Hearth with miniatures. It’s a simplification, but if the idea captures your fancy, you recognize why the developers of Unknown Worlds think they’ve hit on something special. Best known for Subnautica, the team has been quietly working on a fully digital miniatures game for the past five years. Built to emulate the collectibles, customization, and tactical sophistication of the best tabletop miniature games, Moonbreaker aims to nail the magic and appeal of the real-life hobby, but with some of the acknowledgment inherent in video games. After more than an hour of seeing the results, I believe the unknown world is on to something.
Set in an original sci-fi/fantasy universe created in partnership with renowned author Brandon Sanderson, Moonbreaker explores a distant distant solar system called The Reachs, in which a multitude of moons orbit each other in complex, Each housing unique cultures and people. A rare resource called cinder is hidden in the depths of these moons and fuels the abilities of superpowers called solar. To survive, these Solars must consume more cinder, so they gather a crew by their side and set off on their ships to collect the valuables.
With that setup, players are dropped into the shoes of one of these ship captains. fantasy seems to borrow from science-fiction like firefly And Guardians of the Galaxy For properties such as more terrestrial clearance Pirates of the Caribbean, In tense, one-versus-one battles (against AI or human players), you pit up to ten crew against your captain and your opponent and aim to take down the enemy’s captain in every way possible.
That fictional framework provides Unknown Worlds an excuse to complete their actual task – a vast and varied collection of incredibly detailed digital miniatures to enlist in a crew. At the Early Access launch, we’ll see three captains and dozens of potential crew members, each with their own distinct power set, movement style, and support capability.
Equally important, these characters each have their own incredibly detailed digital miniatures, crafted with the same care and attention you would expect from a high-end tabletop skirmish game. Each comes with a default paint scheme, but like the physical miniatures games, the game includes a robust painting tool so you can customize each character to your liking.
Customizable tools go far beyond simple skins in a hero shooter or RPG. Players have a full suite of digital paint options to make each character their own. Dry brushing, stippling, decals, wash, airbrushing – the sport allows you to apply many of the same techniques used by expert miniature painters, but also tools like auto-masking to get a clean and desirable look without extensive practice provides. The system allows you to do as much or as little tweaking as you want.
With the pictured Mini, I was fascinated as those figures were dropped into a gridless turn-based tactical combat system. In any given match, each player begins with their captain positioned on opposite sides of a carefully crafted map – think the most extravagant miniature table setup you can imagine, but kept in digital form. At each turn, Cinder powers up special abilities or can deploy new units on the isometric area in the form of drop pods from your ship, making for an interesting choice. Unlike many other tactical games, this leads to a rewarding increase in any given battle from just a few units to furious melee. In addition, players have access to two ship aid powers in each battle – tide-shifting abilities that hurl hurt from orbit to turn the fight in your favor.
Beyond the singles matches, Moonbreaker also includes a single-player roguelike mode called Cargo Run. You battle through increasingly difficult matches against AI opponents using a pre-set crew, offering cargo drops to upgrade or new crew members that last through the rest of your run. Rule-breakers and high-powered fights are especially challenging.
Whether cargo run or match play, players earn experience which gradually unlocks rewards along the seasonal track. At Early Access launch, the game has a premium model rather than free-to-play, with purchases that unlock full access to the seasonal structure, at least during the entire Early Access period.
As a longtime tabletop gaming enthusiast, it’s hard to say how much Moonbreaker “gets” what’s fun about the experience. It’s clear that Unknown Worlds isn’t looking to replace the fun of physical experiences that games like Hearthstone or Gwent haven’t ended the thriving card game scene. Instead, Moonbreaker appears to be a love letter to the hobby and a vibrant new science fiction universe to discover. I’m curious to see how the game continues to develop once Early Access launches.