Role-playing games don't always have to be about killing monsters and saving the world. In fact, I often wish that more of them weren't.
The very nature of role-playing games' abstract mechanics allows a wide variety of systems and settings to be simulated, so it's a bit of a shame the industry as a whole tends to rely on the somewhat predictable tropes of the fantasy and sci-fi genres more than anything else.
This, of course, is why games that do something a little bit differently from the norm should be explored and celebrated -- particularly since more often than not, these games that take a few risks tend to come from small independent developers rather than those beholden to one of the big publishers.
There are a few exceptions, of course; certain publishers pride themselves on championing adventurous, small-scale otherwise independent creative productions, and in doing so they help to bring these interesting titles to a much wider audience than they might have been able to attract otherwise.
One example of a company with this philosophy is Devolver Digital, the company who helped unleash the ultraviolence of Hotline Miami on the world. Devolver is a publisher that has proven itself -- particularly in the last year or two -- to be a company dedicated to bringing some of the more interesting, exciting and creative experiences to the wider gaming audience. And its upcoming titles are no exception to that rule.
To return to my original point via a somewhat roundabout route, one of Devolver's more intriguing-sounding upcoming offerings is a role-playing game that breaks with genre convention and instead chooses to explore the everyday happenings of modern-day life; rather than level-grinding, you'll simply be dealing with the daily grind.
Always Sometimes Monsters is the product of independent developer Vagabond Dog, a team with an impressively hairy beard-to-bare-chin ratio. The game casts players in the role of a custom character who is "out of luck, out of money and on the verge of collapse after learning their beloved is set to marry someone else." Apparently, the game will allow a significant degree of freedom to play characters of different genders, races and sexual orientations, meaning that two different playthroughs certainly have the potential to be noticeably different from one another.
Over the course of the game, you'll take on life's challenges and make a series of everyday moral decisions where things aren't necessarily as simple as black and white. Will you aim to make an honest buck, or lie, cheat and steal your way to prosperity? How will you deal with other people? What will you do if your character finds themselves confronted with prejudice?
"Developing Always Sometimes Monsters has been a continual process of evaluating not only our game mechanics, but also an evolution of how we regard ethics and morality," says Justin Amirkhani from the developer. "Concepts of right and wrong can easily whittle away within the game, so we are very much looking forward to seeing what choices players make during their unique journeys."
Those of you at PAX Prime this weekend will be able to check out a special demo of the game at booth 871, and the full game will be available in the spring of next year.