Grim Tranquility | Preview | PAX West

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Not a Grim Future for Poorly Timed Games

I always like to see triple A veterans build an indie studio from the ground up. They have knowledge and experience in the industry that is paramount to fueling games created from passion. You can see why I was excited to meet with one of the newer indies, Poorly Timed Games. Ironically enough, the company was founded and the name was picked right before the world went into crisis mode for the pandemic. Thankfully, Poorly Timed Games was able to pivot and get straight to work on a lovingly inclusive game, Grim Tranquility, without missing a beat. Ok, so I wasn’t there for all of that. I’m sure there were missteps and heartache during the early stages of these unprecedented times, but I didn’t recognize that while playing the demo and talking with enthusiastic Lead Developer, Jeff Meador.

Jeff was quick to point out that Poorly Timed Games wanted to do something different. They wanted inclusion and diversity to be at the forefront of their studio and to have that reflected in their games. Grim Tranquility was born from this idea while also realizing our worst fears about climate change. You won’t be saving the world in this roguelike tactical RPG. It’s too late for that. Instead, nearly 2 million people have fled the earth in search of life among the stars. A critical divide occurs at this point and two groups are formed. One faction undergoes stasis to be awoken in the new world. These people carry our earthly ideals, stigmas and traditions onward. The other group are generational travelers. Anyone who has studied the varied theories on these two approaches would know that after just a few generations, language, culture and mindsets would be greatly varied making them alien to one another.

Strategically Executed

When you start out in Grim Tranquility, your initial perks are randomly selected by spinning an “influence” wheel. These can range from enemies having increased aggro to your team earning experience bonuses. Of course, there’s a universal government organization with an AI called the Cataphor, puppeteering everything. So if you get a particularly bad perk, such as enemy damage is increased by 75%, you can bribe your way out of it. Following the spins you’ll select your party from randomly generated characters. To further lend to the roguelike elements, if your party members die, it’s permanent. Missions are also random. Currently, they are presented in a pathway and as you select and complete one, you move on, attempting to get to the next safe point and ultimately save humanity in an alien world.

From a tactical RPG standpoint, Grim Tranquility has what you would expect in a strategy game. And that’s not a bad thing. The demo showcased beautiful and vibrant lands with a lot of alien flora and fauna. I enjoyed the unique enemies and the tactical combat was a blast. You have a range of attacks and skills. Beyond the traditional healing and buffs, your debuffs can be harmful to your team if you’re not careful. Some characters have the ability to grapple enemies closer to the group, or a wayward friend out of harm’s way. All of the core SRPG elements were present in a futuristic landscape with some new elements. You move about a hex based map and have different objectives depending on your current mission.

The Wrap Up

Poorly Timed Games put on a great show. Jeff did a fantastic job showing the team’s passion and desire to help the world, and gaming industry, move to better inclusivity with diverse teams. Though they started with a small group of talent, they have had up to 23 individuals work remotely on Grim Tranquility in what Jeff calls, “an embarrassment of riches,” because they have been fortunate to have such talented people help with the project. Grim Tranquility is planned to release on Steam/PC with other platforms only in the discussion phase at this time.