Death isn’t death in fantasy games because it’s never permanent. Just make sure at least one of your party members survives the battle! Barring that, just reload. It’s particularly a non-issue in fantasy games because you can just cast a resurrection spell. You could never have a murder mystery in a fantasy game, because any ol’ cleric of sufficient level would be able to solve the crime by casting resurrection and going, “So, hey, who killed you?” And what’s the big deal with Aeris dying in Final Fantasy? Didn’t anyone have one of those Phoenix down things? Death in fantasy games isn’t death; it’s a nap.
So I’m glad to see what looks like a retro 2D RPG being built entirely around the concept of death. Vidar — yet more evidence that all the good names for videogames have been taken — is based on the concept that the NPCs who are typically unkillable will die, moving the plot along an intricate web of if/then forks based on who’s alive and who’s dead. Each night in the town of Vidar, a beast comes out of a cave and kills one of the 24 townsfolk. You get a limited amount of time every night to work your way into the beast’s cave. Will you find and slay the beast before the last person dies on the 24th night? And how will the survivors who populate the town and offer you quests affect the storyline, not to mention your progress? Which of the various town events will you trigger?
It reminds me a bit of Guild Wars 2, where the dynamic events can result in all the NPCs in a town being wiped out and the town being lost. But that’s a bad example, since Guild Wars 2 is an MMO. The town is just going to be recovered and the townsfolk resurrected, easy peasy. A better example is the action RPG Din’s Curse, where the monsters in the dungeon can rise up and attack the town, killing vital NPCs and messing up your quests. It also reminds me of Westwood’s Blade Runner game from 1997, where a different suspects were replicants in any given playthrough.
Vidar creator Dean Razavi explains his game’s conceit in his Kickstarer video (note that the Kickstarter funds will go almost entirely to artwork). Power through the relatively generic trailer to hear Razavi explain how Vidar handles death and why it matters. You can also vote for Vidar on Steam Greenlight.