The Videogame Corner: Othercide

Game: Othercide
Developer: Lightbulb Crew
Releases: 2020 (Nintendo Switch, PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One)
Genre: Strategy Role-Playing Game

Yet another round of Blaugustian community reviews comes with Humble Choice in February 2023. Another set of games for an affordable price with many titles probably being unknown to most players; not for quality reasons, but rather because there are so many games on the market that you cannot keep up with every release. For the February round, I decided to pick “Othercide” as my contribution to the review series, which I had no prior knowledge about but which managed to gain my attention with its presentation. Of course, I am not the only one writing about the Humble Choice games; and it only seems right to give you an overview of what else is in store review-wise. So, here is the list:

Feel free to check out the other people’s reviews, they do some amazing work, and also manage to keep things shorter than I do. However, I also have a game to review so let us take a look at “Othercide”:

The starting menu of “Otherside”, and definitely a cool screensaver motif.

“Othercide”, first and foremost, wants to sell itself via its aesthetic. Dark, moody, gloomy, end-of-the-world vibes are supported by every design tool the developers had at their disposal. The color pallet is black and white, only to be contrasted with bright red in certain places and details. The colorless hordes of horrors that look like melted flesh with either humanoid or more monstrous forms try to overwhelm the stark contrast of the entity called Mother, the red-glowing figure fighting a losing battle with her army of Daughters that all wear red scarves as eye-catchers. The Daughter’s arsenal of weapons all consists of shards, which seem close to falling apart, fitting for the last stand they are fighting. And while all that world-ending business goes on Mother does offer a choice of random names to her offspring which range from being somewhat artsy like “Belle” to abstract choices like “Serene”, “Felicity”, or “Providence”.

So, how did we even get to the point where monsters that range from crazed plague doctors to H.R. Giger’s finest invaded the world as we know it? Well, you need to find the story snippets in-game to make sense of it all, but as far as I know, Mother was once a mighty warrior protecting the world. The Child, also seen as the Chosen One, carries the concept of Suffering with it. Mother, wanting to solve the potential conflict peacefully, tries to free the child from this otherworldly power, but ultimately fails and the Child breaks reality, which gives room for all those monsters to invade the world. Mother herself also has another side though, Memory, which takes shape in form of the red shape she takes during the game, assisting you with her soldiers, the so-called Daughters, and her powers of rememberance to reach the Child and defeat Suffering once and for all. It is very possible that some of the details I have listed do not hold up to scrutiny, but that is basically the gist of it. The sake of the entire world is at stake and you are the one to secure victory.

The gameplay works as you would expect it in a strategy role-playing game. You start with three Daughters, each of them being a member of one of the game’s three classes. The Blademasters are your close-range damage dealers, the Shieldbearers also want to close the distance to the opponent but rely more on crowd control and defensive maneuvers than raw damage output, and the Soulslingers come equipped with two pistols and support the melee sisters with firepower from afar. The game consists of missions on which you can normally take one to three of the Daughters, which will then be dropped onto a battlefield with the goal of the operation depending on the mission type. The most common mission type is the usual “kill all enemies”-type of deal, rescue missions ask you to reach a certain area with a civilian as part of your group that you need to protect, and then there is also a repentance-type mission in which Daughters gain points for kills and automatically leave the stage if they managed to get their goal.

“Othercide” uses an initiative system to determine what character gets to move. The initiative is shown at the bottom of the screen so that you can always be aware of what happens next when you end the turn of your character. It is possible to manipulate initiative both positively and negatively: The first boss of the game, the Surgeon, can increase his place in the turn order to act more often, while the Shieldbearer can slam people hard enough to make them drop in priority. The Daughters use action points during their turn to move or take actions, but depending on how many action points you use you might end up getting back into turn order faster. With up to 50 action points being used the character gains their turn again after a short while, but anything above that might give you more moves and therefore mobility and damage output but also delays the turn by quite a lot. You need careful planning to find out when short turns are better or whether it would be possible to go all out since being left in the open with opponents swarming your position is a surefire death sentence as I will explain in a brief moment.

Healing comes at a high cost, so not taking damage is preferable most of the time.

You want to make sure to play as perfectly as possible since healing comes with the highest possible costs. The Daughters do not heal over time, nor is there any consumable that would allow them to restore health. No, only the sacrifice of another Daughter will heal them. And not just any other Daughter, one with equal or higher level is required as a sacrifice. So, “Othercide”, a game in which you already only gain a pittance of resources to make new units requires you to use your battle-hardened units to heal other battle-hardened units. I do not even know where to begin to describe how fast that system spirals out of control. And that is if your characters survive the battle: In a game in which two hits from normal enemies might just end the life of one of your squad members, you will see Daughters falling sooner or later. And unless you play on the “Dream” difficulty instead of the intended “Nightmare” one, you will not gain enough resurrection tokens to constantly revive your lost troops.

My major problem with that idea is that I get flashbacks to some of the worst mechanics of “Darkest Dungeon”. You lost your party of high-level characters? Well, screw you, do two hours of grinding again to reach that progress level again. Wait, you died while doing the grind to get back to the level you lost at before? Well, screw you, more grinding it is. And “Othercide” doubles down on punishment for taking damage by actually forcing you to take damage via your own skills. Granted, those skills then provide some solid bonuses since they often offer attacks on reaction which can turn the tide of battle, but this makes the walk on the knife’s edge that is low health pool combined with massive damage from enemies even more punishing. The only real benefit that I can see here is that sacrificing Daughters to heal others will grant the survivor stat bonuses depending on what you used as a sacrifice, so if things go exceptionally well and you have the units to spare you could actually buff your best Daughters even further with this method.

Let me show you how the scenario described above escalated for me. On day three of my first run, I had to choose between three different missions, which if I remember correctly were described as “hard”, “challenging”, and “impossible”. I must pick one of the missions to progress, so I went for the scenario I had not seen before: An escort mission. Your squad of Daughters is accompanied by a Bright Soul, which cannot fight and needs to be brought to safety; which the opposition obviously wants to stop at any cost. Positioned at one end of a bridge, I tried to fight the enemy methodically, stopping my movement one tile before the opposing movement range, and making sure I get kills on some of the sitting ducks by spending as many action points as possible with my Soulslinger. And that seemed to work for the first few rounds: The opposition did not manage to get close and I not only avoided major losses but any damage whatsoever by slowly capturing the perimeter.

And then all went to hell. If you read some of the articles on Cubic Creativity before, you might already know that I absolutely love enemies teleporting into the battle in strategy games because it gives any game of the genre this unplannable bullshit factor that allows the game to backstep me even if I did everything correctly. After I managed to get a bit of ground, some portals opened behind me; and with this being an escort mission, I kept my escortee at the back to avoid getting them into harm’s way. That plan was therefore immediately screwed, which left me with two choices: Stand and fight against the horde that was about to surround and outnumber me three to one in a game in which two strikes are lethal, or try to move to the safe zone as fast as possible with all the enemies chasing me. I chose option number two. My shieldbearer had to be sacrificed since I could not manage to avoid all damage with six enemies moving before her, which meant that I shield-slammed the opponents away from my party and then basically accepted her death as an unavoidable casualty. The Soulslinger died when the opponents that came from the side caught up to her, while the Blademaster found herself being targeted by even more enemies with now ported into the battlefield from the front again to raise the enemy count even higher. The Bright Soul was able to reach the safe zone but that mattered little since I lost the entire squad to save it.

Funnily enough, during that fight one of the enemies also refused to partake in the slaughter any longer and walked through the bridge into the ice-cold waters below. Since my mission objective was escorting the Bright Soul to the safe zone I could not care less about one enemy taking an early leave, but since most missions are seek and destroy you will be unable to finish the scenario if that ever happens. And, unfortunately, from what I could take from Steam reviews this does not seem to be that rare of an issue. But you know what? I cannot knock the game for its few flaws, because at its core it works quite well. Having only three classes to work with might seem pretty bare-boned gameplay-wise, but it also forces the player to work with what is available and getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of the classes.

Strategizing with what little you have can become quite interesting still. Soulslingers, for example, can use their Shot ability for 25 action points. With a total of 100 action points at your disposal, you can always decide that the position your Soulslinger is at should keep her safe enough and simply transform her into a turret with two volleys fired for your turn to come back again faster or a devastating four volleys with a long waiting time as the drawback. Risk-taking can become a worthwhile investment in “Othercide”. Sure, if I engage the opponent with my Blademaster I might only be able to get one attack through, but I can always risk taking a hit and then stand in melee range for a whooping three attacks if I want to go all-out since I did not need to use any of my action points to get there. This in turn might kill the opponent in one round, preventing it from further damaging the Daughters.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” to probably misquote Sun Tzu.

But how can I know that the enemy is going to attack that Blademaster specifically and not run to the other side of the map for some other prey? Easy, I can position my troops to force it to do so. The Codex section of the menu not only offers some exposition and story but also always provides a description of what the opponent will do in battle. This way you can actually learn the simple patterns of the fiends you have to battle and even control their actions to a certain degree. Depending on the opponent, you will want to let them come nearer to flank or backstep them while some of the weaker but annoying monsters like the “Scavengers” should be picked up at range before they manage to close the distance. As soon as you spent over 50 action points you need to wait longer to get back in action anyway, so re-positioning with the remaining points became very important since it either lured opponents into more unfavorable positions or gave me the option to get nearer to the other party members again to have more options for the next bout.

And once you get past the high damage output from enemies, you will actually see that “Othercide” tries to make things easy for the player. The game has an armor system, but unlike games like “League of Legends” in which defense stats need to be translated into actual damage reduction numbers, in “Othercide” the armor value simply states how much damage you will prevent from any incoming attacks. If an enemy has forty armor and you shoot it three times for eighty damage, you can simply subtract forty from each shot that hits. That makes it much easier to determine whether your actions would be enough to finish the opponent or whether it would be wise to wait and spend fewer action points for a faster turn order. You can amplify skills with memories that you find in battle, but those memories are easy enough to understand since they simply provide bonuses like crit chance, bonus damage, or armor reduction.

Constance is one of the Daughters from an earlier run, and while she looks like the grave did not do her much good she still slices and dices as proficiently as before.

Even death is not the end of it all, since “Othercide” is actually rogue-like-ish in design. Upon losing all your units, you will simply restart the game in a new “recollection”. However, just like in rogue-likes, you gain a special currency at the start of that new game for each mission you successfully completed while also finding bonus items, so-called “rememberances”, which grant your Daughters more stats to make the runs progressively easier. And the game even offers you to cheat the death of your troops entirely since the graveyard will be filled with the Daughters you lost during that last recollection, and with a bit of luck, you will even get the tokens necessary to revive your favorites from the previous round. And with that you are equipped with all you need to fight against the Suffering, or at least die trying to do so and then start over again.

If I had to criticize something, I would say that I found the stages to be a little on the boring side; and while the monochrome art style is certainly to blame in this instance it does not help to see the same inverted “Metro” sign on what feels like every other map. With “Othercide” allowing the player to control so many layers of the combat, it feels somewhat weird to still have a miss chance on hits that re-introduce more randomness. Why not make everything hit all the time and instead do more with the armor mechanic to have a strategy role-playing game that reduces random factors to a minimum to reward good planning? And while the simplicity of the three classes might be a feature, I can still see that players would grow tired of only three units with a limited number of skills at their disposal; I sure would, which is why I stopped playing immediately after I finished the review. But in the end, “Othercide” does not make any major mistakes while delivering a solid strategy game with cool visuals and challenging gameplay. If you like the idea of a tactical role-playing game with huge drawbacks on defeat but a restart mechanic, “Othercide” might be the game for you. On Steam it normally costs 29.99€, but if it tickles your fancy it might be well worth getting it via Humble Choice.

1 thought on “The Videogame Corner: Othercide

  1. Pingback: Humble Choice – February 2023 – Indiecator

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