Dakota Wagner ’23 / Emertainment Monthly Video Game Writer
In today’s market of high-definition faces with low-definition expressions, a lot of these games may be seen as less worthwhile. However, these odd blends of old and new bring something unique to the table.
Caves of Qud-
This one is bizarre. It’s set in a world that’s been ravished by an unknown but substantial amount of apocalypses and has in-depth lore learned through item descriptions, ancient altars, and long-forgotten tomes. On the flip side, a village mayor may send you to close a door somewhere across the wastes because this will, in some way, aid him in his worship of bread. This is because almost the entirety of the game is randomly generated. Except for specific locations, quests, and the overworld map, every character, location, quest, and item’s are randomly generated. The game also has a genius reputation system. There are “legendary” creatures throughout the game. By killing them, their enemies will like you more, and by performing the “Water Ritual” with them, their faction will like you more. These reputation points can be used to convince characters to teach you skills, secrets, and recipes, give you items, or even join you on your adventures. The game also has a fascinating mutation and cybernetics systems, entirely destructible environments, and an in-depth skill tree. Every situation can be faced in infinite ways. If you come across a wall, you can tinker up a thermal grenade and melt it, phase through it, teleport, dig through it, fly over it, or mind control a creature that can do one of those things. My personal favorite play-style is using the Water Ritual I mentioned earlier to recruit a massive army and watch as they destroy my enemies and just about anything else in their way, including each other. The game is updated every Friday, and these patches usually contain at least one new thing. I have played 415 hours and still not seen everything, and for the price of 10 dollars, that’s a lot of playtime. Though equipt with vintage RPGs inspired graphics, tiles are pleasing to the eye and expressive. If you like the aesthetic and can get past the bugs and rogue-like difficulty, Caves of Qud has much to offer.
Warlock of Firetop Mountain-
An adaptation of the old Fighting Fantasy choose-your-own-adventure books, this one is not retro in graphics but instead in spirit. The game is divided into two gameplay loops- the exploration and combat. The exploration phases play like much like the books that inspired the game, with the obvious influence of tabletop RPGs. The narrator fills the role of the game master, but the player only has limited responses to each situation.
The responses depend on which character is being played, their quest, the items possessed, and every once in a while a good ol’ dice roll. Checks have a number that needs to be rolled under, and this number is determined by the player’s stats, which deplete upon rolling and a few other circumstances. Players must then manage these points, weighing if the reward is worth making other rolls riskier. The progress through the journey is shown through the movement of the character, represented by a miniature often used in tabletop games, through an environment with a very clear tabletop atmosphere. The combat is comprised of simultaneous turns, where all involved have attacks that travel a certain amount of tiles. The player must predict the enemy’s movement and act accordingly. If the player and an enemy attack at the same time, they clash, rolling against one another to determine who gets hit. Each enemy killed grants Souls, which are used to purchase more characters. Each character has multiple paths they can take through the dungeon, and this, combined with the wide variety of characters, provides replay value.
Modeled after retro dungeon crawlers, Vaporum is a tense expedition into a steampunk deathtrap. The character is dropped into the Arx Vaporum, a strange facility, with no memories, and given an exo-suit of their choosing and a crowbar which the game waffles back and forth on whether it should commit to referring to. The enemies are well-designed, with mechanical enemies looking as though they once served a purpose and biological ones feeling grotesque and wet. Crisp graphics easily portray a sense of foreboding, as do the notes and pieces of lore. The voice acting does break the tension with its cheesiness, but this is easily ignored. The combat is tense and exciting, but it is easy to end up backed into a corner surrounded by enemies, eating up your extremely limited healing items. The skill trees very rarely feel like you’re making any real improvements, but the skills and weapons you find along the way do the job. It isn’t perfect, but Vaporum is an enjoyable experience and worth your time.