Heretic’s Hope at the IFComp competition page /
First impression: Oh! What a goddamn stylish game.
Next first impression: And opening with a Mervyn Peake quote? Already, a game after my own heart.
Starting off, I became high priest of a religion I didn’t believe in, and improvised a prayer to crowd of enormous insects. I may have almost been drowned by a ghost, which also may not have been a ghost, but rather an aspect of a god that doesn’t seem to like me very much. I fist-fought a bee. I…enjoyed this game. A ton.
Really, I haven’t seen a world this intricate and interesting and populated by sentient bugs and memorable NPCs since Hollow Knight. I would happily play a much longer version of Heretic’s Hope, in which I’d be able to more gradually learn about this strange city and its inhabitants. (Side note: Signifer Olivalis is shaped like a friend.) In addition to the worldbuilding/lore, it was a very well-written endeavor, and visually pleasing. The music was well-selected: the pieces fit very well, but were also nice and ambient, fairly un-distracting from reading the text.
There are some things I am left wondering about this story, however–some of this may have been answered better in other branches (i.e. had I not made the decisions I had), I’m not sure. I found that I was much more interested in the denizens of the city, for example, than the boat, and I wondered if there was something I had missed. The game had me talk to every crewmember on the boat, which is fine, but not a very natural way of introducing a bunch of NPCs I’m supposed to feel anything toward later, I think. And then, after this group introduction–that’s it. There was never (in my playthrough) the opportunity to get back to them and talk to them…until the end. They had, as individuals, not much bearing on the story.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS (go play it first if you plan to!)
At the end, however, Eser escaped with them, at least in my playthrough. I felt positively about her escape, but for aforementioned reasons, I don’t think I felt any particular way about her hanging with the quirky crew, or with Leech, who we’re told is our friend. It did occur to me, though (and I have no idea if this was intended, or planned!) that it was a good potential setup for a sequel (or even a longer game), and that might give these characters, which it felt like the game wanted to matter, the space to actually–well–matter.
My other question surrounds Eser’s Weirdness, and it’s referenced a few times. By the end of the game, though, I still never had a clear sense of what their Weirdness really meant. They weren’t wholly human, I gathered that. Beyond that, or what it meant for the plot, I had little idea. I felt as though the game’s story would have played out exactly the same if Eser had been full-blooded, eye-color-other-than-golden, human. I’m inclined to wonder if, as I mentioned, I missed something, perhaps in a route I did not take or just me failing to put some pieces somewhere together.
All that said, I super enjoyed this game, and the technical polish was of a professional quality (as was the prose). It’s one I could see myself playing again in the future, making different decisions, for the hell of it.
Also, I got to give a benediction to some maggots at the behest of a face-stealing bugman. What more could I ask for in a game, I tell you?