My Dozer chugs along, spewing out precious crude oil as it leaves dust in its wake, that is until I come upon a group crowding around a broken-down vehicle. I assemble my crew and venture out into the wasteland, only to have the group be nothing more than marauders hoping to ambush anyone passing by. My group springs into action and I wipe out the marauders leaving nothing but bloody corpses behind. I take what supplies are there and head back to the Dozer.
Skyshine’s Bedlam is a constant cycle of hard decision-making, punctuated by difficult combat and a genuine sense of joy at every victory. Taking risks is the name of the game, and Bedlam throws them at you whenever it can. As the overseer of the Dozer, it’s your job to take on these risks as you attempt to lead a great pilgrimage to the paradise of the Aztec City. Whether it’s by simply stopping to negotiate with a band of travelers or investigating the bloody animal carcasses left in the road, Bedlam demands decisive decision-making. Ignoring these opportunities will only get you so far. Every day your limited resources of food and fuel rapidly deplete. You can choose to ignore those travelers, but that could spell doom, as your Dozer could run out of fuel in a few days or your passengers could starve to death.
The game ceremoniously begins with an intro depicting the struggle to survive in the vicious wasteland of Bedlam, where everyone hopes to reach the mythical Aztec City. It’s definitely a clichéd plot, but the world of Bedlam was by far my favorite part of the game. As a fan of post apocalyptic settings, Bedlam was definitely right up my alley. Its Mad Max-esque wasteland became a character in and of itself. Every new route my Dozer took led me to meet everything from cyborgs and mutants, to hulking marauder warlords–not all of which were deadly, but every encounter was interesting. A wasteland is hard to populate without dropping the illusion of the world being desolate, however the traveling of the Dozer being punctuated by encounters with enemies, characters, or hazards made the wasteland feel full of danger, but still derelict and bleak.
The cornerstone holding together Bedlam’s world building is the incredible art style. It’s bright, vibrant, and colorful, which gives me a very Borderlands vibe–an art style I absolutely love. While it can be argued that the colorful art style clashes with the dark nature of the game, I believe it gives things like the characters and the locations a very distinct look and feel that highlights the strengths of the game’s setting.
The games soundtrack is also phenomenal, with deep bassy guitar riffs to build tension and old-western-style tracks that remind me of the world of Fallout. It only builds on Bedlam’s incredible world-building.
The cornerstone holding together Bedlams world building is the incredible art style.
One half of Bedlam is its fantastic setting, tough decision-making, and incredible aesthetic. The game’s second half, the real meat of the the combat and gameplay, is lacking compared to the first. The combat plays out on an isometric grid with each turn consisting of two movements for each side (after a set time the enemy gains “Blitz” and can do three) and a simple cover system. Each class of character you take into battle with you is designated by their weapon type: melee, pistol, sniper, or shotgun. With each of the classes specializing in different movement and shooting ranges, the game’s battle system reminded me of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, however, it’s much more grueling.
The brutal idea of permadeath has its roots in XCOM and that is clearly seen here. In Bedlam, it appears in a much more punishing way. Every character, no matter their specialization, is fragile. Getting through an encounter without having one of my soldiers die was a rare occasion in Bedlam and one that granted incredible satisfaction, however they were so few and far between. While every victory comes with great joy, in the grand scheme of things, Bedlam’s combat was rather unsatisfying and a slog to get through. The combat system is by no means bad, it comes with great depth from the class types to the powerful game-changing weapons you can have your Dozer deploy, but after the combat, the casualties mount up and the difficulty curve increases drastically. It doesn’t matter if I beat a difficult encounter when I only have four soldiers left when each of them is injured to the point where the next enemy encounter means game over. So, by the end of my successful run, every combat encounter, while tense, was also laborious, as I just wanted to progress through the game’s incredible world.
The key feature of Bedlam is that no matter what, bad things are going to happen. It’s how you deal with these adversities that make the game interesting. So when I did reach the end, it had been one, brutal path. You will die a lot in Bedlam, and restart, and then die again. So it was a great feeling to finally reach the finish line, however this was definitely in part to knowing I wasn’t going to have to attempt another run again. Bedlam had some outstanding world building and great art direction but it was definitely hampered by the underwhelming combat mechanics. Skyshine’s Bedlam was definitely an experience, but it’s not one that I will be looking to repeat, at least not anytime soon.
A PC copy of Skyshine’s Bedlam was provided by the developer. To learn more about our score, read our review policy.