Lucah: Born of a Dream caught my eye this summer while attending the best post-convention show at E3 2018, The Mix, with buddy and fellow editor Cory Galliher. Neon colors flashed across a black background with the naïveté of a child’s scrawl evoked emotions that were equal parts disturbing and intrigued. I may be a green horn when it comes to studying the artwork of gameplay (translation: if my eyes like it I’ve declared it art on the spot) but I’ve never come across anything quite like the chaos of color like Lucah. I knew I had to play it!
Lucah exists in a world where nightmares come to life and they’re out to defeat our hero. Lucah will face monsters, harsh truths, and carries the burden of stopping the Corruption in its tracks. Refusing to accept their role as the “Marked” one he descends into a world presented with the disturbing clarity of a child tasked with interpreting the hellish landscape that lays before them. Don’t let the colors fool you – nightmares are about and they’ll claim your soul given the chance. Prepare yourselves!
On the surface Lucah is simple enough, mixing elements of survival horror and a classic RPG presented with bright neon colors dancing across a liquid night. While light on the narrative, the deeper you dip into the world it becomes clear there is more going on then first presented. Any adults found in the world don’t quite seem the same and the emotions of other characters appear drained. Story fragments can be uncovered by seeking out Memories represented by glowing balls scattered throughout the world. Items, abilities, and effects called “Virtues” are represented the same way to make them easier to collect. I’ll touch back on these later, because trying to cover it all at once might attract the monsters.
The core of Lucah lays in its fighting mechanics and from the beginning you’re welcome to customize your character as you see fit. You’re given a Familiar early on, a little creature capable of shooting out bullets at enemies. Over time, you’ll find more of these adorable guys with better abilities and stronger attacks to aide you in battle. Your main attacks are called Heavy and Light; heavy attacks are slower to execute, but deliver more damage while light attacks are thrown in quick succession, but do less damage. Charging both deals more damage and should be used with each other for hard hitting combos.
You can also give Lucah an extra edge by attaching effects called “Virtues” that increase stamina regeneration for delivering attacks or recover health over time. There are too many to list, but basically you can outfit Lucah however you like as long as you find the Virtues scattered throughout the world; giving him stronger abilities and better ways to survive this living nightmare.
RPG elements come into play with the leveling system which can only be done at one of the save points. Stamina is drained each time an attack is used and will only regenerate over time; the familiar uses a similar system referred to as “Charge” that is replenished when Heavy and Light attacks are delivered. Health, stamina, etc. can be increased by purchasing upgrades at the save points, but the choice is randomized each time a purchase is made. Some people might find this irritating if they want to focus on increasing Lucah’s attack power or want to boost his health. I tend to round out my characters to ensure I’m ready for any encounter, so the system worked well for me.
There’s substance to every aspect of Lucah whether it’s reading the cryptic text of a Memory of someone giving up hope or coming across a line of abandoned houses. The art style is reminiscent of violent scribblings represented on a chalkboard and the color slashes accompanying each attack is delivered gave a disturbing sense of action. When a monster died their corpse didn’t disappear in a cloud of smoke like I expected, but instead lay where they’d been slain. Crimson blood splashed across the ground or the slump of a body that remained there until I left the area; there were times I questioned whether my hero was doing the right thing or had fallen into a crazed hysteria.
Lucah: Born of a Dream struck a chord with me that few games this past year have managed to, one that began – and stuck with me – long after I played the original demo. The simple nature of its presentation and wildly stylistic art style are only the beginning of an experience that will surprise even the most hardened gamer. What’s most surprising about Lucah, though, is the mysterious story that’s slowly revealed over time, if you choose it to be, that made me question everything I’d seen before. Couple in truly rewarding gameplay and you’ve gone one of the year’s best games, indie or otherwise.