Crawling Through Dungeons

Truly one of my favourite things to do.

My long history of playing through Diablo II can attest to that fact. Though, to be fair, Diablo had far more dungeon crawling than the sequel considering that you were descending beneath the cathedral. But there were numerous optional areas in Diablo II filled with loot, monsters, and unforgiving winding corridors. Curse those winding corridors! That said, it wasn’t until I first heard of Legend of Grimrock that I realised there is a whole genre built around the concept. Or, perhaps more accurately, that there was a whole genre built around the concept. It feels as though the genre has been forgotten by modern developers.

The concept of dungeon crawling is certainly prevalent in ARPGs.

There are also a few wonderfully enjoyable RPGs such as Darkest Dungeon that embrace the harsh, unflinching, puzzling nature of dungeons present in dungeon crawlers. However, in most modern RPGs there are few incentives to explore and fewer still to form a particular party to overcome various challenges. In fact, most of those mechanics are simply absent.

There are a few modern CRPGs such as Divinity: Original Sin and Pillars of Eternity that embrace complex character generation, numerous dialogue options, and party-based adventuring. But it does seem that complexity is slowly but surely disappearing from RPGs in general. In fact, that was one of the reasons that Fallout 4 felt so stale compared to either Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas. There wasn’t really any incentive to explore besides collecting more crafting materials. Most weapons could be completely rebuilt and few unique variants actually performed differently from their base weapon class. There was something ever so slightly addictive about the exploration in both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. That and your character could actually resolve problems in different ways due to their character builds.

I get the feeling that we’re being watched…

I’ll admit that this post might seem slightly random but I do have reasons for the things that I do. In this case, this post was conceived during the time I’ve spent with the bizarrely enjoyable JRPG dungeon crawler Mary Skelter: Nightmares. While it features much of the typical JRPG busywork it also executes the dungeon crawling concepts nicely. I wasn’t expecting to actually have to solve puzzles or utilise different character abilities to overcome the challenges presented therein. It’s certainly not as complex as Legend of Grimrock (in either the puzzle mechanics or dungeon design) but it’s really fun to play.

Even if it does feature endless winding corridors in some areas.

Hence the reason that I ended up spending several hours looking for other dungeon crawlers. Unearthing everything from the Eye of the Beholder series to The Bard’s Tale trilogy and many other classic dungeon crawling experiences. I’d even forgotten that I do own both The Elder Scrolls Arena and The Elder Scrolls II Daggerfall which fit into that genre.

While the search didn’t necessarily yield the results I was hoping for it did reignite my interest in the many video game adaptations of Dungeons & Dragons rules. Given that many of these earlier dungeon crawlers were either inspired by or developed with those rules. I’ve long been considering rekindling my nostalgic love for Neverwinter Nights, which was one of my first CRPG experiences over ten years ago. When arguing with video card drivers was the true final boss of any gaming experience. Not that I fully understood or appreciated the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition rules, and so didn’t actually get too far into the campaign. But those experiences did encourage me to get into the Baldur’s Gate and the Icewind Dale series. So it’s not the worst mistake I’ve ever made.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

No Stranger to Adversity

Quite the opposite really.

I recently finished Divinity: Original Sin, which, despite its flaws, was an incredibly enjoyable RPG that provided the opportunity to build many varied characters. It was quite a refreshing experience. I’ve not encountered many RPGs released in the last five years that allow you to freely customise your party- building both their strengths and their weaknesses- and I find that significantly diminishes the experience. I personally prefer it when characters are not automatically proficient in every skill, talent, or ability ever.

Or, at the very least, I prefer it when my choices actually have consequences.

For instance, in Divinity: Original Sin I was quite concerned about the way I chose to build Cornelius. He was a typical ranger with some magical capabilities, but it quickly became apparent that he used magic more than he used his bow in most encounters. However, the two governing attributes were completely different. It also meant his ability points were spread quite thin.

That said, despite initial concern, and with clever use of Geomancer summoning skills, he was able to reliably contribute in a meaningful way to most encounters. Later in the story he actually became one of the highest sources of damage in the party. But it was a very long road reliant on many later skills. I’m glad I stuck with that particular build, though. It definitely provided many unique benefits that I didn’t get elsewhere and was quite enjoyable. What was more enjoyable was the fact that I had the opportunity to ruin that character. It seems like an odd thing to find enjoyable, but it was nice to have to think about how best to develop his abilities in order to best utilise his unique benefits. To consider different options and possibilities.

See? These are what spawn when you call upon Source magic.

That was one of the more disappointing mechanics in Diablo III. It was also one of the more disappointing mechanics in Fallout 4. In both cases, you weren’t necessarily completely proficient at everything but you could have been. Long gone were the days of committing to being good at Small Guns due to having high Agility. Or being better acquainted with cleaving because your Strength was higher and afforded more close combat perks. Or even being able to build a unique Barbarian that combined unusual or interesting skills.

It definitely helps the longevity of the experience.

But it also definitely hurts the enjoyment you get from the experience. There’s no real reason to want to build a new character, and in turn experience the earlier struggles (and feeling of accomplishment in overcoming those struggles) due to a lack of something. One of my favourite Fallout 3 characters was the one that used exclusively Energy Weapons.

Mostly because that almost completely useless laser pistol in the Super Duper Mart was their only friend. Which meant that they needed to invest much more into every shot they fired, as each one was an expensive purchase (at that time) and only degraded the condition further. I was quite happy that my choice had consequences, though. It felt like I’d actually built a character that was at least somewhat unique in their experiences. Following Divinity: Original Sin, I started the main story for Divinity: Original Sin 2 and I’m glad to see that character builds are still a possibility. I’m also glad to see more complex (and better developed) mechanics for some aspects of the experience. I just wish there were more opportunities to have these experiences.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Adventures of Rosey and Cornelius

The dynamic Source Hunter duo.

Divinity: Original Sin is a rather enjoyable yet devilishly difficult RPG which features CRPG mechanics. For the purposes of this post, I’ll be discussing the original release and not the Enhanced Edition so take some observations lightly. I’m sure that the Enhanced Edition has better tuned mechanics. Hopefully. It’s also worth noting that it’s been roughly four years since I last journeyed around Rivellon, and that I wasn’t too far through the main story the last time that I did. But I’ve been having a lot of fun with it this time around.

I even bought Divinity: Original Sin 2 because of it.

Character creation is definitely one of the best things about Divinity: Original Sin. Both the Source Hunters you begin with and companions that join you are fully customisable, and if you don’t feel like playing with others you can completely forego companions by acquiring the Lone Wolf talent. You can even develop characters with myriad non-combat abilities.

On that note, I was slightly disappointed that I would need to move items to a character in order to utilise Blacksmithing or Loremaster. That’s something I know that they’ve changed in the Enhanced Edition. I’m also slightly disappointed by the lack of variety in companions. I would’ve liked to see more of the unique character classes being represented. That said, I chose Jahan and Madora to fill two very simplistic roles in the end. One being the ever-murderous valiant knight who would tank damage about as well as my Source Hunter, while the other chose a more scholarly yet no less destructive route of raining fire down on anything and everything. I’m not disappointed in the range of skills you can choose from, though. They’re pretty great overall.

Not so invulnerable now, are you?

On the other hand, while the skills are great, the flow of combat can sometimes be weighed heavily in your opponent’s favour. It’s fairly obvious that most enemies have higher resistances and better chances to apply status ailments than you, which would be fine if you weren’t perpetually outnumbered. Worse still when you’ve invested significantly in Bodybuilding or Willpower to affect those saving rolls and they still apply the status ailment. Enemies seem to act rather randomly, too. So it’s almost down to luck whether you’re going to make it out alive.

Which also would be fine if resurrecting wasn’t an inconvenient annoyance.

But the synergy between your skills is incredible. Being able to create poison surfaces which you can later set alight, or being able to freeze the ground to cause enemies to trip, or even being able to use Teleportation (which is the best skill) to drop an enemy into lava is ridiculously fun. The combat can simultaneously be the best and worst part of the experience.

I would say that Divinity: Original Sin is a great experience if not a little flawed. The quests are certainly engaging enough and not every single one requires combat, but the progression through new areas feels a little disjointed. Often you’re expected to travel to higher level areas to complete lower level quests. That said, it never ruins the experience it’s just a little frustrating at times trying to figure out where to go next. I also wish that crafting in the original release made any sense. I’m certain that the Enhanced Edition will smooth out this experience to make it more enjoyable, and so I’ve no hesitation in recommending Divinity: Original Sin to all who enjoy RPGs (and CRPGs) as it’s worth the time invested. Without question.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie