Fear & Hunger is for sure darkest JRPG I ever played, full of gore, sex and torture; surely for a mature audience. The game is the JRPG equivalent of the board game Kingdom Death, especially for the dark themes and the heavy atmosphere. The sense of dread is incredible, every corridor or choice could bring you to a terrible death, behind any path could be a treasure or a horrible creature. Should I enter in that well? What would happen if I join the orgy of people with bunny masks? Every choice could bring to a really horrible death. For example during my first hours I died of hunger in a s****y well (literally), and I was tortured to death by a mad doctor. In a land without morality everything is allowed, from sacrifices kids to murder your party, or cannibalism. But nothing here is gratuitous, everything is well integrated to build a believable dark environment where everything is allowed to survive.
The combat system is quick and brilliant, turn-based fights focused on dismembering the opponent. Dismember fast your enemies, understanding which limb is the most dangerous, and finish the fight with less damages possible is the best way to survive. An enemy is wielding a threatening giant mace? Cut his arm and avoid heavy damages. This is implemented in a very clever way, for example zombies can fight till be dismembered, while a head-shot for humans is lethal.
Here the injuries are deadly, and it is also possible to lost limbs or even eyes permanently. Without an arm the character cannot use heavy weapons or shield, while losing the legs will make the player dragging around his body through the dark corridors of the dungeon. It is obvious to say that these permanent debilitation will make the game almost impossible to complete, and loading a save would is the best option. With this in mind, the fighting in Fear & Hunger is far more stressful, brutal and dangerous than in any other RPGs, and should be avoided. There are no random encounters, experience and level up, for this reason fighting should be the last resource. It is true that if almost any enemy can be avoided, some of them are bringing very interesting weapons or tools. In this case, fighting them quickly could bring to interesting benefits.
The game is direct to a mature audience. Seriously! Game Over scenes could involve your character being raped to death, tortured or mutilated. In this dark world, sex, nudity and cannibalism are everywhere, together with madness and an uncomfortable touch of necrophilia. Worth to specify that nothing of these is gratuitous, light-hearted or integrated in a pleasant way, but it is focused on creating a dark and mature experience above the limits of morality. And it works, creating one of the darkest environment, which will scare, make you feel uneasy and questioning your own limits on how to survive.
Since in the game there is not experience, to learn new skills it is necessary to find specific book, or to use the souls collected from dead enemies to unlock them. The skills are usually character-specific or related to an Old God. To learn the abilities associated to a God, it is necessary to improve the relationship with that related god by doing specific acts in its name. Of course since the universe of Fear & Hunger is a dark place, to worship the Old Gods you can make human sacrifices, have sex or eat another human. This is reflected also on the skills that could be learned, from Necromancy to something called Dark Seed, which is better to don’t describe.
Fear & Hunger is a difficult but rewarding experience. The feeling of finally advancing alive and healthy in the dungeon is really satisfying. There is always some trial and error, but build in a conscious way, where an extended knowledge in the dungeon and in its deadly surprises will allow to understand how to avoid unneeded dangers. Anyway, this is an unforgiving game, where every error will punish and the odds are against the player. The loot system and many drastic decisions are based on a coin flip. Can this be unfair? Surely yes, especially when the coin rule can give you 50% possibilities to save or die, or make you lost crucial loot. Also the game will hide many mechanics, allowing the player to discover everything, but implying lot of trial and error and some searching in the web. Luckily the community is very active, and there is also a well done official wiki of the game.
During the tough descend in the belly of the dungeon, few characters can also be recruited in the party. But this is no an easy task, since the rules to recruit them are complex and the characters could be lost forever without knowing. For example, a dangerous wolf can be recruited by feeding it rotten meat, an immortal magician would speak with you only if a talisman is equipped, while another character can be saved only by reaching him quickly. Another topic is the use of spells, such as Necromancy, which are able to generate ghouls as allies from dead bodies. The secondary characters are interesting both for personal story and for use in combat. Some of them are impossible to control directly and will attack following their instinct. For example, I found very interesting how the wolf tend to focus its attacks on the legs of the enemies.
The atmosphere is pure nightmare inducing, full of disturbing creatures and evilness. A crow like entity will murder you if you sleep in his bed, while a giant ball made of heads will ask to sacrifice children to him. The monsters are original and creepy, from pregnant mannequins, to dismembering dancing wizards and old women fused with an ancient sewing machine.
The game also embraces darkness with many choices. Will you sacrifice your team? Will you kill to please the old gods? The game is opened to replayability, with the possibility to select between 4 different characters with its own skills and abilities. Each character has also a prologue, with different paths, which will define the starting abilities and equipment for each class. Abandon your friends to certain death? Your mercenary will learn Backstab. Put the temple on fire? The dark priest will learn Pyrotrick.
The lore and the setting is really complex and interesting, with a believable and unique mythology, far from the usual “inspired by Lovecraft” so common to many horror indie RPGs. Every monster, character and location is clearly part of the same universe. Sylvian for example is the goddess of love, but her love become twisted and people having sex in her name… well will not spoil the surprise. A very bizarre merchant will offer the player very powerful equipment in exchange for… children. Dedicated players will be rewarded with a deep knowledge of the world by reading books, or typing questions directly to the New Gods.
The art-style is simple but gorgeous, especially the monsters and the environment. Also the sound effects add another level of deepness, with disturbing noises and atmospheric music. The dismembering and the animations during the fights are also very satisfying.
This is a demanding and challenging game, sometime unfair and not for everyone. But if you are searching a unique JRPG, really dark and horror, with a complex and rewarding system, you should really give it a try.
A free key of the game was provided by the developers. The game is available on STEAM (only for 18+): https://store.steampowered.com/app/1002300?snr=2_9_100000_