June 20, 2015 3:24 AM | Sean Flint
The rogue-like genre has unfortunately become infected by a plague as of late. More and more games are classifying themselves as rogue-likes with little to no understanding of what the genre actually entails. Elements such as turn-based gameplay, permadeath, procedural level generation, and item and character upgrades are classic components of the beloved genre. While there are some fantastic games out there that manage to put an interesting twist on the classic mechanics, not all that many succeed when they choose to stick to the roots of the genre. The Enchanted Cave 2 is one of the exceptions to that rule.
I came into The Enchanted Cave 2 with reasonably high expectations. After the game popped onto my radar, I did some research to find out more about the original and to get an idea of how the game is regarded among the community. With a bit of research, I was able to uncover that the game is in fact developed by a single-person team, which I always find to be an impressive feat. On top of that, I saw that The Enchanted Cave was a game that was highly regarded, so I was immediately interested in sinking my teeth into the sequel.
The Enchanted Cave 2 begins by asking you to choose a character. Once you decide from one of the four available options, you are thrust into a small town with the simple task of exploring the cave. Stopping to talk to your fellow townsfolk and explore the various buildings leaves you with some valuable hints regarding how best to tackle your first foray into the cave.
While the combat system in the game is extremely simple, I find it a bit difficult to explain. Once you click on an enemy (or walk into them if you're moving using the keyboard controls) combat will automatically begin, and will continue until a victor emerges. I'm a huge advocate for this combat system, because there's nothing that I find more frustrating than playing a rogue-like and having to click each time I want to basic attack an enemy. With this in mind, it is easy to say that The Enchanted Cave 2 takes an extremely simple combat system and makes it function and entertaining.
The exploration in The Enchanted Cave 2 takes place in, you guessed it, an enchanted cave. This cave features 100 levels of procedurally generated dungeon to explore. Making you way from floor to floor is entertaining and challenging, as you must use your judgement to decide which battles to pick, which to avoid, and whether or not the chest those enemies are guarding is worth potentially dying for. Getting out of the dungeon can only be done through the use of escape wings, which you will randomly obtain somewhere on the first few floors. Using these wings immediately is not recommended, as it is important that you get the most bang for your buck, so to speak. You must balance how much health you have and decided when it's time to bail.
Something that works very differently in The Enchanted Cave 2 when compared to other games in the genre is how you obtain items. When in the cave, any basic items you pick up (meaning items without magical properties) will disappear upon exiting the cave. The only things that will persist are relic items (items that have magical properties) and your skill gems that you collect. These gems give you increases to your various stats, such as strength, health, defense, and so on. The item system takes a bit of time to get used to, but it is something fresh that manages to keep the game interesting.
Each time that you level up in the game, you will be able to choose from various stat increases, such as more attack, more defense, more health, or more magic. You will also be awarded with some skill points, which can be used to choose abilities and passives from the fairly large talent tree. The one concern I had with this skill tree was that it seemed to be quite easy to earn the skills. With only an hour of play, I was able to almost max out an entire section of the skill tree, so I don't see it being too difficult to upgrade all of the talents in a single playthrough if you manage to survive long enough.
To be frank, The Enchanted Cave 2 is a simple game. After just a few minutes of play, you'll pretty much know all you need to know in order to attack the game head-on. However, perfecting your strategy and managing the risk-reward style of the game take time, and this is where the game shines. Figuring out whether fighting that next enemy is worth the health damage you will take is key to keeping your character alive in the long run.
If you're on the fence about purchasing the Enchanted Cave 2, or looking for a new rogue-like to delve into, I can't think of a reason to not give it a try. For a rogue-like game to keep me entertained for more than an hour is unheard of, and I just couldn't put the game down once I got my feet wet with it. Currently available on Steam for $3.99 until June 22 ($4.99 regular price), there is absolutely no excuse to not have this game in your collection.