"Flying Helmet's brilliance is in integrating two devices that nearly everyone has, the personal computer and the smartphone."
The great thing about the rise in indie developers is the willingness to try new ideas, no matter that they might seem a bit far-fetched, because sometimes they just might be brilliant. Eon Altar is a little bit of both, the far-fetched and the brilliant. In it, Flying Helmet Games seeks to recreate the experience of couch co-op, and its approach to doing so is nothing if not unique.
Eon Altar plays on PC, but it doesn't use a mouse and keyboard, nor a traditional controller. Instead, it controls through a free app on your phone or tablet. Up to four mobile devices can connect to the game through a wireless router, and they serve as both a control scheme and personalized screen. The controller takes some getting used to, but should be intuitive enough for anyone who has played Diablo or a similar point and click RPG. Your phone's utility doesn't end there however, as it is also a personalized screen displaying information only you can view. You can see your character's internal thoughts, and the game will often prompt you with dialogue choices based on your character's individual personality and objectives. For instance, different characters may actually have conflicting goals, so it may behoove you to play your cards close to your chest.
The nature of co-op also means that combat plays out in a unique hybrid of turn-based and real time. Allies and enemies alternate turns, but in the allied turn everyone has the opportunity to act at once. This means that if you are not careful, you could waste your powerful shot on an enemy that just died at the hands of your ally, or you might take out your friend with an ill-placed AoE spell. Players also compete for loot in the field, so a greedy teammate might swoop in and grab all the treasure from the chest you were aiming for.
The world of Eon Altar is actually based on a pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons campaign that the developers (all high school friends) have been creating for 15 years. I did not have an opportunity to delve too deep into the story, but I enjoyed that the world has its own founding mythology that the characters seem actively engaged with. For instance, my character, part of the Silent Sisters order of assassins, prays to the god of betrayal and stealth, much to the consternation of her devout paladin companion. Characters also have a reputation stat with their companions that will affect dialogue options. In another creative twist, whenever your character is speaking dialogue, your mobile screen will prompt you to actually read the dialogue out loud. Though it risks alienating players with performance anxiety, speaking your character's lines instantly draws you into their story.
Eon Altar is not a completely new idea; Nintendo has utilized its handheld systems and Wii U gamepad to create some delightful gaming experiences. But Flying Helmet's brilliance is in integrating two devices that nearly everyone has, the personal computer and the smartphone, to bring people together in a cooperative environment. The game is split into episodes of around 4 hours, and each episode is further divided into play sessions of an hour to an hour and a half. It is perfectly timed for people with busy lives who want to connect for a fun, interactive experience.
Eon Altar is available now on Steam early access for $4.99. You can also check out the trailer below.
And if you, like so many of us here at RPGFan, enjoy game music, you might want to give a listen to this preview of Eon Altar's soundtrack as well!