Skyshine’s Bedlam Review: Tactical Insanity

Skyshine’s Bedlam is a post-apocalyptic tactical, roguelike RPG released in September of last year. However, the fans were vocal about their dislike of certain bits of the game, and Skyshine went back over it with a fine-toothed comb. Now, the “REDUX” edition is available, promising retooled combat and difficulty. If you passed on Skyshine’s Bedlam before, should you pick it up now? Let’s go over the game as it stands today in my Skyshine’s Bedlam review!

Post-apocalyptic settings are a popular theme in sci-fi, with various different flavors available. Skyshine’s Bedlam takes a sort of Borderlands/Mad Max style approach, with brightly colored art, an abundance of repurposed football pads, and villainous warlords bent on wasteland domination. Bedlam’s lore is really well developed, with full character bios and tons of in-game flavor text.

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If the setting can be most closely compared to Borderlands, the gameplay is most closely reminiscent of FTL: Faster Than Light. You are in command of an advanced, tank-like armored “bus” crawler… thing, and responsible for its passengers’ health and safety. The overall goal is to make it through the wasteland to a place called “Aztec City,” a reported safe haven from all the hostile forces arrayed against you.

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The campaign mode tasks you with making your way to Aztec City, but the route you choose is up to you. There are many encounters along the way, and it’s possible to take on side missions as well. These encounters and missions can reward you with additional meat (to keep your passengers alive), crude (to keep the crawler moving), or even new crew members to take into battle.

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Along the way, you’ll no doubt come into contact with some enemy forces. Battles involve four of your crew against whatever enemy force is picking a fight on this particular day. These battles take place on a tactical grid, where your team and the enemy team take turns moving and shooting.

The “Redux” version of Skyshine’s Bedlam changes the combat pretty significantly. The original game featured a “2 actions per team per turn” restriction that made the game more like chess. This was a frequent source of frustration for players, so the Redux version swaps this out for a more standard X-Com style “two action points per character” model. If you want to experience the original version, you can toggle it in the game’s settings.

One thing I really appreciate about Bedlam’s combat is that the individual fights are small scale and tend to end quickly. Many games that blend tactical RPGs with an overarching campaign tend to let the battles drag on for far too long, which gets tedious after a time. Bedlam’s combat is streamlined and straightforward by comparison.

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Between battles, your crew levels up, granting damage and HP bonuses. You can also sink energy cells into your crawler’s systems to make survival a bit easier. If you stockpile your energy cells, though, you can also use them to fire powerful weapons and “battle equalizers” that can provide benefits to your crew while in the field.

The one major bone I have to pick with Skyshine’s Bedlam is the repetitive nature of the campaign. Even if I’m generous and count many similar encounters as distinct, I still end up in the same encounter multiple times in a single run of the campaign. Long term, I can see myself getting tired of the repetition. There’s only so many times I can approach a run-down shack or a pack of wandering nomads, even if the scene does play out in multiple ways.

Skyshine’s Bedlam
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:9/16/2015 (Original), 4/4/16 (Redux)
Price:$19.99
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

Skyshine’s Bedlam is an engaging tactical RPG with campaign elements that manages to keep the action fast paced and bite sized. I find my only real complaint is that I want more. I want more options, and I want more events. The post launch support has been stellar, going so far as to completely retool combat, so I have hope that the good game here will continue to expand.

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  • SkyshineJeff

    We are currently working on the next version which will be Battle focused!

    1. Equalizers will now only affect the selected crew member while I also reduced to cost to account for this. 1a. Equalizers now use other resources (Crude and Meat) instead of just Power cells! No more power cell grinding…
    2. Ability to choose what happens to a unit on level up ( +1 damage, +1 move or +1 health) example: http://i.imgur.com/KrSD0fW.png
    3. Adjusting the faction specific abilities 3a. Rogue A.I. now uses either cloak or deflect ability every 4th turn 3b. Changed Marauder ability to ‘rage’ which gives them ability of extra damage every 3rd turn
    4. Exploding barrels on the battlefield
    5. Making some battle fields larger!
    6. Letting enemy fire their own equalizers (at higher threat levels)
    7. Perhaps let players recruit new crew members when a class type is exhausted.
    8. Frontliner now have passive cover ability!
    9. Most Elite units now have a small area-of-effect alongside their attack! and so much more!
    • agent86ix

      All of this sounds awesome Jeff!

      I’m excited about using meat and crude for equalizers, and the changes at level-up.

      Oooh, I always wanted elite units to do AoE damage. Seems like something they should be able to do, especially those mutants who spit that… green stuff.

      Are the larger battle fields going to slow down combat encounters? I mentioned in the article I really like the battle pace.