Vagrus – The Riven Realms Releases Its First Playable Demo As Crowdfunding Picks Up Steam

Vagrus – The Riven Realms Releases Its First Playable Demo As Crowdfunding Picks Up Steam
Credit: Lost Pilgrims via

Table-top RPGs (TTRPGs, colloquially) have been a staple of gamers for decades; millennia if you loosen stricter definitions to include games such as Chess and Chaturanga. The more modern versions come from a 1971 game called Chainmail which became the basis for thew Dungeons & Dragons ruleset as it is known today.

Fast forward four decades and table-top RPGs are as active as ever, barring more modern circumstances that may place a barrier on entry, such as the need (or tradition) to meet in person for many of them.

Yet while literal table-top board games are still experiencing a wonderfully robust community, another offshoot of TTRPGs is thriving as well; video games with TTRPG rulesets affecting mechanics. These RPGs tend to be far more robust in terms of both skillsets and depth (versus standard titles of the RPG genre, such as Final Fantasy 15 or World of Warcraft), with multiple keys intersecting with play throughout the course of a game.

Traits such as charisma and cunning tend to be more focal in these titles, offering players multiple means of circumnavigating obstacles presented to them, beyond hitting an unpleasant entity square in the skull with a meaty hammer.

Some view these as more of the ‘true RPGs‘, eschewing more modern titles that place a heavy emphasis on approachability for new players rather than allowing users to become mired in tables of statistics and possibilities. A standard comparison would be between Morrowind and Skyrim; Bethesda opted to limit more of the esoteric nature of role-playing games to ensure Skyrim would be easier to sink your teeth into.

On the far side of the spectrum from Skyrim comes a new TTRPG that has begun to swell in popularity.

Titled Vagrus – The Riven Realms from a development team called Lost Pilgrims, the title offers a harrowing (and text-heavy) look at attempting to overcome odds of a post-apocalyptic world while leading your caravan to victory. The Lost Pilgrims have continued to gain momentum on their crowd-funding efforts on Fig, and have just released the first open-world demo for everyone to explore, which is free to download and play right now on GOG.

Yet while other text-heavy titles dangerously straddle the border between being overly-verbose and drawing a user into the story, Vagrus offers impeccable writing that has yet to fail in drawing players into a wonderfully complex world of old gods and mysticism, offering danger and subtlety through immaculate prose.

A sample of the writing found that guides players through the world – Vagrus – The Riven Realms Prologue

While the pacing and descriptive text alone is a worthwhile endeavor to discuss, the actual beauty is how the story continues to morph while you play through. Often, the text will offer you choices as to what your next action will be, which can dynamically alter future encounters based on the knowledge and insight that you gain of the world.

Further, unlike many ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ styles, it’s difficult to find a point where a wrong decision means a quick death, leaving you with the remains of your caravan as you wonder how hours of tactically playing resulted in an untimely end because you clicked the wrong button.

Instead, the story weaves expertly around the player, making it seem like you have an astute DM ready to guide you through a riveting experience.

While there is a hefty amount of reading involved, that is not your only means of conveying the story that you weave. The majority of the gameplay takes place on a staggeringly large map that contains the titular land: The Riven Realms.

Where to go, what to do; Vagrus offers an immense map with multiple locations of interest. Movement points found in the top left coincide with the numbers found next to routes – via Vagrus – The Riven Realms Prologue

You’ll need to find jobs and opportunities throughout the land while ensuring you have supplies necessary to make the journey; strenuous planning and attention to detail regarding climate and culture will be necessary if your caravan (called Comitatus in-game) will have any faith in your decision-making skills.

The massive map of The Riven Realms. Plotting routes to cities and desolate hubs to gain top dollar for your materials will allow your caravan to grow in size, which in turn allows for the undertaking of more dangerous expeditions. – via Vagrus – The Riven Realms Prologue

Learning more about the world that you suddenly find yourself desperate to survive in is thankfully simple, thanks to a robust compendium of knowledge that has nearly unfathomable amounts of information for you to peruse at your leisure. Curious about the order of which the ominous-looking dark knight belongs to?

It’s as simple as clicking highlighted text which brings you to the compendium that has been cross-referenced and tagged making skipping around various subjects of interest far easier than we’ve seen in the past; Creative Assembly should absolutely take a look at this title just to make their in-game encyclopedia useful in the Total War franchise.

Lore nerds, rejoice; Vagrus has some of the most comprehensive lore, complete with sub-plot points of history, that has been seen in recent years. To say it’s astonishing is an understatement. – via Vagrus – The Riven Realms Prologue

The writing is on point, the lore is there in spades, and the strategy and planning will have you up until the early hours in the morning, so there’s only one thing left: combat.

Inevitably, you will find yourself against a foe that simply needs a good old-fashioned smiting, and your companions are the ones to step up to the plate. Which makes finding companions a worthwhile endeavor, regardless of the difficulties that you’ll likely encounter in doing so.

Your character, the caravan leader (known as a Vagrus in-game) can somewhat affect combat, by placing boons and buffs on their companions, but it’s decidedly abstract; affecting only small status changes that could help tilt the battle in your favor.

Your standard combat screen within Vagrus: front line for melee, backline for ranged. Standard fare – via Vagrus – The Riven Realms Prologue

Admittedly, this is where the demo version of Vagrus – The Riven Realms Prologue falls short, and it’s unfortunate. Your companions appear to be striking at enemies with moist sponges, and the combat gameplay is nowhere near as strategic as other turn-based strategies; Darkest Dungeon comes to mind in regards to stacking and shifting combat in your favor through a wide array of abilities.

This may be due to how short the demo is; leveling your characters offers you the opportunity to teach companions new abilities to help them in combat, but the demo consistently cuts short before you have the opportunity to explore the consequences of your choices in-depth.

While numbers and statistics are there in-depth, crafting a warrior capable of hitting someone in this demo is a frustrating ordeal. Watching your demonkin with an ax the size of her torso strike an enemy for a whopping zero, time and again, becomes the most arduous aspect of the title as it stands right now.

Take heart, though; this is a demo, an early version of a title that is actively being developed by an industrious studio with an obviously keen eye for detail, if the writing is anything to go on.

This is absolutely one adventure that should be on your radar at the very least as it edges closer to a full release that is planned to occur sometime in 2020 on both Steam and GOG platforms. If you prefer meticulous strategy in a world of surprising detail and hazard, and attempting survival after gods have descended and ripped the world to shreds is your go-to for a good time in a bad place, you could do far worse than Vagrus.