As you’ll have heard by now, we’re tremendously excited about our latest JRPG release on Steam and GOG, Mary Skelter: Nightmares, but what is the game all about I hear you ask? Well you’ve come to the right place, because that’s exactly what I’ll be talking about today.
First and foremost, Mary Skelter: Nightmares is first and foremost a dungeon crawling RPG in the finest traditions of the genre, including first person, tile-based exploration, filling in large and complex dungeon maps, figuring out solutions to traps and navigational puzzles and opening up new pathways to continue your progress through the game.
While all those things might sound fairly standard for the dungeon crawling sub-genre, it’s the way these things are approached and the overall setting that make Mary Skelter: Nightmares a thoroughly unique experience. On top of these highly original takes on the genre’s staples, MSN as I’ll refer to it from now on, features some all-new features of its own. Read on to find out more!
A Twisted Fairy Tale:
The first thing to really grab you about MSN is its setting. This is a world that’s built upon foundations inspired by the classic fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Lewis Carrol among others.
MSN’s hero, Jack, and his childhood friend Alice are trapped in a mysterious living dungeon called “Jail”. Each day they’re subjected to terrible torments by Jail’s monster inhabitants, known as ‘Marchens’.
Soon, Jack and Alice are saved from this tortuous existence by a mysterious girl who introduces herself as ‘Red Riding Hood’. After witnessing their fellow escapees being cut down by a powerful Marchen called a Nightmare, Jack, Alice and Red Riding Hood head to the ‘Dawn’ organisation who hold out against the Marchens in a rebel-controlled area of Jail called the Liberated District.
Above: MSN features awesome Blood Maidens, like Sleeping Beauty, who’s talking to RRH here.
Jack soon discovers that Alice (as well as Red Riding Hood and a host of other heroines) are powerful Blood Maidens who can use the blood of defeated Marchens to unleash terrible magical powers and are Dawn’s best hope of breaking out of Jail forever. Jack too as potent abilities and can use his blood to temper and control the Blood Maiden’s powers, guarding them in combat and keeping them from entering the fearsome ‘Blood Skelter’ state if they spend too long under the corrupting influence of their fallen enemies’ blood.
As the player you’re dropped into this fascinating setting. You’ll get to know a whole gang of Blood Maidens and a rich supporting cast of Dawn members, as you discover the truth behind the living Jail, the Marchens and their mysterious and terrifying leader, Snark. Sounds pretty cool, right? :)
A Bloody Good Time:
As I mentioned above, several important mechanics in MSN revolve around blood, be it the powerful but corrupting influence of the Marchens’ blood, or the restorative and moderating properties of Jack’s blood on his allies. This blood affects the gameplay in various interesting ways:
From Weakness, Strength:
If you attack a Marchen’s elemental weakness, score a critical hit on it, or perform an ‘overkill’ (by killing it while dealing enough additional damage beyond its total HP) then blood splatters over your Blood Maiden, filling their Blood Splatter gauge. Once the gauge fills, the Blood Maiden enters ‘Massacre mode’, giving them a stat boost and access to very powerful special attacks.
It’s A Massacre:
Massacre mode is great, but you’ll have to be careful because every time a Blood Maiden gets Marchen blood on her, she is gradually corrupted, indicated by the Blood Splatter gauge darkening in colour.
Above: Cinderella has entered Massacre mode here. Time for the Marchens’ to panic!
Once a fully-corrupted Blood Maiden’s Blood Splatter gauge fills, she enters Blood Skelter mode, an even more powerful state than Massacre mode, but with terrible side-effects.
While in a Blood Skelter, the Blood Maiden is beyond control and will randomly attack friend or foe until she either dies or comes out of her Blood Skelter.
Above: Uhoh! This time Alice has entered a Blood Skelter… Could be good, could be VERY bad! :-\
This can sometimes work out great, if she smashes down a powerful group of enemies single handed, but can work out terribly if she zeroes in on her allies. Beware!
Licking the Blood Splatters of other Blood Maidens is also worth consideration as it empties their Blood Splatter gauge will bestow various stat boosts or buffs to the maiden who performed the Lick, depending on which maiden’s blood is absorbed. While this defers Massacre mode, it can have restorative effects and also prevent unwanted Blood Skelters, so this is worth keeping an eye on. ;)
See the Light:
Blood Splatters can also cover the dungeon environment with glowing pink blood spashes, helping illuminate darkened areas, which can be invaluable when being pursued by the deadly Nightmares’ that patrol each area of Jail. Speaking of which…
Having a Nightmare!
Another unique element of gameplay in MSN are the deadly and powerful Nightmares that patrol each area of the Jail. These creatures are nigh-on invulnerable to attack and only by finding and destroying the core that lurks somewhere within each district can its Nightmare be defeated. Until that point Jack and the Blood Maidens must keep alert for the Nightmares as they patrol their environment. When a Nightmare closes within a certain distance of your party you are warned and the map becomes invisible.
Above: Here’s a Nightmare. Panic stations!! Luckily I just knocked it down, so I can hopefully get away!
The player must either confront and hope to knock down the Nightmare, giving them a valuable time for escape, or else avoid it altogether and navigate the labyrinthine Jail until they pass out of range and the Nightmare moves on. These are tense times, but escape comes with its own rewards. There are rumours of some Nightmares that are so big they span multiple dungeon floors, but there is no concrete evidence for that as yet…
Keeping Jail Satisfied:
As the Jail is a living structure it likes to have its urges satisfied, and this mechanism has cool gameplay implications. Jail has three basic desires: Hunger, Libido and Sleep and each desire’s level of satisfaction is communicated by a meter. Performing different actions satisfies these meters until one of them is filled. The actions to fulfil each desire are:
· Hunger: Killing Marchens and causing Blood Splatters satisfies the Jail’s Hunger.
· Libido: Collecting Items, opening Chests and using Emotion Points in the Jail boosts its Libido.
· Sleep: Not taking damage during time periods when the Jail is sleeping boosts Sleep.
At certain times of the lunar cycle one desire is boosted quicker than the others, and performing the right actions during those times allows the player to manipulate which meter is filled first, to some degree.
Above: I’ve just maxed the Jail’s Hunger, so I get a nice reward. More gold please! ^^
Once you’ve boosted a desire to its fullest, the Jail will be satisfied and you’ll be offered a bonus by stopping a spinning wheel, a bit like some kind of Freudian game of Roulette. These boosts can recover physical damage or SP points, increase or decrease the likelihood of certain encounters, or even open up all-new areas of the Jail for exploration, so this is an essential - as well as an intriguing -element of gameplay in MSN.
Your Maidens’ Blood Abilities:
Each of your Blood Maidens’ has a unique Blood Ability that only they can use and which can be deployed during any dungeon at a cost to their SP (Magic) points. I don’t want to spoil the discover of these but they do really interesting things, such as triggering switches that can’t be reached on foot, gathering distant items to you, letting you nullify trap damage, move incredibly swiftly for a limited time, or even make a save point for re-use at any time once you’ve placed it.
Above: See that? That’s a save point. I put it there, using a Blood Ability. :)
Each of these abilities really opens the game up in interesting ways and it’s so cool to consider a new Blood Maiden’s Blood Ability once they’ve been acquired and then use it to move past a previously-inaccessible area in your current dungeon, or even ones previously cleared. If you hadn’t guessed, I really love the Blood Abilities! ^_^
Get a Job!
It’s not just us regular folk that need to find employment sometimes, but Blood Maidens too! Each of the maidens starts in a certain role by default, which dictates the Skills they can learn and the weapons they’re able to equip during exploration.
Above: Which of the many jobs available shall we give Red? If only it were so easy in real life! ;)
Once you’ve explored default job roles and acquired all the Skills you wish to, it’s a great idea to head to Dawn’s Laboratory and explore other Jobs. In this way you’ll be able to customise your Blood Maidens’ in various interesting ways, making a front row tank to protect weaker members of your party, or create a skill buffing maiden to boost the power of her allies from the back row. There are a TON of interesting possibilities that come out of the Job system in MSN, so they’re definitely worth exploring.
So, there are some of the exciting and fascinating gameplay features found within Mary Skelter: Nightmares, which is out on Steam and GOG, priced at $24.99 with a 40% launch discount reducing the price to just $14.99 We hope that this blog post has given you a little insight into what the game offers and we hope this has made you as excited to jump into Mary Skelter: Nightmares dark and fantastical world as we are.
Don’t have Nightmares, and thanks for reading!
Al and the Marchens of Ghostlight
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