The Rat Project are currently running a Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming narrative-driven deckbuilding RPG, Magin: The Rat Project Stories. The campaign is in its final days, and could still use a little boost to get fully funded. Since the game has a free demo on Steam, I thought I’d give it a try for myself.
Magin: The Rat Project Stories is a mix of a point and click adventure game, with card-based combat encounters. The demo is more of a proof of concept, and only lasts about 20 minutes. Still, I must say that the game looks like a fairly promising project.
The game is set in a dark fantasy world, where magic comes in the form of an emotion-driven elemental force called Essence. Those who can channel Essence are called Magin, and they are ruthlessly hunted down by an organization of masked warriors called the Harvans.
The mere rumor that a Magin is nearby can cause a full-scale mobilization of the Harvans, who will then proceed to purge entire villages in their search.
The full game will follow the interconnected paths of two Magins, those being a young boy named Tolen, and an infamous crime syndicate hitman named Elester. Only Tolen is playable in the demo, which mostly serves as a brief introduction to the character and his predicament.
Tolen doesn’t really know about the Magin or Essence. He has lived a very sheltered life, with an overbearing mother that gives him medicine to suppress nightmares he has about the Harvans decimating a nearby village when he was young. He awakes from one such nightmare alone, and goes on a search throughout town for his missing mother.
Magin‘s exploration plays out like what you’d expect from a point and click adventure game. You move back and forth on a 2D plane, clicking on objects and people to interact with them, or pick up useful items.
Like classic examples of the genre, it’s also possible to wander into a bad situation and get horribly murdered in a cutscene, though the game generally gives you warning beforehand.
You’ll occasionally get a chance to make a decision during dialog and events. These choices are based around two sides of an emotion scale. The closer you are to the center of the bar, the more time you’ll have to make choices. However, leaning into one of the two sides also gives you ever-increasing bonuses.
Because Essence is based around emotions, where you are on the emotion scale also opens up more deckbuilding options, and will even unlock new cards over time. There are already clear advantages and disadvantages to embracing one side of the bar or the other, so I’m curious to see how it will be expanded in the full game.
The demo features a single, basic combat encounter against a pair of giant rats. As with the demo as a whole, it serves mostly as a proof of concept, and it’s still a little rough around the edges.
The battle drags on a tad too long, and the interface isn’t as smooth and “snappy” as other recent deckbuilding battle games like Slay the Spire, but the combat has some interesting ideas nonetheless.
Each turn, you draw a new hand of cards and gain three action points to spend on playing them. Like many deckbuilding games, your enemies will telegraph their next action, though in Magin its a bit more ambiguous just how much damage their attacks do.
There is also a block system that works pretty much exactly like in Slay the Spire, granting you temporary damage negation up to a certain amount of points. The more unique aspect to the card-based combat involves the game’s emotion bar.
As I briefly alluded to earlier, the further left or right on the bar you are, the more options you’ll have. You’ll gain passive bonuses, and cards associated with one side or the other will become stronger. You can change your emotions on the fly by playing cards from the opposite end of the spectrum.
There is also a mechanic based around transferring Essence to your enemies with cards and actions. Once you’ve transferred set amounts of Essence to an enemy, you can force them to perform an action. There is one action that unlocks at 5 Essence transferred, and one at 10. In the case of the battle in the demo, transferring 10 Essence allows you to force one of the rats to attack the other one.
It’s an interesting mechanic, but like with so much else in the demo, its way too early to say where they will go with it in the final game. It’s also not an especially viable strategy if you are leaning into the orange side of the emotion bar, since the Essence-focused cards are all on the purple side.
While the demo is only about 20 minutes long, Magin: The Rat Project Stories has some neat ideas going for it. You can try the demo for yourself by visiting the game’s Steam page.
Magin‘s Kickstarter campaign ends on July 20th, and they are still about $17k away from their goal at the time of writing. For $16 you can get a no-frills digital copy of the game, though obviously there are higher tiers if you want lots of extra goodies like shirts, artbooks, and so on.
Magin: The Rat Project Stories is aiming for a Q4 2021 release on Windows PC via Steam. The developers would like to bring the game to consoles as well, but those aren’t currently the main priority yet.