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Forager's Boons are that rare gaming choice that really means something

Clicker beats the devil.

I'll admit I was at the nodding-off stage with Forager when I discovered the weird altar thing. Forager is an exploration and crafting game, and it's also a clicker game. Everything you do makes the numbers go up, and everything you get for making the numbers go up makes the numbers go up faster. This is why I was starting to nod off, I think. Forager is filled with bespoke wonders, but they are delivered via a deliriously enjoyable grind. A luxurious grind. Grind that is like a warm bubble bath. Grind that might make you nod off.

But then I discovered the weird altar thing. It's in the red zone to the south of the starting fields. Its theme, I guess, is hell. There are certainly a lot of demons running around. And there's this altar, which feels suitably demonic and hellish too. I've seen a lot of hellish altars by this point in my gaming life. But this one was different.

This one gave me a choice. And it was a choice that actually mattered. The altar, it turns out, is how you access Forager's Boons system. Boons offer a trade: give up one of your permanent life hearts in exchange for one of two randomly selected boosts. I say Boons offer a trade, but once you click on the altar you're locked in: you're losing a heart whatever happens. So what do you want to trade it for.

The genius of this system, beyond the fact that you're locked in, is that the trades don't really seem that good. Maybe you trade your heart away for a bunch of potions, or to gain three levels instantly. Thing is: none of those things are as good as having an extra heart. This is a game in which you play for a very long time to get anywhere, so things like extra hearts mean about as much as they do in Zelda, say. In Breath of the Wild, I would argue there's nothing as valuable as a new heart container. You certainly wouldn't trade one away for a few magic spells, or a few gems.

But in Forager I do. I've done it four times now, even though new hearts can be tricky to come by, and even though the boons I'm offered really aren't that good. Sometimes, they're actually terrible. Yesterday I accidentally chose the option to spawn a load of high-level enemies. I only had one heart left by this point, which is insta-kill. Those guys insta-killed me again and again and again until I drank a potion that caused me to arc lightning, after which I just ran around zapping them from a distance.

The magic I think - the thing which makes this bad deal so unmissable - is that Forager is a game in which all the numbers go up. It's a game in which good fortune slides your way, sometimes very slowly, sometimes rather quickly. It turns out that slowly-acquired riches gives you quite a lot to lose, and in a game in which good things are always happening, bad deals with the devil take on a perverse value.