Galactic Keep ($3.99) by Gilded Skull Games is a sci-fi themed tabletop RPG that will keep you busy for a long time. If you liked titles like the original Knights of Pen & Paper, Knights of Pen & Paper 2, and Dice Mage, but wished for something more intergalactic than fantasy, then you will enjoy Galactic Keep.
Several years ago, I finally got into tabletop RPG games because of a group of friends, and I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures that we had. Unfortunately, our dungeon master eventually moved farther away than we’ve had liked, and so our tabletop gaming group disbanded. Since then, I’ve been yearning for some tabletop gaming fun, but it’s hard to get someone else to take up the tough job of dungeon master, so I’ve turned to video games to get my dice rolling fix. I’m a big fan of the Knights of Pen & Paper games, but since I also enjoy a bit of sci-fi, I was eager to check out Galactic Keep.
Galactic Keep features a unique visual style, as it goes all out with the traditional tabletop RPG game elements. This means you have textured paper cards to represent characters, lifelike 10-sided die, complete board layouts that represent the stages you’re in, and everything seems to be hand-drawn, from the maps to characters. The game graphics feel like a graphic novel as well, so it should appeal to many. Animations in Galactic Keep are smooth and fluid, the soundtrack is upbeat and quirky, and the fun sound effects add a nice layer of depth to the game.
In Galactic Keep, players will explore various maps in the game world, with each of them having their own special layouts and enemies to overcome. There’s a general story premise in the game too, which will be told to you in bite-sized chunks as you explore and play. While the turn-based combat is like the bread-and-butter of the game, there are also puzzles that you have to solve in order to uncover the mystery of Galactic Keep. Each choice you make affects the story, so choose wisely.
When you start Galactic Keep, I recommend going through the tutorial since it explains everything you need to know. While there are seven characters that you can choose from in the beginning, you have to examine each one because of their strengths and weaknesses. Each race and class has their own set of advantages and disadvantages out in the field and combat, and some of them even grant bonus attribute points to use when you roll for their stat upgrades. Then you have to pick one of three special attacks for that character, which can end up turning the tide of battle when used at the right time.
Another thing worth noting is the fact that you can play in Hardcore mode. What this means is that when your current character dies in battle, they stay dead and you won’t be able to recover their corpse with another character. You’ll lose all of the items that the character had on them. Hardcore mode is not for the faint-of-heart, and it is only recommended for experts. You can toggle Hardcore mode on at any time and even exit out of it, but not while you are in combat. If you choose to play non-Hardcore, then you can recover fallen characters and use them again later.
The basic gameplay flow of Galactic Keep is pretty simple, especially if you’ve played any type of tabletop RPG before. The first thing you’ll do is roll the dice to determine how many spaces you can move. Squares will become green to show that you can move there — just tap where you want to go. If you land on a square with an enemy, combat begins. If it’s a square with an interactive object, you can choose what action to take. While you can use all of your movement allotment, you don’t have to. If you want to end your turn early, just tap on the “End Turn” button. Once your turn has ended, the enemies will take theirs.
Combat in Galactic Keep is straightforward and should not surprise anyone who has played games like this before. When battle is initiated, you and the enemy will do an initiative roll, which determines who goes first. During battle, you have four options: Attack, Block, Special, and Item. The Attack will do a basic attack on the enemy, Block will heal you for a bit and split the damage between you and the attacker, and Special utilizes the special move that you picked when rolling the character. The Item option lets you go through your inventory to use items for healing or increasing stats or damage. Combat ends when you or the enemy hits zero health, and if it is you who falls, then you’ll have to retrieve the dead character with another, as mentioned earlier (unless you’re Hardcore). Coming out as the winner nets your character some experience points, which you’ll need to level up and get stronger.
I’m still in the beginning of Galactic Keep because the combat is fairly difficult (but fun), and I’ve died a few times trying to make my way through the first map. However, I’m in love with the awesome style and music, and the game is enjoyable with the challenging gameplay and smart AI for enemies. Even though it’s a video game, it brings that tabletop RPG feeling home, and I appreciate that a lot. For games like this, skeuomorphism cannot die.
I highly recommend checking out Galactic Keep if you are a fan of challenging and lengthy tabletop RPG games with a sci-fi twist. Galactic Keep is a universal app on the App Store for $3.99.