|A level whose title encapsulates the game.|
I've been thinking about it a lot--you get a lot of time to think when you play DarkSpyre--and it occurs to me that games with navigation puzzles are little more than conceptual mazes. Let's say you start in a room with a pressure plate, a lever, and a teleporter to exit. If you do things in the right combination, the teleporter will take you to the next level. If you do things in the wrong combination, you get kicked back to the beginning, and everything resets.
Your options are thus:
- Start > Teleporter
- Start > Pressure Plate > Teleporter
- Start > Pressure Plate > Lever > Teleporter
- Start > Lever > Pressure Plate > Teleporter
- Start > Lever > Teleporter
You are thus in a conceptual maze with five potential paths, four of which will lead to dead ends. There's no particular intelligence involved in figuring out the right order; you just have to try them all until you find the right path.
|Sigh. I suppose I'm going to have to test all of these.|
Now add a few other variables into the mix...
- The lever might require multiple pushes, and it might be intertwined with the pressure plate. For all you know, the right combination is Start > Lever > Pressure Plate > Lever > Lever > Pressure Plate > Lever > Teleporter.
- Crossing the pressure plate may not be enough. You may have to put something on it and keep it down.
- Entering the teleporter doesn't "reset" anything; things remain where they are, so the only way to start over is to reload.
- Even if you're right, entering the teleporter might not take you to an exit. It might take you to a room that looks exactly the same as the first room, with a different combination of "right" moves, only since you think you're back in the first room, you don't bother to try the ones you've already tried.
- Instead of one lever and one pressure plate, there are eight levers and nine pressure plates, each located a five-minute walk from the others, so trying even a handful of combinations requires the better part of an afternoon.
- You may reach the final room only to find a keyhole that requires an item you used to weigh down the pressure plate in the first room.
...and you'll have an idea of what it's like to play DarkSpyre.
I get that there's a certain appeal to this sort of game. People who like Sudoku might like it. Sudoku is another type of conceptual maze. You look at a square and figure that either a 1 or a 9 can go there. If a 9 goes there, then either a 4 or a 7 goes in the square next to it. If a 7 goes there, then the 4 must go here, but the 4 can't go there--we've hit a dead end--so we have to return to the previous branch of the maze. Some people can work out the combinations faster than others, but that doesn't change the nature of the puzzle.
|Helpful tip...or reverse psychology?|
I don't like Sudoku. I like crossword puzzles. I like puzzles that require knowledge, cleverness, and lateral thinking. If DarkSpyre consisted of 127 consecutive sphinx riddles, I'd think it was great. As it is, I find the levels tedious and exhausting. I've only played five of them since the last post, and they collectively took me more than six hours.
The half-hour video below shows some of the puzzles that I had to solve through rote repetition. It's not even one of the harder levels. You also get to see inventory, attributes, skills, combat, and other elements of the game. Even though I've already played once at this point, and have taken careful notes, I still get screwed up in a few places.
The enemies have gotten a little harder, but I've only died once. Dying, incidentally, treats you to a graphic of the three gods' heads floating around the screen while they note that the "last champion" has failed and the world will be destroyed.
|"We will create a race of beings more talented at repeatedly banging their heads against walls."|
The only time I've really been in a tough situation is when all my weapons shattered except for a large "troll club" that left me exhausted from swinging it, and most of my spell points were used up. It's near-impossible to flee from an enemy, especially when your endurance is low (it makes you walk slower), so I ended up feebly punching him until he killed me. On a reload, I just spaced more time between enemies, allowing my spell points and hit points to regenerate, and I did fine. The experience really drove home the importance of having backup weapons--not just one, but three or four. A long sword called "Whirlwind" was great for a while, but it ultimately shattered just like all the others.
|About to die.|
At one point, I found an invisibility spell and cast it to see how it worked. It predictably turned my character invisible, which made it nearly impossible to fight, because I couldn't see where I was or which way I was facing. Despite the handicap, I painfully navigated an entire level waiting for it to wear off before I realized the way to deactivate it was to cast it again.
|An ironic message to get when I can't even see myself.|
Overall, despite deliberately creating a spellcasting character (with high "power" and "talent"), I haven't been using many spells beyond healing and the "Knock" and "Zap-Away" spells you need to solve certain puzzles. They take too much power and the points regenerate too slowly.
|I just thought this was a cool shot. Fortunately, there's an option to avoid all these enemies.|
At this point, I've found three of the five runes I need before the end game, so I guess I'm about halfway done. But it's going to be slow-going from here. The levels are taking longer and longer, and I don't have the stamina to complete more than one at a time without a long break. I can envision DarkSpyre extending for several more weeks. Let's see if Dragon Lord offers any kind of interesting contrast.