Gunslingers are capable of retaliating against enemy attacks and Deadshots are glass cannons with a high attack range and low health. Personally, I found the Deadshots and Trenchers to be the most useful but all of the classes have a role to play and the more experience a character earns the more lethal and durable they become.
Additionally, each trip through the wastelands of Bedlam will see you come up against various elite characters. These act as boss fights in each playthrough and defeating them usually results in you enlisting them to your cause. As well as being a lot of fun and interesting to use, these elite characters are a lot less fragile than the rest of your forces and in the latter parts of the game become all but crucial to making it out of combat encounters alive.
Given it shares an engine with last year’s The Banner Saga, you’d expect a similar feel between the two games – but these similarities are only surface level. The combat of BEDLAM often feels so chaotic it’s almost unfair and its narrative aspirations are much more humble compared to The Banner Saga’s sprawling epic. BEDLAM is a somewhat lighter affair that invites you to dive into its world but not scrutinize it too deeply. The basic details of the setting are sketched out in an introductory video accessible from the main menu and the story is as simple as the trip from A to B – with a handful of colorful interactions between. On the whole I’d say this is one of the few disappointing aspects of the game with the story really unable to do justice to the wicked art style it has behind it.
It lacks the staying power and narrative ambition of The Banner Saga, but BEDLAM remains a solid title for fans of roguelikes and tactical strategy games. While the game’s difficulty can be quite brutal at times and its story elements often feel underdeveloped, it’s a surprisingly approachable burst of post-apocalyptic tactical action.