Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Barbarian Diplomacy - Depths of Peril

Diablo clone. I think it says a lot about a genre of games when it's still being defined as a clone of some other game. Diablo 2 came out in 2000 and even now, 15 years later as of this writing. I still hear games similar to it referred to as Diablo clones. In a world where we have First Person Shooters instead of Doom clones and Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas instead of DOTA clones, Diablo clones don't seem to have quite made a name for themselves yet. I've heard things like Hack and slash, Action RPG and even Loot-Driven RPG thrown around, but I've never seen any one term readily stick and it always comes back to "It's a Diablo clone".

With that in mind, Depths of Peril is... well I'll be tagging it as Action and RPG for this blog but yeah, it's a Diablo clone. Namely, it's a Diablo Clone that sees you as the leader of a covenant, fighting against other covenant's for control of the town of Jorvik. You do this by completing quests to help the town, gaining influence and strengthening your covenant, so you can take down the other covenants, either by making alliances with diplomacy, or as is more appropriate for a town full of barbarians, by gathering your men, storming their home base and beating the crap out of everyone inside it.
Welcome to Jorvik, I hope you brought your axe.
In Depths of peril, you have 4 classes: Warrior, Mage, Rouge, and Priest. They all work how you'd expect; The warrior hits things and can take a beating, the priest can buff and heal, etc. The classes are fairly standard, though there is an interesting twist in how the skill trees are handled. None of the skills require other skills as a prerequisites or even have any hard level requirements to unlock. Instead, skills further down the tree require more skill points to level up, you can even untrain skills individually, though it costs in game money to do this. Many skills don't even have a very high initial cost, meaning you can get what would be late game skills in other games fairly quickly if you can save up for them or have the money to untrain other skills to free up some points. There's also a bonus tree that all classes have access to. instead of skill points, the bonus tree gives various bonuses based on things like stats or level, like extra physical resist for having a high vitality. It's not a major game changer, but it's interesting and help to make things a little different.

On top of your character you also have a covenant to run. You can recruit up to 4 other characters to join you, either by finding them out in the world or by completing their recruitment quest when they show up in town. These characters act like simple versions of the classes you can pick, having the ability to equip a weapon, armor and shield and having a small handful of the skills that class has access to. The skills are random, so finding somebody with the mix of skills is a must. fortunately, you can kick people out of the covenant at any time to make room for new members. These characters will help defend your covenant while you're away, join you on raids against other covenants, or you can have one follow you around while you're adventuring and completing quests. your covenant also acts as your home in base, containing stashes for extra equipment, as well as places to put in guard monsters you can hire, relics that give you're entire covenant various skill and stats bonuses. There's even a book shelf you can fill with books you find, and not only can you read the books stored here, but each new book you turn in gives a small stat bonus.

Your covenant also has a life stone. This stone can quickly heal you over time and acts as your covenants life in a sense, when you or anyone in your covenant dies and resurrects, it takes damage, and enemies can also attack it directly if they somehow get to it. If it's ever destroyed, you lose. Fortunately, the stone slowly heals over time, so one or two random deaths aren't a major problem, but it will add up if you keep dying.
Reading the books is nice, but what's really good is the +1 VIT you get for having it on your shelf.
Of course, your not the only covenant in Jorvik. In each game, you can have as many as 5 other covenants fighting for control of the town, and they are an active part of the game, recruiting members, going out to fight monsters and complete quests. Fighting each other as well as trading and engaging in diplomacy. These other covenants are where the game departs from your typical Action RPG, as a lot of the game revolves around how you deal with them. Your ultimate goal in each game is to be the last covenant standing, or at least be allied with everyone who isn't dead yet, and you have some options on how to do that. You can spread rumors to hurt a covenant's influence over the town, set up treaties and trade routes. Or simply declare war and send your men in to go kill everyone and destroy their life stone. The game has a separate difficulty slider for how aggressive other covenants are, so you can control how much of of an impact they have on the game. That said I'd recommend leaving it on easy for the first round or two, at least until you've got a few levels under your belt and some extra members to help with defense and raids.

The other way Depths of peril makes itself different from other Action RPGs is in how it's world works. Quests in this game are not static, objectives don't simply sit around waiting for you to complete them. not only might other covenants get to them first, but quests can progress or even change when left alone. Is someone lost and need rescuing? If you don't hurry, they might die. Don't gather the materials the armorsmith needs fast enough? he might go out to do it himself and that might get him killed. If your really unlucky, a monster uprising might produce powerful named champions, who will eventually send attacks against the town itself. I actually lost a game once because an uprising I ignored ended with a gate popping up in my home base and flooding it with more monsters than I could handle. It's an interesting takes on quests and adds some urgency to things, forcing you to prioritize what needs to be done, and not just focus on what the rewards are.
While the game is mostly about slaying monsters, diplomacy is more important than you might think.
I should note that this game was originally released in 2007 and made by a small indie team, so graphically the game isn't all that great. Terrain is mostly flat plains dotted with random trees or ruins, many enemies are simple reskins of each other, and overall there's not a lot going for it visually. though to their credit they are using 3D graphics, which makes a nice change from all the 2D pixel art out there and while the graphics aren't the best, they are readily readable, enemies are easily noticeable and while gear can be hard to see, holding down either alt key will highlight things you can pick up for you, as well as things like chests you can interact with. also, what the game lacks in graphical powers it makes up for in modesty, as this game has virtually no system requirements and takes up very little disk space, which is nice if you usually worry about that kind of thing.

The game's music is also fairly minimal. It's actually fairly quiet even with the music slider cranked up, and it's mostly there to keep things from being too quiet. There's not really anything to say about it, it's just there. sound is a bit better, everything sounds like it should including plenty of little beeps, chimes and other effects to help help alert you to important events, such as the sound of someone knocking on a door when another covenant when they want to trade with you. enemies do make some noise as they move around, so there's a chance you'll hear them coming if you somehow didn't see them yet. Sound quality is decent across the board and does what it needs to, so while sound isn't exactly great, it get's the job done just fine.
It's not downright ugly, but it's not the prettiest game either.
In playing the game I didn't encounter any major problems, the game is a bit grindy, as 90% of the game is spent running around killing random things for look and XP, but that's typical for games like this. There is one problem I came across, in that managing your covenant members can be a bit annoying. There's no overall view of your covenant members, to see information about them, you'll have to go look at each one individually, this also makes comparing a member to a potential replacement somewhat difficult. Also, while the game will compare equipment for you, it only compares what your looking at to your equipment, not your covenant members, so upgrading their equipment can be a bit annoying. It doesn't utterly ruin the game, but it's something you'll have to live with.

So with all that said would I recommend this game? It honestly depends, If you don't like games like Diablo this is unlikely to change your mind. If you do like games like that however, want to see something a little different and don't mind a few rough edges? This is definitely a game to check out.

Depths of Peril was developed and published by Soldak Entertainment. It is available on Steam, GoG, Desura and Gamersgate. It's homepage, which includes a demo and direct purchase option is available here.

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