I’m not particularly good at strategy games or asynchronous multiplayer — supply lines and terrain and Panzers are beyond me — so I can’t do much but turn my nose up at the 4X genre’s creeping renaissance on the App Store. There’s a reason those old Kriegsspiele were designed for officers and not infantry.
But thieving, skulldugerry, and income inequality? That I like.
Here’s developer Tim Conkling’s description of his new strategy game, Antihero: “In Antihero, you run a thieves’ guild in a 19th-century Dickensian city overrun by corruption. You scout the city with your Master Thief; train street urchins to infiltrate buildings and steal anything that’s not nailed down; blackmail the city’s wealthy elite with evidence of their crooked behavior; and perform the occasional assassination."
It’s like a playable Decemberists’ song, but with more ability points and a gold budget for upgrading bedraggled chimbley sweeps into black-hearted (and black-lunged) criminals. I can already hear the clop-clop of horse hooves on cobblestones, pulling carriages for passengers that will never reach their destination if I have anything to say about it.
More specifically, Antihero takes place on a foggy, tile-based map, and your job will be to move units, accept contracts, expand your influence, and do a bit of turn-based stabbing and pilfering. Antihero is a strategy game first and foremost — Conkling cites games like Civilization as influences — though tweaked to allow for faster, more fluid matches. Win conditions vary from high-level blackmail to all-out cloak-and-dagger assault, but either way, Conkling and Co. think you should be able to reach them in about an hour’s worth of play time.
In addition to “plenty of deep single-player content" for players like me, you more ambitious sort will also have access to cross-platform, asynchronous multiplayer.
Conkling is a veteran of Three Rings Design and worked on Corpse Craft (Free) which, in addition to getting a plump 4-star review from us, has a similar tone and feel to Antihero: mucky, murky Victorian England and a sense ghoulish whimsy. He’s been working on this new project for about a year, during which time his team has grown to four developers.
Antihero is already on Steam’s Early Access program, and Conkling hopes to release a final version early next year on PC and Mac with an iOS port to follow shortly.