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  • Writer's pictureR.J. Littleton

Get to the Core - What Makes Through Rust Tick?

As another two weeks fly by, it's time for another update on Through Rust We Are Returned. Now that we at Chaos Crew have had a bit more time to design and prototype the mechanical and conceptual core of Through Rust, I'd like to talk a bit about how that core will be represented through gameplay and aesthetics. Internally, we often refer to Through Rust as a Cyberpunk Victorian Tactics RPG, but over the course of the last two sprints we realized that we needed to do a bit more work to make sure we were actually representing those ideas in our systems, mechanics, and aesthetics.

First, let's talk about aesthetics. Cyberpunk Victorian isn't a common artistic pairing, even though the two have a lot in common conceptually. Both cyberpunk and Victorian literature often focus on classism and transhumanism, despite being very far apart in aesthetics and time periods. We needed to find a way to merge the two aesthetically as well, and I think our artist, Lee, has done a fantastic job in finding a way to incorporate both into a cohesive aesthetic that we can call our own.

While I'll leave the specifics on the art direction to Lee, as they are far more knowledgeable about it than I am, I think the concept art here shows how they've merged the two into a single cohesive style. Two weeks ago, we were concerned that our style was heading more in a neon steampunk or dieselpunk direction with the use of piping and lots of smooth curves. Now, we've opted more for neon trim accentuating the Victorian architecture, and we're going to be using the a lot of environmental effects and lighting to push the cyberpunk aspects of the aesthetic.

Now that aesthetics are out of the way, it's time to talk about gameplay. Last week, we sat down and decided on a few core pillars for combat that will guide my design. First of all, we want combat to be deadly without being frustrating. We want the tension that comes with highly lethal combat, but we don't necessarily want it to be overly difficult. Secondly, we want combat to always be strategic - positioning and action economy will be key in making sure that the combat is balanced and has sufficient depth for the tactics moniker to be fitting.

To fulfill these goals, combat will be designed around low HP values, damage avoidance, and positioning. We're taking a number of cues from Into the Breach for the core design of the combat - we want it to be fair to the player, punishing mistakes while rewarding perfect play. Secondly, healing will be very limited. Damage taken during a mission is likely to stay there until the end of the mission, unless players opt to use a limited resource to heal. That resource, Aura, will also be used to power strong abilities in combat, meaning that using it will always be an important decision. Movement will be limited and use energy - the same resource that powers most attacks. The player could use a large amount of energy for a strong attack, but that might leave them without enough energy to move out of harm's way. However, if players manage to end a turn with energy left, it will carry over to their next turn (up to a maximum value) which allows them to bide their time until they can unleash a strong attack and still be able to maneuver. Additionally, party members that die in a mission will be gone for the rest of that mission (and possibly longer), giving combat the risk it needs to be adequately rewarding in success.

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