What if medieval knights skipped the industrial revolution and the modern era and jumped right into the space age? Their spaceships might look like the knights themselves: heavily armored and wielding swords, axes, and maces, slashing and bashing each other in crunchy melee combat. But in space.
That’s the concept behind roguelike action RPG Fabular: Once Upon a Spacetime, coming to Steam Early Access later this year. In the announcement trailer above, you can see traditional spaceship weapons like lasers and turrets, but mostly we’re talking about physics based, medieval-style combat in a 2D space arena. Ships can dual-wield longswords, hatchets, spears, and curved daggers, hacking and smashing each other as they spin and swivel in zero gravity until someone explodes in a shower of smoke and pixels. It kind of reminds me of real-life battlebots, but a thousand times cooler.
One of the many fun-looking weapons is a chained bastilla bolt, which can be fired into an enemy ship. That ship can then be dragged toward your own and battered with melee attacks, or you can yank one ship into another so they both detonate in dazzling twin fireballs.
What event led to all this frenzied medieval spaceship combat? Well, there was theft of galactic proportions:
“The Void Lords have stolen the sun,” the game’s Steam store page says, crafting one of the best sentences I’ve ever read. “Your brothers have vanished into deep space. The king grows old and fragile, searching for a better future in the endless streams of prophecy. As the last remaining royal, the fate of the kingdom rests on your shoulders—and on your blade.”
As you navigate the FTL-like procedural star map and engage in battle, you earn upgrades for your ship, increasing its power, armor, mass, speed, and other attributes. Some upgrades are permanent, so when you die and start the roguelike over you’ll begin with extra cargo slots or special items right from the beginning. Defeating enemies lets you crack open loot chests filled with new weapons and resources, including potions, because we’re talking’ old-timey sci-fi here. Even the ship names have a cool medieval theme like Manticore and Paladin.
The art, physics, and effects all look fantastic, and there’s more than just space battles to engage with—Fabular also features “hundreds of randomly generated text based events featuring colorful characters” and locations inspired by classic folktales. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a wait before you can get your gauntlets on the RPG: Fabular is planned for an Early Access release in Q3 of 2022.