See you around
Othercide’s tone is incredibly dark and gritty, but it shines through as a fantastic roguelike strategy game. The game’s story takes place following the death of Mother, who was humanity’s greatest hero, seemingly immortal after hundreds of years of defending the Veil.
An entity known as the Suffering threatens to destroy the world. Continuing as merely a spirit, the Red Mother must send her Daughters to fight creatures known as Others and bring an end to the Suffering. Each stage in Othercide is known as an Era, and you have to fight your way through a number of battles before you discover the boss of that Era.
Daughters are the remnants of Mother, and initially come in three main classes: the Blademaster, Soulslinger, and Shieldbearer. As the Daughters level up, they will learn new skills that can help them in battle.
Being a parent is tough
Additionally, the Daughters will also learn Traits, which are passive abilities that grant specific bonuses, such as a set experience boost percentage after a battle or extra damage against a certain enemy type.
Battles are played out on a turn-based grid. A timeline appears at the bottom to dictate which units act in which order. While at the beginning you’re going to be performing mostly basic attacks, during the later Eras where most if not all of the battle system’s intricacies have been unlocked, each fight can be quite a spectacle when you have a variety of different skills.
Battles can range in difficulty and objectives, and choosing harder missions offer more rewards. Winning a battle gives you experience, Vitae, and Shards. Vitae has two different uses, birthing a new Daughter to join the fight or can be spent to equip Memories onto skills. Memories are dropped from downed enemies during battle and function similar to item equips. They provide skills with some extra benefits, such as granting an additional hit or restricting enemy movement for a certain amount of time.
Oh, you died
However, you will absolutely die many times, and when you do, it’s back to square one. The Shards you earn throughout your runs are permanent and can be used to summon Remembrances, which are bonuses that apply to your new run. These bonuses can include being able to resurrect a single Daughter, or allowing you to skip an entire Era, so you don’t have to go through it again.
What Othercide does great is streamline all of its mechanics to fit the roguelike experience. Battles are short and snappy, which is important in this subgenre, especially when in contrast to much longer battles seen in standard strategy games such as Fire Emblem. There’s not much preplanning besides making sure your Daughters are healthy and that they’re equipped appropriately. The Remembrances also ensure that if you do wipe out on your current run, you’re never too far off to get back to where you were originally on your next one.
The small number of selectable classes is probably by design to make sure you aren’t slowed down in menus. Many of your units will die, and so you can’t necessarily get attached to them. You do unlock a fourth class later on, but it would have been nice to have maybe one or two more class types, to add even more variety.
That could have gone better
The only way to heal a Daughter is to sacrifice another one that is of the same level or higher. The Daughter that absorbs the sacrificed one will receive a trait whose effect depends on the level and class of the sacrificed Daughter. This adds another strategic element on how to utilize them. However, I really do wish that there were other methods of healing available, even if only by smaller amounts.
Lastly, the presentation can be a bit of a mixed bag but mostly works. Othercide’s story can be hard to follow sometimes. Everyone speaks in pretty cryptic sentences, so it’s not always clear what’s going on. The game’s codex does provide more details surrounding the lore, but even so, you won’t understand much of it until considerably later on.
The 3D models and effects are good considering this isn’t a big AAA title, and that’s due to the game’s fantastic art direction. Its limited colour palette of red, black, and white really helps the game pop out at first glance.
Red is in style
The artwork in the game’s codex entries are my favourite, though. The portraits associated with each character, event, and memory are painted in this beautiful impressionist art style; it’s similar to what’s been employed in the Dishonored series or more recently, Disco Elysium.
The music played during normal battles feels particularly sinister, complementing the game’s dark tone. I love that when a boss’s HP is low, the music will kick into overdrive with a rock tune, giving the sense of the home stretch, and encouraging you to finish it off. The balance between its eerie and energetic tracks is great. Even with angsty lyrics, the latter never feels cringy, and it reminds me of the early 2000s in the days of rock bands on MTV.
Othercide’s story is by no means bad, but when compared to everything else the game excels in, story delivery is where the game stumbles a bit. With solid gameplay, mechanics, and visuals, Othercide is a standout title this year in the turn-based strategy tactics and roguelike genre.
[Reviewed on PC]