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Witness the Power of Steam

Mike "JuMeSyn" Moehnke

It's that time again, ladies and gentlemen - time for me to talk about a fine RPG that never left Japan. Unsurprisingly for that sub-grouping of RPGs, it's on the Saturn and only the Saturn. The name of the game is Wachenroder, and lovers of tactical titles are hereby given notice to track it down for the interesting play mechanics on display here.

The setting of Wachenroder is interesting in and of itself; a throwback to the industrial capitals of the world circa about 1900. This translates to a very dirty, grungy, dark, polluted place. The story involves a man named Lucian looking for someone to blame for his sister's death thanks to constant pollution in her environment (though it segues into the more-or-less familiar themes of some power-hungry fellow named Vlad trying to co-opt everything to unleash his new world order). Bonus points for having a little bit of German text in the game and a bit more in the manual: sehr schoen!

But Wachenroder is a tactical title, so obviously the combat is the most important element. In Wachenroder every combatant on the field, friend or foe, possesses 99AP per turn. These 99AP can be used for anything, but doing anything requires AP. Moving requires AP, for instance - thus necessitating different stratagems than in many tactical titles. There is also no limit on the number of actions a character can perform per turn, only that options are eventually exhausted with AP consumption. Enemies usually outnumber the player by only a small number, moreover, but if a protagonist is next to an enemy and thus subject to a massive attack the character will probably fall: enemies are quite strong if allowed to use their AP for attacking.

In keeping with the industrial-era setting, all weapons are steam-powered. This plays a role in the tendency of weapons to overheat with extended use. Attack too often in a short stretch of time and a character's weapon will overheat, rendering it useless for at least one turn. Enemies are afflicted with this also, but they generally choose to refrain from attacking enough to overheat. There is also the presence of weather (with temperature in Celsius being the most important statistic) that influences how quickly weapons overheat. Understandably, in an environment of 38 degrees Celsius weapons do not cool down quickly. Protagonists can reduce their heat accumulation at the expense of all remaining AP in a turn.

There are certainly issues with the game: it is one of the most linear titles I have ever played, with absolutely no opportunities to wander about. And it's a bit short. There is also the omnipresence of height; a combatant with a height advantage will take much less damage and inflict a great deal. Wachenroder is good enough to warrant remembering 9 years after its release, however. So tactical aficionados are advised to acquire a Saturn and investigate post-haste.

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