Putting the 'role' back in role-playing games since 2002.
Donate to Codex
Good Old Games
  • Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.

Codex Review RPG Codex Review: Druidstone

Infinitron

I post news
Staff Member
Joined
Jan 28, 2011
Messages
97,700
Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
Tags: Ctrl Alt Ninja; Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest

Has it really been just a month and a half since Druidstone was released? It sure feels longer. These days small games are quick to sink into the depths of Steam without leaving a trace, even when they're made by the developers of the acclaimed Legend of Grimrock series. However, the Codex has not forgotten. After all, you could hardly expect Darth Roxor not to be interested in a scenario-based tactics game along the lines of Blackguards, despite his well-known disapproval of deterministic combat mechanics which Druidstone utilizes. Indeed, in the end it's not the determinism itself that Roxor finds fault with, but rather what may have been the developers' attempts to work around it. I quote:

Naturally, this deterministic approach has a huge influence on mission design. As everything is hand-placed and nothing in terms of the mechanics is random, Druidstone has to rely on a number of key measures to make sure that the player isn’t able to plan a successful route to victory from the very first turn. Some of them work, some are questionable, and many are quite annoying.

What works well are some of the abilities available to monsters, which can make the course of battle somewhat unpredictable, and which also make you consider your progress through a mission. These include wraiths that can resurrect dead enemies as skeletons an infinite number of times, mage-killing spiders that can steal your spells for a while, or an assortment of foes with healing spells. Obviously there’s more, and they are too many to list, since the majority of enemies have some unique quirk that gives them a specific and characteristic role on the battlefield.

Another aspect which I’d consider well done is the general way maps are structured. I’ve seen “full deterministic” tactics games before that were more or less glorified puzzlers, with only one obvious/optimal way of getting through each encounter. And while some levels in Druidstone also fall for this trap, most of them are broad or open enough to invite multiple ways of approach.

[...] As for the annoying bits, there’s a lot to talk about here. Let’s start with enemy reinforcements. I don’t think there’s any level in the entire game that doesn't have them, and they are always used in a very cheap and irritating manner.

Reinforcements are typically announced one turn in advance by dropping “teleporter beacons” on certain squares. These are pre-placed, they can spawn at any moment and in any square (including right on top of your party), and you have absolutely no way of telling when, where and what they will spawn. A reasonable approach would be to adapt the spawning points to the map design somehow – like make skeletons rise out of graves or have wolves run out of dens. But Druidstone disagrees, and it keeps deep striking seemingly random enemies into seemingly random places at seemingly random intervals, while you are left scratching your head, thinking who the hell thought this was a good idea. I dare say this feature is bad from the very start and never becomes less bad. At some point you kind of learn to live with them – because they become a simple fact of life, like mosquitoes, cars freezing in the winter and AIDS – but much like the doomsday timers, eventually they grow really old, and the only reaction they get from you is “not this crap again”.

However, Druidstone likes its monster deep strikes so much that you need to watch out not only for the telegraphed ones. Monster death squads can also spawn out of nowhere on top of your party unannounced, though fortunately this doesn’t happen as often.

The unannounced monster spawns are a part of Druidstone’s number one most annoying aspect. The “gotcha!” moments. This game really, really loves to pull absolute nonsense out of its posterior, rub it all over your face and strut around, yelling “I totally fooled you!” In my experience, triggering a gotcha usually results in immediate turn rewind or even a restart of a level, because more often than not, it puts you up against a battlefield reshuffle that makes most of what you’ve done until that point moot. Typically, the gotchas are of a “bait-and-switch” variety, where accomplishing an intermediate objective suddenly unleashes all hell, in a way that you could have never predicted.

My absolutely favourite example of the above is a big bossfight against the avatar of a god of fire. The avatar is basically a time bomb – after X turns, it will explode and collapse the dungeon. Your primary objective is to escape by unlocking the exit and leading all your characters to it. But there’s also an optional objective to kill the big boss. Since he has a lot of health and quite the numerous entourage of goons, with more that keep spawning, a reasonable person would assume that killing the boss is a challenging way of winning early. Imagine my surprise when vanquishing the wicked foe made one of my characters yell (literally), “oh no, the dungeon is going to collapse anyway!” and set the countdown even lower than it was before. Needless to say, my heroes were too far away from the exit at that point. Truly, this was the gotcha of the freaking century.

This is just one example, and while it might be the biggest one barring the final boss (and I’m not gonna discuss that one), smaller ones are no less annoying. Even further, they are so plentiful that they might even form the core of Druidstone’s difficulty, and that, dear reader, is not very good at all.

That’s because not all levels stoop to this kind of ludicrous and downright unfair design. Sometimes the game does have you face a properly outlined challenge that keeps chipping away at you through attrition and clever enemy composition and placement. In times like these, Druidstone can be loads of fun, and it gets your noggin joggin’ when you analyse your every option multiple moves into the future to escape from a perilous situation. One of my favourite levels that reflects this perfectly is a mission where you have to break through an army of the undead guarding the entrance to an ancient temple, all the while protecting another weak character from harm. The map is big, it gives you a number of paths to consider, it mixes strong dark knights with a horde of cannon fodder skeletons, and also drops a few of the necromantic wraiths along the way. No gotchas, no nonsense, pure planning and attrition.

Unfortunately, just when you think you’re starting to have fun, Druidstone goes out of its way to kick you in the balls with something stupid again. And while in the final tally I’d say that the fun-to-bullshit ratio is roughly 50/50, bullshit is much more aggravating by its very nature.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Druidstone
 

Cross

Arcane
Joined
Oct 14, 2017
Messages
3,014
What is left to say? Druidstone is a weird game. The basic mechanics, general low-budget feel and hodgepodge of barely matching elements make it look like it was glued together in half a year. At roughly 20 hours of gameplay, it’s also fairly short. I can only assume all of this is the legacy of the constant design changes mentioned in the introduction.

At the same time, it feels and plays a lot like a board game of sorts – it’s definitely not an RPG, and not even a simulacrum of a pen and paper RPG.
It's an Into the Breach clone. I'm surprised nobody has pointed this out considering how blatant the similarities are:
  • deterministic mechanics
  • character progression is handled through gems that can be freely slotted in and out
  • the ability to completely rewind a turn once per mission
  • side objectives consisting of things like 'prevent X amount of damage'
  • an undo button
  • combat is on a timer and enemies spawn in every turn
  • an emphasis on push/pull mechanics and environmental hazards
Even a lot of the abilities in Druidstone are identical to ones in Into the Breach. The one thing they didn't copy though is the central gimmick of being able to see what the enemies will do on their turn.

"Glued together in half a year" probably isn't too far off since they seem to have rebooted the game's design shortly after the release of Into the Breach last year.
 
Last edited:

Darth Roxor

Royal Dongsmith
Staff Member
Joined
May 29, 2008
Messages
1,878,582
Location
Djibouti
It's an Into the Breach clone. I'm surprised nobody has pointed this out considering how blatant the similarities are

I've never played Into the Breach, so I can't comment on that, though I think I remember the devs talking about it as a big inspiration in some intervio around the release.
 

Jaedar

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Aug 5, 2009
Messages
9,922
Project: Eternity Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 Pathfinder: Kingmaker
At some point you kind of learn to live with them – because they become a simple fact of life, like mosquitoes, cars freezing in the winter and AIDS – but much like the doomsday timers, eventually they grow really old, and the only reaction they get from you is “not this crap again”.
:D
 

Mark Richard

Arcane
Joined
Mar 14, 2016
Messages
1,192
Mission timers were probably supposed to prevent the grinding of gold and XP, though players can do that at a reduced rate by replaying the level anyway.

I was expecting a stronger negative reaction to the game being mislabelled an RPG, but the user reviews are surprisingly favourable. Problem is, there's so few of them. And the gaming press didn't bother either. PC Gamer had an interview with the developer a day before release, calling Druidstone a ' triumph of great game design'. This would seem like the natural prelude to a proper review, yet no review materialised. In fact the game hasn't been mentioned on the website since. The interviewer was a freelancer writer who only writes sporadically for PC Gamer and was in no position to follow up.
 

Mortmal

Arcane
Joined
Jun 15, 2009
Messages
9,202
Codex is starting to review phone games now ? Should have started with switch rpgs , they are a bit deeper at least.
 

Andhaira

Arcane
Joined
Nov 25, 2007
Messages
1,868,994
Its a fun game, with enough bare bones RPG mechanics to keep me satisfied. I guess I'm so starved for good turnbased combat that I'll enjoy even average games.

But its worth buying/playing to be sure.
 

Quantomas

Savant
Joined
Jun 9, 2017
Messages
260
Darth Roxor From an RPG player's perspective your review makes sense. Though some of the smaller niggles have been patched out, the boots protect indeed against the shock lightning damage, the exploding damage of the Oghmi is in the tooltip now, and not triggering traps is a slight misnomer, instead it allowed my archer gal to traverse corrupted tiles unharmed.

After realizing that replaying missions is not much fun, I made an extra effort to succeed in each mission on my first attempt. I played on hard from the get-go and completed all objectives straight away (the one exception mission 3). It happened rarely that I had to retry a mission, mostly because of accidents, like equipping the armor that gives you the floaty trait and as a result a normally harmless attack from an opponent pushes you into a lava pit. Essentially you learn what surprises the GM throws at you, which you normally can handle, even if it is tough at times, by being conservative with your limited skills. Though I have to admit I spent about 50 hours on my playthrough and really thought about my moves. There is only a very small fraction of players who are prepared to play this way and would still enjoy it. But if you do, you will have lots of fun with Druidstone.

We should not ignore the fact that Druidstone makes an interesting contribution to exploring what makes the essence of exploration with a party in a game. The platform is actually very smart. All the niggles you mentioned, down to the gotcha moments and spawned reinforcements, come down to mission design. As you noted yourself there are missions that are actually very well designed. If you learn your lessons and simply use the tools at your disposal you could easily create a stellar campaign, for which there is no equal in the market right now.

And that is the essence, your review says it loud and clear, the missteps Druidstone makes come down to the way its missions were designed and could easily have been addressed by gathering proper feedback prior to release. But what dev has the patience for this after a long and protracted development?

BTW Into the Breach is worth a look because devs can learn a lot from seeing this slick streamlined TBS interface design.
 
Last edited:

Mortmal

Arcane
Joined
Jun 15, 2009
Messages
9,202
Only reason its not on mobile yet is probably cause of poor sales and they wont bother. Tried it for 20 min , wasn't having really fun already.Wow like graphic, mobile phone cuteness,few abilities but its not for casual either, even first map is time limited with very little margin for error. It wont find its public, dont know what were they thinking when they designed this .I'd gladly buy grimrock 3 instead.
 

thesheeep

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Mar 16, 2007
Messages
9,975
Location
Tampere, Finland
Codex 2012 Strap Yourselves In Codex Year of the Donut Codex+ Now Streaming! Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera Codex USB, 2014 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Bubbles In Memoria A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag. Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
It wont find its public, dont know what were they thinking when they designed this.
This is what happens when you do not stick to your initial plans.
Adjustments are fine and sometimes necessary, but this game did not have adjustments, it had entire gameplay shifts.

I find (from experience) that even when you think an initial plan might not work, you are better off implementing it anyway, because a) it might just work despite doubts, b) you will learn what actually doesn't work and can adjust and c) you had a reason for your initial plan, even if you might have forgotten.
Even a flawed, but seen through plan will yield better results than constant changes.
 

Infinitron

I post news
Staff Member
Joined
Jan 28, 2011
Messages
97,700
Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
This is what happens when you do not stick to your initial plans.
Adjustments are fine and sometimes necessary, but this game did not have adjustments, it had entire gameplay shifts.

I find (from experience) that even when you think an initial plan might not work, you are better off implementing it anyway, because a) it might just work despite doubts, b) you will learn what actually doesn't work and can adjust and c) you had a reason for your initial plan, even if you might have forgotten.
Even a flawed, but seen through plan will yield better results than constant changes.

Or maybe they should have just made a scenario-based tactics game but without so many doom countdowns and spawning monsters. It's not rocket science...
 

thesheeep

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Mar 16, 2007
Messages
9,975
Location
Tampere, Finland
Codex 2012 Strap Yourselves In Codex Year of the Donut Codex+ Now Streaming! Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera Codex USB, 2014 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Bubbles In Memoria A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag. Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
Or maybe they should have just made a scenario-based tactics game but without so many doom countdowns and spawning monsters. It's not rocket science...
It really isn't. I just think that this "design confusion" is due to not sticking to their initial plan. I think if they had planned a game like they ended up making from the get-go - or stuck to whatever they were going for initially -, things would have turned out better.
 

As an Amazon Associate, rpgcodex.net earns from qualifying purchases.
Back
Top Bottom