Baroque is a nightmare.
I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s a great game! It’s a surreal, hazy, nonsensical thing. You’re dropped into a “village,” which is actually just the outside of a factory of some sort, full of weird looking creatures with odd speech patterns. You wander around for a bit, and an angel appears, hands you a giant rifle, and tells you to enter a nearby tower (which makes screaming noises the whole time), where you’ll find God itself. Go into the tower and kill God with your big, fuck-off gun. Oh, and apparently the apocalypse took place some time before you arrived here.
Now, over the years, there have been games that have tried the “dream” approach to things. Games attempting to recreate the feeling of some bizarre dream/nightmare that you want to tell people about, but don’t, because a lot of people find that to be very self-indulgent (don’t know why). And there have been times where they’ve come close to achieving that goal; titles like Nier, LSD (which is, funny enough, a game entirely based on a dream journal), Yume Nikki, and Evergrace definitely got the surrealism angle down. The problem is that those games, and many others that have tried this, are linear. Dreams are not linear, especially if you’re someone like me who deals with recurring dreams. The locations are never the same. The people are always different. Your “goal,” if you even have one, is only ever vaguely-defined, and is subject to shifting goalposts. Games, as well as other forms of media, have never seemed to realize this.
Baroque is the one game that actually manages to get this. And it turns out, the solution was so simple: Baroque is a Roguelike. Roguelikes are games based entirely around randomization. You can now have this surreal, dream-like experience where Nothing Makes Any Goddamn Sense, and the in-game mechanics can now fit that narrative! It’s very rare to see writing and programming come together and fit perfectly, without any of the usual contradictions that come up. The whole thing is like a lucid dream. One where you’re still held to the made-up rules of your subconscious that forces you along.
I’ve mentioned before that I deal with recurring dreams. This is probably why I’ve found myself so drawn to this game. A location that has a constantly changing layout? Yeah, I can relate to that. Terrifying looking people that willing to give me a hand? Yep, that sounds familiar. A goal that I don’t completely understand, but try to reach anyway? Oh yeah, that’s me to a T. Although, I can’t say that I’ve ever tried to murder God in any of these dreams.
In that sense, Baroque is something of a cathartic experience for me. It’s a nightmare sim where I get to deal with the sensation of being killed by terrifying, atrocious monsters repeatedly. To deal with the dread of being lost in an unknown, hostile environment. To deal with my teeth falling out because I ate the wrong health-restoring item. To deal with being thrust into solving a mystery I’m not even remotely able to solve. My weird, fucked up idea of fun.