After the 5 Star high of the Fourth Drop, I’m super excited to get into Fatal Frame 5: Fifth Drop Gameplay!
Who are all these people?
- Ren Hojo – This drop’s POV character. Ren is an author who lives with his assistant, Rui, at the base of Mt. Hikami. He’s become obsessed with his dream in which he believes he kills a young, white-haired girl, and postmortem photographs of shrine maidens from Mt. Hikami. Could there be a connection?
Rui Kagamiya – the organized assistant to Ren Hojo. She lives him with and accompanies him on his increasingly dangerous forays onto Mt. Hikami.
- Kazuya Sakaki – Ren’s friend since high school, who works in the city. He was helping Ren collect postmortem photographs when he suddenly cut contact. Recently called Ren to tell him he was getting married. But to who?
- Keiji Watarai – a folklorist obsessed with the rituals conducted on Mt. Hikami. He moved there to learn more but he, and the house he lived in on the mountain, have vanished into the mists.
- Yuri Kozukata – An orphan rescued from suicide by Hisoka, who can see “spirit traces”, like Hisoka. She’s in possession of the Camera Obscura, the camera that can combat ghosts. She can see shadow traces of people and items.
- Hisoka Kurosawa – Yuri’s mentor who runs an antique shop. She also reads fortunes and finds missing items and people by following their traces… but went missing on Mt. Hikami while looking for Haruka.
- Haruka Momose – Rescued from Mt. Hikami, but still drawn there by the allure of some suicidal siren song.
There’s more and more characters each time. I think this might be the widest cast in any Fatal Frame game yet.
To catch you up
Last drop we rescued, however briefly, Haruka. But Ren is still obsessed with the postmortem photo album recovered from the inn. This album, compiled by Keiji Watarai, a folklorist who settled on Mt. Hikami, seems to bring trouble wherever it goes.
First Keiji vanished. Then the inn keeper’s father. Then the inn keeper himself. Will Ren follow suit?
Back at home, Rui has secured a video tape that might shed some light on the whereabouts of Keiji Watarai. Ren settles in to watch it, and the images are immediately familiar.
This is Shrine of Dolls, and the underground tunnel of Womb Cave. But the image flickers, and now a cabin fills the screen.
“I don’t remember seeing this house before.”
The person recording the video enters, cautious. “Doesn’t look like anyone’s lived here in awhile.”
Dirt and grime cover everything. And yet, there are items on the table. It looks as if someone vanished, rather than moved. An old rotary phone sits on the corner, and as they pass it chimes once, briefly. The explorer jerks away, not wanting to pick it up. I can’t blame him.
He passes a living room, and at its center is a massive black box.
The same type of box that Yuri found Haruka in.
But he doesn’t investigate it. He goes towards the stairs, moving fast and jerky. His panic is obvious without him saying a word. He climbs the stairs, panning the camera across a room with a hole in its floor. A man stands in the closet, his face dark with decay. But he doesn’t react. Does he even see him?
A little further in he finds a room filled with books. This is undoubtedly Keiji’s study. In the storage room off its side is a ladder, leading up into an attic. And against his better judgement the cameraman mounts the stairs.
His breath trembles as he lifts the camera up. Only to see a man crawling across the floor towards him, blood streaking his face. The cameraman screams and the screams and the footage sizzles and cuts out.
Ren grabs the report Rui’s written about the video. It reads:
“This folklorist, Keiji Watarai, went to the mountain due to his obsession with the mysteries of the sect living there. He then went missing, as mentioned in the diary, and rumors about what happened to him abound.
They say that he didn’t just die or go missing, but rather he stumbled on something the mountain wanted kept hidden, and so his entire house as swallowed up by the mist.
This is the origin of Mt. Hikami’s more recent stories of a haunted house.
While the veracity of this is unclear, I looked into a video tape, left behind by someone who stumbled across the house. The video is apparently famous in occult circles.
I contacted the publisher, and received the following response:
Dear Rui Kagamiya,
Thank you for contacting us.
The tape was found near a river on Mt. Hikami. It’s unknown who filmed it. There were many sections too damaged by water to be usable, and so we took what was left and edited it together.
The master copy of the video was confiscated by the police. They conducted a search of the mountain, but were unable to find who shot the film, or even the house’s location.
We advise you not to look into this on your own.”
Ha. As if they’re going to listen to you, film publisher.
As Ren puts down the report the phone rings.
Ren answers and is surprised to hear it’s his friend, Kazuya Sakaki. He hasn’t been able to get a hold of his friend in awhile, but Kazuya scarcely seems to hear him.
The point of view shifts, and we see Kazuya standing in an old house. His face and voice distant.
“I’m getting married,” Kazuya announces.
“What, you are?” Ren says, shocked. He stammers a congratulations. He asks if he knows the bride and Kazuya continues, as if in a trance.
“Ever since I saw her picture…”
Black water creeps towards his shoes. The windows behind him are boarded up. This… doesn’t look good.
The voice of a woman floods the phone.
“Will you die with me?” she asks.
Beside Kazuya a grey faced, black-lipped woman stands, staring at him. The line cuts.
Shaken, Ren hangs up, staring down at the phone as he tries to comprehend what Kazuya has told him. The ghastly, feminine voice on the phone.
But he doesn’t deviate from his plan. He has to find Keiji’s house. The cameraman seemed to follow the same path Yuri took when she found Haruka. He’ll have to go to the Shrine of the Dolls, through the wooden grate, and descend into Womb Cave. From there, perhaps he’ll be able to find it.
Before he takes a step outside the door, he finds Rui’s journal. Moral quibbles aside, he peeks inside, to try and get insight into what Rui’s been afraid to say aloud.
“Mr. Hojo often cries out in his sleep.”
“Mr. Hojo often cries out in his sleep. He won’t tell me much, but it seems like he has a recurring dream, about a ceremony from his childhood.
As a young boy, Mr. Hojo said he spent a summer with relatives at the base of Mt. Kagiroi. He’s mentioned playing in an old house and in a shrine on the mountain, and some kind of festival he went to.
Is he dreaming of that ceremony? I went to festivals as a child, but all I remember is having a good time.
He often cries “don’t look at me!” in his sleep.
He’s always had a hard time with people staring at him. He especially dislikes it when women look at him for too long.”
Huh. Sounds pretty familiar to someone else. A tattooed face murderer, perhaps. Did the white-haired girl have the same ability as the shrine maidens, or is Ren just overcome with guilt at having her look at him before he kills her?
Shrine of Dolls on Mt. Hikami
Ren and Rui set out to the Shrine of Dolls, arriving unscathed. But they linger outside the shrine.
Ren follows the path Yuri takes through the side door. He opens it, and the dolls that were standing guard when Yuri was here last are gone. So are the dolls that filled the hall.
Their absence is almost more disorienting than their presence. They’ve moved. I don’t like that they’ve moved.
Rui, lagging behind Ren, hears the wordless sounds of something almost indistinguishable. Is it a child? Beckoning her to play? She turns, following the noise, into a doll display room. There on the floor is the white-haired girl, laying beside an effigy.
“Don’t talk to me. I’m not supposed to talk to the living.”
“Don’t talk to me. I’m not supposed to talk to the living,” the white-haired girl warns.
She’s so petulant and bratty. It’s hard not to like her.
She opens her eyes, sighing. “A man at last. You are a man, are you not?”
“I’m a girl,” Ren states, shocked but indignant.
“I see. In that case… Let us play.” The girl holds up the faceless doll, nearly identical to the one she had for Yuri.
“This is an effigy. Of you. … No. I’ll make you into an effigy.” She creeps closer to Rui, her scarlet eyes full of malicious intention.
Down the hall Ren, realizing that Rui isn’t behind him, turns back and enters the doll room that Rui was in moments before. But now Rui’s nowhere to be seen. It’s just the ghost children, who surround him.
“It’s playtime! You’re the groom, now find your bride!”
They run off, vanishing through the walls.
Ren stares after them, perplexed. He has no idea what’s going on but he needs to find Rui. Opening the nearest door, he descends into the waterlogged storage room. Dolls still fill the shelves but there’s a new book amongst them, too.
A soiled notebook, belonging to a priest who once lived here.
“The children are playing. Sometimes I wake up at night, feeling their presence. The following morning, dolls that I know I’ve put away have moved someplace else.
The more this happens, the more clearly I hear the sounds of playing, and the more often I have dreams where I’m there among the children, playing with them.
I think my late daughter is one of them.
Last night, I felt like I as being watched. I awoke to find a white-haired girl staring at me.
She said, “Don’t worry. Your daughter is playing with the doll you fixed.” After that, she disappeared.
Those eyes… It’s like she could see everything. She even seemed to answer the very question that was on my mind.”
Ah, so the white-haired girl has the same ability as the Blackwater Maidens. Maybe that’s why Ren was so frightened to have her look at him when he killed her all those years ago.
Ren works his way through the shelves, finally reaching the stairs on the other side. On the other side of the shrine, he encounters a sheer, ghostly sphere, hiding in a small room. When he takes a picture of it, it transforms into one of the hiding children, who leaps at him before running away.
I guess that’s one child down, two more to go.
Down another hall we hear a small voice and find another hidden girl. That’s the second.
As we search for the third, we find another one of the priest’s diaries.
“Today’s dream was stifling. It was night, and several men carrying burning flames spent a long time exploring the area underneath the main shrine.
They carried a huge reliquary underground, burying it where no one would ever find it.
The white-haired girl was sleeping inside the box.
She was waiting for someone, but it wasn’t me. I didn’t have what she wanted. I remember feeling so incredibly sad when I woke up.”
Ahh. So, does Ren have what she wants? We’ll have to wait see.
The third ghost is close by, hiding in a hole.
Now where do we go? In the flooded sanctum here the three large dolls are enshrined Ren finds another notebook, which wasn’t there just a few minutes before. But this book, with its shiny leather, is familiar.
It’s Rui’s journal.
Quickly, Ren flips through it, hoping for a clue.
“Mr. Hojo has started acting strangely. It’s like his mind is completely elsewhere. This all started when he saw that photo. He’s usually on the lazy side, but now he’s obsessed with tracking down these photos.
I have to go with him, if only make sure he doesn’t wander off willy-nilly.
Would he put this much effort into searching for me if I went missing, I wonder?”
Woof. Rui doesn’t have a very high opinion of him, does she? But it’s hard to blame her.
But Ren believes that if he uses her diary, he can see where Rui’s been taken. Does that mean, he, too, has a spiritual sense like Yuri and Hisoka?
A vague white mist glimmers at a door, and we follow it into a narrow room. Where it’s concentrated Ren takes a photo. Rui materializes, the Camera Obscura materializing her back into the living realm.
“You… you really came for me.”
But she really doesn’t sound alright. She keeps getting picked on by all these ghosts. Still, Ren isn’t ready to give up and go home yet. Not when they’ve come all this way. He needs to find the Veiled House.
He and Rui head back towards the doll room here she was first spirited away. But a man with a reliquary on his back attacks them. As he collapses into ether, Ren reaches out to touch him.
We see his last moments, as he contemplates the black waters, the box on his back forcing him to bow.
“My body. Lost to the depths… of the Black Water…”
He seems to have thrown himself into a lake of water. Perhaps he, like so many others, couldn’t resist the allure of that place. It’s hard to feel sorry for him.
Inside the doll room, the white-haired girl is sitting on the doll display.
Ren is taken aback. He remembers her immediately. And she clearly remembers him. She stares at him intensely, contemplating him for a moment.
“You didn’t keep it with you. My token… Did you lose it? But, our promise…”
She turns, disappointed, away from him before vanishing into the ether.
Ren says nothing. He just goes to the wooden grate beneath the doll display and enters Womb Cavern.
“Th-thanks… Y-you know, I… I’ve been waiting,” Rui stammers, sounding chilled.
“Hmm?” Ren asks, clearly confused. Not turning around to look at her as he works his way through the waterlogged tunnel.
“For… for someone to choose me. I’ve been waiting… so long… for you.”
“What are you talking about?” Ren demands.
“I… It’s not important. I understand now…”
“… Well, I don’t understand it at all.”
“The girl… She’s been waiting too. For the person with her token.”
It seems that more than just a murder happened during Ren’s childhood. But that, too, seems to be blacked out of his memory. But more pressing, is Rui possessed?
They reach the main cave, and the pool is still filled with black boxes. In the center, the women who attacked Haruka and Yuri attacks. Her arms swing wildly and blind towards Ren, but soon she vanishes. In her wake is an Iris key.
It occurs to Ren now that there is a woman in each of the boxes that fill this cavern. But he has the key to the metal door that leads out of this place. And he doesn’t linger, quickly unlocking it so they can leave.
And outside the cave, they find it. The Veiled House. The vanishing home of Keiji Watarai.
The Veiled House
“Is… is someone there?” Rui asks, as they approach it, cautious.
It looks decrepit and long abandoned. Just like in the video they’d seen. But the moment they step inside it’s undeniable – this is surely the house that Kazuya called from. I recognize that boarded up window. And that phone, that started the explorer in the video. That must have been the phone that he used to call Ren.
So, he’s here in this house, somewhere.
“It’s just like that video..” Rui murmurs, her head swinging back and forth, nervous.
Ren heads up the stairs, and catches a glimpse of Keiji staggering through the halls, towards his study.
“This box… is there something inside of it? What lies within… and what is its purpose?” Keiji’s voice drifts out of his study. “Have others been submered elsewhere on this mountain too?”
There are countless books here, but they are all unreadable because of water damage.
We see another trace of Keiji in the hall, murmuring to himself. He seems entranced.
The TV in the sitting room is on, its monitor full of white static. A tray with two teacups and tobacco sit on a dusty table. It feels as if someone’s been here recently.
Ren approaches the phone, and it rings.
“Ren. You’re… too late… I… I’m already…”
“Really? Was that him?” Rui asks, shocked.
Rui spots an old photograph on the floor by the phone and picks it up, giving it to Ren.
“This is just like the picture you were looking at.”
Ren stares dumbfounded at the photo. It’s the precise same postmortem photo he had in his photo album. The photo of a beautiful shrine maiden.
Did Kazuya come here because of it?
Keiji’s spirit appears in the hall behind them, stumbling away. He mumbles something almost too quiet to hear:
“The living and the dead… Bound by ceremonies of Ghost Marriage.”
“The living and the dead… Bound by ceremonies of Ghost Marriage.”
So, he married a dead girl. But why are all these men obsessed with her? These photos seem to have a siren effect, similar to the call to the suicidal Mt. Hikami has. But why? Why are they luring men here?
Near the phone there’s a hole in the floor. Beneath it is dark, murky water. But there are traces of water on the floor, as if something had been dragged into it.
We follow Keiji’s trace and hear him murmuring. “The photo… she’s smiling at me. The photo’s smiling at me.”
His ghost vanishes into the next room, and Ren follows him. Here the room is filled with shelves of books. And still Keiji talks to himself.
“The picture… From the moment I let her draw me in, the union was already complete. I must go. I can’t just keep waiting until it’s too late. Even if I risk ruin…”
Until what’s too late, Keiji? He’s giving us more questions than answers. But amongst the shelves we find one of his books, filled with notes on Mt. Hikami. It reads:
“Here on the mountain, water is considered the source of the soul. A person’s soul is then said to return to water upon death, rather than moving on to an afterlife.
Those ready for death would gather at the mountain and return their lives to the water.
Water connects everything.
I’m glad I came here. The people on this mountain have a yearning for death. That is to say, they have a yearning for water, and a yearning for nature.
Life and death are both connected to water.”
There’s a cassette tape with the notepad, but the label has been left blank.
Fortunately, we can listen to it now. Ren plays it, and Keiji’s voice fills the room.
“The shrine maidens use the water as a conduit between the living and the dead. Those who come to the mountain are transfixed by death. To die is to return to the water. The water is connected to everything. The shrine maidens glance into the souls of the dying, taking on their final memories. Then the shrine maidens become the Pillars, and those memories are submerged into the water.
If water really is connected to everything, then this mountain, overflowing with water, must also be overflowing with death.”
Well, he isn’t wrong. There’s a lot of water and a lot ghosts.
At Keiji’s desk, Ren sees the trace of the missing folklorist standing, looking down. He takes a photo and Keiji vanishes, leaving in his stead two notebooks.
The first reads:
“I saw this silhouette of a shrine maiden from within the mist that envelops the mountain. Something about her seemed somehow… unnatural. I’ve been told there are no more shrine maidens on the mountain now.
Would that then imply they are trapped within the mist?”
The next notebook is far newer than the others. There’s no dust on it, as if someone had just written in it.
“It’s said that human sacrifice was once practiced through this region. Rather than returning people to the water upon death, the ritual involved placing so called “Pillars” in special reliquaries and sending them to the water while still alive.
It’s the role of shrine maidens to become such Pillars. They would take on the memories of the dying, and thereafter return to the water themselves.
In doing so, the subject would continue living on as Pillars.
But what did these maidens who became Pillars fear, or hope to appease?
There are various teaching in Japan about where the afterlife, also known as the Netherworld, or the hereafter, is located.
Some teaching say it is above the mountains or across the sea, where others claim it lies underground, within the very earth itself.
Here on the mountain its’ said to lie within the water, implying a close link between water and death.
The Pillars within the reliquaries would be in a place close to death, but would go on living.
Perhaps it was the special reliquaries that allowed them to evade death and continue living, frozen in time.
It’s thought that perpetuating these Pillars allowed those close to death to live longer lives.
In a sense it was believe that proximity to death helped develop a resistance to it.”
Ah. So, they were submerging these shrine maidens alive. For what purpose, though? Why did they need to become pillars? Why would they need to carry the memories of the dead with them?
In the side room we hear a low murmuring. Ren opens it, and the head of a doll rolls off its shoulders, onto the floor. This is the room that leads to the attic. To the place where the explorer was attacked.
But on the shelf is another cassette tape, and Ren plays it, putting off the inevitable.
“The shrine maidens were sacrificed as Pillars… but to what purpose? Pillars from shrines of other mountains, too, were routinely brought up in this custom.
But through sacrifice… what did the aim to appease?
Those who died but were revied were considered strong pillars. Being touched by death must create a strong pillar.”
Well, looks like Keiji has the same questions I do. But that gives me hope that they’ll eventually be answered.
With nothing left to distract him, Ren mounts the ladder, lifting his head up into the attic.
There’s something, no, someone here. The man from the videotape. He lunges towards Ren, crawling on his stomach, but just before his out reached hands can claw at Ren’s face he vanishes.
Beneath him is another of Keiji notebooks.
The notebook reads:
“Mt. Hikami seems to have been both revered and feared as a “mountain of death,” where only those prepared to die may enter, and those who visited were never allowed to leave.
Visitors to the mountain had to pass through the shrine grove at the foot of the mountain, where shrine maidens kept strict watch in allowing only the qualified – that is, the dying – to enter.
Today, the shrine at this grove has been rebuilt as an inn, whose innkeeper kindly let me borrow records of the time period.
The records from the shrine’s final year list one individual who was able to leave the mountain alive.
After taking his Postmortem Photographs, it seems he was invited to the mountain to photograph the maidens.
I have heard his research into the hereafter allowed him to develop a special camera.
If I could see these photos of the shrine maidens taken with this special camera, I’m certain I could come closer to unraveling the mysteries of Mt. Hikami.
When invited to the mountain, it is said he was allowed into a house visited only by a select few individuals.
If I were invited to the mountain, would I be able to reach this place, too?
I truly wish I would.”
Kunihiko Aso? The creator of the camera obscura?
But Ren doesn’t have time to contemplate it. The room begins to fill with mist. And the maidens seem to move through mist, like they’re able to move through water.
Sensing that things are getting very dangerous, very quickly Ren quickly descends the stairs, headed back to the house’s entrance.
… It’s locked. Of course it’s locked.
Cautiously Ren turns back around, and opens the closed living room. Within is a black box. A reliquary. Its lid opens and a man comes sliding out of it.
Ren dispatches him, and sees the last moments of Keiji. Keiji… was he put into the reliquary? Is that where he’s been all this time?
The vision of Keiji’s moments are black and white static, slowly coming into focus.
“I made it… at last. She’s waiting for me inside this house,” Keiji gasps. He clutches the postmortem photo of the shrine maiden.
A door slides open for him, and she sits there in the room waiting for him. For a brief moment she is beautiful, dresses in the white bridal kimono. And in the next she is ghastly, her face grey, her lips black.
“You came for me me… Will you end yourself with me? After all this time,” the maiden croons.
He’s dragged into the room, screaming.
But where the ghost of Keiji was is another book. It reads:
“On the way to the summit, I found a photo on a small path lined with spider lilies. The path seemed to head into the forest, but it has become overgrown and is unpassable. Could it lead to that mansion, that only the invited can find?
It is different from the other Postmortem Photographs. I can only describe it as being beautiful. It had a beauty and a sadness unlike the others I’ve seen.
Was she alive?
As soon as I thought how beautiful she was, I was bound. I heard whispers of love from the photograph. They were the words of a curse.
Love after death.
I must go to that place.”
There’s also another cassette tape accompanying the notebook.
“There is a ceremony to bind doomed men with the shrine maidens, to keep them secure once they have become Pillars.
A man’s fate is sealed once he recognizes a shrine maiden’s beauty. Whispers of love come from the photographs. They are a curse. The words are a curse. And yet… my heart is drawn to one word they utter. Suicide.”
Ren is desperate to leave this place. But before he can even try the door again, a wall is torn down, and the man with the tattooed face stampedes through it, attacking Ren. Why is he here? I don’t know.
Rui’s cluelessness is highlighted in this fight, as she stands there, looking vaguely uncomfortable. Occasionally the tattooed man swings through her, and she shouts.
But once the fight is over, she still doesn’t say anything.
And yet if we peek out of the massive hole in the wall that the tattooed man makes, we can see a tall woman that is surely meant to be Hachishaku-sama, the eight-foot tall woman.
She wears the same hat and everything. (I’d post a link of her but it’s a lot of weird fanservice. Go look her up if you like giant women, I guess. Or listen to her cool urban legend!)
Ren, instead of walking through the giant hole in the wall and out of the house, goes back for the front door.
But now there’s a new box, and it opens. A woman floats upwards, as if caught in the eddies of water. I’m so tired of fights.
She floats around, teleporting before before diving in, like a miserable little barracuda. But finally she goes down, and Ren and Rui are able to escape. But the moment they step out the door the house vanishes into the mist, leaving nothing but an empty space where it had once been.
“Was that the folklorist?” Rui asks.
“I guess so.”
“What’s going on on this mountain?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Is Mr. Sakaki here on the mountain, too? Just like the folklorist.”
Great. Scintillating conversation. Wait to show you care about your friend, Ren.
But they run towards the forest station, where a decrepit train waits for them.
I don’t trust this train. But that’s the end of the fifth drop.
Welp. The final verdict on Fatal Frame 5: Fifth Drop Gameplay… Ren’s drops are always a little… lackluster, I suppose’s the word. Maybe it’s because he’s the folklorist, his drops are always full of exposition. But the entire drop was paced very poorly.
The Shrine of Dolls and the game of hide and seek now feel very repetitive, even if this might be the most relevant time for it to happen. Keiji Watarai’s house felt like a huge exposition drop that wasn’t really “earned”. And a lot of what we read felt repetitive, much like the ghosts.
The end of the chapter was also too fight heavy. Why was the tattooed man here? His bursting through the wall like the Koolaid man just felt ridiculous.
I really enjoy lore, so I’ll give it a 3 out of 5… but that’s very generous. I think Yuri’s drop will be better. I just hope we don’t have to go back to the Shrine of Dolls.
Slay the Spire Downfall Review: A Masterclass in Fan Content
Slay the Spire Downfall, also known as Downfall, is a fan-made mod to Slay the Spire by Table 9 Studio. Table 9 is a small game studio that has primarily specialized in small projects but is soon to release its own original game, Tales & Tactics. Downfall is one of its first projects, and has been met with heavy support from the Slay the Spire development team and community. It has been so successful, it even has its own Steam page.
If you aren’t familiar with Slay the Spire, check out my review! Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the base game, let’s get into the expansion!
Downfall adds considerable content and new playing options to Slay the Spire. Generally, there are plenty of new cards, events, and relics. Additionally, there is a new hero, The Hermit, an undead gunslinger. Cards in their deck have increased abilities when played from the middle of a hand, creating better outcomes the more deliberate you play.
In addition to traditional Standard mode, the game’s meat and potatoes is Downfall mode. In Downfall mode, you can play as one of seven bosses from Slay the Spire. Instead of climbing up the tower, you work your way down defending it from the same heroes you’d play as in the base game. Each boss has its own unique playstyle and deck, resulting in even more varied play experiences.
The seven playable bosses are The Slime Boss, The Guardian, The Hexaghost, The Champ, The Automaton, The Gremlins, and The Snecko. All can be encountered as enemies during a Standard run. Their playstyles are as follows:
The Slime Boss
The Slime Boss’s special mechanic includes slime minions that can split from the Boss and have a variety of effects. Additionally, the Boss has cards that add Goop, increasing the damage of the next attack and causing additional effects when consumed.
The Guardian’s special mechanic is that they are able to phase between modes after taking a certain amount of damage. The cards also have gem slots, which allows gem cards to be combined with other cards to make them more powerful.
The Hexaghost’s special mechanic is that it has six Ghostflames that can be ignited by playing certain card type combinations. When ignited, a special effect occurs. A large portion of the cards in this deck are centered around end-of-combat buffs and cards that disappear if not played immediately.
The Champ’s special mechanic is that they change between Defensive or Berserker stance, giving them bonuses depending on which stance they are in. Their cards interact heavily with their stances.
The Automaton’s special ability is that they create functions, cards which are the stored combination of three already played cards. Their cards can cause compile errors when certain cards are used together, and the deck is focused on function synergy.
The Gremlins’ special ability is that you play as all five gremlins, each with their own health bar and buff effects. Cards have extra abilities depending on which gremlin is the main gremlin at the time.
The Snecko’s special ability is that they play cards of any class. This means they have access to hero and boss cards of all types throughout the run.
The new playable characters are a hit. They are so much fun to play and add an intriguing new dimension to the game. My favorite new characters are The Automaton and The Slime Boss, though every time I play any character a few times, I find a new favorite! Each character is refreshing and interesting in its own way.
Generally, the gameplay takes an already great game and gives it even more replayability. My biggest critique is that Downfall currently doesn’t work on the Steam Deck, unlike Slay the Spire. However, it’s an absolute blast to play either way. Because this is a fan expansion, it is free to download! But you do still need Slay the Spire in order to play.
I can’t recommend this game enough. It is enjoyable, has a high level of replayability, and a greatly executed concept. I only wish I could play it everywhere! (5 / 5)
Slay the Spire Review: Deckbuilding & Monsters
Slay the Spire is a roguelike, deckbuilding video game created by small indie studio Mega Crit Games. Released in 2017, Slay the Spire is the first and only game created by Mega Crit. However, the game has continued to see updates from the development team and fans alike since its release. In fact, a Slay the Spire Board Game just launched in November 2022 on Kickstarter to great success.
In Slay the Spire, you play as one of four characters as they battle their way through a magical tower filled with monsters, loot, and curses. The further up the spire you go, the harder and more lucrative your journey becomes. Will you defeat three of the many bosses awaiting you and receive your glory?
Within Slay the Spire, there are four characters (The Ironclad, Silent, Defect, and Watcher) each with their own deck and playstyle. You begin by choosing which one you will play as for the journey ahead. The Ironclad has a focus on healing and strong attacks, and is the simplest adventurer to play as. This makes sense, as they are the first character you have unlocked and introduces you to the mechanics of the game. Meanwhile, The Silent has a focus on many small attacks and poison. The Silent is very accessible in its mechanics just like The Ironclad, however is less forgiving to strategic mistakes. The Defect is more complicated and has a focus in channeling different elements to produce varied effects on the battlefield. Lastly, there is The Watcher, the complicated character, who has a focus on utilizing different combat forms to gain advantages. In addition to different playstyles through their unique decks, each adventurer also begins with a special ability and starting health.
After selecting your character, you journey deep into The Spire, choosing pathways filled with monsters, merchants, more relics, rest sites, and mystery events. Killing enemies provides rewards through gold, cards, single-use potions, and occasionally powerful relics which stay with you the whole run. Elite enemies provide better rewards, however, healing opportunities are usually few and far between. Fighting too many elite enemies may prove more dangerous than lucrative. At merchants cards, potions, relics, and the removal of a card from your deck can be purchased in order to improve your strength. Rest sites provide either healing or card upgrades, forcing you to choose between your precious health and the improvement of your build. There are three acts in a full run, with a boss at the end of each act. As the acts progress, the bosses become harder, testing the mettle of your improvements throughout the game.
I have absolutely adored my time playing Slay the Spire. The progression within a run is difficult but rewarding. There have been times when poor luck ended my run, however I still always had fun anyway. The diversity of characters and the resulting playstyles is great, even if I have found myself going back to The Ironclad time and time again. Additionally the game gives the player a significant amount of agency in the decisions on how to improve your deck and character. This creates replayability and a sense of ownership over a given run. The game also rewards and encourages taking chances, making it a blast to push your luck.
While I’ve had a great deal of fun, there are some areas for improvement. My biggest gripe is that there aren’t more unique characters, monsters, events, and bosses. I’d love to see more playstyles as well as see less repeats of bosses, monsters, and events. The system and gameplay is so robust, it just needs some more content to be a top tier game. That being said, there have been periodic content updates (including the addition of The Watcher in 2020) and the community has created an extensive content mod that even has its own Steam page. Also, despite my issue with the amount of content, I definitely will be putting at least 30 more hours into this game.
Overall, I love this game and highly recommend it, so much so, I cannot wait for more content. For $25 on Steam, this game is a must play if you enjoy rogue-likes and deck building games!(4.5 / 5)
The Last of Us: Episodes 8 and 9: The End
Sometimes life gets in the way. Maybe you watched the episodes the nights they came out, but then you got your stomach tattooed so you didn’t have the energy to type on your computer, and then you had to work nonstop for six days straight and housesit 20 miles out of town, and then you got into a hit-and-run car accident with your boyfriend (luckily you’re both okay but really very angry at the asshole that just drove away), etc. etc.. March has been a lot, but I finally rolled up my sleeves, made time for my computer and stopped procrastinating the job of writing my final review on HBO’s The Last of Us.
Here we will cover the final events of Joel and Ellie’s saga. Both episodes were directed by Ali Abassi and written by Craig Mazin and, in episode 9, Neil Druckmann. The adaptation continued to cover the story elements of the game, leaving out and/or changing most of the fighting and action scenes. This change is especially noticeable in episode 9, “Look for the Light,” but we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s first do a recap of episode 8, “When We Are in Need.”
“When We Are in Need”
Ellie is on the hunt for food and comes across a deer, which she shoots down almost effortlessly. It is in this moment that she meets a preacher named David (Scott Shepherd) and his partner, James (Troy Baker, (Joel’s voice actor in the video games)). After a moment of hostility towards the stranger, Ellie agrees to give the deer to David in exchange for penicillin. Shortly after giving Joel the medication, Ellie has to leave again to deter David’s religious crew from hunting her and Joel. It turns out Joel killed a few of David’s men, and the preacher is out for revenge.
The religious group captures Ellie and puts her in a cell, where she discovers David has been feed them human remains. Meanwhile, Joel finally awakes and is stable enough to escape the house and search for Ellie. He tortures two men into disclosing her location, but he is almost too late. David places Ellie on a butcher block and is just about to chop her up when she narrowly escapes. The two fight until she finally has the advantage and takes him down, bludgeoning him to death with an insurmountable fury of vengeance.
“Look for the Light”
Episode 9 begins with a flashback of Ellie’s pregnant mother, Anna (Ashley Johnson, (Ellie’s voice actor in the video games). An infected bit Anna just moments before she gave birth to Ellie. Moments pass, and Marlene finds the two in a pool of blood. She is forced to take the baby and kill her friend. Fast forward 14 years, and Joel and Ellie are almost done with their journey. They finally made it to Utah. Ellie, still processing everything that happened with David, is sad and somber. Joel tries his best to cheer her up, but nothing seems to work.
Suddenly, the youth sees something and runs off to get a better look. Joel chases her until he stops and stares in awe. The camera pans from him to Ellie inches away from a giraffe. She is her old self again, cracking jokes and asking a myriad of questions. Later on, when Joel reveals that he tried to kill himself after Sarah’s death, Ellie provides him as much comfort as she can. But the fact that Joel can trust her enough to reveal such a secret means is a comfort on its own. He asks Ellie to read some puns to lighten the mood, but his moment is interrupted when a group of Fireflies knock them out.
Joel wakes up in a hospital to see Marleen, who informs him that the doctors are preparing Ellie for surgery to remove the part of her brain that makes her immune. This procedure, however, will result in Ellie’s death. No matter how hard Joel fights, Marlene won’t budge. She instead has two Firefly soldiers escort Joel out of the hospital, but he kills them and everyone else until he finds the surgery room, where he murders the doctor in cold blood. He escapes with an unconscious Ellie and makes it as far as the parking garage until Marlene stops them. The camera cuts to Joel driving a car with Ellie in the backseat.
Ellie wakes up and asks Joel what happens. While he lies to her that there is no cure, the camera flickers back to the parking garage scene with Marlene. He shoots her once. After listening to her begs and pleas, he kills her with a final shot.
The duo have to walk the last few miles to Tommy’s town. At the top of a waterfall, they get a spectacular view of their new home, their new futures. Before making the final trek, Ellie tells Joel about her past and how she saw her best friend die. This lead to watching Tess, Sam and Henry die because of the disease. The fact that they all had to go through such gruesome deaths, only for there not to be a cure, is too much for Ellie to handle. She makes Joel swear that he is telling the truth, and in a beat, he does.
HBO’s The Last of Us is a remarkable video game adaptation that deserves all the high praise it has received the past few months. From the set design and effects to the filming, screenwriting and acting, the show is a peak example of how to do an adaptation well. It is heart-throbbing and terrifying.
A few issues with HBO’s adaptation is how much they excluded the game play scenes. Despite the world being filled with infected, they were rarely on screen. This is disappointing, especially because it increases the stakes and so much of Joel and Ellie’s relationship builds in these fight scenes. The biggest disappointment was in episode 9, in which the show completely cut out the game’s highway scene. Furthermore, there are numerous creative weapons the show could have included to illustrate Joel and Ellie’s means of survival, from molotov cocktails and nail bombs to the beloved shotgun and its shorty companion.
Despite these small quibbles, the show is arguably one of the best American video game adaptations out there. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey were the perfect casting choices for Joel and Ellie, as was the casting for all the other characters.
It will be exciting to see where Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin take The Last of Us 2. I hope they will include more gameplay (aka a little more violence), more screen time for infected, and some creative liberties with the original story while also sticking to the heart of it. We will just have to wait and see what they come up with. Until we meet again, don’t forgot to read about the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.
(4 / 5)