Indie Spotlight: Ticket to Earth

Watch where you step in this indie strategy game.

Indie Spotlight: Ticket to Earth

Developer Robot Circus

I love turn-based strategy and, even more, choosing where to place units. That may sound like an odd thing to enjoy specifically, but the genre really feels worth playing when positioning matters. Usually, I’m considering range, flanking, terrain, and where units can best support each other. In Ticket to Earth, the availability of buffs and individual character abilities is also inextricably linked to the routes you find across the game board. It’s a novel way to build an additional layer of risk and reward into the many places you may choose to be. 

At PAX last year, my first impression was that this would be a simplistic puzzler. It’s not. In fact, the bright colours, red, orange, teal and purple, correspond to heart, hand, mind and eye, which are complex qualities that charge special moves. So if Seven, who escaped telekinetic experimentation, can run across four hand squares, she can then cause damage and knock an enemy back. Her base damage is also increased by four. If, instead, she chooses a red path, she can use six hearts to initiate a reflective barrier instead. Doc, however, uses five hearts for an AoE knockback. 

Characters’ abilities reflect their backstory, with Seven’s mind power allowing for her to levitate enemies and drop them to cause significant damage. It’s not essential to use her more potent ability, it just provides an opportunity to consider. Each character gets two consecutive actions, allowing for them to find a path on one colour only, then to attack, use an ability or move again. After the tiles are traversed, they refresh randomly and you’ll want to make sure you use long paths before your opponent does. Moving twice is a valid option because of the potential to charge abilities. 

If you can move six places consecutively, a Justice token drops onto the board. If you can collect five, you can access the characters’ most powerful abilities. Seven can suck all enemies at less than 50% health into a black hole, while damaging others. Doc can charge everyone’s abilities to full. Justice tokens are hard to collect, but not impossible with forethought and planning, and so worth the effort. You have to be both incredibly mobile but also cautious as to where your path is taking you, whether it will be in striking distance of enemies the following turn. 

Currently, although obstacles provide cover, there doesn’t seem to be a negative consequence for crossing an enemy’s zone of control, contributing to the sense that free movement underpins everything. But, this is an early build and I’d expect everything to be balanced and changed before an eventual release. My favourite ability transforms the game board into orderly rows of colours. It’s both incredibly useful and infuriating. I also haven’t seen a lot of story as yet, but this cyberpunk world is all mutants, bad guys and rain. I expect it to be well written.

Incredibly, PAX was the first time developers showed Ticket to Earth. It’s much more than it initially appears, being built around the deceptively simple idea that positioning is important. Every step you take leads to divergent, but powerful, strategic options. A variety of game modes, including survival and escape, add even more variety. Several games, like Forts and Objects in Space, were generating buzz this year. Ticket to Earth seemed to be the standout newcomer for many people. After a couple of hours with the game, I can agree that it has immense potential. 


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