While not unique in any way, Bedlam’s art is just scrumptious, its story-line is addictive and game mechanics are infuriatingly fun.
Skyshine’s Bedlam is like XCOM meets FTL meets Fallout meets Mad Max.
It will destroy your innocence. It will nuke you, call mutants to t-bag your soldiers and, in the end, it will laugh in your face – but it’s so God damn fun. Furthermore, it’s unforgiving with those that take Skyshine’s Bedlam as a 5-minute-break. It can be just that – get into the game, do a couple of interest points and get out while your sanity is still untouched. But before you reach that mastery level, you need to sink your teeth into it and learn how to survive.
Because if you don’t then Marauders will take your meat, your limbs will be used as spare parts by Cyborgs, Mutants will infect your Dozer and the Rogue A.I. will wipe you off of the post-apocalyptic planet.
Skyshine’s Bedlam Review
I got a press-release copy for reviewing purposes by the lovely guys and girls that work at Skyshine Games. The first time the two of us met was in January of 2015 when I stumbled upon their Kickstarter campaign. Fancied their Saturday morning adult cartoon style at first, but I fell in love with their idea after reading more about their project. Moreover, when I found out that Bedlam is John Mueller’s baby I nearly popped a vein out of pure excitement.
John is the creator of the critically acclaimed OINK graphic novel and former Studio Art Director at Vigil Games, which developed both Darksiders titles.
John and his team comprised of veterans of the gaming industry developed an amazing world filled with life, terror and most importantly of all – childish joy.
You and your immense APC, simply dubbed Dozer, have to traverse the desert riddled with Mutant, Cyborg, Marauders and Rogue A.I. cities. If your foes won’t be your end, then the lack of crude, meat and power cells will surely make a dent in your quest.
Your goal is to reach Aztec City where, rumors have it, a sanctuary can be found – a new hope for life.
Don’t expect to get into Skyshine’s Bedlam and win battle after battle. At first, you’ll feel dumbfounded how easy it is to lose all of your troops. Afterwards, you’ll feel dumbstruck how easy it is to lose track of your supplies, thus resulting in the end of your journey.
You start in Bysantine, with four paths available – cities and factions are changed every time you start a new run. However, it’s always recommended to go against Marauders, or Cyborgs at first. The Rogue A.I. and Mutant factions are going to be overwhelming. Mainly because the first can easily teleport on the map, and the latter gains +1 HP after each turn.
You embark into the unknown, armed with four Deadeyes, four Frontliners, four Gunslingers and four Trenchers. Deadeyes are your average sniper, Frontliners are damage sponges, Gunslingers are Uzi-like wielding rabble-rousers, and Trenchers are shotgun-equipped.
You can carry only six members in a fight, but you shouldn’t max your slots because you’ll get double resources if you gamble with your life. If you plan on fighting Bedlam denizens with only three members, then you’ll get double powers cells, double crude and double meat. As you add more members to your shock-team, bonus rewards dwindle.
Itching to taste blood, you attack the first group in sight. Oh, behold, it’s a gang of Marauders. They aren’t a match for your army, are they? Well, think again.
Its combat style clearly resembles the one found in Banner Saga. It has a more chess-like approach than your average TBS shoot’em-up game. If you go head in without taking into account how fast your foe can reach your troops, then it’s bye-bye Jazerium, Durgo, Ambarra or any other unfortunate soul.
Battles are intense and if you don’t pay attention, you’ll lose Trenchers due to poor map placement. Moreover, each battle randomly positions troops on the map. This, however, is frustrating mainly because a foe can be placed exactly near your 2 HP Deadeye. I don’t have to explain the outcome, do I? Blood, guts and skeletal remains.
Yet, its randomness makes it challenging and it also makes you, the player, think. You can’t go willy-nilly into a battle ground or you won’t come out of it alive. Furthermore, you’ll just break down in tears when a veteran sniper dies on you.
Your troops start out as Rookies. When your troop kills an enemy, it gains one point. They need three points to advance to the rank of Veteran. Afterwards, they will gain levels after four kills. This entails more damage, and slightly more HP.
Elites, which can join your army after you’ve defeated them, advance in rank only after six kills. They don’t get more HP, but they do get more damage.
In your quest to reach Aztec City, you’ll find out that the whole desert is ruled with an iron fist by King Viscera. A ruthless dictator that enslaves the desert’s denizens to do his dark bidding. You feel a sort of obligation to free the people and kill King Viscera. Your quest isn’t about reaching safety anymore. It turns into bringing freedom to the suffering masses and offering them safe passage on your hulk of a Dozer – named The Boneshaker if you play with humans.
However, King Viscera doesn’t make an appearance unless you are worthy. While you move from city to city, battle to battle, the game adjusts its difficulty accordingly.
You start at Low-> Guarded-> Elevated-> Severe-> Bedlam.
As Skyshine’s Bedlam grows in difficulty, expect more and more enemies to appear in battle. King Viscera will only appear when you reach Bedlam, and even then he randomly makes his presence felt.
If you’re playing Skyshine’s Bedlam only to kill the King and reach Aztec City, you’ll miss out on a ton of fantastic side-quests. Or, how they like to put it, interest points. Every zone has interest points that either give you free resources, tech, lore, or events that eventually lead to a battle.
I encountered some Cyborgs that fancied my Dozer and they decided to kill me to get it. Needless to say, their plan didn’t work out so well. On more than one occasion I’ve met a horrible human being, a slaver, that told me he is more than happy to trade crude, meat or power cells for whatever man, woman or child I was transporting.
I left the scene as quickly as I could. Thinking back at it, I should’ve bashed his skull in.
You’ll encounter all sorts of extraordinary characters that ask for you help, go out of their way to please you, join your attack squadron or become part of your passengers.
But take it with a grain of salt, they can sabotage your Dozer from within. Others will trick you into following them straight into a trap – yet, I’ve seen this happen only on higher difficulty levels.
Other Dozers can be unlocked only on Normal mode, and only through specific quest-lines. That’s why it’s important to mingle with people, to see how they are struggling and how you can help them. But this requires resources, and go figure, in the desert resources are scarce.
Keeping a track of how much crude, meat or power cells you have is a pain in the Dozer. More so if you don’t upgrade your vehicle.
You can sink power cells in Bio Research which reduces meat consumption per day, Barracks which heals your injured crew faster, Armory which improves power cell efficiency aka equalizers and weapons cost less. Last is Engineering, which if upgraded to its maximum level can improve your crude efficiency.
You need meat so your passengers don’t die on you, and you need crude so you don’t get stuck in a dune somewhere near Animosity Pass – it’s the New Jersey of Skyshine’s Bedlam. I swear, all the bad things in my playthrough happened in Animosity Pass.
But I digress.
Power cells are your most important resource. You can use them to upgrade your Dozer and use special abilities while in battle. They are called Weapons and Equalizers.
Weapons are a must on higher difficulty, and there’s just something special to it when you witness Marauders pummeling each other due to the side effect of your Skyshine Distillery bomb.
You can’t spend more than 50 game-time days in Skyshine’s Bedlam if you don’t use your Equalizers. They are quintessential to your session. I’ve been using heal each battle – mainly because I’ve been a careless buffoon that moves his Deadeyes right in front of an enemy Trencher, but that’s another story.
You have all the tools necessary to massacre King Viscera’s allies. It’s a shame not to use them regardless if it’s just out of curiosity’s sake.
Yet, you can have stacks of resources, hundreds of powers cells and still horribly lose. Strategy, chess-like strategy is crucial if you plan on going for a long-run.
I found that leveling up your normal rookies to level 30 plus, while being an immensely hard task, is the key to success. As is gathering elites.
Elites are special boss-like units, which join your team after you win their Elite boss-like event. They are quite game changing if played correctly. My team was always comprised of Chunderok, a spitting Trencher-like mutant, Krobarr, a Frontliner of Marauder descent, and Krobarr’s brother, an Elite Trencher Marauder, Skragger.
Besides giving a huge damage outburst, I could employ my elites, and any other member in my little army, to do special tasks. Take Krobarr, while exploring the desert, I stumbled upon a vicious gang of Marauders. I sent Krobarr to parley with them and he came back with a plethora of resources. If it weren’t for him, we would’ve shed blood that day.
The same happened when Voltana or SPLITCOIL – which I re-named SPOILER – were sent out to discuss life and death issues with a Rogue A.I. group.
I can’t stress this enough. It’s important, besides being extremely fun, to take on interest points. I found The Nuke which helped me blast my way through countless hordes of Cyborgs. I also found the teleportation equalizer, which helped me with a couple of side-quests and in battle.
Skyshine’s Bedlam becomes more enjoyable when you gather friends for a gaming session so you each pick a character as an avatar. You concoct a story based on the character’s bio and you live through him. Rest in peace Dens – I loved you/myself deeply.
Skyshine’s Bedlam photo gallery.
Skyshine’s Bedlam Verdict
I don’t get why it has mixed reviews on Steam. People are complaining that it’s unnecessarily hard and they miss the point completely. It’s supposed to be like this. While it’s not Bedlam’s essence, without its high-difficulty it would have been just another eye-candy indie game.
It’s 2015 and gamers just want a ton of checkpoints, a ton of slots for save games, tutorials galore and whatnot.
I say no. I welcome our new overlords. Skyshine’s Bedlam made me think and I just loved it to bits. It doesn’t employ a trial by fire tactic, instead it lets you explore and choose your own path. You could say it takes everything Oregon Trail did best and upped them to another level.
You could say a lot of things about Skyshine’s Bedlam – a poor game isn’t one of them.
I rank Skyshine’s Bedlam at 85 points out of 100. It’s not a perfect game, and it’s not unique in any way, but its art just tickles my fancy, its pacing is more than okay and lore is fantastic.
I would have loved a skip button because there are times when one action is more than enough. I also would have loved a change of scenery when you unlock other Dozers – sure, the skin’s changed, and you get other benefits, but you still have the same crew.
Yet, I’m itching to get back into it as soon as I finish typing. Check back with us if you want to read a comprehensive game guide.
Buy Skyshine’s Bedlam on Steam – it costs $19.99.