Rollers of the Realm Preview: Pinball levels up

Digital pinball has proven to be quite the versatile genre. What was once a staple of arcades on account of its addictive design and creative themed tables is now a mainstay as a more traditional form of game. Specifically, the Zen Pinball series has managed to carve a nice niche, offering interesting tables and even extra downloadable content, and opening the avenue for some healthy competition.

Now, a new pinball game is being prepped to deliver a different kind of hybrid experience. Rollers of the Realm, developed by Phantom Compass, is heavy on the pinball gameplay and adds RPG elements to offer something fresh. It's a strange mash-up of genres, no doubt, but it's one of those things that's just so crazy that it may work. If my time with the game at E3 was indicative of anything, it's that there's a solid foundation for a good game here.

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You're not just playing mindlessly on a table racking up points. Instead, Rollers of the Realm frequently tasks you with completing objectives to clear tables. One of my first objectives was to rob townies as the rogue, represented by a ball. By bumping into other characters, I essentially stole some of their wealth. In addition, the rogue has the advantage of pickpocketing even more cash if she bumps into town dwellers from behind.

Next, I undertook the task of helping a drunken knight. The poor dude was surrounded by enemies, so I had to aid him by sending the rogue ball right into the baddies. It's a simple formula, but it was a nice way of introducing pinball combat into the mix.

After helping the knight out, he joined my party, bringing a unique skill to the table. Due to his large size, the knight is able to break through certain obstacles on the tables with relative ease compared to the other characters. By utilizing this ability, I was able to progress through specific areas on a table I was playing with no real trouble.

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Rollers of the Realm keeps things simple, but its few nuances really help make it feel like a fusion of pinball and RPG. You can switch party members, improve stats, battle bosses, purchase items, equip weapons, and heal your characters. It all plays out like a game of pinball, but the story elements and characters also give it a nice RPG vibe.

To ensure that players are hooked, Phantom Compass has put roughly 12 hours worth of story-based pinball RPG gameplay into Rollers of the Realm. Normally, I'd scoff at the idea of playing pinball for long periods of time without getting bored. But given the nice touches and added elements that are featured in the game, it's easy to see how you can get engrossed in the experience for prolonged stretches.

It may have been fairly intuitive, but Rollers of the Realm was one of the more unique titles I played at E3 this year. If you dig pinball and want something just a little bit deeper, watch out for it this holiday season. The game will be available digitally on the PlayStation 4, Vita, and Steam.

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