After playing the MISTOVER demo for a few hours, I was completely hooked. MISTOVER labels itself as a “MIST-ical” RPG with survival elements. What it doesn’t tell you is that this game has a fantastic dark and gritty art style, excellent character development, an intriguing story, and tough-as-nails, don’t-ever-come-back difficulty. After a good few hours into my first playthrough, I started asking myself if MISTOVER was better than Operencia and if it was my game of the year. MISTOVER is fun and satisfying on nearly all levels, and I was absolutely enjoying everything about it… until the game revealed its true self and I learned how hardcore it really was. MISTOVER is going to go down in history as the best game that I can’t recommend to anyone. Take a seat, I think you all are going to find this journey into the mist enlightening.
MISTOVER isn’t a radically new breed of game, but it does do a few things differently. If I had to label MISTOVER, I would consider it a hardcore turn-based adventure RPG that walks a fine line between chaotic neutral and chaotic evil. I’ll be frank with you, MISTOVER is severely punishing in nearly every regard once you step foot into the mist. I was quite surprised at just how punishing it was after sinking 6 or more hours into my first playthrough with a disastrous, heartbreaking ending.
The core gameplay of MISTOVER comes in the form of expeditions, which are essentially dungeon-like quests where you get to adventure with your crew out into the mist. The ultimate goal is to not-die, but as you may soon find out, death is an all-too-often occurrence in the world of MISTOVER. These expeditions are clearly labeled with theme, dungeon size, available loot, and monster levels, so you know what you’re getting into before you even step foot off the pier. MISTOVER is turn-based, so each step while on expedition consumes two resources: luminosity and fullness. Luminosity helps repel the fog of war and increases your vision when full and fullness helps to replenish your HP with every turn. Combat is also turn-based and behaves as you would expect, everyone takes their turn to beat the opposing force up. Once you enter the dangerous mist-covered lands, all bets are off. MISTOVER is completely hardcore. It will save after every move to prevent save-scumming and it also comes stock with permadeath, even on the easy difficulty. Watch your step and plan each turn-based move and combat strike accordingly or you’ll soon be starting over.
This is where things get a little tricky. How well you complete MISTOVER expeditions will influence the direction of the doomsday clock: miss performing certain actions or abandon the level early, and it will tick forward. Succeed beyond 100% and you’ll earn yourself a few ticks backward. You successfully complete these expeditions by defeating enemies, opening chests, searching through debris, and activating light flowers. As of the most recent update, there’s now a competition rate bar at the bottom of the screen which makes knowing which side of the succeed or fail scale you are on. Once again, MISTOVER is unforgiving, and failing enough times to tick the doomsday clock forward will immediately end your game and shoot you back to the starting menu after a few tears and a cutscene.
Being successful in MISTOVER relies on properly managing your crew and their skills, outfitting them appropriately, packing sufficient supplies, using a good combat formation, and having an obscene amount of luck. Facilities in town will help you with nearly all of these tasks; there’s a shop where you can buy and sell health- and other expedition-related consumables, a training camp where you can level up your skills, an alchemy workshop where you’re able to upgrade equipment, a support lab that allows you to unlock more permanent upgrades, and a storage warehouse for viewing and equipping all of your loot.
A Great Looking Pillar of Despair
MISTOVER has a pretty dark and brooding story that includes pretty much everyone being dead, and the expeditions corps being the last hope of all living kind. Now I don’t know how all this ends, as I definitely didn’t reach the ending- maybe there’s a Wizard of Oz twist or turn in there somewhere. MISTOVER looks absolutely great though. In my opinion, the art style they used here is top-notch, looking both dark and dangerous, yet still remaining absolutely beautiful. Most of the attacks and spells have a sort of raw blood splatter to them, which might not be for everyone but fits the dark narrative theme of the whole situation.
Recruits and Jinxes
Adding members to your crew involves seeking out new recruits inside the expedition center. These recruits rotate on a semi-frequent basis, so be sure to pick up the ones that look interesting before they rotate out. These recruits aren’t freely doled out, and require saving up enough gold reserves to plug any holes in your crew in the event that a party member dies. Each recruit falls into one of the following classes: Werewolf, Shadow Blade, Ronin, Onmyouji, Grim Reaper, Paladin, Sister, and Witch. Each of these classes are entirely unique and have their own set of skills and jinxes. Not every recruit has the same set of skills, so keep an eye out for any differences.
Jinxes are one of those unique MISTOVER twists I mentioned earlier. They are essentially passive character attributes that will either help or screw your recruits. There’s too many to be listed here, but some of them can be really bad. A jinx called “Mist Contamination” gives a character a 50% chance to decrease their attack by 10% for 3 turns. Others may decrease stats based on fullness, luminosity levels, or even formation position. Fortunately, you can re-roll some jinxes at the training camp with a little bit of gold and a fairly rare resource called purified mist, though not all of them can be modified. This feature really helps give each character a unique feel, as new jinxes are added every time that a recruit levels up. It’s quite an expansive system, but is only one part of recruit development.
Recruit skills are the actual spells and attacks you will use when you encounter combat out in the mist. After surviving expeditions, you will gain experience points and after enough experience points you will level up. Leveling up grants that character a skill point which can then be used to level up an existing skill or learn one from another recruit. Skills are standard for each class but each recruit won’t have all of them unlocked so you’ll have to rely on learning from other recruits. By utilizing the training camp your main characters can learn skills from other similarly classed recruits. This requires a skill point, which are only acquired from leveling up, a small amount of gold, and the recruit you wish to learn the skill from. After the skill learning is complete the recruit will leave so be sure this is something you want to do. Combining cross-team skill learning with jinxes is sure to keep you on the lookout at all the new recruits, determining if any are worth the purchase, and changing things up if needed.
MISTOVER has a unique type of skill called a co-op skill. These are special skills that can only be utilized when certain formation conditions exist. For example, the Shadow Blade’s Magical Shuriken co-op skill can only be used when a Witch is next to the Shadow Blade. Co-op skills are further complicated by the enemy’s ability to force move your recruits around the three different lanes. These skills are devastating skills that usually impact the entire field and can quickly turn the tide of a battle.
There are even more skills in MISTOVER! Expedition skills are used outside of combat while adventuring in the mist and help navigate, escape, and basically survive expeditions. For instance, the Paladin has an expedition skill that allows you to destroy debris that usually can only be removed by sacrificing HP. As with everything in MISTOVER, nothing is without its consequences. Expedition skills cost a bit of fullness every time you use them, so spamming them to win is not an option. I find myself running out of fullness more than anything else when on expeditions so my usage of expedition skills is usually limited.
Equipment items in MISTOVER can only be acquired from looting during expeditions. When out risking your crew’s life in the mist, you’ll find keys that will unlock chests containing a variety of items. Some of these will be armor, weapons, and accessories for your recruits. Other items might be polluted consumables, journals, purified mist, and mist of the forest vials. The alchemy workshop in town is entirely dedicated to equipment items. Here you can disassemble equipment for essences which are used to fuse pieces of equipment into other pieces, upgrading them in the process. Equipment items can only be fused a set number of times, so once again a risk versus reward decision comes into play: do you fuse and upgrade the item right now for a minor bonus or hold out for better fuseable equipment?
Journals are used within the town’s support lab, and are more permanent upgrades for your entire crew. Upgrades such as increasing the maximum level of fullness or luminosity can be acquired here if you have enough journals of a specific type. I really wish these upgrades were account-wide and not specific to the game, as it would have given the player something to work towards. That’s not MISTOVER’s way, though- things might be too easy in such a case, and MISTOVER is hardly easy.
It’s Game Over, Man! Game Over!
MISTOVER is pretty darn punishing. Personally, it’s way more punishing than anything I usually play, but I understand why some people live for this level of difficulty. This doesn’t mean that MISTOVER gets a free pass underneath the guise of “hardcore difficulty,” though. The game constantly makes the player struggle with high-risk-versus-high-reward decisions. That would be enough, but it things a tad too far by adding negative consequences when leveling in the form of jinxes. Roguelikes all revolve around having really tight, fun, and worthwhile game loops, yet MISTOVER possesses loops that can go way above 4 or even 8 hours and end all too abruptly, with no permanent upgrades carried over or anything to start the next run with. It’s quite sickening to think about spending 6 hours on a playthrough only to be killed and brought right back to the start menu to start a fresh new game. Not even the support lab upgrades carry over, and that’s a dirty shame.
Thankfully, a recent update on the Nintendo Switch version has made this all the more bearable. Gold costs have been decreased, a success meter while on an expedition is now visible, regeneration rates are increased, and numerous bugs have been squashed. MISTOVER is still hardcore and won’t save you from stupid or even accidental bad decisions, but the new balance adjustments and quality of life improvements significantly upgrade the experience. I would still stay away if any of the above points have you concerned. It’s one of the worst games of the year for me in this regard. But it’s also one of the best…
The End of the Expedition
MISTOVER is a great, horrible, magnificent, and painful game. I’ve never gone back and forth on a game so much this year, but I can confidently say MISTOVER is a punishing epic that’s not for everyone. I really enjoy the experience when things are going well, but when events suddenly and assuredly go South, the feeling of progress and enjoyment vanishes completely, leading to hours and hours of rebuilding. I just can’t look past the horribly long game loop when time is such a valuable resource and when there’s no shortage of other magnificently crafted games on the Nintendo Switch. Before the recent update, I couldn’t recommend this title to anyone except the most elite masochists, but this update fixed a lot of aspects and renewed my love for MISTOVER. The combat and character management has quite a bit of depth, the expeditions are risky and dark fun endeavors, and the difficulty is punishing. I’m a sucker for turn-based, strategic style RPGs, and MISTOVER hits high notes on all of these elements. When all is said and done, the game should be considered a masterpiece of the genre- severely punishing, but a masterpiece nonetheless.