Originally published at: Review | The Lamplighters League - XboxEra
A group of adventurers fight to stop three evil Scions from taking over the world. Utilizing a mix of real-time and turn-based strategy you’ll traverse the globe trying to stop Armageddon. The Lamplighters League is looking for you! Shall you heed the call and give this one a look in Xbox Game Pass? Not if you value your sanity. Poor performance, non-stop crashes, and lost progress will drive you insane. All the incredible music, great strategic gameplay, and meta-game depth in the world can’t overcome such crushing flaws. For those of you in the patch-filled future, there is hope, as when it works The Lamplighters League is damned fun.
Over the course of a meaty campaign, you will recruit a surprisingly large number of members to fight off a three-headed Armageddon-ridden beast (a proverbial one). The Lamplighters League is a group of global adventurers set in a fictional 1930s working hard to stop the Banished Court, an ancient cult, from reaching “The Tower at the End of the World” and ending life as we know it. Things start slow with a ramp-up in team size that lets you settle into the game’s mechanics.
The game runs in both real and turn-based scenarios, allowing you to switch between them on the fly when out of combat. Each hero has a move they can perform out of combat to instantly incapacitate a single normal enemy. Ingrid can rush through them like a bull, while multiple others can cheap shot from behind or throw a landmine. You’ll move around each level in real time with up to three heroes at a time. During recruitment missions, you’ll have four, which can lead to some seriously fun combos.
The turn-based combat is deep, though it’s not always clear what certain buffs and debuffs actually do while playing. I had to go to the game’s YouTube channel to find out what exactly each thing did as they had a helpful video but that shouldn’t be the norm. The game works on a grid-based system for all movement and interactions. During turn-based combat, each character can move a set number of grid points, with moves that have their own requirements. Everything works off of an Action Point system, with most squad members having two for each turn. Abilities and use items can increase the number of AP you get and it should be a familiar system for fans of the genre.
There is a severe penalty if your team members are seriously injured or die, with an interesting way to gain them back later in the campaign if a mortal blow is to occur. They’ll have to be knocked to zero health multiple times in a single mission, and you can always save scum if you hate the thought of losing someone. Those saves though… that’s an issue we’ll get into later. Overall I loved the mix of real-time and turn-based strategy gameplay even if what was happening wasn’t always the clearest.
A huge part of The Lamplighters League is the meta-game. Every week you’ll have a set number of missions you can take, one main and various side ones that require you to send one agent on them. You’ll be in control of the main mission directly, and choosing which main and side missions to do is one of the key strategic choices you’ll have to make. Which missions you choose will determine multiple factors:
- Skill Points Earned
- Supply Points Earned
- Health Food Earned
- Potential Jobs Found
- Allies Possibly Recruited
- Items Earned
- Which of the 3 Cult Factions You Slow Down
- & More
You start the game knowing you’ve already lost the race to find the Tower. Instead of the typical race to the maguffin, you’re doing what you can to slow down the three factions within the Banished Court. Each faction has a threat meter, and if any of them reach 100% then you lose as the world as we know it is gone. You’ll need to balance missions from in-game week-to-week to build up your squad, empower them, and keep the court from accessing the Tower.
A big part of the game will be scouting, setting up, and then doing heist missions. It’s spoiler-ish to say why, but the one of these I was able to do was incredibly fun the three times I successfully did it. The game crashing and my saves disappearing truly was a shame as I was in love with the game up to this point.
Terrible Graphics and Performance & Incredible Music
The Lamplighters League isn’t a bad-looking game, but it runs far worse than it has any right to. I only got to play on Xbox Series X and it has two modes. The first one is focused on quality and it runs terribly. The second is focused on performance and it is unbelievably low-resolution. From those I know playing on extremely powerful PCs the game simply can’t run well at 4k. You can throw the most powerful hardware possible at it and it chugs. It seems they focused on 1440p as you can get halfway decent framerates there with a 4090 and top-spec CPU.
The camera is a mess as well during combat. The game tries to go to a cinematic look, moving away from its normal ¾ perspective and it loses itself inside of objects constantly. Jumping around, bouncing back and forth, or most often losing all sight of what was going on was the norm. In some of the earlier, fog or rain-filled missions the framerate would tank into the single digits at times. It was confounding as the game would look at home as an early Xbox One generation title.
While the graphical performance was disappointing the soundtrack is fantastic. It helps make a smaller, focused title feel like something wonderous. A long, varied, and constantly wonderful orchestral soundtrack pumps through every menu and combat encounter with a quality normally only found in the biggest budget titles. In-between mission cutscenes are fully voiced with excellent work all around. The writing is decent enough and I dug the story that I got to see.
The Crashes and Bugs
In a year with a wide variety of polished and bug-filled games, The Lamplighters League has been the buggiest experience I’ve had. My characters and NPCs falling through the floor happened every single time I loaded into a mission set on a particular map, though only when they died. Every single time I went to load into a mission the plane that is supposed to show up wouldn’t be there, slowly popping into existence piece by piece over the course of ten to fifteen seconds.
That loading screen is where I never knew if my game would load or crash. Those crashes killed my love of the game over time, breaking me down because they weren’t just forcing me to load back in, they were losing my most recent save files. I spent roughly 30 hours or so with the game, yet my current save file at the time is only about 10 hours or so in. I have replayed the same 4 or 5 missions a dozen times trying to see the game through for review. One time I got 4 missions deep from the time I had started having problems. I thought “Ok, I’ll have lost a mission or two, that’s not too bad”. When I loaded back in my saves for the past 4 days were all gone and I was back to where I had been stuck for a week. I rarely give up on a review, and I love playing this game, but it was so broken on Xbox at launch that I gave in and called it quits.
Wrapping Things Up
At launch, I cannot recommend The Lamplighters League on Xbox. It runs terribly, while looking ugly, and is a broken and buggy mess. Once this game is patched up and fixed though, it’s a gem. Great gameplay, a deep meta-game, intriguing story, and one of the best videogame soundtracks I’ve ever heard will be there waiting for you (and hopefully still in Game Pass).