Permadeath in games always makes me nervous; a bit sick to my stomach. You see, it’s a weird thing – we are so used to accidentally killing characters by throwing them off some cliff onto spikes, only for them to reappear a second later none the worse for wear. But what happens when a character you have built up, named and grown, dare I say loved, is made extinct forever? Yep, permadeath hits you hard. Othercide though is a game that embraces, and quite possibly encourages, death in its characters.
Othercide is an RTS in its stylings, playing out like games such as XCOM, but really it is its own complete beast, making its own rules in regards to the genre. The story is a complex one, but get your head around it and you’ll discover something that is a hugely original epic. It’s told through codices and the drip-feeding of information; there is absolutely no doubt that it will appeal to the most hardcore sci-fi/fantasy fans. The game is set between the years 1897 and 1929, but the world comprises a different reality to what we are used to. You see, there is a huge war and conflict about to take place, where a supreme being and all of its army are trying to enter this reality. Standing in its way is the Red Mother, a sort of demi-god, who you play as, controlling all your pawns to defend this world – the pawns being daughters that she spawns from the void to fight for her and defend the reality. It sounds very confusing when I’m explaining it here, but when it’s shown in-game everything about Othercide seems to make sense, allowing you to completely buy into the story and the way it’s being told.
Those who have dabbled in the world of XCOM will instantly find it familiar, pushed out into missions based on a small map, as you start with three of your daughters in play. The daughters start at level one as you are given three classes to play with. Shieldbearer is a more defensive being, with a shield and a lance for heavy attacks; working much like a tank in an RPG. Then you have the Blademaster – a quick and heavy hitter – whilst the Soulslinger is a supporting character who is most at home firing shots from afar. When you are placed on the map, you are shown the number of enemies you have to conquer, and then the turn-based combat begins.
From here you are basically left to move your character, attacking and defending as you go. There are several points that you’ll be able to spend, and it’s up to you to use them tactically. Moving across the map towards your enemy, or attempting to take up a good offensive position, will see considerable points spent. Your attack options are numerous though, from a basic close range slash or fire of guns to attacks where you rain down bullets from above, damaging numerous enemies at the same time. There are also defensive and attacking buffs you can employ with your points that are used to determine the battle outcome. Spend over half your points in a battle for example, and your character will be pushed down the pecking order for when they can attack in the next turn.
There are a number of options available to how you will play Othercide, and the strategies that you might employ are very diverse: lovers of this genre will have a field day with the deep gameplay on offer. As an amateur in the genre, things do get tricky, especially in the boss battles that appear, but others will no doubt find this level of difficulty a breeze.
But it’s not just about tactics. As I said earlier, death isn’t the end.
At the end of each battle, you are left with a few choices. If you’ve lost a daughter in battle you can spend resurrection tokens to get them back, gathered by completing rescue missions. But dare to lose health with your daughters through battle, and you’ll find it doesn’t automatically grow back. So you have the choice of sacrificing a daughter to give one of your favorite fighters a much-needed health boost, or just carry on with depleted health. The decisions you will make in Othercide are brutal, but they do manage to give the game an innovative and fantastically different spin on the genre as a whole. And that’s what makes it intriguing. You can also get different skills for each daughter as they level up, like more attacking powers in battle or buffs. For example you could select an attacking skill when levelling up to rain down bullets on all the enemies for one turn.
If your whole squad of daughters is wiped out in battle then you start again from the beginning of the campaign, but a thing called “Remberences” kick in, seeing you start again with level 1 daughters, but equipped with a bonus like a resurrection token, extra health or additional damage. It’s a nice feature that makes dying just a little bittersweet.
The art style and design of Othercide is absolutely wonderful. It plays around with the graphic novel monochrome world to an amazing effect. Rain looks beautiful and the characters are so detailed it’s obvious that they’ve had hours of design time plowed into them. It’s a world that I could well see being pushed out into a TV series. The soundtrack is good too, with some heavy guitar riffs and nice effects, while the main voice-over of the Red Mother is played with grandeur and status – fully committed to the part.
It has to be said that I’m not the biggest RTS fan, but with Othercide on Xbox One there is just something about the world design, story, and gameplay that really hooked me, pretty much from the beginning. It looks fantastic, the permadeath and sacrifice choices make the game feel very fresh and new, and I appreciate how the game lets you come back with extra boosts and skills. For RTS enthusiasts this is most probably a must-purchase, sending them to heaven. Even for the newcomer – one who is after a challenge – Othercide is well worth a look.