PEGBRJE: Daily Chthonicle and Your Future Self

Darn zombie scientists infesting our hotels, we can’t have anything nowadays.

Daily Chthonicle is a narrative investigation RPG made by Sinister Systems, a solo indie studio operated by Matija Kostevc who has been making games longer than I’ve been alive. In this, the latest release, players try their hand at running a supernatural newspaper in a town full of the paranormal. Doubling as an investigative paper, players and their six journalists/occult specialists will look into the mysteries of the town and print them for everyone to see. Hopefully while everyone gets to survive.

As the chief editor of the Daily Chthonicle and Supernatural Newspaper Agency boss, players are responsible for uncovering the truth about certain recent events that have occurred across town. Each game has a different story beat, so there’s no set path to take; it’s all about the risks that players are willing to put on their journalists. Once the main objective is understood, players can send their journalists out into hotspots around town, indicated by the pinned up notes on the map. These individuals all have their own personal strengths and equipment, so selecting the best person for the job is necessary, even with such vague clues to go off of. Time only moves when an event/job is ‘completed’, so players will have time to do other activities before being interrupted by events called Encounters. These can differ depending on the situation and location, from simple questioning of witnesses to full on fights with the paranormal. How they are approached is open to ideas, but generally there are two options; ‘fight’ or flight. Fight obviously isn’t always the case, as some times there are investigations or ‘following’ to do in order to trail a witness in the hopes they reveal more information. What’s important is at these encounters, players can equip their investigator with up to 4 items to bolster their chances of success. These items will be used up depending on the encounter type, such as how ‘engage’ will consume every item while investigations will only consume the items that give benefit. If that item isn’t in stock, players can just buy it with the money they’ve made from their publishing papers or from finding hidden loot out on the town.

Once every available investigator is out on the field, players will have a bit of open space to work around the other aspects of the job, such as catching up on all of the clues already gathered, inventory and potion brewing. These potions can give the journalists extra boosts to certain stats while out, especially in those dire situations where they can be outclassed by some terrifying monsters. These journalists also need to be taken care of, for their status is displayed at the top and can change depending on how missions go. Some might be injured, others might become shaken to the point of inability to perform, and others still might just accidentally become zombies. It’s up to players to ensure that their employees get all the help they need, so sending them off to therapy or the hospital is crucial; it takes time away from being able to investigate, which can dig into sales of the publication due to not enough has been discovered. On the flip side, however, having to deal with two journalists becoming zombies will eat through even more time if they are left to wait.

There’s a lot to focus on, with potions and paranormal activities running rampant while the editor just wants some decent articles. It’s reminiscent of other ‘time-management’ styled narratives such as Papers, Please where the player needs to make decisions in a relatively timely manner in order to ensure that everyone gets paid and nobody dies. The big difference of course being that time doesn’t move unless players specify it to, which does lead to quite a bit of ‘lull’ periods in which I was just fastforwarding time to deal with the upcoming encounters. This gives the game more of a laid back feeling, which I can’t say I didn’t enjoy — I wanted to read up on what the cases were, what my people discovered, and just uncover what was going on within this town. The noire aesthetic also really adds to the Lovecraftian vibe as well, especially with the sound effects — which range from nerve wracking to being straight uncomfortable at times due to the context.

Combined all together and the Daily Chthonicle really caught me by surprise. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting when I went in, but the openness of the investigation with the juggling of keeping the journalists sane and alive while investigating is really something fun. There’s a bit of downtime which can vary in engagement levels, but I still really enjoyed my time investigating the 9 murders in town. If you’re looking for a management narrative to pass the time for a few hours, and can come back to a completely different scenario the next time, this is definitely a game to grab.

Well that’s just rude.

Your Future Self is a narrative choice simulation made by Contortionist Games, a part time solo dev by the name of Andrew Hirst and the first official title for the dev. As the name implies, players are stuck within a time loop with their future self, who has committed a terrible crime in the future. The goal of this time loop? According to the voice, it’s to hopefully cause the future self to understand their wrongness to somehow purge the timeline of their act. Except… is that how this works?

Players are welcomed by this disembodied voice and told of their circumstances, and that’s truly it. Players identify as the yellow text, while their future self is the red that begins the conversation. Upon reaching a point, the player will be offered three options: Rationality, Empathy, and Assertiveness. Upon making a decision, the player will respond with their selected tone and attitude, and the game will continue forward. These tonal choices are how players uncover the past, as the main portion of the screen is taken up by a grid of sorts. Each decision will be ‘scored’ based on how receptive the future self is, with yellow being that the self has responded with insight and information while red means that the self has not resonated with the response. Each success will also give a point to the player in that category, as the stats for both the player and the self are on the top left/right respectively — they assist in ‘winning’ by swaying the response, as it were. How players can get a slight ‘edge’ of sorts is in the receptiveness, detailed below the future self’s stats. These give a metre of impact that each tone of response will garner, going from very high to very low. These, however, are not an automatic win — there were many times where I would select something I thought was the best choice and instead get a red line and a dismissive message.

What drives players to keep going in this title is the narrative, as it usually goes with narrative-based titles. The interactions between the two selves can vary depending on the ‘success rate’ of the the player. The more successful the player is, the more context is given to what exactly the future self did that is considered so heinous, but that’s not all. There’s conversations outside of the timeloop as well, and without spoiling it the inference of who exactly is controlling the timeloop is quite a fun guessing game in itself. I’d say more, but with narrative titles such as this — especially ones focusing on twists and turns — I find that it’s impact is much less if given any inkling ahead of time.

So if you have an hour or so to explore this text-based timelooped world, you might enjoy yourself; especially those that are into narratives and the morality of actions.

Links! Hooray!

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Jacob Vorstenbosch

Jacob Vorstenbosch

Just a Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.