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Dungeon Crawls


matt0
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I just started playing the remastered Bards Tale 1 thanks to Game Pass. This is a game I've got some fond memories of but had mentally filed away as an important step in the development of RPGs but too basic to be worth bothering with now.

 

I. Can't. Stop. Playing. It.

 

It is incredibly basic compared to recent games like Etrian Odyssey, but the core loop at the heart of all dungeon crawls is as compelling as it's ever been. Exploring a little bit further with each descent, push your party to the limits, the panicked journey back up to the surface and the sense of relief when you see sunlight, quick bit of party admin then repeat. It helps that the remaster streamlines a lot of things, reduces experience costs for levelling up and adds auto-mapping, lets you save anywhere.

 

It's a decent enough remake, the 3D view is nicely done, screen layout and interface are subtley rearranged for widescreen, pad support, improved mouse support etc. All the spot graphics are ropey, they look like they've run the original pixel art through an AI learning upscaler and just run with whatever it spat out, but there probably wasn't much of a budget and the atmosphere and style of the game is still intact.

 

It's got me excited about Bards Tale 4 too which I think I'll enjoy now they've patched in manual saves...

 

Anyone else playing any of these at the moment?

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12 minutes ago, Ste Pickford said:

Not played this remake, but Bard's Tale on the Atari ST was the first proper D&D style RPG game I ever played, and I absolutely loved it.  Straight on the Steam wishlist now.

 

First RPG for me too, not counting a random afternoon playing an Ultima knock-off called Ring of Darkness on a friend's Dragon 32. I played it on my Dad's PC in glorious 4 colour CGA graphics.

 

It's definitely worth going back, it felt like I'd never been away.

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Playing Etrian Odyssey Untold and Persona Q2 at the moment and loving them. Archero too on the phone! Also playing Persona 4 Golden and Persona 3 Portable on and off

 

Got Sorcery Saga and Demon Gaze on the Vita to go at yet as well. I think @matt0 has it right, that core loop is incredibly compelling. The 'do I push on a little bit or bug out' argument in my head is never ending. With PQ2 and EO, when you find a shortcut that needs to be accessed from the other side and mark it, it comes a beacon to push on to in a run and pushes that risk/reward mechanic.

 

They are all so great for pick up and play as well, you can go your little chunk and then put it down. Perfect portable gaming.

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I should have pimped these earlier, but if you have sigs turned off and don't venture into the retro folder, you may be interested in my classic Persona playthrough threads, as the older games are much more like traditional dungeon crawls... My playthrough of P1 can be found here, P2:IS here and I'm currently working through P2:EP here  :wub: 

 

On 27/08/2019 at 10:21, Vorgot said:

Got Sorcery Saga and Demon Gaze on the Vita to go at yet as well. I think @matt0 has it right, that core loop is incredibly compelling. The 'do I push on a little bit or bug out' argument in my head is never ending. With PQ2 and EO, when you find a shortcut that needs to be accessed from the other side and mark it, it comes a beacon to push on to in a run and pushes that risk/reward mechanic.

 

I've played both of those but lost interest in DG eventually and never finished it before I traded it with a bunch of stuff. DG has some nice gameplay systems and nails the balance between challenging and satisfying - however it is a bit "cringey anime fluff" at times, with the game briefly making dodgy diversions for the sake of boobs. I never played DGII though, so maybe things improved?

 

I played Sorcery Saga to completion and generally found it really satisfying. It's much more of a roguelite than an RPG dungeon-crawl; you lose pretty much everything when you're KO'd and there's some randomness in there. It can get pretty damned brutal at times, but it's compelling enough to make you want to jump back in immediately after a failure. Also the presentation and writing is charming without being too twee. :) I've had my eye on a Steam double-dip just to have it on a format that will stick around, but I haven't committed just yet...

 

Did anyone play the Chocobo Mystery Dungeon thing that came out in March? I've heard it's pretty average but I was wondering if it would be justifiable after a sufficient price drop... ;) 

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10 hours ago, Dr Derek Doctors said:

 

Erhmagerd! It's SO good! A massive leap over the first one, which itself was already a belter of a game.

 

Yep, I thoroughly recommend Grimrock 2 to anyone who likes dungeon crawlers. Even though it has dungeons the overworld is basically a big dungeon too with a grid pattern filled with enemies, puzzles and secrets. It's very tightly designed. The dungeons in it reminded me of the ruins in Oblivion, another game that did good dungeons (meaning the ruins and not the terrible stuff like the hell portals).

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That’s what it’s called...Grimrock. I’d forgotten entirely what it was called but really enjoyed the first one back when I went through it all to end quite a few years ago. I was aware of the sequel but never tried it out. It’s rare I play PC titles though as I don’t feel comfortable sitting playing on the laptop but did at the time because I’d just bought a new laptop and wanted to try something out on it. 

 

I remember having Dungeon Master on the ST which my dad and uncle both played but I never really understood it or had patience for that sort of thing as a younger child. Grimrock really clicked though and pulled me right in. 

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9 hours ago, Alan Stock said:

 

Yep, I thoroughly recommend Grimrock 2 to anyone who likes dungeon crawlers. Even though it has dungeons the overworld is basically a big dungeon too with a grid pattern filled with enemies, puzzles and secrets. It's very tightly designed. The dungeons in it reminded me of the ruins in Oblivion, another game that did good dungeons (meaning the ruins and not the terrible stuff like the hell portals).

Is it still only on PC?

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13 hours ago, Qazimod said:

 

I've played both of those but lost interest in DG eventually and never finished it before I traded it with a bunch of stuff. DG has some nice gameplay systems and nails the balance between challenging and satisfying - however it is a bit "cringey anime fluff" at times, with the game briefly making dodgy diversions for the sake of boobs. I never played DGII though, so maybe things improved?

 

I played Sorcery Saga to completion and generally found it really satisfying. It's much more of a roguelite than an RPG dungeon-crawl; you lose pretty much everything when you're KO'd and there's some randomness in there. It can get pretty damned brutal at times, but it's compelling enough to make you want to jump back in immediately after a failure. Also the presentation and writing is charming without being too twee. :) I've had my eye on a Steam double-dip just to have it on a format that will stick around, but I haven't committed just yet...

 

Did anyone play the Chocobo Mystery Dungeon thing that came out in March? I've heard it's pretty average but I was wondering if it would be justifiable after a sufficient price drop... ;) 

 

I picked them both up for about £4  each in a Vita sale so figured they were worth the risk, but I've heard a lot of good things about Sorcery Saga. I just haven't got round to them yet, I may give them both a go later and see how I get on.

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1 hour ago, Horribleman said:

Is it still only on PC?

 

As far as I know, never seen it advertised on PS4 or Switch at least. Honestly I reckon it's ripe for a console version if there isn't one already.

 

I never finished it in the end because my PC broke (bad enough that I needed a new PC) when I was fighting the final boss and I lost the save :( - gutted!

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I've been playing Labyrinth of Refrain on Switch. The anime story isn't very interesting but the actual dungeon crawling is very well done. The twist in this is that instead of a regular party you have a huge amount of characters, grouped in so called covens. It's nice that it allows for a great amount of customisation and flexibility but it also means there's a lot to micromanage. Coupled with a large amount of systems you can tinker with it can be a bit much. The gameplay outside of the menu's is simple but appealing, it nails the 'just a bit further' feeling very well.

 

That said, I've been playing it for about 25 hours and I feel I'm losing the urge to continue. Mostly because of the amount of 'stuff' to manage outside of the dungeon exploring.

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This type of game is pretty much all I play now, mostly on the Vita. So far my experiences are:

 

Demon Gaze: Amazing game, the one that got me into the genre and currently my favourite. Completed and got the platinum trophy.

Demon Gaze II: Not quite as good as the first, mainly due to the lack of challenge. Completed and got the platinum trophy but still need to finish the post game quest.

Dungeon Travelers 2: Pretty good, but too many over-complex labyrinths that seem to be designed to pad out the length of the game. Also some RIDICULOUS difficulty spikes. Got to chapter 10 and gave it a rest as I need to grind some levels. I will go back to it sometime.

Operation Abyss: More like Operation Abyssmal. Got half way through and gave it bollocks. There's just nothing fun about it.

Stranger of Sword City: Right up there with the DG games for me. Bloody hard though. Currently grinding levels to take on the final couple of dungeons.

 

I also have a few more to play through:

Ray Gigant JP

MeiQ EU

Operation Babel EU

Meikyuu Cross Blood Infinity JP

Moero Chronicle AS

 

Also have Stranger of Sword City on the Xbox One. In fact, it's my only game for the system!

 

What else is there on the Vita/PS4/XB1? Not interested in stuff that isn't like the games I've played.

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On 27/08/2019 at 12:06, moosegrinder said:

Xbox One Game Pass has Operencia. Not played much but it seems alright. The voice acting is horrific though.

 

I played that up until the last boss fight, around 30 hours in. I liked the atmosphere and it looks great, but the actual gameplay and puzzles are awful. Takes forever to go through the battle animations, I dont know how I persevered.

 

Then the Bards Tale remaster came out and showed Operencia how it is done.

 

Quite amazing that BT got everything so right back in the 80s, also going back to it made me want to know more about the process of making it, as it appears to have been written by one guy - Michael Cranford. I dont think Ive heard about him in other contexts since that.

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2 minutes ago, Orbital2060 said:

 

I played that up until the last boss fight, around 30 hours in. I liked the atmosphere and it looks great, but the actual gameplay and puzzles are awful. Takes forever to go through the battle animations, I dont know how I persevered.

 

Then the Bards Tale remaster came out and showed Operencia how it is done.

 

Quite amazing that BT got everything so right back in the 80s, also going back to it made me want to know more about the process of making it, as it appears to have been written by one guy - Michael Cranford. I dont think Ive heard about him in other contexts since that.

 

Here's a big podcast interview with Michael Cranford courtesy of Retronauts:

 

 https://retronauts.com/article/932/the-history-of-the-bards-tale-arrivesin-podcast-form

 

And a follow up Jeremy Parish article on USGamer (basically of a summary of the interview):

 

https://www.usgamer.net/articles/the-bards-tale-launched-the-second-wave-of-rpgs

 

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8 minutes ago, mechamonkey said:

Talking of Grimrock, I've been playing this excellent Dungeon Master conversion mod nostalgic overload and still totally ace.
 

 

Somehow I've never played Dungeon Master...

 

I was really in to the first Eye Of The Beholder which was fantastic and loads of other not so great Amiga era stuff that followed in DMs footsteps like Captive 1+2 and the first two Ishar games, but the original always eluded me.

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Yeah, first-person dungeon crawlers are pretty much all I play outside of STGs now.

 

The Dark Spire on the DS is one of my favourites. Most people will probably find it a little too similar to classic Wizardry in terms of its mechanics - it has none of the quality-of-life concerns of something like EO - but I think it's worth playing through even just to look at it.  It has a really unique kind of charioscuro you don't often see in games - I've never seen anything use colour quite like it. Part of this is due to the DS screen itself, I think, which lent itself to a lot of strong visual choices in all of the Atlus dungeon crawlers (e.g. one thing EO, Strange Journey and The Dark Spire all have in common is beautifully crisp fonts - even the menus are a pleasure to look at).

 

Another big fave is Soul Hackers, the Shin Megami Tensei game that was originally released on the Saturn but localised for the 3DS a few years ago. Sadly copies sold on eBay seemed to go from next to nothing a few months ago to around £50 overnight, but the digital version can be had for under a tenner. If you haven't played an SMT game before, their main gimmick or hook is that instead of building a party that remains fixed throughout the game, you attempt to convince or bribe demons to fight alongside you using an in-battle dialogue system - it's essentially a precursor to Pokemon. Soul Hackers also adds the notion of "demon loyalty" to the mix: rather than levelling them up, you increase your demons' loyalty by giving them gifts (e.g. jewels or booze) which in turn makes them more reliable in battle (a neglected demon will often refuse to carry out your orders at the worst possible moment). Apart from learning how to game these systems, if you've played any other crawlers before you'll be right at home. One of the most impressive things about the 3DS port of Soul Hackers is its commitment to the original game's aesthetics, not just in terms of keeping the original soundtrack and visuals etc, but as much of the package as was possible, right down to holding onto the original compressed-to-fuck FMV cutscenes/boss battle transitions and including them essentially untouched. The game really nails a specific Gibson-esque conception of cyberspace, and I'm so glad that the 3DS update leaves its very mid-90s aesthetics completely intact, because they're irresistible.

I like how off-kilter the gameplay is, too, the demon loyalty system being such that if a boss fight is proving too tough, it's less a matter of levelling up and more a matter of finding the right pals and getting them drunk. The demon dialogue/negotiation is a fair bit more robust than in most of the other SMT games, too. They're still just talking in weird non-sequiturs most of the time, but you haven't exhausted their lines after three battles. Thanks to this and the trippy nightmare-spaces you encounter them in, the battle situations never get old.

 

I'm in the middle of playing through the first three EO games on DS at the moment, and am hoping to dive back into Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land, one of the best games on the PS2, and Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls on PS3 after that. The latter was due for a re-release on Steam but it's been pushed back until next year due to a licensing issue. Really glad to see this genre is well-liked here, anyway!

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I try to avoid dungeon crawlers now as with a family I just don’t have the time... as much as I’d like to :( Two games for me which really stand out and caused me to lose so much of my life were Neverwinter Nights and Dungeon Siege. The latter was for me still the best dungeon crawler (with the addition of multiplayer) and I must have sunk over a 1000 hours into it. Crazy if you think about it and what else I could have been doing with my life in my teenage years, but it was just so damn addictive and satisfying. No regrets... well maybe a bit ;)

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28 minutes ago, Klatrymadon said:

Time constraints are one of the reasons I got so into handheld crawlers - you can play the EO games five minutes at a time if you want and still make bankable progress with each go. :)

 

Exactly the same, not sure I could sink the time in on the TV but on the 3DS and Vita they are perfect. Especially as you can just put both machines to sleep at any time. 

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