Indietail – Osteoblasts

I honestly wanted to write about this title for a while now… In fact, you may have actually read my post on the demo before and then after I published it, the developers hit me up and I got a review key for the full game… and then I’ve been playing it for a few hours… and then I tried other classes… And now we’re here, way too late, and I’m lowkey-addicted to Osteoblasts. That’s a good thing. I like playing RPGs but I’ve been a bit burned out from the genre since it always seemed like the same thing being made with different storylines… and Osteoblasts does appeal to me on a lot of levels and makes it seem new and fresh.

Developer: Moonana, Anglerman
Publisher: Moonana
Genre: RPG, Turn-Based Combat, Adventure
Release Date: February 12th, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was sent to me by the developer.

I mean, the premise is simple. You’re a skeleton, you get revived by a Witch Cat, and now you… do stuff. You fight against dogs, skeletons, ghosts, demons and elephants. You level up your character, equip new randomised gear, fight enemies, crawl through dungeons, and eventually, you’ll still understand nothing. The gameplay is satisfying, the story not so much. My issue with the story is that it’s just super confusing. On the one hand, the dialogue sometimes is hard to understand and whenever there is supposed to be a revelation of sorts, the NPCs just drop more riddles and mysteries onto you, making the story less of a satisfying experience, in my opinion. The gameplay, on the other hand, is excellent and while some of the dialogue can be hard to understand, most of the jokes and puns actually land and made me chuckle.

Btw, you’ll need to use your bonemark to cast spells/skills! Ain’t that fun?

As you rise from your grave, you get to choose between six different classes ranging from the Shaman to the Scavenger to the Stranger. I would have liked it if you were shown example skills or maybe more info on the different characters. The game certainly is lacking in the clarity department and leaves you hanging when it comes to explanations regarding your class or skills. I noticed that weapons would have similar names but have randomised skills and stats. This is a great thing, in my opinion, as it adds replayability and lets you customise your class a lot more. In the same way, you have a lot of different stats that influence combat in a plethora of ways from enhancing your attacks to letting you counter attacks or making you heal more. Stats also determine whether or not you can draw out the full potential of your weapons. Skills often are tied to certain stats. Buffing up stats in combat using spells, however, can also enable you to use the according skills. Overall, I like that mechanic a lot but it took me ages until I figured it out. The manual didn’t really help me in-game and I feel like the tutorial should’ve given me more of a helping hand, even if I hate tutorials that hold your hand too much…

Being able to use your skills only when you meet the requirements is interesting since it also influences how you gear up for certain encounters. Equipping different gear shapes your character in a lot of ways, giving you more attacks and helping you out stat-wise. If enemies use debuffs on you, you may lose out on the stat-requirement for certain attacks, which adds a bit more depth to combat. Just like how they can stop you from bashing their heads in, you can also debuff enemies and reduce their stats, preventing them from returning the favour. It’s interesting and fun. I like that a lot about this game. Similarly, you attack enemies, they have a chance to counter you. They attack you, you get to counter them. It’s great to see that rules apply to all characters in the game and it’s refreshing that they have the same chances at taking jabs at you, raising the difficulty a bit more.

Exploration is fun. You don’t need to travel far away to get to different parts of the world and friendly villages. There are a lot of Metroidvania-ish roadblocks in the game that urge you to find other ways to get to the next area like keys that you get from different boss battles or boulders you need to mine with pickaxes. It’s interesting and exploration gets generally rewarded since you’ll unlock shortcuts as well along the way. Through Exploration you also find statues of the old gods. There are six different gods that you can pray to earn bonuses to your stats. On every level up, you get to pray to one of three gods that each grant you two stat increases. Meanwhile, the aforementioned statues grant you those regardless of the level up and also can give you passive bonuses, a checkpoint, fast travel points or even shops, making them quite the reward for exploration.

My favourite part about Osteoblasts, however, is the presentation and the personality that comes with it. The game’s soundtrack is amazing and adds a lot to the atmosphere, especially since the world’s tracks play in battles, too, making the changes from exploration to battle not too abrupt. Similarly, the art style is phenomenal with abstract background art in battles, cute pixel art in the overworld and amazing pixelated character models in the actual turn-based battles. The animations for the different attacks range from simple sword swings to spell effects that appear on the target. The sound design is fun and adds a lot to the game.

But yeah, clarity is the big downside to Osteoblasts. I had to try a lot and fail at it until I figured out that my stats are the reason behind me being able to use a specific spell… or not being able to use it. Similarly, I’d love to see the debuffs and explanations about the enemy by hovering over it, so that I can plan the battles even more… but the game doesn’t have that. And I’d love it if I could get more information on items but, again, the game doesn’t have that. Once you find out about things, you can have a great time,… but until then it can be frustrating unless you catch on quickly about how things work in this game.

Still, despite the clarity issues, I had and am still having a great time with this game. Osteoblasts breathes life into a genre that has been quite dead to me for quite a while now and is delivering a satisfying experience despite its shortcomings in terms of clarity and plot. I would say that you’re making a grave mistake (pun intended) if you don’t at least try out the demo. The full game certainly has a lot to offer and I can highly recommend it.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

I want to be evil but not too evil

Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved the idea of summoners and necromancers. Skeletons are cute and the idea of resurrecting fallen (potentially enemy) warriors to fight by your side is a great idea and I love the whole thematic around it. However, when it comes to games, I feel like there aren’t enough games that let you do something that is so immoral. In a way, reviving corpses is desecration, after all, right?

Similarly, I love it when games let you perform choices that are immoral in a way, even when I myself in real life (at least the human that I pretend to be) would never do anything like that. In Fable, for instance, you can decide if you want to be an angelic hero of justice… or you just slaughter people, rob the poor, take bribes, and sacrifice people to the Chapel of Skorm in order to gain your lovely devil horns and your demonic aura.

And I know, I know… Being bad is… bad. Obviously. I’d never kill anyone in real life or I’d perform robbery… but the aspect of being this character that you could never embody in real life is actually quite intriguing and I feel like there are not enough games that let you do. Of course, you have these few titles with two different endings that let you be “bad” or “good” and it influences your ending which then… blablabla… Bioshock 1 and 2 did that btw where you could show mercy on people and rescue the Little Sisters or you could kill them and harvest the little brats and it would give you a different ending… but I feel like those games aren’t going far enough. You basically just have two choices: Right or wrong. Good or evil. But there are a lot of things beyond good and evil (great game btw) that let can’t just be seen as inherently evil or good. Robbing people would be bad but what if you redistribute the money you rob to the poor to enable them to live, for instance? Or what if you have to kill someone to save someone else (like with the Trolley problem)?

Games often try to make you believe that there are only two choices and that you can’t be in the middle or go even further… it’s a bit of a habit that some companies have to make it easier for themselves, and I find it somewhat lazy.

Catherine Classic does a great job by letting you achieve one of nine endings ranging from “very evil” to “very good” and it has some neutral endings in the middle… but the problem with that game is that it still abides the traditional values of “good” (aka marrying, only having sex to reproduce, no fetishes, etc.) and “evil” (aka Lust, hedonism, cheating, fetishes, etc.). You have to answer some questions and based on your answer it (sometimes rather randomly) assigns a value to your Karma that basically influences your ending. Your texts with either Katherine or Catherine also influence your ending… and generally, the game wants you to think that going for Catherine is bad and that going for Katherine is good… despite there being plenty of things that are wrong with Katherine. Just a hot take, I guess.

Overlord does a great job of letting you chose what to do. You get to become an “evil” Overlord and either save towns and be celebrated or enslave them and be hated and feared. You’re not just some bad guy but you’re actually THE Overlord that rules Hell itself… or at least your dark domain. The game lets you perform whatever choice you want to perform as you’re kind of the hero of your own story. The heroes that are in the game that oppose you, more often than not, seem to be twisted themselves and resemble caricatures of hero tropes, which is a great take, in my opinion. Dungeon Keeper lets you experience the story of some sort of evil being that is creating the living space for the undead, the monsters and the other evil beings that get threatened by those pesky humans. Fable lets you be a devil. In Skyrim, you can be an outlaw.

My point is that these games don’t judge you for being bad but they don’t condone it. When you perform an evil deed, you’ll notice and the characters will treat you differently. Fable has this weird thing where you get booed and insulted by everyone if you go for an evil playthrough, even though everyone is afraid of you… which is kind of silly in a way. In Overlord, you actually receive rewards for being the good guy and saving people and stuff. In Skyrim, you can murder bandits and nobody will judge you, even when murder is bad… and you can join a creed of assassins… which is quite cool, y’know? In Carrion, you’re the monster that is escaping a research facility… and you murder everyone… and that’s cool. The game WANTS you to be evil and I love that!

But how far can you take this? I feel like there are boundaries that you shouldn’t cross, I’d just love it if we could still move more freely into this chaotic evil kind of playstyle in games where you’re the villain and do bad things but don’t take it too far. I feel like it should be possible for you to be the bad guy in games without getting judged for it by the developers and without the game putting you at a disadvantage. I’d love it if games would more often get into that mindset of this evil lich or other villaineous beings that try to conquer the world. I’d love it if you could play as a skeleton (like in Skul or Osteoblasts) more often instead of this scrawny Prince Charming that saves the day yet again.

Obviously, games shouldn’t take things too far. I don’t think that you need to show how someone slowly thrusts a knife into someone’s throat (talking about The Last Of Us 2 btw) or how your character tortures someone by pulling out their fingernails or by breaking their fingers one by one (like in GTA V)… I also don’t think that you need to murder children (I’d never do that in Bioshock btw) or that you need to r*pe women in games to be “evil”. You don’t need to kick puppies or burn people alive in order to be able to play out that fantasy. I think games don’t need to go that far but they still should allow some sort of freedom. They should restrict the player when it comes to things like the points mentioned above but also allow you some freedom of choice when it comes to “do you want to be evil or good or somewhere in-between?” and I feel like I haven’t seen too many games that pulled that off well. Beholder has some interesting mechanics and ways of letting you do things that aren’t ethical to potentially save people… and it also allows you to do similar things to do bad things or punish people or frame them. Meanwhile Catherine Classic was quite obvious when it came to what choices the game wants us to make to achieve certain endings.

So, frankly, I’d love to be the villain in more games. I’d love it if I could be that demonic character that conquers the world or that heroes want to defeat… I’d love it if I could play games with characters like that more often and I’d love it if games would let me have that choice without pushing me onto some sort of path that is rather obvious.

I feel like that could be great. I feel like that’s something that I’d enjoy and that other people could potentially enjoy playing as well and that games need to explore more often. Obviously, we don’t need a game where you just assault people and r*** them and whatever. I think that certain boundaries are obvious to anyone.

Edit: I’ve added the example of Carrion to one of the paragraphs as I love that game and I forgot to mention it despite intending to. #fixed

What do you think? Do you know any games that do this quite well? Let me know!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.