Thursday, September 25, 2008

DROD RPG: Tendry's Tale

Title: DROD RPG: Tendry's Tale
Author: Caravel Games
Licencse: Commercial

Expectations. DROD:JtRH was my 2005 Game of Year. DROD:TCB was a 2007 Honorable Mention. So, any game with DROD in the title sets high expectations for me. Add to that that I am a long time old school RPG gamer. Fallout is one of my all time favorite games. I have also lost many nights sleep playing Arcanum, one damn hard game btw. I also enjoy the modern RPG slashers such as Diablo, Neverwinter Nights, and Guild Wars. Thus, a game title with both DROD and RPG results in sky high expectations.

The question is does DROD RPG meet these expectations? No. Does it come close? Yes, if you focus on the DROD puzzle aspects. No, if you are expecting a fleshed out RPG game.

In case you are not familiar with DROD, it is a turn based puzzle games. You wander around a with your mighty sword. On each turn, you can move to any of the eight neighboring squares or swing your sword 45 degrees clockwise or counter clockwise. Unlike previous DROD games, the bad guys for the most do not move. Also, unlike the original, your sword does not automatically kill anything it touches. Instead, in classic RPG fashion, your character and the opponents have hit points, attack ratings, and defensive rating. When you attack, the battle is resolved by factoring in these parameters. You can right click on a monster to see the effect of any battle before entering into it. There is no randomness.

DROD PRG: Tendry's Tale comes with 13 levels. Each level contains 20 or more rooms. The goal is to find your way to the exit. Besides opponents baddies, there are doors and other movement puzzles. Strewn about each level are power ups, health potions, switches, keys, and the occasional new weapon or shield.

Completing each level is mostly a matter of doing things in the right order. You cannot take on the toughie until you run around the level and get all the attack power ups and find that new weapon. One downside of the game is that it possible to get stuck. After having to redo 20 minutes work once, I got into the habit of saving early and saving often. Scanning the forums, I saw that many players make one pass through a level to learn it and then make another more efficient pass.

Many rooms require solving puzzles. These puzzles are the strong point of the DROD franchise, and there are some good puzzles in DROD RPG. In the pictured room, you need to collect the two keys. To do so, you have to get the mimic to step on the correct switches at just the right time. The mimic will mimic your move if possible. First you have to line him up just right, then circle around and have have him raise and lower the doors in just the right order.

One new puzzle twist in this version is that you have a pet which can be released at opportune times. The little guy can be used to trip switches which you do not otherwise have access to. I really liked these puzzles.

On the other hand, the RPG side of DROD RPG is disappointing. There are no fundamental character decisions to make. No character classes, no distribution of skill points, no purchase choices. The RPG aspects are limited to searching each level for power ups, new weapons, and shields. It really does pay to completely search each level for the hidden rooms. There are occasional tactical decisions to make such as "should I spend 30 gold to gain access to this room which contains a +2 attack power up." And even then as far as I can tell, the answer is always yes. Always get those attack power ups.

I do not know what I was hoping for in DROD RPG. Maybe you could learn a skill which you allow finer control of mimics and/or your pet. With this skill there would be certain puzzles you could complete that others could not. Another skill would allow you see in the dark (several of the rooms are dark and require a depth-first search to solve). Of course, play balancing all of this very hard.

There is huge potental for a well balanced puzzle-rgp hybird. I really enjoyed Puzzle Quest, another example. The puzzles in Puzzle Quest are weak, but the rpg choices did fundamentally effect the game and the way I played it. I actually played through the game three times. I blew through the Tendry's Tale levels and I have no intention of going back.

As with other games in DROD series, there is a level editor. I will be very interested to see if any user generated levels really include RPG choices.

Expectations are curse in this case. If I had not played any of the pervious games in the series, I would be raving about this game. To finish with the best thing I can say about a game: I downloaded DROD PRG at 9pm on night and played it for 6 hours straight, on a school night. I was paying the price at work the next day.


At 7:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the main point of DROD RPG is that they made, de facto, a remake of Tower of the Sorcerer, a freeware japanese game...

You can search for a link in the DROD forum (which i read often, altough im not a member...)

TofS had no level editor, and everyone who played it was left craving for more; Drod RPG could fulfill this desire...

At 8:40 PM, Blogger Jimmy said...


Thanks for comment on Tower of the Sorcerer. I didn't know about this game.


At 10:32 AM, Blogger Eytan said...

(disclaimer: I was on the
dev team for DROD RPG, though my influence was mostly focused on the story elements and not the gameplay)

Thank you for the review. It is fair and, I think, quite helpful for people who aren't familiar with the game. I agree that the name DROD RPG is somewhat misleading, as the game is not really an RPG - it is a puzzle game with RPG elements. I think your review helps clarify that.

The relationship between DROD RPG and Tower of the Sorceror is a bit more complex than saying it's a remake - it's no secret that Tendry's Tale was directly inspired by it, but it adds a lot of new elements and, as mentioned above, a level editor. As far the puzzles themselves go,
about half of the official levelset is a remake of original TotS levels, but the other half is completely original.

Note, by the way, that the DROD RPG level editor is extremely versatile. I wouldn't be surprised if sooner or later a proper RPG emerges that uses it as an engine.

At 8:35 AM, Anonymous kamagra said...

I should say I think these game have awaken my senses because since I play them my mind is clear, I don't know if that is something psychological but that's what I feel.m10m


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