Our Darker Purpose

on

ourdarkerpurpose

Our Darker Purpose
PC
Developed by Avidly Wild Games
Released in 2014

Our big finale for indie month 2016 was an indie game everybody knew and which was still fresh in the minds of players the world around: Undertale. Clearly a success story for the indie scene, Toby Fox’ game was a blast that is still played by thousands of people per day going by Steamcharts’ estimates. Since this indie month was all about indie games that went under the radar, I decided to use our final review to put the spotlight on a game that was almost a 10/10 upon release, which I hyped up for weeks, and only a pitiful amount of people actually care or even know about.

Welcome to Edgewood

Our Darker Purpose takes place in the Edgewood Home for Lost Children, an orphanage that is more than a little strange. Players take on the role of Cordy, a shy and kindhearted young girl that was seen as the leader of the more introverted children at the orphanage. One day she and two others are put in charge of the classroom while the teacher steps out for a moment, except he never returns. In fact, every adult at Edgewood mysteriously vanishes and the children are seemingly abandoned. That is when the athletic and charismatic children spring their trap, kill all the introverts, and take over Edgewood. They just happened to forget Cordy, who hid under a bookshelf.

20170116190906_1.jpg

Edgewood is a really cool setting; the kind of game world you wouldn’t want to live in, but which is so intriguing and filled with mystery that you just want to explore it. As you play you unlock pages of lore that can be read in a menu which tell legends about the place, like the ominous grandfather clock whose chain spread throughout the school until it grabbed a boy and dragged him into the clockwork, the disgusting leftover soup that came to life, or the many peculiar and lethal decisions made by the seemingly loony administrators.

Besides documents that must be found, storytelling is also done via victory screens you get upon finishing a chapter and dialogue between the school’s furniture and other bits of scenery. Yes, the tables and chairs in Edgewood can speak, and boy do they have a lot to tell. There is a lot to find in Our Darker Purpose and I do have to say that sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming how much text the developers cramp into negligible things like the level descriptions. Quality over quantity doesn’t apply here either, because even though it’s a lot of text, all of it is lovingly written, it’s just that I don’t always feel like reading this much when I am in the middle of an adrenaline-pumping session, nor do I want to work through a big stack of documents every time a session ends.

20170116185201_1

That is a minor complaint and usually I just sit down for a bit to read the stuff anyway because I WANT to know more about Edgewood. The story is just so much fun and everything in it sells you on this world where all the bizarre, creepy fantasies of children have come to life. 

Story score: 10/10

Fireballs for everybody

Cordy’s method of attack is her fireball, which is a single, short-range projectile she can throw that damages enemies. The fireball isn’t 100% accurate as it can be manipulated by moving around and tends to veer slightly off course on its own. Cordy can also roll to quickly cover more ground, heal herself with juice packages, use an item she found, or unleash a cloud of chalk that damages enemies in a radius. Like with The Binding of Isaac, she is controlled with WASD while firing is mapped to the arrow keys.

20170116183724_1.jpg

The controls work fine and they need to because this is a frantic game to play. It’s a roguelike much like Isaac, in which you travel through randomly generated floors with rooms where you are beset upon by enemies and hazards. You start off simple with foes that throw a single projectile, charge directly at you, or run away while dropping traps, but later down the line you’ll be faced by kids that have access to magic and superhuman strength, forcing you to dodge many projectiles while running away from foes trying to get in melee range and avoiding all sorts of nasty traps.

Some ways in which Our Darker Purpose differentiates itself from roguelikes of its time is the use of experience, its bosses, and the items the game employs. Firstly, each enemy the player kills nets Cordy some experience and at set moments she’ll level up and the player gets to pick between two randomly selected perks. This can be something simple like 10% more damage or something neat, like each juice package permanently increasing your health by 3%. A lucky streak of perks that complement each other can make Cordy ridiculously overpowered. When you die you have to restart the game, but you can purchase permanent upgrades to make subsequent runs easier on you, like the ability to fire while rolling or starting off with extra juice and chalk.

20170116185614_1

You’ll also find items during your session which aren’t permanent, you lose them upon dying and have to gather them anew from mini bosses, challenge rooms, shops, and treasure chests. Unlike many other roguelike games the items are handled much better and by far my favorite feature is that you can look them up in the menu after getting them. Isaac and many other titles only show what you got for like a nanosecond and the the menu has no mouse cursor, so you only get to see a picture of an item with no clue as to what it does. Our Darker Purpose communicates the effects of items clearly and none of them serve to screw you over. One of my favorite is some kid’s pet fish, which makes your attacks generate bubbles that do a portion of your damage, but have all the special effects you collected for your regular projectile.

The game’s bosses are fun to fight and remind me of my days playing World of Warcraft, in the sense they feel like a climax after dealing with hordes of henchmen and require you to juggle multiple rules. It’s not like Isaac where you just get a feel for the pattern and steamroll it from there, bosses in Our Darker Purpose are crafty and require a lot of movement and tact to deal with. For some bosses it’s even borderline useless to try and just beat them by firing until they fall over while for others it’s just not very practical.

20170123181008_1

A good example are the leftovers I mentioned earlier, which randomly switches between four cauldrons that surround you and fire a ton of projectiles that bounce off the other cauldrons. After doing enough damage little blobs will spawn in and try to hop back into the cauldron to heal the boss and when it’s almost down a weaker clone will appear with all the same abilities. Even when I know how to deal with the leftovers, there are so many projectiles that bounce around the room and the blobs can be deceptively fast; it remains a tough fight no matter how skilled you are or what items you got. All the bosses also have a special challenge for you to complete that unlocks new upgrades to buy. In the example of the leftovers, you need to defeat the original before dealing with its weaker clone.

Playing Our Darker Purpose is just so satisfying because the items and perks you get make you feel so powerful. With each new addition to your arsenal you see your damage output go up or new playstyles begin to open up for you. Now, there is some RNG involved, as is kind of inevitable with roguelikes in general, and sometimes the game is particularly cruel with handing out currency and juice, but it’s a game where skill and an understanding of the mechanics really pays off.

I am really fond of the moment in a session, after I have died over and over again, where I am getting closer to the final boss and I begin to realize that this run might be “the one”, that I stand a chance to actually beat this game. So far I have only managed once and you know what happened? The game said “good job. Now do that again for the true ending.”

Gameplay score: 10/10

Adorably strange

I am really happy that I decided to include pictures when coming up with a format for reviews on this website because describing art styles really isn’t my thing, especially when games decide to get creative with it. Our Darker Purpose uses a style that I can best describe as gothic, hand-drawn sprites set in a dark world that is nevertheless kind of cute and adorable. The game doesn’t so much use color as it utilizes tints of grey, black, and white to give everything a sinister look and make the few colors it does use pop out strongly. This helps identify projectiles which are pure white or the fires that some bosses utilize.

20170123181946_1

Despite the grim look to everything, the characters are drawn to be kind of cute and childlike, fitting of course for the setting. The mixture that results is as pretty as it is strange.

While I really like the look and characters of Our Darker Purpose it does have to be said that there isn’t a lot of animation to it, which is especially obvious looking at static pictures of the game. During actual play things are just too hectic to notice so it’s not much of an issue, I am just bringing it up now in case you thought that the pictures I used make the game look sort of dull. The lack of diversity in the sprites is an issue, though. There are only a handful of enemies per chapter for you to fight that repeat room after room. While you do unlock more bosses, each one more lavishly detailed than the last, the enemies don’t change up much and after a while that does get kind of tedious.

The soundtrack is nice with each tune lending an eerie tone that matches the visuals. “Welcome to Edgewood” is a nice main theme, but I will say that the other tracks fade into the background a bit after you have played the game for like fifty hours.

Presentation score: 8.5/10

Repeating roguelike

Our Darker Purpose is not an easy game despite how strong Cordy can become and it takes me a long time to get further each time I finish a chapter. These chapters limit how far you can get in the game by making your initial victory over each of the game’s villains a draw that forces you back to the title screen. The second time you beat that boss you’ll be allowed to continue and you also unlock new bosses to make repeated runs less repetitive. There are four chapters in total and about a dozen floors.

20170123181705_1

I have about fifty to sixty hours in the game and I still feel it’s really fresh. There are still runs where I discover new, interesting combinations or run into items that I rarely find. Unlocking all the pages of lore, fulfilling the extra objectives for the bosses, and unlocking new extras also provides long-term goals to the game that make it worth coming back to. It doesn’t come close to matching the bazillion items found in Isaac, and honestly I am kind of happy with that. Instead each item feels lovingly crated by the creators, with its own place in the world and niche to fill.

Extras score: 10/10

Verdict

I still think highly of Our Darker Purpose to this day and a lot of that comes down to just how remarkable it is despite its obscurity. The Binding of Isaac is the go-to roguelike for indie games and I feel that a lot of people write this game off because it’s like Isaac, except it’s more reserved than Team Meat’s crazy dungeon-crawler. And really, that is their loss, because Our Darker Purpose simply offers a much more evolved experience than what we saw in Isaac, with memorable boss battles, a tough-as-nails challenge, and interesting lore to sink your teeth into. Give it a shot.

98/100

3 Comments Add yours

  1. This is great! I can’t believe I’ve never heard about this game before. It sounds amazing 😀

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s