October 7, 2011 7 Comments
I hate doing this review. You know why? Because I liked Dark Delve. I don’t have a lot of bad things to say about it. And when that happens, my reviews are usually boring. Oh, there are some exceptions. I really liked Wizorb, and the poor guys at Tribute Games ended up catching my wrath simply because it was years of pent-up Arkanoid frustration being dumped on them. In the case of Dark Delve, I really don’t have any axes to grind with its style or its genre. I’m pretty much fucked with this review as a result.
Dark Delve is a dungeon crawler where you take control of a group of up to four people and search a dungeon for treasure and items, fighting enemies and trying to save the world or some such bullshit. Although the game is fairly linear, you get a lot of customization options. For added difficulty, you can go in with only one character. Being the coward that I am, I decided to go in with four chicks. Thus I created the “Me Quadruplets.” Fuck Me, Blow Me, Eat Me, and Lick Me. Yep, I’m that immature.
Exploration in Dark Delve is done from a first person perspective. You walk around, searching for hidden rooms and occasionally encountering enemies. The strange thing is the graphics in the dungeon are really, really well done, but all the characters are downright laughable. These two contrasting visual styles kind of threw me out of the immersion I was initially feeling when I began the game. The dungeon is so well designed and drawn that it has a foreboding creepiness to it. And then there are the characters and enemies that look like they were drawn in KidPix by a 6-year-old.
Combat is typical turn-based stuff, all driven by menus. You do have a fairly wide option of attacks to choose from, and there’s a skill-upgrade system that adds more. I will say that the game sure seems to allow your guys to miss their attacks a lot. I can’t recall an RPG where your characters strike out as much as it happens in Dark Delve. Even against low-level creatures, I went full rounds where my characters would whiff every time I went to hit them. It got so annoying early on that I started over and switched the difficulty to easy. It didn’t help at all. And I don’t think its tied to the stamina system because it would happen with the first encounter after I spent a night in the inn to recharge all my stats. Then again, it might just be that I’m the most unlucky RPG player ever, which was previously established in my review of Sequence.
Aside from the combat and crudely drawn characters, the game itself is quite engaging. The dungeon is large and offers lots of interesting surprises. I wasn’t in love with the stamina aspect, where you have limited amount of time to wander through the dungeon before you have to retreat to the exit and rest at an inn. In essence, it’s punishment for wanting to explore the game, and that’s a horrible idea. It never really added a sense of tension, which is what I think the developer was aiming for. It just took away from the fun and gave nothing back. So boo on that.
Funny enough, the main campaign was the low point of Dark Delve. The storyline is clichéd, there’s too much backtracking involved, and too many items to juggle. It’s still good, but it’s lacking a sense of restraint that continuously held it back. I was about to write the whole game off as “good but in need of someone to filter out the bad ideas, of which there were many.” And then I discovered the extra challenges. The game has three of them. All of them are separate quests with characters already created for you and a more clearly defined mission. There’s no town to retreat to every time your stamina runs low, and the dungeons were all much more clever in design. By the end of the main campaign, I was fatigued by a quest that had run out of fun long before it had run out of game. The extra challenges not only renewed my interest in the game, but I was actually disappointed when I ran out of them. As a general rule of thumb, any game that leaves you wanting more is usually worth it.
I haven’t reviewed a ton of RPGs since I founded Indie Gamer Chick, but Dark Delve is the best one thus far. The dungeon exploration really is quite wonderful, even when it gets pissy at you for doing it too much. Honestly, the main quest is such a colossal waste of time that I would play it only long enough to get a feel for the style. Once you got it, drop the campaign like a hot rock and head to the challenge modes. This is what the entire game should have been. Even better, the developer is promising more, via DLC. At 80MSP, Dark Delve is one of the better deals in terms of content out there, and it’s only going to get better. Some really iffy design choices might have cost this a shot at the IndieGamerChick.com leaderboard, but it’s still a contender.
I think the stamina thing is part of the whole minimum shittiness quota for Xbox Live Indie Games. I’m telling you guys, it’s a conspiracy. Hear me out on this one. Originally, Indie games were called “Community” games. Community implies a large group of people, despite the fact that most of these games are made by one person. Thus the Community thing to me says that it’s part of the New World Order, the secretive society that controls the world. But the use of “community” was too obvious and so the slick devils behind this conspiracy changed it to “Indie Games.” Now, I believe that “Indie” is in reality I.N.D.I.E., an acronym for “Illuminati’s New Dystopian Integrated Entertainment” which aims to slowly eradicate fun from this Earth, one small step at a time. First video games, and then the world. WAKE UP PEOPLE!
80 Microsoft Points think Kairi is off her meds again in the making of this review.
Hurley, whom I hear likes to sunbathe at night, also covered Dark Delve for Gear Fish.