Grist Preview - Retro Visuals Disguise A Combination Of Classic RPGs
At PAX AUS, there are a lot of indie games on display — especially Australian-developed ones — giving people the chance to try out things that can easily slip under the cracks in the deluge of Steam releases. One of the games I got to try out was Grist, a sci-fi RPG with retro visuals by Chironex Studios.
First impressions arrive with the ASCII style (though it is actually ANSI) characters over Amiga coloured backgrounds and black box, white text UI. It can be easy to assume that it might be a more niche experience, but I found it was an easy to understand blend of various RPG styles.
In Grist you play as a plague-afflicted space captain, unable to leave the ship you command your crew on their expeditions to find a cure. The combat is standard party turn-based fare, being able to hire different classes such as an engineer who could deploy bots, or a guardian who can taunt. Combat is grid-based in terms of position advantages, as well as the limit on who you take or space for things like the robots. The skill points in Grist are called trust, and these somewhat regenerate between events.
There are also skill checks, such as a rock wall that I got my stronger crewmate to pass, but I could also use the combat skills for these checks. Party members too can be modified with cybernetics that can be found in game. Another player put a perception modifier on their sniper, but it malfunctioned after they got stunned, killing them. Like most other CRPGs, there will be conversations found when outside the ship that have to be navigated as well particularly in Space Stations (though this wasn’t present in the demo).
When back on your ship you can take on new jobs to get paid, but also gain points to ally with certain factions later on. Your actions on expeditions will give you points towards certain moral quadrants, like when I took on an assassination job, my warmonger rating increased. Traveling between locations you also have the ship’s resources to worry about as a few too many asteroids hit me and brought my shield to nil.
Your level of plague infection is a part of that resource management as it filling up would result in a game over. The game was originally envisioned as a roguelike with the death of the captain resulting in a game over, but the dev plans to add a checkpoint system so there’s an option to play hardcore, or to not lose your entire progress.
I understood the game to be a blend of CRPG mechanics with 2D party turn-based combat. On the back end, most things in the game are “cards”, which the dev says helped to conceptualise everything when developing. Either way my short stint with it was a fun time, and I'm looking forward to exploring the stars and the mechanics on my own.
Grist is hoping to come to Early Access on Steam Q2 2024.