Role-playing games have come a long way since their inception in videogame-dom. The big franchises almost all sport immersive 3D worlds, iconic and developed characters, and cinematic cut-scenes. But what if you didn’t want all that — the toned-down level of challenge, the movie sequences that spell out what you’d prefer to just imagine, the androgynous protagonists? The Dark Spire, then, wants to be your time machine back to the dawn of the classic, dungeon crawling RPG. It’s a “love it or leave it” sort of proposition.
This game takes you back to the time when the genre relied heavily on text to move the narrative and dialog along. This is juxtaposed with graphic-novel-style screens with decently evocative artwork, or you can choose to regress even further to black-and-white wireframe dungeons, using the “dual dungeon mode” option. You also get to build your own four-character party and customize each adventurer’s individual class and attributes.
Oh, and The Dark Spire is hard. Like, one-battle-can-destroy-your-party hard. Nostalgia has done nothing to blunt this RPG’s challenging gameplay. You will need to approach battles with strategy and caution, ration your items, and fight tooth and nail for each experience point and gold piece.
The story is your typical novice-adventurers-cum-heroes tale. The traitorous sorcerer Tyrhung has stolen the legendary Fairy’s Tears from the Royal Couple. Faster than you can snark “who didn’t see that one coming”, the villain has taken to the top of the Dark Spire. It’s your job to go in there and take it back. Along the way, there are quests to complete, and the storyline promises some twists and turns.