Presented during the last iPhone conference, Pascal’s Wager presents himself as a Dark Souls with real ambitions.
The Dark Souls franchise, and its offspring, is commonly linked to the notion of requirement. A requirement that is nourished in the details and leaves little room for technical mistakes and gameplay imbalances. So when we learned of the existence of a representative of the genre on iOS (while waiting for an Android version), our curiosity was piqued. How does the so-called Pascal’s Wager cope on platforms – iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, therefore – that are often mocked when it comes to running videogame experiences comparable to those found on a PC or console? That’s the big question.
We might as well say it right away: we certainly wouldn’t have played Pascal’s Wager without a joystick, whose connection to an iOS device is nowadays very easy. To us, it is inconceivable to play a Dark Souls with touch controls, whose level of precision is simply inadequate. From then on, we evaluate Pascal’s Wager with a pad in our hands, as we think it should be played.
- Read: How to connect a controller to an iPad or iPhone
A Chinese studio, Tipsworks understood that Pascal’s Wager had to meet a perfectly elaborated set of specifications to be convincing. After all, it is aimed at purists of the unforgiving kind. We can already start by praising the technical solidity of the title available on iOS. Whether it’s on an iPad Pro or an iPhone 11 Pro – very powerful machines, it’s true – Pascal’s Wager runs smoothly and has a nice visual presence (some textures remain coarse). And, above all, without any slowdown despite a more than comfortable framerate. Note that the developers have optimized the graphics quality for the iPad Pro and iPhone 11. Otherwise it is possible to set the framerate to standard (30 fps) or high (60 fps) or to play on the rendering, for those who would like to preserve battery life (with all options pushed to the maximum, 25% of the battery of an iPad is consumed in just two hours of play).
A much more direct narrative
This pedestal serves any artistic direction, which will copy all the best of the darker heroic fantasy. There’s The Witcher, the Warhammer and, of course, the Dark Souls. The result is a paw with no identity of its own, which depicts a universe on the verge of agony, touched by an Evil that appeared after the disappearance of the Sun. In a world of darkness, four heroes led by Terrence, a messenger banished by the Church, must trace the source of the curse that turns living species into monsters. In short, classic. The name of the game refers to the bet of the philosopher Pascal, who believes that we have nothing to lose by believing in God (even if he doesn’t exist).
Unlike the Dark Souls, Pascal’s Wager opts for a much more direct and, by ricochet, more understandable narration. This involves a lot of dialogue – in English, Japanese or Chinese – and a division into levels attached to a central hub. One might almost think that Pascal’s Wager is a good entry point to discover this family of action-oriented RPGs.
Pascal’s Wager // Source: Tipsworks
Pascal’s Wager takes up many elements seen in the Dark Souls trilogy. For example, there is a copy of the campfires that allow you to save, rest (which regenerates the enemies), recover healing potions and spend your experience points (represented by bones). There are also shortcuts that make it easier to move around in environments, knowing that you will have no map to help you find your way, only your sense of observation and your memory. In this regard, the tiered structure tightens up the sets and helps you to find your way around better.
Above all, there’s this successful gameplay, built around an endurance gauge to watch out for to measure your shots against opponents who hit very hard. In the approach, we are closer to a Dark Souls than to a Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, more lively and focused on the offensive. Nevertheless, while it is necessary to monitor one’s risk-taking, the challenge does not appear to be as great. Bosses, for example, are less punitive and leave more room for error than in a Souls. Everything leads us to believe that the studio did not want to go too far, fearing for balance, always complicated to achieve when you want to offer a consistent but fair challenge. That doesn’t mean we can afford to go without thinking. Triumph will always be easier to achieve by learning to anticipate attacks.
Pascal’s Wager // Source: Tipsworks
Although he recycles many of his peers, Pascal’s Wager still tries to use his own ideas to convince. One thinks of mental health, which is reduced as one strikes enemies until one enters a trance phase that makes the characters both more powerful and vulnerable at the same time. Once emptied, we go straight to dementia status, which makes the bestiary more and more aggressive. Fortunately, there are potions to fill the gauge and avoid serious problems. It is also possible to acquire trophies recovered during the adventure to improve your statistics.
Clean ideas to convince
Another change is that Pascal’s Wager does not allow changing the heroes’ weapons, which are unlocked as you go along. To compensate for this restriction, the developers have equipped each character with a different arsenal, which still allows to enjoy several fighting styles. It should be noted that one can only embody two protagonists at the same time, interchangeable at will as long as one does not fight. When one of the two passes from life to death, the other is automatically passed on to the next crossing point. This distinction inhibits the difficulty a little more since you theoretically have two chances to triumph.
In terms of content, Pascal’s Wager is already offering value for money (about ten hours to complete it). But Tipsworks has planned updates in the coming months to increase the life span. There will be a New Game Plus (a new game with everything you got in the previous one) and a new area full of challenges.
Indicative note: 4/5
Without reaching the epic breath, the notion of accomplishment and the freshness of the universe of a Dark Souls, Pascal’s Wager presents itself as a more than honest proposition. It is mostly available in a medium — mobile — that was thought unsuitable for the exercise of a kind that emphasizes the requirement. In every sense of the word.
However, you’ll have to arm yourself with a controller before embarking on the adventure, the gameplay with a touch interface being an insult to what the title wants to bring to life. Some will say that everything is but a pale, soulless copy of the Souls. There’s some of that. But, in the meantime, it is the only one available on iOS. Then we might as well enjoy it with the indulgence it deserves.
- A real Dark Souls on iOS
- Ideas that set him apart (a little)
- Contents to match the price
- Lacking a little extra soul
- Joystick mandatory
- The challenge could have been greater