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.
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