Saturday, August 3, 2013

Game 16: Dungeon Magic: Sword of the Elements (NES) - Final Rating

Action-RPGs on the NES aren't that uncommon, but I believe this is the first (and possibly only) first-person one. Enemies attack at set intervals. The manual suggests "parrying" (moving back and then advancing again), but the only time this is useful is for dodging magic attacks. With enough room magic wielding monsters aren't any challenge. Ones with a physical attack are more troublesome, but casting a physical shield protects from most hits.

Without water magic there's very little way around grinding levels just to match the monsters. That is unless a little trick is discovered. Parrying combined with magic had a strange result on the monsters; it cut their HP in half each time, down to one-eighth of max HP. This made the last part of the game manageable without getting up to max level.

Experience rewards from monsters were adequate until near the end. Zero progress on the way to recover the final sword was not fun. Combat prowess is based on stats, but also influenced by weight, current health (as you get hurt you do less damage), and level. The enemies themselves come in two forms, those that do magic damage (which give a status ailment) and those that deal physical damage. When it all comes down to it, the game offers a shallow experience when fighting enemies.
Rating: 3
The point where combat became too hot to handle
The adventurer is a nameless warrior; one among a multitude of fighters hired in hopes to find a hero capable of filling Magi's shoes (or armor). The game displays a character portrait that acts as a paper doll for all equipment. It's clearly evident what current weapon and armor is equipped.

While advancement through the various magic types (fire, water, earth, wind, and fairy) follows a suggested route, it is possible to tackle them in any order. Water magic is most useful for maintaining good health with shields that protect from magic or physical attacks, but with enough grinding, any magic could work as a starter type. All that is required for a new type is collecting the appropriate sword and giving it to the correct wizard.

The spells themselves are highly customizable; I'd even say to a fault. By the end of the game there are 4,368 combinations. A good portion are repeats, but there are hundreds of animations that at least give the illusion of a vast array of spells.

Dodging in combat and navigating the world in general are smooth. The first-person perspective doesn't give a good indication of which direction was taken, and the compass lags a bit when turning; this makes watching the game difficult.
Rating: 5
At this point I don't have much of a choice
Puzzles? What puzzles? I suppose getting the fire sword can be considered a puzzle, but it seems we aren't going to see good puzzles in a game until we reach the 16-bit era. In any case, the main quest is clear with multiple hints on what to do next. There aren't any side quests and we're just on a quest to collect all the items.

This is nearly a pure dungeon crawler. The only redeeming factor is it seems everything is optional. One could grind to high levels (or skip grinding like in the TAS) and go straight for Tores with fairy magic. From there you can head straight to the end.
Rating: 2
Yeah, about that...
The NPCs offer constant encouragement to stay on task. They also talk about various relatives and adventurers that have never been seen since opposing Darces. There's a lack of description for nearly everything in the game, although we do eventually wield Magi's lost sword and armor. There's no way to influence the story unless you can count skipping plot points. I'm not even sure there was a supporting reason for collecting each sword or gaining all types of magic; it's not like they were useful when fighting Darces.
Rating: 2
NPCs try to be helpful, but are sometimes misleading; unless I missed something and fairy = sky
There's definitely stuff to get, and seeing it displayed on the character is nice. Don't worry if the character's face isn't your type, you'll eventually cover it up with a helmet. The economy is very tight in the beginning, but once there's no more equipment to purchase there will be plenty of money to go around. Well, plenty of money until you need to start pouring it all into healing items, which really is all that's left to purchase.

The inventory is very limited, and there's no way to display a full collection of items. The relative strength of each piece of armor and weapon while not displayed is gleaned from the selling price. There's no reason to keep spare pieces of equipment, so sell it all and invest in a well stocked food and water supply.
Rating: 3
What face?
The world is at once vast to explore with treasure to be found around nearly every turn and altogether boring. There's little variety in the landscape, and one dungeon looks much like the last. If you've seen one town, then you've seen them all.

Music is non-existent while exploring. There are bouts of symphony in shops and at set encounters, but it's otherwise silent. Everything found in the game is central to the main plot.
Rating: 2
The only interesting sight
Final Rating: 17 [28%]

Overall I found the game a little bland. I'm sorry to all that I recommended this to before replaying (not that I'd recommend it after replaying it). I must have had rose-tinted glasses. It's not exceptionally bad, but it's not a compelling experience. If you have a burning desire to see the game from start to finish, then I suggest watching the video done in 1 minute. It's a tool-assisted speedrun, which means frame precise actions, but it just goes to show just how quickly a game can be deconstructed to the base goals.

Next up is a game I've never had the chance of experiencing, Destiny of an Emperor. I've heard good things about it. New games are one of the main reasons I'm compelled to stick with this quest; I'm looking forward to a more rewarding experience.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed Destiny of an Emperor!