"Our game is like if Dark Souls had a baby with God of War," The marketing guy insists to you. "It is as though The Sims had sex with Neverwinter Nights," He raves, fingers digging into your arm. His eyes dilate, "Our game is reminiscent of a theoretical scenario where Twisted Metal was the illicit court paramour of Barbie Horse Adventures, and they produced a royal bastard capable of upending this kingdom's fragile politics."
I've heard this shtick before, is what I'm saying, but it's definitely way more believable when the guy saying it actually helped make both of the copulating games in question. "With deep world building, compelling narrative, crunchy RPG systems, engaging gameplay, and massive reactivity," Wrote Chad Moore, project director on inXile's Clockwork Revolution, "I’ve always described [Clockwork Revolution] as the love child of [Arcanum] and [Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines]"
In another life, Moore was a developer at Troika Games, the legendary (and legendarily chaotic) developer of cult hit RPGs Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, The Temple of Elemental Evil, and Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. Having someone with significant credits on both Arcanum and Vampire say Clockwork Revolution is a "love child" of the two with "massive reactivity," man, that's a Manchurian Candidate activation phrase for a certain kind of RPG freak like myself.
Troika games just hit different. The studio was founded by Fallout 1 creators Tim Cain, Leonard Boyarsky, and Jason Anderson, with their first game, Arcanum, feeling almost like an alternate Fallout 2—it sports a similar world map and structure, tile-based areas, and a reliance on 3D, pre-rendered art turned into 2D sprites. Arcanum's an isometric RPG where technological development chafes against hippy, elf-y magic, and any number of character builds from chatty gunslingers to lunkheaded half-ogres to necromancers at the head of a gaggle of zombies could complete deep, multifaceted quests.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines translated that ethos into the first person perspective on Valve's Source engine. It's a fantastic-looking game to this day, just dripping with moody, early aughts charm and gothic atmosphere—it's one of my favorite games to play around Halloween time.
It's the most approachable of Troika's catalogue too, with modder Wesp5's Unofficial Patch (be sure to get the plus version!) polishing up some of its rougher areas. Vampire occasionally gets compared to Deus Ex, and I see that with its hub design and preponderance of vent crawling, but the game it reminds me the most of is Fallout: New Vegas—they're both perfect translations of the Interplay/Black Isle RPG promise into first person, full 3D.
It's not just Moore's bona fides backing up his claim either—inXile has well and truly proven itself as a hardcore RPG development house with the new Wasteland games and Torment: Tides of Numenera. Furthering the Troika connection is the involvement of company co-founder and Fallout 1 developer Jason Anderson, who is also employed by inXile and working on Clockwork Revolution.
All that classic RPG talent has me excited for inXile's first stab at a more immersive, first person RPG. Clockwork Revolution currently has no set release date, but it is coming "in due time." Meanwhile, the other two founders of Troika, Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, seem to be hard at work on The Outer Worlds 2.