by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
Victorian London is a great setting for a video game, especially one about rival gangs of thugs, urchins, and master thieves. Antihero is that video game, and itís a turn based strategy game about building up your gang, venturing out into London to make a dishonest living, and defeating your enemies. It has an almost board game quality to it, as you earn victory points and use tactics and trickery to slowly eke out a win.
Antihero can be played single player, or with asynchronous multiplayer. To begin with you are given a map, completely covered in fog of war. Across the map somewhere is the home base of your rival gang, and they will be attempting to do the same thing as you. In essence, itís almost like a 4X game. You will be exploring tiles, expanding into them, exploiting various buildings, and exterminating enemies.
You start out with a master thief character who can scout into the fog of war, and once he discovers buildings on the streets there, he can do some thievery to gain you some money. You can burgle the same building again to gain more, but the return will be slightly less. Gold is used to hire new members of your gang, ranging from urchins up to thugs and spies. Thugs are used to guard certain areas of the map, or buildings themselves. For example you can place them on an intersection, and your foe wonít be able to pass without fighting him. Urchins are used to infiltrate certain types of buildings, which will help you accumulate a different type of currency.
Lanterns are gained from infiltration, and the more urchins you have in a building, the more you will get out of it. This type of currency is used to purchase upgrades, and you are able to do this once per turn. These will be things such as unlocking access to new types of gang members, or increasing their effectiveness. If you donít have enough lanterns to afford an upgrade, you can simply take some gold or extra lanterns for free instead. Once you have performed all the actions allowed by each of your gang members, and selected an upgrade, you will have to end your turn and let your opponent take theirs.
You will see your opponentís gang members moving around the map, but only if you can see them through the fog of war. So, itís important to scout out new areas with your master thief every turn, whether that be the next street which leads to your opponent, or a group of buildings which may provide vital gold or lanterns. Once your opponent has taken their go, it comes back to you, and you perform your actions all over again. Itís a simple gameplay loop, but as each game of Antihero goes on, the more complicated it becomes. For example, certain assassination targets may appear on the map, and you will gain extra bonuses for killing them.
Push and pull
You gain victory points for various actions, such as bribing officials, assassinating targets, and blackmailing people, and this is how you will eventually win the game. Itís an interesting push and pull, as you never quite know what your opponent is going for. You might force them out of a certain building and think you are doing a good job, while off in the fog of war they are gathering victory points another way. Antihero is described as a 4X game with an (Oliver) twist, and it will be looking to steal some hearts later this year.