Roguelites, turn-based tactics, and film noir, all three things that I am big fan of. Here we have a game that manages to combine all three while offering up some cool mechanics of its own, what could go wrong? Well, a lot of things actually.
So I’ll address the elephant in the room first. Yes, this game is entirely in black and white, with the only additional color being the red highlighting on your characters and during certain attacks and story segments. I’m already seeing several comments complaining about the style, but honestly its one of the game’s highlights. It gives it this cool, dark aesthetic similar to what you’d get from a noir movie. This also happens to match the theme of the story, one of dread and sacrifice and all that. If anything, it does a great job separating the game from others within the same genre.
Now as for the gameplay, if you’re already familiar with the turn-based tactics genre, then you’ll likely have no issue getting into Othercide. The core mechanics are pretty much standard for the genre. You’ve got your set amount of units dependent on the mission, the different actions they can take that consume differing amounts of action points, and strategic combos that can be set up between them. The game borrows from the JRPG genre with its use of an action timeline displayed at the bottom of the screen. This timeline removes a lot of the RNG involved and shows you when and where attacks and other actions will land and whose turn it will be next. Your units’ position on this timeline is dependent on their stats and the actions they take during their turn, which can put them farther back if you do too many. It’s a pretty neat system as far as turn-based tactics games go and adds a nice layer of depth in that you end have to play around this timeline in order to land combos, delay enemy attacks, and take down bosses.
However, there are even more layers on top of it that will further change how you play. For one, this game is also a roguelite, so death will play an important role here. You will constantly be losing your units, creating new ones, and reincarnating old ones. In fact, the only way to actually regen HP in the game is by sacrificing another unit of the same level or higher. I would be lying if I said this didn’t make the game a lot harder, but it’s a very cool concept and again, fits the theme it goes for.
Another roguelite element you’ll see is that the game does not actually have a traditional campaign like in other turn-based tactics games. Rather, it has runs composed of a series of levels up until a boss, which if you end up dying at, resets your progress back to 0. Not all is lost though, as you unlock modifiers called “remembrances” that can be equipped at the beginning of a new run. These buff things like unit HP, damage, and even things like getting new units to spawn at level 4 instead of 0. This mechanic is core to the game, as you will be dying and resetting a lot.
The game’s reliance on this constant resetting though is where the problems begin to appear. As you are constantly resetting and making use of new units, you fall into this loop of completing the same missions over and over just to level up your units for future runs. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to describe most of the game as a massive grind to set up units for that perfect combo to take down the boss, only to repeat for the next boss and so on. I found myself constantly spawning new units and then throwing them away in missions just to level up the units I wanted to focus on. It’s simply not viable to spread the leveling out given how rare resurrection tokens are and the fact that you have to sacrifice another unit to heal one.
What makes it even worse is the game’s overall lack of variety. Having to run through the same mission types over and over just becomes a bore, especially when the actual level and enemy layout hardly changes. In fact, it wasn’t even three hours into the game before I was getting repeat levels with the exact same enemy layout in the same run. And that’s on top of the already lacking variety with regards to your own units. You get your three main classes and that’s it. The game tries to diversify each unit through special traits and a binary upgrade system (which prompts you to select between two abilities every few levels), but it’s simply not enough to really give the game the variety it needs to carry through this grind. Honestly, it felt like the enemies had more variety with their different units and attacks than I did.
The problems continue with the game’s UI, which at times felt like it was actively working against me. Moving a unit, for example, should be a simple task, but sometimes the UI would not show me a preview of where a unit was going and required me to go all the way back to a unit to click it again before that preview would pop up. It was also inconsistent when showing an enemy’s movement radius and even my own attack radius. It often felt like I was grappling with it just to get it to do what I wanted, it wasn’t all that intuitive. I had a couple other technical issues, such as the game softlocking on me numerous times, but at least those are likely to be patched.
With that said, I cannot recommend Othercide. I love tactics games and roguelites, but when it is as grindy as it is here without any real variety, it just loses its appeal. It’s tiring to do the same missions with the same enemy layouts just to level up units for that future attempt at the boss, knowing full well you’ll have to restart numerous times to repeat that same grind. I’ll give the graphics and core combat some credit, but that unfortunately could not save the experience for me.
You can buy Othercide on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.