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Atypically for roguelikes, GearHead has plenty of important NPCs and a developed Backstory about the power struggles between totalitarian empires and opportunistic corporations. The game world is also remarkably open - the first game features several cities with factions to join and arena combatants to challenge. The games also utilise random plot generation for quests and main storyline alike - The Villain may be a criminal overlord in one game, and a totalitarian government's agent in the next.
The first game, GearHead, focuses on the player creating a career in East Asia, near the fictional city of Snake Lake. The second game, currently under development, takes place in space instead.
Features examples of:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: There's albino alligators in the sewers beneath Snake Lake.
- After the End: The Age of Superpowers ended in the Night of Fire, making most of the Earth uninhabitable. The Federated Territories are the largest chunk of inhabitable land in the world.
- Advanced Ancient Acropolis: The Ziggurat. Also a Temple of Doom.
- The Antagonist: Varies from game to game, but is always fairly dangerous. Typically somehow connected with Aegis Overlord.
- Beam Spam: Averted. While energy weapons recharge automatically, overuse will cause them to heat up one's mecha.
- BFG: Omnipresent in the GearHead universe. Mechas commonly have big weapons, and some people carry personal scale weapons designed for taking out mechas.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: It's possible to build a Bare-Fisted Monk who can tear mecha apart.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Elisha Kettel, though she's not the worst by any means.
- Critical Existence Failure: Averted. You can lose subsystems without dying.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Spiritual characters tend to feel this way, though there is an in-game philosophy that allows you to reconcile spirituality with the loss of your humanity. If you haven't taken the trait, however, a spiritual character will suffer increased problems from cyberware rejection.
- Designer Babies: In the backstory, the Idealists.
- Duct Tape for Everything: No matter how badly one's mecha is damaged, it can be fixed with enough duct tape.
- The Empire: Aegis Overlord. They are among the antagonists of the first game.
- Experience Points: Somewhat atypically, experience can be obtained by using non-combat skills as well. Lockpicking and mecha repairing grant large amounts of experience, as do prayer and scientific experiments.
- The Federation: The Federated Territories.
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: The source of a lot of the monsters floating around the Territories.
- Humongous Mecha: It is a mecha fighting game.
- Impossibly Graceful Giant: Any mech with MV 0 is literally as agile as a human.
- Jack of All Stats: Averted - a player who attempts to learn too many different skills will have to pay extra experience for training any of them, slowing their advancement.
- Level Scaling: Almost all encounters' difficulty is scaled according to the player's reputation. Loser players will not typically get to even try fighting strong bad guys.
- Lost Superweapon: A recurring element in the first game.
- Lost Technology: All over the place. About half of it is safe to use, if you're lucky.
- Macross Missile Massacre: Swarm missiles.
- Magic Versus Science: Spirituality versus Pragmatism. This personality axis determines whether you understand the world through spirituality, mysticism and religion, or through science and reason.
- Magnetic Weapon: Railguns and Gauss guns are both commonplace in GearHead universe.
- Mega Corp: Kettel Industries, BioCorp, and RegEx from the first game. More in the second.
- Military Mashup Machine: A possible result of some tinkering with mecha designs.
- Mundane Utility: Riding a humongous death tank is a faster way to travel than walking.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Typhon.
- One-Hit Kill: Very common - several high-end weapons can total a mecha in one shot. This is also probably the reason why neither of the games enforces Final Death.
- Recycled in Space: GearHead 2's description in Ubuntu's package repository puts it this way:
gearhead - roguelike mecha role playing game
gearhead2 - roguelike mecha role playing game in space
- Spirituality is Magic: Meditating at shrines can develop your experience and occasionally give you statistical boosts, especially in the Shrine Tour.
- Science Fantasy: Some of the elements in the first game shade into this.
- Shrines have magical effects.
- Ladon, the god of a Pacific Islander tribe, subtly manipulates the minds of the people into throwing their people into the volcano to be eaten. It's actually a gigantic pre-war superweapon.
- The Ziggurat, an ancient technological structure from the Age of Superpowers, also functions as a memorial to the dead who are there, and the Shrine of the Heavens is at the top.
- Clan Ironwind has a prophecy about an outlander who will join the clan and lead it to greatness. It is guaranteed to come true in some form, should you complete the quest (which is Dummied Out in the last release version). However, they mistranslated the prophecy, and it's impossible for the prophecy to come true in the way that they imagine it coming true.
- Sidequest: Some of these are precreated, others are generated based on the current situation. For example, citizens will offer mecha combat missions if they are under attack by a raider faction.
- Splash Damage: Explosive weapons, naturally, can cause this. In a slightly different variation, weapons with the HYPER-flag deal the damage inflicted to the entire mecha, not just the targeted subsystem.
- Transhuman: The Extropian philosophy is about abandoning one's humanity and upgrading with cybernetic implants.
- Travel Cool:
- Wrench Wench: Hyo Lee, and you can also make your own character this.
- Wretched Hive: Snake Lake Waterfront.