Of the four selected games in the Playstation Play promotion, I’d have to say that [email protected] didn’t particularly catch my eye. The games release trailer showed very little in terms of game-play or the game premise for that matter. My initial speculations from the trailer were that it was to be some form of futurist, board game based upon the black and white tile-like setting. Needless to say, I went into the game with very low expectations… How wrong I was.
[email protected] is a futuristic dungeon crawler with a twist. Every dungeon you enter is randomly generated so you don’t have an issue with repetitive playing. The game is ridiculously challenging in itself, starting you off with no lives and no weapons, but you can collect these later on. Until then, if you die its game over and you must start the game again from the beginning. Throughout the game you collect different types of loot, which ultimately become the amount of cash you have. The only use of this cash is to purchase lives, but by doing this you must make an offer to the gods once you find a divine shrine within the dungeon. Whether or not the gods choose to accept your offering and bless you with another life is entirely a gamble. The game play is very reminiscent of Baldur’s Gate or Champions of Norrath, particularly during the co-op gameplay. Running around in dungeons fighting various enemies, collecting loot, levelling up, and making potions, it has everything. The only difference with [email protected] is that there isn’t a story line or any side quests etc. But honestly, who really paid attention to those? This game cuts out the middle man and just gives you straight up action. The fact that death is literally the end of the game also makes the player be more tactile during situations, especially when it comes to using consumables for healing.
Throughout the map you can gather different ingredients to make potions, there are 8 potions in total to create which are differentiated by their colour. Stormcloud seems to have taken a heavy influence from a phone app game Pixel Dungeon, and the potion system in particular stands out in this influence, as they do not tell you the effects of the potion until it has been used for the first time, so you will have to make it and then use it to find out its effect. By doing this you either have to drink it yourself or throw it and see the results. The effects change with every new game so you still have to go through the same process each time. The only way to evade this is by selecting the ‘Arcane Knowledge’ skill when you level up your character, particularly the wizard, this skill labels the potions for you and it also gives you the opportunity to discover hidden doors.
The implementation of weapons and crafting is done amazingly well in this game, and is proven to be very simple and straightforward for a new player to understand, who needs a tutorial screen anyway? Due to the setting seeming to be within a computer programming system, and there seems to be a lot of raw coding lying about i.e. letters and numbers, your character even appears as an ‘@’ symbol on the map. The benefit of this coding is that you can physically acquire a few loose letters as crafting materials for your weapons. The letters join together in a neat animation to form a complete weapon. You also have the ability to enchant these weapons by collecting ‘special’ letters which represent elements based on their colours. The weapon selection is also very vast, they come in four different categories: bow, staff, hammer and sword. Within each category you can create up to three different weapons. The only down side is, despite being spoilt for choice, you can’t actually create the weapons until you find the blueprints for them hidden within chests in the maps.
You are also given a choice of four characters to begin with, each with their own difficulty and pre-set skills. The first of the characters (and my personal favourite) is the Amazon, she has the ability to perform a ground pound, knocking her enemies back, and getting you out of sticky situations. Her pre-set health is average (100 hp) and her projectile is her own shield. All characters except the Mage use a shield as their projectile. The Mage has a staff with which he can shoot bolts from. The difference between the staff and shield is the cool down rate, for the shield the player has to wait for it to return to them, almost like a boomerang, and this can take 5-10 seconds. For the Mage, the staff is powered by mana, and this has a limit of 3 bolts before the mana runs out, and then you must wait for the mana to regain. The Mage also has slightly less health than the other characters which is quite common for a magic reliant player. The last two, Warrior and Ranger and very similar, except the Warrior is pre-set to the ability of handling heavy weaponry, such as hammers, and the Ranger is pre-set to handle the bow. Further abilities can be added once the player levels up, so for example, you can give the Mage the ability to handle a two handed weapon.
Aside from a few bugs, the best part of the game was certainly the co-op. My overly experienced companion and I took the game in our stride, and battled through the maps to the best of our abilities. But let’s just say we won’t be topping the leader board any time soon. An issue we found when playing was that, despite the extra player, we still received the same amount of consumables as though there was still only one person, which became increasingly harder when rationing foods and potions.
I personally am a huge fan of Baldur’s Gate, which in fact, is one of the games that even got this reviewer into gaming. [email protected] really brings the memories back of playing classic dungeon crawlers, and for any fans of these game types, or even any Dungeons and Dragons fans that fancy a peak into the virtual gaming world, I would highly recommend this game.