It feels like days since you’ve been able to relax. The world is dark, danger ever around the corner, whether in the form of traps or doom-bringers waiting to strike. And you must persist onwards… because the world depends on you. It’s crushing, stifling, and you can feel a sinking feeling telling you to stay put, stay down, and give up – it’s despair.
Mistover, much like Darkest Dungeon, is a game that makes sure that the cards are always against you. Enemies hit hard from your first battle, and make no mistake – you will lose people. The plot of Mistover concerns expeditions into the mysterious Mist phenomena that put the world upon the brink of destruction, until it suddenly stopped, letting humanity have a chance to fight back and hopefully find and destroy whatever is causing the calamity. You are found with lost memories in the Mist, and as such you end up joining the Expedition Corps in order to try regaining your memories as a side objective.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Mistover is played in two parts – a roguelike map where you’ll need to crush obstacles, find treasure, complete requests, and most importantly, navigate your way to the exit without horrifically dying. In this section, Expedition Skills that each class of character has is key, and I found myself leading with the Paladin or Sister quite often, with the former being able to break obstacles without losing health, and the latter being able to improve natural healing at the touch of a button.
The roguelike map also serves a purpose in that it illuminates enemies that are coming to attack you, and this lets you first strike them most of the time. In battle, players must position up to five characters on a 9-tile grid, with player formations having an effect on what attacks are usable, and what enemies they strike. What complicates things are skills that require characters to stand next to each other, as well as many side effects from skills that end up moving your or the enemy around. Thanks to this, it’s not uncommon to find your formation out of wack, leading to earlier deaths in my case.
Like in Darkest Dungeon, the best way to survive fights is to carefully use player turns so that enemy turns are more manageable, such as stunning some enemies and slowing others down. However, the constant movement of your characters around the grid forces things to be unpredictable, and many times my strategy didn’t play out thanks to the side effects of either player or monster skills.
On paper, managing these two aspects to Mistover’s gameplay may sound relatively doable, but stopping you from beating a couple of monsters then leaving via the Exit Portal is the Doomsday Clock hanging above your head,with striking midnight meaning that the end of the world is nigh. Things like defeated monsters, opened treasure, and destroyed debris all count towards this clock, and failing to do so can cause the clock to move forwards up to multiple notches at a time, with the highest I’ve gotten being three notches.
The opposite is thankfully true, and you can buy time for the world by accomplishing just the above. This means that while not mandatory, players are essentially forced to explore the entire map if they don’t want to end the game early on. It’s both hard and frustrating, even if it’s cleverly built into the game’s design.
In fact, let me count what general sorts of aspects of the game is prone to inducing stress…
- Regular RPG RNG, such as damage and hit rates
- Enemies hitting like trucks and items essentially being restricted to what you bring into it
- All consumable items brought into the Mistlands turn contaminated upon leaving, meaning that they heal less and have worse effects, and using too much contaminated items causes adverse side effects
- Having to constantly manage unit positions in and between battles
- Jinxes (individual character quirks that are mostly bad) can activate anytime
- Enemies will respawn on the map but do not give EXP or money
- You have to manage hunger and Luminosity so you don’t actively lose HP on the map, and so you can see enemies clearly
- The Doomsday Clock which basically forces you to fight a certain amount and explore each map fully lest you bring the world closer to destruction
It’s a lot to take in, and it’s easy to despair if an encounter or two don’t go well and cause your allies to die in mid-combat (allies can be healed from the brink of death, but stay dead permanently if they do so), meaning that you’ll need to once again train up more party members in order to progress. Seeing respawning enemies come after you is also very anxiety-inducing. In fact, if you don’t come into the game with the right mindset, it can all be very despair-inducing and cause you to scramble for the exit. But you can’t, because you’re hurting yourself in the long term! And so you trudge on, bleeding, hungry, and out of items.
What’s funny though is that despite how everything is stacked against you, it never feels unfair. For those looking for a masochistic experience and the thrill of overcoming it all, Mistover is for you. But even for the average RPG player who knows the general strategies, the game’s many aspects pushing against you can feel overwhelming and stress-inducing – to the point where weaker-minded people might just succumb to the Mist in real life.
Mistover is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC.