First Impressions of… Legends of Amberland: The Forgotten Crown

To break an ancient spell.

Legends of Amberland: The Forgotten Crown is a wonderfully charming grid-based movement dungeon crawler featuring extensive character creation, multiple character classes (including racial classes), numerous quests to undertake, and an expansive world to explore. You’re encouraged to trek across the land to uncover its secrets, and to delve deep into dungeons to acquire exceptional equipment. It’s a somewhat simplistic approach but it’s so incredibly satisfying. As it perfectly encapsulates the overflowing sense of wonder you get when exploring a vast open world for the first time.

It truly is a wondrous experience.

Rather surprisingly there are fast travel mechanics, too. They’re not immediately available, but it shouldn’t take you too long to gain access to them. Unless you do what I did and fight the troll on the bridge. If you do, then you may not fully understand how that particular boat will benefit you.

Not that there are any drawbacks (that I’m aware of) to owning different boats. Other than remembering where you’ve left them all. Or randomly discovering a new island overflowing with colossal creatures which decimate your fledgling adventurers, but that’s why exploring a vast open world is so fun. You’re going to find dozens of things that you’ll need to come back to. There are no quest markers, either. So you’re relying on what people have told you, what you know about the world, and the information in your quest log to guide you. Thankfully, quest items don’t (mysteriously) spawn into the world once a quest has been discovered. So you’re able (and encouraged) to explore locations as you discover them. It’s a refreshing approach, and greatly reduces how often you’ll need to revisit locations to complete quests.

The fearsome red dragon protecting their cave of treasures.

While there is an abundance of combat throughout, revisiting locations is relatively safe as enemies don’t respawn once they’ve been defeated. Which means that you won’t need to trudge through countless random encounters while exploring. This certainly accelerates the pace at which you can collect quest items, discover new locations, and progress through the main campaign. On the other hand, it also means that you won’t be able to farm random encounters to level up. This is likely to affect higher difficulty levels, where the amount of experience points required per level is greater than usual.

So higher difficulty levels should be consistently challenging.

While character creation is extensive, character development is fairly simplistic. Once you’ve gained enough experience points simply visit a town and speak to a trainer. The character classes dictate statistical growth and skill acquisition, while bonus attribute points can be invested as you see fit.

I’ll admit that I’ve been consistently surprised by how much I’ve been enjoying this casual RPG experience. Legends of Amberland: The Forgotten Crown doesn’t necessarily do anything that you’ve not seen before, but what it does do it does capably and it does so by sculpting an enchanting world to explore. An enchanting world which is peppered with castles, caves, fortresses, and towers of every description. An enchanting world which is teeming with great treasure and even greater dangers. It’s arguably one of the oldest (and simplest) concepts for RPGs, but one that is also painfully absent from the majority of modern releases. While this experience could be considered an acquired taste, I feel that those who enjoy RPGs will find something to enjoy here. For that reason, I highly recommend it to fans of RPGs old or new!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Secrets of the Infinite Labyrinth

Of which there are many.

Infinite Adventures is a delightfully engaging grid-based movement dungeon crawler which features numerous character classes, an extensive dungeon to explore, dozens of quests to complete, and myriad mechanics to tinker with. Despite not creating one myself, I’m intrigued by the potential of having a roster of party members. Mostly because each character class is flexible enough to capably fulfil different roles in a party. I was most impressed by the Geo Templar who not only became one of my best damage dealers, but could also buff party members or heal them if the need arose.

Hence why the character development is so incredibly satisfying.

No character class is ever what it seems to be, and through Gambits, which have a percentage chance to occur in combat, they have the capability to act somewhat autonomously. These could allow them to retaliate against enemies, cure ailments, and heal (or even resurrect) party members.

Each character also has their own Rank. If you’re starting with a fresh save file, most of the characters that you’ll be able to create will start at Rank D. However, as you progress through the main campaign, and by completing certain quests, you’ll gain access to higher quality tokens to upgrade existing (or create new) characters. Upgrading existing characters costs two tokens, while creating a new character will cost one. Upgrading a character also awards them attribute points and skill points, with the amount of each tied to whether they’re a Noble or a Commoner. It doesn’t seem to affect their health or resource pool, though. Nor does it seem to unlock any new capabilities for their character class. So, while it does provide some benefits, it’s not vital and characters can be upgraded once you’ve acquired the means to do so.

Yet another of the reasons we’re investigating the Infinite Labyrinth.

It’s not just your party members that you can upgrade, though. By handing in various tomes to the Adventurer’s Guild you can unlock powerful enchantments for your weapons and shields. By collecting the appropriate kind (and quantity) of Rune(s) you’ll be able to alter the properties of your equipment, or increase the quality of it (and the potency of existing enchantments). Equipment can be just as easily be disenchanted, too. They’re rather intuitive and forgiving mechanics which I didn’t really make use of until the final floors of the Infinite Labyrinth, but they’re certainly useful throughout.

Infinite Adventures is surprisingly content-dense.

I had hoped that it would be, but I didn’t anticipate that I’d have a list of objectives to complete on each floor. Or that I’d actually want to complete them all. I’ve written before of this incalculable list, and it’s one of the reasons I found it so enjoyable to explore each of the floors thoroughly.

It’s fair to assume that the developers of Infinite Adventures were extremely ambitious. That ambition has manifested as a rather complex and rewarding grid-based movement dungeon crawler, which never feels particularly forced or repetitive. I’m really enthusiastic about the diversity of the character classes, too. It’s so refreshing to have a party-based RPG with meaningful character development, where you have full control as to how each of the characters develops. Or, if you prefer, a whole roster of characters to choose from. It definitely seems to have taken inspiration from the dungeon crawlers of yesteryear, but delivers those mechanics with modern quality of life improvements and without sacrificing depth or difficulty. I’d highly recommend Infinite Adventures to those who enjoy enthralling dungeon crawling experiences!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

The Pride of House Giamata

On a journey through shards of fractured realities.

We’ve explored dusty caverns, frolicked in ancient fields, and now we’re trudging through an anomalous elemental realm. Each winding path effortlessly alternates between the bitter chill of winter and the molten heat of the sun. It’s much like an English summer. There’s just less complaints about the constant temperature shifts from all concerned. I’ll admit that Infinite Adventures took me by surprise. It’s the grid-based movement dungeon crawler that eluded me for many months, but once I learned of it I knew I’d be purchasing it. As it superbly represents what I love about party-based RPGs.

Firstly, the character classes are delightfully diverse.

I was most surprised by the Sohei who seemed to be able to deal damage and do little else. But then I invested in the Enlightenment tree. Which not only allowed him to heal himself (and those around him) with Healing Circle, but he could prepare and then dispel it to deal impressive damage.

Secondly, the mechanics are functional and engaging. Exploring the Infinite Labyrinth (and defeating the enemies found therein) rewards you with numerous materials, these can be sold to Firbog (the blacksmith) and he’ll offer higher quality equipment as a result. You can also visit the Adventurer’s Guild to invest in Exploration Skills (which offer myriad benefits), unlock Wild Portals (which function as single floor randomised dungeons), or hand in various tomes to increase the number (and strength) of enchantments available. If that’s not enough to do, you can also visit the Deeproot Tavern and undertake countless quests. These may require you to gather different materials, defeat powerful enemies, or escort certain NPCs into the dungeon. It never feels particularly forced and you’ll always have something to do when exploring a floor.

But one of many reasons we’re investigating the Infinite Labyrinth.

My only minor criticism is a certain boss. He’s not necessarily difficult to defeat, but invokes similar feelings to those I have about the Bed of Chaos in Dark Souls. It’s a very random encounter. I don’t really know whether I’m doing well or not, as I’m just waiting for him to deal ridiculous damage to the entire party. Shi Lorath certainly is a mystery. I’ve tried casting Bolt Shield on the entire party but that didn’t seem to help, nor did trying to Taunt him to focus on my Warlord. I’m just hoping that the difficulty I’m facing with this encounter is due to inexperience. Not that the boss is entirely random.

As that would be quite unfortunate.

I’m quite keen to begin developing a roster of different character classes, though. Which could help to solve my current predicament. Not that I feel it’s necessary on the default difficulty, but whether it’s necessary or not doesn’t stop me from trying out different builds for each character class.

While I was reasonably sure of what to expect from Infinite Adventures, it has pleasantly surprised me with satisfying mechanics and meaningful character development. It certainly has the potential to be a truly great dungeon crawler that is reminiscent of those of yesteryear. I’m just slightly disappointed about the encounter with Shi Lorath, as it does spoil what has otherwise been an enjoyable experience. It also feels out of place alongside functional mechanics and appealing boss encounters. But I’m still hoping that my party is at fault somehow. In either case, I don’t mean to deter you from purchasing Infinite Adventures yourself. It’s a captivating grid-based movement dungeon crawler with great party-based RPG mechanics, and it features enough content to not become too repetitive too quickly. I just abhor entirely random bosses.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Delving Into Dungeons

Plagued by gnawing uncertainty.

There are few things as satisfying as crawling through a crumbling dungeon while being besieged by hordes of monsters. Clinging to that last scrap of bread as your hunger grows, but pressing on in hopes of acquiring great treasure and attaining even greater glory. It’s often an entirely perilous pursuit. But that’s not going to stop me. I’ve always been fond of exploring new locations, and I’m glad that dungeon crawlers offer countless opportunities to do so while reminding you of your fragile mortality. Especially when you’re encouraged to build a fresh party of adventurers with each attempt.

As each attempt should then differ from the last.

But even if the same party is maintained with each attempt, failing the last should encourage a different approach for the next. If the RPG mechanics are adequate then the outcome should change. Which doesn’t mean that it’ll be a guaranteed success, but at least a different kind of failure.

Grim Dawn executed this exceptionally well with its challenge dungeons. While your character build remained the same, the dungeon would reset and the Skeleton Key (required to enter the dungeon) would be lost. Forgotten Gods, the second expansion pack for Grim Dawn, introduced the Shattered Realm to stand alongside challenge dungeons. However, unlike challenge dungeons, the Shattered Realm encouraged you to clear each level in the best time possible, and would offer extra rewards if you did so. Obviously Grim Dawn is not a grid-based movement dungeon crawler, but it does utilise some mechanics which would suit the genre well. I’d definitely appreciate a dungeon crawler that introduced content similar to the Shattered Realm. Rather than simply providing randomly generated floors to wearily trudge through.

A delightfully devilish interpretation of dungeon crawling mechanics.

Which is why I’m quite fond of how Book of Demons implemented its dungeon crawling mechanics. Rather than designing a fixed sequence of floors akin to Diablo, the developers opted to utilise dungeon generation mechanics which allow you to decide just how long you’d like to explore the dungeon for. I’ve actually been thinking about revisiting a few ARPGs this year. But I’ve also made a surprising number of purchases (despite not intending to) in recent months. I’ve been enoying Death end re;Quest after completing Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, but I’m unsure of what I’ll be playing next.

I’ve been thinking about the Early Access for Stoneshard.

But I’ve also been thinking about (the recently purchased) Infinite Adventures. Then there’s Wasteland Remastered, which might not be a grid-based movement dungeon crawler but is certainly a worthy consideration. Especially when I’m keen to begin my post-apocalyptic adventures in Wasteland 2.

Last Epoch was another worthy consideration as that has already proven to be quite a capable ARPG. But it’s so very difficult deciding what to do next when there’s so much that I’m enthusiastic about. Let this post serve as forewarning that I’ll likely be flooding Moggie’s Proclamations with gaming content, and that I’ll be incredibly happy while doing so. There might be some creative content as well. That’s always a possibility. I’ve written before of my nostalgic love for dungeon crawlers and I’ll probably do it again. While I do love ARPGs, I’ve always enjoyed bringing together a party of adventurers with different abilities and talents. I sorely miss party-based RPGs. Which is why I’ve been investing in numerous JRPGs, as they’re often party-based with turn-based combat and those are two of my favourite things.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Children of Morta

One family to stand against the encroaching corruption.

Children of Morta is an exceptionally satisfying ARPG that functions as a dungeon crawler. An exquisite narrator tells the story of the Bergson family in their tireless struggle against an unnatural corruption, while the main campaign affords myriad opportunities to learn more about each family member and their motivations. There are numerous events to view or quests to complete throughout the main campaign that award permanent progression, too. These may unlock playable family members, build on the rich history of their ancestral home, or simply tie the main campaign together. It’s a simplistic but effective approach.

One that is painfully absent in modern RPGs.

ARPGs are rarely known for their engrossing main campaign stories, but Children of Morta wholeheartedly relies on telling that story and having you invested in the characters and events found therein. It feels natural and illustrates how the struggle against the corruption wears on both body and spirit. It’s an enthralling joy to play.

Each family member is rather interesting as well. John is the stalwart defender whose shield and sweeping attacks afford exceptional close combat proficiency, while Linda has heightened mobility and can pierce enemies with a hail of arrows. Kevin can dash effortlessly between enemies slicing and dicing with deadly efficiency, while Mark can draw enemies close before pummelling them mercilessly. I’ve had most success with Linda, Kevin, and Mark. I’ve never been particularly good at much of anything with John. While Joey is the newest addition and the character that best fits my usual approach to ARPGs. His potential for damage is quite impressive given that his health has been bolstered substantially. He can also charge through enemies like a burly lunatic.

Things are certainly starting to heat up down here.

Character development is extensive and intuitive. Levelling up any of the six characters allows you to unlock skills and (through investment in those skills) traits. Traits are shared with the family, and they provide an enticing incentive to level up multiple characters as each contributes to the proficiency of the rest. On the ancestral grounds you can invest in both Uncle Ben’s workshop (which improves various character attributes) and the Book of Rea (which offers dungeon crawling bonuses) to further empower the family. These investments affect the family equally and allow you to develop everyone at the same time.

Which makes using a less experienced character more viable.

While they might lack the skills or the traits of their more experienced kin they’re still quite powerful in their own way. Having more health, a better chance of landing a critical hit, or a higher dodge chance can certainly smooth out the difficulty curve in later areas. By surviving longer they contribute to the continual investment, too.

At first glance Children of Morta seemed like a rather engaging ARPG, but I’ve found it’s more of a dungeon crawler that’s actually quite reminiscent of Diablo in its execution of certain mechanics. The way that dungeons are divided into different areas, the obelisks which offer substantial bonuses, the deadly traps, and the possibility of uncovering random events make me nostalgic for the blasphemous bowels beneath Tristram. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have strength in its own convictions. It does. There’s an intriguing story that’s told exceptionally well by both the narrator and the various events or quests. But it’s still a unique approach that I’ve only seen attempted a scarce few times before, and fewer still have been successful in delivering the desired result.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

The Urge to Climb

Ascending towards the surface and the sun.

Mary Skelter: Nightmares is an absolutely bizarre but enjoyable JRPG featuring satisfying dungeon crawling mechanics. It functions similarly to other dungeon crawlers and features a party of up to five characters, but allows you to develop those characters to conform to whichever party composition you have in mind. Presenting a typical JRPG party management system of being able to swap characters as and when you please. The development of the individual characters is tied to their classes, of which there are five unique classes and two characters embodying each class resulting in ten playable characters.

Of the ten one is a secret character unlocked near the end of the campaign.

Most character development is as expected with the acquisition of experience points leading to levelling up. However, there are the Blood Devolution mechanics (that allow you to reverse the levelling process) and the class change mechanics which both require increasing quantities of blood crystals. Blood crystals which are found at random in dungeons.

Changing classes requires a quantity of blood crystals and Job Rights, while Blood Devolution requires a (significantly greater) quantity of blood crystals and Devolution Rights. Every tenth character level you are awarded both a Job Right and Devolution Right. This is one of the earlier justifications for utilising the Blood Devolution mechanics, as you can easily devolve a low level character to acquire another Job Right with which you can unlock more classes. Unlocking a class makes every skill available to that class permanently available to the character even if they switch to something else. For instance, Alice will retain Cover or Intimidate (if invested in) even if she switches from Paladin to Destroyer. So unlocking each and every class is actually a viable strategy to maximise the number of skills you have available.

There are some unusual classes, too. The Item Meister is an exceptionally useful utility class that is second only to the Blood Hunter for making the most of each dungeon. Both classes increase the drop rate of items in combat while the Blood Hunter can also increase the amount of gold earned in combat, and utilising one of these classes will have you buried under mountains of loot. Loot, which, even if it isn’t immediately useful, can be sold. I had an Item Meister for the majority of the campaign and I reached the point where I had millions of gold that I couldn’t carry due to the gold cap being just shy of ten million.

The Paladin is quite a unique approach that really excels with higher level equipment, too.

My only minor criticism of the mechanics presented herein is that the acquisition of blood crystals can be quite unpredictable. Often only one or two creatures of a particular type (of a particular floor) will drop the crystals you need, but unless you’re planning to engage in Blood Devolution repeatedly you should have more than enough of even the rarer blood crystals to get by.

I bought Mary Skelter: Nightmares on a whim as it looked like a reasonably enjoyable JRPG dungeon crawler. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to experience something that’s genuinely enjoyable and engaging that doesn’t necessarily challenge you but remains fun to play throughout. The characters and their respective classes were quite interesting and varied, while the dungeons featured actual puzzles (albeit not complex ones) and particular mechanics that required you to use the unique abilities of each character. The main campaign was also quite a bit longer than expected. If you’re a fan of JRPGs or dungeon crawlers (or both) I highly recommend Mary Skelter: Nightmares!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

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