A new game from the original lead designer for Fallen London and Sunless Seas, this is a resource management game involving the experiences of a regular person who is pulled into the world of the occult. If you've played either of his earlier games, you'll have a good idea of the atmosphere of the game. If not, well, think desperate, wafty, creepy Gothic mythos building itself as you become more and more susceptible to the world between the worlds...
I started my first game as John Roy, a menial hospital worker who was sucked into a world of hidden knowledge and fevered revelations that gradually took over his life, even as he was driven to found a cult (with a grand total of 3 members). As he learned more and more, largely through esoteric volumes found in an unusual bookstore in the city, his sanity began to suffer, and that affected his work, which led to a distressing lack of cash for things like food. Still, he was uncovering snippets of the luminous realm that underlies our reality, living in a permanent state of dread, swinging between passionate enthusiasms and wasting sleeps, with dreaming a scarce respite.
Eventually, the raving Mr. Roy was committed to the local asylum, under the care of Dr. Phillips, who was perplexed by the case. John Roy expired unnoticed by the world, his followers scattered, but Dr. Phillips dove into his papers and books, trying to fathom the unusual case. And in the course of this, he noted that the books mostly came from one bookseller, in the city...
(Thus the second game began with a more capable investigator, both in funds and rationality, so while the good Dr. Phillips has to start from scratch, his advantages mean he's more likely to last longer.... A very nice mechanic.)
The game is timer-based; the player allocates his time and skills to timers that represent things like work, dreaming (or rest), study (of the occult), talking (to interested parties) and so forth. One timer simply burns off a unit of money every minute or so, and if you run out, it will eat your health... Another represents the mental effects of occult understanding, and will yank away various of your cards, which represent things like Reason and Passion and Erudition and timed, short-lived opportunities to conduct special tasks. As you grow in your knowledge and experience, or as events happen, new timers will pop up that you can use, or that will tick off automatically, perhaps demanding resource cards in lieu of adding a bad status (like Dread) that can affect you. It's all fully pausable, but at the same time, you only have the attributes of the cards and timers to guide you (with a little advice thrown in after something happens).
The effect is one of being overwhelmed, worried, a bit frantic, even paranoid, just through the mechanics of the game. Every advance heartens you, but you're always waiting for bad stuff to happen - investigators or journalists sniffing around, or the failure to understand an important tome when it became clear you really needed to focus on it, but your boss had demanded you work overtime or your pay would be cut (or you might even be fired). And I'm sure that as you go on and get your feet under you, the threats and rewards increase proportionately.
This is like a much more tightly focused Fallen London, but with a better system behind it. Still has the really cool text, and the emotions it brings out are unusually strong considering the mechanics are actually fairly simple. Each choice, even ordinary ones, feels fraught with hidden dangers, more likely to be regretted than perceived, and that's a really amazing achievement.
So if you want a different take on the trope of investigating cults, told from the perspective of the fevered would-be adept entering into an unknown world within the world, this is your game. It's weird, and challenging, but it's fun.