13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is really good and I want to talk about it

I’m only a few hours into this PS4 game, but it’s really good. It’s sort of a visual novel, point and click adventure game, except laid out like a 2D brawler, with super-duper-high quality 2D hand-drawn character models and backgrounds (maybe they’re not actually 2D hand-drawn, but they have that look) and butter-smooth animations.

BUT it’s also a mecha tactical RPG. But even then, not quite like any other I’ve played before. First of all, it has this really unique art style, where it’s like you’re watching from a tactical monitor, like a radar or something, so it’s almost more like a hi-fi space invaders (and I think this is intentional). It’s really evocative, and it’s a clever way to cheat around not having to develop super detailed assets for both game modes. I was worried it would get confusing, and sometimes it’s hard to see certain things, but for the most part, it seems to work. I think that’s in part because, kind of like into the breach, the goal is different than in a standard tactical RPG, and so it’s almost more like a puzzle, and the visuals mostly facilitate this successfully. In this case, you’re trying to defend a base from waves of aliens, most of which go down pretty easily, so it’s really about area control and energy management (so you can use your maneuverability or range moves, or your area of effect moves). I’m not describing it well, but it’s unique and fun.

Also, despite what the name may lead you to think, it’s really nothing like Pacific Rim, or only in the loosest sense. Or, at least so far, anyway. I assume the name was intentionally evocative of Pacific Rim though, but maybe not.

It also has (at least so far) a really interesting story. In some ways, it seems like your traditional teen mecha anime, but it’s got some cool timey-wimey stuff, a non-linear narrative to go along with it, and it feels a little bit more in the vein of something like Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, or Darling in the Franxx, where it seems to me like there’s some subtext here, but I’m not far enough into the game to know what that is yet, or in any case it’s got some cool high concept ideas.

Also, while the prologue organizes things in a tight loop between VN sections and tactical sections, once the game actually opens up, it becomes much more non-linear. Because you follow different characters, you can play the different characters’ VN stories somewhat freely (some things get locked until you’ve completed other stories), and it seems that even within any given chapter, there are potential branching paths, and the narrative also seems to support the idea that these branching paths and non-linear story developments are co-occurring. But also, while there are incentives to intersperse story and tactical, it actually separates out those modes, which I thought was a really cool idea. So if you’re not in the right headspace for tactical gameplay, you can push through the story, and if you’re not in the right headspace for a narrative and just want to fuck up some aliens, you can push throw the tactical gameplay. It actually feels like it should have been a handheld game; I usually play my switch docked anyway, but if it did come to switch, I’d probably recommend buying it on switch just to have the option to play it handheld. Both the tactical sections and VN sections, at least as far into the game as I’ve gotten, are fairly bite-sized, it feels like it was designed with this in mind, like maybe a few years earlier it would have been a Vita game (RIP Vita).

I was saying, I think it was on an RPG discord, how I think it’s interesting that mecha anime has fallen out of favor in recent years, with a few high profile exceptions, so this was a pleasant surprise. I still don’t have any deep insights about that… maybe one day.

I don’t off-hand have anything tabletop specific to say about this either, besides that, I’m enjoying the game on multiple levels and am finding it creatively inspiring. Perhaps the way it integrates the non-linear story with player choice, separates the modes, and uses visuals to unique effects, could be analogized to tabletop… I dunno, if I think of anything I’ll follow up.

Check this game out.


Thanks for the rec! I wonder if its on the Switch. Btw, if anyone is looking for an osr mecha game, I’ve heard really good things about The Mecha Hack. They just kickstarted an expansion too.

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According to the internet, 13 Sentinels is a PS4 exclusive, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it eventually shows up on Steam and/or Switch.

Ya I read the original Mecha Hack but haven’t played it, but it seemed solid. The only thing I didn’t love about it, was that it did not necessarily seem cross-compatible with other OSR games. I was hoping for something that would basically be a mecha game that could be bolted onto a normal OSR game, and with some work I suppose one could do that, but it was designed to be a standalone game, I think somewhat at the expense of modularity.

I guess on the topic, @Spwack wrote this really interesting game Batteries Not Included which is this really cool robot RPG game that uses a unique card-based system but is somewhat OSR-like in terms of its sensibilities. I wrote an expansion for it to treat it more like a Mech game and as a bolt-on to a traditional OSR system, more like what I was originally hoping with the Mecha Hack. I also wrote a review for TSR’s Gamma Knights which is a Power Armor expansion for Gamma World (as well as a standalone wargame). I thought it was a bit too finicky, but had some cool ideas. Even though it’s power armor, one could easily imagine it scaling up to Mecha, and Gamma World’s rules (or at least the edition that this expansion was built for) are similar enough to regular OSR D&D that one could pretty easily take it as-is. In that Batteries Not Included Expansion post, I also adapted some of the Gamma Knights ideas for BNI.

At some point I’d also like to do a Gamma Knights / BNI hack for Into the Odd / Electric Bastionland- maybe I can justify it by designing a Maximum Recursion Depth Court of Hell as a mech micro-setting…

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I’ve ran Mecha Hack and it’s more self-contained and really is compatible with Black Hack games and items. I agree, I would be interested in a Bolt-On Mecha Ruleset for OSR games. I will have to take a look at Gamma Knights to see what it has to offer (Partially for my own interested, but also for the Gamma World game I am prepping and seeing if I could try and backport that into 1e from 4e).

One thing I will say though, using Mech Hack as a basis or source of inspiration for a system. I’ve had partial thoughts of trying to make a Mecha system, but seems to sound too much like TMH or takes too much from it.

When you say taking Gamma World into 1e from 4e, you mean the version of Gamma World based on D&D 4e? I believe that’s Gamma World 7e, whereas Gamma Knights was an expansion for Gamma World 4e, if I’m remembering correctly, which was based on D&D 2e, so I guess in that regard it might be closer to what you’d want anyway.

I read Gamma World 7e way back when and I actually thought it looked pretty cool, it’s probably the most OSR-like D&D 4e game at least that I’m familiar with and actually makes me respect D&D 4e a little more.

I’ve definitely read Black Hack 1e but admittedly am not super familiar with Black Hack offhand, so it’s possible I’m not giving Mecha Hack enough credit and if I had more experience with Black Hack it would be more obvious to me how to use it in a way that’s more cross compatible. So if I were hypothetically playing a science fantasy flavored Black Hack, could I have regular characters, who at some point in the game acquire Mecha Hack mechas, and you think that could work fairly seamlessly?

I’ve also thought of designing my own mech game, but I think in my case, I’d want it to be more for something like Evangelion, I think. Not in the sense of specifically being like an off brand Evangelion, but in the sense that it does both the sci-fi/tech mecha stuff, but also incorporates weird and high concept elements. That’s the other thing about Mecha Hack, it just felt a little too vanilla to me, which I understand was probably intentional, but I haven’t seen a Mecha TTRPG that’s tried to do anything particularly weird or experimental, at least that I can think of off hand. Maybe Bliss Stage? Haven’t played it but I’ve heard things.

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I’m refering to the edition of Gamma World based off of 2nd edition D&D with porting Gamma Knights, from my understanding Gamma World 7e (which is based off of 4th edition D&D) was the main box set, remakes of the first two modules from Gamma World 1e and not much past that. I personally respect D&D 4e myself, just kind of wish the technology was in place for it’s success (like Roll20 and FoundryVTT). I wish I could have played D&D 4e more before really getting into TTRPGs and the OSR.

I would say Mecha Hack and Black Hack are compatible (albeit Black Hack has 6 Attributes and Mecha Hack has 4 attributes) since they share the same basic frame work. You can have Black Hack Characters gain Mecha Hack Mechs, just need to keep in mind the two left over attribute scores from the Black Hack (or whatever you are porting from). Alternately, you have play the Mecha Hack with just the pilots without their Mechs (it’s a note within the rulebook for missions out of the Mecha).

I’ve only started designing and really began publishing (you can find my Itch.io profile here) but I’d lean in more of a Western/Edge of Society flavoring of Mechs if I were to really try and design my own Mecha ruleset. Sort of a flavoring of Mechs that someone like Louis L’amour or Zane Grey would write if they did Sci-fi alongside their western writing or something modeling the Adventuring and stories seen in Sword and Sorcery or stories like The Black Company. Something where the Mechs are common enough where small groups of Adventurers can gain them use them as their main method of going on their adventures (Just speaking off the top of my head here).

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