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

The Lady of Caed Nua

The fairest lady of all.

Pillars of Eternity is an exceptionally enjoyable but devilishly complex CRPG that offers a satisfying, engaging, and (often times) harrowing adventure. It also allows me to have a stronghold that I can invest in to provide increasingly diverse bonuses and amenities. Which is the kind of freedom I haven’t had since the rather excellent PS1 JRPG Suikoden. Also, according to local law, as a landowner, I have the right to freely execute or imprison people without requiring any actual legal intervention. I don’t remember being able to do that in Suikoden…

That said, what did you think was going to happen when you offered me Orlan slaves?

Firstly, I don’t support slavery. Secondly, I’m an Orlan. Thirdly, I may have reconsidered my decision had I known that your corpse would be hanging from a beam near the Eastern Barbican. But there’s no sense in crying over spilt milk. Or broken necks. They’re more or less the same thing. I’ll put it down to the barbarism Barbarians are known for.

One thing I was concerned with when starting this Pillars of Eternity campaign was whether I would ever see my loved ones again. Or if I could effectively build a character. I’ve had a taste of the mechanics present in Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Neverwinter Nights to name drop but a few but they’re all based on various Dungeons & Dragons rules. These aren’t Dungeons & Dragons rules. Also, real time with pause combat. I have no idea how to micromanage that. But I feel as though the Barbarian was a good choice. Great at dealing damage, reasonably mobile in combat, has a few active abilities, and is adept at dealing with multiple enemies at once. She’s also (rather surprisingly) got more health than both the Fighter and the Monk in the party. So she’s great at getting punched in the face, too.

It’s a very inviting cave, isn’t it?

The other thing I was concerned about was the level of difficulty. I do enjoy a challenge, but I’ve rarely experienced real time with pause combat and when I have it was with more restrictive rules. However, so far, I’ve greatly been enjoying the pacing and the combat, and I’ve only really found one battle that I haven’t been able to win. Not yet at least. But, to be fair, the opposing force does have a literal army, and I have six party members. I could also probably do with more troops which are likely to come from The White March expansion pack.

Speaking of, The White March is pretty great.

I’m quite pleased that it has been integrated into the main story from as early as Act II and that it doesn’t offer wildly overpowered rewards. I was expecting that I’d need to finish the main campaign before I could access the content, but, to my surprise, it turns out you can be clubbed by frost ogres from relatively early in the campaign.

As always, I intend to write a more comprehensive less exuberant post after I’ve completed the main campaign. But I thought I’d write something that shows how much I’m enjoying the multi-layered complexities of the dialogue present in Pillars of Eternity, much as I would enjoy a multi-layered chocolate gateaux garnished with chocolate curls. Sadly there are no chocolate curls in Pillars of Eternity. We do have cocoa beans, though. So maybe there will be a quest delivered to my stronghold wherein I must discover the secrets of chocolate. That would definitely take priority over quite literally every other quest I’ve got. Even the one about defending my claim to Caed Nua. Who needs Caed Nua when you have chocolate?

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie