- Ouroboros presents a bright, cheerful world in which something is horrifyingly wrong. The hero has a princess to save and a quest set before him, but there are unsettling signs that all this has happened before.
Ouroboros is a short puzzle-RPG by Sierra Lee, the indie creator behind The Last Sovereign. Made in 2016 for a game jam, it serves as a sort of affectionate parody of JRPG tropes, particularly those from the 16-bit era.
Also, there's porn. Rather a lot of it, in fact. Porn used as a reward for achieving major story goals in a well-written, surprisingly emotional game, but porn nonetheless. (Content warnings: M/F, M/F/F, M/F/F/F, F/F, F/F/F, abuse of simulated humans, paizuri, light bondage, oral, anal, DP, one memorable scene with a dickgirl.) You can also purchase a work-safe edition of Ouroboros on Steam, though its original content can be restored with a readily-available patch.
Atreyan is a young hero who wakes up one day in a clearing near his village. He's told by his sidekick, a pet slime named Slimey, that an evil vizier has taken over the nearby castle. When Atreyan rushes to investigate, he finds out that three barriers have been erected across the path to the castle, which will require him to delve into three nearby dungeons in search of the artifacts that will remove them.
In his quest, Atreyan is aided by his childhood best friend Amiel; his faithful adventuring buddy Teira; and his own inexplicable ability to instantly revive whenever he dies, no matter what killed him. He is notably not helped by Emantha, the powerful witch who runs the local magic shop, who seems to hate him for no reason.
Atreyan goes about his quest, slaying dragons and fighting evil, and eventually, wins through to confront the evil vizier... at which point, things get weird.
Atreyan, Amiel, Teira, and Emantha are the only real people in the village, bound up inside an illusion by the real-world vizier. The spell that entraps them began as a torture device, meant to keep them from interfering with the actual vizier's plans, and is now that in addition to an energy source for the sorcerers who maintain the trap. Every time Atreyan fails in his quest, or succeeds at rescuing the princess, the entire simulation resets and sends Atreyan back to the clearing where he woke up. Atreyan has lived countless lives as a would-be hero, out to pursue a false princess. Their only hope of escape is, as Atreyan insists to himself, to break the pattern somehow...
Ouroboros contains examples of:
- Affectionate Parody: It's kind of like if Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest had a second, post-game mode where things got really existential.
- All Women Are Lustful: Even in the mostly-G-rated opening level of the game, Teira is openly fantasizing about the princess, Amiel is practically throwing herself at Atreyan, and an NPC offers to trade an artifact to Atreyan in exchange for sex. (When it becomes clear that he has no idea what she's asking him to do, she switches the request to killing a handful of goblins instead.) After being awakened and remembering their previous lives, none of the three female party members are at all shy about their desires anymore, because it's been thousands of years and they all know each other on levels well beyond intimate.
- And I Must Scream: The adventurers have been trapped within the spell for thousands of cycles. Sometimes the pattern breaks and they end up living out the rest of their normal lives in the village before the reset; sometimes everything goes wrong and one or all of them die painfully. We're never told just how many cycles there have been, but if you go off Atreyan's post-awakening conversation with the goblin counter, he's been at it long enough that he's killed over a billion goblins. In an average, pre-awakening run through the game, you will kill maybe 20.
- The roles that Amiel and Emantha play in the default cycle are, they theorize, deliberately sadistic counterpoints to their actual personalities. Emantha was in love with Atreyan before they were placed in the cycle, so her simulated personality hates him; she was also a powerful mage and a die-hard defender of the crown, so her cycle personality is arrogant, oblivious, and refuses to get involved with a threat to the castle. Amiel is fiery and boisterous, but gets stuck in the role of the soft-spoken, shy girl with an unrequited crush.
- It's established early on that since the characters are basically pure mind while they're in the simulation, they can withstand the mental impact of remembering their thousands of previous lives. Among other things, this means they can all remember each and every time they died, including painful expiration and slow torture. Teira mentions offhand, while defeating a dungeon boss, that there was more than one time where it bit her in half, and she remembers how it felt.
- Bi the Way: Teira is specifically competing with Atreyan to reach and rescue the princess first, and for the same chastely romantic reasons. During her solo cycle, when Teira successfully defeats the vizier and gets the girl, she mentions there were any number of previous cycles where she managed to pursue and win the princess's hand.
- By the end of the game, all three of the female characters are at least as much in love with one another as they are with Atreyan, due to spending centuries of subjective time in one another's company, and having the memories of lifetimes as lovers crammed into their heads.
- Fighter, Mage, Thief: The four main characters each both fit the typical archetypes of the fighter, cleric, mage, and rogue, although Teira is the only one who plays the role even close to straight.
- Full Circle: Slimey is the first character to speak at the start of a new cycle, and is also the final boss of the game. He's arguably not the most difficult boss, but he is the last enemy you face.
- Guide Dang It!: This is a short game with a small map that rewards exploration, but good luck blundering through it without, at the very least, a decent walkthrough. They do exist.
- Fortunately the cyclic gameplay means that nothing of consequence is permanently lost, so theres no harm experimenting.
- Healing Factor: Atreyan wont stay dead unless he gives up. The villains plan is all about trying to wear him down and keep him busy instead. Losing most battles just results in him waking up again afterwards, fully healed.
- Kill It with Fire: Amiel's primary method of attack.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: The game begins when Atreyan finishes a cycle and rescues the princess, only to be confronted with an enemy sorcerer who explains the entire situation to him, apparently just to troll a man who, as far as the sorcerer knows, is about to have his memory wiped. Atreyan defies the sorcerer by forcing himself to remember a single phrase—"Break the pattern"—which makes him explore a bit on the next cycle and find one of his past selves' contingency plans. Without that single dickhead sorcerer to spur him on, it's possible Atreyan would've gone for another few million cycles without challenging the narrative.
- Reincarnation Romance: Over the course of countless cycles, the four protagonists have explored every possible romantic entanglement that exists, both with each other and with the cycle's fake villagers. (There's apparently an uncommon cycle where Atreyan dumps Amiel to pursue and win the hand of the nameless lady who runs the item shop, which Amiel is still angry about even after she's awakened.) By the end of the game, they've quietly decided to fall into a four-way relationship, on the basis that they can't, at this point, do anything else.
- Schmuck Bait: The entire relationship system in the first cycle of the game is a red herring, made to make you waste gold on a useless mechanic. You do not actually get anything by giving the girls gifts, no matter how many of them you give. There's only a certain amount of gold available in-game, and at that point, you need almost all of it to buy the Flame Necklace in the item shop, thus allowing you to make progress. If you burn too much cash on things like the fake relationship grind, you dead-end and are forced to restart the cycle entirely. There is a relationship system in-game, but the points are mostly awarded through plot, conversations, and actions, rather than throwing gifts at a woman until she likes you.
- Sequence Breaking: Most of the puzzles in the game involve figuring out how to do this deliberately.
- Take That!: Visiting the clown that sells romantic gifts with a full party results in an event where Amiel gleefully burns him to death, while Teira and Emantha comment acidly about how using gifts to grind relationship points is a stupid mechanic.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Once the main crew figures out they're the only real people in the village, they get downright sadistic towards everyone else. Viliana, the Vizier's female subordinate, finds that out the hard way.