Title: Pascal's Wager
Release Date: January 17, 2020
Reviewed On: iOS
Publisher: Giant Network
There’s a layer of frustration that comes with the difficult action games such as Dark Souls. Still, it’s undeniable that the formula is addictive and sometimes even fun if done correctly. Thankfully, the Tipworks-developed Pascal’s Wager is here to bring that formula to mobile devices. In philosophy, this wager states that it’s better to believe that God exists rather than he doesn’t exist, which is fitting since you should be pray to whatever you believe in to get through this intense game. Still, it’s a damn good time.
While not entirely reminiscent of the level of difficulty found in a Dark Souls game, Pascal’s Wager wants to challenge the player during encounters. I’ve never shied away from taking on these challenges, but I appreciated the scale of difficulty that the developers have added to this game. That said, I got my ass handed to me multiple times during this adventure, but that didn’t stop me from jumping back in to correct my mistakes and survive.
The gameplay here requires specific button presses and movements, which is why I recommend using an Xbox One or PS4 controller for a better experience. Sure, the touch controls work fine, but I found more enjoyment using a controller as it allowed me to take in the full scope of the battle.
Combat is so precise that its tough to blame the game for any “unfair” deaths. To be honest, you’ll die a lot. To give an example, it took me upwards of about 30 tries to take out a boss, but this was by my own faults. Timing attacks and staying on top of your positioning is everything in battle, which ties into the other mechanics of dodging and parrying. Thanks to this battle system, each encounter feels rewarding, if you survive it. It forces you to concentrate and read enemy movements instead of just rushing through battles.
What’s unique in Pascal’s Wager is that you don’t have to manage different weapons. Instead, you get to play as different characters throughout the game who each have a distinct fighting style. The main character Terrence is a dual-wielding swordsman and while his swings may be slow, he has decent mobility to navigate a fight. Then, you have Norwood who uses raw punching power and a coffin that he swings around. This is pretty much your tank character who can do some major damage, but he’s vulnerable to quick attacks due to his low speed. Viola is a dangerous gunslinger who wields a six-shot musket. She’s best used at range, but her musket is equipped with a bayonet if an enemy decides to come too close. Finally, there’s the nun, Benita, who can extend fights if needed as she absorbs the blood of her enemies to restore her own life.
I enjoyed how each character makes you learn a new playstyle as it introduces situations that call for a different character to be used. There’s also the option to customize and improve your character’s stats by leveling them up at altars. This gives you access to a skill tree, which unlocks even more ways to get through fights.
Along with the tight combat mechanics comes an admittedly intriguing story, which I’m typically not too keen on for these types of games. Pascal’s Wager takes place in a world where a natural disaster brought the Sun crashing down toward the ocean, causing a mysterious black fog to blanket the world. Colossi, beings that were revered by the people, would help disperse the fog. However, the Colossi soon fell and could no longer help. A man named Terrence sets out to find his long-estranged wife who may have some connection to the fall of the Colossi.
While it’s simple in premise, this is a story that I felt invested in. In order to flesh out this world, there are optional side quests that shed light on some of its mysteries. The entire region is pretty dreary, which fits the theme of the game. Each environment was unique and I was easily immersed in my surroundings as I slowly made my way through the game to avoid any surprises.
Unfortunately, the voice acting is pretty stale. I understand the world is dark and somber, but there could be a bit more liveliness from the voice actors. The only character that felt believable was Norwood and that’s not saying too much compared to the others.
It’s also a shame that I found my best experiences with the game required me to use a controller, which begs the question as to why this is a mobile-only title. Regardless if this brings the Souls genre to smartphones, some might just want to wait for the PC and console release.
Pascal’s Wager brings a little bit of everything to the table. You’ll be faced with challenge after challenge, but overcoming those challenges never ceases to be satisfying. The game emphasizes tight combat and quick responses from the player to survive and it works well on a mobile device. Still, the best experience requires the use of a controller, but it’s tough to look past all the great elements of gameplay that this title presents. Those wanting to jump in without the confines of the mobile device can look forward to the PC and console release in the future.
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