Please the Gods is a game that is inspired by tabletop games of yesteryear, such as the classic ‘Hero Quest’, and Finnish mythology. This may be a common theme these days, placing mythical creatures and beasts within your pixel-art video games, but I always get nostalgic over these types of games due to loving similar titles when I was growing up. So, when I read the context of this game, I knew I had to play and review it – I love anything to do with ancient mythology that has some sort of strategic element to it.
Famine has spread across the land and you, and your family, have suffered a great deal of loss due to it. Nothing short of a miracle can save you at this point in time, constantly struggling to live life day-by-day. It’s why, after having a vision, you set off for ‘The Land of Gods’, watched over by three Pagan Gods: Ahti, Tapio, and Nyyrikki. You seek a legendary treasure that promises endless riches and sustenance for those who find it; The Legendary Sampo.
There is one problem though, an ancient war had sundered it into pieces that you’ll need to seek out and have re-forged. To find the Legendary Sampo’s fragments you must undergo the trials of the three Gods whilst struggling to survive the wilderness at the same time.
Please the Gods is an old-school turn-based RPG that is handled through dice mechanics. Upon starting up the game, after the introduction, you’ll immediately meet your God then be on your merry way. This game is rather simplistic and straight-forward in how you go upon playing it. You have map exploration, combat, skill trees, story, and resource gathering, that’s about it. Be wary though, the entirety of this game is heavily reliant on RNG, so it’s not for the luckless to play.
Map exploration plays a big part in how you go upon your search for the Legendary Sampo in Please the Gods. As you traverse the map you’ll often have to choose between splitting paths, camps, foraging, hunting, fishing, and combat. The exploration is limited though as the map is done through nodes, giving you a limited feel of adventure. However, every movement will cost you some food, adding to the realism and imparted strategy. Food is used to not only keep you alive, but it’s also a means of currency for specific monsters you come across; do you keep it for yourself or bribe the goblin to make your journey easier? Replenishing your supply of food is done through different nodes: campfires for berries, hunting for animals, fishing for sea life, the general scavenging method of nomadic people.
This can damper your spirits though as the success of scavenging is also weighed upon by RNG; animals can escape, fish don’t bite, or pretty much anything that can impede your success of hunting, leaving you without food which can end your journey early.
A major portion of Please the Gods is the combat against the various monsters you’ll come across on your journey. Combat is done through dice rolling which again, has a minor strategy implementation; which skill cards do you play, which modifiers do you adjust, which effects you will bet on, etc – though that strategy means nothing if all you do for six-consecutive turns is roll all 1’s. When you enter combat there are only two stats to be utilised in the game, attack and defence. You can thankfully have your base attack and defence modified through events at various nodes and making certain choices during speech segments.
In combat, you’ll go through an attacking phase where if you roll the higher number, you’ll hit, and if not, you’ll miss. The defending phase is rolled to see if you’ll get hit or if you dodge depending once again on whatever you digitally roll – this means battles in this game are luck over skill for the most part. I say ‘most part’ because before you initiate each dice roll you get to choose a skill card. The cards in the battle represent the selected skills you have chosen in your skill tree; there are four offensive skills and four defensive skills. These skills vary the dice you roll, give or take bonuses to your modifier, or apply effects such as bleeding, among others, imparting the aforementioned strategy I talked about.
Please the Gods foregoes the traditional experience gaining mechanism of RPG’s and instead grants you a skill point upon quest completion. These points go towards choosing your next skill purchase in a very flexible skill tree. Usually in RPG’s, it is routine to grind and farm things to gain strength if you find things difficult, but in a game akin to something like the Oregon Trails of Nordic RPG’s, you wouldn’t have the resources nor health to continuously waste running amok through the nodes (The game doesn’t let you backtrack anyways).
Please the Gods has been a love-and-hate relationship for me, unfortunately, it was something I thoroughly wanted to love wholeheartedly. The aesthetics are gorgeous, the user interface is clean and simplistic, and the helplessness and realism to succumbing to the world around all that made it a wonderful and enjoyable experience. Though none of that really entails how the game handles, which is what I now want to talk about.
The biggest thorn in my side is the dice, yes the core mechanic in combat. The usual modifier bonus for both defence and attack is around three to five, meaning 75% of your final calculations comes from the dice. Being that reliant on three-fourths of your resulting chances entirely by luck is not only frustrating, but also aggravating. It wasn`t uncommon, nor infrequent, that the number of rounds I rolled resulted in less than three on every die; at times there were five or even ten dice rolled where each wasn’t higher than a three – resulting in continuous quest restarts.
Restarting your quest is more imperative than you’d think. The quest is more synonymous with a ‘chapter’ of a game; you’ll be sent back before your five fights, three hunts, one scavenge, etc. It’s a repetitious nature as you’ll fight the same enemies and encounter the same nodes, though it never grew stale oddly enough. There is a bone to pick though, your game saves upon quest completion – which is handy – but your skill point reward is after that save. This means that every time you restart a quest, you’ll have to re-allocate the points, which is something you’ll easily forget to do. I would’ve also enjoyed the quests more if they had a ‘checkpoint’ system, maybe at the fires you rest at? That’d be appreciated.
The attributes modification has room for improvement – yes, it adds variability and realism to the game, but I’d like to know what my chances are too. Often, in RPG’s, you’ll have stats that are visible and you’ll be shown percentages of succession. In Please the Gods there is no such thing; you’ll never know the percentage, you won’t know how much you failed by, you won’t know what stats were used to perform an action check, nothing. When you fail three, four or five actions in a row, you can’t but help ask why? Just to never know.
The one modifier you will have control over is that before every battle you get to choose if you’ll get a +1 attack/-1 defence, +1 defense/-1 attack, or neither. Attack means you are more likely to hit but defence means you’re more likely not to be hit. Unfortunately, with how unforgiving the RNG is in this game, you may constantly feel helpless and forced into always choosing defence, like I was.
The skill tree is done well and not like some other RPG’s. Higher tier skills only require the previous tier skill invested in and not like the usual ‘invest 5 points in tier 2 to unlock tier 3’, allowing you to feel a constant progression. The different enemies you encounter require different strategies, maybe you want to inflict damage over time or you need to have debuffing skills for your next battle as you’ll be facing off against a venomous snake! As long as you have purchased a skill, they’re forever interchangeable not needing to purchase stat resets or worry too much about planning your tree. As long as you’re at the world map you can freely change your skills to match every battle needed.
Official (PC) trailer:
Final Conclusion :
The Gods are unforgiving, punishing, and sometimes frustrating, but this is about you pleasing them and not vice versa. You will purse your lips, grit your teeth, and furrow your brow in your journey to restore the Legendary Sampo by pleasing these Pagan Lords. Miracles are called so for a reason though, they are hard to come by and not easy to find but leave you elated when they happen. Please the Gods succeeds in relating that elation to the player, no matter the path nor hardships I encountered with this game, I always felt like next time will be the time I finally succeed.