To be honest, I ain’t really that big of a fan of point-and-click adventure games because they feel somewhat boring and slow-paced. The only one I remember giving me immense pleasure right from the menu screen is Disco Elysium, even though it was still slow-paced. However, the writing, voice acting, and skill-check-based gameplay made up for it. And therefore, when I saw the trailer of Sunday Gold, I was like ‘holy shit! This is Disco Elysium alright but in the future!’
Well, not exactly. It’s more like a quasi-dystopian future but it makes up for some impressive world-building that you’ll rarely find in indie games. Sunday Gold is a point-and-click, turn-based adventure game set in a grim, futuristic London. Developed by BKOM Studios and Team 17 Digital Ltd, Sunday Gold comes to Steam on the 13th of October.
What da dog doin’?
Gone are the days when cricket and football ruled the national English sports channels. In a world where corporations hold more power than the government, there’s a new sport in town that involves reanimating dead canines via cybernetic implants and juicing them up with chemical rage to run races. The King’s League, where mechanically enhanced, zombified dogs tear each other apart in a horrific bloodbath for the enjoyment of the masses. And the champion of King’s League is the brutal, clad in shining gold and blue metal, Sunday Gold.
The game doesn’t stop there, portraying a bleak world where companies exploit workers without showing a wee bit of concern about their health and safety, where the wage gap is massive, and where vampires are treated like Hispanic Americans (yes, they are common). You control a ragtag trio of criminals—Frank, the nihilistic rifleman and de-facto leader of the group, Sally, the astute healer with muscles, and Gavin, the unhinged tech wizard who’s also a disgruntled ex-employee of Hogan Industries, the megacorporation to whom Sunday Gold belongs. And it might be safe to say that Hogan Industries is a direct parody of Amazon as the several emails, posters, notes etc. reveal how draining and excruciating the work at the company is.
In a satirized world taken to comical extremities, each of the three protagonists is oozing with his/her own style, to the point that you can pick them up and place them in a gritty crime movie and no one would bat an eye. The dialogue delivery is on point, not as moody as Max Payne’s of course, but laced with sarcastic commentary, especially by Frank. Sally on the other hand maintains a cool head and speaks to the point (people looking for strong female characters? Sally’s here!) while Gavin is a boiling pot of anxiety and loses composure the most.
Their mission is to take down the corrupt billionaire Kenneth Hogan, owner of Sunday Gold, who might be directly or indirectly responsible for their broke condition (and of almost every middle-lower class family in London). Money matters and they won’t mind getting their hands dirty if they get paid for it… while taking down Hogan in the process. But little do they know about the dark secrets that Hogan Industries is hiding beneath the surface.
Sunday Gold has only four levels and each of them other than the prologue is practically huge! I mean the map is not huge at all, it’s just a few rooms but since Sunday Gold is turn-based mixed with point-and-click mechanics where almost every world interaction costs you Action Points (AP), it will take a lot of turns to complete each level.
Yes, unlike Persona 5 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, your characters will use the same pool of AP in both exploration and combat. Ending your turn replenishes your AP with the cost of increasing the Alert Status and a chance encounter with enemies. In fact, you might be stuck in a loop where you’ve exhausted your AP in combat and end your turn to replenish your AP pool, but it triggers another enemy encounter. In such cases, the best option is to guard yourself during your turn to withstand whatever the enemy throws out you and go full offence in the next turn.
You’ll have to manage your party members’ Health and Composure, and consumables, and equip them with certain weapons to have them inflict the best offence while having the best defence. The inventory isn’t shared, so you’ll have to manage who’s carrying what as certain world interactions are related to each character’s special skills resulting in fun mini-games.
Frank’s lockpicking is the best I’ve seen in any video game (I’m looking at you Skyrim and Dying Light), Sally’s got a zen-mode where she bulks herself up to move heavy objects, and Gavin’s minigame is a black sheep as it tests your brains and patience level. It’s a number guessing game of bypassing passwords and keycodes and is easily the second most frustrating part of the game. Trust me, once you get the ability to instantly bypass them at a significant AP cost later in the game, you’ll just end up taking that option.
Just like every other RPG, there are status effects like Bleed (enemy takes damage over time) and Stun (enemy loses a turn). The choice you’ve to make is whether to go with full offence at the cost of sacrificing your AP, or stand guard to preserve AP for the next turn. Since Sally’s a healer who also inflicts major bleed damage, you’ll have to plan a few more turns ahead. The same goes for Frank who can inflict headshots while having the skill to replenish his friends’ AP and Composure. And as for Gavin, he can both inflict Stun and Fractured statuses to all the enemies simultaneously and can also hack robotic enemies to turn them into allies for a few turns.
All this management is crucial as different enemies are weak to some effects while resistant to others. However, the best mechanic I found was Composure management.
As the protagonists lose their cool, their character portrait changes, colours and letters start glitching and you only have a few seconds to take decisions during your turn. For example, in the case of Gavin, he starts seeing words like “Coward!” “Guilty” etc. on screen and can even attack his teammates, Frank becomes more and more hot-tempered and fires randomly, and Sally inflicts negative ailment upon healing. And the best part, you can lose Composure even during explorations. For example, our heroes came across a corpse, and they had to search his body for keys. Frank got terrified as it was his work colleague, and his Composure started dropping. However, my gamer instinct kicked in, and I kept searching each and every pocket of the corpse to look for goodies, without noticing that both my AP and Composure had dropped drastically. And as it turned out, the corpse had nothing on him; I basically drove Gavin insane just because I wanted to pilfer a dead NPC dry.
Despite all the pros, Sunday Gold ain’t without its cons. The first culprit, and probably an absurd decision by the devs, is the Load Game screen. Your latest saves aren’t at the top, which means if you press Continue on the main menu, you’ll enter a random earlier autosave in the game. The latest save is somewhere in the Load Game list which you’ve to tediously search through by looking at the number of turns. The one with the highest turn is the latest save the file.
The other is the endless cycle of enemy encounters you might get yourself into if you choose to end your turn. And this especially happens in the last level. To be honest, this feels like a cheap way to scale up the difficulty as there is only a limited enemy variety in the game. Maybe the devs added this artificial difficulty because you’ll level up to the max pretty early in the game and then you won’t be getting any more skill points. Furthermore, the skill tree doesn’t bring much to the platter, and even if it does, it’s pretty much useless as you’ll eventually end up using the same powerful skills throughout the levels. All in all, the combat ain’t that much detailed unlike other RPGs (and especially JRPGs). It’s just…serviceable.
Visuals, Performance and Sound
The grim world envisioned by Sunday Gold is such a stylish wash of comic book colours and action panels resulting in gorgeous, detailed artworks to tell the story. This coupled with onomatopoeias makes you feel as if you’re actually reading a neo-noir comic. The synth music that plays during the combat is somewhat decent; just gets the job done.
As for the performance, during some encounters in the final level, the sound got all choppy however there was no drop in FPS. Maybe, when the game releases, BKOM Studios might be rolling out some updates.
Sunday Gold is a satire of real London through and through, clad in an aesthetic colour pallet. The plot might seem exaggerated—cybernetic animal bloodsports, secret cyborg labs, billionaire vampires gutting an over-industrialized city—however much of the stuff is based on real-world scenarios. If you read the newspapers, emails, notes and magazines in the game, you’ll know what I’m talking about. However, the game still lacks in-depth combat, even becoming tedious at times especially when you can’t catch a break from random encounters while ending your turn. Despite all that, I would totally play a sequel starring these ragtag trio again.
FINAL RATING: RECOMMENDED