|06-25-2012, 04:29 PM||#1|
Editor in Chief
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: New York City
Blog Entries: 10
[PC] Krater: Shadows Over Solside
Title - Krater: Shadows Over Solside
Platform - PC
Developer - Fatshark
Publisher - Fatshark
MSRP - $14.99
Editor - Michael "DoctorFinger" Chauvet
It’s a simple formula. Adventurer(s) go into dungeon, emerge laden with tons of phat loot. Simple, but addictive. That’s the drive behind Fatshark Games’ Krater, a post-apocalyptic loot hauler with a unique sense of humor and some neat customization options. But is it enough to drag people away from either the king - Diablo III - or the established upstart - Torchlight?
Krater is set, firmly, in Sweden sometime after a nuclear apocalypse. The titular Krater is a lush, green eden which draws travelers and treasure seekers from all around. The ‘Solside’ in the subtitle refers to the above ground areas, while later in the game you’ll encounter the dangerous and profitable Underside. You play as a party treasure seekers who just arrived in the crater looking to make a few bucks.
In Krater you control a team of three drawn from four different classes. The tank-ish Bruiser, agile slasher Slayer, ranged healer Medicus and ranged debuffing Regulator. Each character has a pair of special abilities mapped to the number bar which are used in combat. Oddly, your character cannot learn new abilities. The two abilities the character has from minute one are the same ones they’ll have at the end game. They can be altered - via ‘boosters’ - to produce various effects, but they don’t change or evolve beyond that. Letting you customize the powers is nice - my Regulator’s area effect slow field also buffs my party’s stamina, damage and defense - but the complete lack of new abilities is strange. You can equip gadgets like grenades, sniper rifles, healing packs and buff injectors which operate independent of your character’s stats and recharge after cooldowns. I didn't use them much for most of the campaign, but later on they did save my bacon a couple of times. Later on in the game you can recruit replacement characters with different abilities, but if you’d prefer to stick with the original characters - or those recruited at the first couple towns - then your abilities are pretty static.
The recruitment system is one of Krater’s more interesting - and frustrating - features. The characters you get at the beginning of the game are capped at level 5. When you go into their customization screen - where you can apply boosters to their abilities or implants granting buffs to their stats - everything which would unlock from levels 6-15 has a little lock on it that says “requires promotion”. At this point you have a choice on how to advance. You can go to one of the promotion centers and get your character moved up to the next tier - at a huge cost - or for a more modest fee you can recruit new characters who start at level 0 but can go up to either level 10 or 15 depending on when you find them. But you'll have to level these characters up and buy them expensive implants and boosters to get them up to snuff. So you then have to either go all the way back to the earliest dungeons to level up a whole new crew, or you spend a while leveling up one new character at a time. Either way you'll spend a chunk of time grinding, either to get the cash to promote characters to higher tiers, or to boost level 0 characters to the point they can survive in the current dungeons. This system makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Partly because you’ve already spent a lot of money loading your characters up with non-removable boosters and implants, but mostly because it violates one of the cardinal rules of RPGs: never stop advancing. If I’m playing, I want to be advancing. The second I stop advancing - which in this case happened the first time about 20% into the main quest - I get annoyed.
After recruiting my new crew, I had to grind for quite a while to build them all back up to level 5 while also getting enough money to buy new boosters and implants. Eventually I started rolling, and at this point I was once again having a blast. Until all too quickly I bumped up against the level 10 barrier. Except I couldn’t afford to promote all of my characters or find new characters to buy who could go to the maximum level 15. Not for quite a while. I was still rolling in combat thanks mostly to new weapons and better buffs, but the lack of advancement still irked me. In the third city I found there were characters with new and different abilities, but they were locked at level 5 and would be slaughtered even by random encounters in the area. Eventually I found a single top tier character at the fourth hub town, but I wouldn’t be able to fill out the rest of my squad in top tier until the final town, when the game was about 90% finished. Even getting to that point with two characters who hadn’t gained a level in about 6-7 game hours was a challenge. By the end of the game I had a roster of about 13 nearly identical characters, most of whom hadn’t been used since the first few hours of my playthrough. I did have a more or less constant stream of new weapons, gadgets and buffs to keep me going, but the promotion system is - for now - pointless and frustrating.
Visually the game is nice, with some very nicely done environments. There is some very obvious stage repetition when you’re doing procedurally generated missions, but it’s not too obnoxious. The levels are mostly very linear, but nicely detailed. Your characters have some nice touches to them visually, but the camera is usually too far away to get much detail. It runs smoothly on my modest PC with only the occasional slowdown when facing large numbers of enemies. The audio is mostly pretty low key, with some nice musical touches. There isn't a ton of voice acting, but what they include is endearingly strange.
The story is pretty barebones, but with some nice narrative flourishes. You’re doing a lot of fetch & kill quests, mostly for the flimsiest of reasons. There’s some self-referential humor when they ask you to do these simple quests, but you’re still doing lots of fetch & kill quests. I do like that the game is unabashedly Swedish. Most foreign developers try to make the game as American or English as possible, but not Fatshark. Currency is in Krona, the names have tons of umlauts and rings in them and there’s a design company called ‘Idea’ in one of the towns. One more major gripe: you can't save in dungeons. If you exit out while in a dungeon, the next time you fire up the game you'll find yourself back in the last town you visited. Since some of the dungeons can be fairly long, it does make the game needlessly inconvenient for short play sessions.
I’ve rarely seen a game so hampered by relatively simple design decisions. If you could level up consistently throughout the game, it would be a lot of fun, with quite a lot of content for the $15 pricetag. As it is the fun stretches are balanced by stretches of non-advancement and grinding. A free update adding co-op play is set for July, which may sway the opinions of some, but that content was not available as of this writing, so I can't report on it.
Score: (3.5 out of 5 Cogs)
Michael says, "Much of Krater’s potential is blunted by a couple of inexplicably poor design choices. Having to slog through long stretches where my characters simply cannot advance it not my idea of fun. The most recent patch cures some of those ills but not completely. When you’re advancing it’s a fun game, but the roadblocks thrown in your way get frustrating.”
|06-25-2012, 09:31 PM||#2|
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: plymouth, mn
They will need to fix that level capping if they ever want me to purchase the game. And it sounds like a game design decision which means the devs will be unlikely to change it since it will change the entire "flow" of the game. It sounds like a crappy tactic to get more time from the game by forcing grinding. Too bad. I am interested in the setting the game takes place in.
Xbox No. No. Bad Xbox.
|06-26-2012, 05:33 AM||#3|
Join Date: Sep 2008
I was in the beta and I found it absolutely terrible.
1. Playing multiple characters at once is odd and it's hard to coordinate them for anything special. As a result, the combat is as clunky as you expect a top-down game to be, but without the strategy that you usually get in these types of games. This makes the combat boring.
2. The art and story left me completely underwhelmed. Nothing grabbed me at any point.
3. Visually it is very hampered by the top-down viewpoint. There is actually some decent art in there, but you are so zoomed out most of the time that you don't get to see it.
3.5 cogs is insanely generous for what I played, but maybe they cleaned it up since the beta.
|06-30-2012, 01:06 PM||#5|
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Blog Entries: 6
That level capping sounds absolutely terrible, and a total deal breaker for me, as is the lack of a "save anywhere" feature, which is inexcusable in any game, IMHO.
I'll keep waiting for Torchlight 2.
|fatshark, krater, pc gaming, review|