Thursday, August 27, 2009

GBA look: Mazes of Fate

The first dungeon-crawling game I'm going to look at is O3's Mazes of Fate. Some might be more familiar with the DS version but before that came a GBA version that didn't see much of a distribution outside of various online stores. So no matter what I say consider the possibility that the DS version might have improved on the various aspects that I found fault with.

In a world where the threat of Goatmen loom one man or woman can make a difference. The game starts off with character creation as you choose your portrait and skills you want to focus on. Everything from the magic-users spells to the fighter's ability with weapons to the rogue's penchant for unlocking and finding hidden doors is covered here. 

Exploration in towns and the overworld is handled via an overhead perspective like most older J-RPGs and this is where you'll start off, talking with townspeople and recieving quests. Before long you'll enter your first dungeon and be introduced to the view where you spend the bulk of the game. 

As with similar games in the genre the dungeons are grid-based and you take up one square. Movement is handled in steps and there's all manner of switches to pull, doors to open, and treasure to find. This isn't difficult at all to get into especially if you have some familiarity with the genre. Monsters move around in real-time and when they reach you they'll begin their attack and you can respond in kind. This is pretty much how all of the dungeons play out though there's some puzzles, secret doors, and even a few boss encounters to mix things up.

The combat system in this game is unfortunately not any good. It's obvious work has been put into giving the player a lot of options in dealing with their foes such as a large number of spells to various weapons and party combinations to work with. This however is for the most part rendered moot due to an issue with the mechanics. When an enemy approaches they go through a cycle of animations before their attack is registered. If you step away or to the side before an enemy can go through their attack animation they simply won't attack. The enemy will walk up to where you moved and try again but as long as you keep moving they simply can not hurt you. Couple this with the fact that your entire party can perform their actions at least once before an enemy makes their move and you'll soon discover that combat is quite broken.

Thus we're left with the dungeon exploration. This aspect is handled well and while the dungeons can get repetitive(especially the optional ones) some creative ideas are thrown around every now and then. These dungeons are held back by the very poor combat though as not only are the encounters easy but once an enemy is defeated it never respawns or otherwise makes an appearance to hassle the player again. Unless you get stuck on a puzzle you'll quickly discover that these dungeons are extremely easy.

So what's left by this point? Not much at all I'm afraid. The Dungeon-Crawler genre lives and dies by...well...the dungeons. If there's no challenge to them there's no reason to bother yourself with playing through the game. In fact the only reason I managed to finish this game was because it was literally the only game available for me to play. If this situation ever happens to you don't make the same mistake I did by playing through this one. It's a waste of time.

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