April 23, 2012 2:00 PM | John Polson
[Guest reviewer Colin Brown from Backlog Journey profiles each game in Indie Royale's Spring Bundle. Next up is Depths of Peril from Soldak Entertainment available on Windows, Mac, Steam, Desura, and DRM free.]
How about something a little different for this bundle? Depths of Peril is a hack and slash action RPG that will feel right at home for longtime Diablo players and World of Warcraft fans. You've got your attacks, you've got your abilities, you've got your health and mana, you've got your clicking and you've got a bit of mindless looting fun. However, Depths of Peril transcends most Diablo clones by building in an overarching strategy that seems to borrow heavily from Civilization, with even perhaps a few DotA elements. It all adds up to a game that isn't quite like any other. Confused? I'll try to elaborate.
I should say that I don't think of the term Diablo clone as an insult or a bad quality. Whatever your feelings on it, Diablo overall is an excellent game and it's not surprising that other developers use the same great gameplay base to build their own adventures. Depths of Peril, like most of these types of games, apes the best qualities and makes the main structure of the game just straightforward hack and slash. You pick your class from one of four, grab some quests from townsfolk and go to town on the baddies. Your home city is a town called Jorvik, which doubles as a home base with the usual amenities like shared stashes and quick teleports to the field. Stretching out from here are a series of square regions home to a vairety of enemies and environments, and as you get more powerful you can begin to travel further and further out for better loot and scarier monsters.
I know, right now it just sounds like Diablo instead of merely inspired by it. The twist that comes into play is the faction system. You are the leader of a covenant in Jorvik, which is locked in a power struggle against the other factions of the city. Each quest you pick up contributes to your overall influence and power over the town. There are definite shades of Civilization diplomacy in terms of how you have to balance your relationships with the other covenants, as you can barter basic stuff like gear, but also trade routes, items, alliances and wars. If things go south between you and another covenant, you can declare war on each other and begin to attack the crystal each of you has in the centre of your guild house. If your crystal goes boom, so do you.
The constant scheming and rivalries are an addition quite unlike anything in other Diablo influenced games, and the sim management aspects basically adds yet another layer of looting and upgrading to the genre. The game even encourages the competition, offering up quests with new covenant members as a reward and forcing each covenant into a race to complete it. Your ultimate goal isn't some kind of MacGuffin or massive evil; you simply have to destroy everyone else and claim control over Jorvik. It may not be the most noble of goals, but it certainly is a lot of fun and gives the game a far more open ended structure than most action RPGs.
To sweeten the package, there's even extra modes like hardcore and solo characters, and a mod kit has been released to let users provide tweaks and edits. There are a few issues here are there as well, mostly centring on the somewhat grindy gameplay that's present in all most Diablo based titles, and the dated graphics. But the one and only real flaw is lack of multiplayer, a problem fixed by the follow-up titled Din's Curse, but sadly missing here. The unique guild vs. guild structure is practically begging for human competition, but the AI does a sufficient job of filling in and they didn't seem to be as temperamental or easily taken advantage of like in some versions of Civilization.
Overall, Depths of Peril is a great take on the action RPG by transposing it to an almost MMO-like structure, but filling it out with a strategic meta-game of management and diplomacy. It's unlike anything else I've ever played, but the combination of some of my favourite genres made it a real winner in my books. Soldak is an excellent and surprising addition to the Royale, and I for one plan to go and check out what else they offer, especially if they keep it up with the new twists on old formulas.
[Depths of Peril, Unstoppable Gorg, and Tobe's Vertical Adventure, and 3 Radiangames titles are available now in the Spring Bundle, on the IndieGames co-created site Indie Royale.]