Toward the end of a long day in San Francisco, I step into a stuffy hotel room. Every building I've entered in the last two hours seems to have neglected turning the air-conditioning on; the heat wave caught everyone off guard.
What caught me off guard even more though, are two titles by German indie developer Daedalic Entertainment.
If you haven't heard of them, you'd be forgiven; their games have often delved into the adventure genre when other developers have been shying away from it. The Deponia trilogy is at the top of Daedalic's list of accomplishments, but what I saw in that muggy hotel room might change that.
First up is BlackGuards. In the company's first deviation from the adventure genre, a multifarious band of misfits sets out to disprove accusations of murder on the protagonist's part. As the main character, you can customize the gender, face and basic cosmetics of the accused. From there on out the equipment and loot you gather dictates what appearance your character takes on.
From the outset, it's obvious how much emphasis Daedalic is placing on characterization. Not only does it play into a story, but intertwines with the gameplay as well. The ranger needs her drug of choice to remain calm, so it's your job as the player to actually get her fix before she goes berserk on anything near her; including her teammates.
Other characters include a wizard who has an affinity for women, a slave-turned-fighter, and a dwarf responsible for breaking you out of prison.
It's also immediately apparent how much the environment plays into gameplay as well. Characters move from tile to hexagonal tile, attacking or casting spells, in an effort to clear each area of enemies or complete certain objectives. Along the way ropes can be cut to bring chandeliers crashing down on enemies, walls of fire can close off choke points, and prison cells can be opened to free allies.
Although BlackGuards is still early in development, it shows promise, especially considering this is Daedalic's first venture into RPG territory.
Across the room, I'm shown Night of the Rabbit. if adventure games are Daedelic's bread and butter, this title is the knife. The artwork is at once charming and endearing, with voice acting and characters so eccentric they only make sense in Daedalic's world.
As for the music, it's rare that such an alluring blend of fiddles and wind instruments is so immediately apparent Every note lends itself to the colorful world around it, creating an atmosphere that you can feel as well as see.
Without much exposition, the demo thrusts us into a foggy treetop world, complete with the eponymous rabbit and a strange figure waiting to point us in the right direction.
Beneath the canopy, protagonist Jerry is about to fall asleep. It's here where the demo ends and title screen begins, paving the way for what is hopefully an adventure as charming as the demo.
Night of the Rabbit is set for a May 29 release, while Daedalic is hoping to have BlackGuards ready later this year.