The proliferation of role-playing game mechanics in other video game genres may have reached its apex with Rollers of the Realm, a game developed by Toronto-based indie studio Phantom Compass that merges traditional RPG ideas with classic pinball gameplay.
Rollers of the Realm was one of finalists at this year's Indiecade festival and, thanks to its smart blending of pinball and role-playing games' better aspects, one of its highlights.
In the Indiecade demo, Rollers of the Realm started players with a playable rogue, who is represented on the gameplay field as a copper-colored pinball. She can be launched onto the field with a battering ram-like plunger, where she can then be bounced around with an array of flippers. Most of the levels we played had no shortage of flippers, but there are two main flippers, each with their own life bar.
The rogue is just one member of a party that players can build throughout the game. A drunken knight, who's heavily armored and therefore plays like a heavier ball, joins the group early on, as does a healer. Those two are represented by a plate armor-covered ball and a gleaming white sphere, respectively. Later on, players will be joined by other characters, each with their own unique abilities. A ranger, for example, can call in his trusty hawk for a multiball attack and an ax-wielding farmer can inflict greater damage against wooden structures, but is weak against armored knights.
Utilizing skills like these and reviving fallen party members consumes mana, which players can collect on the battlefield by taking out foes and shattering objects.
Rollers of the Realm does not strive to be a pinball simulation, game director David Evans told Polygon. It's a digital pinball game, the type that Evans says he's played more frequently than actual physical pinball tables. There are in-game analogs to traditional pinball playfield items — bumpers, poppers, standups and, of course, pinballs — but there's no mistaking Rollers for a recreation of real-life pinball.
There's a story to tell in Rollers of the Realm, which is accomplished through beautifully rendered artwork and voice acted cutscenes.
Rollers of the Realm is slated to be release later this year on Windows PC, with other platforms to follow.