One of the first things that stands out about The Lamplights League is its pulpy movie serial tone and style. On the one hand you have the 1930s setting, with all the film noir inspirations and character designs that this brings with it, but on the other, you have characters with special supernatural abilities, feeling a little reminiscent of The Minutemen from Watchmen. It’s an intriguing blend that immediately drew me in with the camera cuts and angles found in the opening cutscene.
Those opening moments really lean in on the classic noir setting, as a panicked courier races through the nighttime streets of Marseilles, nearly getting run over by a truck, only to find himself confronted and offed by a masked baddie. We then switch to the pair of characters that he was meant to rendezvous with, who then set off to find the courier and track down the package that has been taken from him.
Before you get stuck into the turn-based combat, exploring the world of The Lamplighters League takes place in real time, whether you command your characters as a group or individually, to make use of their specific sets of skills. What’s nice on PC is having the ability to play entirely with the mouse and click around to move and interact, to take direct control with keyboard, or seamlessly blend the two – with the console release on Xbox Series X|S, it also feels like this will be very well suited to controller play as well.
Each of the characters fits into one of three archetypes, with the Sneak, Bruiser and Saboteur. In a pleasing twist, The Lamplighters League mixes up the stereotypes here. Lateef’s slender silhouette does fit as a Sneak, but could just as easily have been a Saboteur, which is Eddie instead, despite his hulking frame. Meanwhile, Ingrid might appear a femme fatale suited to the shadows, but is the fisticuffs first Bruiser of the bunch.
When exploring, Lateef can clamber up and over certain objects, Ingrid can bash through broken walls and Eddie can pick locks. On a more limited basis per mission, Sneaks can knock guards out from behind, Bruisers can charge into enemies (great for clearing a couple of them), and Saboteurs can chuck an electric trap that stuns enemies and arcs through puddles of water.
This could be a way of avoiding out and out combat, or a prelude to getting stuck right in as enemies in an area are alerted – an optional path through the level I played was filled with enemies that I was able to quickly take out with good timing of an opening ability or two, rewarding me with health kits and other goodies at the other end.
You can typically start combat on your own terms at the press of a button, shifting into the traditional turn-based form, though you might want to be wary of patrol patterns. Each character gets two action points to spend, either on moving, attacks or other abilities, and there’s the usual mix of tactical choices behind positioning in cover, using overwatch, and so on. They also have individual special abilities, whether it’s a sweeping kick to knock enemies down, a flurry of bullets in an arc, or dropping a smoke bomb decoy and entering stealth for a few moments.
Of course, that’s just the opening trio of main characters, with the game letting your recruit other misfits with different abilities to the Lamplighters League, and all of them having potential to build and grow through the game.
And since you’ve got some special abilities, so too do some of the enemies. Catching up to the baddie that clobbered your courier, she comes with poisoned throwing knives, and annoying ability to fog up everyone’s senses, and a chunky health bar to whittle down through the fight. I’m sure she’s a pretty tame foe compared to the rest of the Banished Court.
The Lamplighters League gives a great first impression, from its stylish 1930s tone and style, to the potential that is evident within the blend of real time infiltration and turn-based tactical combat. If you like this genre, then this should absolutely be on your watch list for when it comes out later this year.