Thursday, January 24, 2019

Black Crypt: Won! (with Summary and Rating)

The box prominently featured the Ram Demon, the easiest of Estoroth's lieutenants.
              
Black Crypt
United States
Raven Software (developer); Electronic Arts (publisher)
Released 1992 for the Amiga
Date Started: 27 December 2018
Date Ended: 20 January 2019
Total Hours: 29
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 37
Ranking at Time of Posting: 243/316 (77%)

Summary:
Black Crypt is a descendant of the Dungeon Master (1987) line. The player controls four characters of fixed classes (fighter, druid, cleric, and mage) on a quest to find four ancient artifacts necessary to defeat an ancient evil named Estoroth. Gameplay takes place across 28 levels of varying sizes, up to 40 x 40. Like its predecessors, it couples first-person, tile-based movement with fast-paced, real-time combat. Character development occurs by leveling and acquiring new spells and equipment, but (as with all games on the Dungeon Master tree) standard RPG considerations frequently take a back seat to a variety of mechanical puzzles involving buttons, switches, pressure plates, teleporters, and other navigational obstacles. Although fun, it breaks little new ground and thus offers few reasons to play it over the games that influenced it.

******

I should never underestimate my readers. I had resigned myself to putting together this final entry based on YouTube videos and had actually drafted a "Summary and Rating" without the "Won," but Zardas came through. He did a bit of surgery on my save disk and put together a save that worked out of non-corrupted parts of the disk.

Having found the four artifacts, I only had to solve a pressure plate puzzle on Level 13 to get access to the final levels, 27 and 28. The mechanical puzzles disappeared on those final levels, and they were small enough that I didn't bother to map them.

Level 27 had a couple of conflicting messages, one suggesting that Estoroth couldn't be damaged by magic, and one saying he could only be damaged with magic.
              
    
The "Reveal Truth" spell showed that the first message was the accurate one. Enemies on the two levels are completely immune to spells. That was a bit disappointing. I don't know what purpose it serves to render that aspect of character development meaningless on the final level. 

On Level 27, I had to defeat six skeletal guardians. Their magic attack was too powerful for my party to withstand more than two blasts, so I had to waltz them to death. (For new readers, the "combat waltz" is a maneuver by which you attack then quickly side-step and turn before the enemy can retaliate.) I can't see how it would be possible to beat them otherwise. All the videos I consulted online showed the players doing exactly that. I suppose I could have used two Potions of Invincibility on my front characters, but I was saving those for Estoroth.
              
These guys were so hard I couldn't stop for a screenshot without dying.
            
I can't remember if I mentioned in a previous entry that waltzing is a little harder in Black Crypt than other Dungeon Master clones, largely because the enemies don't follow a predictable pattern. You can't side-step until the enemy has already committed to turning and facing you; otherwise, he could easily go the other direction. For some players, this would mean simply adjusting their fingers and switching the direction of the waltz. For someone less manually dexterous like me, it means flailing randomly at the keys and, in a best-case scenario--running to the other side of the dungeon so I can catch my breath, settle down, and figure out a new pattern.

Once the guardians were defeated, I armed myself with the four artifacts and took a stairway down to Estoroth himself. At this point, I naturally forgot to use my Potions of Invincibility, but Estoroth was curiously easy. After I'd hit him just a few times with my melee weapons, the weapons began to sparkle. This was a sign to use their special attacks. It took a few tries to get the order right. Protector (the shield) protects the party from further damage; Soulfreezer (the staff) holds Estoroth in place; Vortex (the sword) opens a portal to another dimension; and Forcehammer (the hammer) sends him through.
           
Sending Estoroth to hell.
        
The endgame text is first a short paragraph:
           
What made this banishment of Estoroth successful permanently?
         
But afterwards, the player gets a scene-by-scene recap (about 15 scenes total) of the major game moments, including the various "boss" creatures defeated along the way: the Ogre, the Dracolich, the Medusa, the Possessor, the Ram Demon, and the Waterlord.
           
In case we had forgotten.
         
After one final concluding paragraph . . .
               
The final screen shows the Black Crypt destroyed.
            
 . . . the party has the option to reload the final save and just poke around the dungeon. There really isn't anything to do, but you can find the four ancient heroes' skulls on Level 28, plus a few high-powered items.

I had a reasonable amount of fun with Black Crypt. It's a clone, but there's nothing inherently wrong with clones. Without them, we'd have about a dozen total RPGs, and half of those would be weird one-off French titles. Clones allow you to get started without any confusion, let you settle in to familiar territory with a contented sigh. And despite the term, no "clone" is a 100% likeness. It's fun to see the different variations the developers take with a common template, like listening to a new jazz band improvise on a number you've heard a million times. Even when it's worse, it can still be interesting.

But Dungeon Master-style games face a unique challenge when it comes to this improvisation, because they're mostly about mechanics. They tend to feature framing stories--that is, stories that have few references in the game itself, and could easily be swapped with a different frame--and no NPCs. With an Ultima clone, even if the game plays the same as Ultima III or IV, you can still enjoy the new story and the variety of NPCs. Lacking such narrative options, a Dungeon Master clone has to rest all its improvisation on combat, exploration, and puzzles. That's where Black Crypt falls a little short.
            
Just like Dungeon Master, all I can tell about a weapon by looking at it is its weight. At least the door image is cool.
         
Only in its somewhat extensive ending does Black Crypt really distinguish itself from its predecessors. Oh, its graphics and sound are marginally better, but these are the things that an RPG fan--particularly a Dungeon Master fan--ought to care about least. Some of its puzzles also went in different directions, but rarely to the game's credit. More often than in Dungeon Master or Eye of the Beholder, I found it difficult to judge the results of various actions. I particularly didn't like the invisible pressure plates. There's little point to mechanical puzzles if you can't see the elements that make up the puzzle. 

Meanwhile, Black Crypt fixed none of the problems that I had with Dungeon Master--inability to see equipment statistics and a needless food system among them. Even worse, it went in Eye of the Beholder's direction with character development, while offering none of Beholder's improvements, such as NPCs and side quests. The magic system is done a bit differently here, although in the end I found it neither better or worse than its predecessors. For all of these reasons, I expect it to GIMLET lower than Dungeon Master or Beholder.

1. Game World. As usual, we have more of a framing story than a backstory--a fact not changed by a few call-outs within the game (mostly in the form of messages from Estoroth that you find). The plot is derivative, and like most Dungeon Master clones, there isn't much of a "world" here. But the levels are well-designed, with both textures and puzzles organized around themes specific to individual levels or small groups of levels. Score: 5.

2. Character Creation and Development. As noted, it takes a fairly major step back. You have to play four fixed classes. There are no significant choices during creation except for the portrait. Because the dungeon is linear and the number of enemies is mostly fixed, characters level at fixed intervals, and leveling doesn't really do very much for them. I vastly prefer Dungeon Master's action-based leveling, in which each character can attain various levels in all "classes," to Crypt's (and Beholder's) experience-based leveling. Score: 3.
             
Using single classes and experience-based leveling was a regression.
            
3. NPC Interaction. There are no NPCs in the game. Score: 0.

4. Encounters and Foes. There are about as many different enemies as the typical game of this genre, with about as much variety in strengths, resistances, and special attacks. Most of the monster types and portraits are original to this game (or at least not taken directly from its sources). I just wish they had names. As is my custom, I'll also use this category to throw in a couple of points for the puzzles, which serve in the place of role-playing "encounters" in this sub-genre. As above, I didn't always like them, but they were pitched at the right difficulty. Score: 5.

5. Magic and Combat. I'll never love combat that relies more on manual dexterity than attributes and tactics. Dungeon Master at least provided a variety of different types of attacks with its weapons, plus hand-to-hand combat, plus a more useful in-combat spells system, plus the ability to attack from the inventory screen, plus other useful tricks, like the ability to swing around and use the two rear characters to attack the rear. Black Crypt's only innovations are to make waltzing (and similar patterns) more difficult and to introduce a different take on the spell system. Its lack of buffing spells is also a negative. Still, it offers an arguably better experience than Eye of the Beholder, where you never got feedback on attacks, and waltzing made it possible to win with a single character. Score: 4.

6. Equipment. I liked the variety of equipment slots but almost nothing else. Looking at items offers less information than even Dungeon Master. I guess I'll give a point for some originality with the "false" messages and the ability to right-click on most weapons for a special attack. Score: 5.
           
As with most RPGs, I ended this one with plenty of unused equipment.
       
7. Economy. As usual for a Dungeon Master clone, none. Score: 0.

8. Quests. The main quest has some fun stages, with various boss creatures every two or three levels. It also offers a little nonlinearity in the order you approach Estoroth's lieutenants, but it otherwise has no choices, no alternate endings, and no role-playing. In this it under-performs its predecessors. Score: 4.

9. Graphics, Sound, and Interface. Some improvements here. The game is still a bit too mouse-heavy for my tastes, but at least you can customize the movement keys. I feel like there were a few more sound effects and slightly better graphics than Dungeon Master, at least, but perhaps not enough to make a difference in the score. The auto-mapping system is a nice addition, and I like how it's logically integrated with the spell system (even if it took me a while to figure out). Amiga-philes will want me to note that the game uses an enhanced graphics mode ("extra half-bright") that allows for 64 colors instead of the usual 32, but even the original 32 colors is about 24 more than I can discern. Score: 6.

10. Gameplay. It's as linear as most dungeon crawlers, but at least offers some flexibility after Level 13. Unfortunately, the fixed character classes make it less replayable than its counterparts. Otherwise, difficulty and length were both good. Score: 5.

That gives us a final score of 37, just north of my "recommended" threshold, but below the 41 I gave to Eye of the Beholder and the 47 I gave to Dungeon Master. (I must say, reviewing my Dungeon Master scores, I was a bit generous in several categories and I think it would likely rate closer to a 43 if I rated it now. I didn't have a lot of perspective during my first year.) Fans of this subgenre would argue (not entirely without a point) that perhaps it shouldn't be faulted for lacking NPCs, a dynamic game world, and an economy, since that's not what this subgenre is about. If it thus makes you feel better, you can think of it as rating closer to a 44 (and Dungeon Master closer to a 58) with those categories eliminated and the rest of the values rescaled accordingly.
            
As an Amiga game, Black Crypt was heavily promoted in Europe.
           
Computer Gaming World offered a "sneak preview" of the game in the February 1992 issue, but it never seems to have offered a review. The preview, written by Allen Greenberg, is extremely positive. Nothing he says is wrong, exactly, but he suggests that the game is better than Dungeon Master, and I find it difficult to imagine any fan of this subgenre agreeing with that. In particular, he seems too infatuated with fairly modest improvements in graphics and sound. Greenberg sets up the review by suggesting there's a war brewing between keyboarders and mousers, so I'm at least glad to see that the interface issue was heavily debated in the day. Amiga-specific magazines tended towards high scores, with .info coming in at a perfect 100 and Amiga Action giving it 93/100. Non-English Amiga magazines were, as usual, a bit more conservative, with scores in the 71-90 range.

Black Crypt was the first title from Wisconsin-based Raven Software, which still exists as a subdivision of Activision (it was sold in 1997) and is currently in charge of the Call of Duty series. The company's co founders, Brian and Steve Raffel, reportedly began outlining the game in the 1980s. They enlisted two programmers, Rick Johnson, and Ben Gokey, and had a demo ready for the 1990 Gen Con, where it was picked up for distribution by Electronic Arts. (I had originally thought that Crypt owed its lineage to Dungeon Master via Eye of the Beholder, but the game would have been mostly finished when Beholder came out.) It was the first game for almost everyone on the team.

An Amiga-only game in 1992 was bound to make a small splash in the United States, which probably explains why the company abandoned the platform for future titles. At the same time, they also mostly abandoned RPGs in favor of first-person shooters, some with light RPG elements. Whether we ever see them again on this blog depends how I rule on games like ShadowCaster (1993), Heretic (1994), Hexen (1995), Mageslayer (1997), and Hexen II (1997), all of which are on my list preliminarily. Today, the company is better known for its Soldier of Fortune (2000-2003) and Call of Duty (2010-2017) titles as well as its work on later entries in id Software's franchises including Quake 4 (2005) and Wolfenstein (2009).

Any RPG fan is going to want to read Jimmy Maher's survey of Dungeon Master descendants, published a few weeks ago. Based on his review, we only have four left (at least until a more recent surge of "retro" games): Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos (1993), Dungeon Master II: Skullkeep (1993), Eye of the Beholder III (1993), and Stonekeep (1995). (And maybe Liberation: Captive II [1994]? I'm not sure if it uses the same engine and approach as Captive.) It doesn't sound like any of them are likely to outperform the original. It's too bad that this subgenre never reached a true peak before it was subsumed by real-time movement in the vein of Ultima Underworld (1992), but given its forthcoming demise, I'm not sorry that it had one decent 1992 entry.


83 comments:

  1. Elitists be damned. Legend of Grimrock II greatly surpasses every other DM clone, including DM itself. You'll see it when you play the game in 2037.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed. Too bad we'll likely never see it reviewed on this blog (at least, if chronological order is strictly maintained).

      Delete
    2. Grimrock 2 was so good. One of those throwbacks able to crystallize what you love most about older dungeon-crawlers without all the archaic baggage (not that this is perhaps the right blog to say such things).

      Delete
    3. Grimrock 2 is genuinely great and it's a shame that it received less attention than its more mediocre predecessor.

      Delete
    4. To your point, JarlFrank, I had no idea there was a Grimrock 2 at all, much less that it was substantially better than the first game. I liked the first game OK but for some reason it made my computer run super hot, and I ended up giving up on it because I had to stop every half hour to let it cool down. Years later I'm sure I wouldn't have the same problem with the sequel. I'll have to check it out.

      Delete
    5. Interesting, I thought both Grimrocks were poor, and got bored with 2 even quicker than 1.
      Making the interface purposefully bad just so it's "retro" is, to me, a terrible idea.
      Dungeon Master 2 is still my favorite DM clone.

      Delete
    6. >Making the interface purposefully bad just so it's "retro" is, to me, a terrible idea

      What do you mean "purposefully bad"? The interface is great.

      And yes, I too agree that Grim 2 is a massive improvement over the already decent Grim 1, and it's a great shame that it apparently sold significantly less.

      Delete
    7. In my opinion spellcasting model is useless. Apart from that I had no real complaints.

      Delete
    8. Spellcasting model is terrible. And even EoB3 had an "all attack" button.
      Making me click click click click around 4 icons with the mouse as if it was a race was just dumb

      Delete
    9. I really liked how GR2 gave enemies a variety of tactics (lunge, sidestep, etc.) to make the combat waltz more difficult in certain places. It made you actually work for it against several guys--you could only do the waltz immediately after a lunge, or whatever. It didn't completely eliminate the strategy, but it made it feel more like involved.

      Delete
    10. In GR2, the waltz is absolutely there, you just need to preface it with a classic "playing hard-to-get" move. Starting diagonally across from one another, you quickly show your back to your opponent, and then it starts moving towards you, and you can make the proper waltz move, finishing with the two of you diagonally across again, and repeat.

      Delete
  2. I'd say the subgenre peaked with Chaos Strikes Back, and Anvil of Dawn, although a surprisisngly enjoyable game, was the evolutionary dead end of the subgenre in 1995, before being revived with Legend of Grimrock in 2012.
    Although it can be argued that AoD is not really a real time blobber, since you don't control a "blob" of characters. But real time and step based certainly felt like a regression three years after Ultima Underworld.

    As for Black Crypt it just leaves no lasting impression on me. I played it back in the days, and when I replayed a few years ago the only thing I could remember was the Medusa. And today I can still remember very little of the game, while DM, CSB and Eye of the Beholder, and even Lands of Lore which I only played once, has many places and encounters I can remember vividly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You don't control a blob in Dungeon Master either.

      Delete
    2. You do when moving. That what the blob refers to.

      Delete
    3. That term 'blob' is just not catching on. It needs a synonym.

      Delete
    4. I hate the word "blobber". "Blobber" is a stupid term in so many ways. It means nothing and the games it refers to have nothing in common, not even genre (since there are plenty of non-RPG games that involve a group of characters being moved as one entity).

      To be clear, there is absolutely no requirement within the genre of Dungeon Master clones that you should have more than one character. All you need to be a DM clone is to be a first-person 3D RPG with realtime combat and block-based movement.

      Delete
    5. It doesn't "mean nothing." It means a first-person game in which the entire group moves as a single unit, as if it was just one character. You're welcome to suggest your own term for that, but it would have to catch on with an audience. "Blobber," for better or worse, has caught on.

      Delete
    6. how about single-unit party, or suppers. ;)

      Delete
    7. A Party-Exclusive Navigation and Interaction System.

      Delete
    8. As opposed to Visage Abstracting Games Involving N-dimensional Abstractions. Given N=2 we get early Ultimas with rudimentary graphics.

      Delete
    9. I also hate "blobber." There are dozens of us! DOZENS!

      Aside, is M&M VI a "blobber?"

      Delete
    10. Just here to say that "blobber" is a stupid term.

      Delete
    11. Whether anybody likes it or not, it's part of the lexicon of my site, so we don't have to have this discussion every time I use it.

      Delete
  3. I don't have a huge amount of experience with Captive, but the sequel seems quite different in terms of gameplay and interface. Although ti is mission-based, it more goes for what we would recognise today as an open world approach.

    1993 also brings Hired Guns, which despite the scifi trappings, always struck me as being a Dungeon Master descendant -- although some publications tried to pass it off as a multiplayer Doom clone -- so you should probably add that to your list if it's not there already.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see Hired Guns is on the list. Sorry, I should have checked. Anyway, I think it counts as a Dungeon Master relation.

      Delete
  4. And Anvil of Dawn (1995), but AoD is single character dungeon crawler. And I think there is more Amiga exclusive crawlers, plenty dungeon crawling to play :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Just to clarify, what I meant in the last paragraph by Dungeon Master descendants, are:

    1. Blobbers (multi-character, everyone moves together)
    2. With real-time combat
    3. And mechanical puzzles as a primary gameplay element.

    Naturally, there are plenty of games coming up with only one or two of these variables.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps it's intentional, but SSI's EoB successors, Strahd's Possesion and Menzoberanzan would qualify, which feels... off.

      Delete
    2. (apologies if this appears twice; it looks like the first comment went missing)

      You can split the party in Hired Guns and, I think, in Captive 2, but the default is moving as one unit. Otherwise, both games should tick all three boxes.

      The -- as far as I know -- unique thing about Captive 2 is the structure of the gameplay. It's more or less open ended, as there are thousands of levels, but each one is a randomised variant of the one before. There is progression in the sense that you can improve your party's equipment and skills, but there's no plot progression. I don't know if there's an ending, or if you get the same video after mission #4000 as you do after mission #1.

      Delete
    3. Well, even in that stricter sense, you'll still have the whole Ishar trilogy in addition to the ones you listed. As for Anvil of Dawn, it's still very much of the DM lineage even if not a strict clone. The same can be said even of The Summoning which you'll play soon.
      Maher, while a decent writer, is not terribly knowledgeable when it comes to the less mainstream titles.

      Delete
    4. I think Menzoberanzan and the Ravenloft games don't count due to not being tile based. While they certainly feature a lot of similarities, being tile based creates a certain set of mechanics that you base puzzles on that games like Ravenloft don't have.

      Delete
    5. ...but then again, if you define DM-clones that strictly, then it's little wonder that titles that fit don't offer any innovations.

      Delete
    6. Fairly sure Stonekeep just has the one character, unless I'm grossly misremembering it. It's not great but it has its moments (and one of my favorite inventory systems, in that it's bottomless).

      I might say the Ishar games count as DM clones, but I forget how often mechanical puzzles come into play for that series. They certainly have multiple characters (five, even) and real-time combat though.

      Delete
    7. Ah, my bad. VK already mentioned Ishar.

      Delete
    8. You pick up party members in Stonekeep, it's definitely a DM clone.

      Delete
    9. I think there are three main lineages of exclusively first-person RPG...

      * Wizardry-style
      * Dungeon Master-style
      * Ultima Underworld-style

      ... and a number of games that lie in between. Might and Magic III, like its entry in the project says, is between the 1st and 2nd categories. Dreamforge's Ravenloft and Menzoberranzan blend the 2nd and 3rd.

      One of the ways in which "blobber" fails as a classification is that the number of characters doesn't alter the fundamental Dungeon Master gameplay. When you're down to one PC in Chaos Strikes Back or split the party in Captive II, those games don't suddenly become a different subgenre. The single-character Dungeon Hack is just Eye of the Beholder in a procedural dungeon.

      Delete
    10. Hard disagree on the criteria there.

      To me, what defines a game as a DM clone is simply the mode of movement and perspective; that it's a
      1) first person 3D RPG with
      2) movement based on discrete blocks and
      3) it's realtime.

      Those three criteria are all necessary, and together they're sufficient. A first person 3D RPG that's block-based but NOT realtime is not a DM clone, it's a Wizardry clone. A first-person 3D RPG that's realtime but NOT block-based is an Ultima Underworld clone. And a real-time block-based movement game that's not a first-person 3D RPG is Diablo 1.

      I don't believe mechanical puzzles have anything at all to do with whether you're a DM clone or not. I like mechanical puzzles, but I don't see why lacking them would disqualify you from the genre. That's just a content choice, just like NPCs. I would not disqualify a game from being a DM clone if it has NPCs in it, even if original DM didn't.

      Delete
    11. @MOZA

      I would take your three criteria and instead say that they define the blobber genre, of which DM is a prime example. A game with all those features but a robust economy and NPC interactions would still be a blobber, but I think would differentiate itself enough from DM to no longer be a clone, even if it is a descendant of the genre that DM created.

      Delete
    12. I think we can clearly agree on 1st-person, tile-based, real-time.

      How many members in the party is to me irrelevant, as is the presence of NPCs or not.

      We should also note that in addition to the Wizardry/DM/UU groups pointed above, there's a whole lineage of games (let's call it the "Gold Box" lineage unless I'm missing a precursor), in which exploration is blob-based but combat is in a separate interface where party members are controlled individually. We'll see that agin with Realms of Arkania this year, and later on with Betrayal at Krondor, where exploration is gridless 3D, but still 1st-person party blob.

      Delete
    13. I feel like it isn't DM-style without the environment puzzles (pressure plates, buttons, etc.)

      Delete
    14. @Charles Swann, since MOZA's criteria include "real time", they don't define the blobber genre, since blobbers can very well be turn-based (or a weird hybrid like the later M&M games).

      And "real time blobber" is pretty much what "DM clones" are. It just so happens that games of that lineage tend to be heavy on the puzzling. Probably both because of the influence of DM, and because the devs realize that combat isn't really the strong point of RT blobbers so there has to be something else to make it interesting :P

      Delete
  6. I was all excited about this game, too bad it seemed semi underwhelming.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I can add one more blobber to the list: Crystal Dragon, released in the dying days of the Amiga. An unusual feature was that it had just two characters instead of four. I remember it as being okay but without enough monster variety.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Heretic and the Hexen games are unambiguously not RPGs. They're first-person shooters directly cloning Quake but with a medieval/fantasy skin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, MAYBE Hexen 2, but that's it. Heretic has no RPG mojo at all.

      Delete
    2. Circle-strafing Maulotaurs is just taking the combat waltz to the next level :)

      Great games, but yea, missing too many bits to qualify as CRPGs

      Delete
    3. Yeah, I was going to post that, but you hit it before I did, that none of those three are RPGs.

      They're good games, but they're shooters in a fantasy setting. They'd be either Doom- or Quake-alikes in Tolkein drag, depending on what generation of engine they use. (I've forgotten, after so many years.)

      They were really fun co-op games, and those have never been all that common, but RPGs? Not at all.

      Delete
    4. Yep. Heretic isn't even just a Doom clone, but a Doom retexture. It runs on the Doom engine, and while it has its own enemies and weapons it shares its gameplay and systems with Doom. It's Doom in a fantasy coat.

      Hexen: Beyond Heretic also runs on the Doom engine, and while its level design is more open and hub based, it's still a pure Doom style FPS.

      Hexen 2 runs on the Quake engine and is the same deal. A fantasy version of Quake. Hub based structure like Hexen, but still a pure FPS.

      The only RPG element Hexen and Hexen 2 have is that you get to choose your class at the start, but that doesn't do much except determine your basic weapon and some minor differences in playstyle. You don't get XP and you don't level up, and there is no inventory beyond typical FPS weapon and consumable pickups.

      Heretic 2 runs on the Quake 2 engine and is a 3rd person action adventure. I guess you could say it's somewhat of a mix between Quake and Tomb Raider, and neither of these is an RPG.

      Good games, all of them, but sadly not RPGs by your definition (or any reasonable definition of the genre at all).

      Delete
    5. Hexen II had attributes and experience levels, it could qualify as an RPG.

      Delete
    6. Heretic 2 was awesome. Totally underrated game. Then half-life came out and everyone started making corridor shooters. I need to play that again.

      Delete
  9. Shadowcaster meets at least 2 of your 3 criteria to qualify as an RPG. Your second requirement - combat being based partially on attributes - is probably where the game is shakiest. You don't really have attributes in the traditional sense (other than life and mana), but you do have different forms with different abilities. Some hit harder than others, for example, so there's probably a strength attribute under the hood even if the game doesn't show you the numbers outright.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, Shadowcaster is probably right on the limit of being a CRPG for the Addict. I'd add that you can find weapon and armors that help each of the form (which probably confirms that there are attack and defense values tracked by the game.)

      Plus there's the separate XP values for each form. The manual says it affects the HP of each form and doesn't mention it increasing attack, but it might.

      Delete
    2. That would qualify. "Attributes" was never quite the right term there. I mean only that combat has to be based at least partly on statistics inherent to the character and not just on the type of weapon or the player's control of it.

      Delete
    3. From what I can tell, Mageslayer is a top-down shooter. It's going to be fun seeing how much chaff you can swath through in the coming years when every marketing team wanted to tack on RPG to the genre list.

      Delete
  10. Speaking of real time blobbers and the Amiga, Evil's Doom could have been the The Last of the Real Time Blobbers (before Grimrock) in 1996. But as always with the Amiga pirates ruined a good thing, a review copy sent to a magazine was distributed to pirates and the devs quit in disgust. Amiga fanbois...they never changed and they never learnt...

    Two decades later someone else finished the game and it was released as a free Windows game with a pre-configured Amiga emulator (and thus very user friendly).
    It's an interesting game and I wrote my impressions about it at the RPG Codex: https://rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/evils-doom-an-incredible-dungeon-crawler-for-amiga-pc.94300/page-2#post-5740024

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read your impressions. Sounds like the thread title was a bit hyberbolic, then.

      Delete
  11. I‘m really wondering how a modern RPG (like Pillars of Eternity, Tyranny, Torment), would rate on the GIMLET. Maybe you could play one of those and bring it into perspection with the older ones? As a special blog-entry? Would really like to see that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think there isn't really room to evaluate certain modern games if the scale is kept at 10 points. Ultima V gets an '8' for it's game world, but it's really not comparable to the world building in a AAA RPG title these days. Same goes for NPCs, encounters and quests - they're just on different orders of magnitude.

      Delete
    2. There's an element of scope to all of the individual ratings. It's not just about quantity. U4 gets an 8 for the game world because it offers a level of detail and backstory that's very good for a game of its size and scope. If it had offered an Elder Scrolls level of lore, that would have felt extremely imbalanced and resulted in a lower score.

      I share Michael's interest in seeing how some modern games would fare, but I don't look forward to the arguments it would create.

      Delete
    3. Having said that, I was probably too generous to U4. A 6 would be more in line with how I've rated games since then. You really can't trust a lot of the ratings from the first year. I'll probably revisit some of those eventually.

      Delete
  12. So low score???! This is one of the best dungeon crawler RPG game. Yesterday I finished similar Crystal Dragon, also great huge game, one of the Best, there is everything, what fans of the dungeon crawlers RPG games like. Black Crypt for Me: 90%, Crystal Dragon also 90%. I love these old games also for graphic. The latest dungeons as Legend of Grimrock are ugly for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should know that the Addict doesn't much care for graphics. All the bluster, pomp and circumstance don't make a good game score much better on the GIMLET, or help a mediocre one much. The GIMLET categories are not a measurement of game greatness in general, but of the Addict's enjoyment of CRPGs. That enjoyment is derived from many aspects, some of which this game simply doesn't deliver on (NPCs, economy...). It's a feature of the sub-genre to a degree, but then that just means that any given real-time blobber simply doesn't stand much of a chance to rate much higher than "guess it was nice" on the GIMLET.

      That isn't a failure of the GIMLET, it just does what it's supposed to. Which is NOT "reflect how everybody ought to feel about this game as a gaming experience in general". So give BC a 90 by all means! Obviously in your personal inner GIMLET, graphics and maybe a dozen other categories come in as weighted much more importantly than "economy".

      Delete
    2. 37 isn't that low a score. When you're rating games from 30 years ago, there has to be a lot of room for the scale to grow.

      Delete
    3. Also finished Crystal dragon, probably 2 of us in last 10 years who did it :) Great game, one of best. As usually, for best game - almost forgotten by masses.

      Delete
    4. OK, I know The GIMLET criterion :-) My problem is, that I never be reconciled with comparation izometric Ultima like RPG´s with Dungeon Crawles. In some way they are very different genere. Dungeons are lonely creepy enemy places, where can´t be many NPC´s to speak or trade. OK, I have other preferences, the first is atmosphere.

      Delete
  13. I applaud this dungeon crawler, faults and all. There never were enough quality games in the golden age of amiga and 386s

    ReplyDelete
  14. There are certainly more Dungeon Master clones than those mentioned by Digital Antiquarian. He mentioned only the good ones. Also, don't forget about non-english titles.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I think Raven's most fondly remembered games are the Jedi Knight sequels, Outcast and Academy. Today, after the failure of their attempt at creating a new franchise, Singularity, they're only a support studio for the main Call of Duty teams.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I, for one, really enjoyed Singularity and the 2009 Wolfenstein. Nothing groundbreaking, but thoroughly solid shooters with good level design, interesting gimmicks, and a more oldschool approach than most shooters of their time. Very enjoyable FPS games.

      Too bad they weren't as successful as they should've been...

      Delete
    2. Yeah, it's too bad what Activision did to Raven, especially as Singularity really had potential to develop into something great.

      Delete
  16. I'm surprised it got even a '3' for character creation and development, given it gets nothing for the first half of that category and not much for the second.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The game has character creation. You can assign a name and allocate a pool of attribute points. It's not great, but it's there. Most games that I gave a 2 or 1 have severely stunted development in both areas. 3 is about as low as it goes when it still offers the basic features (name, attributes, leveling, spell acquisition) that we associate with contemporary RPGs.

      Delete
  17. No strife on that list I feel it's more of a RPG then heretic or hexxen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, but Strife has no character generation, improvement of the character or stats through experience points, no leveling, it uses dexterity based combat and the only way you improve your character's abilities is by collecting new weapons.
      It misses just about every criteria for the Addict's list of requirements.

      Delete
  18. Really I don't remember it that well was a kid when it came out but I dident know Hekken and heretic did

    ReplyDelete
  19. Really I don't remember it that well was a kid when it came out but I dident know Hekken and heretic did

    ReplyDelete
  20. You know, I actually see many similarities between blobbers and doom clones: I repeat my feeling that EOB2 is basically Doom on squares, as the main mechanics (look for the right key, find secrets, avoid fireballs) are the same. Also, the super Gothic ambience of Heretic/Hexen does it for me.

    Shadowcaster... I remember it as lovely as difficult. I wonder how it plays nowadays.

    Not a fan of Menzoberranzan but the mood of the first Ravenloft game is also gloriously moody.

    Grimrock 1 and 2 are super polished and that is what makes me bounce back: the experience feels very gimmicky, very artificial. M&M X plays just awful, at least in its beginning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Regarding M&M X: I have a feeling that M&M X is more of a card game rather than "proper" cRPG. In addition it feels really small, world is basically dead (enemies do not respawn and there are not many of them in the beginning). If you couldn't move around map in FPP view and only were given graph of interesting locations with predefined combats to fight it wouldn't be that different.

      Delete
    2. I clearly remember both EotB 1 and 2 being released well before Doom, probably even before Wolfenstein 3D. If either is like the other it's that Doom takes after EotB.
      Doom and its clones had their co-op multiplayer option but then you had between 2-4 people all acting independently. If you were lucky they all played with some semblance of teamwork.
      Doom and its clones are just barely blobbers, if at all.

      Delete
    3. Mr Pavone, I am talking about the mechanics here, never about who came first.

      Delete
  21. Oh man there's so many more DM clones, especially on the European Amiga scene. Abandoned Places I/II spring to mind. I don't expect you to like them much, but you'll inexorably run into them, as is your ambition to play everything crpg!

    Thanks for the Black Crypt coverage, and for everything, honestly. We don't say it enough.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Regarding the three elements of a DM descendant...
    "1. Blobbers (multi-character, everyone moves together)
    2. With real-time combat
    3. And mechanical puzzles as a primary gameplay element."

    ...So, are the Ishar games missing puzzles, then? It's been ages since I played the first Ishar, and I never got around to playing the rest of the series, so I can't recall anything about puzzles for the life of me. Requirements #1 and #2 are definitely met, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't played any of them, but I figured they would continue the style of Crystals of Arborea, which wasn't much like Dungeon Master.

      Delete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

As of January 2019, I will be deleting any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.