In Elder Sign, you’ve seen the sign, and it’s full of the deepest, darkest Lovecraftian terrors…. Who knew that a night at the museum could be so horrifying? Maybe it’s all those mummies and creepy eye-following portrait paintings, or maybe dark magicks are being bought and sold behind the scenes, even in the gift shop…
It’s up to you to defeat The Great Old Ones, Cthulu-Style…
Elder Sign hails from Arkham Horror Files through Fantasy Flight Games and was designed by Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson. Described as a game of suspense and supernatural investigation, essentially you and your friends are trapped in the museum trying to thwart the end of the world, classic cultist style. The Great Old Ones are rising up to join their wayward followers and it’s up to you to stop them. An Ancient One will be unleashed upon the unsuspecting world if you don’t prevail before world annihilation.
The museum has been a façade in which monsters and cultists facilitate the coming of the end by acting as harbingers of doom in so many different ways. The setting is vast but you can only explore a few rooms at a time, as laid out in an array of six cards drawn at random and replaced as the horrors within are defeated, some of which can unlock new locations in another dimension. Each room has a series of tasks that are accomplished by rolling special dice to match, making sure to satisfy all of the card requirements before vanquishing the evil lurking there.
So many people, so many ways to perish…
Investigators are drawn randomly from the character deck. Each possesses unique stats and abilities that aid them in some tasks, ignoring certain card effects, possessing talents useful in navigating otherworldly realms, gaining more loot, and so on. If your investigator perishes, you lose all of your swag and the world is one step closer to doomsday. But you can keep playing by drawing another investigator and rejoining the fray.
The goal is to collect Elder Signs, eldritch symbols that sealed away the Ancient Ones. How many such sigils you need varies depending on which Ancient One is about to be released. You can earn them from your adventures solving rooms in the museum or gain them using the spoils of your conquests. Items offer assistance in the form of extra dice, holding rolls for later use, and more. There are common items, unique items, spells, and even sidekicks that can aid you in a myriad of ways.
Well-guarded secrets lurk at every turn…
Elder Sign is a little too true to life for me – I almost didn’t review it because I have recurring amnesia when it comes to this game. Apparently the Great Old Ones have massive powers that extend beyond the cards and the dice and the walls of the museum that I am personally deeply attuned to. Fortunately my friends don’t seem to have this problem so they can keep me on track.
Hell, we must have played Elder Sign 4 or 5 times before I could even recognize or remember its name. Still now, the game itself is a complete blank to me every time we set it up until we get a ways in and it starts to be somewhat familiar again. And now it slips from my psyche even as I type this review.
But I do enjoy the game. It’s another cooperative game, which I love. It scales well, whether you are playing solo or with 7 of your best buds. The fast-paced dice-rolling adventures and card text are flavorful and amusing. Although it can be frustrating going up against the same scenarios over and over when you are losing ground, the game is pretty easy to get the hang of (thank goodness since I have to relearn it every time).
My biggest gripe is that it often turns into a slogfest trying to get enough sigils to vanquish the rising evil, and so it goes on for a long long long long time. The game claims to only take 1-2 hours, but we typically seem to drag it out for much longer into the night.
I am giving Elder Sign exactly 4 Cthulus. Since I can’t seem to recall why I wouldn’t give it more or less, it is earning precisely 4. I can only invite you to explore the museum and thwart the horrors that lurk behind the beautifully curated displays to save the world for yourselves, as I have no recollection of what we were just talking about… (4 / 5)
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Review: A Plague Tale series
Asobo Studios A Plague Tale series consisting of Innocence (2019) and Requiem (2022) has been out for a while. Weirdly enough, I struggled to put my thoughts into words about these games until now. The way I see it, it’s impossible to talk about one without the other, so let’s dive in, shall we?
Plot and characters
The story of A Plague Tale games takes loose inspiration from the Black Plague times with a touch of the Hundred Years’ War. Amicia and Hugo are siblings on the run from soldiers while also fighting off infected rats, meeting allies along the way. A huge theme of Innocence is Amicia finding a solution for Hugo’s long-term sickness. As one would suspect, it turns out to be connected to the plague itself. Amicia also goes from being a disconnected older sister to his biggest protector throughout the game.
Hugo himself is more or less an annoying kid who wants his mother. This is frankly a realistic characterization as he actually speaks and acts as a child would act. Granted, him essentially walking into the Pope’s trap is frustrating but the climax needed to be set up somehow. I also enjoyed Lucas’s character as an alchemist apprentice as he proved to be one of the more consistent helpers to the duo.
While Innocence ends on a hopeful note, with the characters on the verge of starting over somewhere new and the plague contained, Requiem shows this was a fake out. The sequel really puts Amicia through her paces. Her character is broken both physically and mentally to the point where she is barely recognizable. Hugo is more mature, although his insistence on this magical island that will fix the Macula issue is an immediate red flag. It’s not surprising the supposed safe haven turns into hell quite quickly.
The generational curse where the protector and carrier story repeats itself means a tragic ending for our protagonists. This means it can feel fruitless to play the two installments as the whole point of Amecia’s journey is to protect Hugo at all costs, which proves to be impossible. Was it because of certain choices they made or just extremely unfortunate circumstances? Either way, I felt horrible for them both while playing Requiem, so at least it invoked a strong emotion in me.
The series is a third-person stealth adventure with survival horror elements. Innocence has a clear-cut mechanic that relies on Amicia sneaking past or distracting threats with a certain number of puzzles to get past the rats. She is also extremely vulnerable, dying from one enemy hit, forcing the player to start all over. This is something Requiem updates, adding the opportunity for you to recover by running away from the enemy.
It can be frustrating to have to restart a whole section because of one mistake. However, it does make the player think methodically about what the best approach is. I found the challenges a tad repetitive which stopped me from binge-playing the game, but that’s just my opinion.
After taking this time to digest my feelings towards A Plague Tale games, I can still vouch for the amazing experience. The historical aspects are endearing, and the graphics are beautiful, as is the score. The scriptwriters knew what kind of emotional punches would hit the players just right and the voice actors really gave it all. It’s obvious a lot of love went into this project and I am grateful to have played it.
Regardless, there were certain aspects of the story that for me personally, did not sit right. I am not a massive fan of a tragedy that ends, well, in tragedy, especially with hints history will repeat itself again. The entire concept of the ‘greater good’ and the main characters sacrificing their happiness has been done before and while I can understand why they went that way, it also left me feeling a bit empty.
(4 / 5)
The Last of Us: Episode 7: Left Behind
The Last of Us series is winding down with only three episodes left. Directed by Liza Johnson and written by Neil Druckmann, “Left Behind” adapts the video game’s DLC story of the same name. Ellie and Joel are hiding out in a basement, and Joel is suffering greatly from his stabbing. He orders Ellie to go back to Tommy and leave him behind, but she’s reluctant. The episode cuts to a flashback of the events that happened before Ellie and Joel met, thus beginning the sweet, tragic backstory of our young protagonist.
Ellie is stuck in a FEDRA boarding school in Boston. Her best friend and roommate, Riley, ran away a few weeks back and Ellie has been grieving the loss. She gets into fights with classmates and even sends one girl to the infirmary to get 15 stitches. Everything changes when Riley suddenly returns and reveals she joined the Fireflies, the organization FEDRA is training students to fight and kill.
Ellie disapproves of her friend’s choices, but there isn’t anything she can say that will change Riley’s mind. However, as a sort of apology for leaving without saying goodbye, Riley asks Ellie to sneak out for a few hours and join her on a little adventure. Ellie reluctantly agrees.
The two sneak into an abandoned mall that was once used to hoard infected. Now it is filled with wonders and surprises beyond the youths’ wildest dreams. The girls connect like they haven’t been separated for weeks, and their chemistry is sweet and wholesome. Riley gives Ellie an array of gifts, from a photo booth and carousel ride to an arcade with Mortal Kombat and a brand new pun book.
All Good Things End
The evening comes to a halt when Riley reveals the Fireflies are sending her to the Atlanta base and this is her last night in Boston. Ellie is furious and runs away, fully intended on returning back to her dorm room. But she only gets so far before caving into her feelings and running back to Riley. They reunite in a Halloween store, where they wear goofy wolf and clown masks (replicas of the game’s masks) and dance to Etta James’ “I Got You Babe.” They share a kiss and the moment is so delicate.
Everything is perfect until it’s not.
An infected emerges into the store and attacks the girls. Riley shoots it and Ellie stabs it to death, but neither are unscathed. The clicker bit both of them. At the moment, any and all hope has been destroyed.
HBO’s “Left Behind” is the show’s truest adaptation of the video game thus far. The show cuts out the parts of the video game where Ellie roams through a mall and evades hunters as she searches for a first aid kit for Joel. Instead, The Last of Us focuses on Ellie’s history with her best friend and first love, Riley.
Just as Bella Ramsey is the perfect casting for Ellie, Storm Reid is perfect as Riley. The actors’ chemistry maintains the game’s charm; their portrayal of teenagers after an apocalyptic pandemic is pure and authentic. For the first time, Ellie and Riley can act like the kids they are, not the soldiers every adult is training them to be. It is endearing to see their relationship come to life.
Ellie’s backstory mirrors Joel’s in that it emphasizes their experiences of loss and grief. The pair have formed a connection they cannot lose. It is because of this that, at the end of “Left Behind,” Ellie goes against Joel’s wishes and stays with him to help him heal. She had to leave one friend behind before and she refuses to do it again.
“Left Behind” deserves five out of five Cthulhu. (5 / 5)
There are only just a few episodes left in The Last of Us. Episode 8 releases Sunday, March 5, where we should expect to meet the notorious cult leader, Dave. Until then, check out the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.
The Last of Us: Episode 6: Kin
Joel reunites with Tommy in The Last of Us‘ sixth episode, “Kin.” It was written by Craig Mazin and directed by Jasmila Žbanić, who take us to Jackson, Wyoming, a town with electricity, hot water and community. It’s a reality that feels like a dream. After worrying so long about where Tommy was, it turns out he is in better shape than Joel could have ever imagined.
It’s been a few months since Henry and Sam’s deaths, and Joel and Ellie have finally reached Tommy’s rumored location. But it’s not just Tommy who’s doing well for himself; his younger brother has a new wife, Maria (Rutina Wesley). Together they help run the whole town, taking turns doing patrol and other maintenance that keeps the town running. The Last of Us‘ set design of Jackson is akin to the second video game; in the first game, Tommy and Maria were still working on the getting the town running and nowhere near as accomplished. This minor adjustment adds a new immersive experience to the show, and emphasizes Joel’s qualms about how competent he is to take care of Ellie.
While Joel and Tommy reconnect, Maria brings Ellie into her home and let’s her take a shower and gives her a brand new period cup as a present. It is with Maria that Ellie discovers Joel had a daughter who died at the beginning of the outbreak in 2003.
Joel and Tommy reconnect in a bar, where Joel begins to wonder if Ellie would be better off finishing the route with Tommy in his place. Joel confesses that Ellie is immune and needs to reach a medical center in Colorado. Joel recounts everything he’s done wrong, how he’s not equip to take Ellie any further and protect her. He asks Tommy to do the journey for him, but Maria is pregnant and Tommy is reluctant to take such a drastic risk. After more pleading, Joel finally convinces Tommy to take Ellie. A new plan is set for the next day.
Ellie, however, overheard this conversation between the two brothers and is disappointed with Joel. He’s the only person he trusts, and he betrayed her. Ellie argues that she “is not Sarah,” to which Joel counters, “I sure as hell ain’t your dad.” Whether she likes it or not, she’s going with Tommy.
The next morning, Ellie sits in her bedroom and is greeted with disappointment when Tommy opens the door and asks if she’s ready to leave. She reluctantly says yes, and they head to the stables where Joel is prepping a horse. He tells Ellie that she should have a decision in the matter, and she immediately chooses Joel. They move forward to Colorado.
The duo eventually reaches an abandoned university in Colorado and discover the Fireflies are now located at a medical center in Utah. Suddenly, an ambush hits. Joel and Ellie are able to fight their attackers off, but one manages to stab Joel in the stomach before falling to his death. Ellie helps Joel onto the horse and they ride far enough away to safety. However, Joel can only go so far before he succumbs to the stabbing and falls off the horse. The episode ends with a horrified Ellie, trying in desperation to resuscitate him, but he cannot wake up.
Just like the video game, HBO’s The Last of Us is more than just a show about “zombies” or violence. It implements empathetic writing and various cinematic elements to study personhood and the human connection in dire times. Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin do a phenomenal job writing scripts for characters fans can connect to and love no matter how long they exist on screen.
Bill and Frank, Henry and Sam, and Tommy and Maria only exist in one or two episodes. Yet their impact is enormous, shaping the world in a way our two main protagonists could not do alone. While in theory they may just be supporting characters, The Last of Us finds a way to make them more than that. They are characters that stick with you long after they’re gone.
The filmmaking also cannot go unnoticed. From the intricate set designs to the natural outdoor world, the camera continues to bring the beloved video game to life through intimate still shots, timely cuts and a gorgeous score to support emotional scenes. The show also knows when to have fun with itself by including little Easter eggs, like when Ellie yells at a girl staring at her (a girl who looks quite similar to Dina in The Last of Us 2.) This is a rather slow part in the game (minus the various shootout sequences), and there is little to no action in episode six. This further proves The Last of Us‘ strength of a well-made series that benefits from creative liberties and changes, while still staying true to the source material. (4.5 / 5)
Until next time, check out the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.