Fortune 499

I am somewhat accidentally still subscribed to the Humble Monthly Bundle. I really shouldn’t be, since I need that money for other things, but I am, because I forgot to unsubscribe and the automatic annual payment went through. I’ve fixed that now (I think), but in the meantime I’m still subscribed for a while. Now, the reason I want to be unsubscribed is not because the Humble Monthly is a bad deal, just that the money spent on that is better put towards paying people on Fiverr to fill in skills I lack for creative projects and, y’know, food. The Humble Monthly is usually a really good deal. Last month’s big ticket item was Civilization VI, which is pretty good, but it also came with this Humble Bundle exclusive game called Fortune 499 about a fortune-telling witch who works at a soul-sucking corporate job whose main office is being invaded by monsters.

I really liked this game. Now, it’s not without its flaws. For example, it looks like ass:

Fortune 499

Yup, we are firmly in the “8-bit fig leaf over graphic arts incompetence” school of design here. I feel like I really can’t throw too many stones in that regard, though, as I am totally dependent upon other people for graphic design in all of my projects, and in any case, a game that looks kinda crummy can be saved by good narrative and gameplay, and Fortune 499 has pulled that off. The story was well-told enough that I enjoyed the protagonist’s arc despite being unable to really relate to it at all. Our hero Cassandra, corporate oracle, is stagnating in the jaws of corporate America, and at one point compares her life to an elevator, where she just steps inside and hopes it takes her upwards instead of down. I tend to think of my life more like Getting Over It, where whether I ascend or descend is completely under my control, but the controls are finnicky and limited, the obstacles are unreasonably difficult to overcome, and tiny mistakes can undo massive amounts of work. That’s not a great place to be, but it’s almost the opposite of what Cassandra’s problem is, and personal blogging aside, the point here is that the story and character arc worked for me despite that. I’m intentionally being a little vague because there are reveals towards the end which, while not earthshaking, are best experienced blind.

Gameplay is not the highlight of Fortune 499, but it’s enough fun to be engaging for as long as it lasts. Gameplay is turn-based combat using rock-paper-scissors, but you also have a deck of cards that help determine the future (in narrative, you’re only predicting the future, but in gameplay, drawing a card adjusts the odds of something happening rather than simply revealing them). If you draw the three of scissors, that means the opponent becomes much more likely to play scissors. A two of scissors is only a minor boost in the odds they’ll play scissors, while a four of scissors is nearly a guarantee. You can draw up to four cards per round, so if you get a measly two, you can try and increase your odds by drawing more cards and hoping to get a three or a four, which will stack on top of that two for a total of +5 or +6 odds of drawing scissors, which is very close to a guarantee. However, if you draw cards for rock or paper, you can end up cancelling out the scissors prediction and leaving you back at square one. An enemy with +2 scissors, +3 paper, and +2 rock is only very slightly more likely to choose paper. If you’d stopped at just the first card, the two of scissors, you’d have better odds of correctly guessing their play.

The gameplay gets more complex than that with special cards. You can draw mana cards that will give you MP with which to cast spells, there are some cards that do nothing when drawn but give you a bonus to HP or damage when they’re in your deck, and some of the dungeons revolve around a major arcana only available in that dungeon. For example, the Lovers immediately ends combat when drawn – not when played, when drawn – and many of the battles in that dungeon revolve around doing a specific amount of damage before using Lovers to walk away from the fight, which requires very precisely stacking the deck and sometimes playing a round or two of RPS blind, with no cards influencing the odds, because you need to spit out a bit more damage before drawing Lovers. Another one is Justice, which, when drawn, deals as much damage to both sides of the fight as they’ve dealt in the fight so far. Towards the end is Death, which kills you immediately when drawn, so the whole dungeon is then about using spells and deck stacking to win fights without drawing Death until you find a way to get that card out of your deck.

I’m pretty sure anyone who signs up for the Humble Bundle at any point gets access to all of the Humble Bundle exclusives, which means you can get Fortune 499 for like $12 if you sign up for just one month, plunder the archives, and then leave. Fortune 499 is not worth $12, but it’s worth $5, and any given Monthly Bundle usually has at least $7 worth of games in it. Going by MSRP, they’ve usually got something like $120 worth of games in it, but usually like two-thirds of that is junk that is actually worth $0 because it’s not even worth the time to play. That’s still $40-ish worth of games for $12 a month, or slightly less if you get a longer plan.

I started this post talking about how Fortune 499 is pretty good for the couple of hours it lasts, and now I’m talking about the value of Humble Monthly. This started as a random filler post to pad out the final few weeks of my marathon, and it got even less coherent from there. I don’t know where I’m going with this.

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