I’m a real sucker for particular aesthetics. It’s probably because I grew up loving the Indiana Jones franchise like millions of others, but that setting of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s mixed with supernatural and otherworldly elements just clicks for me. The Lamplighters League is that to a tee.
Much like the Indy films, this game has a wide range of characters, exciting set pieces and globe-trotting. The tactics-based game is a really fun romp through an alternate reality that brings some fresh takes on the genre, while also keeping things familiar to any veterans.
Lighting The Lamp
If your ears perk up when you read Indiana Jones or if I reference the 1999 classic The Mummy, The Lamplighters League might already be for you. The setup has a group of mercenary-type characters helping a wealthy “boss” stop three Houses that are hell-bent on world domination.
House Nicastro wants to bring back the dead god that they worship, House Strum is the type of group you’ve seen face off against Dr. Indiana Jones, complete with mummy armies. At the same time, House Marteau is backed by an American industrialist who is as devilishly twirling his moustache towards irreversible capitalism.
All three of these groups are racing against you and each other to grab Keystones, ancient items that will unlock an ultimate source of power and energy. Locke, the man at the top of your group’s food chain, recruits you. He has the resources, but you (as the playable fighters) have the skills necessary to get the job done and sabotage the “competition.” It’s all very pulpy and fun to follow along.
The game is presented through a series of short cutscenes and dialogue stops that are fully voice-acted. The writing is cheeky, funny, and well-voiced no matter who is speaking.
The League on the Battlefield
The Lamplighters League is a tactical, mostly turn-based, role-playing game. In each area there are people to rescue, plans to steal, generators to sabotage, and so on and so forth. The tasks change with each mission and are varied enough that I never felt like I was doing anything too many times or in the same place. The game does a great job of changing the locations every step of the way. Sure, I may have needed to steal secret plans in South America and Africa, but the stage layouts, music, and overall settings were all unique and exciting.
One of the most compelling additions to the turn-based genre doesn’t involve taking turns at all. The Lamplighters League begins each encounter with a “real-time” phase where you can set up where you want your team to begin the fight and take out a few of the enemies before the real battle begins. Each character has a special ability, depending on their class. Lateef was often in my active party because he was able to cloak and knock out baddies in silence with his Sucker Punch. Others have more aggressive approaches or set-up tactics like stun grenades. All of these are fun to use and can even be used to set up satisfying combos that give you a huge advantage when the turns begin seconds later.
Battles consist of tactics similar to personal favourites like XCOMand Darkest Dungeon. There are cover mechanics, grenades, healing, buffs and debuffs, combo kills, knockdowns, elemental damage, melee and ranged abilities, and more. In this case, I don’t think The Lamplighters League is bringing much new to the table. But I also never felt bored or uninterested in how they all played out on the battlefield. The charm of the game goes a long way, and while the game can have some difficulty spikes, I never felt cheated or frustrated with the results.
There are several deeper systems at play in The Lamplighters League. I found The Undrawn Hand an excellent way for the game to present another set of push-and-pull skills and debuffs that pop up after each mission. Some will aid your crew, while others will be tacked on after they’ve become too stressed from their previous encounter. These cards are randomly drawn and can be tide-turners for upcoming battles or prevent one or more of your heroes from succeeding.
This adds depth and forces you to make some difficult decisions. Despite the added challenge, I found this to be engaging and clever. The Hand brings in some great supernatural elements, provides tactical decisions away from the ones you use on missions, and creates some fascinating scenarios I didn’t see coming.
The Lamplighter’s League Is Focused But Variable
The missions throughout The Lamplighters League can be procedurally generated or contain larger, longer tasks that drive big plot points forward. You can only do one at a time, and when you choose to tackle a mission to sabotage House Sturm, for example, the other two become increasingly more robust or advance closer to their ultimate goal.
This is a great push-and-pull mechanic that games like XCOM have been doing for years. But while that franchise sometimes evolved into chaos and was overwhelming quite quickly, playing on the middle (but still challenging) difficulty setting here felt manageable. After over 22 hours of gameplay, I kept most advances at bay, but I always felt challenged and felt like there was no “right decision” at any given time.
Variability is also present in the team you take out on missions. As a trio (sometimes as a foursome), you’ll have plenty of choice from melee bruisers, snipers, tacticians, healers, and more. To start, I had at least two people I stuck with, swapping the third spot every few missions. Several hours in, this was no longer my play. The Lamplighters League does a fantastic job drip-feeding you new characters you can either take out or keep in your home base to help you with upgrades and items. Rescuing them in the short term is challenging and rewarding, especially as the campaign continues. The rag-tag crew grows in numbers and in personality, always feeling fresh and distinctive.
I’ve already mentioned Lateef, one of the first heroes you play as on your journey. This quick-witted and sneaky character is one of many throughout The Lamplighters League. Whether you’re sitting and listening to the dozens of great discussions amongst the crew at their hideout or the banter among your team in the middle of a fight, it’s all quite charming. There are a few stand-out performances; chief among them is Daren De Paul, who voices Locke, and Claire Dodin, who is behind the voice of Celestine.
🎙️Here are the incredible voice actors behind the Lamplighters! Their talent has given the characters so much life and personality.
No matter where you are, the music is its fantastic character. The score by Composer Jon Everest is top notch. It is subtle when it needs to be and swells like a blockbuster movie that inspired this game. I constantly felt a sense of wonder and discovery in what I was hearing. These adventures can be a blast on their own, but they can be something extra special when accompanied by a soundtrack like this.
I love a charming adventure like this. It also helps that the gameplay itself is a ton of fun. Setting up my real-time approach was a lot of fun and was extra rewarding once the turn-based tactics kicked in. The game houses one of the best variations of push-and-pull and take mechanics on and off the battlefield.
The fun and challenging gameplay is wrapped in a presentation I thoroughly enjoyed. The music and sound design are accompanied by writing and voice acting that carry a compelling and exciting narrative, while the characters and settings are drawn through a great mix of cartoon-like art styles and a real-world feel. If it wasn’t on your radar before, I hope The Lamplighters League is now.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PC
Review: The Lamplighters League
The Lamplighters League is an engaging and fun ride from start to finish. Its take on turn-based tactics is rewarding, while the compelling story is told through great voice acting and accompanied by an amazing score.
Real-time tactics are really fun
Gameplay is challenging and rewarding
Excellent voice acting and music
Took a while for new characters to be added to the team