Developed by Hairbrained Schemes and published by Paradox Interactive, The Lamplighters League And The Tower At The End Of The World is a tactical turn-based combat game that embraces the tension and intrigue of a Hollywood adventure film set in the 1930s. In it, you play as agents of the eponymous Lamplighters League, pulled together by Locke to defeat the Banished Courts as their tendrils spread out across the world. Beautiful to look at in its cinematics and immersive to hear thanks to its voice acting and score, the game is challenging, intriguing, and ultimately crafts a wide world of espionage and mythology that is astounding to play through.
In The Lamplighters League it’s 1932 and a secret occult war has been raining in the shadows. With the forces of evil close to victory by finding the source of magic itself, you’ll have to assemble a team to stop them. Only the best of the best, the heroes, are dead. Only leaving the best of the worst, the scoundrels, thieves, and traitors, to pick up the push for survival as you fight the Banished Court to save the world.
The Lamplighters League is a campaign-long strategic game that is also easily played in bite-sized sittings as you move through individual infiltration and combat missions as you hold heists, eliminate radio towers, and free allies and comrades from the Banished Court. In true adventure film fashion, the Banished Court is a mustache-twirling organization that has both technology and mythology on its side. Fighting diverse enemy types with unique skills and weapon combinations, it’s not just the Court’s humans you have to worry about, but its monsters too.
The challenge that comes with the enemy variations means that you are constantly pushed to explore the combination of agents you bring into a mission. It’s not just about how they suit your playstyle but also how their team composition works together. Distilled into different archetypes, the first trio you get to play with are: Lateef, the Master of Misdirection with a specialty in stealth and ranged combat; Ingrid, the Quick-Footed Scrapper, adept at hand-to-hand combat that is all about close quarters as a Bruiser; and Eddie, the Two-Fisted Gunfighter, with a specialty as a Sabetuer.
The three of them offer a fantastic way to learn how to play. The gateway characters are also hard to break apart from their balance, but by using them as a map for what works, you can easily slot in other agents. Or you can begin in a “Custom Game,” which allows you to play with different agents at the start of your adventure as well.
In addition to Lateef, Ingrid, and Eddie, players also meet Jianyi (Mystic Swordsman), Purnima (Expert Sniper), Fedir (Rage Fueled Gangster), Celestine (Occult Assassin), Ana Sofía (Combat Medic), Judith (Defensive Demolistionist), and Alexandrite (Glamour Mage). This wide range of characters each have their own personalities and stories that you can learn more about while in the Hideout between missions.
Situated around a table with Locke at the center, as you amass your team of agents and allies, the image fills. Broken down into weeks tied to Mission completion—which you can skip if you’re out team members—the in-between moments unlock story elements and character interactions that are voice acted and allow you to learn more about the characters you’re playing, allowing you to grow attached to them at the same time. But beware, you can lose agents in combat, and while some may be found later on, with Locke’s friends keeping their ears to the ground, it’s not anywhere near a guarantee.
While the combat of the game is a stand-out, the inclusion of a real-time infiltration phase in between enemy encounters allows you to run reconnaissance, plan your strategy, and possibly clear an entire room of enemies without the Banished Court becoming wise to your heist. This phase allows you to move freely throughout the map, producing sound that can be detected if you sprint to quicken your pace. Additionally, the three infiltration skills, Sneak, Bruiser, and Sabetuer work perfectly together to plan your attack—with the Sneaks often leading the way.
By taking full advantage of the Infiltration Stage, a player can lower the risk of their clash with the Banished Court. You can take out more powerful enemies to make the fight easier, use the whole map, or surprise the enemies. When the Scions are involved, which are effectively bosses on the map that are extremely hard to defeat and tied to the different factions, they can make a huge difference in finding your way to victory.
Fantastically, though, and in true Paradox-published game fashion, the agents you play as are just the tip of the iceberg. The Lamplighters League also has numerous detailed systems, including three consumable slots, three slots for cards of the Undrawn Hand, which give your characters both passive and active perks, and single accessory, armor, and weapon slots. Each of these works together to build your character through interchangeable parts as much as the skills you upgrade in the trees that make the characters more powerful.
One of the interesting elements of The Lamplighters League is that you need to loot. Loot. Loot. Loot. But because of your limited slots, you also need to ensure that you’re using the items as you move through the world because you won’t be able to pick up anything new. The consumables range from Health items, which can be used on yourself, to heal others, or even thrown to affect an area, which can be used to raise your teammates from a distance when downed. Additionally, you can pick up Stress curing consumables, which are necessary to keep from a Stress Break that causes a critical injury you carry with you after the mission.
Outside of things used to recover in the middle of the fight, you also have an arsenal of consumables like fire bombs, smoke bombs, thunder bombs, frag grenades, and more that allow you to impact your character’s ability to manage mobs that could be overwhelming otherwise. Using them frequently and intelligently can be the difference between needing to reload a save or completing your objectives.
As you learn how to conquer the game’s challenge, you need to learn how to use your level design, which is important to how you choose your combat. Smartly connected together, learning how to use cover both while sneaking into areas and in all-out firefights can keep moving or undetected. Finding tactical positions that fit each agent’s skills is a core mechanic for success and one that never feels too overwhelming to manage.
The last noteworthy system is the ingame “currency,” for lack of a better word. Found in the world, you’ll collect Supplies, Intel, Healing, Aether, Skill Points, Ink, and Seric Steel. Each of these can be found by exploring levels of the mission, breaking walls, climbing elements, or finding keys to locked areas. By exploring each level thoroughly, you’ll have the best reward for time spent on a mission.
Additionally, each Mission also offers up a mixture of these and items. Supplies are effectively money, which can be exchanged for items from your Allies in the form of consumables or gear. Intel is used to take your agents on important Expeditions on the World Map, which unlock new Missions that can help you recruit new agents and allies or secure leads for the main story. Expeditions only require one agent, and while it bars them from being chosen for a mission, it’s a good place to send those who are suffering from the stress breaks, which have a turn limit on how long they last.
If wounded, however, you’ll have to sit out a mission entirely unless you have Healing. This currency allows you to heal your wounded agents, though it doesn’t fix stressed imposed debuff Undrawn Hand cards. Aether is used by your allies to unlock their skill trees which allows you to unlock new items in the supplier or make permanent updates to your roster. Skill points are ultimately self-explanatory but are shared with all of your agents, so spend and save them wisely. Ink is used to improve the tableau of cards that you equip to your characters, and finally, Seric Steel allows you to build unique weapons in your skill tree – but it’s also the game’s most limited resource.
The Lamplighters League has a cinematic quality that doesn’t just come from expert uses of film grain in cinematic cut scenes but also the game’s score that continues in every menu, combat mission, and cut scene. The game beautifully captures 1930s adventure films and archetypes, putting players into the decade of adventuring that hits our nostalgia for films like Indiana Jones and The Mummy. Surprisingly, this cinematic quality isn’t lost in the turn-based combat.
Traditionally, turn-based combat isn’t easy for me. As an impatient gamer, I’ve never fallen in love with waiting for turns to pass in order to do what I want to do in the games, especially when it comes to action moments. That said, The Lamplighters League’s fast-paced turns and wide range of movement during your turn allow impatient players the ability to immerse themselves and never feel stuck. Add in the previously mentioned Infiltration Stage, and it’s a kinetic combination for those traditionally not fond of the game type.
One element of this is the layered environments created for each Mission map. With verticality and unique designs fit for their place on the world map, the intricacies of the Mission’s background and interactive elements allow for exploration between combat and interesting strategic points in combat.
Outside of combat thought, there isn’t enough praise I can give the team for their stellar character designs. Defined as “recruiting the best of the worst,” each of the agents is an endearing scoundrel working with Locke and the other gang of misfit adventures to stop, well, Doomsday across the world. By using the World Map, players travel to a wide variety of locations, and the ethnicities and backstories of each of the Agents and Allies you find and team up with are just as diverse.
With compelling character designs that embody elements of the 1930s, my favorite of which is the tattooed flapper-inspired occult Assassin, Celestine, it’s hard not to fall in love with the characters you find. No two characters are alike, even if they share the same infiltration skills. The ability to craft such a large cast of characters and make each one feel as if they’ve walked in from their own adventure film while still feeling cohesive is a feat that this turn-based tactical adventure accomplishes.
The characters also interact with each other in the Hideout and while on a Mission. This allows them to build up their personalities and makes it extremely easy for you to get attached to your team. For example, Lateef has done nothing wrong ever, and I will lose an hour of progress just to reload a game where I didn’t lose him by using his provoke skill at the wrong time.
Thrilling in all the right ways, The Lamplighters League is a love letter to the adventure genre in film. It’s a love letter to rogues and scoundrels that made those stories an essential part of our cultural history. A little bit of Hell Boy, a little bit of Indiana Jones, and of course, some of The Mummy thrown in, the game still manages to have a unique and epic narrative of its own, taking inspiration but never wearing its skin. There is a lot to love. And let’s be honest, its stellar gameplay makes it all the easier to fall in love with this ragtag band of misfits tasked with saving the world. At just $49.99 USD and on Xbox Game Pass, there is no reason to jump in, and see exactly what awaits our crew at the end of the world.
The Lamplighters League And The Tower At The End Of The World
Thrilling in all the right ways, The Lamplighters League is a love letter to the adventure genre in film. It’s a love letter to rogues and scoundrels that made those stories an essential part of our cultural history.