Perseverance Episodes 3&4 – Designer Diary #3

The best is yet to come - Introducing Episode 4

2023. November 06.

We’ve always known that we were not the first to set foot on this island. We explored their abandoned temples, studied their artifacts, and it was their knowledge that helped us finally tame the dinosaurs and make our peace with the island. Little by little, we pieced together the story of these Ancients, as we called them: honorable and warlike people who somehow found their way to this island from another dimension, much like we did. Their murals often depict clashes between dino riders: with their taming knowledge, they presumably used the island as a massive rider training ground to support their war effort. From what we could tell, they were long gone - or at least, that’s what we thought.

As we mapped the entire island, the northernmost temple held one last secret that should have remained buried. Beneath the temple lies a system of mysterious lava caves, more primordial than even the ancient structure above. While scouting underground, our explorers accidentally dislodged a slab with a scripture etching on it and unknowingly triggered what was to become the most difficult chapter of our lives here.

In just a few hours, distortions in space filled the caverns, eventually conjuring a massive storm around the island - one that looked eerily familiar from many years ago. We immediately started evacuating the area, but we were too late. Over the next few days, the raw energy from below manifested into a dimensional passage, and soon, its gentle humming was suppressed by the sound of war drums. The gateway to the Ancients’ homeworld was open once again, and they were back to drive out the intruders from their island - us.

But theirs was not the only portal that opened: in the distance, off the southern shore of the island our eagle-eyed scouts also noticed the shimmering storm that was documented on the day we arrived here many years ago. Is it possible that while the Ancients’ portal is open, so is ours, providing a way back home? But with a whole generation grown up on this island without ever seeing the stars of our homeworld, many would call Perseverance their home - and to them, abandoning the island to the invaders would be unthinkable. Now, they all turn to you for leadership. Will you stand your ground and defend the island for your children and their children, or rebuild the emptied out husk of the Pearl, and retrace the journey of your past and lead your people home? The choice is yours, Leader.

Welcome back, everyone! In the previous post, Richard showed you more of the dino taming and riding of Episode 3, and today I’m here to rip off the veil from the world of Episode 4.

Let’s start this off with a major disclaimer: while Episode 3 is mostly fleshed out, Episode 4 is still a work in progress, and everything you read below is subject to change. In fact, the version I’m presenting here is already a bit more recent than the one you’ll see on Gamefound on November 7. That being said, the changes will most likely be in the supporting mechanisms and the finer details, because we are very confident about the core idea of Episode 4 and the game feel that we want to convey in it.

That core idea, as the intro may have suggested, has always been the same: fight or flight?

In the previous episodes you were building settlements in and out of the city, and gathering Followers as the island’s community grew and you aimed to convince them to hold you as their leader. Now, the stakes are higher: the wilderness is already populated with Settlements at the start of the game, but the returning Ancients threaten our very presence on the island. Merely having people follow you is no longer enough: you must defend them from the advancing Ancients with your own dino rider armies. If you do, all your Followers and each Settlement out there that you manage to hold on to till the end of the game will earn you glory. Yes, this is the same glory you might be familiar with from playing the Chronicle mode (with which this episode will seamlessly and optionally integrate), where it symbolized your lasting impact - apt, since everything you do in Episode 4 is about your long-lasting legacy.

However, if you feel that the island is not worth dying for, you can contribute to the renovation and crewing of the new Pearl, a new ship built from the husk of the old, capable of briefly braving the seas (and all its dangers unleashed by the reopened dimensional portals) to make it back to our world. If you do, your people will gradually leave the island - and since followers are meant to be members of the community pledged to follow you, actions contributing to the ship often cost you followers, in the hope of increasing the endgame glory the final Adventure - the sailing home - will bring you. If you want to board the ship even faster, you can start evacuating your settlements from the wilderness. One less thing to defend - but one less thing to score glory for later.

If you face the Ancients, you’ll deal with their warbands of SpearmenBerserkers, and even their most feared Sixlegs - hybrid dinos bred for war on the Ancients’ homeworld. The combat mechanism is designed to be similar to Episode 3’s, while partially recreating the pressure of Episode 1’s ever-advancing enemy. Every time you fight the Ancients, you are rewarded with Safeguard points (another welcome returnee from Episode 1). If you perform enough combat feats, you’ll be able to unlock various rewards each time your Safeguard track maxes out (and resets). The wilderness itself is split into 12 nodes: 4 columns, and 3 rows (corresponding to the Swamp, Jungle and Hills areas of Episode 3). Each node gets a unique action tile assigned to it at setup, and you can activate an action tile (as part of your primary action) if you have a settlement there - and if the Ancients have not yet conquered it. You also have the option of upgrading your settlements into Strongholds: they’ll allow you access the actions even behind enemy lines, and make it more rewarding to fight off the Ancients. The most important reason why you may want to hold them back, though, is the endgame: your final Followers (i.e. the people that decide to stay on the island rather than evacuating) will be worth less Glory the closer the Ancients are to the city when the game ends.

Throughout the game, the warbands will move their position in each column further down, leaving the settlements behind them conquered and unable to be used (or scored). If you remove all Ancient pieces from a warband within one turn, they regroup one row further back, allowing you to liberate settlements of one column, and reclaim parts of the island for yourself. But if you only kill some of the pieces, they refill their ranks in the same position at the end of your turn, facing the next player at full strength again. A simple die roll (similar to the dino dice from Episode 1) determines which type of enemy gets deployed - sometimes you’ll wish for Spearmen to have some easy pickings, but if you’re well primed for a fight you’ll want to face Sixlegs for juicier rewards - including subduing the Sixlegs itself and bolstering your own ranks with it.

Guiding your hand - whether you face the invaders, or the sea - is the returning cast of Officers, now with wisdom of age and experience behind them. While the Captain is only interested in getting the Pearl afloat again, the others are still involved in the day-to-day organization of the city, the defenses, and the evacuation. The Officers’ Favor system for Episode 3 returns, but is further streamlined: the only available secondary action is to remove an influence to activate one of the officers’ abilities. Episode 4 starts from an overall more “developed” board state, so now you start with more Influence that will last longer, but getting more will also be a little harder.

The spaces on the Pearl will be occupied by crew - your markers will indicate people trained as Navigators, Medics, Engineers, Quartermasters, they’ll be needed to complete works at preparing the Pearl for sailing, and whenever the issue of leadership comes up for debate they’ll be able to contribute to your presence during the Assemblies (using the same streamlined method you’ve come to know in Episode 3). To give yourself an edge on the dangers of this otherworldly sea, you can even use the secrets you unlock by decoding the artifacts you collected from the temples before, and you can even install the artifacts themselves on the ship as power sources.

In the peaceful and prosperous Episode 3, you developed your player board into a thriving Ranch full of supplies, but with the Ancients upon us, the time has come for you to start giving back to the community. Each Contribution (a fairly common effect) allows you to move down the Contribution track of an Officer, who in turn can reward you with a perk - a passive player power familiar from Episode 2 returning to your player board, but in a new form. Each of the four Officers have a track on your board, but each is blocked with two supply cubes. In a thematic reversal of Episode 3, where you were hoarding the supplies on your player board to activate your Ranch tiles during your secondary actions, now the community is in a dire need of those supplies: you will be using some of your secondary actions to move these supplies onto the main board, making some actions on the main board cheaper for everyone, as well as unlocking more crew spaces on the Pearl for everyone. As you clear the supplies from your tracks, you will be able to advance on these Contribution tracks further, unlocking stronger perks.

Tying it all together are the minor objectives to help guide your strategy: Milestones and Sea Adventures. At the end of each of your turn, you can play one Milestone for a small reward if you’ve met its immediate goal, while you can scout Sea Adventures throughout the game that await the Pearl on its journey home. Each of the Milestones and the Sea Adventures also show an Endgame scoring condition, the former usually related to your position on the island, the latter related to your crew and the influence you have over the Officers. At the end of the game, you’re allowed to score one Milestone and one Sea Adventure by default, and an additional one of either for each Contribution track that you maxed out.

Overall, you have a shorter, more intense game waiting for you in Episode 4, with a complexity slightly below that of Episode 3. It has fewer resources to manage (Glowberry, Island Resources, Safeguard, and to a lesser extent, Followers), and turns are less about preparing for epic moves, and more about making those epic moves. The more you push back the Ancients, the more glory your remaining Followers and settlements are worth. Add to that whatever glory those Milestones and Sea Adventures earn, to see how it all ends at the end of Turn 7, when the Pearl is ready to leave. Either way, with only 7 primary and 7 secondary actions to go, every move you make will be hugely impactful. But with an army of dinosaur riders at your command, and the chance to finally get home after all these years, how else could it all end but in the most epic clash possible?

Join us for the Perseverance Episodes 3&4 campaign in a week and let’s conclude the story together!