Tuesday, 29 January 2013

REVIEW - Delver (PC Indie)

An Action First-Person RPG Dungeon Crawling Roguelike (catchy isn't it?)

Blimey! It would appear action Roguelikes are like buses. You wait for ages for one to show up, then a whole shit load of them turn up at once. At least I think that's how the saying goes. Whatever, the bottom line is we have recently been blessed with a plethora of games featuring randomly generated levels, rpg elements, and permadeath. For those of us teetering on the edge of hardcore RPG nerd-ism, these action based real-time Roguelikes are a much more palatable option than the beardy uber-heavy RPG antics of a true roguelike. Here we have all the finest elements of the genre; randomly generated levels, levelling up, hacking, slashing and looting, and the hair pulling torment of only having one life in which to complete your quest. Die once and it's game over fuck face! No saves, checkpoints or cutesy characters offering tips, just you against the computer's random levels and monsters.

Delver takes these elements and combines them with the voxelrific visual style of that game.. er, what's it called again? Minecraft, something like that. You may have heard of it. Anyway, Delver puts you in a lovely blocky world in a first person perspective, and tasks you with obtaining a secret magical gubbins located deep in the bowels of the land, held by some foul demon with a face like an elephant's arse, who will introduce you to a world of hurt when you request he hand it over. Once you have the prized item it's a return to the surface for you, battling past a smorgasbord of scumbags you have already killed. Ah, Roguelikes, so predictable, yet some damn addictive. They are like crack flavoured Pringles (note – I claim all rights for this idea, if they appear I will sue you Pringles!).

You start off at the cave entrance, generously equipped with a dagger, some food, some useless armour and a nifty wand that fires electric bolts. Not bad, this adventurer clearly comes prepared, Este Paratus (yes, I just used Latin in a game review, I apologise). You then navigate your way through the randomly generated levels on a mission to locate the ladder that will take you to the floor beneath. You will have to face many foes on your way there, from the standard bats and slimes, to staff or sword wielding guys, skeletons, and weird eye-balls that shoot fireballs at you. Vanquished enemies often drop loot such as food (hmm, cheese and ale!), armour and weapons. Accessing your inventory is simple, and you can drop and arrange your items as you see fit. A hot-bar allows you to allocate items you will need to access quickly in the heat of battle (e.g. Health potions), making life even easier.

The levels absolutely ooze atmosphere, with the voxel world containing lots of rich detail and some great dynamic lighting effects that really bring the place to life. Wall mounted torches flicker and crackle, lighting up the corridors, and streams omit a glow that fills caverns with a warm blue aura. Sound is also top notch, with some crisp and classy sound effects coupled with a haunting soundtrack that is perfectly suited to the world you are immersed in. Both the music and backgrounds change every couple of levels (sewers, caves, librarys etc) which really gives you a sense of exploring a living world, and it adds variety, keeping it fresh and exciting. One minute you will be battling soldiers in a dungeon, the next fending off zombies in a sewer. The monsters also get harder as you progress ever downwards, but with some decent resource management skills you will be well equipped to deal with whatever the depths can throw at you. You occasionally come across strange square symbols on the floor that, upon being stepped on, transport you to a random location or hurt you. They can be avoided if spotted, or you can render them inactive if you work out how. A mini-map is also displayed in the corner, helping you to track your movements, and it can be switched to full screen at the tap of a button. After all, what kind of adventurer leaves home without a map?

It's incredibly absorbing to play and, like all good roguelikes, will keep you completely and utterly hooked until the moment you emerge, blinking, into the sunlight that greets you upon return to the surface, amulet clasped in your sweaty palm. Delver is not the hardest the genre has to offer, but it does offer a decent enough challenge, and is so much fun to play that every minute spent exploring its rich, colourful world is worth it.

The game is currently only in alpha stage with the creator, Chad Cuddigan, promising further updates soon. The game that is currently available for your PC (or Android platform) is still extremely polished and playable, and can be completed. So I highly recommend you head over to Chad's site and cough up the $5 entrance fee to the wonderful world of Delver. I am eagerly awaiting a new version as, like my patented crack flavoured Pringles, one just isn't enough.

The Good

  • Wonderful voxel world with fantastic lighting and detail
  • Addictive and immersive gameplay
  • Randomly generated levels
  • Offers a reasonable challenge without being too brutal

The Bad

  • Alpha state means game isn't finished yet (but more to come!)

Developer : Chad Cuddigan
Availability : Out Now (alpha) on PC and Android
Price : $5

Be sure to vote for Delver on Steam's Greenlight