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Whispers in the Moss, an RPG battle with ASCII graphics.

Whispers in the Moss is a strange but compelling retro-style JRPG

Home » Features » Whispers in the Moss is a strange but compelling retro-style JRPG

Ever wanted to steal a wolf’s teeth right out of its mouth? Then Whispers in the Moss is the game for you. And even you haven’t, this curious but compelling JRPG, out now on PC, is still worth its bargainous asking price.

Crafted in QBASIC (yes, the one with the banana-flinging gorillas), Whispers in the Moss sends you, your best friend and your grizzled mentor on a quest to restore peace to the realm. The twist, the one you’ll spot before your protagonist steps outside, is that the entire game makes use of ASCII graphics.

That’s not specifically a limitation of QBASIC; rather it’s a design choice from developer Uncultured Games. And it absolutely works – we eagerly anticipated each enemy encounter because we wanted to see what new monster Uncultured had crafted out of letters and symbols.

But as striking as its aesthetics are, Whispers in the Moss isn’t just a gimmick game. There’s a strong and slightly silly RPG behind it, one which quickly drew us in. We found it refreshing that, at least at first, Whispers goes the Game of Thrones route, tasking us with foiling the machinations of a power-hungry monarch.

Whispers in the Moss, an RPG battle with ASCII graphics.
Image: Uncultured Games

Whispers’ turn-based combat is a treat too, with the twist that you don’t have to wait till combat’s over to plunder your enemies. You can ‘steal’ from them, hence the aforementioned tooth removal, or rip their souls away, accompanied by a superb soundtrack.

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There’s a method to this madness, though, it’s not just to create work for fantasy land dentists. You can’t just outright buy weapons, you have to provide crafting resources, which adds another layer of strategy. It doesn’t matter how heavily your pockets are jingling, you can’t just buy your way to success. Though if you want to hold onto that cash, remember to save manually. Our one gripe so far is that saving requires a few extra steps.

We got a kick out of the whole mentor dynamic, though we’ve the sneaking suspicion the mentor in question, Berin, is going to meet a nasty end later down the line. He also starts the game with a revolver, which had us laughing ourselves silly.

Whispers in the Moss, talking to a dwarf king in an ascii RPG.

Main guy Orion was hitting enemies with his sword and Veda was using a staff, because it took us a couple of minutes to figure out she was a spellcaster. Then, Berin just whipped out his pistol and put a bullet through the head of the ‘Crycket’ we’d ordered him to fight. We’ve got our fingers crossed there’s a minigun in his future.

Whispers in the Moss has definitely hooked us, and we’re dying to see it through to its blocky conclusion. We absolutely want that minigun, too. If you’re ready for an epic, ASCII-art quest, you can get Whispers in the Moss for the ridiculously low price of £4.29/$4.99 from Steam or Itch.io, and £4.49 from GOG.

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