The Lamplighters League review for PC, Xbox

Platform: PC
Also on: Xbox Series X, Xbox One
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Harebrained Schemes
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

When it comes to The Lamplighters League, it’s very much a case of what you see is what you get – for better and for worse.

The “for better” part is obvious: it basically sells itself as a reimagining of XCOM-style turn-based strategy through the lens of 1930s-style pulp adventures, and that’s basically exactly what it is. You have a team of swashbuckling adventurers – a heavy, a sharpshooter, a thief, and so on – and they get sent out on missions to save the world from a cult bent on global domination.

Since it’s so heavily indebted to XCOM, the gameplay will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s even vaguely aware of those games. You sneak into areas, you stumble across enemies, and you have to take them all out while satisfying a few winning conditions. It doesn’t do much original in that respect, but it also doesn’t seem like it’s trying to, so if you’re fond of the genre, you should be moderately happy with what’s here (and I’ll explain why I’m using the phrase “moderately” in a little bit).

Where The Lamplighters League is really trying to set itself apart is in terms of its characters and its world-building. On that front, it does an okay job. The characters capture the flavour of those old pulp serials, and the game allows you to mix and match your teams in a way that gives you a chance to play the game however you want to.

There is bad news, however. As fun as The Lamplighters League is, it’s also more than a little buggy. I experienced this first-hand, when the game wiped out my progress not just once, but twice, and both times in the same way: I played for an hour or two, I went away, and when I returned to the game it had somehow managed to delete my save. This happening once was annoying; for it to happen a second time was ridiculous. I had a much more substantial go of it my third time around, but losing saves left a bad taste in my mouth.

What’s more, the problems don’t stop the further in you get. If anything, they get worse. The game is prone to slowing down and crashing the busier the screen gets – which is a major problem in The Lamplighters League, since the further in you get, the more common it is for you to have to take on huge numbers of enemies. There are also reports of the camera basically not knowing what to do, of the game not responding to inputs – hardly the things you want to see when a game asks you to sink a few dozen hours into it.

What’s worse, most of the glitches will never be fixed. The game was developed by Harebrained Schemes and published by Paradox Interactive, and the two parted ways late last year, based in part on The Lamplighters League’s underperformance. Consequently, in December the game got one last patch and nothing further is planned, which means that whatever bugs are there now will be there forever.

To be sure, even with its bugs and glitches, there’s still a decent game to be found in The Lamplighters League. It doesn’t quite hit the highs it could, however, so if you’re enticed by the promises of XCOM-meets-Indiana Jones, be aware that performance issues mean it’ll never quite be as good as it could be.

Paradox Interactive provided us with a The Lamplighters League PC code for review purposes.

Grade: 7