I picked up Fear and Hunger 2 back in December, and I've been keeping a running tally of all the horrible ways my characters have died since then. A couple months and thirty some hours later, I've got enough for a good post out of it.
So as to not just have a table of random information that only makes sense with the context of having played the game, there will be some notes about game design at the end.
Entries are listed as Death # - Date - Character - Cause of Death
- 12/16 - Levi - Infected wound from a Moonscorched
- 12/17 - Levi - Smashed in the head with a pesticide canister.
- 12/17 - Marina - Smashed in the head with a pesticide canister, again.
- 12/17 - Levi - Tackled into submission by armless villager after sleeping in the wrong bed, then fed to pigs.
- 12/18 - Levi - Shot by sniper outside of town.
- 12/18 - Marina - tackled to death by the Woodsman after getting freed from the well.
- 12/20 - Abella - Tackled to death by armless villager.
- 12/22 - Marina - Shot by rifleman, only had one arm left anyway.
- 12/22 - Levi - Gummed to death by headless wolf
- 12/23 - Marina - Killed by Father Oscar's //hurting// spell, which crashes the game if it kills you.
- 12/23 - Levi - I am not kidding, that motherfucker can crash your game with the amount of //Hurting// he can deal.
- 12/23 - Levi - I told the mayor that the sausage looked like a penis and he stuck a meat cleaver in me.
- 12/25 - Levi - Starved to death in latrine pit.
- 12/25 - Marina - Stabbed by manic villager.
- 12/25 - O'saa - Brutalized by an ogre in a flashback during character creation.
- 12/27 - O'saa - Choked to death on pesticide fumes.
- 12/27 - O'saa - Stabbed by Henryk.
- 12/27 - O'saa - Shot in the head by Needles.
- 12/28 - O'saa - Again with the pesticide.
- 12/28 - O'saa - Grappled into submission by Fr. Oscar, de-legged, strung up on a ritual crucifix, rescued, crawl away only to get killed by the Vile and his pesticide again.
- 12/31 - O'saa - Bitten by rats, which were summoned by a Rat Hag
- 1/1 - Marcoh - Pesticide gas, again.
- 1/6 - Marcoh - Needles fucked me up, again.
- 1/9 - Marcoh - Killed by //Hurting//, via Dysmorphia.
- 1/11 - Marcoh - Punched myself to death after getting mind-controlled by a Crimson Father.
- 1/11 - Marcoh - Shot by an Elite Trooper
- 1/12 - O'saa - Shot and power-sawed by a mob.
- 1/14 - Marcoh - Dysmorphia and //Hurting//. Should probably mention that there's a monster named Dysmorphia.
- 1/14 - O'saa - Machete'd by a Death Mask.
- 1/15 - Marina - Tackled to death by Karin.
- 1/15 - Marina - Clawed to death by a Moonscorched.
- 1/15 - Marcoh - Bludgeoned with a meat mallet.
- 1/15 - Marcoh - Gutted by the knife of a Crimson Father, right after I shot Marina in the head due to mind control.
- 1/18 - Marina - Impaled in trap pit while running away from an Owl Cultist in the woods.
- 1/18 - O'saa - Police brutality.
- 1/18 - Marina - Landmine.
- 1/19 - Karin - Machete'd by Death Mask, but not before he cut off both my arms.
- 1/21 - Karin - A great run ended by a Death Mask machete. Got too greedy.
- 1/22 - Karin - Decapitated by owl spirit.
- 1/23 - Abella - Gnawed by a Crimson Father.
- 1/23 - Karin - Shot by a mob.
- 2/2 - O'saa - Slapped to death by a sewer monster that screamed "Choke on my balls" when it attacked.
- 2/4 - Marina - I thought I knew how to handle the Vile. Hubris, etc. My characters, apparently, have not built up any resistance to pesticide.
- 2/10 - O'saa - Impaled in a spike pit while wandering the woods at night.
- 2/19 - O'saa - SHOT BY A FUCKING TANK
As you can see, this game will result in a lot of character death. What this list doesn't show is the stuff in between.
I was not frustrated by any of these deaths, not even that great run with Karin at #38. The key to the entire experience is that every character death means you have learned something about the game. Even if it's just "there is a horrible monster in that building, don't go inside it" - that's useful knowledge! You explore, you take notes, you die, you reload the save, you repeat until you decide to abandon the run and start with a new character.
The items you get from barrels and chests are random, but the rest of the game isn't. The map is stable. Enemies are always in the same locations. NPCs are in the same locations at the same times on the same days. Special items will always be in the same place and with the same means of getting them. Your accrued knowledge will always be useful, and it will only ever get more useful as you gain more of it. Challenges that used to be brick walls can be taken out with good luck and good planning, totally avoided, or even entirely trivialized. You're handed a puzzle box, a mystery to unravel, and as you gain mastery of its workings in one way you can apply that knowledge along another path.
If this sounds like idealized OSR game design, you are correct. It is. This game is a masterclass on it.
Let's look at an example.
Very early in the game, you come across a locked gate that leads into the city. You're told that there are two keys, and that's generally going to be your way to go in the beginning. One of the keys is easy to find, while the other is behind a particularly nasty enemy who is well beyond anything you've fought this far in the game.
It's possible to beat the encounter with minimal losses, if you get extremely lucky, fight extremely dirty, or already have figured out some ways of getting overpowered (I have managed, in later runs, to beat him in two turns without getting hit - it is possible!)
But you're not likely to learn those strategies without a lot of trial and error. More likely you're going to explore the rest of the available areas, maybe with different characters and in doing so you'll find that:
- If you have the lockpicking skill or a small key, you can get into the sewers and use them to bypass the gate.
- If you have the Skin Bible of a particular god, you can unlock a shortcut through the woods that takes you directly to the city.
- If you have a shotgun and ammo, you can just shoot the lock off.
- If you got miraculously lucky and picked up a pair of bolt cutters in Tunnel 7, you can do the same.
And once you know those other methods, you can plan around them according to your player character, your items, and the other choices you've made in the game so far.
Now just keep multiplying that by all the other decision points to be made in the game and you get an idea of what the experience is like. Despite being 30+ hours in and close to the end of the game, there's still lots of stuff I either haven't tried or haven't discovered. While there is inevitably an end state of system mastery where there is no more to learn, it is a very long road and if you're the kind of person who likes long hikes and fucked-up sights, it will be an enjoyable one. And the difficulty itself can be surmounted both by the allowances of Eas(ier) mode, or the multiple methods by which you can absolutely break the game with relatively little effort.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
As a survival horror game, F&H contains a whole lot of scrounging in barrels and rationing out your items. You're juggling depleting bars of health, mental state, and hunger for up to four characters at a time. Beyond healing items it's a game of using what you have: no cloth for bandages? Well, if the wound is already infected, you can use the dirty toilet paper and a green herb to patch yourself up.
It's technically possible for any given character to learn any given skill. But in order to get those skills you either have to raise your affinity with a god (requiring a ritual circle and the appropriate Skin Bible, both limited resources), or you have to kill one of the other contestants in the Termina festival and absorb their souls (which unlocks their branch of the skill tree); for both methods you need soul stones, which you get by trading in the heads of defeated enemies (so long as you have a bonesaw to cut off their heads) and you need to rest in a bed (which moves the world into the next time-state).
As with the rest of the game, once you come to grips with how all these interlocking parts work you can start plotting out a path to get what you want, and that path is specific to how the game is progressing. A F&H character build is a time-sensitive hit list where you have to juggle "can I reach and recruit/kill X before they die by other means" with "are they more useful to me in this run as an ally or as their skills."
In the manner of games that actually use lore well, it is optional in F&H. It's there if you want to dig into it, and when you start digging you will keep on digging, but if you just want to play a fucked-up battle royale and vibe, that's an option too.
(The lore does have some fantastic old god / new god shenanigans going on. once again I recommend Worm Girl's overview, especially if you are interested but unlikely to play the game itself - she weaves together all the variables into a coherent, though not "canonical" throughline.)
Game good. Said it before, saying it again.