|Publisher||Focus Home Interactive|
|Platforms||Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PC, Switch|
|Release Date||Xbox One, PS4, PC: July 28th, 2020
Switch: late summer 2020
My first foray into the strategy genre was with the JRPG/Strategy hybrid Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together on PS1. Since then I have tried to get my hands on every strategy game I can, as I love the level of customization and pre-planning that goes into not only the troops you take with you into battle but every single move made during a fight. Othercide goes the extra mile in flipping the strategy genre on its head by eschewing any RPG elements often found in other games of this nature—there are no interchangeable weapons, armor, or cosmetics of any kind—in favor of Rogue-like elements that have become very popular in modern games. Rogue-like means that players will fail, and fail often, but each time they will carry something over with them into the next playthrough. When I first heard about Othercide using these elements, I was skeptical, as permadeath is already a staple of the strategy genre and I couldn’t see how a system designed around permanently losing characters that you’ve worked to build would work with repeated playthroughs. Read on to find out how I had my expectations thoroughly rocked after playing Othercide.
Othercide is interesting in that most of the action takes place from an isometric viewpoint, so you don’t often see the grotesque, misshapen horrors that plague the dreamscape in which your daughters fight throughout the game. Bones and rotting flesh intermix with most of the enemies, and some even look like a bag of intestines with feet. It’s pretty gruesome, and definitely pushes the game to its M rating. There are themes of the occult and religion throughout as both The Surgeon boss and The Deacon boss speak of “curing” the suffering of those they have harmed through violence, fear, and promised penance. Blood is plentiful and stands out amongst the black and white aesthetics of the game. This is more prominent in the close-up shots on the clothes and faces of each player’s “daughters” as they take damage in battle. There is little-to-no drug use but there is violence, death, and gore aplenty along with several references to lust, gluttony and other sins.
Othercide is rated M for Mature.
Othercide is a difficult game to sell someone on at first glance. You just kinda have to play it to understand what makes it so great among a sea of similar titles in the genre. While the story may as well be non-existent—I had no idea what was going at any point in the narrative—from what I was able to gather, you start out as the Red Mother gets struck down in battle by the forces of The Other, a nightmarish dreamlike-world where Eldritch horrors roam free. To stop their world from destroying the real one, the Red Mother takes on a ghostly, ethereal form and begins to germinate “daughters” to fight in her place against The Other and the Suffering. Somehow there is a child who comes into play who both needs to be saved and may also be the main villain as he taunts the Red Mother and her daughters between combat encounters.
What sets Othercide apart from the more familiar Strategy trappings are the rogue-like elements sprinkled throughout. For starters, there is of course, permadeath, but players shouldn’t fear the end of their favorite daughters as they can be healed or resurrected if injured or killed in battle. However, there is a caveat. To heal a daughter, another must be sacrificed, and the sacrificed daughter has to be at the same or higher level than the one being healed. While this may sound unappealing, sacrificing one daughter to heal another will pass on some traits from the sacrifice to the daughter being resurrected, making the healed daughter much stronger and more effective in combat. If players really want to hold on to a favorite daughter, though, they can opt to use a resurrect token, obtained as a remembrance or through completing certain missions.
Remembrances are special perks that carry over between each recollection (playthrough). Some of these remembrances offer resurrect tokens, while others buff daughters or allow players to start the recollection with some daughters pre-leveled to the one closest to the current boss’ level. This makes the repetition less of a slog and actually offers even more strategy, as players can choose to end the current recollection at any time and start anew with better remembrances.
There are five total bosses across five eras. Each boss shows up around the third day of a new era and can be challenged at any time from that point on. Playing through all days of an era will automatically trigger the boss fight on the seventh day. Bosses in Othercide are more of a puzzle than a fight, as each one often boasts stats and health values exponentially higher than those of the player’s daughters. It will take a combination of learned skills, strategic placement in battle, and luck to overcome these challenges. However, this is where the game’s customization really starts to shine.
In each combat encounter, players earn memories for accomplishing certain feats like killing a monster, saving a fellow daughter from death, or cutting their own HP to use an interrupt attack. These memories can be applied to the skills daughters learn as they level up to really build out a specific playstyle for each class. There are three default classes and one hidden class, though I won’t spoil that one for players who are just learning about the game. The three default classes are Shield Bearer—essentially the tanks of Othercide—Soulslingers, and Blademasters. Soulslingers wield dual spirit revolvers and can use attacks that interrupt enemies, preventing their sisters from taking damage while also clearing out the smaller enemies from afar. Blademasters, similar to Soulslingers, are the glass cannons of the game. While they can’t often take a lot of hits, the damage they are able to dish out from standard attacks and even special abilities is very high, and they can fell most enemies, save bosses, in one or two hits.
My favorite elements of combat encounters in Othercide are the reaction and interruption skills. Attacks and skills deplete one of two types of meters in the game. The first is the AP meter which shows each daughter’s Action Points (AP) during an encounter. Unlike other strategy games, it is not wise to deplete all of one’s AP during a turn. This is due to the inclusion of a timeline meter which is really where the tide of battle can be turned. Each action taken by a daughter moves her further back on the timeline, further delaying her next attack or defense action. Players will want to keep their AP level between 30-50 for each daughter before ending their turn. This allows some wiggle room for each daughter to use their interrupt or reaction skills. This is where the other “currency” used to perform actions comes from. See, each class has one of these two types of skills which requires them to sacrifice a portion of their HP to use. Often the only way to complete a boss encounter is by using these HP-depleting interrupt and reaction skills to effectively stay ahead of the boss on the timeline and prevent direct damage from other enemies.
While it may seem counterproductive for each daughter to effectively sacrifice herself over the course of a battle, this approach pays off dividends as players collect more and more remembrances and gain higher level daughters. The higher their level, the less HP is sacrificed when these actions are used. This becomes a very viable strategy to use in boss fights where sometimes continuously sacrificing HP for these attacks can be the difference between victory and defeat.
Outside of combat, players can manage their daughters and rest up between each encounter with the forces of The Other. Here daughters can be leveled up, skills can be applied, and memories attached to skills to build out your team of 3-5 daughters for the next encounter. While in the void, random events can occur on any day and will often provide buffs for the daughters or additional challenges when facing a boss or an enemy. Vitae is earned in battle and can be spent to sacrifice daughters, and shards are acquired each time players restart a recollection and are spent on acquiring unlocked remembrances for use in the next recollection.
All of these elements lead to a satisfying and addicting gameplay loop that is complemented by the game’s beautiful gray and red aesthetic, which lends an overall sense of dread and melancholy to each combat encounter while showcasing a unique style all its own. I recommend Othercide to fans of the strategy genre who are looking for something more than just another X-Com clone. With its beautiful art direction, interesting mix of strategy and rogue-like elements, and addictive gameplay, Othercide is a breath of fresh air in a genre that I didn’t realize needed one.
The Bottom Line
With its beautiful art direction, interesting mix of strategy and rogue-like elements, and addictive gameplay, Othercide is a breath of fresh air in a genre that I didn't realize needed one.