A mash-up of X-Com, Dark Souls and Groundhog Day, Othercide is less than the sum of its parts.
Othercide‘s premise is a little muddy; at times it’s said the world is in danger, at others it’s suggested the game’s time loop takes place within a small child’s mind. Either way, you’re tasked with controlling a squad of up to three female fighters, dubbed “daughters”, and leading them to turn-based victory against the forces of darkness.
There are three classes: gunslingers, sword fighters and shield wielders. You can spawn additional daughters, naming them in the process, which is why my second squad consisted of Mercy, Temperance and Farty Fran. Othercide clearly wants you to take it seriously, as evidenced by the magnificent, monochrome art style; you find yourself facing up to plague doctors, shoggoths and all manner of other monsters. But it tries a little too hard; the sixth time my ethereal supervisor told me “We delve deep into the Dark Corners” – note the capitalisation – I had a problem keeping a straight face.
“Othercide clearly wants you to take it seriously, as evidenced by the magnificent, monochrome art style”
I wasn’t laughing when I started my seventh run through Othercide, however. Instead, it was slowly driving me up the wall. Othercide’s time loop means that every run starts from the beginning of the five or so levels; your squad members retain their experience and level, but you can only resurrect a select few.
There are some neat ideas here, but they’re undermined by Othercide’s tedious gameplay. Take the way you can push enemy turns back with the game’s dynamic timeline system, giving your characters a chance to get their attacks in first and, in some cases, pull off combo attacks. Sounds like a great way to outsmart your enemies, right? Not quite. The snag is, your enemies have all the intelligence of a house brick.
“There are some neat ideas here, but they’re undermined by Othercide’s tedious gameplay”
Instead of sporting any decent AI, Othercide uses a set of board game-style rules, which are detailed in its codex. All the foes I encountered made no use of cover and happily ambled into my line of fire, so dispatching them was wholly unsatisfying. Some enemies, stupid as they are, will spawn in right behind you, making it pointless to employ any complex strategy. Boss battles aside, I won most fights by staying put and letting my foes obligingly wander towards me.
So if it’s that easy, why wasn’t I able to just whizz through the game? Because of another of Othercide‘s innovations; in order to heal your units, you have to sacrifice others. Again, this sounds interesting, throwing up a moral dilemma or two, but it rapidly becomes a pain. I eventually stopped naming my NPCs because I couldn’t get attached to them. I knew that the injuries they’d receive would, cumulatively, put them in the graveyard, so why bother? Even less encouraging was that, during the same loop, I found myself on the same battlefield, fighting monsters who started in the exact same position.
“Othercide has its moments but its core gameplay is so repetitive that… you’ll have to fight the grind to get any fun out of it”
Nevertheless, taking down my first boss was a real rush, even though I’d had to go through seven times just to accumulate the buffs I needed to win. And using your gunslingers to take out another gun-wielding enemy is fun, particularly if they’re one turn away from blasting your head off. Seeing new monsters lumber onto the screen is a treat, though occasionally foes can be hard to pick out, even if you turn on colourblind mode. In a similar vein, Othercide‘s message text is insultingly small; it’s hardly a win for accessibility.
Ultimately, Othercide has its moments but its core gameplay is so repetitive that, even with its turn-pushing twist, you’ll have to fight the grind to get any fun out of it. Its art style may be beautiful, but it doesn’t make playing the game any more enjoyable.