Dark Souls utterly captivated me when I first tried it out this year. A completely different game - Hyper Light Drifter - kept me addicted til the end with a fluid and interesting combat system as well as some outstanding pixel graphics. So far, Lucah: Born of a Dream feels like both of those games all the while taking on a style all its own.
Lucah: Born of a Dream is an action-adventure game developed by melessthanthree and the product of a successful Kickstarter. You take the role of Lucah, fighting a nightmarish onslaught of "inner demons." That's about as much as I've figured out so far, but I suspect as I continue on with the game, I'll be able to decipher what seems like a madman's terrible nightmare.
The word "madman" really comes to mind when you're playing Lucah, mostly because of its unique art style. I thought I had seen the full potential of pixel graphic games, but Lucah proves me wrong. Jagged, wild lines form the dark, distorted environments of the game. It's a wild, beautiful mess, and I think that's what the developers were going for. Lucah is discernible enough, but enemies and some friendly NPCs look demented.
Yes, this style is truly unique. Sometimes though, I feel like it can be a little difficult to discern some enemies and projectiles, just because there's a lot going on in the midst of combat. Also, it has some flashing lights, so if you're sensitive to that sort of thing, you might not find Lucah to your liking.
The graphical style is unique, and so is the combat. I really like the system so far, though it took some time for me to understand. I don't think the instructions were clear enough. Here's how it works: you have heavy and light attacks that drain a stamina gauge. Because of that stamina gauge, you can't can't spam attacks wildly. Mantras - a unique elemental magic - also dictate what these heavy and light attacks do, and you'll find many different mantras in the game. You can essentially switch between two different loadouts customized with different mantras. Mantra will visually change Lucah's color, but they also vary. So one mantra might deal heavy damage but drain your stamina fast, and vice versa. For one loadout, you can assign a light attack mantra and heavy attack mantra, so you have a lot of freedom in combat.
Along with mantra are familiars, little circular creatures that can shoot projectiles. This gives you some freedom to move around enemies while still damaging them without getting up in their face. These familiars have their own separate gauge that refills as you land physical attacks, so you can't constantly spam it. While in close proximity to enemies, you can dash around and parry them to avoid taking damage altogether. This game rewards smart movement and knowing when to commit attacks - get too greedy and it can be your downfall.
That idea is a little like Dark Souls, but the combat feels a lot more like Hyper Light Drifter. Both Lucah and Hyper Light Drifter share a similar feel in movement - like being able to dash around - as well as in the ranged and melee attacks. This is definitely a good thing for Lucah, but with that added customization of loadouts, it feels fresh.
To add a bit more depth, so far I've found items that let me rewind an enemy encounter as well as refill health. I did find one flaw in the rewind: if an enemy is still in its attack animation while you use a rewind, and you're in the enemy's path once you spawn at the entrance of the encounter, you'll get hit by it. I feel like it should reset the positions of the enemies and their actions too. All in all, though, it's a more forgiving game in that regard, but the game's enemies are still punishing. Like Dark Souls, enemies have a "tell" to them, so you know when they will strike. It's more apparent in Lucah, so I never felt cheated. I just needed to get better at parrying and learning the enemy.
The Dark Souls vibes I got wasn't just from combat, because Lucah has camps that allow you to save and jump freely between. I didn't find a reason to go back to a previous camp yet, and I can't be certain if there's considerable backtracking like in Dark Souls. Besides serving as a save point, these camps refill health and items, and allow you to upgrade your stats. You get a type of currency called La that can be used in exchange for these upgrades, much like souls in Dark Souls, but you don't lose them upon death. This means increasing health, attack power, stamina consumption and even tech. What is tech, you ask? They're just more upgrades that are beneficial to you. For example, one increases the stopping power of your familiar. There's a limit to how many tech you can use at once, and some have more weight than others, so it adds an extra layer to combat customization.
One last thing I'll comment on is the ability to tune the game to your liking. The game can be as easy or hard as you want. Near the start of the game, you can choose the level of both Sin and Punishment. Sin is enemy strength, while Punishment is player vulnerability. Do you want hard enemies that hit you much harder? Go for it. Or maybe you want to breeze through the game - well, you can do that by making the enemies vulnerable and you formidable. On top of that, there's "tech" options that allow you to disable UI elements like player health, or get rid of the ability to parry. You can even enable more health, infinite stamina and more. I don't know what the point of it is other than to give the player complete freedom over the game, but I can appreciate that nonetheless.
There is an ominous percent bar in the top right corner of the screen I haven't figured out yet. It ticks up even more when I die, and it creeps me out. Nor do I really know what's going on with the story. I think it'll take some more time for me to play and figure it out, but so far I can say that Lucah: Born of a Dream is a game that any indie enthusiast that appreciates a unique art style and engaging combat can enjoy.