reviews\ Apr 9, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Depths of Peril - PN - Review


When Depths of Peril first launches and is given a cursory first look, it is the kind of game that could be easily dismissed. The graphics are five years old (at least that is how they appear) and the core seems to be an isometric hack ‘n slash game.

But this is an indie title and while money was not tossed at it to make it look pretty, the game scores well where it truly counts – in the gameplay itself. With some role-playing elements, the game revolves around the single-player campaign that has the leader of a warring faction using strategic elements (which includes diplomacy) to rule the world.

The world evolves and changes as the players work through the game, and while there is a certain amount of action, the best course is often (initially) one that is not the call to arms. In other words, use war as the last resort, after you have set up the target with trade agreements, and diplomatic entreaties. Now if that was all there was to the game, it would be a simple outing, but this title from Soldak Entertainment embraces much more than that.

Players are the leader of a barbarian city (Jorvik) and – as with most strategic titles – you have to build your power base in order to challenge the world. To build up your strength, you need to acquire reputation points. To do that, you can explore the world, solve quests and kill a few monsters. Your reputation is important in dealing with the five computer-controlled factions in the game.

But while the initial look at the game may not be overly appealing, the game’s tutorial is well short of informative. So much is simply thrown at the player that you feel overwhelmed and by the time you have processed it all, you likely have a couple of mistakes (aka deaths) under your belt. As the world is a breathing entity, you will have to compete with solid AI for control. What that might mean is securing a potential recruit and adding him to your side by completing a quest before others are able to do so. This adds an interesting and entertaining element to the game.

In fact, Depths has quite a number of nice little touches that give the game a robust feel. Allies may call on you for help, which may mean going to war. It is therefore important to consider your moves through the world as they can have some very real consequences within the game. And the game does have a real ending, which may or may not be planned. If you manage to wipe out the other covenants (the computer-controlled factions), you will win, but that is much easier said than done. But other incidents that occur, like monster attacks, that might end the game prematurely. Because the game maps are randomly generated, you can never be truly certain that what was viable in one game carries over to the next. Players need to evolve strategy and adapt to the shifting world.

When it comes to the controls, Depths is not hard to understand. This is a keyboard-and-mouse driven game. Point, click and it all unfolds. Unfortunately, the graphics are a throwback to an era that included the isometric camera viewpoint in games like Diablo II. The sound is also not that outstanding.

The game does have a somewhat-merciless AI and the initial forays into the world may be less than exhilarating, but what Depths of Peril offers is right there in the title – depth. This is a game that has some solid ideas that should reverberate throughout the RTS world. There are certainly aspects that could have been done better, but Depths of Peril is a title that should not be overlooked.

Review Scoring Details for Depths of Peril

Gameplay: 8.0
The enemy AI is tough and you will need to go slow to begin your trek through this world. While the tutorial elements could be refined, the controls are easy to understand. The game features not only the overall story arc, but enough side quests and monster-hacking action to keep players satisfied.

Graphics: 5.5
This looks like a game that was released many years ago. If you play for graphics, this title won’t really appeal to you.  

Sound: 5.5
The sound is expected and nothing really stands out.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard

Concept: 7.8
The game could have introduced its varied elements better, but give credit to the developers for a game that explores new territory and creates a living world where actions have consequence and the anomalies of random fortune can raise the difficulty level but also increase the games replay value while challenging.

Overall: 7.8
The game offers some new gameplay elements that are rather good. The looks and sound hold it back slightly, but if you are looking for deep gameplay, Depths of Peril fits that bill.


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