The gameplay mechanics spice up the childhood classic rock, paper, scissors. However, for as simple as it is, it lacks quality of life features one would expect from any RPG, such as being able to save at will.
Developer: AP Thomson
Publisher: AP Thomson
Release date: 10 May, 2018
Fortune-499 was released in a Humble Bundle monthly as an HB original, which I didn’t activate for a while. Both because it originated as a DRM copy, and even after I got a Steam key, since it was an indie game I had never heard of, I had no way to know what it’d be like. Many early reviews were quite positive, and it’s still predominantly positive, leading to me activating it too. The idea of an RPG using rock, paper, scissors is kind of silly and simple, but how hard could it possibly be?
F499 is an RPG that takes place in an office setting with magical elements, and battles centered around a blend of rock, paper, scissors and a card game. You play your cards in order to influence which of the 3 moves enemies will use, starting with a 10 card deck. Each day resets your deck to neutral, but as you play through the office, you can gain more cards with effects not otherwise available to you. Examples include increasing your max health, forcing an enemy to play a particular move, or reducing the chances a move will be used. Each machine offering you cards, stacking your deck, or shredding unwanted ones has limited uses, so you have to be very mindful of the choices you make. Money you earn can be spent on healing items or stat increases.
There isn’t an option to play with a controller, so you’ll have to use the mouse and keyboard. The mouse is used to select moves and advance dialogue, as you can’t use keyboard inputs to do this. Movement is controlled with ‘WASD,’ while ‘E’ is used to interact with objects, which is prompted with on-screen cues when you’re able to do so. Although the lack of options was a bit annoying, the controls work perfectly well, so I can’t complain too much.
Even though F499 opens up with a tutorial, you’re pretty much thrown into the world and lore of the game without any backstory. The game takes place in a world that’s modernized and has all the trappings of tedious office work, but also has monsters and magical powers. I’m not sure if every human is capable of magic, whether it’s tied to genetics or merely another field of study they learn about, but it seems to be something people specialize in. One is either a lightning wizard or has healing magic, they wouldn’t be a jack of all trades.
Regardless, you play as an oracle, who dubbed herself Cassandra. She hates her job, but has been quite effective in making predictions that have greatly benefited the company, though the game mechanics suggest there should have been a few screw ups to balance out the right calls. In spite of doing so much for the company, she’s in line to be axed. Due to her aptitude in fending off monsters trying to pull off a hostile takeover she stalls this decision, but will she do great things for her place of business once more and be properly recognized, or decide to bail because she foresees getting the cold shoulder?
The graphics of F499 are very simple, and remind me of older computer games. Objects and NPCs don’t display much detail or even distinguishing features, as only a few of them are unique enough to be recognizable. Their portraits that show up while speaking are more detailed, but most of the game otherwise blends together. I’m pretty sure it uses less than 10 colors for everything too, though I do like the ones they went with, as it has a striking visual pop to it.
I’m not a big fan of the music, as its composed out of sound effects that I don’t find especially appealing. Some of them sound kind of muddled or unclear as well, instead of having a crisp, clean ring to it. It’s not so bad that I had to reduce the volume, but it didn’t set a great mood for me. The sound effects aren’t too remarkable, but one noise I really didn’t like in the game was when you defeat an enemy and they scroll off the screen. Personally, I think the sound could be much improved.
- The game has a wry sense of humor, which I think you’d either hate or love. I kind of liked it, but I think the setting and world could have been more fully developed.
- New mechanics open up as you advance, such as being able to hide cards up your sleeve.
- It’s true the cards you draw only impact the chances an enemy will make that move. However, I thought other factors might also influence the likelihood. For instance, some enemies will be more powerful in 1 of the 3 options. I figured that if their stronger move was emphasized, they’d be even more likely to choose it since it’s their specialty, but this wasn’t the case. So seemingly, it’s completely random, with some modifier based on what you draw. To me this kind of makes for the worst combination of RNG and strategy, because it’s a lukewarm mix of the two.
- If an enemy chooses the move that not only goes against your prediction, but counters it, you get karma, which earns you more money. However, if they go against the prediction and match what you played, you’ll still take damage, and get no benefit whatsoever, which is the worst outcome.
- There are several tutorials in F499, but it didn’t explain the saving mechanics. Not only isn’t there an auto save when you quit, you can’t manually save. If you want to quit without losing progress, you need to do so at the beginning of the work day.
- You don’t have to reorganize your cards at the stacking machine, but you’ll still get the benefit of seeing your card order for the next fight.
- When I got cards such as Paper+5, I shredded the Paper+2 since it’s so much better.
Something I find discouraging about F499 is that after releasing the game in May 2018, there hasn’t been any activity from the developer since, at least as of December 2020. He responded to an early discussion board or two, but quickly went silent on them, didn’t create achievements or trading cards, release any updates or patches, make any announcements about future projects or changes, or express any further interest in the game he released. No matter how refined a game is when it’s launched, feedback from players can still shine light on oversights or mechanics that many would find helpful and weren’t included. Plus, if the person who launched it is so apathetic, why should anybody else care?
With me running into issues clearing floors fairly early in the game, because you have to approach your resources and fights in a particular way lest you’ll get screwed over, I found the game quite frustrating. It comes across like you either have to brute force F499 with multiple attempts, or stack the deck just so with advanced knowledge of the right approach to win. For instance, one boss drains all of your attack power at the start of each turn, so what winds up being the best approach is to amass attack power in one mighty blow and wipe him out quickly. Unless you know that going into the fight though, you could have set up your deck to be well-balanced like I did, and be set up for failure before you even start. A game of rock, paper, scissors would be hard to entice me in the best of situations, and in this case, I find it overly complicated, annoying, and punishing. If you could save at any time, freely traverse floors to activate machines after finding out what is coming up and what would be of use, and intelligently approach these problems, the game would be much better. With no developer around to implement any improvements, I don’t see that outcome in the cards though, so I’d suggest avoiding F499 like the developer himself is doing.