Currently playing: 7 mages, Drive to Moscow, Ravenloft: Stone Prophet

November 29, 2016

Ruzar - The life stone - Review

Next dungeon crawler up is the indie game Ruzar - the life stone, a game which also pays homage to the original dungeon master. It is very similar to my last game The Deep Path: Labyrinth of Andokost (TDP:LoA) even tough there are some major changes.

First off, in this game you play one character that you will create by spending your starting points between the attributes. There are are a skill tree in the game for a path of warrior, rogue and wizard so you might want to spend your points on the attributes most likely to resemble your playstyle of these three classes. You are free to specialise or spread these points though.

The main story is presented during the start of the game but never after that. In these kind of games the story gives you just a reason for being where you are. The game style is the same regardless. Fight your way through each level and foe blocking your path, plunder and loot everything you can and become as powerful as possible. 

Very good autoamp

The shopkeeper give you some sidequests
You start out in the mountains but will eventually enter the temple, sanctuary, mines and caves. Each of them contains several levels and their own graphical style. The whole games is full of the small kind of puzzles we´ve become accustomed to, like pits that needs to be closed, buttons and levers that either opens secret doors, reveals treasures, closes pits or bring forth teleporters. There are larger doors here and there which requires specific kind of keys to advance. Those are often buried deep in the hardest parts of the game behind traps and puzzles or carried by tough monsters.

Since I just a few weeks before played TDP_LoA I cannot but compare the games. Both have their own style and there are several things that differs between the games worth mentioning:

For example:

  • You have merchants where you can buy better equipment (weapons, shields, armour, magical items, spells and the like) which makes this game more varied.
  • Instead of continously regenerating as in TDP:LoA you must either heal with potions, spells or by lit a campfire and stand nearby. You need to find the campfire first and then you need to have a torch ready.
  • You could store items in a storage section and upgrade the number of items you could store there by paying more money.
  • All items have weight and your attribute Endurance control how much you could carry before you are gradually slowed. This is one of the best implementations I have seen of overloading in these kind of games. Instead of giving you penalties of fighting you move more slowly and it comes in gradual steps. If you are too heavy loaded you could forget to accomplish your square dance and barely manages enter fights without heavy losses, since you will be too slow to attack and retreat before the enemy attacks.
  • Automap is here. Hurrah!
  • Skill tree which give you some variety and replayability even though it is very streamlined within a class.
  • Coolness of weapons. With knives you attack faster but inflicts lesser damage, with two handed weapons you attack slower but inflict a lot of damage.
  • Special binding stones that allows you to teleport back and forth without having to travel through each level.
  • Some sidequests to give you more XP. Delivered by a few NPC.

You could put items into a storage but have to pay for the room


I really like that the game plays so much faster than TDP:LoA. You move around quickly and can even navigate when showing the automap.

The interface is pretty good with the standard movement of the WASD keys. The character screens are clean and easy to understand. The sound of the game is ok and the music does not stand out and are not as good as in TDP:LoA. I do have to say though that it has strong resemblance to the music found in Legend of Grimrock.

Graphics in the game are generally good with much better framerate and animations than in TDP:Loa. But the different environments are not as clear and textures are not always as good as the single one in TDP:LoA. So comparing them a single level to each other TDP:LoA wins easily because it is much sharper and clear.

Hmm...how to get across this ?

The game is filled with puzzles and hidden items but they repeat themselves a lot. For example. Hidden items are almost always revealed by pressing a hidden button. Traps are always disarmed with putting weight on a preassure plate and you almost always have to manually fall down in every pit because they reveal new sections of the map you have to explore. Having said that, the game uses teleporters in a very good way. There is even sections of evil disorientation when you suddenly find yourself travelling backwards in a corridor if you are not observant enough. Such things was part of the old school games like Bard´s Tale.


Your character and inventory

I have never got trapped though and never found any bug except for a crash to desktop once. You only have 3 save game slots so you have to carefully choose which to replace so you always have a save when you are safe and can return home.

I opted to play a mage in the game but I found it underpowered compared to a fighter. The spells do little damage and costs much mana. Mana is only restored by drinking potions or by standing beside a campfire (of which there are few). Unless you use a staff which slowly regenerates mana but that would require you to run back and forth between fighting and retreating and it would take too much time. There are several combats in which you are totally locked up in a room or in a confined space. To run around holding a staff and wait for your mana to regenerate while the staff itself inflict around 50 % damage of a melee weapon was never my choice of play. I thought I had the best combination as a warriormage because I could still retreat and heal myself using the staff which regenerated my mana.

As a warrior you could fight as much as you want and the fights are actually too easy with the squaredance tactics so I found myself always fighting in melee. The only difficulties I had was when the space was too limited to use the squaredance tactic.

I saved most of my skill and attribute points and think I ended the game at level 21. There are three skill trees for a playing style of warrior, ranger or mage. I begun to put some points into the magical tree but spells are still too weak. You will also get a lot more good weapons when exploring than good wands. I have no idea how it is to play a ranger using ranged weapons. There are some good ranged weapons hidden in the game though.

Temple
Mines
Caves
Featurewise the game is far more developed and advanced than TDP:LoA but I found it only slightly better. Also the price tag is much higher. I found the game a little too short. There are only a few different areas with a few levels each. Together I think the number of levels are almost the same as in TDP:LoA and it took me 11 hours to complete.

I would like to see a sequel though because this game has good potential to be developed further. I would suggest the enemies gets a little faster so square dancing would not be so easy. Or that they possess more abilities like freeze or slow. You have a bestiary in the game and when you have fought enough of a given creature you will see its relative strengths and weaknesses. My hardest opponent was the moving green garbage slimes because they leave a trail of poison and have poisonous attacks which drain you quickly. Fighting several of them in confined spaces was tough.

Also, more NPC with more elaborate dialogues would enhance the game as well. There are no lore or other information found during your explorations so you quickly forget about your main quest.

Overall, this was a good dungeon crawler that comes highly recommended.

Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
1
Economy
3
NPC & Interactions
2
Monsters, tactics & combat system
3
Magic system
3
Character generation & development
2.5
Map design
3
Manual
-
Graphics, Sound and Interface
3
Summary CRPG value
20.5


Gameplay
4






November 13, 2016

Ruzar - The life stone, another good dungeon crawler

Just after finishing the last dungeon crawler, I immediately started to looking for another in the same genre. After a brief research I came up with Ruzar - The life stone, a dungeon crawler released in 2015. The major difference on the surface is that you only control one character. After a couple of hours I am hooked with this game as well. It offers several features that where non-existent in The Deep Paths: Labyrinth of Andokost, like a shop where you actually buy and sell items, quests, automap, teleporter stones, cooldowns for weapons, square dancing, spells and a skill tree just to name some of the major changes. The game is more expensive so this is to be expected.




I will return with more information about my progress in this game and my views on it but I feel that so far it delivers. It contains puzzles, preassure plates, traps and all you expect from this game. 

I created a mage like character spending my attribute points purely on intelligence (to boost spell damage and the amount of spell slots you can have), Spirit (to increase my mana) and constitution (to get more health points every level). I am playing on normal difficulty and so far the fights are a littel on the easy side because of the square dance tactics. Monsters do however have different abilities and speeds so this might change.

I am at level 6 and have saved my attribute points (except for increasing endurance to carry more items) and skill points. I always do that until I know where and when I really will need them. As you are all aware many games are not equally balanced between different classes and playstyles.



Take a look at the trailer and read some info below from the developer:

Ruzar - The Life Stone is a first-person, grid-based dungeon crawler inspired from the famous Dungeon Master Series.

Being a big fan of this genre since it came out (1987), I always wanted to create my version with my own flavor. Two years ago I decided I should try it, It has been a long and fastidious process, but here it comes. I hope the community will enjoy it!
One of the major element I wanted to change is the number of character you play. Instead of having the four classic characters, I wanted to have only one! I wanted a deeper conection with the main character so by focusing on it, it was easier to develop a skill system that was more elaborated than the most common dungeon crawlers in the genre. I also wanted to create a different spell system, more similar to the classic rpg game genre.

Here are some new gameplay element you can find in Ruzar - The Life Stone.
  • A Storage System to be able to store your items you want to keep
  • An Economy where you can buy and sell items
  • A binding stone system to help you travel through the dungeons
  • A Quest system



November 12, 2016

Review: The Deep Paths: Labyrinth Of Andokost

The last couple of years have seen a tremendous increase in indie developers tackling the CRPG nische market. After completing The Quest I was looking for another RPG to sink my teeth in. First I tried Paper Sorcerer but never got hooked by it. It was by pure accident I found this game on steam for only $7 dollars to be released very soon.

The Deep Paths: Labyrinth of Andokost is a dungeon master clone with a four party assemble trying to solve a mystery below a city. The game is developed by only one person but still manage to achieve well respected graphics and sound. The game is far from as polished as Legend of Grimrock but still manages to hold on its own and the price tag is really attractive.

It reminds me very much of Crystal Dragon and Black Crypt for the Amiga. Not the least because of the colour palette used which is light brown. The game is extremely simple, yet functional with only three classes (Warriors, Rogue, Wizard). You are allowed to re-roll your attributes as much as you dare to and then the game begins. The four attributes wither helps to increase your damage output, armour class, mana or health.


While the game is realtime in the way that monsters move even if you are stationary it turns to turn-based during combat which allows everyone - including monsters - to attack before you can move or attack the next round. This means it effectively kills the hit-and-run tactics used in these sort of games. You could still sneak around and hit the nemies from behind for backstabbing damage though but the enemy is always given one retaliatory attack. 


One thing you do not have to think about here is food. No one will starve to death. No one even permanently dies unless all characters dies in a fight. Unconscious characters will return to life after a brief period of rest, even in the middle of fights and regenerates health and mana slowly over time.


There are no spells but simple wands to use for your mages and ranged weapons for the rogue which is also necessary to open chests. Apart from that anyone can enter melee combat but I believe the front row has a greater chance of hitting. Weapons and armours are not found frequently. There are not a lot of items lying around. Most of the times you find arrows, pick-axes or ingredients to brew mana and health potions. But apart from that there is not much loot but I find it acceptable because there are also games that have som many items that you barely notice the effects when equipping them which also degrades the enjoyment of finding them. 

The levels are quite small but there are no automap available, unless you find a map which often are hidden. I think that is good compromise because today there is just no patience to begin drawing maps with pen and paper again. It seems there exists a map on every level but it is often hidden behind a puzzle or hidden door.


Sometimes you will find objects or trigger other events which will lead to dialogues between your party. They help to build on the story and adds a littel variety. Every level contains some sort of challenge to get through which mostly requires you to find the keys necessary to progress. Those keys are either hidden or lies behind rooms full of traps, skulls shooting magical missiles or huge monsters guarding them. I find the so called puzzles to be relatively easy. Only once I got really stuck when I had to find out a combination of clicking four buttons. My only strategy was by pure force of going through all combinations. That is not fun, only frustrating. If at least there would be a riddle or some sort of hint to help you.




Combat is overall relatively easy but tedious. There is no strategy involved at all. Just pure strength where you try to get in more hits than you receive. You could always run away and as long as you can get far away the monsters will stop chasing you. The best tactic is to use a 2x2 area and move around each creature to attack them from behind to receive backstabbing damage. 




Mages are very underpowered with only weak wands. There is no difference in cooling down times of any weapons or magical wands used so you should always choose the one which inflicts the most damage. Therefore mages are worthless. They have no spells or any advantages over other classes. Their poison wand vastly underpowered and not better thant the rogues bow. At least the rogue is necessary in order to open chests. If I where to replay this I would use 3 warriors and 1 rogue.

Despite those minor drawbacks I had great fun playing this game. It reminded me of old good times and the game was bugfree for me. I also love the loading screens which have sampled the sound of an amiga discdrive loading. The title music to the game is very catching and good and I found myself listening to it a lot by itself.

The game also lacks any manual. I won´t say it was necessary. Much of the information is explained by tooltips but a short manual is always appreciated and it helps potential buyers to get a good overview of what the game offers.

 I highly recommend this game for anyone who loves a dungeon crawler.



Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
2
Economy
1
NPC & Interactions
1.5
Monsters, tactics & combat system
2
Magic system
1
Character generation & development
1.5
Map design
3
Manual
-
Graphics, Sound and Interface
3
Summary CRPG value
15


Gameplay
3.5