Game: The Pale City
Platform: PC
Genre: turn-based RPG
Style: heavy Lovecraftian influences
Verdict: Recommended
Buy: Steam
Lovecraft Video Games received a review copy of The Pale City.

The Pale City follows the story of a mercenary named Vasek who has been hired to find the missing pieces of an ancient golem so that it can be reassembled. It takes place in a struggling city on top of a strange platform, the sole place in the world where humans live.

Life isn’t easy on the platform, and The Pale City has a highly dark, bleak tone–to the point where it sometimes feels overdone in how grim it is, but it’s worth it for the worldbuilding of this bizarre place.

This is a world where children crawl up out of deep tunnels to join the people in the city; it’s not something special, just the way people are born. It’s a world where bodies are absorbed back into the platform after death, and corpse-hunters enter the tunnels to retrieve corpses before they’re absorbed for the life they still contain. It’s a world that truly does feel alien in a way most fantasy worlds do not.

Although it isn’t overtly Lovecraftian at first, the world and its gods do have definite cosmic horror leanings that become more apparent further in.

When I first started playing The Pale City, I initially got the impression it would be a much larger game than it is. This is because of two things: first, its density, as many areas have numerous NPCs with multiple lines of dialogue, and second, its worldbuilding again, as it does a good job of hinting at the areas you never get to see.

Sometimes it’s almost too wordy, with characters still talking long after I expected them to be done, but this only crops up occasionally and doesn’t influence the flow too much.

Moving on to the combat, it’s a turn-based RPG, but you’ll never feel overpowered. You have different stances and special abilities in addition to your regular attack, and you’ll need to use them. I quickly learned to play on the defensive and save regularly, because any mistake can mean death even in minor encounters. There’s no grinding, either, with only a handful of optional battles to give you a boost. Add in limited funds to buy items or equipment with, and you’re in for a tough time.

(Almost in contradiction to the difficulty of combat, the game is very user-friendly in other ways, such as NPCs giving you an option to warp straight to your next destination and ample warnings when you really ought to finish up any business you have. It will also have an easier difficulty mode at launch.)

Occasionally a party member will join you for a section of the game, but most of the time it’s just Vasek fighting on his own. And that makes sense, because it fits with both the themes and character-driven focus of the game.

Vasek has internal monologue for almost everything, sometimes just a line or two of description, and other times more reflective thoughts related to himself. While his repeated claims about how he cares for no one and feels nothing can get grating after a while, there actually is an interesting story behind him if you take the time for it.

The Pale City is bleak, grim, and difficult, but it’s worth a look if you’re intrigued by fantasy with undertones of cosmic horror in a truly strange world.

Buy: Steam