Lucah is a stylistic action RPG that knows what it is — a nightmarish world with a punctuated, solid combat system over an atmospheric and sometimes downright fearful world. Lucah is in Kickstarter, so while you’re backing it, I’ll examine it just for you.
The video and the written post are different, both in format and in material. The former is a more casual analysis with Max and covers all grounds, while the latter is more organized albeit less topics covered.
Mantras are elemental magic wielded by Lucah, each with their own unique light- and heavy-attacks and chains, Charge Magic, and passives. Each Mantra is unique in its own right, and that’s where the combat system truly shines. There’s the possibility of different play-styles. Not only does each Mantra provide that possibility by offering mutual uniqueness, but so does Paradigm Shift and passives.
Paradigm Shift basically means switching between two Mantras. Attacks can be chained together through Paradigm Shifting, which opens up an additional realm of possibilities.
Each Mantra comes with a [Main] and a [Sub] — weapon and passive, respectively. The passives can be mixed and matched with different Mantras, and so can the Familiars. This allows for a satisfying amount of variety that we can experiment with.
The Charge System
Familiars are Lucah’s long-range weapon. They use Charge, but provide a much safer method of damaging enemies. Familiars are separate from Mantras. So while they can be mix and matched with any Mantra, finding them in the world becomes its own satisfying endeavor.
Charge is the purple bar that gets used up by Familiars and Charge Magic. It becomes replenished by hitting enemies, which is always a welcome mechanic that feels rewarding and never feels unfair, especially for a game that is mostly about close-quarters combat.
Charge Magic uses Charge to unleash a massive blow. Charge Magic can be the final blow in any attack chain if there’s enough stamina (and charge) left.
Again, there’s so much potential with Mantras (and their inherit systems) that providing such uniqueness is key. This uniqueness will help push the player forward in the abstract and mysterious world they live in. More importantly, this uniqueness strives to make exploration and discovery fun. Which leads to the Story.
What An Abstract Nightmare
I’m not going to talk about the Story itself, but rather its use. No, it’s not because I have no idea what the story is… (reading the story snippet on the Kickstarter page doesn’t count).
The player’s desire to explore and discover needs to be built and nurtured. The demo is short enough that I can’t tell whether or not the story will become more understandable, but it’s a very abstract story at its current state. This is fine as long as it remains both interesting and not confusing, especially once the cutscenes kick in down the road (after the demo ends).
With that said, however, a great way to promote said world is by introducing other characters, or NPCs. The demo does a great job demonstrating the potential with the yellow girl who tells us that her friend went to save them and never came back. If the right combination of story and characterization (no matter how subtle) hits, then we’ve discovered gold beyond the spot-on core combat mechanics.
May I Dodge?
Having the ability to dodge at the right time and avoid damage feels great. However, Lucah can’t dodge while in an attack animation, or at least for part of the attack animation. This is crucial because it tends to promote “poking” behavior. If the player can’t reliably be within close-range of enemies, then they can either poke or use their Familiar.
Lucah is all about close-range combat that’s tied in with positioning. The player should be able to cancel-dodge out of an attack in order to reposition themselves around enemies. When enemies deal more than half a health bar of damage and I can’t reliably stay within a comfortable close-range distance, my options are limited.
Rewind My Health Please
Enemies do deal half or more of a health bar in the demo (I played on Normal difficulty). Seeing that health bar chunk like that feels rather unsettling and sometimes frustrating.
There’s another mechanic called Rewind that reverses Lucah’s health to what it was before the current enemy arena at the cost of respawning enemies in said arena. While it sounds like a welcome lenience, I never ended up using it. If the health chunking was fixed, I could see the Rewind mechanic never being used. At that point, however, there would be no reason to remove it since it would become a side-mechanic for those days that the player just can’t get a grip in-game.
Lucah Cannot Brave The Darkness
Every fault covered thus far has been minor and clearly overshadowed by the adept core mechanics (albeit I would put a focus on the dodging being tweaked). Now it’s time for the biggest game design flaw in Lucah: You Cannot Brave The Darkness. The Darkness is an anti-backtracking mechanism setup for every new room or area you walk into, even sub-areas within areas.
What this means is simple: If you miss something, that’s it. You can teleport back later, but every enemy respawns and it overall demotes exploration.
The demo has the possibility of missing two Mantras. If the player runs down the path that leads onward, they won’t be able to backtrack to check out any other routes or areas. This not only discourages the player from exploration, but even worse, the player won’t want to play any further knowing they could easily miss something so important from pure, unwilling luck.
The fix is simple. The Mantras, Notes, Familiars, and so on, can all still be hidden away in their own little rooms, but at least allow the player to discover them. Limit the Darkness to entire new sections/areas of the game, so that entire areas can be freely explored and discovered.
Lucah is currently on Kickstarter. Despite any complaints or flaws, Lucah has an almost perfect core mechanical system in place. The Mantras’ chains/combos, Charged Magic, heavy attack variety, close-quarters intense back-and-forth action, it’s got it all down.
You can find the creator Colin @melessthanthree on Twitter.