Recently we were given the opportunity to check out Othercide, a game developed by Lightbulb Crew and published by Focus Home Interactive. Othercide can best be described as a rogue-like X-COM inspired game, which I must confess is something I have never seen before in the gaming industry. If that’s blowing your mind a bit, then read on to find out just what I mean, as I dive into the ins and outs of this dark and stylish game. Note that this is not the finalized version of the game, and that there are still balancing changes in the works for full release.
Othercide Preview: X-Com Goes Rogue in Style
Genre: Tactical RPG
Developed by: Lightbulb Crew
Published by: Focus Home Interactive
Release date: July 28th
Platforms: PC/Xbox One/PS4
Othercide Story & Setting
Othercide takes place in an alternate timeline, beginning during the late 1800s and early 1900s. You will play as Daughters of the Red Mother, in an attempt to stop the Others from a series of events that will destroy life as we know it. This all plays out in a “Groundhog’s Day” like fashion, as your initial attempts to stop these events fail, and you travel through time to begin again and change the course of history.
The story is cryptic and not initially clear, unraveling as you progress further into new Eras, and in my opinion is one of the weaker aspects of the game. I didn’t find it particularly interesting or compelling, not only because the animation wasn’t very well done, but because the antagonists almost look comical in nature and it was difficult to take them seriously. If they were a bit more dark or menacing then, it would be more believable. That said, it’s definitely unique, and there are brownie points to be awarded for that.
Othercide Gameplay & Mechanics
As I mentioned, I’ve never seen an X-COM/Rogue-like before, and I’ll do my very best to explain how this works, or how it’s even possible rather. It’s actually extremely clever, once you get the grasp of it, and gameplay that I initially thought was repetitive, eventually turned into something that I couldn’t stop playing. First, let’s take at how you progress in the game.
Othercide’s Rogue-Like Progression System
In Othercide you will begin in the first Era, and move from Era to Era facing different enemies and Bosses. You will begin by choosing 1 Mission from a list of randomly populated Missions per day, for a total of 6 days. There are 3 different types of Missions: Rescue, Hunt and Survival. These are all pretty standard, and if you’ve played X-COM at all then you really need no explanation of what their objectives are.
Each mission has a random degree of difficulty, and you can choose easier or harder Missions. You might want to try easier Missions to keep your units from taking damage, or you might want to try harder Missions for more XP and more Vitae, which is a currency used to recruit units and equip Memories that enhance your Daughters’ capabilities. The choice is yours, and it’s an important one…On the 7th day you will face the Boss of the Era whether you are prepared or not, and if you die the game will begin again.
This is where the Rogue-Like comes into play, as you are expected to die the first few times you face a Boss. As you progress the game you will gain Rememberances, and these are passive buffs that affect your game state. Things like more health for your units, a free Resurrection, or starting with powerful Memories that you can equip to your units. As you equip more and more of these, the game gets easier and easier, so the more times you face a Boss the stronger you become even if you initially fail.
This is not the only aspect that is Rogue-Like, however, as the game applies some interesting rules to your combat units (Daughters) as well. In X-COM you typically had a large roster of units so that you could rotate to heal up injured ones and still carry on with Missions. But in Othercide, the only way to heal a Daughter is by sacrificing another Daughter of the same level, so you will have to make hard choices about who to keep and who to sacrifice. And if you think you can just save scum your way through each Mission so that you can avoid this mechanic, well, the game auto-saves after each move in combat so there is no “reloading”. If you go into a Mission and absolutely blow it, then that’s all there is to it, and you have to live (or die) by the results.
If this all sounds scary, it’s because it is, and it’s meant to be. But once you progress the game enough you begin to realize that you are meant to die a lot, and dying isn’t the end of the world. Particularly because you can Resurrect Daughters, rarely, allowing you to bring back your favorites for more death and mayhem. You can also skip some Missions eventually, so that you can get to Bosses faster, really cutting out some of the repetitiveness that you might feel at the beginning of the game.
Othercide Daughters and Mechanics
In Othercide your combat units are Daughters of the Red Mother, and they have 3 different Classes that you can choose from for each: Blademaster, Soulslinger, and Shieldbearer. Blademasters are high DPS melee units that hit like a truck, but have low Health and Armor. Soulslingers are ranged units that deal damage with their guns from afar, but have no melee whatsoever. And, Shieldbearers have high Health and Armor, but do less melee damage than Blademasters, and are your “tank” units. Whenever you create a new Daughter you will get to choose from one of these 3 Classes.
When you go on a Mission you will fill each slot with one Daughter, mixing and matching as you please. You can deploy more Daughters at a time in later Eras, but at the beginning the maximum is 3 at a time. You will need to choose to field injured Daughters to gain them valuable XP, or to keep them safe and play less seasoned Daughters that might have a harder time. Again, decisions that sound easy, are made more complicated by Othercide’s lack of healing.
Each Daughter levels up as she gains XP, and you will acquire new Skills that you can choose from at certain levels, but Daughters will always gain more damage and Health for each level they have. Daughters will also gain Traits over time from their experiences in combat, making them even more deadly, though you cannot change or control these in anyway.
Memories are obtained from defeating enemies on the battlefield, and they are a type of “modification” that can be slotted on your Daughters’ skills that increase their damage, or add bonus effects like destroying Armor or reducing the Initiative of enemies. These get more and more powerful as the game progresses, and you need more and more Vitae to equip them.
So, to recap: your Daughters’ get stronger from fighting in Missions, and they get the choice of new Skills at certain levels. They gain Traits which make them even stronger and you can outfit them with “Memories” you find that further enhance Skills they are attached to. They cannot be healed, and you must sacrifice another Daughter of the same level or higher to heal them.
Combat in Othercide takes place on various Mission maps, that remind me a lot of X-COM or the recent Phoenix Point, and your team of Daughters will fight against different enemies. At the bottom of the screen you will see an Initiative track that displays the order of all units on the map, as well as when certain delayed effects will take place. Managing Initiative is usually the key to victory, as enemies spawn into the map randomly, and if you cannot act before them you will take damage. And because you cannot heal, it is crucial to avoid this at all costs.
Each Daughter begins her turn with 100 Action Points, and moving and using Abilities will use a certain number of Action Points from this pool. If you use a total of 50 Action Points or less, you will move down the Initiative Track 50 points worth, but if you use even 1 Point over 50 you will move 100 points worth down the track, delaying your next Action significantly. This results in each Daughter either A) playing conservatively so as to get another turn again quickly or B) exhausting every possible Action they can take since there is no downside to using all your AP if you are already over 50 used.
You will have to make these decisions, which are not easy to do, knowing that at any moment an enemy could spawn into the Track and you might not get to go before it does. This puts more pressure on you to play cautiously, but doing so might mean you cannot kill the enemy right in front of you, which might then attack you. Do you face the devil you know or the unknown?
Another thing that makes combat a bit more complicated, and interesting, is that you have a couple powerful abilities that cost Health instead of Action Points. This makes for some interesting scenarios where you might actually sacrifice some Health to prevent more damage taken if you don’t use these abilities, and adds another layer to the depth of combat. It takes awhile to wrap your head around it all, but once you do, it’s some of the more interesting turn-based combat you’ll ever experience.
Othercide is a game that tries to do something no one else has done before, at least to my knowledge, and seems to pull it off. I haven’t played the entire game, but I find myself spending hour after hour, inching my way closer and closer to victory over Bosses without realizing how much time has gone by. I’m generally not a huge fan of Rogue-Like games, as they tend to be too repetitive for my tastes, but there are exceptions (I’m looking at you Dead Cells) and Othercide is definitely one of them.
The biggest negatives of the game are that the story and voice acting are seriously lacking, and because the game is not a huge production, you will see lower budget animations and a lack of variety in some maps (particularly early on). But for 30 USD I think you can expect these things to be the case, and you can easily see the potential of a game like this with a larger budget.
I’ve enjoyed my time with Othercide so far, and if you’re a fan of turn-based combat and Rogue-Likes you might want to consider checking it out as well. As always, we only try to bring you games that we think are good enough to warrant some attention here at Fextralife, so if I didn’t think at least some of you would enjoy it I wouldn’t even cover it.
Othercide will release for PC via Steam, Xbox One and PS4 on July 28th, and will cost 30-35 USD depending on where and when you purchase it. You can also purchase the soundtrack to the game, which is one of the better soundtracks I have heard in recent memory, especially outside the AAA realm.
If you enjoyed this preview be sure to read next Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars Preview (Turn-Based Strategy) and Desperados 3 Overview: Return To The Wild West. You can also check out Almighty Kill Your Gods Preview.
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