Lucah: Born of a Dream emulates this incredibly unique sketch style like one would see kids doodle with on cardboard paper in an arts and crafts class. I can't say I have ever played anything that looks quite like it in the past, and that's a big testament to a group that was willing to take such a risk.
After waking up from a dream, you as the player find yourself in an expansive space surrounded by a frightening darkness. You don't know how you got there, and all you know is that you have to fight. Over the course of the journey, you discover as Lucah that you are cursed to have all of your inner demons come to life in front of you.
It is only through this quest for purification that you will be able to end the corruption that is slowly consuming you. But it's no surprise that the nightmare Lucah is going through will test one's endurance and mentality.
Right away, you get an immediate sense of how downright bleak everything through its display of harsh scribbles and heavy use of shadows. The contrast between the characters and the environments really draws you in, which is important as the designers pull off some rather stunning, and at times, shocking moments in conjunction with the austere ambiance. There were times I had to take a break from playing just to let some of those parts sink in.
Much like the art direction, the battle system is another extension of Lucah's personality, and it takes some getting used to as it employs the use of animation priority. Every swing you take with your weapon leaves you wide open for an enemy to counter if you miss, and it doesn't take many hits before you're dead.
As you go in for an attack, the camera zooms in to offer each landing blow a sense of weight. Every light and heavy attack can be chained together into a combo that ends with a strong finishing blow. There's a stamina meter that you will need to manage, so light attacks help to conserve this precious resource. A heavy blow may consume more stamina, but it can also break through an enemy's guard.
Combat is all about stamina management while keeping a good distance from your opponent. If you do end up making a mistake and get yourself nearly killed in battle, there is a consumable REWIND item that gives you a second chance at any encounter. I found myself using these constantly as the later battles can be particularly challenging, especially when dealing with large groups of high-level enemies, so it's a very welcome perk. Much like flasks in a certain other game, REWINDs can be restored at checkpoints.
Speaking of which, every checkpoint also gives you the opportunity to level up your character. It's a pretty basic system, though. To do so, you must contribute a certain amount of "la", this game's version of experience points. In an odd design choice, though, the upgrades you have access to are slightly randomized every time you level up.
For example, I wasn't allowed to continuously raise my max HP whenever I wanted to - I could only do it every other level. It didn't bother me too much, though, since I tend to spread my upgrades around when I play an RPG, but I'm sure there will be those out there who may not appreciate this.
But there's even more to the combat system. You also get access to a Familiar early on that can attack your opponents with long-range magic. This comes at the cost of the Charge meter, but this bar can be restored by landing attacks on the enemy. While it is meant to once again keep your foes at a distance, it also serves as a means to bide time while recovering stamina.
Finally, there are Mantras, which represent the different attack styles you can utilize. This includes altering the attack properties and combos involving the light and heavy attacks. You can even combine different Mantras together for one long, rolling combo that only ends when the stamina gauge is depleted.
This is all presented with these lo-fi sound effects and pixelated frequencies that may feel disjointed separately, but work together within this context to give the world some nice flavor. Coupled with the ominous music that seems like it comes straight out of Silent Hill or Corpse Party (though drawing comparisons wouldn't do the soundtrack the acknowledgment it truly deserves), and you have the makings for a foreboding adventure that really stuck with me throughout my experience playing Lucah.
Lucah is far more than a simple hack n' slash action RPG, and I found myself becoming invested with how intense some of the skirmishes became with all of these mechanics at my disposal. It's also quite challenging - even when I decided to switch to the Easy mode most of the way through the game just to see what it was like, I still had to be nimble on my feet or get quickly dispatched by the enemy. And while I was able to resolve this on my own, I quickly got lost a number of times trying to navigate the sometimes confusing level design.
Be that as it may, Lucah: Born of a Dream is a breathtaking adventure filled with well-crafted characterization that doesn't pull any punches in what is otherwise a linear experience. In delivering a very haunting atmosphere with an oftentimes depressing narrative that features multiple endings to unlock. Thanks to its esoteric world design and a satisfying combat system that gives you plenty of room to customize to your liking, this is one game I would highly recommend checking out.
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to RPG Site by the publisher.