When it is impossible to Save: surviving all the mutilations of the Crow Mauler in Fear & Hunger [Boss Battle]

Saving anywhere is a luxury of modern game, but it was never really common in old-school JRPGs, for example. Having fixed save-points would of course make the game harder by planning good the gaming sessions, putting a lot of care in your strategy to survive till the next save, or else you would be cursed to repeat entire sections. Some games push this even further, almost to a masochistic level. Permadeath is surely the worst case, erasing your save files after dying. Other games will also try different strategies. For example, Fear & Hunger will try really hard to make your journey a nightmare.

The save point for the first half of the game is a bed hidden inside a cell. If at the beginning this will look like a lucky event, after saving for the first time, the situation will get worse. Each tentative of saving has 50% possibilities of triggering a deadly fight against a really tough boss: the Crow Mauler. The abomination has the head of a crow, with a really exalted expression, on top of a muscled human body. The left arm is fused with a spiked mace, which of course is used as his main weapon. Official lore of the game describe the Crow Mauler as something that “was set on purifying the dungeon from filth and deprivement”. This deadly creature will easily wreck an unprepared party, and it is one of the most difficult bosses of the game. But only by defeating the Crow Mauler, the player will be able to use the save point without any more worries.


However, the fight is a real challenge, and surviving without casualties or deadly injuries is an almost impossible dream. Because the Crow has several nasty surprises to show to the player, so many ways to kill or mutilate the characters. The huge mace is for sure the main source of damage of the Crow Mauler. This scourge can inflict an insane amount of damages, and can easily kill a character with a couple of blows. Each attack has also a really high probability of breaking bones, a negative status effect which will permanently reduce the maximum HPs of a character. Without any possibility of healing it for the rest of the game. Also his arm-mace has an insane amount of HP, making practicality a waste of turn trying to cut it. But if you think that this is the most deadly attack, you are terribly wrong.

The Crow Mauler’s beak is not there as a simple animal vestige, but it is in fast his most dangerous weapon. The beak has a really high probability of hitting a character, resulting in… an instant death. With a single attack the Crow can one shot whichever character, by pecking away his head in a gory geyser of blood. Let’s also remember that as any mutilation, death in Fear & Hunger is permanent. So even if you can finally kill the Crow, there is a critically high probability of losing at least one character.

Sadly for the players, death and broken bones are not the only permanent statuses that the Crow Mauler can inflict. The creature can summon a flock of crows to strike the eyes of the main character. The damage is pretty ridiculous, but a mysterious symbol of an eye-patch will appear as status, while a threatening message will also describe how the flock of crows clawed your eyes. But, apparently, there are no consequences of this attack and the battle can continue as usual. Let’s imagine that, after a tough fight the player, manages to defeat the Crow. The moment after the battle, the screen will be completely black. The character can still move and examine, but in the absolute darkness. Could this be a bug? Of course no, the main character was blinded by the crows, and there is no way to revert this, since has any other mutilation in the game thus is also permanent. The only way to prevent this status is by wearing a complete helmet. There is absolutely no way of playing the game with this affliction, so the only way is to load a save to try again to fight the Crow Mauler. After a tough fight and an impossible win, the last sarcastic joke of the Crow Mauler is to let you believe that you won, while without eyes, this is just another burning defeat, even if the monster is dead.


Also if one Crow Mauler is not enough, the very late game has an unpleasant surprise. The last secret dungeon, and also the most difficult level of the game, hides several pits, which will throw the party in an organic basement. If falling in this viscid and damaging underworld was not enough as punishment, this place is also the hunting ground of a two-headed Crow Mauler. Even a well prepared party will find its hell in this fight, since double heads means also double beaks.


The Crow Mauler is a deadly adversary, and a sadistic trap for unprepared players. He will strike you when you least expect it, when you feel that finally you found a resting place where to Save. Every tentative against this monster is a breathless challenge, hoping to defeat it quickly, before having casualties or losing the eyes. The Crow Mauler embodies the atmosphere of Fear & Hunger, a dark, hopeless and unfair world.

Mary Skelter Nightmares: When the dungeon is a colossal living creature with its own needs

There are worst things than wandering through the dark and cold corridors of a dungeon. If you think that a claustrophobic and repetitive space made of moistly walls and empty silences was the most terrifying and standard environment for a dungeon-crawler, now you will change idea. Because if the dungeon was instead a colossal living creature, the situation will be far worse. This is exactly the main idea for the setting of Mary Skelter.

While you wander through the dreadful but colorful dungeons, you may forget that you are instead inside the body of a colossal eldritch entity called the Jail. As the name suggests, for the few survivors it is impossible to leave the body of this creature, and they are doomed to endure terrible torture inside this organic prison. The Jail is able to mimic things that assimilated, explaining the peculiar and variegated environments. The creature also possesses a sort of immune system, but of course instead of macrophages and lymphocytes, there are monsters called Marchens, and the immortal abominations known as Nightmares (have a look at one of them here: Monster of the Week: Downtown Nightmare (Mary Skelter) — Surreal and Creepy). Sometimes by watching at the variegate and interesting dungeon setting, the player could forget to be inside a living creature, but the game will find ways to remember it. For example, it is quite common to find healthy flesh pulsing out of the walls, just a small fraction of a gigantic living organism. Sometimes, huge eyes will open on the walls, following the party in a creepy and disturbing way. Also the main objective of the party is quite straightforward: to search and to destroy the Jail’s hearts in each different layer.


The really interesting thing is that being inside a living organism is not simply a storytelling trick to make everything more interesting, but it is directly integrated into the gameplay. As every living organism, the Jail has needs, both physical and psychological. If the player satisfies one of the needs, it will be possible to access to a specific wheel which allow to win a random reward. If some prices are bonus in battle, more experience or less enemy encounters, other bonuses are more rooted in the setting of the game. For example, one of the most interesting reward is the possibility to morph the Jail body itself, unlocking secret areas or creating complete new floors. To fully explore each level of the Jail will be not only necessary to satisfy its needs multiple times, but also putting extra care while unlocking the “random” rewards. The concept of satisfying the biological needs of a giant monster in order to control its own growth, to explore new floors of the dungeon, is a really innovative concept.


Which are the biological needs of the Jail and how the player can satisfy them? Of course the primary necessity of any living being is the hunger, and the fundamental need of feeding. The Jail in this sense is not different from any animal and, even as a colossal abomination, it still needs food. The Jail will feed on the fluids of the creatures roaming inside of it, absorbing and digesting the blood that is splattered on the walls of the dungeons. How can the player satisfy this need? In each battle if an enemy is killed in a critical way, it will splat pink blood on the walls of the Jail. By critically kill many enemies, the dungeons will turn in a pinkish slaughterhouse, and the Jail will satisfy its hunger. Other than feeding the Jail, the blood will stain on the walls of the dungeon for the entire game. So yes, practically speaking, a player could turn the Jail into a pinkish hell.


Another primary need of any animal is sleeping. Also the Jail, an eldritch monstrosity, sometimes needs to peacefully sleep. Only when the Jail is sleeping, the player can take advantage of this situation to satisfy this need. In some specific moments, the Jail will simply fall asleep. This is the only time when the player can fill the sleep bar. Just walking in silence is enough to keep the Jail in its peaceful sleep, increasing the sleep bar towards the bonus. Fighting will of course negate any satisfaction, since a battle is of course very noisy and will bother the Jail’s sleep. However, if the player is able to defeat the enemies without taking damages, this will provide anyway a step toward satisfying this need. For sure a quick and deadly battle is less noisy than a long one.

The third need is more complex and, well, a more delicate topic. Because apparently even for a gigantic eldritch abomination, the third physiological need is the libido. Japanese RPGs will never stop to be a surprise. Anyway, also this need can be satisfied by the player in order to take control of the Jail, its growth, and the relative bonuses. Before being traumatized by what the main characters should do the satisfy the libido of this huge abomination, let’s take a big breath because the solution is not as disturbing as could look. Scattered around the dungeon there are innocent looking heart symbols. Those are called “Emotion Points”, and are the quickest way to increase the Jail’s libido. If you forget for a second the name and the bland appearance of these symbols, the main idea is anyway that the characters are looking for “very sensible points to increase the libido from the inside of a huge organism”. Yes, now everything is really more disturbing.

If hunting for “Libido Points” inside a colossal being is not your daily meal, there is another more direct and less subtle way to satisfy the Jail’s libido. The main party is composed by only good looking girls, often with very few clothes on. If this alone could be enough to increase libido, they also have a more interesting secret. They are not human, but something called Blood Maiden, a class of warrior related to blood. Their true power arises when they get covered in blood. But when they are extremely drenched in blood, they could become corrupted, going into a dangerous frenzy. So what could be the most efficient way to clean the blood from their skin? Of course by licking each other. Japan, what a wonderful land for dark RPGs. This action is however not shown to the hungry player’s eyes, but, apparently, the Jail is instead enjoying the spectacle, since its libido will increase.

Mary Skelter is a dark JRPG with a really unique setting. Not only the player is wandering literally inside the “final boss” for all the adventure, but the player is also directly integrated in its ecosystem, trying to play with the Jail’s needs to control its growth. This is really a unique concept with a huge potential, and a very innovative way to connect the gameplay with the setting. For more info you can also check my review: Mary Skelter Nightmares Review: an innovative dungeon-crawler where fairytales are drenched in blood.