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This free steampunk RPG came out of nowhere to bask in the Final Fantasy 6 comparisons

 Screenshot from Franzen, showing off a boss battle against a mech.
Screenshot from Franzen, showing off a boss battle against a mech.

2023 has been a stellar year for turn-based RPGs that take inspiration from the classics. Sea Of Stars and WrestQuest were released just last month - to much acclaim - and served as great love letters to old-school SNES favourites. Now, there’s another throwback indie on the block, and this time, you can grab it for free.

Franzen quietly released earlier this week and describes itself as a “turn-based RPG set in a dystopian steampunk world.” As you can see from the trailer below, the game emulates those classic Final Fantasy 6 vibes with its nostalgic pixel art, but there’s a slightly more mature and mechanical edge to the world this time around.

“Explore themes of empathy and politics as Franz and Lefsa Dellia work to uncover the truth behind The Scream,” reads the game’s Steam description. The rest of the store page elaborates that “The Scream” is a mysterious tear in the sky that spews out a form of magical darkness, corrupting and turning people into monsters. The rest of the adventure promises what you’d want from a micro-RPG like this: a colourful party, weird creatures, and a unique progression system. Plus, a 4-5 hour runtime probably makes this a nice palette cleanser from the juggernaut that is Starfield.

Franzen is currently sitting at a “Positive” rating on Steam based on 17 user reviews that have very good things to say about the game. “I almost feel bad for playing this for free,” says one review. Many others compliment the sweeping soundtrack and the grotesque dark fantasy world - that admittedly looks scrumptious in the game’s screenshots.

Franzen comes from indie developer Scumhead, who previously released other retro-inspired games from shooters to Metroidvanias. You can grab Franzen for free on Steam or Itch.io now.

Otherwise, check out our guide to the upcoming indies of 2023 and beyond.