I know I just started another review this way, but...WOW.
Some games are just humbling experiences. They pull me out of my comfort zone and show me what can really be done, what creativity really looks like. Oddities, by Two-Bit Termite, is one of those experiences. It takes all of the tropes that I hold most dear, combines them, and presents them in a package that is so beautiful, so complete, that I felt some pangs of embarrassment over the work that I had produced. Sure, I produced quantity, but this...this was quality on a scale that I couldn't achieve without a team of people working behind me and months, at the very least, of work.
Oddities is a feast to see, and also to hear. What makes this so amazing, for me, at least, is the caliber of the art involved. When it comes to combat icons, for instance, we all have the same 8x8 box to work with. And from that box I produce things that might be bipedal, whereas Two-Bit Termite creates people clad in flowing garb, decorated with jewelry and bangles, with unique hair and other accessories. It's as if he's managed to break each pixel into mini-pixels, and then force FRUA to accept it. Likewise, the cohesion of the piece. The combat screens, the small pics, the big pics, the new frame, the new icons...it all works together to create something that is more than the sum of its parts. Likewise with the new musical score. Two-Bit Termite not only has the capacity to create new art, and also to find and scan arts that works together, but he is also able to create xmi sounds that work thematically, play for great periods, and never crash the FRUA engine.
And all of that is to leave out the most important element--This is a great game! It's not just beautiful looking and sounding. In this adventures are memorable NPCs, complex enemies, mysterious areas to explore, delightful treasure to find, and two things that many games do not have. First, a genuine sense of humor. Even when things are at their darkest, and this is a fairly grim story, the game has a subtle way of letting some of the steam out. Not too much, and never so much that the anxiety passes. Second, there is the sense that this story takes place in the heart of a much larger world.
The stakes are high, and the combats are not easy. Don't for a moment think that choosing "Easy" will let you off the hook. I squeaked through, barely, but only by liberally fireballing my toughest fighter, and hauling away a dead cleric after the climactic battle. Normally, that would feel like a failure, but two things kept me from rebooting and trying again. First, that was a tough fight--I felt lucky to get off so well. Second, this was how the story played out. It wouldn't have been fair to the story to go back and tell it again. It's not often that I feel that way about any game.
To be fair, it is difficult for me to provide an unbiased review for Oddities. This design is why I play games. Not just D&D or FRUA designs, but computer games, and tabletop games. This is the genre I love, the storytelling that I love, and the tone that I love. Many, many thanks for the opportunity to play this design.