Against All Odds, the Mistover Doomsday Clock Is Actually Fun

I hate time limits in games, but the one in Mistover might actually elevate it.

There are about 57 new, high-profile games I need to beat right this minute — so, naturally, I’m playing Mistover. The blatant Darkest Dungeon clone came out of early access in the middle of October. It’s a lot like its predecessor, too, only a bit less grim and a lot more anime. Besides Darkest Dungeon, there are also clear shades of Etrian Odyssey (mostly in the ways missions get doled out and you encounter new characters). Its punishing, meticulous grind that rewards patience is perfect comfort food for me. And while Mistover has its problems (the balance could use some work), I’m mostly shocked by one feature that doesn’t bother me: the Doomsday Clock.

In Mistover, the Doomsday Clock is a literal timer that ticks forward as you play. Every time you clear a mission, the minute hand moves forward, marching you towards an inevitable game over. Except… It’s not actually that inevitable. You can halt the Doomsday Clock by killing enough enemies, collecting enough chests, and just otherwise exploring each randomized dungeon. Being especially thorough will even cause the clock to tick backwards. So there’s always a way to push back the encroaching dark.

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The mechanic actually improves on Darkest Dungeon in one major way, too. As much as I love a good grind, that game often funnels the whole process into a single resource. Everything costs gold… and you never have enough. It’s so bad that there’s an entire character class in Darkest Dungeon, the Antiquarian, designed to speed up the economy. They mostly suck in combat, and eat up a valuable party member’s slot as a result, but generate more money as you explore. That way you can perform “Antiquarian runs” just to accumulate cash. That then goes towards mending heroes, upgrading armor and weapons, improving your home base, etc.

Mistover ensures you can’t just grind mindlessly without repercussions. Your Doomsday Clock sees to that. While Darkest Dungeon has the better moment-to-moment combat of the two games — more varied and balanced by far — Mistover has it beat on the macro level.

Managing the timer gives you greater incentive to explore. Punching out early doesn’t cost you yet more gold for treating heroes, like it does in Darkest Dungeon. It creates a more terrifying, less knowable, and less boring menace instead. At the same time, it pushes you to be incredibly thorough. That means you open more chests, find more loot, and build up more resources — organically.

This further feeds into the comfort food angle. At least it does for me. I love to be incredibly thorough in games. I complete every side quest, talk to every villager, and just generally explore every available inch.. But a lot of games are terrible at rewarding this behavior.

Mistover Doomsday Clock

Nintendo games, for example, recognize that players will poke at every nook and cranny. Yet they usually reward it with useless coins and collectibles (Breath of the Wild and its wonderful Korok Seeds are one massive exception). Bethesda games, by contrast, are usually packed with gameplay-relevant stuff. But there’s so much of it, and it’s all the same, that you eventually just don’t need to bother.

Mistover creates a constantly shifting stick that pushes you toward the carrot. Fighting back the Doomsday Clock gets you more resources, and more resources make it easier to fight back the Doomsday Clock. It’s obviously not the high-budget solution of, say, The Witcher 3. This little dungeon crawler doesn’t have the money to fill every centimeter of a life-sized world with bespoke characters and dialogue. But it is exactly what I want sometimes: a whole lot of numbers going up and down according to my whims.

That kind of direct control — watching tensions rise and the ability to consistently lower them again — is as soothing to my mind as masochistic vices are to a true Darkest Dungeon character. It’s also exactly why I’m playing this indie game instead of Death Stranding, or Pokemon, or Jedi: Fallen Order… Oops! I better get back to work before my own, personal Doomsday Clock strikes midnight.

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Steven Strom

An obsessive writer broadcasting to you live from the middle of nowhere. Thinks cute things are good, actually.

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