Mixing a turn-based SRPG with a detective thriller sounds interesting so let's see if Arkham Horror: Mother's Embrace can pull it off.
For the unfamiliar, Arkham Horror is a board game and there's also a card game iteration. Although I've never played these games before, Arkham Horror: Mother's Embrace intrigued me due to its blend of detective gameplay, turn-based strategy RPG battles, and Lovecraftian horror. As a single player experience, you basically choose from a selection of colourful characters then begin the campaign where you soon find a murdered old lay surrounded by cult members. From then on, you travel to various areas while trying to piece together the mystery and along the way; you'll discover unexplainable phenomena as well as meet new allies who will join you on your expeditions. This is actually where Mother's Embrace shines brightest; its characters. Each investigator not only has a unique and often eccentric personality, they also have distinct traits so choosing a variety of chums before the next mission may give you an advantage.
Speaking of which, the gameplay within Arkham Horror: Mother's Embrace essentially has you investigating locations by interacting with people and clues while fighting cult leaders and such whenever they happen to show up. While investigating, if you make incorrect decisions then your Mythos gauge will increase and once it fills, your party will receive a curse. There's also a sanity mechanic where interacting with certain things will make characters more uneasy until they suffer from traumas which will plague them from then on. These are very cool systems that I enjoyed although many of the events that negatively impacted me felt random which I guess makes sense given your party's circumstances. I also liked how characters will give you clues when faced with a decision based on their investigation traits. It all comes together to make it feel like you're working on a team even though you're playing by yourself.
The battle system within Arkham Horror: Mother's Embrace reminded me of Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits where you move characters freely then perform actions. It is extremely simple, though, because there's a strong reliance on each party member's loadout. Basically, everyone can hold 4 items total which consist of weapons, trinkets that provide boosts, and usable items that can cure status ailments and such. Considering characters have different aptitudes for various weapons, assigning optimal gear to each member is actually quite a rewarding process, especially when you try to think of strategies where the investigators can work together.
With all of that being said, the combat itself is super-basic and disappointingly easy, too. Although I had a lot of fun setting up my party, whenever I faced enemies in combat, every victory felt a little hollow. The same could be said about the detective portion as all you do is walk around small areas while interacting with stuff and if you pay attention, you can usually figure out what to do without much challenge at all. In other words, there are few moments that will actually make you critically think about piecing together clues.
Finally, allow me to discuss a few technical shortcomings of Arkham Horror: Mother's Embrace. For starters, there aren't many loading screens but whenever one comes up, prepare to wait for an exceptionally long time. Once it finally loads, you may be disappointed by how samey and dark everything looks. In fact, I had to squint my way through many areas which is annoying. There are also some strange glitches such as graphics popping in. Once, my character perished then I was controlling his corpse which glided along the floor. Either that's an embarrassing bug or comedy gold; I'm still not sure. Oh, and now that I mention the controls, walking around is extremely slow and even when you run (or accelerate as it's referred to in-game), it's still too slow and the clunky and stubborn camera controls don't help either. Overall, it simply doesn't feel like much attention went into smoothing out the gameplay experience.
Arkham Horror: Mother's Embrace presents quite a cool gameplay concoction but it doesn't execute any of its elements all that well. If its concept appeals to you then you might have some fun but it'll still be weighed down by its hard to ignore shortcomings.
- + Blending detective work and turn-based strategic battles is a novel concept
- + Memorable characters with some humour
- + Inventory management is rewarding
- - Both detective segments and SRPG battles aren't anything particularly special
- - Slow movement and stiff camera
- - Overly dark and clunky visuals