Codex Review - posted by Saint_Proverbius on Sat 4 June 2005, 09:20:59Tags: Fate
Deciding to tempt Fate
There have been a lot of clones of Diablo over the years. All of them trying to cash in on the success of the original, but most of them just miss the mark. They tend to lack one thing or another, and most of them tend to feel unpolished in one way or another. A lot of them are hastily made and pumped out on to the shelf hoping to get a percentage of the people who liked Diablo to buy the game just because they liked the gameplay.
One thing a lot of them seem to forget about, or implement poorly, is that roots of Diablo are planted in rogue-likes. That is to say that randomized events, locations, creatures, just about everything play a pivotal role in the interest of the game.
What is Fate?
In a nutshell, Fate can be described as Diablo with a lot of the nicer features of Diablo 2 while taking a step backwards towards the rogue-like roots of the first one. You have one town, named Grove, which sits at the gate of a very, very deep dungeon. You're given a quest when you start the game that naturally involves this dungeon and some big, bad critter that calls it home.
The town itself has everything an adventurer could want. You have various shops including a spell seller, potion seller, blacksmith, and other specialty shops. There's a healer in town that will heal you and your pet for the price of just asking. There's an enchanter that will upgrade, or occasionally downgrade on accident, your items for a fee based on the statistics of the item. You have two goblins in town that will rip gems out of socketed items for you, if you don't mind losing that original item. There's a bard that can write a song about you for a fee, which increases your renown. For those people with a lot of money, there's a guy in town that will let you gamble on items a la Diablo 2.
Probably the most important people in town, the ones you'll go to more often, are the quest givers. Quests in the game are simple, randomly generated missions involving the dungeon. They can vary in the goal, which can be to find an item, kill a creature, kill a certain number of creatures, or a combination of those things. In exchange for your time and risking your neck, you'll receive additional experience, fame, and gold. In some cases, you may have an item as a reward as well. It may or may not be as nice as the item you pick up in the quest, though. In cases like that, if you decide you can't live without that quest item, you can simply cancel the quest and keep the item. No one will cry foul over it. After all, you're the one that went down there to get it. Finders keepers.
The town also features a fishing hole, but more about fishing later.
Who tempts Fate?
Fate doesn't offer much choice in character creation. In a nutshell, you have the choice between male or female. Each of those genders have a different number of face skins and hair styles. Now, if your newly created character is a descendant of a retired character, you also get 10 skill points and 5 attribute points to spend as well plus an additional four skill points for each generation of retired hero you are.
There are four attributes in the game. There's Strength, Dexterity, Vitality, and Magic. Strength determines your melee damage as well as what items you can wear. Dexterity determines your ability to hit, your ability to dodge an attack, and is useful for wielding bows and certain armors. Vitality affects your hit points and how much stamina you have. Lastly, Magic determines how much mana you have as well as being useful for equipping certain items.
Unlike many Diablo clones and other rogue-likes, Fate does not use classes to determine your character type. Instead, players are free to boost any of the 15 skills to build their character how they want. There are 8 skills for weapon types, such as Mace, Spears, Bows, and so forth. For the wizards out there, there are four magic skills with three of them being schools of magic and the forth which determines casting speed. The three remaining skills are for things such as how often you dish out critical hits, dual wielding, and how well you use a shield.
Like most CRPGs, you earn levels by gaining experience. Once you've done enough quests and killed enough monsters, you move on to the next experience level. Every level up, you're given 5 attribute points and 2 skill points you can spend however you wish. Pretty standard stuff, really. However, the game goes further in that it also adds another type of level system called Renown.
When you complete a quest, you're granted a certain amount of Fame for each quest based on the difficulty of the quest. You can also get Fame from killing more notorious, named critters in the dungeon. The more and more Fame you get, the higher your Renown level goes. Every time you gain a level of Renown, your player is given 4 skill points to spend however he wishes. Furthermore, elite and legendary items can only be wielded by characters with a certain level of Renown.
Why pets are cool.
One of the rather interesting additions of Fate is that every character starts the game with a pet. Like character creation, the creation of a pet is rather simplistic. You get a choice of a cat or a dog. After you've picked that, you can name it. There, you've successfully created a pet.
Pets are basically your generic henchman. They can haul goods around for you, fight beside you, and generally keep you company. Pets have a full sized inventory, so they're very useful for muling your bounty of ph4t l3wt around. Once their inventory is full, however, you can send them up to town to sell everything in their inventory and bring you back the money. Of course, the deeper you are in the dungeon, the longer this trip takes. At deeper levels, unless you're near a fishing hole, you'll probably want to send your pet off and then town portal back up to retrieve him and get your money.
You can also command your pet to pick up items or use a shop by using the shift key when clicking on an item or on an NPC shop keeper. This allows you to avoid the tedium of transferring your inventory of stuff to sell to the pet's inventory. Typically, I'll shift click on things I know are worth money and I'll pick up the things that need to be identified. I'll identify things, then toss them on the ground and shift click on them for the pet to pick up. It's much easier than filling up the whole screen with two inventories just to transfer items, especially when I'm in a dungeon that hasn't been completely cleared.
While there is no armor for pets, they can wear hand me down amulets and rings in order to boost their abilities further. If this isn't enough of a boost for your pet dog or cat, you can always go fishing to boost them up even more. Different fish will change your pet in to other creatures such as a Watcher(think Beholder), Owlbear, giant spider, and so forth. The duration of the change depends on the quality of the fish. A flawless fish will change your pet permanently in to that type of creature. Don't worry, even though he may be changed in to a big, bad gargoyle, he'll still haul your bounty back to town. He'll just fight better for you than he would be in his original dog or cat form.
While pets can and do take damage, they can't die. Instead of death, when your pet's hit points reach zero, they'll freak out and start fleeing. Your pet will be completely useless to you while he's fleeing until you heal him again. That means he won't fight and he won't respond to any of your commands either.
The only problem with pets is that you may find them becoming less and less useful as the game goes on. As stated above, eventually the time it takes for the pet to head up to town and come back becomes so great, you're probably not going to want to rely on this. Also, pets level much slower than the levels of the monsters increase in the dungeon. If you have a decent Charm Magic skill, you'll probably be summoning things that dwarf your pet in combat ability, even if they're the same type of monster. Even after boosting it to a powerful monster with a flawless fish and giving it some powerful rings and amulet, you may still find that Scruffy has degenerated to a glorified pack mule.
The deepest, darkest dungeon
One of the nice parts about Fate is the random dungeon generation system. Not only does it generate different dungeons each time, but it also generates different types of dungeons. You can have a twisty, maze-like dungeon one level and a wide open dungeon the next. Some dungeons have several different rooms all connected by branching halls and some are more mine-like in nature. There are also a number of different tile sets for the dungeon to keep all the levels from looking the same. The generation of dungeons often seems to make use of tile sets in how the dungeon is grown and filled. This could be the result of plenty of clutter spread around to fit the theme of those tile sets, but you may wonder why there's push carts 40 stories below ground.
In addition to filling the dungeon levels with monsters, you'll also find various containers that may have items or money in them to crack open. Occasionally one of the town's shopkeepers will pop up on a level to allow you to buy or sell things you've found or things you might need to continue. You might also happen upon a pool where you can fish.
Fishing can lead to some interesting things. Not only is fishing a nice diversion for when your pet is away hauling your ph4t l3wt, but it can also add to the fun of the game. After all, it's fun to turn your dog into a nasty owlbear or some other similar beast, right? If that's not enough of a reason, fishing can also lead to collecting some interesting items. Fish aren't the only thing at the bottom of that pool of water. The nice thing about fishing is that it's a completely optional minigame that can be used for passing time but also serves to impact the play of the game if you choose to do it.
If you don't feel like actually fishing for your fish, occasionally a fish vendor will appear on the dungeon level allowing you to buy types of fish from him. Depending on the level of the dungeon where you are, he may have more powerful fish that allow your pet to stay transformed longer for a hefty price tag. The downside is that the vendor only shows you the type of fish you're buying and none of the stats of the fish. In fact, you don't even know the type of monster that fish will transform your pet in to until you buy it unless you memorize what all twenty or so fish do to your pet.
There are also a number of shrines in the game, which allow you to tempt Fate. There are several types of shrines in the game. There's a Statue of Fate himself, from which you can attempt to pry gemstones. If you do it successfully, you get two artifact gems. If you fail, a guardian boss critter will show up to explain to you why you shouldn't mess with Fate. You can also run across Magic Anvils which will either enchant an item in a good or bad way, socket the item, or do nothing to it. There's also the Books of Knowledge shrine which can either raise or lower attributes. All of these are optional to try, but they're always a gamble. The effects of these shrines are often based on the level of the dungeon where you find them.
Shrines add a good deal of fun to the game by offering the player an choice which can instantly and permanently impact the game. You have to weight the risk of using one each time you see one. You could put your prize weapon on the Magic Anvil and could possibly get a significantly better weapon out of the deal. You could also lose all the enchantments on that item. There's also possibilities somewhere in between those two outcomes.
Things to do outside the dungeon
Gambling in the game is a little different than that of Diablo 2. For one thing, the prices aren't really fixed based on the type of item. You could have two sabers in the gambling screen, and one might be gambled for forty thousand whereas the other might be two-hundred thousand, indicating it might be a good deal more powerful. You can also gamble for exceptional items, those that require more Renown to use.
For those looking for less of a gamble, but still a gamble in and of itself, you can visit Rikko the Enchanter in the graveyard. Rikko works much the way the Magic Anvils work in the dungeon, but for a fee based on the power of the weapon itself. Rikko can either improve a weapon, curse the weapon, add sockets, or nothing happens. You still pay the fee up front. If you have a lot of money, Rikko will often pay off in terms of imbuing your item. Best of all, Rikko can work his magic on nearly every item you own, including some items you probably shouldn't give him like a fishing pole.
As stated before, there is a minstrel in town which will write a song about you for a fee. This will raise your Renown one level which can basically be considered as purchasing skill points since that's what happens when Renown goes up. It also means that if you really don't feel like doing quests for some reason, you can always just pay to keep your Renown high enough to wield certain higher end items or just keep your skills naturally buffed.
Everything else in town is really either a shop, a quest giver, or one of those goblins that rips gems out of items. Well, there's a fishing hole and a healer, but those are small potatoes.
When Fate pays off
There are also a number of improvements in this game over Diablo and other games. One such improvement is the ability to switch the ALT style item searching to being on all the time. So, any time and item drops, you will always see what it is rather than having to tap and hold ALT. It's optional, so if you don't want all those item names cluttering up your screen, it's your choice. I typically leave it on because it also shows the names of containers. An unbusted container means I haven't been in this area yet.
You can also pick up gold by just walking over it. After all, who wouldn't want to pick up gold? It takes up no space in your inventory, so why not? While not the most cool feature ever devised for a game like this, it certainly does save time and provides a more streamlined play as opposed to having to click on every single pile of gold in an area.
The concept of retiring characters and then playing descendants of that character is one interesting aspect of the game. Once a character completes his main objective in the dungeon, that character can retire at any time or continue to delve deeper and deeper in to the dungeon. When that character retires, the player is given the opportunity to create a new character that is somehow related the original character. The new character starts with bonus skill points based on how many generations of heroes have come before him and five attribute points.
In addition to starting off more powerful than a normal character, the retired character also passes on an heirloom. This heirloom will get more magically powerful with each generation. That is to say that the magical bonuses of the item get better. The exception being that gems in the item won't gain in power, but the normal magical bonuses will.
Fun with ph4t l3wt
Any game like this has to have ph4t l3wt. Characters have ten item slots where you place your armor and weapons. You have helmet, two rings, one amulet, chest, belt, boots, gloves, and two slots for holding weapons or shields.
Most of the armors in the game are fairly standard. However, armor is similar to that in Dungeon Siege where you have robes for magic types and straight up armor for warrior types. The higher Strength you have, the heavier armor you can wear. Likewise, the higher your Magic, the more powerful robes you can wear. There are also helmets for high Dexterity characters, but chest and other types seem to require either the Strength or the Magic attributes for equipping them.
For weapons, you have hammers, spears, swords, maces and clubs, bows and crossbows, staves, axes, and pole arms. Of these, only the bows, pole arms, and staves require two hands. The rest of the weapons, including spears, can either be dual wielded or allow you to use a shield.
Shields not only provide additional armor, but also provide a percentage chance of blocking an attack based on your skill level with shields. In addition to blocking attacks, a shield can also block the effects of a trap based on your shield skill.
Like Diablo 2, items can have sockets which allow the placement of gems in order to boost that item's abilities. Unlike Diablo 2, there is a huge selection of gems to use with a wide variety of effects. For example, a Ruby will add bonuses to fire damage for a weapon or fire resistance to armors much like Diablo 2. However, Zircon will increase your odds of finding magical items and Obsidian will increase your knockback. There are also artifact gems, such as the Shadow of the Master which gives a +5 to Dual Wielding, +7% attack bonus, and a -3% defense penalty.
Also like Diablo 2, items of better quality can be found. There are Superior versions of weapons which increase the damage minimum and maximum. These can be used by anyone who is able to wield the regular version. For people looking for a little more non-imbued power, there are also Elite and Legendary versions of items which give a much greater boost in power, but also require you to have a certain level of Renown before you can wield them. I guess you need to be a legend yourself before you can equip a legend.
Naturally, there are magic items, rare items, and artifacts(think unique from Diablo) in the game as well. Unlike Diablo 2, these items can not only provide powerful magical bonuses, but also penalties as well. Sometimes picking the better weapon not only involves comparing how much better one items is versus another, but also if you're willing to deal with the penalties of a new item for that boost in power elsewhere.
Enchantments to an item can include things like a greater amount of gold dropped, the ability to knock critters back when you attack, draining their life while healing yourself, and so forth. Each enchantment has a prefix or suffix, similar to those found in Diablo, which allow you to tell what the item does. Even rare items have prefixes and suffixes, but those will only tell part of what the item does.
Sometimes items have odd attributes considering what they are. For example, you might find a magic shield that will give a bonus to the Dual Wield skill when it's impossible that you can have a shield while dual wielding. Other times you might find a two handed polearm that gives a bonus chance of blocking, when you can't use a shield in conjunction with a two handed weapon.
Most of the fun of the game, like most of these games, revolves around finding the better sword or that elusive amulet that completes the build you're striving to have. With the wide variety of enchantments an item can have and the number of items you can wear or wield, this game is pretty well done in the area of treasure seeking. The only thing you may find yourself wanting are set items, which the game doesn't have.
Whipping out the magic
Fate has three schools of magic. You have Defensive Magic, which is primarily your buff spells and healing arts. You have Attack Magic, which is drawing on mystical energies to lay a smack down on a bad guy. Then you have Charm Magic, which is basically summoning and everything else.
If you want to heal, or be a magically augmented fighter, Defense Magic will be right up your ally. There are four healing spells in the game, which are individual and group versions of healing and greater healing. There are no spells that remove harmful effects of spells or conditions like poison, which would have been nice considering I get poisoned quite a bit. However, there are resistance spells which can help out on a few of those elemental attacks. If you're focusing on melee as your primary method of dealing damage, you may want to try out the Dervish spell that doubles your attack speed. For bow users, there's Ringing Blast, which will knock enemies away from you. All types of characters can benefit from Spectral Armor, which boosts your defense rating.
Attack Magic are those spells you cast when you want something to die. Most of these are elemental attacks, so they're not totally useful versus things with high resistances. Many of the spells in this school are like Fireball, which does fire damage to a single target a distance away, or Meteor Strike, which does area of effect fire damage. However, there are some interesting ones like Draining Aura, which leeches life away from the target and heals the caster. There's also a nice Muffle Magic spell, which saps the target's ability to fling spells at you.
Lastly, there's Charm Magic which is basically your summoning school of magic. It allows you to summon up to six critters for a certain duration of time. The better your skill, the more powerful your creatures will be and the longer they'll stick around. In addition to summoning, this skill also allows you to Identify items and Town Portal back to town without needing those scrolls and books taking up your inventory space.
Unfortunately, there's not many spells that boost your bow and melee fighting other than the ones I mentioned. If you're looking for spells that add elemental damage to your physical attacks, you're out of luck. There are no flaming arrow attacks, or a spinning melee dance of death spell to be found here.
Another problem is that you may find Attack Magic sorely lacking against certain monsters. Critters like Magic Elementals have 100% resistances against nearly everything you can toss at them. It might not be so bad if those things didn't pop up so early in the game, but they do. Because of this, you'll have to fall back on another skill. Attack Magic is probably the only skill that falls short of working on things so early and so severely.
It's all about the critters
Most of Fate is about monsters, though. The game offers quite a large variety of monsters ranging from lowly blob critters to liches to spell casting Watchers. Many of the monsters aren't just bags of hit points that do damage. A good chunk of them also have various attributes like resistances to certain attacks or weaknesses to those attacks. Running across a Lightning Beetle when the majority of your damage comes from electrical damage may not be as quick a kill as if that critter didn't have a high resistance to electrical.
Monsters also have a level rating. For example, you can run across a level 11 skeleton in the game. As you can guess, this skeleton will be a lot tougher than a level 4 skeleton. Not all monsters are created equally, though. Just because you fought a level 11 rat and wiped the floor with it, doesn't mean that level 11 lich will go down like a sack of potatoes. This also applies to summoned critters. Your level 23 skeletons may not pack the punch as your level 23 owlbears.
Most critters you'll run across in the dungeon are just bashers or clawers. However, there are quite a few that will cast spells as well. You may run across a Bugbear Captain or two which Hasten themselves, or a Watcher that will send a Fireball or two your way. Some of the casting critters will even summon other types of monsters to aid them. Of course, if you kill the caster, the summoned ones all disappear.
There are also more powerful boss critters in the dungeon, which also have better resistances and more abilities than their more common brethren. These boss critters are often the focus of quests that townsfolk give you, but don't have to be. Even if they aren't, they still yield better drops, more experience, and will even give you fame points for ending their miserable lives.
The downside of Fate
There are a few niggles with Fate. For example, the automap isn't all it could or should be. In town, the locations of people are marked but there's no icons for what they do other than quest status. Either they're yellow on the map because they want to give you a quest, or they're red because you've completed their quest, or they're green if they don't fit in to the previous two. It would have been nice if there were little icons for shops, enchanters, and so forth.
The dungeon map is about the same. If there's a shop keeper on that level, he'll show up as a green dot on the map much like in town. The up and down stairs show up on the map as do town portals. Fishing holes, shrines, and fountains do not show up, though. Also, there's a slight problem with the map showing walls of areas where you haven't been. If there's three halls running side by side, and you walk down the two outer most hallways, the middle one will be lit up as if you've been down it before.
The character models are fairly goofy. I don't normally complain about the graphics in a game, but they look like deformed children. The hands and feet are oversized, and there's no female form at all to a female character. In fact, the armor models look the same for both male and female. Put a helmet on a female and some cheap armor and you'd be hard pressed to tell one from the other.
The biggest downside, by far, has to be the lack of multiplayer in the game. The game really screams for a little cooperative dungeon romping with friends, but there is none in the game. Even though I am enjoying the endless delving in to the dungeon in single player, you can't help but wonder how much more fun it would be if you could do it with a few friends. Given the item system of the game, trading items with friends alone would make this feature worth while.
That wacky spyware thing
I figured since this gets brought up a bit, I'd bring it up in this review since we're so damned cynical here. The question on a lot of people's minds is, Is Fate one of WildTangent's notorious attempts to steal all my information from my computer in their never ending attempt to supply the Illuminati with every move I make on the internet? Hell, I don't know either way. However, here's what the developer said in a thread on the subject over at Quarter to Three:
Yes, WildTangent is the company that's gotten a rap for spyware. This was primarily due to autoupdating of the client, and a poor uninstall experience ( read:non-working ). So they've gone back and forth and I think WT has been removed from most spyware apps by now. They did a lot of work on the install/uninstall and behavior of the client so that
A) you can tell it NOT to automatically update during the install process ( and later, from its control panel ), if you decide to allow it to install at all
B) the uninstaller is clear, consolidated, and actually works
C) you are very aware of what you are installing and have clear options to cancel if desired
WT is also shipped on some OEM machines that come packed with WT games, which probably accounts for people who can't remember installing it.
So, is it? Still don't know, but I mentioned it in this to make people happy. I'm a giver.
Yes, finally, the conclusion. I've gotten tired of writing this. I basically want to get back to playing the game a bit. In fact, that's one of the reasons this review took so long to write. I kept stopping the work on it to play just one more level of the dungeon with one of my characters. Even though it's just single player, it's been interesting and addictive enough to where simply writing about it has made me want to stop to play some more.
While there are faults with the game, and while it is fairly simple in a lot of areas, there is enough substance to keep you wanting to try one more thing. The flexibility of the character system often lends itself to trying out skill combinations such as a summoning character that runs around with dual swords, a bow expert that uses hex style magical attacks, and so forth. With retirement options, once you get tired of one build type, it's easier to get a leg up on the next one you want to try.
Also, the price is right at $20 for unlocking the downloadable version of the game. I don't regret buying it. I've paid twice as much for games that didn't even come close to hooking me like this one has.