I’ve already poured far more time than I expected into Backpack Battles. One of the biggest games of Steam Next Fest so far, I thought I’d check it out quickly last night. Before I knew it, it was midnight, and my friends and I were hyper-optimizing builds for the demo’s ranked mode.
At the start of each game of Backpack Battles, you start out as a burgeoning adventurer. In true RPG fashion, you’ve little in your pack beyond a wooden sword and a four-leaf clover for luck. With the few gold pieces in your pocket, you’ll be able to visit a merchant and add various items to your inventory. From there, you’ll go out into the world to do battle against other intrepid adventurers.
Thing is, it’s the contents of your backpack, not the strength of your arm, that affects the outcome of those fights. Each battle plays out automatically, the cooldowns on the items in your pack triggering an effect every few seconds. Backpack Battles is, in essence, a combination of the inventory management system that acts as the bones of popular roguelike Backpack Hero, and the autobattler multiplayer system of games like Teamfight Tactics, which I’ve played an enormous amount of over the years.
Just as in Backpack Hero or TFT, it’s synergies between items that drive success in Backpack Battles. For instance, I just ran a healing-focused build, where my hope was to fill my face, Skyrim-style, at the first sign of trouble. Different food has different effects – a banana offers healing, while garlic offers armor and dispels the lifestealing vampirism buff from enemies – and those effects trigger more quickly for each adjacent piece of food. Food also buffs the frying pan weapon, with each piece granting bonus damage, so a strategy can easily start to come together.
But if you don’t find the glut of potassium required for that build, you might opt for a powerful stamina build, allowing you to swing multiple weapons at once. Or you might simply hide behind a huge amount of armor and wait for passive ‘Fatigue’ damage to kill off your opponents towards the end of each round. Poison whittles down enemy health over time, and can turn healing against them, thorns hit back on every attack, or you might simply stitch on as much backpack space as possible as wade into battle to throw everything including the kitchen sink at opponents.
You’ve only got a month to wait before Backpack Battles actually launches on March 8, when it’ll add another two classes in addition to its current ranger and poisonous witch classes. Given the buzz it’s getting during Steam Next Fest, it’s looking like it could be a quiet hit – it’s currently sitting at #4 on both Next Fest wishlist and active player charts, and with major releases like Homeworld 3, Stormgate, and Pacific Drive ahead of it on those charts, this definitely isn’t one to ignore.
Keep an eye on the future with our list of upcoming indie games.