Pascal’s Wager is an action role-playing game published by Giant Network Group Co and developed by TipsWorks. The land of Solas has been plunged into darkness. After the sun sets for the last time the only thing keeping the horrors of the dark at bay is the light of the colossi. But now, the colossi are beginning to die. Believing his estranged wife may somehow be connected to the colossi’s sickness courier of the Church, Terrance seeks her out, hoping it will provide a solution to the crisis.
It seems to be a tradition for me to start each video game review the year with a brutally challenging Dark Souls-inspired game. Last year it was Salt and Sanctuary this year its Pascal’s Wager. While sporting the methodical combat and challenging learning curve, this game isn’t quite as unforgiving as many games in its genre. Some of the genre staples, like the loss of accumulated resources at death, are absent. While this takes some of the bites out of the game’s difficulty, the gameplay will still test a player’s skill.
Going into Pascal’s Wager, I wouldn’t have thought a developer would be able to pull off this demand for a combat system with touch controls available on mobile devices. TipsWorks, however, proved that preconception is false. The controls are responsive and accurate. I struggled a bit at the start, getting over a tendency to miss my button presses. But once I realized the options menu gave the ability to expand the button sizes, that quickly faded.
The combat controls break down into classic attacks, light and heavy, block and dodge options. Governing the player’s use of these is a stamina gauge that is drained when actions of any kind are taken. Managing this gauge during combat felt impressively dynamic. I quickly learned when I had to stop my attacks to keep enough stamina for the block I’d need for the enemy’s reprisal. While the combat is the slower speed that soul-like games are known for, this game had a smoothness to its gameplay that stood out among my limited experience in the genre.
The only place where the controls failed for me was in some camera control struggles. The option to lock onto an enemy generally removes any camera difficulties. This only falls short when taking on multiple enemies. When I engaged multiple enemies, the game quickly spiraled as I struggled to get the camera where I needed it.
Once I became aware of this shortcoming, I was usually able to lure single enemies away to take them on one on one. Occasionally, though, there was no trick, and I was left with no choice but to struggle through. It is also worth noting that this problem might have also be exaggerated by the fact I was using touch controls. The game also allows controller inputs, but I don’t have one for my iPad Pro. So, playing on the controller may alleviate some of these shortcomings.
Over the course of the Pascal’s Wager, the player will come to control several different characters. Each character feels unique to the others and provides their tricks to master. While the game opens with the main character, Terrance, the most straightforward of the bunch, he is an excellent introduction to the basics of combat. When more eclectic characters like the nimble, gun-wielding Viola, who has no block option, come along, it provides the player a fresh play experience to play with. These characters become even more versatile as the player dives into the many paths of character upgrading available in Pascal’s Wager.
As enemies are defeated, they drop resources the player can use to level their characters. Leveling affects all party members so everyone gets points at the same rate. Levels acquired before a character joined are even back paid so there is no need for excessive grinding to catch up. These points raise attributes that govern the characters’ various combat stats. The application of this fairly standard system kept me interested through the variety of bonuses an attribute increase may yield. Increasing strength to 19 may increase my attack by three. Increasing it to 20, however, may increase attack by one, defense by 1, and raise my elemental resistances. It made every point’s investment more interesting and exciting.
Each character can also equip runes that unlock various upgrades. The runes, unlike levels, are character-specific, so carefully consider who you will give what is vital. Everything from additional health potions to special combat options is available in these upgrade trees. These options gave me the amount of control I wanted in molding the characters to my particular play style.
While the gameplay is mostly strong, and the leveling mechanics are excellently executed, the visuals are more of a mixed bag. While the quality of the art is some of the best I’ve seen running on a mobile device, the design feels very generic for the most part. Black-clad knights and lizard-like abominations are the level of uniqueness that most of the run-of-the-mill enemies exhibit. While the moment-to-moment enemies felt fairly generic, the boss monsters stood out a bit more. These enemies left lasting impressions on me. Both for their challenge and their visual design. They are truly the standouts in this experience.
The plot is delivered in a solid fashion. Like most fantasy stories, it’s best to accept whatever is stated as what it is and move on. The voice acting is generally acceptable. I never felt pulled out of the story by the voices, but never did they truly breathe life into the characters, either. The only place where the story presentation truly struggled was in the captions. The captions were often entire sentences off from the audio. And while it never truly deviated heavily in meaning, it was extremely disconcerting. And on a couple of occasions, the captions randomly popped up in an Asian language.
When all is said and done, I truly enjoyed my time with Pascal’s Wager. It provided an impressive challenge but never felt unbeatable. If you are someone who has always felt like games in the Dark Souls style were just a bit too difficult, I would gladly recommend you give this game a try.
Pascal’s Wager is available now on iOS and Android devices.
I truly enjoyed my time with Pascal’s Wager. It provided an impressive challenge, but never felt unbeatable.