In space no one can hear you die: Interview with Cradle Games, the creators of Hellpoint, challenging Souls-like with horror sci-fi atmosphere

Action RPGs are definitively a prolific genre these days, challenging games often inspired by Fromsoftware’s works for their mechanics. Due to their challenging gameplay, death is always ready behind a corner, and players will learn to advance cautiously. For this reason, “Souls-like” mechanics combine very well with horror or dark atmospheres. However, while many titles use dark fantasy worlds and characters to enhance the stressful environment, very few games try to build a completely different world. Now thanks to Hellpoint, action RPGs have a representative for horror sci-fi settings.

Hellpoint is an action-RPG set on a mysterious orbital station where something catastrophic happened. Between cosmic horrors, claustrophobic corridors, madness, lack of oxygen, and a gigantic black hole constantly imposing its presence outside the station, Hellpoint’s atmosphere couldn’t be more horror. The oppressive feeling while walking around the station exactly triggers all the right notes of a proper horror sci-fi product. Also in terms of gameplay, Hellpoint is a great addition to the genre, including nice variations such as firearms, insane weapons including the hand of an eldritch god, cosmic magic, and alternative dimensions where the main bosses offer dialogues instead of a brutal fight (you can read more here if interested about: Why fighting when you can ally with Cosmic Evil Gods in Hellpoint? [Evil Quests]). And the surprises are not over, because one year from the official release, Cradle Games studio, the Canadian team behind Hellpoint’s development, announced a new DLC called Blue Sun.

While waiting to step back into the claustrophobic tunnels of Idis Novo station, I had the possibility of interviewing Cradle Games to know more about Hellpoint and its development. Cradle Games’ designer, Mathieu Boudreau, was kind enough to answer my questions. Also known as “Gropwel,” Mathieu is a veteran in game development and worked before with Activision and Ubisoft before co-starting Cradle Games.

If you want to know more about the development of Hellpoint, how its atmosphere and system were born, and the future of the series, you should read the following interview with Mathieu and Cradle Games.

Q1: Thank you for the possibility of interacting with you. Hellpoint is an interesting new take on souls-like games, how did the project start, and how Cradle Games was born?

A1: Of course! The project took off in the Fall of 2015 when we founded Cradle Games with a couple of fellow game devs with which I’ve been working for over a decade at Ubisoft and Activision. It all started in my house basement where I concocted this strange dark sci fi universe and we were just obsessed with the new trend of hardcore games. I took all the ideas I’ve been carrying on from childhood from Doom 1993 and Super Metroid and it was on.

Q2: The oppressive sci-fi atmosphere is clearly one of the strong points of Hellpoint. Which movies or games did you use as a reference to create this horror environment?

A2: The main inspiration for the game world came from my love of old Swedish death metal like In Flames and Meshuggah who often incorporated elements of cosmic horror put on top of face melting riffs. Game wise it was 1993’s Doom and Super Metroid that I wanted to explore again, with that unrestrained old-school level design jam packed with secrets and the feeling of no hand holding, the strong feeling of isolation deep within an alien world.

When you are alone in a space station, finding a cult of demonic creature is never a good sign.

Q3: Souls-like games are definitely one of the most famous genres now, with amazing games both from big and small studios. While developing Hellpoint, which were your “to do” and “to don’t” things to create your personal view of Souls-like games?

A3: While we adore the Dark Souls series, it’s really Bloodborne that left the deepest trauma on our gamer mantra. To me the main character is really the game world, and it’s got its own story, logic and attitude so very early on we forgot about the soul series to build and expand our own thing. It’s a really fun process! But from the beginning we made it a point of honor to invent more new ideas and mechanics than we borrowed from existing game, so yes Hellpoint has a stamina bar and “bonfire” kind of checkpoints, but beyond that it is its own thing with the jump mechanic, the real time station orbit, the way we handle multiplayer, etc.

Q4: From the huge hand of a dead god to a scythe made from the bones of an interstellar whale: Hellpoint’s weapons are a true blast of innovative and well-integrated designs. Could you name some of the favourite weapons of your team?

A4: Oh, thank you so much! We’ve put a lot of love in the weapon design and really pushed it as far as was humanely possible for us. My personal favorite is Nemundis Occulus, I find it really bad ass to defeat a boss and then fight using his eyeball. I think the team is really into the new weapons that we’ve produced for the Blue Sun DLC. They are very YOLO.

Q5: Hellpoint is rich in weapons and monsters, but I am curious, were there some creatures or weapons that for some reason were cut out from the final release?

A5: Probably we should have cut more, hahaha! That was a lot of content to produce for our small 11 people team. But yes, there was some cut content but I’m glad to say we’re putting it all back in with the Blue Sun DLC.

Q6: A very unexpected feature of Hellpoint is that the Cosmic Gods are not only enemies to be defeated but, with the right choices, they can become allies and even provide quests. Why did you decide to implement this feature in the game?

A6: Well I think it’s an interesting aspect of the “Lovecraftian” cosmic horror genre that these giant entities are too massive to really give a damn whether we live or die. So it’s an achievement for the player to be able to interact with them in either ways. It also fitted with the concept of the “Underworld” which is an inversion of everything you find in the real world.

Sometimes you can talk with Cosmic Evil Gods, and sometimes you cannot.

Q7: Hellpoint is full of novel and interesting mechanics. One of the most interesting is how the orientation of the ship around a black hole basically defines “hours,” and specific events or places can only be accessed at a specific time. How did this concept evolve during the development of the game?

A7: Something that we always like to do when we make game is try to make it feel like the game world is ever evolving whether you’re in it or not. It’s not like the show Truman where the world revolves around you, rather the opposite. It makes the world feel more concrete, alive and unpredictable. But for Hellpoint, the black hole orbit system was a huge challenge! We had to plan many different game states and mods for environments that were already immense, we had to design a dynamic skybox that spins and twists realistically, we had to make correct maths for the spin of the Irid Novo station so that the black hole always looks glorious in the sky, we had to create many different sets of stat balancing and loot drop tables for every bosses and enemies… a bit insane but it paid off by making the game feel so unique and alive.

View of the black hole in the outer space from inside the space station.

Q8: Surely Hellpoint can be defined as a challenging game, especially some sections (personally still having nightmares about the zero-gravity sections outside the ship). How did you balance the difficulty? Were there some areas that were majorly revised due to being too difficult?

A8: To be honest for us it was rather the opposite that happened. Prior to Dark Souls the whole industry was in a “casual gaming” and “accessibility first” trend so we were very thankful to From Software for making hardcore games popular again. We cranked up the difficulty to make a very skill-based game but we also wanted players to be able to personalize their experience, allowing them to skip to late game environments if they find the right secrets, or letting them craft items that would allow them to lower the stats of the enemies. The character stats and upgrades are basically not capped at all. But the enemies are still savage and can be buffed if the black hole is in the sky. The game can be played in coop uninterrupted from beginning to the end, etc.

Q9: Recently, for the first anniversary, the DLC Blue Sun was announced for Hellpoint. Could you tell us something more of what deadly and lurking things a player should expect in the new DLC?

A9: I think we really outdid ourselves with this DLC! I can’t really say much but I really hope players will see how much we evolved as a team since last year. One thing I wanted to do is making sure the added content doesn’t feel tacked on and expendable, I wanted to make content that makes the whole game more exciting and motivates another playthrough, and make sure that we make it interconnected with the base game so it doesn’t feel tacked on.

Q10: Now that the DLC is coming out, I imagine this will be your main focus for some time, but I am curious, do you already have plans for a future game or a sequel of Hellpoint? Could you tell us something just to satisfy our curiosity?

A10: We’re on fire. We got tons of projects and ideas, we’re expanding, we can finally not worry about money so much and focus on crafting our art and working with our fan base. We got new IP’s in the work as well that is sure to make folks fall off their chair. I don’t think anybody can possibly expect what’s next for us. We want to concretize as many ideas as possible while we’re not too old. It’ll take time but it’ll be worth it.

Final Remarks:

I would like to thank Cradle Games for the nice opportunity, especially Mathieu for the very interesting answers. I look forward to diving again into the oppressive universe of Hellpoint with the new DLC Blue Sun, mentally preparing to slash new grotesque monsters using the eyeball of a cosmic god. While waiting for the new DLC, if you still didn’t try Hellpoint, it is available on STEAM and all the major consoles.

The most dark, horror, and gothic indie Metroidvania

Castlevania and Metroid created their own genre, which is getting a second youth with indie games: metroidvania. These games have in common a 2D aesthetic, a huge map to explore with interconnected elements, many secrets and hidden areas to discover using different abilities, backtracking, and in general a huge focus on exploration. Usually, metroidvania games have a wide bestiary, with many standard enemies, and gigantic bosses to defeat. RPG elements are also quite common, including statistics, levels, and dozens of different equipment.

Surely, both the founding fathers of the genre have their amount of horror elements. Metroid features grotesque aliens and an overall lonely and oppressive atmosphere. Castlevania is also not second in this, with one of the most inspiring dark fantasy/gothic settings, and with a bestiary full of the most disturbing creatures (and you can check them here: Most dark, scary and creepy bosses from Castlevania saga). However, with the new flow of indie metroidvania, the genre got even more refreshed with novel dark, horror, or mature atmospheres.

In the following article, I will describe some of the darkest or horror metroidvania games. I will include only proper metroidvania, with a 2D art-style, a huge interconnected world, and multiple abilities or RPG features needed to explore.

I will focus on metroidvania with dark, horror, or in general a mature atmosphere. It could be for the oppressive or depressing environment, for the brutal combat and the violent gameplay, or for the disturbing elements: whichever is the cause, these games are more mature-oriented than the average metroidvania. Moreover, for each of them, I will analyse the world-building, the bestiary and the bosses, and why the atmosphere is considered dark or horror. The article will be constantly updated, so new fitting games will be included once released.

Vigil: the Longest Night

Details: Vigil was a surprise last year, and one of the best examples of metroidvania directly infused with horror elements. Vigil is a great homage to the legendary Bloodborne, sharing with it the dark themes and the oppressive atmosphere. Vigil is a pure metroidvania with strong RPG elements, including a deep level system, skills, and different playstyles. From fast daggers to the complexity of the bow, the player has the power of shaping the gameplay. The exploration is a focal point, with a giant interconnected world full of secrets to discover, including alternative bosses, hidden eldritch realms, and dozens of different armors and equipment. This is where the game gets even more interesting, because every item not only is very original and interesting to use, but also well characterised in terms of lore.

World: From dense and deadly woods, to haunted mines and a ship graveyard inhabited by deep-sea eldritch terrors, the world of Vigil is a huge and twisted net touching common dark fantasy tropes. Secrets are everywhere, and backtracking is crucial to find the most hidden places and battles, and secondary characters have different quests to fulfill. Moreover, the same world will be visited under three different “conditions” (avoiding spoilers) and many areas will change according to this, with new enemies, items, and bosses. And to conclude, how to forget about the secret eldritch realms accessible only while playing special ocarina on an altar in the depths of a crypt?

Dark/Horror: The horror in Vigil is a very strong element. Secondary characters will face horrible consequences, death and disease are everywhere, and grotesque experiments on innocent people are only the tip of the iceberg. Moreover, secondary quests could end up really traumatically, and not every character should be trusted. Church and religion are also a twisted trope present in Vigil, painting an ever more dark but believable fantasy world.

Bestiary: The grotesque enemies are pure nightmare-inducing, and masterfully portrayed with a gorgeous art style. Every area has several new enemies, with very interesting designs and behaviors. For example, the ship graveyard is full of complex deep-sea creatures, including a sort of snail-woman and an aggressive mass of tentacles. The bosses have also a nightmarish and original design. I challenge you to meet the Broodmother and her spawn without being heavily disturbed (and you can know more about her in my article: Monster of the Week: The Brood Mother and her progeny (Vigil)).

Knifeboy

Details: An unexpected surprise for a crazy metroidvania based on indie comics, set in an insane sci-fi world full of charm and personality. The art-style is very detailed and interesting, especially the enemies’ design and some locations. It could be raw sometimes, but it is full of passion and able to paint a unique world full of colors and details. The combat side is not incredibly deep, with very standard combos and easy but really interesting boss fights. Platform sections are quite challenging, but never tiring, thanks to really well-planned checkpoints. Of course, as a one-man game, there are some bugs that can be a bit bothering. However, the experience is so original and interesting, that I kept playing regarding the bugs. The world, the dozens of characters, the crazy bosses, and the many secrets are too interesting to stop playing. 

World: The game is based on a quite big open world, with a lot of secrets and places to explore. A day/night cycle allows different layers of exploration, with some places opening only at a specific time, and different monsters or collectibles only available at night, for example. Each new area is a completely novel and bizarre environment, from a DJ club, to a sort of pseudo-gothic asylum, and an arena managed by a group of pig-butchers on stilts. The game is a crazy tornado of surprises and pulp references, with secondary quests allowing to access a UFO or to see the true face of Santa Claus. Also, the game is a proper metroidvania, since new upgrades will allow the player to explore new areas.

Dark/Horror: Knifeboy cannot be defined as a horror game under any category, but it surely meets the requirement to be in this article for the high level of violence and the grotesque and twisted characters/enemies. Knifeboy is like an indie comic book targeted to a mature audience, a game that is not afraid to show enemies cut in half and some nudity here and there.

Bestiary: This game knows how to create original enemies and bosses. If common enemies like a sort of colorful humanoid bat that looks like a Mexican painting under LSD are already interesting, including sort of pig-like creatures walking on stilts, the bosses have an especially great design. They are difficult to describe using words, just imagine the most gigantic, colorful, complex, and bizarre abomination, and probably you will not be even close to what you will face in Knifeboy.

Blasphemous

Details: Blasphemous is probably one of the most well-known games in this article, a huge metroidvania with strong horror elements inspired by Catholicism. The game is challenging and full of surprises, with an amazing world to explore and many tough fights. Blasphemous has also incredible pixel art, able to convey the brutality of the fighting system in every red pixel. If you are looking for a challenging, brutal, and horror metroidvania, Blasphemous should be your first choice.

World: Custodia is a dark and cruel world shaped by the Miracle, a sort of unknown force that molds the bodies of true believers in horrible ways. The world is beautifully interconnected, using really original and haunted places. From the cold peaks in which is hiding a monastery of nuns that self-burn their bodies, to the rooftop of a gothic cathedral inhabited by twisted angelic beings: Blasphemous knows how to create a complex world using religious references. The secondary characters are an integrated part of this world, insane being touched by the Miracle, forced for example to be constantly whipped by an invisible force, or to be forever imprisoned half-fused in an olive tree.

Dark/Horror: Blasphemous is probably the most horror and brutal metroidvania that is out. Every detail is pure horror and nightmare-inducing, especially how religion is twisted in favor of horror. Moreover, the fighting is brutal, with gory executions when enemies are at low health.

Bestiary: Every single enemy is a grotesque combination of religion, Spanish folklore (the developers are from there), and pure horror. Seriously, every single enemy, from the most common soldier to the most gigantic boss, could be on the cover of a metal album. The religious elements combine with the creatures in very original ways, including a boss inspired by the “Pietà” of Michelangelo, or others with Church architectures inserted in their design (more info here: Catholic Art and Architecture in the twisted world of Blasphemous: how religious iconography can build nightmares). Plus, the bosses are simply great, especially the giant skeleton of a cardinal lifted by giant hands, and the disturbing Exposito, which can only be described as a sort of gigantic baby Jesus that will literally rip the main character in half (which also have an analysis here: Monster of the Week: Exposito, Scion of Abjuration (Blasphemous)).

Demoniaca Everlasting Night

Details: Heavily inspired by Castlevania Symphony of the Night, Demoniaca is a metroidvania combining horror elements, light adult contents (brief sex and nudity), and a combat system typical of fighting games based on combos. The RPG elements are many and well-integrated, including many different items and random drops. However, since here on Dark RPGs you can already find a complete review of Demoniaca, I will just leave here the link for more details: Demoniaca Everlasting Night Review: a dark and mature beat ’em up metroidvania.

World: As mainly inspired by Castlevania, Demoniaca is entirely set in a gigantic castle. There are of course different sections, for example the library or a hall full of mirrors. The exploration is rewarded not only for secrets but also for hidden merchants and moves. A great feature is the special mini-bosses marked on the map, but almost impossible to defeat without coming back much later at a higher level. Some characters are quite original and brilliant, such as Boxman, a mysterious man teaching powerful techniques hiding his face inside a box.

Dark/Horror: Demoniaca is a violent game, especially in the pixel art cutscenes and for some brutal elements in the background. The game has also mild adult content, including brief sexual scenes that appear like random illusions, or nudity, especially involving secondary bosses, or for example, a character seating on a throne while surrounded by half-naked slaves.

Bestiary: Part of the bestiary is not very original and inspired. For example, there are too many variants of skeletons, and some creatures are really too similar to iconic enemies from Doom. However, there are some interesting surprises, especially in the library section and in the second half of the game, with creepy murderous nurse dolls wielding massive syringes or hack-saws. Another brilliant example is a gruesome spiked-skeleton with inserted body-parts that is able to inflict the negative status “thorne,” transforming the main character into a sort of Hellraiser-ish version of herself.

Dark Light

Details: The game is still in Early Access, but is clearly showing its potential. The strongest point of Dark Light is its sci-fi horror atmosphere, a sort of 2D Dead Space, which is something not very common for a metroidvania. Dark Light has also major influences from Dark Souls, especially the level up system, based on converting fragments collecting during exploration in credits. But of course, if death arrives before the conversion, the fragments will be forever lost. The gameplay is very classic, but involving several pieces of equipment, including a firearm, a melee weapon, grenades, and a drone. New items are randomly dropped while exploring, or directly as loot from defeated enemies.

World: Earth is now a rotten wasteland, a harsh landscape roamed by deadly creatures. The atmosphere is always oppressive, and the exploration extremely cautious. Even if the world is still under construction, there are already several paths and secret areas to uncover, usually using keys collected in other zones. The backgrounds are gorgeous and haunting, able to paint a horror sci-fi world, with a gigantic robotic hand emerging from the ground, or a titanic cybernetic skull, just to mention some examples.

Dark/Horror: The atmosphere is dense and oppressive, the combat is brutal, and dying is a common occurrence. Enemies will ambush from dark places, and, several times, a double-tap will be necessary to check if an enemy is truly dead. The silence is a constant threat to your psychological health while exploring the wasteland, the equivalent of exploring the silent ship in Dead Space.

Bestiary: In Dark Light, you can expect a series of quite classic but always interesting examples of horror sci-fi creatures. Invisible mutants, deadly parasites, grotesque zombies with huge chainsaws, or chaos warriors in full armor and with a Gatling gun: if you can name a creature-trope from horror-scifi, it is probably in the game.

Salt and Sanctuary

Details: One of the first examples of recent dark metroidvania, Salt and Sanctuary tried to be the first 2D Souls-like. And the experiment succeeded with really good results. The combat is stamina-based, tough and challenging, while the RPG elements are deep and satisfying. The dark world of Salt and Sanctuary is open to any gameplay, with hundreds of weapons, items, and enchantments to collect. The game is also highly-replayable, including a NG+, multiple endings, and branch-based secondary quests with more than one outcome.

World: The world is entirely contained in a huge island collecting castaways from many shipwrecks. The island is a mysterious and ethereal place, a sort of limbo or border between life and death. Salt is the main element comprising the creatures living on the island, a sort of “soul,” but also the main currency to level up in the game. Moreover, the island is a very variegated environment, with cursed forests, colossal pyramids, hidden lakes, and amoral alchemic labs. The world is a twisted maze of areas very well connected, especially vertically. There are also many hidden elements, including bosses, locations, and even obscure guilds to join.

Dark/Horror: The game has a lonely, dark and oppressive atmosphere, a constant tale of silent areas and suffering. In this sort of limbo, there is no space for anything funny or light-hearted, but only for speechless sufferance and existential doubts. The backgrounds, especially of the bosses, retrieved through the bestiary or item descriptions in proper Souls-like formula, will also add drama and horror to the already heavy atmosphere.

Bestiary: From the half of the game, every monster will be incredibly original, dark, and disturbing. From murderous dolls to living cages waiting to imprison the player to be their new son, every new enemy is an unexpected and challenging surprise. The bosses are especially disturbing, imbued with madness or extreme loneliness. A terrifying example is the skinless, a giant alchemic abomination without skin, or a metal “tree” made of tortured bodies that need to be destroyed to defeat the boss. But my favourite example is probably the Queen of Smiles, a deranged and grinning maniac with a psychotic background, which loves blades and decorating her room with corpses.

Minoria

Details: Minoria is the spiritual sequel of Momodora, with a different art-style and the same developers behind it. As the famous Momodra before, Minoria is a proper metroidvania, just on a slightly smaller scale. The game features interesting RPG elements, including levels, and different pieces of equipment to create the best strategy for every situation. The art-style is gorgeous, and it is perfectly fitting for telling a fairytale. But be aware, behind the fable-like facade, Minoria hides a more dark core, touching important topics from religion to coexisting with nature. Minoria is also full of secrets, including a hidden boss after a set of deadly challenges, NG+, and multiple endings. But what I really liked is that, if the player is able to defeat a boss without receiving damage, a secret item will be unlocked, and this is different for every boss.

World: Minoria is almost completely set in dark and labyrinthine corridors, from the majestic beauty of a cathedral to the inner depths of a torture dungeon. A forest can also be accessed later on, creating a more complex world, but still embraced in a decadent and sad-inducing atmosphere. There are also hidden chambers with a lot of interesting details and furniture scattered around. Plus, the player can retrieve diary pages that will unveil even more the dark lore of Minoria.

Dark/Horror: Even if the fairytale art-style could make you think otherwise, psychologically speaking, Minoria is probably the darkest game on this list. Gray morality is at the core of the experience, including delicate topics such as being brainwashed by religion. Several elements will make you feel unexpectedly uneasy, including bosses begging for their life, or random prisoners asking to be killed to ease their sufferance. Gore is also present in the background, including corpses and walls drenched in blood. The atmosphere is so interesting that I also wrote a complete article about it, here is the link if you want to read more about: The gray machinery of the Inquisition behind the cute facade of Minoria [Review and Analysis].

Bestiary: The number of creatures is not as wide as other titles, and the regular enemies far too common, but bosses and sub-bosses have interesting designs, with complex and inspired battles. The main enemies are usually witches or ancient nature forces. The witches tend to have different shapes, for example a gigantic and sexy succubus. Force of nature can also become particularly interesting, such as a giant slug-plant woman.

Grime

Details: Grime is an unconventional metroidvania with a gorgeous graphic, tough and challenging combat with elements from Souls-like, and a quite unique setting and protagonist. The main character is in fact a silent humanoid black-hole, born from a complex cataclysmic phenomenon. The creature will finish purposeless on a mysterious rock world, where heavy creatures will satisfy its craving for “mass.” Grime has everything a RPG can desire: multiple weapons associated with different scaling skills, stats to upgrade with enough experience, and unique abilities to unlock by hunting and devouring specific prey.

World: The world is a joy for the eyes, a surreal land that looks like a desert alien world from a Dalí painting. Light elements, gigantic statues, and primitive art and paintings are all part of this living world inhabited by cryptic creatures and ruled by mysterious principles. The inhabitants of this surreal land are tribal rock creatures, often obsessed with the perfect proportions, since they have abnormally big heads, or with chosen ones able to “carve” the rock. Every encounter is cryptic and hermetic, part of a world that is as difficult to understand as fascinating to discover. 

Dark/Horror: Grime is not a horror game by definition, nor it is violent or scary. However, the game is entirely enriched in an uneasy and unpleasant atmosphere related to the fact that the protagonist is basically an embodied law of destruction. Because being a humanoid black hole is not just aesthetic in Grime. Devouring every enemy is a base skill in the game to evolve and become stronger, by completely absorbing the mass of the enemies inside the black hole. The inhabitants will be fascinated and terrified by your presence, some will even worship and offer sacrifices, while the black hole will explore the planet and purposelessly devouring everything. Some scenes before the boss fights are also highlighting this uneasy feeling of “am I the bad guy?” as it was beautifully executed before in Nier. For example, the Whispering Mothers are two fleshy being made of a plant, sort of dancing flowers with a mouth in between. They are somehow teaching art to the stone creatures and, when the protagonist will approach, one of the rock people will run to the Mothers asking for help, in a twisted and reversed heart-breaking scene.

Bestiary: The world is full of dangerous and feral foes, almost all of them made of solid rock or tentacle-like plants. In this hostile world, any enemy should be underestimated. Some rock people use primitive weapons of stone and bones, while other beings are ferocious and aggressive masses of teeth and claws. Other creatures are like incomplete or broken statues, almost static beings that fly around attacking like drills, or will stealthily throw spears while hidden as normal art pieces. The bosses are gigantic and complex beings, where chaotic organic life meets the lifeless stone. An example of this is Amalgam, a grotesque creature with multiple arms and eyes, firstly hidden inside the gigantic head of a statue like a sort of alien hermit crab.

Interview with Glasses Cat Games, the creators of Devil Slayer Raksasi, a souls-like inspired by Chinese legends

Devil Slayer Raksasi was really a surprise: a top-down action RPG with a souls-like battle system and roguelike elements, together with an innovative dark-fantasy atmosphere with strong references to Chinese folklore. The game has an addictive and challenging gameplay, with strategic boss battles against really interesting creatures, a lot of items and weapons to equip, and a set of 7 main characters with different skills and powers.

The game is still in Early Access on STEAM, but in one year received many updates, from new modes and gameplay-elements, to additional playable characters, bosses, and sub-chapters. The game is yet a complete and challenging experience, with different routes and optional bosses, secret sets to acquire, and the possibility to train and level-up the main characters. The heroines are all quite different, from a half-fox woman using a giant cannon, to a fast demon using knives: the replayability is very high and completionists will need dozens of hours to see everything

Raksasi’s most unique feature is the amazing mix of a novel dark-fantasy universe inspired by Chinese legends, myths, and ancient folklore. Settings, secondary characters, and especially enemies are all very interesting for design and lore. As a great addition, a recent update also improved the bestiary, and now not only it is possible to read the lore of more than 100 creatures, but also to enjoy the gorgeous and detailed portraits of each monster.

Today, together with Glasses Cat Games, the team of three developers behind Raksasi, we will look at the development of the game, the future updates, the lore behind secondary characters, and how the Chinese culture influenced the game. We will also know the favorite bosses of the developers, so if you are curious to know more, check the following interview.

Q1: First of all, thank you for the opportunity. Raksasi is an interesting take on both souls-like and rogue-like RPGs. How the idea behind this project was born?

A1: Devil Slayer Raksasi is inspired by the Souls-like games a lot while we are all big fans of this genre. The early prototype is just a simple top-down action game demo with a souls-like style combat system. Since we are worried if the core mechanism is too simple and a pure souls-like game made by a small team will lack enough game contents, we consider incorporating Roguelike elements to increase the lifespan.

Q2: From the art-style to the gameplay, Raksasi is an interesting production. Which other games influenced your work while developing Raksasi?

A2: We try our best to make our own unique game by standing on the shoulders of giants, and you may find some familiar designs and systems in Raksasi from these great titles: Souls, The Binding of Isaac, Dead Cells, Darkwood, Blade & Sword.

Q3: The art-style is really well characterised and unique, especially the portraits of the main characters and the bosses. Why did you decide to use this particular aesthetic for Raksasi?

A3: The reason is very simple, there is no other choice! because we are a very small team, the only artist in our 3-man development team chooses his own style to create all the artworks. Our artist’s early style was influenced by the Japanese anime he watched in his childhood, but he always had his own unique pursuit and did not follow the trend blindly. Therefore, the final art effect is very likely to be quite different from the current popular and most popular styles and colors and is also more recognizable.

Xilvaron, one of the 6 heroines of the game.

Q4: From the setting to the design of the enemies, the influence of Chinese culture are evident in Raksasi. How Chinese traditions and legends influenced the world of Raksasi?

A4: It’s cool to create a game with the Chinese culture we are familiar with. We did look at a lot of historical and mythological materials, and take many elements and characters from them to build the world. We hope these designs can cause the most common popular culture aesthetic and emotional resonance among Chinese and foreigners are interested in Chinese culture.

One of the disturbing monsters of Raksasi, together with the lore from the Bestiary.

Q5: The main heroines got particularly popular, both for their gorgeous design and for their peculiar weapons. How was the creative process behind the creation of each new main character?

A5: While designing our character artwork, the artist’s first goal is to meet the functional needs in the basic scheme, “it should work well as the plan”, such as the native weapons, race, and so on. After that, these characters will be given different personalities. According to these personalities, the artist will select the appropriate color scheme, decorative style, facial features, etc…Then, Bingo, who is responsible for the stories, will refine the character’s background information based on enough existing visual elements as well as the artist’s markup. Basically, all the characters are formed after everyone collides with each other’s ideas.

Q6: A pale kid, a creepy blind woman, and a giant masked-man: the merchants and the secondary characters of Raksasi are really mysterious. Could you tell us something more about the backgrounds of some of these characters?

A6: The pale kid’s name is Jubilant Altar. He looks like a little child in a wine jar, but actually, he is not a human. The ancient Chinese believed that all things have spirits. An artifact will give birth to wisdom over the years and become a human-like creature with supernatural powers, that is, the “devil” in the title name of this game. Jubilant Altar is a “devil” turned by a wine jar. He’s the warehouse manager, and his biggest preference is to collect all kinds of treasures and organize them every day. And the idea comes from a Chinese movie, The Miracle Fighters.
The creepy blind woman’s name is Raven. You may think her look reminds of Frankenstein a lot, and yep, it’s very similar. Her body is just a puppet created by the ancient gods, but she has a real human soul inside the body. As long as there is energy, she can live forever.  Through countless years, she has accumulated a wealth of knowledge.
The merchant, Baldwyn, is a fat guy with a mask, who is a member of a large and mysterious organization that operates many wilderness stores, selling secret treasures to adventurers. Many people think they are not just a purely commercial organization.

Q7: Between so many dangerous enemies to face, which are your favourite bosses and why?

A7: Haha, we love all of them. For example, the five immortals are all mysterious, powerful, and highly individual:
The rat boss, Gray Immortal, has countless henchmen, hiding in the forest, brewing some kind of conspiracy. The snake boss, Willow Immortal, has a white Snake and a green Snake as partners, and they are from a familiar story to the Chinese called Madam White Snake. The weasel boss, Yellow Immortal, who is an old man addicted to drug research often picks medicines in the deep mountains. The hedgehog boss, White Immortal, is obsessed with fighting and always looking for powerful opponents. The fox boss, Fox Immortal, who is the noble and beautiful king of the foxes can confuse people’s minds.
The ideas are from some folklores of Northeastern China influenced by Shamanism a lot.

Q8: The game is still in Early Access (EA) but got many conspicuous updates in the last year. Do you have some surprises or clues of what will be the next contents available before the final release? Maybe some clues about new bosses?

A8: We will continue to announce our upcoming new content in our steam community. We are always trying to add richer and more interesting content to our game. Soon, the game will have a new update, which adds new map Sea Caverns, and new bosses, as well as a very fun challenge mode.

The Gray Immortal is the first of 5 deadly bosses called the Immortals.

Q9: Which were the elements that changed more during the EA period?

A9: In the EA phase, we’ve added a lot of new content, such as new difficulty modes, a wooden tablet system, and a Soul charms system. In the process, a lot of new bosses, maps, characters, weapons, and props have also been added. The difficulty system is one of the more important mechanisms, the easy difficulty can be adapted to more users, and the new high difficult mode called Demonic can provide a more interesting challenge for these game masters.

Q10: Of course, I imagine that finishing Raksasi is your priority right now, but I am curious, are you already thinking of your next project? Maybe a sequel of Raksasi?

A10: Yes, we have some ideas about the next title, and we are doing some preparation work now. But there are a lot of things that are not determined and take longer to explore. So it’s too early to determine what the next game will be like.

Final Remarks:

I would like to thank Glasses Cat Games for their quick responses and the interesting answers. It is really fascinating to know more on how the Chinese traditions influenced this interesting dark fantasy world, and I cannot wait to face the new creatures in the future update of the Sea Caverns. Even if it still in EA, Raksasi already got >1200 reviews with an overall “Very Positive” grade on STEAM, so if you want to check it, the game is available HERE. Also keep an eye on Dark RPGs for a future article about the Chinese-influenced bestiary of Raksasi.

Challenging the Old Gods of Fear & Hunger [Boss Battle]

Fear & Hunger doesn’t go soft in terms of enemies and bosses, providing a set of disturbing and grotesque creatures, including challenging boss battles against gigantic abominations able to wipe out the entire party in a festival of mutilations. In fact, this is the second entry for Fear & Hunger in Boss Battle, previously featuring the relentless Crow Mauler: When it is impossible to Save: surviving all the mutilations of the Crow Mauler in Fear & Hunger [Boss Battle].

Fear & Hunger has a complex Pantheon of gods, specifically divided into Old and New. While the New Gods are humans ascended to divinity, the Old Ones are ancient twisted and macabre beings, mysterious creatures born at the beginning of time. Usually, the Old Gods are described and portrayed in books scattered around the dark dungeons, manuscripts probably wrote by cultists trying to assign a physical form to their deities, even if this is often far from the God’s true form. At least 5 Old Gods are described in the books, starting with Alllmer, a sort of twisted revisited version of Jesus Christ, to the hermetic Moon God, which seems to have a relevant role in the upcoming sequel of Fear & Hunger. However, two Old Gods appear as hidden boss battles in the original game, offering brutal and challenging fights.

Gro-goroth is also known as the God of Destruction, a dangerous and malevolent entity connected with death and carnages. The Old God lies beneath the most difficult dungeon of the game, deep inside the mouth of a gigantic monster, after passing deadly traps and monsters. Moreover, Gro-goroth can be faced only by going for the Ending B, meaning that a party member, the Girl, should be dead (if you want an idea of all the horrible things that can happen to this party member, check my article: Fear & Hunger: the many ways to permanently sacrifice the Girl [Evil Quests]). Gro-goroth will emerge from the darkness below a platform entirely made of dead bodies, ready to fight the party after an existentialist conversation. Only the upper half of the gigantic creature is visible, a muscled torso made of twisted flesh, grotesque organs, wings, and gigantic stone-like claws. Gro-goroth is a visual cacophony of flesh, even having a mouth opening in the middle of its chest, or sort of beak-like elements decorating its neck. The face somehow keeps a sparkle of humanity, a pale mask similar to a marble statue.

As expected from an end-game boss fight, the enemy is a devastating force of destruction. The gigantic god has multiple attacks, caused by different limbs and organs. The sharp claws are its main weapon, able to inflict tremendous damage, including the bleeding effect. Taking this into account, cutting-off the claws is a vital strategy to facilitate the fight. But this is not all, multiple eyes can emerge from the flesh of its body, creating additional enemies. The eyes will cry out a scorching liquid on top of the party, causing moderate damage and the burning effect. Up to 5 eyes can open in its body and, even if they have few HP, not taking action against them could cause a swarming of damages and effects in each turn.

If this is not enough, Gro-goroth also knows powerful spells, such as Burning Gaze or the mysterious Whisper of Gro-goroth. The second enchantment is particularly peculiar: it will mark a party member with a countdown and, when it will reach 0, that character will instantly die. After all, Gro-goroth is the god of death and destruction for a reason.

The second Old God was added to the game in one of the last updates. While going for ending C, the player will now reach an empty and dark wasteland, a sort of abyss out of time and space. In this extreme environment, the main character should find again the other party members while avoiding deadly and dangerous hunting creatures. But it is on a stone bridge suspended above a green light that the party will face Sylvian, the god of sex and fertility. If Gro-goroth was very similar to the images inside the unholy manuscripts, Sylvian is drastically different. The books portray her as a humanoid goddess with the body covered in breasts, a fitting representation for the god of fertility.

Sylvian is honoured with orgies from her followers, worshipped as carnal and universal love. However, Sylvian’s love for mankind got twisted during the ages, becoming a sick parody of sex, passion, and love. For example, people marrying in honour of Sylvian will be blessed with an abominable marriage, meaning that their bodies will be fused together in a grotesque mass of flesh. This is also reflected in the true form of Sylvian: a grotesque mass of green flesh and tentacles surrounding a half-exposed ribcage, with pointed breasts and a shark-like head.

The boss battle is probably the most difficult in the entire game. The god has an insane amount of HP and it can use some really dirty tricks. Each tentacle attacks individually causing different negative effects, such as stun or bleeding, but the bigger ones are the true danger, especially if they grab party members, basically trapping them in a suffocating hug. Sylvian can also strike the mind of the characters, complicating the life of spell-casters. Color of the Unknown is the most dangerous between these attacks since it will damage the minds of the entire party.

However, the most disturbing move is related to a sort of tumorigenic mass that will grow at each turn from the ribcage of the god. The attack is very similar to the one of another creature, Uterus (you can read about this monster here: Monster of the Week: Uterus (Fear & Hunger)), just this time it is even more dangerous. If not defeated on time, the mass will transform each turn into a more humanoid figure. The fully developed creature will add an extra layer of difficulty in the battle, with the possibility of completely murdering a character with one attack.

While other Old Gods are present in the game, such as the dead body of Alllmer, only Gro-goroth and Sylvian can be challenged and defeated in battle. At the moment, the Moon God seems to have a relevant role in the sequel so, hopefully, soon it will be possible to fight additional Old Gods in Fear & Hunger Termina.

Towns with a Dark Secret: the most hermetic, cryptic, and bizarre communities at the core of open-world games — Surreal and Creepy

The sun shines high in the sky, the grass is green, the new neighbours look really friendly, and the town smells of cake. What could go wrong? Sometimes a lot of things, especially if you are unlucky enough to finish in a Town with a Dark Secret. This trope is quite well explored in horror […]

Towns with a Dark Secret: the most hermetic, cryptic, and bizarre communities at the core of open-world games — Surreal and Creepy

Monster of the Week: The Brood Mother and her progeny (Vigil)

Origin: Vigil the Longest Night

Appearance: The boss is a giant and grotesque abomination, showing female humanoid traits combined with insect morphology. The abdomen especially resembles the one of a giant larva, or of the queen of a hive. Atrophic wings are falling on her back, like vestigial elements clearly unable to lift such a massive figure. The arms are extremely long and dangerous, used as a weapon, especially for the claws at the end. The long neck and the face are the only elements still keeping a sparkle of her female appearance, especially the pale face that resembles a marble mask. However, when her mouth is wide open, the creature shows inevitably her grotesque nature. Her body is curved under extreme sufferance, an amorphous and unfunctional mass acquired through wild experimentations, with scars and stitches covering her body as proof. But the Brood Mother would not be described as a mother without having a progeny, and definitively this is the most grotesque detail about this creature.

Background: The deformed and grotesque creature was not always in this way. The Brood Mother was once just a normal girl, following religious duties, and in love with her boyfriend. Sadly one day, she was betrayed and became the guinea pig of an insane doctor. Her body was subject to twisted experiments, while she slowly lost both her mind and her humanity. Now the pain of those wild experiments is a clear mark on her body, as the twisted path of stitches crossing her body.

The main weapons of the gigantic boss are of course her arms, incredibly long and dangerous, able to easily crush even the most worthy opponent. Her strength is so abnormal and human, that even the ceiling of the cave will collapse under her devastating punches. But as previously specified, the progeny of the Brood Mother is her most dangerous and twisted detail. Small and grotesque infants will be expelled from her body as rounded eggs that, if not promptly destroyed, will hatch in her swarming progeny. The small creatures have deformed bodies fused together like an amorphous mass of sufferance, a sort of sick combination between a fetus and a larva. The void expression on their faces and the infant-like appearance almost create a deep feeling of guilty uneasiness inside the player, who will be forced to slay the apparently harmless creatures. An interesting detail is that, even after slaying the boss, her infants will continue to grow and evolve, from larvae to fly-like monstrosities.

By coming back to the cave later in the cave, the main character will face these new and disturbing abominations, able to spit poison and to self destroy after charging the player. Definitively this time the sense of guilty will disappear. One terrible and macabre detail hinted behind the tragic story of the Brood Mother, especially since the poor woman was in love and having a boyfriend, and the mutated Brood Mother is constantly giving birth, is that probably the woman was pregnant when the experiments started.

Monster of the Week: Skin Granny (Fear & Hunger)

Origin: Fear & Hunger

Appearance: In the beginning, the boss will appear as a common old woman apparently working at a textile spinning wheel. Even if the woman seems harmless, the battle will begin, highlighted by the eerie and foreshadowing text ‘You get ominous vibes from the old lady in the darkness’. The old woman will quickly change in an abomination. The textile spinning wheel will be directly incorporated into the creature, like a unique entity made of flesh and wood. She has long and mannequin-like limbs, including an extra arm extending from behind her back. Her face is the most terrifying detail, with a deranged smile and a completely psychotic expression. Maybe for the floating position, or for the red veil partially covering it, but the wooden-creature has a vague resemblance with characters from classic paintings.

Background: The old woman will appear at the end of a dream sequence telling the past of the main character and the town. She looks like an innocent and harmless woman, hiding in the darkness of a house, but regardless of the peaceful scene, a battle will anyway start. After the first attack, the main characters will try to talk with the old woman, trying to create an understanding of how futile this battle is. But she will not react, nor will take any damage from the attack. Then, the old woman will change shape, becoming a demon of flesh and wood, starting the real battle. The boss is a tough fight since it is able to attack multiple times in a turn with all its limbs. The arms will slash the party causing bleeding, and also the leg will kick the player, but they are less dangerous than the arms. However, the most threatening part is when its fingers start to flex. The next turn after this ominous message, the characters have a 50% chance of being instantly killed. The Skin Granny will literally rip-off the face of a character, wearing it like a grinning mask connected with wires, in a scene remembering Hellraiser (image below at the end). Now the name Skin Granny has a meaning, and the old woman was probably not working with textiles on her spinning wheel. The instant-killer attack is performed from the arm behind her back, so taking it out is a priority. In Fear & Hunger targeting limbs is the most common strategy, and to easily survive against the Skin Granny it is necessary to mutilate all its arms. The background behind this creature is the most mysterious in the game, even the Gods know nothing about the lore of the Skin Granny. The monster is a construct, so it will be safe to assume that Valtiel, the God creating artificial creature, is also its father. But the Skin Granny appears in a dream induced by another Goddess, as the last test before speaking with her, so the Skin Granny is probably an ethereal being more related to the mind. The Skin Granny can be a symbolism of what is happening, on how the life of an ordinary town got twisted and mutated in something horrible. The old woman is the peaceful life that was abandoned, a mirage of the new violent reality, and its true form is the world that now needs to be faced by the main characters. The last test of a Goddess that wants to know if the characters are ready to abandon their old lives and face the terrifying challenges of the new one.

Catholic Art and Architecture in the twisted world of Blasphemous: how religious iconography can build nightmares

As the name suggests, Blasphemous is a horror metroidvania that really uses inspiration from religious art to create the unique world of Cvstodia. In this horrific land, the Miracle is a sort of eldritch energy that grants wishes to the believers, but twisting their desires and martyrdom in a disturbing and unexpected way. In this fictional land where religion and fanaticism are founding elements, existing classic and religious art is the most important reference. Dark fantasy elements are combined with the aesthetic and extremes of Catholicism, shaping a unique world full of interesting places and memorable characters. Not only famous paintings of saints and religious figures are partially reshaped into disturbing creatures, but also symbolism and religious iconic elements are used to create nightmarish entities. Between the many twisted creatures and characters inhabiting the world of Cvstodia, in the following article I selected the most striking references to Catholic art in terms of paintings, sculptures, and architectures.

One of the strongest and most evident connections with religious art is the boss called Ten Piedad. Probably the first boss to be faced in the game, the creature immediately strikes for the resemblance with the iconic Michelangelo’s statue the Pietà. If the statue of the Virgin Mary is identical to the real one, Jesus, by contrast, is far more different, because the boss itself is lying in the arms of the statue. The reference is familiar but disturbing at the same time, since the hideous and disfigured monster is still posing at the beginning of the fight as the statue of Jesus. The name of the boss is also not hiding the reference, since Piedad is the Spanish name for Pity, same as Pietà in Italian. Other than a striking artistic reference, the boss also works reverting the religious symbolism, transforming the body of Jesus ready for resurrection, in a disturbing figure. The monster was once a man, who just wanted to sleep in the arms of the statue of Mary. During his restless sleep, the Miracle morphed his body in a disfigured monster, imprisoning his sleeping mind in this hideous monster. This concept could be a symbolism of “what if the resurrection of Jesus went wrong?”. A creepy what-if, imagining how after sleeping, or being dead, the man-that-once-was would instead come back as an evil version of himself.

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The martyrs are a common topic in many religious paintings, often adorning the colourful windows inside churches with images of their ultimate suffering. San Sebastiano (Saint Sebastian) is probably one of the most famous martyrs, at least for the strong and iconic image of his death. The Christian man was executed by Romans after they discovered his true religion and, after being bound to a stake, he was shot with dozens of arrows. The image of his martyrdom was portrayed many times by famous painters, becoming an iconic symbol of unjust sufferance. In Blasphemous’s world, the character of Gemino is a direct visual reference to the martyrdom of San Sebastiano. He is imprisoned inside a metal statue, bound to an olive tree, exposed to extreme coldness, and pierced by multiple arrows, resembling in the pose every painting of San Sebastiano. Gemino is also a martyr, suffering this terrible torture until he will become part of the tree itself. Gemino’s only treasure is a small olive, the last gift that nature offered him before starting his torment, a small symbol that he will treasure in his hand till it will freeze.

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Between countless artistic references to Spanish traditions or masterpieces such as the works of Goya or Velazquez, it is difficult to decide which reference is more interesting. But focusing on the religious more than on the artistic side, Cherubs, for example, are a very common concept used in many characters and creatures of Blasphemous. Sometimes, the reference is used quite literally, for example in the collectables, which in this case are flying childish angels imprisoned in cages.

Even if there are several references to Cherubs, especially to the way they are portrayed in religious art, the case of the Headless Chamberlain is probably the most emblematic. The nightmarish creature has the body of a man but missing the head, going around with a pillow with on top the head of a Cherub. To highlight its creepiness, the creature has also a bag full of disembodied heads. The Headless Chamberlain attacks by throwing the flying head, which can move on its own while hunting the intruders. In this specific case, the Headless Chamberlain is directly inspired by the painting The Immaculate Conception (1662), as stated by the creators of Blasphemous in the official artbook (NDR which is really gorgeous, if you didn’t buy it). In the painting, several angelic heads are flying in the top corners of the painting, harmless and angelic in this case, but used as the core element to create the nightmarish Headless Chamberlain.

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Child-like angelic faces are common in many other designs in Blasphemous universe. The lord of all the Cherubs, called Jocinero, is a particularly interesting and disturbing character, but I will talk about him in a future article. The embodiment of paedophobia, or the fear of children, is clearly Exposito, the most iconic and disturbing boss of Blasphemous. The creature is a gargantuan baby with the strength of dozens of men, resembling a giant Cherub. However, Exposito is also very similar to Baby Jesus, especially due to the golden crown of thorns adorning is head. I will not speak more about Exposito since I already covered its design and symbolism in a previous article, available HERE.

The artistic religious references inside Blasphemous are not only limited to paintings but are also connected to more architectural details. Churches are specifically implemented inside the design of several enemies, a combination of flesh and architecture, connecting the sacred with the profane. Some enemies simply use as main weapon church elements, such as giant crucifixes or bells. The Shield Maiden is a small exception and, even if it uses religious architecture as weapons, the design of the weapons is more interesting and elaborated, integrating complex decorative elements. The most interesting detail is that while using a golden decorative element as a shield, the creature removed the head of the statue to wear it as helm.

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On the other hand, other creatures have architectural elements directly embodied in their design. Let’s talk for example of the Blazing Icon. The female figure is covered with red velvet, looking like an elaborate walking curtain. The most interesting detail is the cage-like structure around her head, which uniquely defines the design. The structure is clearly inspired by architectural elements inside churches, for example resembling the famous baldachin in the middle of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. The baldachin is positioned in the middle of the church, marking the entrance to the supposed tomb of St. Peter. The head-ornament creates a figure that is practically a living and walking element of a church. The baldachin-like cage is probably quite heavy, and this is reflected in the Blazing Icon, which is slowly walking around oppressed by such weight.

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Another enemy brings the concept of religious architecture integrated into the design even a step further. The creature is not present in the game, at least for the moment, but its beautiful concept is available in the artbook. The heavy knight shows an incredibly detailed and complex design, practically looking like a weaponized chapel. A tower-like tabernacle, which is used to store the images of various saints, would be probably used as the main weapon of the knight, like a sort of improvised holy mace. The body itself works as a reliquary, with the probable head of a saint exposed behind glass. This is a very common phenomenon in several churches, where body-parts of saints are exhibited as religious emblems. The knight is the quintessence of religious architecture integrated into the design, a walking chapel ready to smash down the infidels.

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Still, there could be a lot to talk about artistic and religious elements inside characters and monsters of Blasphemous. For example, Sepulcro Errante is a golem-like creature bringing on its back the tomb of a Spanish king, while the iconic creature Amargura could be almost considered as a living altar. But I think that the creatures analysed in the article are the most iconic and direct integration of catholic paintings and architectures into the grim world of Blasphemous.

The most disturbing eldritch creatures from the bestiary of World of Horror

World of Horror is one of the most original horror games of this year. Strong of a peculiar art-style, important references to horror manga, and a system inspired by retro text-based RPGs, World of Horror created a unique and disturbing universe for modern horror-RPGs. The cosmic horror typical of Lovecraft meets the aesthetic and the creatures of Japanese horror manga, such as the works of Junji Ito or Kazuo Umezu, creating the perfect melting-pot for creepy and disturbing creatures.

Grotesque ghosts, cursed cultists, unthinkable abomination, and ancient eldritch gods surround the small town at the center of all the events of the game. There are bosses and random encounters, and the battles occur using a classic turn-based system. The entities can hurt the player’s Stamina or Reason, based on their background, while the stronger abominations can damage both. Cryptic creatures will not damage directly the player, but will increase Doom, a doomsday counter, difficult to reset, which will awake the Old Gods when reaching 100%, causing of course Game Over. Worth to specify that ghosts and other intangibles entities are immune to physical damage, and can be mainly defeated by guessing the correct ritual. World of Horror is a rogue-lite game with a heavy random component. To face all the monsters, the player needs to finish the game multiple times.

In the following article, I will describe the most disturbing, grotesque, and interesting creatures from World of Horror. The game is still in Early Access, so more creatures will be added in future updates. However, even now the bestiary is very generous, with more than 50 disturbing enemies. Probably this article will also expand and update following the final release of World of Horror, including even more twisted and eldritch abominations.

  • Scissor Woman

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The first boss of the game and one of the most amazing designs, the Scissor Woman is an innovative interpretation of a classic Japanese urban legend. Three faces are vertically fused, with a giant and grotesque smile working as a bridge between the heads. The rest of the body is just a normal woman dressed in a long coat. As the name suggests, she fights using long and sharp scissors, a dangerous foe able to inflict an insane amount of damage.

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The Scissor Woman has 3 different forms, each more difficult than the other. The human form can be faced by performing the correct ritual during the case. A wrong ritual will instead summon the Horror version of the boss, definitively a tougher battle. The Burned version is more rare and can be faced only by burning the school as result of the ending of a previous case. In this case, not only her face is a grotesque nightmare, but the flesh is also burned and fused together, creating probably the creepier manifestation of this boss.

  • Puppet Matron

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A group of three hideous and grotesque dolls, which were hiding in the wardrobe of an ancient mansion. Their faces are like bloated and sweating, looking more organic than it should be. The two dolls behind look more submissive and scared, also missing the eyes, compared with the one in the middle. The matron looks definitively more dangerous and dominating than the other two. She is holding a knife and is not afraid of using it. The creature can slightly damage both Stamina and Reason, affecting both body and mind. The creature is probably inspired by Jean Pierre, the puppet from Junji Ito’s House of Marionettes.

  • Class of 1971

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Definitively this is a unique and disturbing creature, with a simple but effective design. The story behind this monstrosity is rooted in the tragic accident of the class of 1971. All the kids of the infamous class felt inside the sea while taking a group picture. Till now, the bodies were never recovered. The collective creature is an amorphous amalgam of the drowned bodies, a grotesque creature missing any trait, except for several limbs. The monster can be faced only as a random encounter in the seaside. It is a tough enemy, considering that it is not a boss, which can damage both Stamina and Reason.

Class of 1971 could be inspired by Kazuo Umezu’s work, more than Junji Ito’s ones.

  • Ribcage Woman

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What can be more disturbing than a woman having a ribcage opening directly inside her face? If you are looking at the picture, the answer is probably “very few things”. The creature is odd and grotesque, an enigmatic being outside of any logic. She is quite weak and not very dangerous, damaging the body of her victims. There is no explanation for her terrible state, or why her face is a mass of flesh and bones, she is just a mysterious creature emerging from the darkness of a forest. Another secret of World of Horror.

  • Drowner Sponge

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The disturbing creature at the beginning appears only as a rock lying on the seaside. At a closer look, the abomination is revealed. The name and the description (“It needs another body now”) imply that the black spongy mass full of mouths is a sort of parasitic entity, which uses dead bodies to move around. The Drowner Sponge is a creature probably living in the oceans, preying on the people swimming, drowning them to then control their bodies. The creature is tough but weak, relying mostly on its disturbing appearance to damage the mind of the victims outside the water.

An interesting detail is that the creature was before called the “Bondage Demon” with concept and head-design completely different.

  • Dream Devourer

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Dream Devourer is one of the most cryptic and dangerous entities of World of Horror. Cosmic abomination defying reality and sanity, the creature is an invisible force feeding on the dreams of its victims. The Dream Devourer is responsible for a series of unexplained comas, of course, related to the victims that it is feeding on. The Dream Devourer can be faced only by retrieving a specific powder, which will reveal its presence while feeding on a comatose subject. The worm-like creature is otherworldly, with an empty face full of void and glyph, while the body is slimy and naked. The real mystery behind this creature will be revealed only after defeating it: the long worm-like body is connected directory to a huge mass in the sky. The Dream Devoured is not a monster, but just a part of it, like a finger of a gigantic hand! The battle is also one of the most challenging in the game: the creature is highly-resistant and able to heavily-damage both the mind and the body of its victims.

The Dream Devourer is heavy-inspired by Juni Ito’s Long Dream, not for the design of the creature, but more for the background related to dreams inducing coma.

  • Tatoru

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A chaotic mass of fur, teeth, and dirt, disgusting in the appearance but not very dangerous. The floating entity lives in the woods, hanging on trees or telephone poles, just a hairy ball ready to drop on its victims. The creature is unable to inflict direct harm, but with its only presence, Tatoru will speed up the awakening of the Great Ones, increasing Doom at each turn.

  • Forgotten Specimen

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A twisted and grotesque mass of flesh, devoid of any consistent shape. In the amorphous conglomerate of flesh, the only distinguishable thing is an intense spiral pattern. If the creature was part of a bigger being, it is now a mystery, since this is only a biological sample stored in the school lab. However, I could speculate how this is only a sentient sample of Oetaru (see below), due to the similarities. A teacher killed himself with a knife in front of the mysterious jar, highlighting how the creature is probably able to irradiate suicidal impulses. This is consistent with its way of attacking, since the creature can only damage Reason. However, regardless of how creepy and mysterious it could look, the Forgotten Specimen is a weak and easy fight.

The spiral pattern is, of course, a strong connection with Uzumaki, probably the most famous Junji Ito’s story.

  • Bloated Swimmer

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There is nothing so original about the background of this creature, basically it is just a ghost or a ghoul infesting a swimming pool. But its design is so mysterious and creepy, so I feel that the Bloated Swimmer should be here. The body is wet and partially bloated, while the face is hidden in shadows, increasing the sense of dreadful mystery of the creature. Judging from the silhouette, the creature is bold, with big sparkling eyes. The bloating of the drowned body looks weirdly wrong, like if the female creature is somehow pregnant, more than simply bloated. As previously said, the Bloated Swimmer is a sort of ghoul living at night in the school swimming pool, drowning the people wandering there. The battle against this creature is an easy one, since its attacks are weak and its body fragile.

  • Oetaru

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Here we are entering the world of colossal cosmic abominations. Oetaru is an old and forgotten god living underground, and probably the only one that can be directly challenged in World of Horror. Just to better understand the size of the monster, the small background behind is a city, with also a lighthouse far on the horizon. The part that we can see of Oetaru is a mass of twisted flesh, a sort of colossal tentacle emerging from the ground below the city. The battle is of course impossible to win, the colossal creature cannot be damaged by any mortal weapons. The only way to survive is to escape or to sacrifice an ally, to please the old gods back to its slumber. Oetaru will not directly harm the main character, but will quickly speed up the Doom clock toward an early Game Over. In this case, the creature will kill the player by causing a massive sound wave.

The spiral pattern is again a strong reference to Uzumaki. But the references are not ending here, since Oetaru also clearly resembles the final form of the entity in Ito’s work.

The Pocketcat of Fear & Hunger: what RPG merchant could be more disturbing than one exchanging items for children? [Evil Characters]

If you read other articles about Fear & Hunger, you would know that it is a really grim and dark world, where the world friendship does not exist. Between the many creepy and twisted enemies, with disfigured and mutated bodies, Pocketcat is just a human figure with a cat head. At first glance, he looks goofy and out of the content, a character ready for a cartoon, not for a sadistic and horror RPG. But as often as in real life, sometimes appearances are wrong.

Pocketcat is one of the merchants in Fear & Hunger, and it will establish its shop in the depths of the mines. After interacting with the player, Pocketcat will say how happy it is and how much life is beautiful. Living in the depths of a prison, with people tortured and mutilated, its positive view of life is definitively out-of-place. Pocketcat sells interesting artifacts: a powerful sword, a book that allows saving once everywhere, and the Necronomicron! Strangely enough, you cannot buy anything with gold in its shop. Because the Pocketcat is using another coin.

In the most normal and joyful way, Pocketcat will exchange its powerful artifacts for… human children. The cartoon-ish and joyful character is, in reality, a sort of children predator, a mischievous creature exchanging items for kids. Even one of the main characters could be exchanged in this way, as in other evil deals (for more info check my article in Evil Quests section: Fear & Hunger: the many ways to permanently sacrifice the Girl [Evil Quests]). Who or what is the Pocketcat? It is not only a merchant enslaving of kids for who knows which disgusting purpose, but also a more ancient and evil being.

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By asking information about the Pocketcat to the New Gods, the player will know that the Pocketcat is a Trickster associated with the ancestral Moon God. The Moon God is hidden and mysterious in Fear & Hunger, but it looks like that will be more integrated into the plot of the sequel: Termina. Anyway, the Pocketcat is clearly something more ancient and powerful than a sick and deviated merchant. The origins of the mysterious Pocketcat are also revealed inside a book, apparently telling a sort of fairytale.

The book tells the story of a child called Willem, ignoring his mother’s warning going to play in the woods during a rainy day. But as his mother says, rainy days bring problems to children. The Pocketcat suddenly emerges from the bushes, stalking the kid till home, with its big glowing eyes. When safe at home, the boy will find a parcel addressed to him, with a mouse printed on it and catnip inside. He was marked as prey from the Pocketcat. In a picture from the book, the creature is unnaturally tall, “twice as tall as Willem’s father would be.” The hidden nature of sexual predator of this entity is even more highlighted in the book, since “its hand was moving swiftly inside its pocket while the two big yellow eyes glee’d inside a burlap bag in great excitement.” Maybe this is why it is called the pocket-cat.

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The player can also witness the true boogeyman’s nature of the Pocketcat. During a dreamlike flashback, the player will visit a town before the madness started to spread, a more peaceful compared to the insanity of the dungeon. However, in the darkness of an empty corridor, a kid is running, maybe scared of the darkness behind him. There is no time to do anything since something will drag the kid in the darkness. Before everything gets silent again, the distorted smiling face of the Pocketcat will briefly appear in the darkness.

A boogeyman, a servant of an ancient God, a slaver, and a merchant, the Pocketcat is all these things, and probably more. An ancient being who hides its true evilness behind a cartoon-ish facade, playing its own game with very mysterious rules. Another disturbing character in the grim world of Fear & Hunger.