by Dan Lenois
reviewed on PC
All that glitters
There's not much that isn't strange about Sunday Gold, which ultimately proves to be something of a double-edged sword, in this turn-based point-and-click RPG. Sunday Gold pits the player in a grounded dystopian near-future setting, and challenges them with pulling off a daring heist against one of the most powerful mega-corporations in the world. (And no, it’s not Amazon.)
Sunday Gold presents a curious mix of visual perspectives and gameplay mechanics. In the majority of instances, players will mostly alternate between a standard point-and-click exploration mode, as they search rooms and objects for both necessary and optional items, and a turn-based-combat system, for when it’s time to pull out your baseball bats and brass knuckles.
Polishing Your Brass Knuckles With A Security Guard's Blood…
Combat is where Sunday Gold tends to shine brightest. Each character has their own designated playstyle which, when used in coordination with the two others, allows for a decent amount of team synergy. Frank, the central protagonist, acts as the primary damage dealer, while Gavin, the computer geek, is armed with a baseball bat and (probably) a few spare nuclear launch codes. Sally functions as a support tank class, with abilities that allow her to absorb incoming enemy damage, and alternatively, heal her teammates.
Each character also has a number of passive abilities that prove useful outside of combat. Frank's "Reassuring Presence" perk grants Frank and both his allies increased resistance to stress, and increases their composure recovery rate. Stress becomes fairly important as the player progresses further into the game. When the characters are placed in high-stress situations, such as idling too long in a specified area and getting caught by security, or else walking in a room full of blood and gore, they may have a tendency to get just a tad uneasy. This can eventually unravel into full immobilizing panic. But if the player sufficiently upgrades Frank's aforementioned passive buff, the likelihood of this becoming a continually-recurring issue drops drastically.
The Best Reason To Do Something Is "Why Not?"
The story beats and dialogue are where Sunday Gold attempts to get players invested in the characters, but after an extensive playthrough, both merely provided me incentive to want to see my own characters fail at every turn. While there are a few occasional clever remarks, the dialogue tries so hard to satirize the future, while at the same time semi-seriously commenting on the present, that all the collective babble becomes mentally exhausting.
The comic-book style cutscenes are one of the few instances to the contrary. While they're still campy and a bit on-the-nose, they're far more entertaining than what you're likely to hear during any specific level. The art style, combined with the 3D text effects, pop right off the screen satisfyingly, which leaves you often wishing that it carried over more to the gameplay itself.
It's Skill That Divides The Amateurs From The Pros…
The skill tree here in Sunday Gold isn't particularly sophisticated. Sub-class customization, (the ability to further specialize your character's function within the limits of their predefined role) doesn't seem to have been a major consideration during development. This rigid design approach could be excusable if the unlockable skills truly enhanced each character’s defined role, as is the case with other turn-based-RPGs like XCOM or Empire of Sin, but the heavy focus on passive buffs limits the game's potential in that direction.
Skill points are granted by levelling your trio of characters up, which can be achieved through a number of ways. These can include progressing the story, successfully overcoming combat encounters, and fulfilling optional objective conditions. The game establishes a fair risk/reward balance by rewarding players for overcoming these challenges, while at the same time generally not providing enough of an incentive for players to just endlessly grind combat scenarios for effectively unlimited progression points. No matter how many times you've upgraded Sally's healing output, or how many pill bottles you've picked up off the ground, a sustained series of battles is not good for anyone's health.
A Crisis Of Conflicting Identities
Sunday Gold's single biggest flaw is that it often doesn't seem to know what kind of game it tries to be, so it tries to be several games in one. It plays with the idea of being a snarky turn-based combat game, while also parading itself as a point-and-click detective game, while concurrently also throwing in more quick-time event mini-challenges than your average modern Call of Duty game. It tries to throw so much at the wall at once, that most of it ends up sliding away with a flop, like a fresh oozing slice of pizza.
Sunday Gold is by no means a bad game, but its tonal and game mechanical confusion, created as a result of the developers' honuorable attempt at originality, makes it hard to whole-heartedly recommend for anyone looking for a casual pick-up-and-play tactical heist game.
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Turn-based combat can be fun, Fun comic-book art style, Character synergy is solid
Underwhelming skill tree, Poorly-written story & dialogue, Overuse of QTE gimmicks