Review – Othercide
2020 has been one hell of a year for the turn-based tactics genre with a ton of surprises. Gears made its first genre shift and it was a wonderful XCOM-inspired adventure. XCOM itself got experimental with Chimera Squad and the full XCOM 2 experience was released on Switch. However, my favourite turn-based tactics game of the year so far is Focus Home’s Othercide, a game I’ve been closely following since its announcement.
Humanity is on the edge of extinction and the great suffering is approaching. Humanity’s last great warrior, The Mother, has fallen. However, she has sent her “daughters”, fragments of who she once was, as humanity’s last hope to put an end to suffering before it’s too late.
There are three classes to play as initially. The Soulsinger is your ranged attacker. Shieldbearer is the tank of the group, using her shield to block attacks and deliver powerful knock-backs. Then you’ve got the Swordmaster who will do the bulk of the damage, delivering powerful melee attacks. Each of these classes have their own unique abilities and modifications to suit your playstyle. You’re also not limited to have one of each in a mission. I have often ran difficult missions with two Swordmasters and a Soulsinger to back them up.
This is an isometric turn-based tactics game with some rogue-like elements, in which you control your daughters. An initiative timeline system will allow you to plan your moves and attacks. Each daughter starts with 100 AP that they can use however they want during each move. It’s pretty standard affair where attacks and movement all eat into this. If you use more than half your allotted AP, then your next turn gets delayed. Sort of using two turns in one, with the drawback of skipping their next turn.
Some attacks eat up more AP or are delayed, meaning they have a wind up time in the timeline. Set this up correctly and you can combine multiple attacks to completely devastate a powerful enemy. But be careful, enemies can also set up delayed attacks and if you don’t counter them it will hurt. Then you’ve got the attacks that drain a percentage of your health and these can be some of the most helpful in the game. With no healing items in the game, the damage done feels a bit more permanent, but with the Soulsinger in particular, you might be using the interrupt attack on a regular basis.
Although, there is actually a way to heal. To heal your daughter you must sacrifice another of the same level or higher. It’s a difficult choice, but one you will have to make in order to make it through the game. Sacrificing one daughter so another may live through the next battle is a necessity. For any daughter that dies, they are sent to the cemetery with the rest of them. However, through a rare resource you can bring them back.
The timeline seems like a daunting mechanic at first, but once you get the hang of it you will be able to manipulate it and use it to the best of your ability. You can see everything that’s happening, whose turn it is next, and most importantly, any delayed attack that is about to land. Once you get the hang of this you can begin to use it to your advantage. Setting up combos, avoiding damage, and much more. It’s a surprisingly intuitive system.
Between missions you will take control of the Inner Void. From here you will be planning your next missions and upgrading your army of daughters. A place where the Red Mother has power and able to germinate new daughters to send into battle using RESOURCE. This same resource can be used to modify your daughter’s abilities and further increase their power, so thankfully it’s plentiful. As you level up your daughters they can learn new skills and they will also generate new traits. Buffs and debuffs depending on how you’ve played them.
If you lose all of your daughters in battle or die to a boss at the end of the final day you will have to start a new run, otherwise known as a Recollection. But Othercide is a rogue-like and you will be able to bring forward permanent unlocks through the Remembrance system. Buffs and other bonuses that will activate for your next Remembrance. These could be anything from stat buffs for your daughters to extra resources .
The most powerful Remembrances allow you a free resurrection token, level skips, and era skips. It’s a smart enough system where you are constantly making progress, but the currency you spend towards these Remembrances are too common. It’s never a strategic choice and you will usually have enough for all the upgrades you want for each Recollection.
There’s quite a lot of layers in Othercide that all work really well together for a deep strategic experience, but it’s not perfect. The levels you spawn into will get repetitive over time and I was just hoping for a little bit more variety there. There’s also not much in the way of objectives, leading to a lot of repetition. Especially during the opening levels where enemies become easy to deal with after repeated runs.
Perhaps the biggest draw to Othercide is its dark and bleak art direction that makes the world of Dark Souls look hopeful in comparison. Going for an almost completely black and white visual presentation with the only splash of colour being the red coming from the daughter’s scarves and blood. I instantly fell in love with this style and that’s not to mention the great character designs we have throughout the game as well. Enemies start out basic, but become more mutated and grotesque as the game progresses.
I’m also a huge fan of the sound design. The soundtrack melds perfectly with the visuals continuing the gothic horror theme and ramping up with a gothic vocal track during the big boss fights. The voice acting and dialogue in the game isn’t anything spectacular, but it also does its job well enough. The only major complaint is repeated voice lines during missions.
Othercide is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played this year so far. Despite the slightly repetitive map and mission design, the addictive core gameplay loop, harsh but impactful instances of decision making, good soundtrack and strong visual aesthetics featured in here just keep me coming back for more.
The black, white, and red aesthetic is stunning to look at.
Addictive core gameplay loop with some harsh decision-making instances.
Great sound design that compliments the visuals nicely.
Fun Factor: 8.5
Othercide is a magnificent turn-based rogue like that is only slightly let down by its slight lack of variety in its map and mission designs.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Othercide is available now on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
A copy of Othercide was provided by the publisher.