It’s a turn-based strategy game in which you play an ancient evil, newly awoken, seeking to make the world fall into darkness. You get to do all the standard shadowy power stuff – you see through the eyes of ravens and other carrion birds, you whisper dreams of madness into the ear of the sleeping king, your thralls spread pestilence and plague.
Unlike other strategy games, the key word here seems to be subtlety: you can’t act openly against the kingdoms of men, lest heroes seek you out and destroy you. Instead, you have to be subtle, insidious. You recruit agents, and slowly they spread your power, corrupting mortals and steering the course of events from behind the scenes. It should make for more intelligent, cautious gameplay, no rushing enemies with the strongest unit style of thing.
I’ve always found evil to be both interesting and under-developed. The number of games where you play a square-jawed hero is vast, the number where you play a genuinely evil being is incredibly small. Most of the time, they aren’t actually that evil, they just have all of the trappings; in the Overlord games, for example, despite having an upside-down nether fortress and an army of imps, you are the goodie, facing down the repressive followers of a pseudo-roman empire. Off hand, I can think of only one game where you get to be truly the evil one, and that is Dungeon Keeper – a fantastic game.
That Which Sleeps doesn’t appear to be offering faux-evil, or colour-swapped heroism. Your quest is to despoil, corrupt and ravage the world. Again, other than Dungeon Keeper, which player the whole concept for laughs, that’s quite original. That should make it stand out from countless other strategy games, and keep it entertaining.
To help with that task, it also seems to have a lot of variation – the kickstarter page promises multiple ancient evils to choose between, each “with ability trees that are devoid of ‘fluff’ or redundancy”. Similarly, you will face off against procedurally generated heroes and kingdoms, giving it a lot of re-playability.
It is a Kickstarter game, yes, which initially made me nervous (I’ve been hurt before by crowd-funded promises that never came to fruition), but it is already funded – to the tune of $70,000+ more than they were asking for. That’s a good sign, I feel; they shouldn’t run out of money, and there is enough of an audience there to motivate the developers.
That much money means that they are also able to add all their stretch goals, filling the game with massive amounts more content – new Old Ones, the aforementioned procedural generation, countless other little details. By the time the game is finished, it should be rich and detailed, with lots of options for varied game play and repeated campaigns.
The game seems to have a lot of promise, and if it lives up to even half of those promises, I will be giddy with delight. It is set to come out early 2015, and I am somewhat impatient; I’ve known about the game for less than a day, but I really want it.