Currently playing: Avadon 2 - The Corruption, Wolfenstein - The new order

January 22, 2017

Heroes of the Monkey Tavern - Review


Game reviewed: Heroes of the Monkey Tavern
Version: 1.0.4
Created by: Monkey Stories
Released: 2016
Formats: Pc
Difficulty: 5/10
Price$9.99


The last week I have played the dungeon master clone Heroes of the Monkey Tavern. Of all the clones I have played this autumn the graphics are the most similar to Legend of Grimrock. The game is very simple and quite short but give you value for your money.

To tell you the truth I have already forgot the so called story of the game. You will never - ever - be reminded of it once you start the game so it doesn´t matter. What matters is that this is a real-time dungeon master clone with excellent graphics and good sound effects. It is simple and straigh forward. Too simple in my mind because you automatically level up without having to choose anything. You are granted a few attribute upgrades and a new skill or spell depending on your class. Which by the way is the only choice you make in the beginning of the game. You have four characters to choos but more classes. I choosed a warrior, barbarian, priest and elementalist. I could have choosed a Paladin, Monk or Rogue instead.




When I got into my first fight I suffered tremendous amount of party damage and thought something must be wrong until I understood that this is the games punishment for square dancing. If you disengage from the enemy you receive fleeing damage which is quite heavy. You get that every round your are out of melee distance. The short story is that I never disengaged a single fight after that. This makes fights pretty boring. You only click on your weapons or spells frantically. At least they have kept the cooling times for different weapons so you have some choices to make which weapons should be used but other than that you are very limited in how you use the few items you find. I say few because apart from a few weapons and armours on each levels there is NOTHING more to loot. Needless to say there are no encumbrance or anything to sell or buy either in this kind of game.

Gameworld & Story

The introductions is quite good but once you start there is not a single reference to what you are doing there. And it doesn´t matter at all. This is a pure dungeon crawler. The game world consists of 8 levels each taking about 1 hour to complete. The dungeons are roughly squares but with irregular corridors and rooms.

Rating: 1

Economy

Economy in this game is nonexistent. There is no gold and no shop. Ruzar the lifestone and Dungeon Master 2 is the exception to this.

Rating: 1

NPC & Interactions

There is no NPC (Non-Person-Character) in the game to talk with. Interactions with the environment is only possible when it comes to opening doors, pulling levers or pushing buttons. You cannot throw objects or close doors on the monsters like in Dungeon Master but you can use the dungeons fireball or poison traps against the enemies which is cool.

Rating: 1.5



Monsters, tactics & combat system

Each level often has at least one unique monster type. Since you are more or less forced to fight a static fight against them - I never had any ranged character - I cannot see any tactics these could use in any way. They never flee or retreat. There is no monster with ranged capabilities.

They have somewhat different capabilities in that some try to poison you and some have group attack capabilities. I never really understood how to use the shields.

It would be nice if there where a way to see the health of a monster so you will know wether poison, fire or ice attacks are more or less effective against them. As it is now I have no idea if there even is different kind of resistances. You do see how much damage you are doing though but since you have your eyes on your own party weapons you never have time to analyse the floating damage points inflicted.

Combat system is very static. You only click your characters weapon icons as soon as they are ready to strike again. The only tactics lies in how to use your spells or which character to heal. You have a very limited stock of potions in the game so you have to carefully choose where and when to use it. I saved as much of my potions as possible to use on the level bosses.

You have different kind of weapons like swords, warhammers and 2-handed weapons. Priests are more adept with warhammers and I put my 2-handed weapons with my Barbarian. The elementalist used staffs or ordinary swords to have something to use when the mana was drained.

Armour comes in heavy and light types and my figher could use the heavy stuff and my barbarian only light armour.

Rating: 1.5


Magic System

You have mana which - together with health - are slowly regenerated by time or by sleeping. Sleeping could be done anywhere outside of combat without drawbacks. Mana is based on intelligence and you will find both magical items that will boost your intelligence and your mana directly. This is important because your priest will be totally occupied in healing your other members during combat and your elementalist will have to throw his most offensive spells.

Spells comes automatically when levelling up and you choose which hand will be able to cast which spell. Spells could be used both at range or in melee. Some creatures where only possible to kill by slowly moving backwards and hurl spells while emptying the mana pool before entering melee combat. In the end I found that it was best to lure the enemies to different traps in the game. In a few places it was the only way to defeat them.

I like the spells but it´s too bad you cannot customize anything.

Rating: 1.5

Character generation & development

Unfortunately this aspect is the single biggest drawback with the game because the core definition of an RPG is that you can develop and customize your characters when they level up. Here you will never be able to do that so the game is very static. The only good thing is that there are a few more classes to choose from than the initial four you have so you can vary a replay somewhat. But I haven´t ever replayed a game and don´t see any reason to do it now.

When characters increase in level they get a few attribute increases and a new skill or spell. It is fun to level up because you don´t know what you will get so it is always a surprise.

Rating: 1.5

Map design


The maps are filled with corridors and rooms in a very random pattern as is usual in these kind of games. At certain points they are filled with furniture or more elaborate graphics. Most of the however contains traps, puzzles or monsters. Fortunately an automap is included.

Rating: 3


Manual

The manual are almost non-existent. You have to rely on tooltips. There are however a very short manual containing the shortcuts for the game. Here is a also a list of the abilities gained for each level but no description of them.

Rating: 1.5


Graphics, Sound and Interface


Graphicwise the game is on par with Legend of Grimrock. The graphics is very good and it is fast. Speaking of fast, the game loads extremely fast when you start the game or reload a save. The monsters are very well made and with nice animations. That goes to all environmental things like fires as well. 

Sound effects are good. There are monster growls and other effects which is well made. There are a few different background musics playing during the game which is totally ok. There is not a single strong tune I have been affected to like in The Deep Path: The Labyrinth of Andokost.

The interface is clean and I think it works pretty well. 

Overall this game is definetely above average regarding both for its genre and for the time it was released.

Rating:  4


Gameplay

While the CRPG value above only tell you how strong the different core RPG ingredients are the gameplay value is always the single most important rating since it actually tells you how good the game is. I had great time with this game. It is easy to play and somewhat rewarding when finding loot. But I never managed to clear more than one or two floors at a single playthrough since it became repetitive pretty fast. I mean, there is not much variety at all between the levels. 

The puzzles are mostly easy with a few of normal difficulty. I like the fact that there are secret rooms and treasures and that you don´t need to clear a full level before progressing to next level. For $9.99 I think the game is somewhat pricey but I do believe it is worth it on sale. The game is rather short. Only 8 full levels.

Each level contain one healing fountain which can be used once to ressurrect dead partymembers. This means you can allow one tough fight to kill any of your members. I thought this balance was pretty good and the challenge just about right on normal difficulty.

While I do like the game I would like to see a successor with more content, story and where you have control over levelling. It would also be nice with some outdoor areas. I am also taking into account that I this autumn have played several realtime dungeon crawlers already so I have gotten a little tired of them. If I have to choose I would say Labyrinth of Andokost is a little better and it was more of a challenge than this one. Having said that. This is a solid game without any bugs and you won´t get dissappointed but you won´t be positively surprised about its depth either.

Rating: 3

Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
1
Economy
1
NPC & Interactions
1
Monsters, tactics & combat system
1.5
Magic system
1.5
Character generation & development
1.5
Map design
3
Manual
2
Graphics, Sound and Interface
4
Summary CRPG value
16.5


Gameplay
3














January 16, 2017

Castle Torgeath - My Impressions

I bought a new game the other week. A first-person action rpg which reminded me of the olden Hexen or Heretic games. Or at least that was what I had hoped. The game is called Castle Torgeath and I was unfortunately immensively dissappointed. The game is slow, boring, filled with vast spaces with few variations and with not much to do other than fighting enemies or picking up food, potions or junk.

The game plays out like any other game in this genre. Fast clicking on your mouse to attack, Cast spells that drains your mana. There is no way to automatically regenerate. You must use healing potions and mana potions. When you level up you can raise on of your attributes one step. There is no skills or other advanced mechanics.


You start in a castle and the entrance is blocked as soon as you enter. You have to explore it to find out what has happened but also try to find a way out. It could have been fun but unfortunately it isn´t. The game is simply too simplistic with too large rooms and corridors with the same furniture and doors to open over and over again. There is no automap or map at all and since everything looks alike it is hard to remember where you have been. Too little variety and with no interesting items to find and use like different kind of weapons. I know there are more weapons in the game it´s just that they are rare.

The only thing which seemed a bit surprising is that you can find scrolls, parchment, diaries and books that tells some history or events of the place. This is the only single good factor I can think of. The graphics is ok but very simple. I never noticed any special sound effects but I was surprised about the voice acting which is ok. The theme music is also ok but nothing special.

For 8 dollars I cannot recommend this game at all. Maybe for 5 dollars. You could play it if you have absolutely nothing else to play but I feel it is a waste of time. Skip this game. I gave up after less than 3 hours.



January 10, 2017

Antharion - Review



Game reviewed: Antharion
Version: 1.1.9
Created by: Orphic Software
Released: 2015
Formats: Pc
Difficulty: 6/10
Price$14.99

Antharion is a quite a large game if you count the vast landscape and continent and all the time you have to spend travelleling between its regions. For a long time I had no clue how far I had come into the mainquest and after tiring of the weak rewards for sidequests I pushed the mainquest forward.

The game does not become any better than what you experience during the first 10 hours. Everything just repeat itself. New cities with new fetch quests of these pelts, or these silver bars or these...whatever. New shops with items you can hardly afford or if you can you don´t meet the level requirements. Dungeons, caves and wells that look the same all over without specific information about them or any sense of logical layout. Just endless paths and corridors through the occasional rooms filled with enemies to kill. Your only reward is the occasional chests or doors that needs to be picked and you anticipation of high rewards being concealed. But that is almost never the case. All your good equipment come from the shops and very rarely from adventuring.

The reward for doing sidequests is ridiculously low. An experience award in the size of one of your endless random encounters and occasionally an item with very low level requirements (meaning of less use). Too bad because this could have been done so much better.








Gameworld & Story

The story is very thin and it could take many hours before you continue the mainquest with just a few more sentences of text.

Ok, spoilers ahead......

First you need to return a Codex to a strange man in the beginning. When you have done that you should seek out a woman far away in a wood and she says you must gather three fragments located on very far away places in the world. One in the ice region, one in the desert and one in the woodlands. These fragments are part of a weapon that is needed to defeat the evil which is believed have come back to this world.

When I found the fragments I returned to the woman who said they must be forged into a weapon but to get access to the forge I would need the support of the council in the region. It is ruled by four persons and I was told to speak to one particular person of them. In the capital I couldn´t just enter the council building. I needed a pass. To obtain that I hade to do a favour from the citys administrator by clearing out the sewers below. Then I looked up the councilman and he told me he suspected the three other councilmen to be corrupt and wanted me to kill them so he could be the temporary ruler and allow me access to the forge. Without much other alternatives I had to trust him and killed the other three and was then told how to get to the Scornia mines in the northwest to forge the sword. This was probably the largest dungeon so far in the game but in the end I managed to defeat all demonic evils there and forge the sword I needed. When I returned with the sword I was told where the evil lurks. Then it was just a matter of finding his lair and kill him. Well that was the short story. In reality it was the toughest battle in the game and it took me at least 6-7 tries before I succeded. I won´t tell you what happens next but I did complete the game.

The gameworld itself is quite large with thousands of screens, with perhaps a half dozen cities and hidden dungeons and caves all over the place. You have a map of the continent at the start but you will only see cities marked when you discover them. Unfortunately you cannot make any notes on it which is very bad because there are a lot of dungeons or interesting places which I would like to return to when I get a little stronger but which I probably will have forgot where they are located.

Unfortunately the gameworld with its dungeons and caves feels empty and the layout is very random. There is no texts or events that occurs anywhere just a bunch of places to discover, explore and fight your way through and hopefully you will get some more gold, loot to sell or occasionally some good items. The feeling of repetiveness is there all the time. 

Efforts to bring the gameworld more to life was better in Eschalon or the Avadon games. Still I leave it 2 points for being an open world which you have to discover.

Rating: 2

Economy

The economy in the game works best in the first half of the game. Gold is constantly scarce. Items are expensive unless you spend all your skill points into bartering which I did not. One of the most rewarding things in any game is to equip your party, sell loot and prioritize which party member will be upgraded.

There are quite many different kinds of armours, weapons and items and many of them have magical properties. The major problem I have is that they have level requirments which means that even if you had managed to get a lot of gold in low level you will never be able to buy anything really worthwhile for it and hence never get the feel of improving the party. In best case you just manage to barely stay alive with the tougher opponents you meet across the continent.

Also, even when I have around 4.000 gold at level 15 there is no really valuable item I can find to equip my party with that feels worth it. For example, armour in the game is a value which you don´t have summarized on each party member and you don´t really know how it affects damage reduction, Does it decrease the damage you receive or decrease enemys hit chance ? In combat it seems every partymember receives the same amount of damage even though there is much difference in armour rating for my warriors compared to my mages.

But as said, this is something I have come to understand after 20 hours of playing. In the beginning these shortcomings with level requirments, lack of good items etc are not obvious and in general the balance is quite good because you would still need valuable gold to buy food and/or potions.

Rating: 3

NPC and Interactions

The interactions you could make in the game is very limited. Opening doors, searching crates,  barrels and similar containers and pulling levers. Well, you could also buy a boat and travel along the coastline but there are no other interactions. No puzzles, no preaussure plates and no traps.

Regarding NPC:s the system is extremely simple. Most NPC are quite boring and have nothing of interest to say. At least nothing that have any effect on the world whatsoever. Their only use is to get sidequests and those who are merchants or trainers.

You almost never have any dialogue options to choose from that will alter the outcome in anyway.

Rating: 1.5

Monsters, tactics and combat system

The quantity and variety of monsters in the game is not astounding but there are several dozen different denizens you will meet. From bandits and orcs to the fourlegged rats, frogs, wolves and bears. Then there are the exotic ones like eyestalks, beholder like creatures,  hellhounds, flesh eaters and skeletons. Some of them attack you with ranged weapons and some use magic against you. It seems they have access to the most basic spells like healing, firebolts, confusion, poison and mass damage effects.

There is no A.I whatsoever in the game. The monsters run around randomly with the only exception that they try to close in on you as fast as possible (At least the melee fighters) but it happens they get stuck in the terrain across a small pond for example and they have no idea how to get around it. So unless you have a lot of ranged party members you will have to close in yourself. Your opponents attack randomly, They don´t collaborate to take down one party member. They don´t hit the weak one first and so on. That´s too bad.

The difficulty comes from their sheer number, high hitpoints and an endless pool of mana.

Combat in itself is turn-based with a number of action points dependent on your dexterity. The tactics you  need to employ to win is to protect your healer so he/she can heal your wounded front fighters and also to take out mages first because they are very powerful. But other than that there is not so much tactics employed from standard CRPG games.

The A.I simplicity and lack of more complex combat mechanisms give this a below average rating.

Rating: 2

Magic System

Magic works pretty well. You have three different schools with less than 10 spells in each. I would have liked more to choose from. Since the game lacks any sort of manual it is impossible to know if different monster have different resistances against fire or ice for example. Each spell requires mana which is only recovered naturally by sleeping. Sleeping requires food which you most of the time find in the wilderness but not enough that you can afford to sleep between every fight. Often I only sleep one hour to minimise my consumption of food. It was of that reason I converted my black magic mage to a 2H-swordsman after 15 hours to conserve my mana for the really tough fights.

Spells can only be learned by buying spell books but requires a certain amount of skill level to use. There are no scrolls in the game so other party members will never be able to cast any spells.

Rating: 2.5

Character generation and development

Character generation is satisfying. You get points to spend on your attributes and skills. The only problem is that the lack of manual means you have no idea if there are any thresholds for the skills or if everything is increased gradually. For example. On the forums I came to the conclusion that the different lock difficulties in the game (easy, medium, hard, very hard) requires certain levels in the lock pick skill before actually giving any benefit. For example a hard lock requires at least 40 in lock pick skill. Otherwise you would always have 1% chance of success.

Apart from that you have to guess what skills and attributes you need with the help of the tooltip you get. When you level up you immediately are given 5 points to spend on attributes and 5 skill points. This is the most satisfying part of the game. Unfortunately you very seldom notice the effect of spending these points even if you put everything into one attribute or skill.

What you also could rejoice when levelling is the fact that you can use better items - that is, if you can afford them. Gold will always be a scarce commodity.

Rating: 3

Map design

All underground places like dungeons, wells and caves have irregular layouts and sizes which is very good. You have no idea how large they are since invisible borders does not exist and you cannot scroll your automap. The overland map is pretty good as well.

Rating: 3

Manual

Non-existent!

Graphics, Sound and Interface

Before I bought this game I really disliked the graphics. It felt so cartoonish. Then after playing for a few hours I forgot all about it. It is very clean and obvious what things are even tough it is simplistic. There are not many animations but it could rain and there are day and night cycles. The only effect I have noticed is that the shops are closed at night. 

The interface is somewhat cumbersome. It took me some time to get used to that you cannot use any shortcuts to go to the different characters. You click on their portraits directly or use the tab key. You could use items as shortcuts though. Overall I think the interface works pretty ok.

Sound and music in the game is taking the back seat. I never notice anything out of the ordinary. Some sword slashes and clings during combat, some rain sounds or environmental sounds but no speech or anything. There are som music played in the background but it is so anonymous so it never gives any impression. Not even the title music.

Rating: 2

Gameplay

I liked this game from the beginning. Half way through I begun to feel the repetiveness of everything since I was never rewarded enough for exploring or for doing quests. Also nothing unexpected ever occurred or something that is not obvious in the game in the first hours of gameplay. In short. No surprises at all. Still to explore the world and develop your party works well and was the motivating factor.

I have heard people complain that this game is too hard. That you will die at the hands of rats in the beginning etc. Yes combat is very hard in the beginning. You must choose your fights. There are no random encounters. All encounters are fixed and you are not forced upon them to fight. You could always leave them for later when you feel stronger. There is also no respawning in the game. I have no problem with these but I have seen many people complaining over it. Probably because they eliminated the grinding.

When you loot items and return to sell them for some gold you have this exciting feeling to prioritize what to buy for your group. Who will get a better weapon ? Or should you spend gold on better armour ? Perhaps your mage needs another spell to learn ? Or you need all money to buy food or healing potions ? The decision is yours as always.

The game reminds me of Eschalon with the difference that this is party based. It also reminds me a littel about the Avadon games but those are much more elaborate in story and quests. I bought this game on sale and do recommend it even though that it feels somewhat incomplete and empty. If they would make the game smalla but fill it with mory quality locations with texts and descriptions it would have become much better.

Rating 3.5

Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
2
Economy
3
NPC & Interactions
1.5
Monsters, tactics & combat system
2
Magic system
2.5
Character generation & development
3
Map design
3
Manual
-
Graphics, Sound and Interface
2
Summary CRPG value
19


Gameplay
3.5




January 2, 2017

Antharion - Revisited

I am glad to report that I have had an even flow of gaming time this autumn having played through or tested several RPG:s - including some I haven´t reported on here like Paper Sorcerer (not good enough) or the Fall of the dungeon guardians.

Next game up is the partybased indie-developed RPG Antharion. It was released in 2015 through Kickstarter but I have missed it. It wasn´t until earlier this year I got some glimpses from it but disliked it because the graphics was too cartoonish like for me. On the recent Steam sale for Black Friday, I picked it up for half the price and begun playing because the game had after all got some good reviews.


You start out by creating four characters and you may choose different races and classes or define you own because the classes doesn´t differ in anything except the preset starting skills. I choosed to create two warriors. One specialised in one-handed weapons and shield (blocking skill) and the other one in two-handed weapons and forage. I also added one wizard in white magic school (for healing) and one for black magic (direct attack spells).

I had to omit the grey wizard school which contains teleporter spells. But unfortunately there is no manual to the game so I could not have known that beforehand. I allowed every character to specialize in another skill as well and choosed Forage (gets better loot), Lock picks, Lore (finding and opening secret doors) and Alchemy.


I have now played for over 25 hours and I like the game a lot. You travel and fight in a way that reminds me of the single character Eshalon series or even the old Faery Tale Adventure. You have no quest direction arrows and a huge overland map with no way of placing notes. The only help is that quest places is showned. This game is very large and there are several places I have sworn to come back to when I am more skilled but unfortunately I will probably have forgot their locations when the time comes.

The world is filled with a lot of mines, dungeons, ruins and wells to explore, cellars in abandoned houses etc. I really like that. Unfortunately those places are very much alike and the feel is that they are not filled with much personality or atmosphere. For example, there are no ingame texts that describe a place or environment. You just travel around along corridors, open doors and fight occasionally without any information about the place itself. At some places there are some sort of tougher fight that guards an item but that is not always the case. After having seen a dozen such places I get a little bored because this part could have been made so much better with little effort.


While you do not consume food while travelling you need it when you rest to restore both health and spell points. Food are relatively scarce so you have to carefully plan how often you rest and for how long or you will have to buy food to complement the supplies you find. The economy part of the game is pretty good with just enough gold to survive and occasionally afford an item or two but never enough. I am at level 13 now and only have around 4.000 gold. I am still waiting for a very powerful weapon to buy...

There are quite a lot of different weapons and armours in the game but while the game is an open world where you can travel anywhere and enemies don´t scale the system have built-in rules that disqualify you from using certain items until you have enough level. I don´t like that part because you will never, ever feel you get stronger. I would instead preffered if they would have increased the price of those items instead so they are harder - but not impossible - to aquire at lower than expected levels.

As soon as you approach enemies the game turns into turn-based combat mode where either side starts out to act first. Your dexterity determines how many action points you have but you can only use them to move or use items. You will never get more than one attack. If you elect to attack you cannot use your remaining action points so it is better to move first and attack later. This is especially true for ranged characters which increase hit chance by decreasing distance. A character can drink a potion or use an item and that counts as one action and then you can attack as long as you have at least one action point left.


The later in the game I have progressed  the less I count on magic except for healing. I have equipped a two-handed sword to my offensive mage and found out that he does as much damage as his spells while not using any mana. The only difference is that his hit chance is lower than his spell ability. Overall, I find that offensive spell casters are somewhat weak. They need to replenish mana very often and that costs scarce food. If I would have restarted the game I would probably switch my offensive mage for another warrior.

Even though the vast world is filled with the occasional hard-to-pick chests I have yet to found any powerful items in them. The same goes for the secret doors you can find. I am not sure it is worthwhile to invest into lock picking or lore. Most of the time you only get a little more gold. This part is also slightly dissappointing in this game. Experience points for quests are too low compared to killing monsters while the diversity of XP gained from monsters are too small. You generally receive only about 15-30 xp per combat.



The main quest spans over the whole continent and is pretty boring. So far it is only fetch quests. I have now to retrieve three fragments from three different places around the world and I have only got one of them so far. I believe I have at least 30 hours left of the game and I am not sure I will play this out to the bitter end. Next post will be my review of the game.