byteandmagic.pngIn Pixel Heroes, you start as any good old-school RPG starts: with forming a party in a tavern. Once the party is formed, a man walks in apparently wearing nothing but signs saying THE END on them to proclaim that the world is in need of rescue and off the party goes. Wherever they wander, they will find humor even though the shadow of permadeath looms over their heads.

Humor is a key element of PH:B&M, starting at party creation. The available characters are procedurally generated, with no two potential party members in any one game having the same class and starting equipment. They also receive a handful of random traits, two of which give stat boosts and the rest of which are for flavor. When I first played the game, I had a character who was sexually attracted to salty meat (this game is not quite kid-friendly) and another character who was really good at cooking salty steaks. Nothing ever came of it; these traits had nothing to do with gameplay. It still entertained me perhaps a bit more than it should have.

The game does not have random encounters. Upon receiving a quest, the party leaves town to head to the appropriate dungeon. On the way to the dungeon, they will come across a few randomly selected encounters, but the player sees them coming on the path and they do not necessarily lead to battle. These traveling encounters have different outcomes depending on how the player chooses to handle them, and in many cases the player still gets experience and has a chance of picking up loot even if battle is avoided. In the dungeons themselves, the party has one battle per room and the number of rooms is clearly laid out.

Combat itself is turn based and fairly straightforward. There are six spaces for combatants, three friendlies and three foes, to stand. Different weapons and spells have different ranges in numbers and can be used on any valid target within that number range. Characters can have up to two weapons or spells equipped at any given time and have two skills depending on character class, making for four things the character can do at any given time (though skills have a cooldown in number of turns which can carry over into the next battle). There's no set turn order for the characters, either, which gives the player some flexibility. Instead, no character can act twice in a row. Since there's no mana and only the powerful class skills have cooldowns, that leaves players a lot of room to adapt as the battle goes on.

This goes on until all three characters fall in battle or the game is completed. There are three difficulty levels, though only one is unlocked at first, plus a number of character classes and achievements to unlock by trying different things throughout the game.

Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic comes out today on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The regular price is $9.99.