Here’s an RPG I’m gonna toss out for you for an odd reason: It looks in many ways like a game that came straight out of the 90s. Aside from a more modern pixel art style and a lighting engine, Caves of Lore could well be a lost game from the Ultima generation.
A straightforward, single-developer indie CRPG, Caves of Lore has grid-based tactical combat that spans a dungeon-crawling story of 70 to 100 hours spanning a central village of 30 NPCs and 20-some explorable areas. Though it’s definitely rich with a retro feel all the way down to the UI, there is a more approachably modern sensibility to the combat design and a lot of clarity in the visuals and lighting.
“Ultima 6, The Magic Candle, Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday and Final Fantasy all come to mind. These are just some of the games that I grew up with, and there are elements from each in Caves of Lore,” said the developer.
Your main character is customizable, and your party can hold up to six people—you can even change the party leader, letting someone other than the core character take the lead in conversations and comment on the surrounding as you explore. The party leader’s stats are used for exploring, and characters also have a unique trait that means you’ll want to swap around who’s taking the lead at times.
For a smaller indie it’s also rich with pretty neat options, not many of which double up on the same stuff. The developer says there’s “65+ spells, 65+ abilities, 65+ traits” to use, and the item customization has a pretty robust system of enchantments allowing for thousands of combinations.
It is of course a solo-developed indie, and there’s a bit of jank to be found or rough edges and bugs to run up against. So far, at least, developer Red Plume has been very quick about fixing bugs, sometimes dropping several hotfixes in a day. That 90s-style UI will be nostalgically delightful for some, but for others will be an absolute dealbreaker.
You can find Caves of Lore on Steam (opens in new tab) for $10. It also has an official website, shockingly called cavesoflore.com (opens in new tab).