Our Rating: 7/10
Pascal’s Wager may sound like a Gallic gambling game (the name literally translates to “Pascal’s Bet”), but it is actually the name of a French philosopher Blaise Pascal’s argument. The central argument suggests that we should hedge our bets by believing in God and abiding by his rules. Sure, we’ll have to sit on squeaky benches in stuffy churches on Sunday mornings.
We may have to abandon some of life’s small pleasures and refrain from engaging in certain unhealthy behaviors. In exchange, you’ll get a pair of wings, a harp, and eternal happiness. On the other hand, you could simply ignore all of these precautions, live a scoundrel’s life, and avoid having to spend the rest of your life stoking the fires of hell.
What does all of this have to do with this game, you might wonder? Let’s move on to Pascal’s Wager and Terrence, the main character who has been excommunicated from the church for his transgressions and is struggling with his theological doubts.
Pascal’s Wager follows the story of Terrence. A Messenger in search for his wife, whom he believes to be dead. Formerly a Knight in the Church’s service, tragic events in his past forced him to abandon his faith. The protagonist follows his wife’s trail through a decaying world and uncovers a Church plot with the help of young Viola and three other controllable allies.
Terrence is forced to fight his way through a monster-infested setting. Both metaphorically and literally, it is a bleak domain. A long time ago, the sun collided with the sea, blanketing the world in a dark mist. The mysterious colossi who emit light sparks are the only thing that keeps the fog at bay. However, even these upgraded standard lamps are starting to fail, and it’s up to you (Terrence) to figure out why.
Pascal’s Wager: Definitive Edition follows the same controls as other ‘Soulslike’ games. All characters have a weak attack, a strong attack, an evasive action, a defensive action, and the ability to use various objects.
They will earn Sendril Bones as they defeat enemies. You can use these to buy consumables and also level up the altars that can be found throughout the levels. This will earn you skill points, which you can spend on various stats.
Additionally, the characters will lose their sanity as they take damage from the Sendril and defeat them, in a nod to Bloodborne. The effects of the insanity will vary depending on the character in control, and once it reaches its peak, it will force him to confront powerful illusions.
Different Unique Characters
There are five playable characters in total: Terrence, Viola, Norwood, Benita, and Jerrod, with two of them being able to be taken to the battlefield. While they all have similar mechanics, they each have their own set of abilities (some of which must be unlocked) and unique systems that encourage a specific playstyle.
However, this does not rule out the possibility of doing ‘builds.’ Players can make Trophies out of materials they find on their travels, in addition to investing in various statistics. These accessories provide passive benefits that enhance and modifies the use of different materials.
The ability to bring two characters to the levels reduces the risk of death significantly. This is due to the fact that they do not share resources or sanity bars. If either of them dies, there is still an “extra life”. Resting on an altar is the only way to bring the fallen companion back to life.
In short, once one is defeated, the other will join the fight. When determining which characters are best used against a specific boss, this surely adds an extra layer of strategy.
Terrence and the other characters are subject to enemy attacks from the beginning of the adventure as if they have a tank ‘build.’
Players can use this method to slam the attack button and drain the enemy’s life or stamina, putting him to death. The positioning of enemies and their level of damage do not become a serious issue until the penultimate level.
The first few combat encounters instill a false sense of security in you. Terrence dispatches clueless enemies with a combination of quick slashes and powerful slashes without breaking a sweat.
Because your character’s stamina is limited, every move must be carefully considered. Hitting without thinking will result in death. The game’s influences are obvious, and the combat works well with the right gamepad. It feels great to defeat a boss who has been hindering you.
Terrence’s reason is impacted by his exploration of such a harrowing world. If you don’t use potions to regain your sanity, your mental state may become abnormal, if not lunatic. Terrence’s way of perceiving the world-changing as his sanity fades is an elegant touch. The sky turns red, enemies become more difficult to defeat, and our hero’s abilities deteriorate.
Any game inspired by the gothic action RPG Dark Souls, which is lauded and reviled in equal measure for its unrelenting difficulty, must be challenging. It’s not enough to master the art of stabbing and lunging, you’ll also need to perfect parrying and dodging,
You must also ensure that Terrence is mentally healthy if you want the difficulty to be as “basic” as possible. Although there is a benefit to letting him go insane, which is that you will earn more rewards if you defeat enemies while insane. Is it worthwhile? You make the decision based on your game skill and how much you enjoy being defeated repeatedly.
Pascal’s Wager substitutes small, self-contained areas for large, open areas of free exploration.
There are many twists and turns in the game, and you must travel without a detailed map or compass, as well as few landmarks. A jar with ten jellyfish is included in the set, which can be used to mark landmarks to aid navigation.
The Good, the Bad, and the Overall Experience
While the premise is intriguing, and players can learn about the world’s mythology by reading documents scattered throughout the levels, the story’s execution falls short. The lines are pretentious and sometimes don’t even make sense, leaving aside the voice acting, which ranges from tolerable to terrible.
There are scenes in the game where Terrence and Viola appear to have known each other for a long time and/or have a father-daughter relationship. Others, on the other hand, appear to be relatively unknown. The story is characterized by a lack of or inconsistent characterization of characters.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good highlights. You’ll occasionally come across a character with an intriguing backstory, such as the man in Exilium who was beheaded and is looking for a cure for his curse, or the young girl in Adamina whose mother has gone missing. These individual stories come to a satisfying conclusion in a way that is both compelling and emotionally engaging. It’s just a shame that the overarching story doesn’t have the same level of clarity.
While all of the above is true in concept, Pascal’s Wager: Definitive Edition feels primitive in comparison to its contemporaries and classics. This is due to the fact that, while it incorporates various elements from the ‘Soulsborne’ franchise, it lacks an understanding of its design philosophy.
Precision and speed are essential in FromSoftware games, whether you’re attacking, defending, or dodging. Even more importantly, if the players perform these actions incorrectly, there must be consequences for them.
All actions, whether attacking or defending, have a one-second delay. The combat feels rough and slow as a result of this.
Levels and Rewards
An area where Pascal’s Wager shines is the level variation. Each stage is a maze full of shortcuts, secrets, and exploration rewards that are well hidden. The majority of the benefits you discover while exploring are really useful. This makes your trip back, worthwhile.
At the end of every path, there is almost always something hidden. There’s an impression that the developers had spent a lot of time playtesting environments and watching player routes to figure out where they should put rewards.
Keep in mind that visiting shrines to restore health and save progress also respawns defeated enemies.
With Pascal’s Wager, there’s a lot to admire. There are over 20 hours of challenging gameplay in the base game. It demonstrates ambition and range. Arguably, the game borrows too much from Dark Souls. But it does have its own tone and core gameplay.
Pascal’s Wager continues to impress. Unfortunately, Definitive Edition misses out on the chance to revisit and reinvest in a game with a lot of promise. While the game’s large amount of content, novel mechanics, and low price make it appealing, those seeking a challenge will not find it in this primitive ‘Soulslike.’ If you want to take a “walk in the park,” you can get there.