The darkest secrets of Fear & Hunger 2 Termina: second interview with the creator Miro Haverinen

Fear & Hunger was, in part, the game that made me start this blog. And you can see the results in the many articles I wrote about it. A one-man-army project, Fear & Hunger is probably the grimiest and darkest RPG available, with a satisfying and brutal combat surrounded by a deep lore. Last December, the official sequel, Fear & Hunger 2 Termina got released, bringing the horror and despair in a more modern post-World War setting.

Between an evil moon, grotesque mutations, old and new gods, and a set of disturbing and deadly enemies, Termina brings back the essence of the first title and encases it in a more open world format. In fact, you have three days to join the Termina festival by murdering all the other characters, and each time you sleep and save, the time will dramatically advance. Exploring the town by learning routes and possibilities is essential to survive and understand the mechanics. There is a lot to learn and optimise, not only how to efficiently manage the save points, but also how to use the sigils of the gods to obtain powers and which possibilities are available at a specific times. Because the characters around you move with time, and it is impossible to see many events once day/time changes.

As its prequel before, Fear & Hunger 2 Termina features grotesque and different enemies, some of them randomly appearing to destroy your party, while others are the bad endings of a specific characters. If you want to see some of the most dangerous enemies in the game, have a look at my article: Sadistic maniacs and grotesque abominations: the unique stalking enemies of Fear & Hunger 2 Termina.

When the first Fear & Hunger was released, I had the possibility of asking questions to the creator, Miro Haverinen. Together with Miro we explored the secrets, lore, and references of Fear & Hunger. The interview is available at the following link, if you missed it: 

Interview with Miro Haverinen, the creator of the dark RPG Fear & Hunger

Back then, it was the first interview posted here on Dark RPGs and now, with the release of Termina, talking again with Miro is like continuing a path. Because Miro Haverinen was kind enough to provide a “part 2” interview, this time completely focused on Termina. Together with Miro, we will analyse more the references, secrets, and curiosities of Fear & Hunger 2 Termina.

If you enjoyed the game and want to know about its future, or discover the secrets and curiosities behind some mysteries such as the Irrational Obelisk or the Iki Turso, have a look at the following interview.

Q1: Hi again Miro, and thanks for the possibility of asking again some curiosities about the expanding world of Fear & Hunger. Fear & Hunger 2 Termina released last month, bringing a new breeze of disturbing horror for RPG fans. The biggest surprise is probably the change in time, moving from dark middle-ages to post-WW2. Why did you decide to shift toward a more modern setting? Were there also other ideas before, including maybe a more directly-tight sequel?

A1: Hi! Glad to answer these questions again. It helps put things in perspective for me too.

As for the setting – I wanted to create something new. These games are pretty big commitments, it gets boring working with the same setting for years on straight. I also felt like there were lots of other dark medieval games around. The world didn’t really need another one. So a more directly-tied sequel was never in the books really.

I got the idea for the main ending of Termina pretty early on. I felt it was a logical direction for things to progress towards with the rules and themes of this universe in mind. The story idea played a big part in the decision for the setting. I first toyed around with even more modern setting that was lighter in tone, but felt it was too big of a departure, so I dialed things back and came up with the 40s setting. Although I approached the setting pretty liberally and it is far from an accurate depiction of the times. Much like how F&H1 is wildly inaccurate in its historical take, it’s more like a hodgepodge of multiple different centuries. Termina’s 40s is very similar in this regard. There are things in the game that would better suit a 1800s setting and things that would make more sense in 1960s-70s setting.

If the old dungeon was full of monsters, modern war now truly creates monsters.


Q2: If this was hinted at in the first Fear & Hunger, it is now clear how the setting of Termina is an alternative version of our world, with connections and references to existing places and figures. And the perfect meeting point for these influences is Prehevil, the main city of Termina, a complex character of its own. How did you manage to combine the fictional and historical aspects of Termina to build Prehevil?

A2: The game was even more tied to real world history in the beginning of the development, but with each passing month the game universe drifted further and further away from historical events because it felt a bit constraining. I like how with this “strangereal”-like setting people can fill in the blanks in worldbuilding easily but there’s still plenty of room for the world to grow to any direction that benefits the overall story.

As for Prehevil, I wanted the city to have strong European feel in its architecture and the story benefitted from the city being in the middle of all these different coalitions, that’s why I ultimately settled into Prehevil being (very very) loosely based on Prague of Czech Republic. I was browsing through WW2-era photos for inspiration and something about Prague just appealed to me.


Q3: While Old Gods already appeared in the previous game, Rher, the Moon God, was always referenced on the side. But now everything changed, and Rher is the central element of Termina. Why did you decide to use the Moon God as core element of Termina? Which were the references and the ideas to build this god and integrate it into the gameplay?

A3: This delves into the in-universe lore a bit, but in many ways Rher always had the main antagonist role when it came to human progress and reaching new heights. Being the “Jealous Moon” that he is. The first game was mostly set in dark dungeons though. Not much moonlight reaches those depths, but this time it made more sense for the moon to follow the events more closely in broad daylight. I’ve just always been personally fascinated by the moon, I think that’s the main inspiration really. The real thing. I know many draw parallels to a certain Nintendo game with the words “Termina”, the moon and the 3-day time limit, but that game didn’t really play big role as far as inspirations go. The most significant influence Majora’s Mask had to Rher was that I was desperately trying to differentiate Rher’s design from the moon in Majora’s Mask. It’s not easy to design a moon with a face that doesn’t look similar.

The jealous moon Rher watching down from the sky.


Q4: Termina has a new and interesting mechanic based on sigils, which really expands player management during the game. However, Rher’s sigil is a very peculiar one, allowing the player to shift toward an alternate reality made of wood. As a fan of Silent Hill, and in general of parallel dimensions of pure pain, I am curious: which are the lore and the ideas behind building this reality? And why was wood the main element of this dimension?

A4: No comments on the lore reasons, sorry. I don’t like explaining the lore too much outside the game and this particular topic would reveal a lot of big things. The basic aesthetic of it came from some old drawings I had done years ago. I think I originally got that visual of crude wooden walls rising infinitely to darkness above from a dream of mine. My dreams played a big part with many visuals found in the game. The dinner with the mayor, the intro scene, the church, the mold apartment – they all came to me in different dreams. I guess dreams also play a big part in the lore too? Of course the parallel universe also takes strong influence from Silent Hill. No escaping that fact.


Q5: Termina really hits strong with the enemy design, between a horde of grotesque abominations and deadly maniacs. Which is your favourite enemy and why?

A5: I think I like the generic moonscorched enemies the most. Or the evolution they go through from enemy to enemy. Like you can see how moonscorching advances from first slightly distorting one’s features, to their skin peeling off revealing the innermost desires, to hardening of the exposed flesh, until that hardening growth takes over the whole body. It’s pretty interesting visually I think, but it also has interesting implications. The moon reveals the truth and all that.


Q6: Prehevil city hides many secrets, but one that I really couldn’t solve was the Irrational Obelisk. For those who don’t know, hidden inside a shop lies a tower made of clothes, apparently purposeless and impossible to kill. Can you give us some clues about the purpose of this mysterious being?

A6: That thing exists for real. How scary is that? I once saw it in a small art exhibition in Helsinki, Finland. It’s been years since that encounter though, so I probably don’t recall my meeting with that irrational being accurately. This is just my depiction of the events that went down. I’ve had irrational phobia for buttoned shirts too since I was a toddler. That probably played part in its creation too. When making something that’s trying to be horror, you have to go with your gut instincts. I find that stuff weird and eerie.

The impossible battle against the Irrational Obelisk.

Q7: Compared to the previous entry, Termina doubled the number of playable characters from four to eight. Which is your favourite main character and why?

A7: Hard to pick just one. I like the whole cast and my favourite changes based on the time of day. Maybe right now at this moment it’s Tanaka. I like the idea of Hero’s Journey in the world of Fear & Hunger, even if his arc isn’t a complete quest just yet… I guess technically this doesn’t answer to your question though. Tanaka is not one of the eight…


Q8: Are there still secrets that you think people still didn’t discover? Maybe something about the mysterious Doppelgangers?

A8: There are some things I haven’t seen anyone mention. But I’ve been mostly in bug fixing mode since the release and honestly I haven’t properly been able to follow the discourse. It’s hard to have secrets in games these days. People start datamining even niche games like F&H. I think that’s like a magician revealing their secrets. Just makes things more boring. But it is what it is. You probably haven’t seen the last of doppelgängers yet though.


Q9: I already had the same question for the previous part of the interview, but I have the same curiosity for Termina: were there during the development monsters and bosses that were not included in the final release?

A9: Yeah there’s always content that doesn’t get to the game. Although I think I got most content in that I really wanted. I did have delusions of grandeur at times during development when I thought I could expand the game even further, but I never seriously thought that stuff was going to make it. At least not for the vanilla release build. There is at least one Pillarman variation I thought about adding and also wanted to have another Iki Turso creature randomly walking around the city on day 3. Those didn’t make it. At least not yet.

Imagine that Iki Turso was supposed to randomly walk in the city on day 3.


Q10: The first Fear & Hunger received many updates, including new endings, places to explore, and even the more light-hearted School Mode. Are you planning similar support for Termina? If yes, can you give us some clues about what to expect in the future?

A10: I’ll keep supporting the game with free updates. Not 100% sure to what extent quite yet, but there will be things to come. I think the first new content to come tries to deal with some replayability issues. A completely new route to the city might keep early game more fresh on repeated playthroughs and bring some variety to the areas you find in the game. New playable characters and a new ending route are also pretty high on the list. Some of these additions would take a lot of work though, so no idea when/if they are all coming to the game. I’ll just keep working on this stuff for as long as I feel like it. The game has certainly been received well enough, so the motivation is there in that regard.


Q11: Between jumps in time and different continents, such as the mysteriously hinted Vinland, the world of Fear & Hunger is continuously expanding. Maybe it is early to ask since the game only got released last month, but could you say us something about what to expect from the future of the saga?

A11: I have a couple of more fleshed out ideas, but it’s too early to tell if either of them become anything more. When F&H1 was close to being done, I thought of a thematic throughline for a trilogy of games. So I have a pretty good idea what F&H3 would be about even if there is a lot of freedom in the surface story to set it in different places in the timeline. It could take place before the released games or after, and that’s pretty much what those fleshed out concepts are. One happening before the events of F&H1 and one happening after F&H2. The other is a more conservative idea that’s closer to the established formula, while the other one is a wild card. I’d probably prefer to stir things up because I fear if things settle down to a more clear formula, any deviation from that in the future would be more difficult.

I do have some ideas for potential spin-offs too, so who knows, I might make something completely different than what’s on my mind currently. That’s what happened with Termina too. I had few very different concepts for F&H2, but ultimately I picked a wild card idea that came to me at the last minute.

Final Remarks:

I would like to thank again Miro for the opportunity. Miro provided really interesting answers to my questions, and I truly hope to see new contents for Termina in future. As a big fan of the saga, it was a pleasure for me to explore again the grim world of Fear & Hunger, and Termina really offered a huge amount of new contents. Meanwhile, Termina was quite a success, reaching already an “overwhelmingly positive” evaluation on STEAM. And if you still didn’t play it, Fear & Hunger 2 Termina is available on STEAM and ITCH.

Sadistic maniacs and grotesque abominations: the unique stalking enemies of Fear & Hunger 2 Termina

Fear & Hunger 2 Termina is the sequel of probably the most grim and horror indie RPG. However, this time the setting is not in a dark version of middle ages, but a war-affected town in 1942. The change in setting influenced everything, from the inclusion of firearms, to more modern-looking creatures inspired by war machineries and medicine. But the world is still the same, imbued in cosmic horrors and malevolent Old Gods (and you can see some example here: Challenging the Old Gods of Fear & Hunger [Boss Battle]), where magic is real and people dies in unthinkable ways. Another huge difference with the prequel is that Termina is an open-world to be explored in the span of 3 days. The changing in time and day will affect the world, from quest and characters, to secret bosses and the appearance of new enemies. The combat system staid the same, still brutally difficult and based on severing the opponent limbs to reduce risks. After all, a deadly sword is not dangerous anymore if the arm wielding it is severed.

Grotesque and deadly enemies are still the core of the horror experience. From insane villager to deformed abominations, the world is a place full of dangers. And since Termina doesn’t feature a classic experience system, avoiding fights is a must, since the reward is often nothing… or maybe a severed limb as a souvenir of the battle. Understanding which enemy can be safely killed without risking permanent mutilations and damages is a core skill to acquire in such a difficult game. Interestingly, by having a doctor in the party, the bodies can be analysed to discover lore regarding their appearance and condition. Because the moon is not a regular object in Termina, and being “moon-scorched” brings terrible consequences. However, standard enemies are not the only one roaming the streets, and unique stalking enemies will often appear to chase the player. These enemies must be avoided at all costs, especially when met the first time and without a full party. From a sadistic clown stalking the city to kidnap people in their “fun dungeon” to an abomination made of beehives hiding in the shadows waiting to strike, the streets of the city are a dangerous place.

In the following article, I will analyse the most unique chasing stalkers of Fear & Hunger 2 Termina. The creatures analysed are unique enemies, non-mandatory, which should be in general avoided due to their strength. Without a fully equipped party, or a perfect solo set-up, they are almost impossible to kill without huge risks and consequences. They are also fast and relentless killers, which will chase after the player around the map. I will cover only pre-existing enemies, and not the moon-scorched forms of the human characters, which are indeed very interesting boss battles that I will probably cover in a future article.

Welcome to a world of pain ad suffering.

Death Mask

Death Mask is a challenging and disturbing enemy, not much in his appearance, but definitively in his behaviour. A gigantic humanoid creature, Death Mask looks not much affected by the deadly mutation scourging the area. Other than for the gigantic size, Death Mask looks like an extremely muscular male human, wearing a green chainmail-robe, a sort of plague doctor mask, and wielding two machete. Death Mask is often maniacally laughing, a sound distorted by the mask that he is wearing. In fact, the mask modifies the horrible death gurgle of the wearer into a “joyful” laugh.

The most bizarre behaviour of this enemy is definitively his entrance. Locked coffins are scattered all around the city, useless objects never containing any items, offering to the player only the purposelessly action of knocking on them without receiving any answer. However, in one random unlucky occasion, one of the dozens coffins will open, and Death Mask will rise from it, quickly stalking the player. Death Mask is an incredibly strong and deadly opponent, able to attacks four times in a turn, dealing incredible damages and amputating arms like if they are butter. Escaping from this fast enemy is already challenging, and one missing escape could mean losing limbs or party characters. And discovering that he could jump out from any coffin will create a pure sense of dread for the rest of the game. The bravest will be rewarded with different items, including a chainmail armor, and the powerful death mask itself.

Beekeeper

If being chased by a gigantic hulking humanoid is already a terrifying experience, being chased by a gigantic hulking humanoid made of hornet-hives is the quintessence of terror. The Beekeeper is a grotesque being that hides in the city. A pale mass of muscles, the Beekeeper body is almost covered in hornet-hives, especially arms and head. Moreover, after examining the body, it is impossible to determine where the hornet-hives end and the creature starts. And if this was not enough disturbing, the creature is practically hollow inside… with the exception of hornets.

The Beekeeper hides behind a metal door, inside a sort of empty garage in the city. The first time that the player will pass by there, they will only hear the hornets buzzing. However, when crossing again that area, the door will suddenly open, and the Beekeeper will start the chase. The creature is a very difficult battle that must be avoided early on. In fact, the massive foe not only has a huge amount of HP, but can also attack multiple time in a turn. First, the hornets will swarm the player, stinging multiple times and inflicting poison. Then, the Beekeeper will finish the job, hitting them with the arms as strong as a maul, able to deal an insane amount of damages. And, after the strenuous fight, the reward for the victory is… nothing. This is another reason to completely avoid this dangerous fight.

Stitches

While wandering around the city, the player can meet grotesque creatures made of human body parts stitched together. But it is only when reaching a mysterious bunker, hidden in the deepest woods, that the player will discover the evil mind behind these creatures. Stitches is the disturbing lunatic stalking the bunker while satisfying her obsession of surgically sewing humans together. Looking at her appearance, Stitches is a female vile looking maniac, with a grinning face and the skin slightly peeled up and sewn, like an ancient Cenobite. She tries to speak, but since she sewn her own mouth, this is an impossible task.

Stitches is a dangerous maniac that loves to cut and sew things together, but the most dangerous details is that she is not alone in the bunker. One of her creation, an amorphous mass of flesh, is also slowly wandering in the bunker. Start a battle with one of them, and you have one turn to escape, because on the next one, the other will join the fight. The mass of flesh has only a strong one-hitting attack, but also an insane amount of HP. On the other hand, Stitches is a jack-of-all-trade, able not only to heal herself, but also to quickly sever limbs and to immobilize characters using wires. The battle is excruciating and not very rewarding, and fighting two hunters at once is a huge challenge. Moreover, losing against Stitches unlocks a very disturbing Game Over scene… let’s just say heavily inspired by the movie “Human Centipede.”

Centaur

A grotesque and disgusting abomination, the Centaur is probably the fastest creature in the game. It dwells in the woods, protecting a military bunker, charging and chasing whoever enters the area. The territorial beast is an offence to every sense, a nauseating being composed of two bodies horribly fused together. The main body is a horse-like creature, with a pale skin covered in deformities and bandages, and a bizarre head similar to a sort of grotesque flesh mushroom. The upper body is instead humanoid, with similar colour and aesthetic to the animal one. However, by closely analysing at the humanoid figure, it looks almost as the human and the animal were “very closed” together when they morphed. This is even confirmed by analysing the body, when the doctor addresses the issue as the “elephant in the room.” As before for other creatures in the prequel (and you can find the analysis HERE), the Centaur could be born from a marriage to the God Sylvian between a human and a beast, when the bodies get fused together.

The Centaur is fast and deadly, a creature almost impossible to avoid without using traps or taking weird trajectories hoping to kit it. And as the fastest creature in the game, this is a huge challenge. The fight is difficult to win without heavy damages and casualties. This is especially true due to the stampede attack, which will damage the entire party. Moreover, by having two heads, the creature is even impossible to kill with only one lucky head-shot. And if this was not enough, the wounded limbs spray an acidic blood. As other stalker before, the Centaur also gives no reward, so it is crucial to avoid this deadly fight.

Vile

The first unique chasing enemy met in the game is a disturbing mutant wearing a pig mask. The towering humanoid is dressed like a sort of pest control worker, also wielding a spray canister with an acid liquid inside. The pig mask is not a simple ornament but it is fused with his head, a secondary effect of the moon scorching mutation. The creature is first met in the village outside the city while spraying the pesticide liquid on drying fish. Even if it looks like a gigantic demented killing machine, the creature is instead one of the few still able to talk and keeping a sparkle of intellect.

The Vile is an extremely dangerous enemy, especially since he can be faced in the beginning of the game. The first time that the player crosses the village, the creature can be easily avoided, since he is busy spraying the fish. However, after entering the village again, the maniac will quickly appear to chase the player. And he is fast. The battle is tough, especially without additional party characters. The Vile can hit twice in a turn, first by spraying acid, and then by smashing with the gas canister. So severing the arms is an essential task to survive the battle. An interesting detail is that the battle can also be won by… talking. In fact, by talking at the creature and selecting the correct option, it is possible to trick the monster into temporary lifting the mask, a sufficient time to inhale the gas leaking from the canister and dying from it. A really unexpected solution to get rid of such a killing machine.

The Mob

By looking at the image of random enemies grouped together, you would never expect this to be probably the most dangerous and annoying enemy in the game. Not only they are fast and extremely challenging, even with a full party, but the fact that they can randomly appear in different parts of the city could ruin a perfect run or cut you out of that area. The Mob are three enemies grouped together: a unique one and two common enemies. The first one is a sort of doctor or scientist wielding a rifle, with a deadly aim and a modest damage output. The other one is a grotesque half-cocooned mutant using a hammer to hit hard. But the most dangerous one is a unique gigantic mutant wielding a deadly circular saw.

The Mob can randomly appear when entering specific areas. First, you will hear the sound of a breaking bottle. Then, the buzzing chainsaw, and only in the end, you will see the three maniacs charging at you from multiple directions. They are fast, and just touching one of them will start the battle against the entire group. The Rifleman is a pretty standard enemy, but still able to inflict serious damage with his attacks, same for the Half-Cocooned with the hammer. However, the Meat Grinder, wielding the circular saw, is the most dangerous of the trio. His attacks hit multiple times, causing an insane amount of damage, bleeding status, and probably severing an arm. Even as standalone enemy, the Meat Grinder is a deadly challenger, but together with the other enemies, it becomes a battle almost impossible to win without losing characters and limbs. Moreover, each enemy is an individual target, without any body part to attacks, meaning that it is impossible to disarm any enemy. The Mob can completely ruin a run by locking the player out of a zone, because not only they can appear in very important areas, but are also extremely difficult to defeat and avoid.

Needles

Needles looks extremely inspired by Art the Clown from the horror movie Terrifier. And trust me, behind this look lies the most aggressive and disturbing stalker of Fear & Hunger 2 Termina. The deranged clown takes his name from his obsession for needles. In fact, not only he uses as weapon a syringe full of a mysterious liquid, but also a flail with medical needles in the end. The clown is a tough enemy, apparently only an ultra muscular human, but still incredibly tough to kill. Moreover, after examining his body, the question of “is he really dead” rises up. Judging by the sadistic behaviour, the strong bodies, the obsession for medical instruments, and the names, Stitches and Needles probably share a similar origin story.

Needles is an almost mandatory fight inside a military bunker, but later he will become the main stalker through the city streets. He can appear everywhere, accompanied by a maniac laugh and an on-screen message. At that point, Needles enters somewhere in the map, starting to hunt the party. He can be avoided by exiting the area, but sometimes his appearance is so repentant to nullify every escape plan. It is possible to kill Needles, but only after a dangerous battle. He attacks twice, once with the mysterious syringe able to inflict deadly status effects, then with the whip inflicting bleed and heavy damages. Plus, he also has a huge amount of HP. And he also has an ace in his sleeve. If you sever one of his arm, on the next turn, Needles will change his weapon for a gun, inflicting by surprise even more damages. Dying against Needles will not always cause a direct Game Over. The main character will wake up chained in a bunker, without a way of escaping. Then, a mysterious spirit will appear, entering inside the main character’s body and causing… well, let’s just day “massive happiness.” After that, the game will continue, leaving everybody puzzled about what happened and the motifs behind Needles’ actions.

Not only Nemesis and Mr X: immortal stalkers and chasing enemies in turn-based JRPGs

Being chased by an enemy almost impossible to defeat, relying on hiding or running away as the only chance of surviving, is one of the most extreme feelings in survival-horror games. And if famous pursuers such as Nemesis or Mr. X from early Resident Evil games, or Pyramid Head from Silent Hill 2, are the most iconic examples, other games such as Clock Tower made escaping an immortal stalker the core element of their gameplay (and you can read more here: https://surrealandcreepy.wordpress.com/2021/04/10/best-indie-games-similar-to-clock-tower/). However, pure horror games are not the only example where immortal stalkers are present. And sometimes, you can even experience this anxiety in very unexpected genres.

It is the case of turn-based JRPG, a genre usually associated with slow and static games, which instead surprisingly show several examples of immortal pursuers. As expected, several of these creatures come from Atlus games, the developer of the most known horror-themed JRPGs such as Persona and Shin Megami Tensei. On the other side, it is also true that some similar enemies can also be found in less horror-themed JRPGs such as Final Fantasy. Because I think everybody remembers the robot spider from the beginning of FF8. Moreover, this is especially true for more recent horror JRPGs, especially Idea Factory games, and even more fitting for dungeon-crawlers. Probably because of the mazes to explore, or the first-person view, dungeon-crawlers have a huge selection of immortal stalkers, chasing you till an unexpected dead end. And if instant death once trapped is not that different from any survival-horror games, being stuck in an almost impossible-to-win turn-based battle has a completely different taste. And if you find difficult to imagine that, try to think about the pressure of selecting the best move hoping to survive, while the creature annihilates at each turn a different character, or about attempting to escape the battle but failing each time. Moreover, random battles and turns create a denser atmosphere, because you don’t know how many different attacks the creature could do, or when it could appear. Another very interesting concept is that, while in pure horror games there is always a scheduled encounter to kill the immortal stalkers, in JRPGs this could be instead level-based. So maybe 50 levels later, when you are strong enough, you can come back to the stalker that was terrifying you early on to finally kill it.

So what will be on this list? I selected examples of immortal stalkers from different JRPGs, especially if horror-themed, and all with turn-based battles. If not, there would not be much different from pure horror games. The selected creatures should be also almost impossible to defeat, especially when met for the first time, and able to quickly annihilate the party. They should also be active stalkers, or appearing only when connected to rare or unwanted events or mechanics, in fact acting as a negative reward.

Mary Skelter – The Nightmares

Mary Skekter is a trilogy of dark dungeon-crawlers where everything is horror-themed. Not only the games are set inside a colossal living being but also blood is a central element in the gameplay (more info here: Mary Skelter Nightmares: When the dungeon is a colossal living creature with its own needs). But what truly shines as pure horror gameplay are the Nightmares, the immortal stalkers at the core of the experience. Every dungeon has its Nightmare patrolling around, disturbing creatures that are, at the beginning, impossible to kill. They will randomly appear when the player explores the dungeon, accompanied by creepy sounds and a white aura. If they spot the party, the only chance of surviving is to run away as far as possible till the chase is over. The worst thing? The map will be disabled during the chase, so you can easily finish trapped in a dead end. In battle, each Nightmare has an external shell that can be destroyed to briefly stun them, facilitating the escape. However, if random battles happen during the chase, the nightmare will join the fight, creating a very challenging situation. A Nightmare can only be truly defeated after losing the immortality, which will happen by destroying a core at the end of its dungeon. Moreover, the Nightmares are also seriously creepy and disturbing in appearance, linked to the theme of each dungeon and the background of the main heroine there, thus incorporating twisted fairytale elements in their grotesque design. If you are curious about more details, I also wrote a long analysis about the Nightmares, which you can check here: The Nightmares of Mary Skelter: fairytale characters reborn as twisted immortal stalkers.

Undernauts Labyrinth of Yomi – Luci

Undernauts is another dungeon-crawler JRPG, set in 1979 Tokyo where a mysterious structure appeared in the middle of the city. Full of dangers but also resources, soon mining companies start to explore this huge dungeon to unveil its secrets. Developed by Experience Inc, Undernauts is somehow connected to their main series Stranger of the Sword City. However, Undernauts is much more horror, violent, and disturbing than their other RPGs. Let’s just say that the first scene inside the game sees you as the only survivor of your mining expedition, which was was devoured by a kid with a giant leech-like arm. And you survived, only because the child was too full to eat you. While wandering around the dungeons, you will soon meet again that “sweet” cannibal child that spared you. Her name is Luci, an immortal child with a giant leech-like arm, which follows the orders of a mysterious man from a radio around her neck. While exploring the dungeons, you could randomly hear a radio massage of the mysterious man sending the girl to devour the party. After the message, whichever random or stationary battle in the dungeon, will be instead against Luci. So the only way to surely avoid this fight is to quickly run back to the main camp before a battle starts… and this is pretty stressful while exploring. During the fight, the little girls seems so weak and yet so disturbing. But she has the bad habit of attacking the rear row, usually quickly killing your magician or healer, thus making your life pretty miserable even if you succeed in repelling her. Yes, I didn’t use the word “killing” because Luci is immortal and, after behind defeated, she will just stand up and run away, after saying some very sad lines about failure and loneliness. But she will surely come back another time, trying to devour you. Moreover, Luci will also appear in some mandatory boss battles, together with other minions and the ability of massively healing, making such fights even more difficult. Without doubts, Luci is one of the most scary and disturbing stalkers on this list.

Persona – The Reapers

Persona started as a spin-off of Shin Megami Tensei, and now is more famous than the original series. Mixing real life and dark supernatural events, since Persona 3, the saga allows the exploration of huge dungeons while investing in your daily life. And also starting with Persona 3, the Reaper appeared to torment the main party. Especially in Persona 3, the Reaper is a pure horror stalker, integrated since the beginning of the game into the mechanics. If you explore for too long in a dungeon, depending on its size, the Reaper could appear on the floor to hunt you down. Since characters with levels below 70 have practically zero chances of defeating it, finding the exit as fast as possible is the only way to avoid death. Meeting the Reaper means starting an impossible battle, where the party will be annihilated in a couple of turns. The good side is that an end-game party can instead defeat the Reaper, unlocking very rare rewards. The Reaper is also present in Persona 4, but this time it acts only as a secret super boss, which can be faced only during a second playthrough after opening a mysterious chest. In Persona 5 the Reaper is back to stalk the party inside the dungeons, very similarly to Persona 3. When the Reaper appears, accompanied by the sound of rattling chains, the other party members will try to warn you about its danger, and how running away is the only option. Again, the battle is almost impossible to win due to the Reaper’s high defence and instant killing spells.

Etrian Odyssey – FOEs

A JRPG saga that truly integrated challenging battles against almost impossible foes is the dungeon-crawler Etrian Odyssey, published by Atlus. In almost every game of the saga, strong enemies called by the acronym FOE wander around the dungeons. They are always challenging enemies, usually very difficult to beat during the first visit, so it is always a recommended strategy to avoid these fights. However, Etrian Odyssey also integrated very interesting and variegated behaviours for the FOEs. In general, red FOEs work as relentless stalkers, charging at the player if in their sight. For example, the Freed Savage (Etrian Odyssey III) is a grotesque being caged behind gates but, once freed, the creature will quickly run toward the player to attack it. Other similar examples involved FOEs acting in pairs. For example, the Cruel Slayer (Etrian Odyssey IV) is a relentless robot hound almost impossible to outrun, but it will only start to track the players if they are spotted before by a wandering sentinel called the Cold Watchman. However, FOEs also exhibit more complex, hunting, and disturbing behaviours, creating challenging predators to avoid. A deadly example is the Vampire Tree (Etrian Odyssey III), an invisible FOE with a very horror-predatory behaviour. The tough monster will get visible only if close to you while you are in battle, slowly advancing at each turn of the fight. If you are too slow in the random fight, the FOE will join the battle. And having a tough boss with high defence, and a lethal poison that will both damage the characters and cure the monster, is not an easy challenge. Talking about erratic patterns, the disturbing Taurus Demon (Etrian Odyssey V) doesn’t directly charge the player, but once they line up with the monster, the FOE will start to mirror their movements, even if they are very far away. And since the creature is a deadly physical attacker, avoiding it is a necessity. Another deadly and peculiar FOE from Etrian Odyssey V is the Mounting Horror. The monster doesn’t move from its position, but will instead generate clones as strong as it to hunt the player, and the only way to survive is to find and kill the real monster. But the top spot for the scariest and most peculiar FOE from Etrian Odyssey goes to the Death Wall (Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold). Imagine being trapped in a twisted labyrinth typical of dungeon-crawler games, trying to find your way out. At some point, maybe you start to see that a wall was never there. What is happening? This is simply Death Wall, a FOE that mimics a normal dungeon wall… which will move only if you are not watching it. And once you are trapped in a dead-end hallway, you are forced to face it. And this is a battle where you cannot escape, and the Death Wall will literally try to crush all the party with strong physical AOE attacks.

The Lost Child Nyarlathotep

Another dungeon-crawler to add to the many on the list, Lost Child is a spin-off of El Shaddai, an action game involving Catholic mythology and angelic wars. Sharing many similarities with Shin Megami Tensei, in The Lost Child, the main character can trap demons and fallen angels to fight in the party. And the design of the enemies is very original and interesting, as you can see here for some demons: The most unusual Demons from the Japanese dungeon-crawler The Lost Child. However, angels and demons are not the only enemies, since the main bosses are Lovecraftian creatures, including Cthulhu. And Nyarlathotep from the bonus dungeon R’lyeh Road is an immortal stalker that deserves to be in this article. R’lyeh Road is a gigantic bonus dungeon of 100 floors, which can be faced at any point during the game. Each floor has only one exit, and a switch to open it. And the big twist is the presence of Nyarlathotep, which will manifest on every floor once the door is open. Nyarlathotep does not physically face the party but, as a sort of alien parasite, will take control of normal enemies, appearing behind them like a sort of puppeteer, enhancing them to a boss-level threat. The other unique feature is that Nyarlathotep will physically appear on the map, charging toward the player, one step at a time. By planning your moves and using big rooms to your advantage, it is fact possible to avoid Nyarlathotep and escape to the next floor. So how it is possible to truly defeat Nyarlathotep? You can discover the answer only on the 100th floor of R’lyeh Road, making Nyarlathotep one of the most relentless stalkers on the list.

Mother 3 – Ultimate Chimera

Earthbound saga is a cult game not only in Japan, but also worldwide, one of the weirdest RPG ever developed that influenced recent RPGs such as Undertale or Omori. Between funny and disturbing moments, the party will face different creatures, each requiring very peculiar strategies to be defeated. And in Mother 3, there is also an immortal stalker: the Ultimate Chimera. This creature, created inside a lab, looks like a fluffy pink monster with a pair of small wings. But behind this innocent-looking monster lies a deadly enemy. Once it sets free, the monster will roam the lab attacking NPCs and chasing the player. The terrible surprise is that, instead of starting a normal battle, meeting the Chimera means an instant Game Over. There is no hope in fighting the creature, so running away is the only alternative. Luckily, the ultimate Chimera can be deactivated by a button on its back… but only temporary since the party will meet the monster again during the game.

Death end re;Quest 2 – Dark Shadow

The sequel of one of the most horror and disturbing JRPG from recent years is even more insane and terrifying. Hopping between a cursed virtual reality and a town hiding a cult, Death end re;Quest 2 shows a set of really grotesque enemies (that you can check here: The most creepy and disturbing enemies and bosses of Death end re;Quest 2). But random enemies are not the only threat, since another entity could appear anywhere to hunt the party: the Dark Shadow. This cryptic creature appears together with some distortions in any point inside a dungeon. The towering shadow creature advances slowly toward the player, but a mere wrong turn inside a dead-end hallway… and it is Game Over. Because as with the Ultimate Chimera in Mother 3, simply touching the Dark Shadow means a sudden death. Moreover, sometimes the game will position the Dark Shadow in impossible points, where gimmicks like finding hidden suspended paths are the the only way to avoid the creature.

Shadow Hearts – Fox Face

Shadow Hearts is the first (or the second, if we consider Koudelka) entry of a dark saga of JRPGs released for PS2. Mixing European history with demons and eldritch abomination, the game knew how to assemble RPG mechanics with horror elements. And an immortal stalker could not miss this setting. Shadow Hearts involved a very peculiar mechanic around the Malice, a dark and malevolent energy released from death. The more the main character kills enemies in battle, the more Malice is accumulated. Till the breaking point, where the UI becomes red and the Graveyard opens its door. At this point, the Fox Face can appear instead of any random encountered. At first, the creature is not very intimidating, merely a human with a fox mask. However, this adversary represents the protagonist’s fears, and can be challenged only in a 1-on-1 combat, where death is the most possible outcome since the enemy has many dirty moves. The player can lower Malice and avoid Fox Face by going to the Graveyard, to then speak to mysterious floating masks demons and participate in their fighting arena. This is a perfect example of a terrifying stalker very well integrated into the game, so deadly and scary because the main character must face it alone.

Fear & Hunger – Crow Mauler and Greater Blight

Fear & Hunger is probably the darkest RPG ever made, set in a world so grim and sick that will make you often chill. Featuring a combat based on mutilations, where several negative effects are permanent, including death, and lacking any experience coming from combat, avoiding enemies is the standard in this game (and for more you can check the different articles I wrote here: https://darkrpgs.home.blog/category/videogames/fear-hunger/). But some enemies are even more specifically design to act as terrifying Stalkers. The most fitting example is the Greater Blight, a gigantic creature roaming the empty wasteland of the Void, a secret end-game area. While wandering around, sometime a message saying that something is following you will appear. Ignore the message, and soon enough more intimidating ones will appear. If you find a hole in the ground on time, you can hide there till the creature loses your scent. Otherwise, be ready for a tough battle. The Greater Blight looks like a gigantic T-rex missing the eyes, a deadly foe that can slaughter the entire party in a couple of turns. However, a strong and lucky party can still defeat the creature, which will only escape to prepare for another chase. And the player will gain nothing from this deadly battles, except probably for dead characters and mortal wounds. Another infamous enemy is the Crow Mauler, probably the most hated boss in the entire game. In the beginning, Fear & Hunger has only one save point, an old and forgotten bed inside a jail. However, saving in the game is also dangerous, since you have a 50% chances of facing the Crow Mauler. And an underprepared party will also surely die there, because the tough creature has even one-shot attacks. But if you want to freely save the game, soon or later you must defeat this creature. And if this was not enough, the end-game dungeon has trapdoors scattered around. If you fall inside them, you will finish in a basement… chased by a two-headed Crow Mauler, an enemy almost impossible to defeat. Anyway, if you are curious to know more about the Crow Mauler, I wrote an analysis here: When it is impossible to Save: surviving all the mutilations of the Crow Mauler in Fear & Hunger [Boss Battle].

Shin Megami Tensei – Jailer and Dante

Shin Megami Tensei saga doesn’t need introduction, since it is probably the most famous and longevous dark JRPG around. Moreover, the monsters based on mythologies around the world, created by Kazuma Kaneko, are still now an example in monster designing. And surprisingly, some of them also worked as immortal stalkers. An example is the Jailer from Digital Devil Saga (also known as the Buddhist demon Kumbhanda), a deviant creature in charge of a prison. The jail is also a factory where humans are converted into canned food, the Jailer’s favourite. And yes, if you didn’t know, cannibalism is a central theme in Digital Devil Saga (and you can read more about it here: Digital Devil saga: A cannibal JRPG — Surreal and Creepy). During the first battle against the Jailer, you will realise of a drastic anomaly: the boss has an attack able to paralyse everybody with a 100% success rate, quickly ending the battle. Later on, the prison becomes its hunting ground, where the main character should physically escape from the Jailer and its traps, while finding a way to trick it into losing its powers. If the Jailer is a pure horror stalker, another enemy is an even more emblematic hunter in Shin Megami Tensei. Just this time, it is an enemy that you would never expect. “Featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry Series” became quite a meme for SMT 3 Nocturne, and the legendary demon hunter from Capcom’s games truly appears in one of the bonus dungeons. Dante will literally stalk the player while exploring a complex maze, shooting them if they are far but still in his range, or starting a deadly battle when reaching them. In the last case, Dante will immediately kill the weaker demon in the party with his sword. And if the main character is the lowest-level one… well, time for an instant Game Over.

Persona Q – FOEs

Persona Q is a spin of the main series released for 3DS, with a gameplay more similar to Etrian Odyssey than the regular Persona. The similarities are so many that, even in this case, while exploring the dungeons, you can meet deadly FOEs. As well as for Etrian Odyssey, FOEs have different behaviours, and, in general, it is often recommended to avoid them. Moreover, due to the darkest nature of Persona setting, the FOEs are even more disturbing. For example, the Beast of Lust is a sort of small Cherub seated on top of a bondage horse, creating a very disturbing enemy that follows the player if they are directly watching the creature. So no eye contact, no pain. In the next dungeon, the Evil Spirit Club, the party must face creepy clusters of dolls, the Lovely Dolls, which share some similarity with Junji Ito’s Tomie. They are stationary, but tends to surprisingly teleport toward the player causing a jump-scare. Luckily, the light can repel those dolls granting safe passages. And if the Loving Dolls are not enough, the ancient version, the Old Doll, will actively chase the party and can even block some doors to create smaller hunting grounds. Other FOEs, such as the Festival Dudes, act as super tough side battles. They are a group of 4 monstrous and coloured muscled guys bringing around a shrine, which move in a fixed pattern around the dungeon. However, even if they are extremely strong, they can be defeated by selecting specific characters for a very unusual party. To conclude, the Reaper from previous Persona games is also there to hunt and terrify the party in the last dungeons.

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.

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.

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.

fear_cat1

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.

fear_book

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.

 

 

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.

fear_crow1

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.

fear1

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.

fear_crow_double

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.

Fear & Hunger: the many ways to permanently sacrifice the Girl [Evil Quests]

Fear & Hunger is probably one of the most dark and disturbing RPGs ever made (check my review fir more details: Fear & Hunger Review: a journey in a land without morality for the darkest RPG ever made). The game lacks any morality, and every action falls in a gray or in a completely black zone. Between the many questionable actions and deeds, the fate reserved to “the Girl”, one of the most important and mysterious characters, is particularly disturbing.

The Girl is found imprisoned in a cage in the entrance of the dungeon. Unable to clearly speak and to explain anything, she can be anyway set free. She will then join the party following the main character around. She is practically useless in combat, and will die pretty easily. However, there is a secret behind the existence of the Girl, and only by bringing her to the very heart of the dungeon, it will be revealed. This is not an easy task, even because the game will try to trick the player several times into sacrificing the Girl. Because in the dark world of Fear & Hunger, sacrifices are a powerful currency. And the Girl is one of the most precious coins, so it is not a surprise that many entities will lurk for her soul.

Even without being tricked by a mysterious creature, the player can even simply decide to sacrifice the girl at any offering circle, common spots scattered around the dungeon. The magical circles allow the main character to gain trust with powerful and ancient Gods by performing different rituals. For example, sacrificing one of the party member is one of them. The Girl is the best sacrifice to increase your loyalty with the dark god, unlocking new spells and abilities. Of course the Girl will permanently die, after being sacrificed in a violent and cruel way. In a grim world where party members can be sacrificed to obtain new skills, the Girl could be sacrificed just few minutes after obtaining her, at the very beginning of the game. By doing this, for a cheap but immediate reward, the player will be locked out from one of the endings.

Being sacrificed to please an ancient god is not the worst fate reserved to the Girl. There are other far more grotesque creatures desiring to simply devour her. An example of this is the disturbing Human Hydra, a creature born from the fear and the despair of all the guards of the prison, which tried an horrible ritual to save themselves (you can read my extensive analysis about the Human Hydra character on Surreal and Creepy). The grotesque abomination is hungry, and of course he wants that the player bring him food. What food would eat this horrible creature? Of course the meat of a young girl. The player could think to offer the girl in sacrifice to this monster, hoping in who knows which powerful and rare reward. The Girl is useless in combat, and the Human Hydra looks like a giant and terrible being, so why not?

This time the sacrifice is even more disturbing than the previous one. The Girl will be swallowed by the grotesque mass. She will try to fight back, trying to escape from this suffocating mass, trying to swim out of his body. But the more she tries to escape, the more the creature will absorb her. Till she disappears in the body of the Human Hydra, accompanied by disgusting squishy sounds. The reward of the player for such evil deed? Simply nothing, since the Human Hydra is a dumb and useless being, regardless of his terrifying appearance. Never trust a character in the dark world of Fear & Hunger.

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Talking about creepy and mysterious characters, the Pocketcat will surely be on top of the list. This creature, with the head of a cat, acts as merchant hidden inside the mines. He appears to be always extremely happy and full of life, often in a really disturbing and inappropriate way, especially since the world is now a place of evilness and madness. His shop offers really powerful and unique items, from ancient tomes, to powerful enchanted swords. But of course, the Pocketcat is not looking for gold. The only way to obtain one of his items is to offer him the Girl. Because he clearly says that he will accept only “children” as currency. The background of the mysterious Pocketcat can be discovered later by reading books or in specific flashbacks. He is an ancient and powerful being, acting as a sort of Boogeyman in the world of Fear & Hunger, predating on children and trying to kidnap them. At least, compared to the Human Hydra, this time the deal has a reward. The Girl will also not die, and she will not being gruesomely devoured in front of the player. But maybe her fate is even worse this time.

The Girl will appear for the rest of the game behind the Pocketcat. However, she will refuse to speak with the player anymore. Her eyes are full of sadness, highlighting that something truly bad happened to her. Her body is intact this time, but her mind is broken. As always, instead, the Pocketcat is super happy and full of life. According to his own words, he is really enjoying the deal. Whatever this is implying, it is something clearly not nice for the Girl.

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There is one last entity that will ask the Girl in exchange for something. Hidden in the depth of a tomb, behind a complex puzzle, and existing only in another reality, the Lady of Moon will make her appearance from a pit full of green light. She is an ancient deity, appearing as a complex mix of female faces fused together in a jellyfish-like body.

The creature is not aggressive, even if she will talk to the player during a battle. The Lady posses powers beyond imagination, typical of an ancient being. However, she can be easily defeat in combat with one single slash. But she has a better deal to offer, of course in exchange of the Girl. She will completely heal the party, but she will also bring away the Girl forever, dragging her in another reality. In Fear & Hunger, this full heal is not a simple matter of regenerating HP, but it is the most unique and complete form of healing available. During the journey, the characters could permanently lose eyes, multiple limbs, or they could being injured with fractures. All these status effects are permanent, and the deal with the Lady of Moon is the only way in the game to heal them. It is not clear what will be the fate of the Girl after accepting this deal, since she will simply vanish with the mysterious Lady of Moon.

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Fear & Hunger is a really dark and macabre RPG, which offers really interesting a questionable moral choices. Party characters, especially the Girl, can be used as bargain for really evil deals. But not always this is the best choice, because in this dark dungeon, the player cannot trust anyone.

Monster of the Week: Uterus (Fear & Hunger)

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Origin: Fear & Hunger

Appearance: Uterus are yellow mannequins swarming through the past version of the ancient city of the Gods. They are all female automata, moving with clumsy and slow gestures. The yellow body is altered by a white skeleton-like structure, especially in the torso, making them look similar to anatomy mannequins. Their breasts are exposed, while the pants are broken, highlighting the sexual nature behind the creation of these creatures. Their yellow skin is strong as iron, impossible to remove and really difficult to damage. But the most creepy detail regarding Uterus lies exactly in their abdomens. A small creature called Embryo lies peacefully in a hole in the belly. Each new turn during the combat, the Embryo will fall, grow, and will crawl toward the party (as you can see in each sliding picture). Before attacking, the Embryo will resemble more a big and fat infant, or a dwarf, but for sure is very far from a harmless baby.

Background: Valteil was a human who ascended to the role of New God of Enlightenment. He was obsessed with creating artificial life using different methods, giving life to set of automata with different functions in the Ancient City. For example, Uterus was the one designed to satisfy Valteil’s sexual desire. According to the official lore of the game, every night Valteil summoned a different Uterus to his room, for obvious purposes. It is entirely possible that the Embryo was born from the relationship between a God, Valteil, and an artificial creature, the Uterus. Probably, the true experiment behind the existence of Uterus, also judging from the name, was to generate new life from an artificial body.

Regarding the fight itself, Uterus is a very peculiar and twisted battle. While moving in the map, Uterus is really slow and easy to avoid. Also during the fight, many times Uterus would simply waste her turn to “dislocate the joints”, making only a disturbing sound. When attacking, Uterus uses her rusty claws to inflict very few damages, but usually causing infecting wound, which could lead to lost a limb due to the infection. The real treat behind the Uterus fight is the existence of the Embryo, combined with an insane amount of HPs. If the arms of the Uterus are easy to cut, making her virtually harmless, the creature will continue to fight even without a head. When the Embryo will start to crawl on the battlefield, a creepy and pressuring invisible timer will crawl inside the player’s mind. What this horrible thing will do? How many turns before it will do something? Each new turn, the Embryo will get closer, while crying in a terrifying and disturbing way. Both Uterus and Embryo have a really huge amount of HPs, making them almost impossible to kill early-on in the game. After an intense crying, the Embryo attack will surprisingly not damage the bodies, but will directly harm the mind of the characters, inflicting a huge damage. A simple attack of the Embryo could send a character completely crazy. Uterus is a really interesting and creepy creature, with an intense fight based on concluding it really quickly to avoid going insane. Uterus is an enemy that is better to avoid.

Interview with Miro Haverinen, the creator of the dark RPG Fear & Hunger

Fear & Hunger (F&H) is a dark and mature RPG, with a strong horror and survival component. The grim world of F&H is definitely a mature experience, dealing with strong topics to create one of the most dark fantasy experiences. F&H is a wind of fresh air in the world of indie RPGs, especially in terms of morality and horror integrated in both lore and design. More information regarding the game can be found in my review.

What surprised me the most is that Fear & Hunger was practically created by just one person: Miro Haverinen. I had the possibility to talk with him regarding F&H, knowing more details about his creative process and his future ideas. Miro kindly answered to all my questions and, if you are interested in knowing more details about F&H, below you can find the complete interview.

Q1: Fear & Hunger is an original RPG with a dark, mature and disturbing setting. How the idea of Fear & Hunger was born?

A1: The original idea was born during my school studies few years ago. In our class we had this tradition of asking random (like truly random) questions from each other. During one class I started asking one of my classmates what he would do in these different morally awkward scenarios that would all happen in a morbid dungeon. The scenarios would continue for a while and more and more people got involved. In the end it started to take a shape of a pen & paper RPG and the dungeons were named ’The dungeons of fear & hunger’.

Later on I had to scrap together some academic credits and I decided to turn the dungeons into a video game format and make a school project out of it. I even ended up writing my thesis about the game. The thesis was about the aesthetics and thematics of horror in video games and the practical part of the thesis was the first demo of Fear & Hunger.

Q2: The setting and the lore of Fear & Hunger are original and interesting. What inspired you the most while creating the game? Which are the major influences for your work and for the complex lore of the game?

A2: I was originally inspired to create a sensation of relentless darkness. I wanted to experiment different ways to evoke hopelessness and horror in a sense. I think this is more apparent in the earlier builds of the game. It has since taken more of a ’video game’ form with the later updates if that makes any sense… As for the influences, there are so many that it’s difficult to pick just few… I guess the biggest influences would be Silent Hill, Hellraiser, Amnesia, Nethack, Berserk and the Souls games. I also want to name Mortal Kombat here, because the lore of MK is really underrated in my opinion. Also the early Mortal Kombat games had a really frightening and vile atmosphere.

The way the lore is presented in F&H is obviously heavily inspired by the storytelling and the world-building of Souls games. But the lore itself doesn’t try to replicate any of those titles. It felt like the game wrote itself on its own really, which is pretty weird looking back to it.

Q3: Let’s know a bit about you, Miro. What did you work before focusing on Fear & Hunger? Were there other videogames/projects before this one or you worked in a completely different field?

A3: Ah, well… I did play around with game developing when I was really young. I found game engines like the RPG Maker and Game Maker among others, but I couldn’t really concentrate on any single project for long and most of the games I made back then died within few weeks or months. I did release a couple of game demos back in the day but unfortunately I don’t have them anymore.

Eventually I drifted away from game development, thinking that there was no future in playing around with simple 2D graphics. Funny enough, right after I quit, the indie gaming exploded so it wasn’t necessarily the best move at the time. Later on I got into graphic designing and I really wanted to make art. Graphic art, music or whatever. There are some album covers around with my art and also some light graphic novels in which I took part. I didn’t really consider game development until I had to get those academic credits from somewhere. I decided to revisit RPG Maker as it was the engine I was the most familiar with. Then people seemed to like the early versions of the F&H and after the first Let’s Plays of the game I was hooked. With games I could fuse together all my interests in different art forms and it was very rewarding to see the immediate reactions Let’s Players had with all the things I had created.

Q4: Which are your favorite videogames?

A4: I have a deep love for Souls games. Demon’s Souls especially awakened something inside me. Also the first three Silent Hill games have a special place in my heart. I’ve never felt the same kind of dread as the 10-year-old me felt with the original Silent Hill. Other than those, I’d say Final Fantasy VII, Ocarina of Time and the original Resident Evil 2 are probably my favourite games of all time. It’s a pretty boring and obvious list haha. Maybe I should throw some more obscure names here too? From the top of my head – A Blurred Line, Legion Saga 2, Devil May Cry 3, Seiken Densetsu 3 and Lost Planet 2 are all cool.

Q5: Fear & Hunger is a really mature game, including sex and gore. In my opinion everything is not gratuitous and it adds darkness to the world, but I was curious: was there something that you deleted from the final release because you considered it too mature or dark?

A5: No, not really. Every time I felt bad about making some things I figured I was on the right path. If it created a repulsive feeling in me, it had to have an effect to people playing the game too. There were some things removed though, but not because they were too dark or mature, but because I felt they took the game more to the meme territory. Like for example the ’Stinger thrust’ attacks of the guards originally caused – erm – …different bleeding statuses during the combat. It was a bit too silly. The status ailment is still in the game, but it’s not too frequent now.

Q6: Personally, I love the monsters of Fear & Hunger, both in terms of design and for the unique battles. Which is your favorite monster and why?

A6: I really like the Skin granny [Figure 1]. Her design is really cool and menacing I think and on my playthroughs she is always one of the more intense fights. If you miss some of the attacks on the first turn, things can go south really fast. Also I think the very first enemy most people run into, the guard [Figure 2], is really the best enemy as far as the gameplay balance goes. In general I’m really happy with the way designs ended up too.

Q7: Developing a videogame could be complicated and many ideas often are cut from the original plan. What was an idea you wanted to implement but at the end was cut from the actual game? A creature or boss fight?

A7: Seeing as I still keep updating the game, I can’t say any of the features were really cut from the game really. They could just be waiting for the future updates! But originally I planned that in the place of the Salmonsnake boss fight [Figure 3], there would’ve been a random variation to the boss fight with a tentacle monster instead. I thought it was a pretty cool idea to go to the lengths of making randomized bosses too. But since that fight is optional to begin with, I felt that that the time it would have taken me to make that functional would be better spent elsewhere. So that’s probably something that will remain cut from the future updates too. There were also supposed to be swimming sections to the game in underground tunnels, but that might be cut out entirely too. Who knows?

Q8: What was the most challenging part of Fear & Hunger development?

A8: Things have gone relatively smoothly with the development. I’d say the most challenging part has been finding the time to make the game. It has demanded so much time for the past 2 years. I really can’t recommend game development to anyone who wants to keep on to their other hobbies and social life haha.

Q9: Fear & Hunger can be a really challenging and punitive game. During the testing, which was the monster/trap that killed you the most? I am talking about something that you really hated yourself, and maybe you also ended up fixing a bit for how much difficult it was.

A9: I didn’t really hate anything during the test runs. Otherwise I would have removed those elements entirely. If I die on my test runs, it’s usually within the opening hours and the cause is the guards. They can be pretty punishing if I go about too carelessly.

The boss fight of the Ending B was originally meant to be hard mode only, but since I could never beat the boss on my test runs, I changed it so that the boss appears in the normal mode as well. I can’t really think of other things… But I’ve changed many things according to the feedback I’ve gotten from the other players though.

Q10: Miro, what is your plan for the future? Are you planning to add contents to Fear & Hunger, or already thinking/developing a new game or a sequel? I would be curious to know some details, if for you is ok.

A10: I’ll continue updating Fear & Hunger to some extent. It has still been my priority, but I’ve also started to plan and make some early work for a follow up game. After the next update I think the priority will shift more towards the next game. So yeah there will be a ’sequel’. But it’s going to be different. I’m not sure if all the people agree with the direction the next game will take, but I feel like I want to make something a little different for a change of pace. And some details? Hmmm…. The game will use the same lore, but won’t be a direct sequel per se. Although it is going to follow one storyline F&H set up already.

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank Miro for the friendly talk and for his cooperation. I will curiously wait for more news regarding the future of F&H. I would like also to remember the Fear & Hunger is available at itch and STEAM.

Reference Figures:

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Figure 1: Skin granny

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Figure 2: Guard

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Figure 3: Salmonsnake