When I think of Hell, I think of fiery pits, demons poking people with pitchforks, and screaming. What I would not have considered, although I probably should have, was a level of office bureaucracy and a satanic version of Clippy from the old days of Word. However, this is where I find myself when playing through Heretic’s Fork, the latest game from developer 9FingerGames and publisher Ravenage Games. The question is whether this game is the office dream or nothing but a programming hellscape.
Heretic’s Fork is a hard game to nail down; the best I can think of is a card-based roguelike, but that isn’t doing it justice. The game begins with you taking on your new position as a manager in hell with a simple task: keep sinners from escaping. To complete this task, you have access to a tower to which you can add weapons. This is where the cards come in: you are given a set number of cards each turn, and these can be used to add new weapons or improve the current one. The cards can also be combined to become more powerful or become entirely new cards.
The system appears complicated at first, as the wealth of different cards and options can be a bit overwhelming. However, after a few rounds, it becomes almost second nature to combine the cards and build a reasonable deck. You can also unlock new cards by completing challenges, which helps to push you to focus on using different cards. Therein lies the main issue, however, and it is one that many roguelikes have. The problem is that the cards offered aren’t equal, and it is entirely possible to be dealt a bad run through no fault of your own. This also means that gaining money can be slow and arduous, especially in the beginning, and this is important as it unlocks the difficulty, at least in a manner of speaking.
One aspect of a roguelike is the chance to get new characters and play through with them, hopefully with each character having a different playstyle that mixes up the runs. Heretic’s Fork lets players unlock new characters using the money earned in runs, and each one has a slightly different skill such as having extra weapon slots unlocked from the beginning. The issue is the starter character is the hardest character to use as she doesn’t have any additional skills, ah the life of an intern. Adding this difficulty to the slowness that each run starts with can make it a bit of a drag, but once you unlock the next character, it improves the game exponentially. Although, it doesn’t help that this is not a game that has a lot of player interaction.
Essentially, the towers and garrisons you can unlock are entirely automated and there isn’t anything that you, as a player, will be doing. A run will effectively go like this: you select your first weapon and hit start, and then you wait. Eventually, you will kill enough to move to the next level and select the next few games. Finally, you’ll finish a level and will be able to choose a boon (for instance, more health or a new weapon slot, etc.). Then it goes on until you will ‘die’, and this is entirely at the mercy of what cards you have gotten and what random boons are offered.
Outside of the tower sections, Klippy will find the odd email and hidden programs that you can access from the menu. These additions give a little bit of humour and allow the game to show off some of its writing. Visually, the pixel art is nice, and the music selection, which you choose on the main menu, is fitting and does a lot with relatively little. The art and music also make the general programmed feeling of the main game more interesting to sit through, and the writing and pop-ups are fun to see.
While it isn’t a game that offers a lot to players on the surface, the introduction of new cards as challenges are completed and the slow drip of information offered by Klippy keep you engaged. I found myself doing a few runs when I was watching something or just to pass the time, and honestly, I didn’t get bored as fast as I would have expected. It isn’t a game that will keep you engaged for hours at a time, but Heretic’s Fork is perfect for the occasional delve into hell.
Heretic's Fork (Reviewed on Windows)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
While it suffers from the same issues as many roguelikes, Heretic’s Fork does what it can to keep players invested and entertained.