By Duncan Voice
Indecision is perhaps my most irritating trait. If my life were an RPG, I’d probably be wearing [Inconclusive flip flops of procrastination] that gifted the wearer -10 points to the decisiveness stat. Staring at the character creation screen for a good couple of hours flicking between nose shapes is customary, and I’ve lost count of the hours lost after deleting a character because I didn’t like their hair style.
I’ve also never been keen on melee classes. It’s probably because I’m vertically challenged in real life (and also a bit of a wimp) that I shy away from being close enough to smell an orc’s breath and prefer to bring the pain from a distance. Whether it’s casting fireballs or flinging arrows, I can always be sure my armour will remain blood and entrails free.
Din’s Curse is part of the Depth’s of Peril world by Soldak Entertainment, a small independent developer headed up by Steven Peeler whose credits include Counter Strike: Condition Zero and Half Life: Counter Strike. An impressive list of features include co-op multiplayer, an infinite number of randomly generated towns and dungeons and an astonishing 141 class types, all of which have three talent trees. Bearing in mind my inability to make a decision, it was a long afternoon.
Din, the titular god, has cursed your character for not being the nicest of people in a previous life. He’s charged you with helping out villagers in typical RPG fashion in order to redeem yourself. Accept the quest, enter the dungeon, kill ten dogs, collect eight orc skulls and defeat the nefarious bad guy before heading back to town to hand in the quests, sell some loot and spend the talent points acquired on levelling up. So far, so run of the mill and things quickly begin to feel very familiar.
It’s when you ignore the warnings and an army of skeletons heads into town, only to get back and witness the complete obliteration of the townsfolk, that you realise Din’s Curse does things differently. A brief fight back only saw me consigned to the corpse pile and in an unexpected few minutes the town was lost. Invasions aren’t the only example of where things can go wrong. Towns can succumb to revolts, quest givers storm off if you take too long and traitors have knives aimed between your shoulder blades. There are probably hundreds of different incidents that can happen, but all leave a permanent mark on your town if they do.
Fallout 3 had NPCs that stayed dead and a town that stayed blown to smithereens. That’s the only example that springs to mind when trying to compare this dynamic system. It’s a big budget idea in a low budget game, and I can think up plenty of good games that would flirt with the notion of being great games if something like this was implemented.
Down in the dungeons, anyone who has played anything from Diablo to Torchlight will feel immediately at home. Skills are assigned to the hotbar, and cutting down swathes of orcs, skeletons and… er… pixies is as addictive as you would expect with decent visual feedback relaying the painful looking attacks. Loot is of course dropped by the bucket load and is shareable between characters. The prospect of having a rare, powerful axe drop can keep you clicking away for hours.
It doesn’t look like a game that was released this year, but ageing machines will be able to run it perfectly with low system requirements. I always sit down with Din’s Curse for a short ten minute play, only to look at the clock hours later wondering where the time has gone. There is a multiplayer mode, although unfortunately I was unable to find a partner to go orc-bashing with on any of my countless attempts. With a publisher’s backing and a larger budget, Soldak has enough original ideas to produce something spectacular, although perhaps it’s knowing an independent developer has the resources to create something as impressive as Din’s Curse that makes it so enjoyable in the first place.
8 OUT OF 10