on Jun 3, 2008
Before I get started with the gameplay: Someone asked about the DRM in this game. Let’s answer that question first…
For everyone else, the game uses a name / key combination for registration, which is handled locally. (No server involved.) This is pretty much what I was hoping RSPOD would use, as it means the game still functions without regard to the health of its progenitor.
Everyone has different tolerances for this sort of stuff, but the info is there so you can make an informed choice.
Fenix suggested this genre of game ought to be called a “third person looter”, which is pretty catchy. Grinding is usually looked down on in RPG’s, but in a third person looter the game begins and ends with grinding. That’s pretty much the whole game. In the most primitive hack-n-slash knockoffs, you have only two goals:
- Go up in level.
- Get better equipment.
That’s not a bad start. Fate built an entire game around those two concepts. But most games will add at least one more:
- Advance the story. (Dialog, cutscenes, new characters, etc.)
That’s where Diablo II stops, with the added complexity that “get better equipment” means not just finding stuff, but also gambling and combining items.
The story in Depths of Peril is not a rich tale told through cutscenes as with Diablo. It mostly consists of a chain of specific quests, which I assume leads to a big battle at the end. (I haven’t completed the game yet.) I would have enjoyed a deeper story, although I’m not even sure that’s possible without cutscenes and voice acting. What’s here is serviceable enough, and a step up from the randomly-generated pseudo-plot of Fate.
But the more things you can add to the list of activities, the more you can mitigate the tedium and create a richer experience. To this end, Depths of Peril offers:
- Advance the power of your covenant.
This is done by pursuing the previous goals, as well as recruiting new members. The overall power of your covenant is the total of all the member’s levels, so making sure your crew is higher level than everyone else’s will keep you on top. You can either take your team mates out with you adventuring, or you can simply trade up as higher level characters become available.
When you’re not building your covenant up, you can spend some time trying to push the others down, usually by interacting with them through diplomacy. The more powerful you are, the more influence you have. Which lets you collect more taxes. Which gives you a little more leverage with other covenants.
Of course, you don’t need to play the diplomat if that’s not your style. You can always adopt the more direct approach of just declaring war and murdering the lot of them until their lifestone is depleted. (Although, going to war with more then one covenant at a time is not recommended, unless you’ve managed to secure a firm lead in terms of power.)
- Complete the book collection.
There is a bookshelf in the covenant house, with a slot for each of the books in the game. You can read these books to learn about the history and setting, which is a nice way to provide a backdrop for those who crave it without just stuffing it in the face of those who would rather just make with the clicking and collecting, already.
The incentive here is that each book confers a small bonus to everyone in the covenant, like +1 strength or somesuch. This adds up as your collection grows, to the point where your collection makes up a respectable portion of your power. The complete set is encyclopedia-sized, so catching them all is not a trivial undertaking.
- Collect relics.
This is just a variation of “better equipment”. You have four pedestals in the covenant house, which can each hold a relic which will, like the books, confer a bonus onto your whole crew. At first this seemed a little simplistic, but there is strategy involved in choosing your relics. My first impulse was to stack them with relics which would boost the magical powers of my mage. But I quickly realized that this meant they were of no benefit at all to the other members of the covenant, who were mostly fighter-types.
But the general idea is to collect relics which will complement your approach to the game.
- Take care of the town.
The town of Jorvik is not a static place. Monsters sometimes slip in. NPC’s get poisoned. The plague breaks out. Sometimes there’s a siege. NPC’s can die (although they come back to life after a while, which is nice since sometimes you have business to conduct with them) and the town can suffer setbacks. Fixing these problems usually means going on little quests to round up supplies or kill the antagonizing idiot behind the problem.
You don’t have to take care of the town, although it’s much easier to pursue the previous goals if the NPC’s in town are all healthy and available.
By layering these various activities together, the game feels like less of a grind. At any given time you’re making measurable progress at at least one of the many goals, so you avoid the treadmill feel of other
Diablo clones third-person looters.
And because I forgot to link it last time, the demo is here.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.