The only dungeon crawler that actually improves on the item mod system

User Rating: 8 | FATE PC
If you've never played dungeon crawlers before, the basic premise is that the player controls a hero who delves into a dungeon, slays some monsters, and then hauls loot back up to the surface where he takes stock of his equipment, before diving back in.

Fate is a pretty generic take on the genre, but it what it does it does well. Now, normally i don't believe in slagging other reviews because opinions are not a matter of right or wrong. But I have to speak up when someone casts a negative review simply because the game did not fit into his own biased and incorrect presumptions of what the game should have been instead of actually reviewing the game in question.

I'm talking about the abomination Russ370 attempts to pass off as a review which is actually a rant blaming the game for copying Diablo. This is laughable because Diablo is hardly the paragon of originality. Dungeon crawlers were among the very first video games to be written. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have one word for you: "rogue". Yes folks, these games go all the way back to before the advent of personal computers.

- - -[ Storyline ]- - -

There's a story here, even though it pretty much toes the standard party line as far as stereotypes go: a great evil has taken residence in a nearby dungeon, and the people of the town recruit you, a wandering hero, to go in and clean things up. Short, neat, and to the point.

There are several NPCs who will help you in your quest, mostly in the form of loot identification, selling you alternatives to things picked up from the dungeon, helping you recast that unwanted bit of loot to perhaps something better, and handing out the occasional side quest.

Oh, and you get to bring a pet along, a doughty little sidekick who follows you uncomplainingly even when you use it as a pack mule. As a bonus, some of the fishing mini game items earned will give temporary power boosts to your pet.

Fate is unabashedly generic, and while it doesn't actually poke fun at the genre, it hardly takes itself as seriously as Russ370 does. Check out the various names of the randomly generated monsters, and you'll probably notice some familiar names if you know this genre's history.

- - -[ Interface ]- - -

Fate sticks to the conventional RPG HUD style with your most vital stats (hp and mp) along the bottom together with hotkey slots, and your little pet has its own stat box in the upper left corner. Controls are straightforward mouse and hotkey style that will take you all of one minute to learn and commit to memory. No problems here.

The view is pretty much top-down for the most part, which is both a blessing and a curse; but only a curse if you're the type who prefers to "see out" from the eyes of the protagonist FPS style. I don't know about you but that kind of view is stupidly self-limiting. I prefer the bird's-eye view which allows me to see if anything is trying to sneak up behind me.

Obviously the game goes along with this formula because it works. Russ370's bashing of the game's style is like saying Honda rips off Ford by making cars with four wheels. Like, duh? It appears that "rip off" is the only adjective that he is capable of spewing. It's pretty obvious that for all his wordiness, very little actual thought has been given to his "review" of the game. Fail.

- - -[ Presentation ]- - -

Fate uses pretty much everything in the palette. Even with the shadows and fog and spell effects, colours stand out strongly, giving the world a nice and solid if slightly pastel look. In a genre known to be dominated by games that don't give a damn about graphics, Fate scores highly in the visuals department. Russ370 pretty much convicts himself as an ignorant newbie to the genre with his Diablo comparisons - rogue-like games have never been about the graphics. In fact, the vast majority of them use ASCII character representations.

Speaking as an experienced dungeon crawler gamer, I have to commend Fate on tackling the surface polish the way it did. The animation and effects are smooth and I've never seen any glitches, clipping, or other anomalies. Everything looks well done and flush in place, from real effects like shadows to interface effects like the tiles in your inventory window.

Items are highlighted and colour is used extremely generously, giving this game a breath of fresh air, which is a welcome change from the generally claustrophobic and earth-tone dominated nature of most other games in this genre. Russ370 goes on to complain by saying graphics are of N64 quality. How exactly is this bad? We are talking about a small game from an indie developer. Given their small budget what they have produced looks fantastic. I've seen plenty worse from commercial titles produced by big name studios with development teams larger than Wild Tangent's entire staff.

The most major improvement to this genre, however, comes in the form of Fate's item system. Russ370 is clearly blind when he (again) parrots his favourite catchphrase. He could not be more wrong; did he even really play the game, or just breeze though the town for 5 minutes before quitting and writing his nonsensical and factually incorrect review?

Take a close look at any magical item in fate. Note how many mods are spawned on them. This is a game which has the balls to give you more than puny +1 hp type of mods present in virtually every other game of this genre. There has been NO OTHER GAME which has such a flexible and extensive item system. They are practically all "X item of Y", slavishly devoted to the 2 mod system which Diablo pioneered. I challenge you to name a game of this genre that does NOT follow this convention, other than the Fate series (Fate has one sequel).

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As a longtime RPG player with experience in hundreds of games spanning all genres from tabletop RPGs to board games to Japanese console RPGs to MMORPGs, I can tell you that this here is how item systems should be evolving. Instead, we're stuck with minor and inconsequential bonuses in game after game, written and designed by dull and unimaginative designers, and further exacerbated by the fact that game companies take marching orders from business suits who point at industry leading games like World of Warcraft and say "copy them, don't deviate, because they are making money".

That sort of makes sense because playing follow-the-leader is a safe strategy. However, if you look at the history of video games, breakthrough games (with massive sales, no less) have always been genre-busters. I'm talking about games like Populous (which virtually singlehandedly created the "God Sim" genre), Privateer (sadly, space sims have fallen by the wayside), the Ultima series (which grew from a game written by one guy all the way to a series spanning more than ten titles including a wildly popular MMO). All the copy cat games, the wanna bes and mediocre sequels have mostly been bargain bin filler.

Ironically, when a game deviates from the well-trodden path and ventures into new territory, along come ignorant philistines like Russ370 who take one look at the game and dismiss it. Fortunately for us on GameFAQs at least, the other reviews give Fate a consistently fairer judgement. Even KasketDarkfyre who titles his review "Diablo?" actually reviews the game.

Even though KasketDarkfyre's opinions are practically the same complaints, he actually reviews the game and walks through its features and gives his reasons. He doesn't simply make monkey faces or whines "rip off" repeatedly like a 6-year old. Yes it's true Fate doesn't break much new ground other than the item system, and that dungeon crawlers ARE a pretty niche genre - given all that it's inevitable titles will cannibalize features from each other.

On the flip side... games like EA Sports titles sell massively as well even despite being practically the same game carbon copied from previous incarnations with only graphical or character roster updates, but then you've got to factor in the fact that these games attract non-traditional gamer types as well... you know, people like your couch potato Uncle Jim who would otherwise not consider himself a gamer.

- - -[ Summary ]- - -

Fate is a solidly built dungeon crawler with several interesting alternative approaches to what the genre normally does, especially the "radical" improvement in the item system. This is a major draw, because the whole POINT of a dungeon crawler IS repeatedly diving in for better loot.

If you had a choice of one game of this genre to buy, you can't go wrong in picking Fate. It is a solid example of said games, and actually throws in a couple of improvements into the mix.