Developer: Lightbulb Crew
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
With the souls-like genre taking the gaming industry by storm, a player’s skills are continually being put to the test as the difficulty forces you to learn across numerous deaths. However, this could end falling apart based on whether or not you can get the hang of the punishing systems and prevail. Developer Lightbulb Crew doesn’t shy away from the challenging aspects of their turn-based RPG Othercide, but they’ve also created a gameflow that invites players of all skill levels to try again without being too punishing.
Othercide is set in a gothic high fantasy setting of monochromatic visuals and demolished cityscapes corrupted by beings that wish to destroy it all. This universe is, however, defended by a powerful and graceful being known as The Mother. But as the battle raged for hundreds of years, The Mother is finally at her limits. With the last of her strength, she echos her powers into warriors called Daughters that not only mirror her abilities but can become more powerful after death by the recollection of Mother’s memories. It is now up to The Daughters to confront the sadistic Chosen One of Suffering before he ends the world.
The narrative does well to directly introduce the tense and bleak scenario of which the player has to interact with. Time is short as a world-ending event known as The Suffering approaches. The Daughters only have a set amount of days during each era to defeat a boss for temporary peace before the next one shows up. Surprisingly, the context of the fallen Daughters who grow stronger after each death flowed naturally with the narrative, and it also made it seem like I was directly affecting the pacing.
Aside from the story, the two main attractions to Othercide’s unique features are the Revival and Dynamic Timeline System. Every time all a character is defeated, they are sent back to day one. Still, they don’t lose “remembrances,” which are foundational stat boosters that range from additional skill boosters, one free revival coin, or more damage against enemy classes. When players earn revivals from rescuing Bright Souls, they can bring back a daughter with her level, skills, and traits intact. This effectively gives the player a better understanding of combat as they learn from failures and have improved stats to overcome previously stronger enemies.
The Dynamic Timeline System is the strategic mechanic that players use to see and manipulate whose turn is next. Not only are Daughters and enemies on the timeline but active abilities that mark when upcoming attacks are going to strike. Players also have to look out for movement and skills that drain AP points as using more than 50 points move Daughters further down the timeline, vulnerable to the entire enemy force surrounding them. This information can be used to decide what movements or counters are best for avoiding or delivering the most damage. Additionally, those attacks and boosts are divided into different types of abilities, depending on when they become active.
Usable abilities are separated by Instant, Delay, Interruption, and Reaction, each manipulating the timeline in some way. For attacks that are not used immediately, they appear on the timeline giving the player a chance to stop or avoid them. Also, Attacks can move characters up or down the timeline, like a powerful bashing attack that delays enemies’ placement or a magic spell that switches placement with a fellow daughter.
Both features paired together make Othercide one big game of chess, as all these actions, in and out of battle, determine your next few steps in order to win. A perfect battle means resources can be used to add boosters to skills, while a messy battle means using those same resources to birth more level 1 daughters or sacrifice a daughter to heal another. Usually, menus make up the uninteresting part of strategy games as they are used to set up missions and settings. However, with all the moving pieces in Othercide, the player can strike a balance of trying to gain as much power as possible in a set amount of days that also risk the daughters needed to take on the tougher boss fights. This is especially true when an unprepared character could have greatly benefitted from some stat boosts or a healed Daughter since there is no way to do this during battles.
As for upgrades, Othercide has multiple ways to increase a player’s chances of winning after several losses, as mentioned before there are “recollections” earned after battles and deaths and “memories” that each the stats of each skill a daughter has. The more interesting upgrades are called “traits” that are randomly assigned to Daughters based on their performance and abilities during battles.
Arrogance, for example, is a negative stat that decreases the experience earned in battle in exchange for more damage and is typically assigned to Daughters that cause a lot of damage while taking little damage themselves. These are also “Agile” that increases the chance of dodging attacks. The intention from LightBulb Crew was to give each daughter personality, which I think is sufficient enough to tell the difference between those that happen to share the same hair or name. However, the more common traits are eventually seen many times.
While on the topic of common elements, there are many instances where Daughter traits, spoken dialogue, and cutscenes are seen and heard multiple times before I even got to the first boss. This usually wouldn’t be a problem in other games, especially if it were something that could be skipped. But by design, Othercide is meant to be repeated many times, yet I can’t skip the death scene transition to a new recollection. Also, during a battle, when certain enemy types spawn onto the map, The Mother will repeat these short descriptions that became old for me quickly when spawning multiples in a row.
The same can be said about Daughter names as my playthrough had plenty of Claires in my roster, though it doesn’t become a non-issue for players that opt to change Daughter names before birthing them and deleting weaker daughter from the cemetery. Other issues encountered revolve around clarity and quality-of-life during combat, one being that they’re several modes that player select on the battlefield that can be confusing when the only feedback is camera and range boxes. LightBulb Crew is aware of the issues and will hopefully have a patch out around the game’s launch to help tell from the different combat options.
Othercide is a fresh take on the turn-based genre that presents a unique approach to the genre full of challenging moments of strategic combat. With the influx of similar titles, Othercide manages to stand out through its dark and gorgeous themes paired with a memorable narrative. There are moments of the gameflow that can be improved on, but I have rarely been this eager to jump back into a game after suffering a loss.
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