Posted: December 30, 2013
I really wanted to like this game. I could look past the low-poly models, the awkward texturing, the clunky animations, the garish particle effects, the simplistic UI, the bland music, and the jarring sound effects... If ONLY the game was fun to play.
For the most part, it's like any other Diablo clone you might have played. Sometimes the movements and attack animations feel kind of sluggish, but it's the same kind of point-and-click combat accompanied by a lot of randomly-generated loot, and other random factors.
But I consider that one of the biggest flaws in the game: TOO much is left up to random chance. You get a random town with random NPCs, a random dungeon with a random monster pool and a random number of floors (generally from about 5 to about 20) and you're given random quests to kill a specific monster, kill several lesser monsters, recover or destroy a random quest item, or find and/or rescue somebody from a random floor. All of which would be FINE, if the game didn't leave SO MUCH up to chance.
For example, if you get a quest to meet an NPC in the dungeon, you have to reach the floor they're on, then HOPE you find them almost immediately, because they can and will be attacked by any monsters that happen to spawn near them. And 9 times out of 10, they'll be killed by the monsters, forcing you to fail the quest. Now, failing one quest like that isn't the end of the world, but it feels like you just aren't given a fair chance, and it's one of many factors reflecting this game's lack of polish.
A lot of reviewers praise the fact that you can fail any quest, any NPC can die, and you can even fail to save whatever town you're on from ruin. This isn't a bad idea in theory, but there's no way to gauge how well you're doing or how safe the town is until people start dying off and it's practically too late to help. It's true that failing to kill a "boss" enemy before an arbitrary time limit means he'll start raising minions and sending troops and assassins into the town, but there isn't much you can do to expedite that quest. It comes to a point where you're fighting a constant tide of new quests, compounded by attacks on the town, which keep you from reaching deeper floors of the dungeon, since you have to constantly return to the surface. The enemies just teleport directly into the town. It would be nicer if they had to physically travel there, so you could intercept them or cut them off, or SOMEhow take preventative action against them, but all you can do is grind along on each quest as you would normally have done. If one of my quests involved killing a boss monster on floor 15, and I was only on floor 5 or so, I would sometimes just let the monsters destroy the town and move on to a new one, because these randomly generated quests were asking far too much of me. I knew I would not only be constantly traveling back to town to kill invaders, but also that new quests in other deep floors of the dungeon would be constantly arising, just as unreachable as the first, and compounding the attacks on the town. People throw around words like "consequences" and "stakes" in praise of this game, but failing to save a town has pretty much negligible consequences. You lose some reputation and you move on to a new town. Losing one or two has no major impact on the overall game, so there's not much motivation to protect them when they're so easily disposable.
Another problem is that a town becomes "saved" after you complete a randomly-selected arbitrary quest, and there's no way of knowing which one it will be. You might kill the boss monster, break his evil altar, destroy an uprising of skeletons, recover an evil artifact, and cure the town's poisoned water supply, but none of those things might "save" the town. Instead, the game might decide that the town is "saved" when you gather items for the townspeople to construct a lightning totem in the town. There's no way of knowing what your "main" quest is, because it looks like any other random task. But all that happens when you "save" a town is that you're allowed to move on to a new one. The dungeon is still full of monsters, and all the other pre-existing quests can still be done (in fact, more will continue to spring up as long as you stay in the town) and you need not even reach the final floor of the dungeon. I found it weird when I saved my first town having only been to 10 of the dungeon's 12 floors.
So, these might be some pretty frustrating game design choices, but by far the most frustrating thing turned out to be the combat. I played as a summoning character, which I usually find fun in games like these. But the monsters' AI is so dreadful, playing a summoner is practically useless. I had my minions set to "aggressive" but they seemed to just do whatever they wanted. Sometimes they would completely ignore enemies, even as I fought them, sometimes they would attack an enemy once and then run away for no reason, and worst of all, they LOVED to stand in narrow hallways, blocking my path when I needed to escape from enemies.
But worse than that is the enemies' ability to stun you. Certain enemies with special attacks, or even ordinary enemies getting critical hits, apparently, can stun you, meaning you are 100% immobilized and unable to make any attacks or use any skills for a good three seconds. At higher levels, this is plenty of time for a swarm of monsters to surround you, stunlock you, and slowly whittle away at all of your health as you cannot possibly break through the crowd or drink potions fast enough to keep yourself alive. All you can do is sit there and watch your character slowly die.
I'm perfectly fine with a game being difficult, but this game just comes across as sloppy. The difficulty is unfair and unbalanced, as a result of some very clunky combat mechanics and far too much of the quests being left up to random chance. Speaking of which, there is no real narrative or over-arching final objective to "beat" the game. Just a big disorganized pile of infinite towns, infinite dungeons, and infinite quests. I was eventually given the "gain your freedom" quest, which I took to be something a little different, signaling an "end" to the game, even though I was only about level 18. But the objective was just to kill another randomly-generated boss monster. And after I did it, nothing changed. I didn't gain an especially substantial reward, I still had my same pile of quests from the townspeople, and the game invited me to do some more of them... Forever. Even worse, actually, is that I FAILED the "gain your freedom" quest on my first attempt, and the town was eventually destroyed. But then I moved on to a new town, and the quest was immediately made available to me again. My failure of this seemingly-important quest had zero impact on my game. I just did it again.
If you're looking for a Diablo clone/action RPG/dungeon crawler, you can do a lot better, even just on steam. I'd recommend either of the Torchlight games, Titan Quest, or even Fate (a similarly unpolished-feeling game) before I would recommend this one.