Games of the Year

Urtuk The Desolation

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This tactical open-world turn-based fantasy RPG will definitely appeal to fans of the genre. Send your adventurers to explore the ancient ruins. Hire new explorers, examine the corpses of a fallen enemy, and try to survive in harsh conditions.
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

Tactically behexed
Urtuk: The Desolation is one those respectable indie games which rather than strive for something grandiose, aims for a more focused and down-to-earth approach. Urtuk simply means business, and the item of the day is all-you-can-eat buffet of turn-based tactical combat, served in dystopian fantasy setting. If an endless stream of tactical skirmishes on mostly procedurally generated hex-based arenas sounds like your type of evening, the title in question is bound to sate this appetite to bursting. A bold statement? Perhaps. Let’s take a closer look at the menu and let it speak for itself.
Doom and Gloom
Nothing captures this title’s straight-to-business approach quite like its lore. Urtuk: The Desolation depicts a story of one Urtuk and his band of companions, facing the desolated wilderness of a dying world. One day the titular hero is saved from the dungeon of a devious alchemist along with 2 other inmates. Being a living test subject left Urtuk’s body ravaged by steadily progressing mutation – an ailment he is willing to cure, even if it means going to the other end of the world to do so. Frankly, that’s essentially all there is to the game’s story, a simple motivation to spur the band of warriors on. While it can be a letdown to some, the overworld at large serves as a respite between skirmishes rather than the opposite.
Despite a general lack of narrative, Urtuk’s visuals manage to convey a remarkably dour vision of the state of the game’s world. The title’s settlements are a bunch of rugged tents, palisades and scarce walls. Battlefields are littered by peculiar statues hinting existence of some greater force in ages past. The game’s comic-styled visuals are gritty and most enemy designs are downright hideous. What possibly best captures this title’s atmosphere is the ultimate fate of unwanted party members. The player doesn’t merely kick obsolete or wounded warriors out of the party, the only option to terminate the employment of an unwanted underling is to literally butcher them for one of the resources. No one even bats an eye when the deed is done.
Steep curves
Grizzly visuals notwithstanding, Urtuk: the Desolation is foremost about the unrelenting battles, one turn at a time. I would like to say that this title fits into “easy to play hard to master” category although this is not really the case. This title starts as already challenging and with time only gradually becomes more complex, as to keep the player engaged once you get the proper grasp of the basics. When the game itself states its “adventure” mode is very challenging you better take its word for it. I was sent reeling back to the drawing board with my warband bloodied several times and there are 3 higher difficulty levels available for those seeking particularly punishing experience.
What makes this title’s learning curve particularly steep is the plain, yet deviously effective way in which Urtuk raises stakes of each fight. The game takes relatively liberal approach to health, as each combatant fully heals provided they survive the current skirmish. It gets tricky when they don’t, the first “death” causes the warrior in question to enter “injured” state. Should the injured combatant fall again, they will die proper. The HP of an injured character is significantly reduced. To make matters worse, if the wounded character is not treated using a medicine, they will eventually succumb to their injuries. Thus, Urtuk has a little of a betting game worked into the mix. To gain something substantial, like taking control of a village that provides supplies necessary for production of said medicines the player must commit their warband to fights against superior enemy numbers. Make no mistake, your warriors will fall, especially at later stages of the game. The true question is how much can you sacrifice for a possible gain and can you exert sufficient control over the battlefield to keep own losses in check. Alas, the game is a constant struggle for survival with the player being constantly pressed to gather one of the game’s resources to barely get by.
Tinker, Tailor, Marksman, Warrior
More than deserving a separate mention are the fighters themselves. Human faction (the only one available for the first playthrough) comes with a surprising variety of classes, each with a distinctive set of skills to set them apart from the rest. Life-leeching bloodknight, javeliner able to both strike from afar and alter elevation of neighbouring tiles, an armoured guardian able to shield allies and the list goes on to impressive total of 13 different characters. The warband may be composed from any 6 warriors providing substantial room for experimentation and encouraging a myriad of viable playstyles.
However, as far as this title is concerned, this is merely a warmup. Each character may be fitted with a set of mutations – passive effects capable of significantly improving or altering a warrior’s performance. Theoretically, having 6 warriors of a single class, tailored to fill different roles using mutators alone, is a legitimate option. Nuances of Urtuk only increase from there. Your warriors gain specific perks related to their performance in combat.
In case the gameplay loop was getting a little stale, in spite all of the above – there are multiple factions, gradually introduced as the player ventures into the new areas. Admittedly, Human faction is by far the most varied one and serves as a framework for the others. Nonetheless, there are as many as 10 other factions, each having a distinct theme, visuals and at least a slight variation that sets every warrior apart from their counterparts in other factions. To give credit’s where it’s due, Urtuk provides tutorials for pretty much everything mentioned, however the mind-boggling level of details involved makes an attempt at keeping track of everything a fool’s errand. Especially taking into account that one may recruit from almost any faction, not just the starting one.
Panicking!
Urtuk: The Desolation’s complexity is this title’s biggest virtue or vice depending on who you ask. The game’s intricacy is likely to appeal to veterans of the tactical genre and equally likely to overwhelm and discourage any newcomers. There is an “exploration” mode designed to remedy the steep learning curve for those wishing for more laid-back experience with the game, still there is a lot to keep a track of in Urtuk.
Furthermore, while the heated drumming serving as the background of each fight is functional, it is also a single looping track, which occasionally has an audible pause before starting over. Another aspect of the game that vexed me was the panicking mechanic. Provided the player can deal overwhelming damage or kill a leader of an enemy warband, some foes will cry out in anguish and expose themselves to damage. Overall a neat touch, however it also applies to non-humanoid beasts and utilizes the same lines of text as a run-of-the-mill footman for a monstrosity that doesn’t appear to have mental faculties to experience fear, let alone voice it. A little more faction-specific variety to the enemy quips would help immersion a lot.
Ultimately, Urtuk: The Desolation is the exact kind of gem I enjoy playing indie games for. A title thoroughly dedicated to delivering its core premise to the best of its developer’s ability and adding a little extra on top through effort alone. I can highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys turn-based combat. Do give this title a try, it legitimately deserves more recognition than it currently receives.

Review from Steam

A hidden gem and a Best Turn Based Strategy next to Battle Brothers in recent years.
At the moment there is 8 distinct factions with dozen units in each of them.
You pick 3 units from human faction at first, and unlock 7 other factions later. You can field up to 6 units from your roster on the tactical map, 3 that you started with and dozens more recruited on the map, each of them with different role, skill and abilities
In addition to that, you can collect ''mutagens'' after each fight, evolve them and feed them to your units, making them stronger and tailoring them to your desires.
Sadly world map don't have much to offer compared to Battle Brothers. It's not open world, just a points of interests refilled with time.
Where the game shines the most is the tactical combat, with tactical map that includes terrain obstacles and interactions with them i've never seen before. For example, your ''tanks'' or ''off tanks'' can be a best early game team killers with their ''push'' or ''charge'' into the death pits abilities. It all depends from You, the player how those abilities become utilized.

Review from Steam

i appreciate the combat system, but the game's campaign gets repetitive after a while. all you do in this game is fight, so if you enjoy strategic combat like that of Divinity OS or Battle Brothers, you'll have fun playing around with this for a handful of hours

Review from Steam

Turn-based tactical RPG games in a dark fantasy setting are definatly my fetish xD
Sure, it's a grind fest, but a good one. Because of combat part is really fun. Since there's a vast amount of classes, perks and skills to build your very own suicide squad of indestructable monsters.
Not much for a story and lore, sadly. And still can get some improvements, of course. Yet, that's ok for a one-man-band, I guess.
But no Steam Cloud saves. Figured out that in a hard way after loosing all my unclocked starting mutators. Which was really disappointing. Other than that I enjoyed the game a lot.

Review from Steam

Such a great game. Not too much info to help out new players when I first started playing but the journey of learning characters and coming up with strong builds was very satisfying. Gameplay stays challenging throughout the whole game for most part. Building up game knowledge and finally beating the game on Desolation difficulty only using two characters ( I could probably have just used Urtuk solo even) on the final mission was by far one of the most satisfying wins in any game I have played

Review from Steam

This game was good if not brutal when it first came out, and now that some time has passed and it has been fine tuned it is an absolute joy to play. Everything is fair and balanced, huge credit to the devs! Unique mechanics lend for awesome combos, play your way approach makes it fun and replayable, grim and dirty aesthetic suits it nicely. Urtuk is a labor of love and it shows in spectacular fashion!

Review from Steam

Very good, tactical gameplay, but can get quite repetitive and tedious if you are not rushing through the story. I had to take several breaks during my playthrough, yet the game felt great again after coming back. Multiple choices for party composition and development, although there are clearly weaker and stronger character classes. Has decent replayability as you can unlock other starting factions for future runs.

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