Full Disclosure: I don’t listen well to directions. I know one of the devs, but I paid for the game. Also, he knows I like messing with his shit. Also BIC Fest Breakdown coming in a few days.
Life is about making the right choices. The Shrouded Isle is about making the wrong choices for everyone else. The ultimate goal is to keep the island oppressed and manageable while you satisfy a the goals given to you upon your first summer by Chernobog, the god who speaks through you to the masses. Everything is a delicate balance, as the five families you control on the island can only be pushed so far, and adherence to the five pillars of your religion, ignorance, fervor, discipline, penitence, and obedience can only fall so low. The ouroboric nature of power from top to bottom again to top enforces a delicate cultural dance, where fear not only rains down from the heavens but also bubbles up from the vile.
Mechanically, the balance is maintained through the use of two types of stats, the approval of the vicar of each house, and the strength of each of the five pillars mentioned above. Each character has strengths and weaknesses that act as modifiers to one of these pillars, and are encoded as character traits, one good and one bad one per person. In the beginning you don’t know anything about anyone in each of the houses, you run inquiries to try to suss everything out. Each season you have to select a member of each house to be a representative, and then you have the option to use them to manage some church affairs. Using a representative raises the approval of their house, and also affects their influence on the town and their adherence to the five pillars.
Oh, and yeah, you gotta kill one of them by the end of the season, so you better have someone seriously fucked up to kill in line, or at least someone you can afford to kill.
The goal given to you in the first summer has two parts. You’ll be asked to force the town to adhere to one of the pillars to a much higher level than the rest. You’ll also be asked to sacrifice a sinner with a certain type of flaw. I’m guessing on this last part, because I’ve never finished the game by completing both goals. I’m still working on that one.
At first, you try to dictate with the best of intentions, you know punish everyone for their own good and whatnot, but by the second year or so, you’re just feeding whoever you can to the dragons to keep everyone else happy enough not to kill you.
I can draw two parallels here.
- This game is about the life of Kim Jeong Un.
- This game is like LARPing with emotional consequences.
Yeah, yeah I know I shouldn’t bring up LARPing in … well any company, but… yeah, no, fuck you. Yep. Fuck you. I see your judging eyes. Take your Judgy McJudgerson face and back it all the way back up the page. LARPing is fun. LARPing is social. LARPing is a wonderful way to spend an evening with socially responsible individuals that have a strong belief in personal hygiene.
I digress. Still working through some ‘shoes. (The fuck you stands though.)
I like this game. Graphics are on point, which is surprising since this is basically a monochrome game with only the odd splash of blood. Sound’s good too. I like how the gameplay is math that’s disguised as word games that really make you focus on every move you make. Making mistakes and learning from them encourage replayability. The more you get used to the game, the more you spend searching for the best traits and avoiding the worst while budgeting for the unknown. It’s surprisingly tense when you start getting more than a few seasons in. The only two downsides, I think anyway, are that there are not enough villager portraits (people’s images start to bleed over between games) and that I don’t know if every situation is winnable from the outset. There have been times where I’ve desperately needed an increase in one particular pillar but there was no one in any house who could do that, so I spent an entire season just waiting for my death. It could be that I just didn’t make the correct choices, but I’m not so sure. I know one of the devs, I’ll have to ask him about it.
This game is worth picking up if you like logic based games more than action based ones, or if you just like imagining people suffer.
You sick fucking bastard. I bet you used to LARP.