We%26rsquo;d wager there isn%26rsquo;t a single human being alive that genuinely loves the bog-standard, turn-based battle template. We accept it as a means to an end, a quirk of traditional RPGing that we%26rsquo;ve just grown to accept. Like a cold sore. Now imagine a game that consists of 80-plus hours of unrelenting turn-based brown, in monster-infested dungeons that are entirely your own creation. It%26rsquo;s a concept that %26ndash; wait a minute %26ndash; is oddly appealing. For the first few hours, it even threatens to be fun.
The basic premise is simple enough. In order to contain a recent monster epidemic, you%26rsquo;re tasked with digging out a local cave to turn it into a massive dungeon. This dungeon, it%26rsquo;s said, will attract monsters, whereupon you can just pop in every morning and clear them out. Naturally, it%26rsquo;s not as simple corralling them into a corner with a heavy axe %26ndash; different monster types like their cave laid out just so. Some don%26rsquo;t like to live too near the cave entrance, for example, while others will only live in certain types of dingy accommodation.
Initially, there%26rsquo;s some satisfaction to be had planning your monster trap %26ndash; sorry, dungeon. Organising rooms so you can maximise your encounters and returning morning after morning to slowly expand your cave is pretty compelling stuff. However, after you%26rsquo;ve trudged through a couple of floors%26rsquo; worth of dungeon, things soon begin to grate. It dawns on you that as you add more rooms, all you%26rsquo;re doing is creating more turn-based battles for you to wade through %26ndash; just so you can pick up items to fulfill tedious quests or earn a few incremental stat boosts.
There%26rsquo;s no real strategy to the battles either, so there%26rsquo;s barely any reward for your shovel-based efforts. Even more importantly, there%26rsquo;s no engaging story or environmental variety to keep your nose from crinkling up in disgust. So, it may have an intriguing concept, but this game is still better off left in a cave.
Oct 31, 2008