Death of a Wish – Divine, furious

How many times have you played a game that seethed? One that had such a clear voice of absolute fury? I can’t really remember the last time I played a game that was so viscerally charged with one emotion in all its violent depths. Death of a Wish is god damn furious. It is fast, it is loud, and it is an incredible experience.

There is, however, one caveat that I’m going to discuss as early as possible. As a player, I can suffer from headaches and eyestrain, but only under certain conditions. Death of a Wish unfortunately checked the lot. I was able to alleviate this, mercifully, by reducing the screenshake. This made it playable for me, instead of a ten minute speed-run to agony. I’m really greatful for the developer, melessthanthree, including this.

I am, however, torn about this for an incredibly stupid reason. I adore this game’s camerawork, and reducing the screenshake tones it down. The game remains a stylistic masterclass, mind, but here is a camera that rushes, jumps, snaps and zooms. It dances with you as you collide with the enemies, a lockstep ballet of snappy rhythms and jarring cuts. The game is delivered in this stark sketch of wobbling lines and scant detail. It’s a debasing thing of beauty, but holy hell did it hurt my head initially.

It can be so incredibly chaotic.

Speaking of hurt — the story! The characters! Common opinion between some writers I know is that you generally want to build up to the part where you grab the reader/viewer/player by the throat. It’s a view I respect, but you know what else is great? Going full octane from the start, and finding ways to push the emotional limit even further. This is an incredibly tricky thing to land, as you can veer straight into unintentional comedy. melessthanthree nailed it. 

Death of a Wish is (as I understand it) a sequel to Lucah: Born of a Dream, and takes the same style and tone, and ramps that all up to 11. It is melodrama — the emotions are sky high, the stakes apocalyptic. Every character is in the throes of howling in pain in some variety. It is this beautiful thing of raging against the oppressor trying to reclaim yourself in impossible odds, and accepting the self in all its scars and flaws. Once again: melessthanthree nailed it.

And I haven’t even gotten to the combat! Bloody hell. This was a complete surprise to me — historically, I do not like character action. As soon as I’m graded for how badly I’ve done at maintaining the appearance of skill, my brain loses interest. I am not good at action games, and the Devil May Cry’s and Ultrakill’s do not work for me. This? Couldn’t get enough. Give me that S rank, tell me I’m stylish and superb (on easy difficulty — judge me all you wish) please dear game. Then it goes ahead and ties that back into an esoteric narrative system. Good lord, wonderful stuff. 

This is perhaps the last game I would expect to be borderline clapping in glee at. It is this furious examination of religious trauma, systemic oppression and guilt. It is abrasive to a potentially painful extent in its aesthetics. But a repeated theme here: melessthanthree has nailed every single facet with such panache and skill, you cannot help but applaud the skill and bravado on show. 

I really hope the development team takes a goddamn bow, has a well earned rest and comes back in the future with another game. I’ll be there day and date. With paracetamol.

Death of a Wish is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch. 

Lucah: Born of a Dream, the developer’s equally special previous game, is available on PC and Nintendo Switch. 

Please play both.

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