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January 2, 2012

Dungeon Master 2 - Review

I hate leaving games unfinished but due to the limited time available and other games poking for my interest I can´t be rigid. Not to mention that I will soon forget the game if I don´t write my review of it.
I have come very far since I am quite sure that I am very near the end. Therefore I think I am eligible to pass judgement of this game.

Gameworld & Story
To tell the truth, I never actually put any efforts intor reading the 10 pages of intro or whatever. I have to destroy the evil whatever it is. Never in the game you are presented with the story or background either so it seems it doesn´t matter much for the developers anyway.

The gameworld consists of one village in which you start and it is connected with various areas containing nothing but monsters and important keys to enter Skullkeep. Here and there you could find a few shops but that´s all. This game is really a dungeon crawler. It doesn´t need more.

The only reason it gets 1.5 compared to Crystal Dragons 1.0 is that you actually plays outside in the beginning before entering the dungeons and caves. The variations are also better. You have caves in the bottom and ordinary stonebased areas above.
Rating: 1.5

Economy
The game has a well balance of economy. You pay with different type of coins and gems and even in the end I wouldn´t say I am too rich. Just well enough to be able to buy the best thing if I compromise on other things as well. The problem is encumbrance. Heavier - and therefore better stuff - makes you unable to carry much with you. What I really, really dislike is that there is no way to see how much damage a weapon does or even how much protection you get from a piece of armour. You could only judge them on the price and hope more expensive is always better. I know that weapons also have special abilities but they are not explained in the manual. I don´t really have time to figure it out by myself. I don´t need to know that to get this far, but it would have been a much more pleasant experience. You also need food and water in order to survive and the balance is quite good there also.
Rating: 3

NPC & Interactions
There are no NPC:s except for the shopkeepers and they don´t say a thing. There are no interactions with monsters or anyone else for that matter. This kind of realtime RPG usually does not contain any sort of RPG elements of that type.
Rating: 1

Monsters & Tactics
Monsters come in much variety. Most of them attacks you on sight and fight until killed. They could use different abilities like throwing spells (bolts) at you or even steal items from you. That last thing is the most irritating little fellow in the game. Attack speed also differs. Other than they don´t have muchg tactics. You have to use some though, like using hit-and-run tactics all they time. Closing doors on them to hurt them. Lure them into traps etc. My worst enemy was the small spehere robots in the end that contantly harrassed you, did great damage and moved very quickly.
Rating: 3

Map design
The maps are pretty ordinary. They are not like squares like in Bards Tale but very irregular. They contain secret door and hidden stashes here and there. In general the map and level design i pretty ok. There is not much to say about it. Levels are not overly big and could be completed in 1-2 hours. You have an automap feature built into the game so you don´t need to draw your own maps.
Rating: 3

Graphics, sound and interface
The interface is pretty bad mainly due to two things. First you have to manually click combination of symbolic runes every time you need to cast a spell. There are no shortcuts or other things that will help you do this quickly. For such as graphically heavy and pretty modern game like this it is beyond my understanding. Because of this I almost never used magic in combat. Only to make healing- and cure poison potions. potions

The other reason is that you have to click on not only the weapon of the party member to attack, but also from a submenu select which kind of attack you would do like thrust, swing, chop etc. This takes time and in the end you are clicking like crazy anyway. What is this ? There should have been shortcuts from the keyboard or something implemented to ease things up.

The inventory and most of the other inteface options is acceptable. But it took a while to figure out how to money in moneyboxes etc.

The graphics of the game is pretty ok. Monsters uses very few frames though and animations are very choppy. But all in all it is ok.

There are a few sound effects in the game but no ambivalent music while exloring which is sad. The title and theme tune is however a very nice piece of work. Listen to it here:

Rating:3

Gameplay
In the beginning I was hooked by Dungeon Master II. There was a lot of different monsters, it was quite fast moving and you felt you made some progress. After several hours when you get the grip of things there are aspects which shows the limitation of the gaming system. For example, you have no idea of when you level up or how it will improve your character. You don´t know armours or weapons ratings. You have to try them out but you don´t see damage points when you hit creatures so it is hard to determine their relative damage done.

I did however like the fact that there are not many puzzles in the game and very few hidden things, and if they are they are quite easy to spot. I think there where three places in the game that I had to check a solution online. The first part was how to use mirrors in a room to get a pit to close in order to proceed. The other one was to understand the importance of the furnace in the caves and on all the following levels in order to user the final tools before the end battle. The third and last was too understand how to kill the flying chest. But between these puzzles you could proceed for quite some time in a linear fashion without much trouble. 

The magic system is - as mentioned before - very cumbersome and add nothing to the game whatsoever. The fights could have been much smoother. You get used to it and can live with it but it is nothing to recommend. Actually the let down of the magic system withdraw a full 0.5 point rating for the game. I still recommend Dungeon Master II. It is quite short and could be completed in around 25 hours. It is however a much more complex and complete game than Crystal Dragon although Crystal Dragons magic system - although simpler - is much more smooth to use.

I also have it very hard to accept the use of steam punk technology by introducing furnaces, machines and other tools. In my world, they don´t belong to medieval RPGs.

In the end, still no dungeon crawler so far has managed to beat my memories of Black Crypt or Eye of the Beholder series (with possible exception of EotB III). In 1995 Dungeon Master II was far superceded by its competition. In 1987 the original Dungeon Master was a milestone in action oriented, realtime RPGs and broke new grounds. DM2 does not bring any additional contents to the genre in any way except improved graphics and sound. Stonekeep and Anvil of Dawn that was released in the same year are far better and set new grounds in utilising the additional storage of the CD-media. DM2 should have been released several years earlier to better stand up to the expectations of the original.

However, If you have the time to spare and love these games DM 2 is still well worth playing but the original Dungeon Master is far better for its time.

Rating: 3






6 comments:

  1. I like your review here. I haven't read all the posts, since I've played the game maybe halfway through, but stopped to take a new hobby: Let's Plays (AKA computer game walkthroughs with commentary)! It's pretty amusing that you mentioned your fond memories of EotB, since I've done a blind run of EotB1 and I'm almost done with EotB2. Not only that, but I'll be playing through the main Dungeon Master games next (the original, Chaos Strikes Back, and DM2). Since you mentioned Black Crypt, I'd love to see you do a review of that one. I've never played it, but I've always been intrigued.

    - Amy

    That RPG Chick

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  2. I haven't played DM 2, but assuming the fighting and spell casting is the same as im DM 1 I have to disagree on your comments about needing hotkeys. These games are not clickfests, and you do have the time to do three mouse clicks to swing a weapon and up to five to cast spells. The only real problem is remembering the sequence of runes for the different spells. Since all actions take a certain amount of time, with the most damaging melee attacks taking the most time, you usually have time to give all your characters meaningful orders.

    Apart from this the game sounds rather dull compared to Chaos Strikes Back with its devious puzzles and unparalleled dungeon design.

    Sounds like the only real improvment compared to the older titles is the outdoors area and the weather effects.

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  3. @Amy K
    I might return to a short revisit of Black Crypt just to compare it but I won´t play it through. Once is enough :-) I also hope my fond memories of EotB 1 + 2 would stand the test of time in a new revisit. I tried out EoTb III but it didn´t hook my interest. Perhaps due to a lack of automap function ?

    @PetrusOctavianus
    The fighting was mostly annoying the first few hours until you´ve mastered the hit-and-run tacticts quick enough. But still during fights you never look ahead on the mainscreen but focus on trying to click on the right hands to issue your attacks. It works but I can´t say it is a smooth system. At least in EotB III you had an all-party-attack button.

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  4. EotB3 is the least popular of the series by far. Westwood Studios didn't develop that one (having gone on to create Lands of Lore), and it shows. This is just what I've heard, but I've heard it from many multiple sources: Uninteresting level design, boring or rehashed enemies, and it just didn't add anything to the EotB franchise. As a standalone game, it may not be bad, but it pales in comparison to both of the other games, especially II.

    - Amy
    That RPG Chick

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  5. @Amy K.
    I tried EotB3 earlier last year. I never got hooked to it. It was either that it lacked an automap feature (which is a must if I am to revisit any old CRPG) or that I just had a bad start. I remember trying to get through the woods in the beginning and just lost interest with all the fights.

    I should add that I completed Lands of Lore before that and that was a pleasant experience.

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  6. On my chronological playthrough of worthy games I'm nearing the end of 1993, at which time DM2 was released in Japan. It took more than a year for it to be available on Amiga and PC, and I remember in 1995 that I thought it looked severely dated after having played the Ultima Underworld games.

    The original Dungeon Master was revolutionary, and it did just about everything better than contemporary games except one thing: combat.
    Combat was always the weakest aspect of DM and its clones, so it's rather sad that DM2 seems to consist mostly of battling constantly respawning monsters, and at the same looking dated compared to contemporary games.

    So I decided to skip it, but I have enjoyed your blog about it.
    But you really, really ought to play the original Dungeon Master, since you obviously like the genre.

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