To whosoever among us thinking that s/he doesn’t have a collector’s obsession: I challenge you to play Prodigy and not want to buy all the delightfully detailed miniatures that tie into its game world. Hanakai Studio’s new turn-based, tactical RPG will aim to scratch that collector’s itch through some clever tech that allows you to bridge the gap between physical minis and digital gameplay.
If you’ve had any experience with Skylanders, you’ll be comfortable with the way that Prodigy’s technology works. Prodigy’s starter packs come with the digital game, a physical game board the size and weight of a small laptop, a ring of power, eight arcana cards, and three miniatures: a watcher, guardian, and companion. To play the game, you’ll wave your ring of power - which stores all kinds of data about your characters - over the game board, and then place your miniatures on top of the board to make them appear onscreen. Similarly, you’ll slap arcana cards down on the board to signify combat and gameplay decisions.
The game board is a neat little piece of tech that has three rows of four squares on which you can place your miniatures. There’s a front row for offense, a back row for defense, and an intermediate row in between the two. The squares will light up based on your minis’ locations and whether they’re being threatened by those of your opponents, which are represented onscreen.
The grid-based setup supports a tactical gameplay experience, in which you’ll move your characters around on the game board and place arcana cards to activate attacks, special skills, and more. Party formation will be paramount for success even when you’re out of combat and exploring, as you’ll want to have the best setup to respond to ambushes. Out of combat, you’ll use the same arcana cards to determine your actions, which will depend on your party composition. For example, if you run into a city guard on your adventures, you’ll be allowed to respond with either an Attack card or a Will card based on what miniatures you have on your board.
Prodigy will ship with a single-player RPG campaign and 1v1 duels. In the campaign, the physical placement of your minis will affect the narrative, and each miniature will bring its own storyline, interaction with existing characters, and skills to the game. You can level up your characters through diverging paths, and all of their progress will be stored in your ring of power. Prodigy will also feature a matchmaking system with leaderboards, and will have a special Boss Mode where if you beat a boss, you’ll then be able to use that boss against your friends like a boss. Boss.
In referring to Prodigy’s miniatures, Hanakai Studio’s CEO and Creative Director Jean Bey explains that they are each a “palpable object that can evolve,” and I could definitely see the design intention behind this statement throughout our preview. The tactile feedback of the miniatures and game board along with the potential for collectability and leveling up of your characters in-game is certainly alluring. The whole game experience promises to tie together elements of digital RPG gameplay with tactical miniature battles, which could be very interesting.
To be fair, I must say that looking at any digital product that requires purchase of physical components makes me think about monetization, so I’m curious as to what Hanakai will be asking in terms of pricing for starter packs and minis. The game board has a very nice form factor and weight to it, and I’m not sure what that thing will cost at launch. Additionally, I was only privy to a small slice of the game’s combat, and haven’t seen anything from the single-player campaign, so we’ll have to wait to dive in more deeply, beyond Prodigy’s core gameplay experience.
Prodigy is set to launch with 17 miniatures in 2015, with new miniatures scheduled to release every few months.
Som Pourfarzaneh / Som has been hanging out with the MMORPG.com crew since 2011, and is an Associate Director & Lecturer in Media, Anthropology, and Religious Studies. He’s a former Community Manager for Neverwinter, the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment, and is unreasonably good at Maze Craze for the Atari 2600. You can exchange puns and chat (European) football with him on Twitter @sominator.