As loveable as they often are in movies, rogues and scoundrels really don’t make for the best heroes. When you’re up against world-ending dangers, you really want someone stoic, steadfast and competent like a Captain America, not a ruffian who you’re not entirely sure you can put your faith into (unless they’re being played by Harrison Ford, that is). Unfortunately, that’s all that you’ve got at your disposal when putting together The Lamplighter’s League and sending motley assortments of underqualified agents on missions to stop the Banished Court.
Three nefarious factions are all pulling toward world domination in this pulpy alternate version of the 1930s, with the three Scions of Nicastro, Marteu and Strum all employing a menagerie of standard goons and drawing upon more supernatural forces from the Other Side to bring their plans to fruition.
All that stands in their way is the assortment of misfits that are recruited into the Lamplighters League, a team that you’ll lead into the XCOM-like plate spinning of needing to counteract the Banished Court’s schemes before time runs out. Each week presents new missions and things to do on the world map, whether it’s assigning an agent to a simple investigation mission that rewards you with key resources, or leading a team on a combat mission to try and rewind the ever-ticking doomsday clocks.
From playing the game’s opening a few months back, there’s capacity here for lengthy narrative missions that feature a blend of real-time navigation for exploration and setting up for ambushes and the opening round of combat, and smaller, more straightforward bouts of beating up baddies.
Whether it’s a Sabotage that aims to destroy Dimensional Drills, a Theft mission to try and recover stolen artifacts, Hijacking to divert Banished Court supply lines, or a multi-stage Heist mission, there’s always a blend of real-time Infiltration before leading into combat.
The real time Infiltration is the first step on a successful mission, as it gives you the chance to explore, loot the surroundings, and position yourself as well as possible for the inevitable fight that will come later in the level. You can lead your trio as a group of splinter one character off at a time, giving you a better chance not to be spotted, and to put your team in cover, but there’s also the chance to perform takedowns and shock enemies to disable them, before launching into an ambush.
While they slot into overarching categories as Bruisers, Sneaks and Saboteurs, each of the 10 named heroes is actually really rather distinct. Their archetypes define what they can do while exploring levels in real time, but then they have character-specific weapons, attacks and abilities that come to the fore when in combat.
As Saboteurs, Eddie and Ana Sofía can both pick locked doors and chuck guard-luring electric traps that will knock out an enemy before combat begins, but once the fighting gets going, Eddie’s twin pistols allows him to fire off a flurry of bullets to hit multiple enemies with his basic attack, while Ana will burst fire at twice at a single enemy and is the team’s combat medic. Similarly, you have the two Sneaks of Purnima and Celestine, with the former a long-ranger sniper and bullet-bouncing whizz, and the latter is a mystic assassin who needs to get up close with her poisonous dagger, but has the ability to zap to an enemy position and deliver that pointed blow.
They all present you with very different options, and picking a complimentary trio of characters to take into each mission will be key, as you look for synergies. It’s also important to level them all up and unlock the more advanced versions of their skills, spending from a pool of collected skill points that is shared between all your agents. Purnima’s ricochet can bounce three times instead of two, helping you to clear a bunch of weak enemies in one shot, while Jianyi can add more ‘flow’ with pistol shots and various abilities that add to his melee sword damage, and Alexandrite can spawn more and more and more spectral clones of herself that draw enemy attacks and can dish out a little damage of their own.
Even when almost fully-powered, there’s still a real sense of desperation to every fight. You’ve got just three characters and you’re facing off against almost insurmountable odds where even basic enemies hit hard, and bizarre occult foes can be sending void pools and tentacles at you. Not only that, but they all will take a fair bit of damage.
You need to use every tactical trick available to you, using the two action points each character has per turn very, very wisely. Thankfully you can use them however you like, switching back and forth between your characters, shooting and then moving (where this would often end a turn in other turn-based tactical games), and generally trying to coordinate attacks and abilities to take out the most dangerous foes as quickly as possible.
And even if you manage to complete an objective and win what feels like the main fight, you then still need to get out of there. Heading to the extraction point, the Banished Court can continue to summon reinforcements to Transmat Towers, Hijack missions give you optional objectives to divert more resources… if you think you can hold on against the endless waves of enemies. It’s tough as nails right now, though I wasn’t able to adjust the difficulty level available to me.
Speaking of nails, The Lamplighters League absolutely nails its visual style and theme, really capturing that 1930s pulp adventure and the desperate mission to stave off the world dominating schemes of the Banished Court. That tone feeds straight into the struggle to not just complete missions, but get out the other side in the game’s tough style of turn-based combat.
The Banished Court might have overcome me and my team of rapscallions on more occasions than I’d care to admit, but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep on trying when The Lamplighters League launches for PC, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One on 3rd October.