|My wizzard Yuna and her pet cat Kimari. Arent they just the cutest?|
Fate is one game where I think the “clone” moniker is deserved. Fate is more or less a straight-up Diablo clone. It duplicates the mechanics and play style of Diablo II right down to having the same windows with the same information that are opened with the same hotkeys. It would be fair to say that Fate is like Diablo, only more so. If Blizzard were to release Diablo III tomorrow, I doubt it would be as similar to Diablo 2 as Fate is, gameplay-wise.
Note that in this case being a clone is not a bad thing. Diablo II hit the shelves about seven years ago. It was an exceptionally popular game with a lot of longevity, and Blizzard doesn’t seem inclined to make another. (Most of the team that made Diablo is now at another company making Hellgate: London) A couple of games since then have taken a clumsy stab at capturing the Diablo gameplay, but up until now nobody has had the audacity to just duplicate all the stuff people liked.
It’s a tried-and-true formula. This sort of thing gets called a “roleplaying game”, but of course there is no actual playing of roles involved. The core of the game is combat and loot-gathering. You are never presented with much in the way of story, characters, or puzzles. In Diablo the plot was window dressing. (Great window dressing, to be sure, but window dressing all the same.) You could skip every cutscene in the game and you would never be confused about what you needed to do next. Fate takes this experience and concentrates it. It replaces the “go kill Diablo, Lord of Terror” with “Go kill the randomly-generated uber foe at the bottom of the dungeon.” It replaces the shallow NPCs of Diablo with simple, dialog-free characters that act as quest vending machines. It shrugs off all pretense of storytelling and lets you focus on the business of killing monsters and taking their stuff. The game is almost willful in its lack of imagination, right down to the name “Fate”, which has been used by several games already.
The game starts in the town called “Grove”, a charming little village which is beset by evil, only not so much that you’d notice. The only sign that anything is amiss is that the entire economy of the village is centered around trading with adventurers, who are encouraged to go into the dungeon from the moment they set foot in town. The entrance to the dungeon is a gigantic set of doors on the eastern side of town, which leads to a Nethack-ish world of continually descending dungeon levels and increasing difficulty.
The only way in which the game really breaks free from its Diablo envy is in the area of art. It avoids the grim, bloody style of these sorts of games and instead creates a whimsical little world of chibi characters that is suitable for kids. I’m not a huge fan of this “cutesy” style, but it is endearing. I do wish their hands and feet weren’t so huge. I think it would look a lot better without the “I’m wearing boxing gloves and my dad’s boots” look. Still, the game is safe for kids and will most likely appeal to women in a way that Diablo never did. (Assuming my wife’s enthusiasam is indicitive of the typical female response. It’s not like I took a survey or anything.)
If you want the obsessive list of how the two games overlap, then read on…
- D2 has four character attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Vitality, and Magic. When you level up you get 5 points, which can be used to improve these 4 stats. Fate has the exact same thing.
- D2 has “hirelings”, which are NPCs which follow you around and act as a caster / meat shield to compliment your meat shield / caster. Your companion levels up with you (staying slightly behind you in power) and has a more limited set of items to wear. You also can’t guide their development directly. Fate replaces this with a pet, which serves the same function.
- Both games have the same interface: Point and click to move. Click on a monster to attack. Right-click to cast a spell. Function keys F1 through F12 are used to select your spell. Both games have your character screen, skills screen, inventory screen, and quest screen, all of which appear in the same locations using the same hotkeys.
- D2 has “socketed items”. Certain items in the game will have these open sockets, into which you can fit gems. The gems add bonues to the object based on what the color of the gem is. Gems and socketed items are both pretty rare. Once placed, the gem cannot be removed, so you have to choose wisely before you unite a gem and an item. Fate has a larger selection of gems, but it all works the same way.
- D2 has monster shrines (if you click on one it summons a really tough monster for you to fight) and gem shrines, which will simply dispense a valuable gem. Fate unites these into “Fate Shrines”, which will randomly do one or the other.
- D2 has gambling, where some guy in town will sell you items at a big markup, without letting you see the properties of the item first. Once purchased, the item is revealed. This is usually a waste of money (hence the name) but once in a while you hit the jackpot and get something really incredible. Fate has the same deal.
- D2 has you wading into a dungeon with a limited collection of monsters for each level. Every once in a while you’ll meet a “boss” version of one of this level’s monsters. Aside from being far more powerful, it will be larger / brighter / a different color, and surrounded by four to six “minions”, which are more like the mundane version of the creature with a few extra hit points. Plowing through a boss and his minions can be a really tough fight. Fate has this same thing.
- D2 has cartain NPCs in each town: A blacksmith, someone selling wizard gear (staves and scrolls), someone selling potions, a shady guy selling gambling items, a healer, and a few NPC’s to dispense quests. Fate has all of this.
- The dungeon areas for both games are randomly generated, filled with monsters that drop random nonsense loot. So you kill a bat and as it dies it drops a set of plate mail.
- Both games have “Town Portal” scrolls, which will open a door from the current location (usually deep in the bowels of the dungeon) to the town, so the player can hop through, do some shopping, and jump right back to dungeon level X. The scrolls take up space, so the player can choose to but a bound “book” of these scrolls. The portal is a shimmering blue oval in both games. Both games also have scrolls / books for identifying found magical items.
- In D2 you will find some items that are magical, which means they have one or two bonuses attached to them. Then there are rare items, which get a name that describes them, such as “Mighty Saber of the Vampire”, which adds a couple of points to strength and causes the player to get a small percent of the damage they are dishing out added to their own health bar. This system is faithfully reproduced in Fate.
- The types of strange nonsense bonuses are the same in both games. You could have a hat that causes foes to drop some percent more gold when slain, or boots that will add to you chance to land a blow with a weapon, or a vest which can increase the chances that randomly generated items will have magical properties. There are dozens of such bonuses, and Fate duplicates them all.
- Barels, crates, and ceramic pots litter the levels of both games. Smash them! Some are trapped and release poison or a bit of fire damage, a few contain items, and a vast majority contain nothing.
- The player has item slots: Two rings, a necklace, a hat, some armor, a belt, gloves, boots, and an item in each hand. This seems obvious, but lots of games use other configurations. Some offer a place for pants. Some add a quiver for arrows, or omit the gloves and / or belt. There are lots of possible setups, but Fate copied the Diablo system, right down to the size and position of the item slots.
- Same weapon classes: Swords, Clubs, Axe, Polearms, Ranged Weapons.
This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
A wild game filled with wild ideas that features fun puzzles and mind-blowing environments. It has a great atmosphere, and one REALLY annoying flaw with its gameplay.
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