A Brief Sidetrip to the Hinterlands

No, I’m not talking WoW here… 🙂

I’m talking about the new strategy/rpg game from Tilted Mill Entertainment, Hinterland. It came out today, on Steam, for $20. I decided to check it out, partly because I enjoy both strategy and RPGs, but mostly because Tilted Mill’s offices are local, and I gotta support the local game devs, right? Plus, these guys are descended from Impressions, a company whose games I enjoyed for many a year. Anyway…

This is in no way a “review” of the game! I’ve played it for a couple of hours; not even remotely enough time to base a review on. This is just a brief description and some early thoughts.

Worst news first: the game freezes on me, and fairly often. If I’m patient enough, it’ll recover, but it can sit frozen for literally two minutes. Like, check the clock when it freezes, check it again when it starts moving again, and ~120 seconds have passed. Let’s hope for a patch for this soon.

The game is a hybrid, one part hack & slash RPG, one part “city building” sim. You start with a patch of land that is your “town” and a single house. Folks of various professions come to visit: farmers, merchants, craftsmen, etc. You can offer to build them a home, and if you do, they’ll stick around and start doing whatever they do (produce food, goods, money, or whatever). As is typical in this kind of game, you need to make sure everyone is fed, and you can spend gold to upgrade shops. Eventually you can set folks to doing research rather than manufacturing. Some folks won’t be willing to stay unless your town meets certain prerequisites.

The interface to talking to these people is that of an action adventure. You run around in a 3rd person isometric view. You do have a list of the people visiting your town at any given moment, but you still have to find and click on their avatars as they roam around. I’d really prefer that, assuming I’m in town, I could just click on their names in the list. [EDIT: See comments where J says that you can click on them in the list. I’ll have to do more testing to understand what I was doing wrong.] A lot of these NPCs look alike and it can take a bit of hunting and clicking to find the one you’re looking for.

A “Map” view of my town so far. (Click for a bigger image.) Notice the “Cattle Ranch” label at the top is in red…it’s owner was slain my orc raiders, and now it sits empty.

Vengence was swift, but that didn’t do the poor rancher much good. I’m waiting for a new rancher to visit town; I want to see if he’ll occupy the old ranch or if I have to demolish it and build anew.

In between tending to the town, you can head out into the wilds to fight. This part of the game is very simple so far. You have a weapon, armor and so forth, and you click on the thing you want to fight, and hold down the mouse button until one of you is dead. Your character gains experience for this, and you can liberate facilities for the town by killing all the mobs in it. So far (my character got to level 4) there haven’t been any special skills or anything of that nature. Every time you level you get to pick a new (passive) skill, which could help you personally, or help the town.

Every so often Raiders will leave a camp somewhere and head for your town. You have to intercept them or they’ll start killing townspeople. You also only heal while in town (unless you take a special skill that lets you heal anywhere). This leads to a lot of running back and forth. Leave town to go find mobs to fight. Get hurt, run back to town to heal and talk to visitors, then run back out to where you were fighting, and suddenly get the message that Raiders are attacking town so you have to run back again. Honestly it gets a bit tedious as you ‘clear out’ the facilities nearest town and have to range farther and farther afield. [EDIT: I played some more and liberated a “Portal” which lets you essentially teleport back and forth between your town and the Portal you liberated.]

As you fight, you loot corpses. Often you’ll find gold or food, but sometimes you’ll find tools that you can give your townspeople to make them more efficient. A bag of fertilizer for a farmer, or some steel traps for a hunter. A cookbook for an inn keeper. That sort of thing.

And in the midst of all of this, from time to time the King will contact you with some task to fulfill. So far he’s asked me for food or gold. Hopefully these tasks get more interesting. If you complete the task, your Fame goes up. Higher Fame is required for some visitors to want to stay.

That’s about as far as I’ve gotten, but just as I was quitting for the night things were starting to get more interesting. A Merchant had moved in, giving me the opportunity to set up shops to sell directly to bring in more gold, or to stockpile materials for war. Some of my other townsfolk were getting upgrades that depended on other upgrades, so to upgrade my Trapper to a Hunter, I first had to upgrade my Craftsman to a Fletcher. That kind of thing.

You can take a townsperson out of their shop to go adventuring with you (after you give them a weapon and armor) but I didn’t get that far yet. It seems like the game is about to get a bit ‘meatier’ but the freezes are just robbing me of any joy, so I think I’m going to wait and hope for a patch before I play more. I’ve given Tilted Mill a copy of my DxDiag.Txt and hopefully they can shed some light on the problem. [EDIT: The folks at Tilted Mill have already contacted me to try to work out what the problem is, which says a lot for their support of the product!]

For $20, there seems to be a lot of game in here, even if it starts a bit slowly. But I’d wait before buying. See if my freezing problem is a common one, or if I’m just unlucky. [EDIT: I checked the tech support forums today at launch and so far, no one else has reported the ‘freezing’ problem I’m encountering. Given that I seem to just be unluckly, I retract my suggestion that you wait before buying. Jump in and have some fun!]

6 thoughts on “A Brief Sidetrip to the Hinterlands

  1. Just a few things…

    I’ve been playing the game for a while now and the worst freezes I’ve had so far have been only a couple of seconds in lenght. And they happen in all of my Steam games so either I’m really lucky or they are quite uncommon.

    To select a visitor you can just click on their avatar. They’re all listed on the far left of the screen so there’s no need to hunt them down really.

    New followers can move in to deserted houses. You still have to pay them though, but the price is only about 2/3 of the original.

  2. Werit: No demo yet, as far as I know. I’ll shout if one goes up.

    J: I’m really hoping my freezes are a result of me being unlucky. So far the tech support forum bears that out; I haven’t seen anyone else complain about it but me.

    I swear I tried clicking on those avatars on the left side of the screen and nothing happened. I actually assumed that I could select them from that panel, in fact. I’ll have to try again tonight. Thanks for the clarification!

    I added a line to the article pointing out your comment.

  3. To click on a visitors card on the left of the screen, you need to click on their actual picture. If you miss by the smallest amount, it won’t register.

  4. about the selecting townspeople thing… you have to click on their FACE in townsperson card… anywhere else and it doesnt seem to do anything. i had the same problem where some of the time it worked and some of the time it didnt… after some experimentation i realized their face was the active area 🙂

  5. This game ‘Hinterlands’ will not load.

    It keeps freezing on me. How do i get my money back from this horrible set of code

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