Xbox One, PS4, PC
July 28, 2020
Focus Home Interactive
Some narratives choose ambiguity to shroud a stronger sense of mystery around its story. Things are left unexplained or given explanations at a surface level, raising more questions then it answers. Othercide is a narrative light on detail, but leaves just enough breadcrumbs to at least keep you engaged until the next big revelation. Once you set foot in its world and grasp a faint understanding of its rules, you’re already in it for the long haul. A darkness covers the land, with foul creatures looking to lay claim to it. ‘The Mother’ is gone. Her strength was not enough to thwart the tide of darkness. It is now up to you and her Daughters to face the threat, however many times it takes until the nightmare is over.
Othercide is a rogue-lite, strategy tactics game were you command various Daughters on a battlefield as you face the threat of the Other and their monstrous offspring. You will fail. There is no key path to victory, and no zero death run to success. Upon starting my first run of the game, I had a feeling that the early stages would be nothing too challenging. I was still coming to grips with the games various mechanics of germination, sacrifices, memories and so on. All of these things had meaning and reason for being there, I just didn’t fully understand the context yet.
I doomed myself on my first boss upon realising there was no traditional way of healing my injured Daughters. And then I remembered. Sacrifice is the only way a Daughter can be healed, and another Daughter is required to be sacrificed in order to do so. This took me a lot more by surprise then it probably should have, but the realisation was effective. Death is a familiar fail state in most video games, with some using it as ways to create a sense of consequence within a player aka perma-death. Othercide puts forward a scenario, where death is not a consequence but a choice. A choice that soon becomes a calculated one, that creates a strange sense of attachment, guilt and cold calculation when recruiting and sacrificing various Daughters.
Your Daughters can be skilled in three distinct classes; the Blade Master, Soul Slinger and Shield Bearer. While limited at first in terms of variety, as you progress further in the game you’ll soon realise that no two Blade Masters will have the same exact skill set. Daughters can be given different abilities that branch upon each level up into two different pathways. A Daughter will also earn latent buffs or debuffs marked as Traits; which are randomised and stay with a single Daughter even when reborn should they be killed and are forced to start again.
This further ties into the core gameplay loop of Othercide. While it does pose a risk of becoming a bit rinse and repeat-ish, Othercide’s gameplay is able to stay engaging thanks to its invigorating soundtrack. Whether its more orchestral elements creeping in to instil a sense of fear and foreboding, or whether it’s a metallic/rock song to get the blood pumping; Othercide definitely makes a point in attempting to carve its own identity.
In contrast, the art direction is minimalist but effective. The dark red and black tones are well suited for the horror genre, with white playing a role in providing a clear distinction in a colour palette that would otherwise be limited. While the overall aesthetic of Othercide works really well, its own horror roots might hold itself back. Because of this aesthetic, the game might be brushed aside by potential players as uninspired, despite the overall presentation being incredibly well made and put together in the final product.
“Death no longer becomes an emotional experience as a sign of failure, but a necessary choice in planning for the long term survival of your strongest Daughters.”
Othercide could be described as similar to other games in its genre. It does many things in order to break out of its own mould, in order to establish its own identity and feel. Othercide definitely achieves what it set out to do, and in doing so has explored a unique mechanic surrounding death that could only be fully explored through the medium of a video game.
While the gameplay wasn’t enough of my cup of tea to keep me invested long-term, the initial experience and the ambiguous narrative trappings of Othercide’s world was compelling enough to be thoroughly engaging. While its themes may not land the same way for others as it did for me, I’m interested to see if these ideas are further polished and refined in either a sequel or an entirely new project.
- Great art direction
- Edgy soundtrack
- Interesting world
- Confusing Narrative
- Tutorialisation could be improved
Othercide is similar to other turn-based strategy games. It requires careful planning and consideration that will punish careless players who don’t consider the long-term consequences of their actions. Unique elements such as the ever-present timeline, differentiate Othercide from its contemporaries just enough to firmly stand on its own two feet as something new and interesting. Adding to this is the way death and progress is approached in the game. By giving players no other option besides sacrificing Sisters, this mechanic creates enormous weight on a decision like this. By making your units behave similarly to a healing item, it essentially gives humanity to an otherwise mundane mechanic.
That one mechanic was enough to raise Othercide above the rest as something new and interesting that pushes the medium forward. By tying emotional storytelling within its mechanics, it’s able to craft an emergent player narrative that has real weight. Less can sadly be said for the games actual narrative, but the world/art design does enough to draw players in and at the very least curious to discover more about the nightmare they are forced to inhabit.