At 1987 in Britain, our Hero is forced to sign a pact fresh from the grave in the game’s quick intro sequence. You can choose not to sign it, but that won’t get you far in the game. After a brief tutorial that you can choose to skip, you are taken into a manor, where things have gone terribly wrong for some reason. The staff has gone insane and now roams the halls, attacking anyone in sight. Escaping the manor isn’t an option either, since a thick fog surrounds the estate.
The pact obligates you to clear the fog by finding and defeating the Beckoner, who resides somewhere in the mansion.
Developer: Steve Gal
Publisher: Steve Gal
Release date: 27th May, 2016
The mansion is freely explorable, the player isn’t ever forced in any direction. Bosses can be dealt with in any order you like before gaining access the to last one. There are locked doors here and there, but they’re just shortcuts if you find the keys. You can reach most of the areas, and even complete the game without finding any keys. This was really a positive surprise for me personally.
Since the whole mansion is freely open to explore from the get go, it feels a bit confusing. There’s hallways going to every direction on multiple floors, outdoor areas and underground. Attention is needed when going around the mansion since there isn’t an in-game map. It’s logical and pretty clearly set up when you draw the map in your head while playing. Soon it’s easy to know exactly where you are and where you’re going. It isn’t as big as it initially seems to be in the beginning.
There’s also a slight differences between the areas to make it easier when putting it all together in your head, the west for example has snow.
Story is mainly experienced through examining certain objects in the mansion. They have a round ball of light on them, so they’re not easily missed. Only cutscenes are in the beginning and in the end. Story-wise it’s pretty run-of-the-mill horror story about something bad happening, but since it’s scarcely around the mansion and you might not experience it chronologically, it’s interesting to follow and put the pieces together.
Improving yourself has it’s downsides: Since you are using magic to get stronger, you lose a part of your sanity every time you improve your stats, and when you’re resurrected back from the dead. The more insane the hero is, the more monsters (and more vicious!) he sees (read: imagines) roaming the halls that are out to get him. Yth stones, that are used to ”level up”, are also scarce. It takes 3 per level, so there has to be a little thought put into leveling.
There is an npc that sells you stones for Vitae, the in-game currency that you get from killing living enemies. I didn’t hit any level cap myself nor did i buy many stones from him, so it may theoretically be possible to just grind and grind for better stats, but grinding isn’t required to beat this game. You get enough stones from just playing the game normally. Just need to be smart how you use them.
Vitae is also used to get blessings (i still don’t know what they do, but developer says they work with 100% certainty), and to some other minor stuff like increasing maximum amount of carried bullets. I didn’t find much use for those upgrades.
Combat is all about timing your attacks, guarding and parrying. Since the limited amount of yth stones from enemies, you can’t rely on high hp alone. You also need decent stamina and damage. Every hit you make, or block consumes a good amount of stamina. The parrying timing is a bit hard to learn at first, i spent about an hour practicing it with different enemies. They all have their own attack patterns that you have to memorize in order to survive, and they’re pretty diverse to keep things challenging. Only downside to otherwise good and fluid combat system was when fighting with multiple enemies. It’s hard if even two enemies are together: you block the other one, then the second one might attack right away when you’re parrying window ends, and aren’t yet able to start a new action. You get caught in a combo and lose a lot of health. I had more than few deaths like that. Especially if they’re both different type.
ENDGAME & CONCLUSION
So, you’ve managed to clear the fog and explored every single room in the mansion (even the underground?), you say? How’s the replayability?
For starters there’s 4 different endings in this game, and you have a New Game+, retaining all your stats but increasing the difficulty. There’s an optional boss what requires a bit of work to get to (you can get to it before NG+ also). You can also play the game with the bosses, they all have their own attacks, so it’s more than just a re-skin of your character.
This is good fun for few hours. It isn’t especially long, but it never said it would be. Only bugs i encountered were minor ones, like my guard stance getting stuck. Nothing game breaking, or even game-bothering. Some people have reported an “out-of-memory” error message while launching the game that crashes to desktop right away. I haven’t experienced that myself, but there seems to be ways to fix it at steam forums, just modifying the games .ini file a bit. Controls are tight as they should be, since the combat system relies so much on timing. The mansion itself is built realistically, no filler rooms. Character animations are clear and fluid.
There’s 17 achievements, and not a single ”kill xxxxx amount of monster x” type of grindy achievements that i consider to be waste of a precious gaming time.
This is a must have game on every dedicated gamer’s collection. A good, bug free game with decent amount of stuff to do for it’s price (7.99€ at the time of writing)/things to find when just exploring, challenging combat and an interesting setting. Developer also answered questions in the steam forums pretty quickly, and he seems genuinely care about people having fun and learning this game.
This game left a good feeling afterwards, i’ll following the developers next project closely.