Othercide Hands-On Preview: A Darkly Beautiful and Creepy Tactics Rogue-lite

Turn-based tactics games aren’t always eye-catching, but Othercide, from developer Lightbulb Crew, instantly grabbed my attention with its bold and moody art style. Just look at this game: the red highlights against the weird and perpetually rainy monochrome world certainly sets a striking mood. And with some high-stakes rogue-lite ideas behind it, learning the ropes in the first few hours has been interesting and challenging.The story is extremely cryptic and to be honest, I don’t have a clue what’s going on yet. I do know that the nightmarish Other is invading your world, and your squad of Daughters has monsters to kill. The turn-based tactical battles play out on relatively small maps until you almost inevitably lose and start again with some new unlocks, called Remembrances, that will help you survive longer and go farther next time. Such is the way of the rogue-lite.Unlike XCOM or other rigidly ordered “I go, you go” turn-based games, Othercide’s turns are governed by the timeline at the bottom of the screen. It shows you who will move next based on each character’s initiative stat, which means there are no surprises and no guesswork in the tactical puzzles each level presents you with. And if you don’t like that an enemy character gets to move before yours and you can’t quite kill them outright, certain moves, such as a shield slam, can stun them and knock them back a ways, or certain buffs can skip a friendly character ahead in line.

On top of that, if you use more than 50% of a character’s 100 action points in a turn it means that Daughter has overexerted herself and requires twice as long on the timeline before she can move again. That’s a major tactical consideration that forces you to think ahead about when you can afford to extend yourself and when you can’t.

Othercide’s monster design is very creepy – especially these impish scavengers who come at you in groups.

The three character classes you build your (typically) three-person squad from are the close-up damage-dealing Blademaster, the tanky Shieldbearer, and the gun-toting ranged support Soulslinger. Three isn’t a lot of distinct classes, but Lightbulb Crew hopes to differentiate within those with both XCOM-like binary skill choices at each level-up and random Traits that you earn over time. The latter can grant strengths and weaknesses that lend themselves to different roles. For instance, I once had a Blademaster with bonus armor and dodge stats from Traits who can serve as much more of a DPS-tank hybrid than the standard glass cannon role.Real mortal tension is created by the fact that there’s only one way to heal anybody, and you won’t like it. When one of your Daughters is wounded, must sacrifice another team member’s life to restore them. That means that abilities like the overwatch-style interrupt shot from the Soulslinger comes with a major cost: while it can spare your team from taking a high-damage hit from an enemy, you have to spend 40 hitpoints to use it, and that can add up with such a useful ability. Eventually your Soulslinger wastes away… unless you feed someone to her.

Othercide’s monster design is very creepy, too, especially these impish scavenger creatures who come at you in groups. And when their bigger, beefier brothers show up it’s time to panic a little.

Assuming you survive, at the end of each mission you’re rewarded with some currency that can be used to create new Daughters, among other things, and Memories, which are effectively gems that can be slotted into individual characters’ abilities to increase damage or boost other effects.

The first boss fight ended my first couple of runs. The Surgeon is a tricky nut to crack.

The first boss fight ended my first couple of runs. The Surgeon is a tricky nut to crack, since my level 3 and 4 characters have had trouble swatting his minions as quickly as he summons them, and you can’t damage him until they’re all dead. But once I do, I’ll unlock a Remembrance that makes all my Daughters start at level 4, which will let me use advanced attacks in the first few missions.

Of course, Othercide’s rogue-lite approach that sends you back to square one with a fresh squad means it’ll need some good variety in these early missions to keep it from becoming repetitive. We’ll see how it fares when it’s out on PC sometime later in 2020.

Dan Stapleton is IGN’s Reviews Editor. You can follow him on Twitter to hear gaming rants and lots of random Simpsons references.

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