There isn’t much like Bedlam. At first glance, sure, it comes across as another strategy RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world. However, when you actually get to play the game, other aspects start to pop out. Oregon Trail, Banner Saga, XCOM, and Mad Max all appear to have inspired certain sections or gameplay elements of Bedlam, and not in a “ripped from the source” way.
Starting off in Byzantine, a megacity walled off from the rest of the world, you and your crew set out in a armored vehicle. The destination: Aztec City — a mythological utopia compared to the rest of the world. However, to get there, you will need to cross randomly generated sections of Bedlam, the wild west of our distant future. In Bedlam there are marauders, mutants, cyborgs, AI, and other creatures waiting to rip you apart and take what is valuable from your carcass. The way you keep that from happening is careful positioning, and knowledge of the enemy.
Your party can be made up of a well rounded group of snipers, riflemen, shotgun blitzers, and melee units. Each has their own strength and weaknesses you would expect, and the map itself offers a variety of advantages to both enemies and allies. Cover is essential for those who don’t want to be shot down in the open, though snipers can only move so far before their turn is up. To compensate, maybe you will send in some short range runners to aggro the enemy, drawing away any fire. You have to be careful though, as certain berzerker enemies, who can take up to four squares on the map, can strike twice in a turn, effortlessly killing a team member.
Being swift is key, as not only will it mean an enemy has no chance to counter, but also because the more you turtle, the more enemies the game will throw at you. Eventually if you take too long to wipe out the opposition, a nuke will clear you out permanently. Not that it will be game over, but you will be put at a severe disadvantage from losing an entire team. And keeping that team throughout the game is essential. Just like in XCOM, raising up a team of elite soldiers greatly helps your path to victory, or in Bedlam, Aztec City.
As you progress further into the wasteland, you will be spending precious resources such as fuel, food, energy, and people. Along the way events will appear that can potentially yield benefits such as a cache of fuel or some stragglers to add to your party. Sometimes they will be nothing but a dead end, and other times an ambush awaits you that might cost you a unit. You choose where to progress, and road options open up for you as you travel along, from short range scouting quests to the longer main story road.
I really liked what I got to play of Bedlam, managing my resources and deciding whether to skip over a abandoned town for fear of confrontation was fun. And while the combat was challenging for myself, I know that spending time to learn the system is the guaranteed way to get better. It doesn’t hurt that Bedlam also uses the same graphical engine as The Banner Saga, which allows for gorgeously rendered art and animation to fill up the screen. You can look forward to Bedlam sometime this fall on Steam.