Fate E3 2005 Impressions

We take Fate by the hand in our preview of this cute dungeon crawler for the PC.

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Dungeon crawling, item collecting, and loads and loads of gold are all at the heart of Fate, a PC-only fantasy action game that finds its roots firmly in the Diablo tradition. We got a chance to take a guided tour of this game with the producers from the WildTangent publishing house to see how this game tweaks the tried-and-true Blizzard formula.

Perhaps most noticeable is the overall look of the game, one that merges menus and item container screens straight out of Diablo with a cutesy anime style for the hero, non-player characters, and gameworld and that brings to mind Final Fantasy IX. The third-person isometric point of view will be familiar as well, though you will have limited control to swing the camera to peek around corners.

The gameplay in Fate will be all about raiding level after level of random dungeons, putting a pounding on the hundreds of monsters that inhabit those underground lairs, and collecting your ample reward all the while. Fate producers told us that the game includes around 100 unique monster models, but, when you consider different power variations for each model, the game will run well into the hundreds in terms of types of foes you will face. That same focus on quantity will be found in the game's weapons, items, and clothing, which feature a number of different power levels. You won't be able to use epic- or legendary-level weaponry unless your fame rating is high enough. Fame, as defined in the game, acts as a secondary experience system that will also determine your overall notoriety in the gameworld and the title you carry.

Combat in the game is of the point-and-click variety, and the types of attacks your character can use are entirely dependent on what kind of skills he or she posseses. There are no character classes in Fate. Instead, as you level up your character, you'll earn attribute points you can distribute as you see fit, as well as a number of skill points that can spread across numerous skill categories (or you can simply pour them all into one, if you're so inclined). Skill categories include a number of individual weapon types, such as staves, polearms, spears, clubs and maces, swords, and axes, as well as three different magical classes: attack, defense, and charm. Attack and defensive spells are pretty self-explanatory; charm magic gives you the ability to charm foes you encounter in the dungeon or summon creatures to assist you in your battles.

Summoned creatures won't be the only help you find in Fate, however. You'll start out in the game with a pet, either a dog or a cat. Never fear, however--even if your pup or kitty won't be much of a help in battle, you'll be able to transform it into an entirely new kind of pet by feeding it fish. The type of fish you feed it will determine what kind of creature it transforms into. One fish we saw transformed a fire beetle into a deadly venomous spider, which is helpful when you want to poison your enemies. Pets will have other uses as well; they'll work as effective pack mules, with huge amounts of storage for all your extra items. If you wish, you can even send your pet back to the town to automatically sell all your items while you continue hacking your way through the dungeon.

Even though the gameplay seems to be fast moving and fun, death is likely an inevitability and, in Fate, death comes at a cost. When you perish, you're met by the game's version of Fate and presented with a choice: Revive immediately at the spot where you died and take a solid XP hit; resurrect one level above where you died and take a gold penalty; or resurrect three levels above you, and your gold will remain where you've fallen for a short period of time. It will be up to you to decide which path of fate you wish to pursue once you've fallen.

As far as character creation goes, most of the customization in the game will come in the types of items, weapons, and clothing you carry, which are all reflected on your onscreen model. Items and weaponry will also be customizable through a gem-and-socket system similar to that found in the Diablo series. Attach a ruby to your magical staff, for instance, and you'll gain some fire damage bonuses to your attacks (and your staff will glow a fiery red, as well). The number of sockets are dependent on the space the weapon takes up in your inventory--a four-slot staff, for instance, would have four sockets for gems.

The gameplay in Fate has an open-ended feel to it, what with its premium on randomly generated dungeons, but there actually is an endgame of sorts to the game. At the very beginning of the game, you're introduced to an ultimate nemesis that can be found in a deep level in the dungeon you'll be exploring in the game. Your goal will be to face your foe and eventually defeat him, after many hours of leveling and powering up your character, of course. Once you've defeated your nefarious foe, you will have the choice to either continue on with the game ad infinitum and level to your heart's content or retire your current character and pass down a single item from your collection to your newest character. That item, be it a staff, a robe, or your favorite chainmail gloves, will also get a bonus for your new character, who will embark on an entirely new Fate adventure at a bumped-up difficulty rating.

Fate was just released to the general public via download on a number of Web sites. Stay tuned to GameSpot for a full review of the game in the near future.

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