Monday, 30 December 2013

Second Wind

While recently many of the games I've reviewed have been commercial releases, punted out by corporations and professionals that produce multitudes of games and such in vast numbers. I thought I'd review something with skill and talent in that hasn't be blighted by the "Triple A" touch of video games I like to refer to as "Thrown enough cash at it to solve a 3rd World Country's starvation issues" and instead is made simply by a few people, with little more behind the motivation beyond the fact they WANT to make the game.

I really should review INDIE games a lot more. There's a lot more variation in the different games and yes, there's a LOT of crappy ones, but the true gems shine even harder for that matter. When you do find something that glorious, you cannot help but be impressed by the concept, the originality, the execution or all of the aforementioned aspects at once.

This one is a flash game from what I can tell so far. It might be available on other formats though as far as I can tell, it's just on flash. But what a game it is.

A little background, Rogue-likes, as the name suggests, are any games that fit a model identifiable with the game Rogue. In which you wander around a dungeon that's randomly generated and continue to progress to harder and harder levels, taking on harder and harder enemies while collecting weapons, items, spells etc to level up and hopefully get to the bottom and win the game. In a manner of speaking. Second Wind, takes the bare bones of this concept and removes the structure of dungeon floor space by having everything that happens as a randomly occurring event.

For example, on the first level, which is set in a dungeon, you'll explore places and perhaps happen upon a monster, an event of skill/strength, shops selling either weapons, armour or health potions, Non-Playable Characters that have their own interactions and quests, or one of the many avatars for what qualifies as Gods within the game itself. Finding one could mean finding another one in the next move, or not finding another one for the next 20 or so movements. So you could find a text that explains a snippet of the world you're in, and never see it again for the next 30 games, or bump straight back into it the next time you press "explore" but that's random number crunching for you.

This does get annoying when you NEED to get to a certain location in order to progress to the next level.

Each enemy is a parody or rip-off of other enemies found within similar games. Usually accompanying the enemy is a very out of place description, something jovially cutting about the genre and then something equally humorous to found when defeating said enemy. For the most part it's very light hearted on the humour and will often give you a chuckle (assuming you GET the reference) the first few times you fight the adversary.

Given the RPG roots, there's the usual Health, Gold, Level for each character. Health being the main decider between "alive" and "dead" though you can return once from death as part of the eponymous "Second Wind" ability. Your character will have 3 abilities during any fight depending upon which character you chose, of which there are around 20 different types of character from fighters to magicians, martial artists to knights etc. You'll also have Dexterity, Power and Armour ratings which will determine how much Armour Penetration you can do, how much damage you can do and how much damage you can soak up, in respective order.

The catch is that there's a BIG difficulty spike from the first level to the second level and you'll find sometimes that going too soon will result in you fighting enemies you cannot harm because you cannot get past the armour. OR you'll have to rely upon other attacks/abilities that will bypass armour entirely. Such as the Parry technique for fighters, that will return a % of damage back onto the enemy but you have to survive the damage first of all. So if you really cannot damage an enemy, you'll have to run and lose cash or die (and sometimes you can't run at all, because you lack the stats to succeed in running away like a prick).

Story wise, you're someone who has ventured into the dungeons of a world ruled by several Gods. Your purpose to rise to the higher levels, transcend realities and battle the Gods of the world. How you play and how well you do will determine whether you ruin reality or rule it as either MasterMcShitBag or a nicer person. Though the criteria for meeting such endings isn't entirely clear as to getting the best ending or middle ending, though the worst endings are clear for either joining the last boss or losing to him. As it turns out, the best ending is met by killing the last boss without killing any other Gods, which makes it a rather herculean task as the deaths of the other Gods will anoint you with the huge stat boosts that will allow you to fight the last boss on relatively fair terms.

Thankfully you can continue repeatedly in the third level as it's purported to be some form of ascension and as such, leaves you on another plane of reality where you can respawn ad infinitum. It doesn't make it mean much more than repeatedly having your arse handing to you.

Though there's a fairly enjoyable story, it is hidden within "pages" that can be found as random events, detailing the events before the game, leading up to the game and the circumstances found now that shape the course of the protagonist. It can however be entirely bypassed and the game becomes "Whose balls do I break next?" while running around looking for more fights to get stronger and stronger. In these senses, it does become a grind fest and most people will find that, as the monsters get stronger, there becomes a limit at which experience is not gained as much and that is the game's way of telling you to move the hell on and kill the bosses already of that level.

The music within the game has become one of the few games where I've actually sat and done nothing in-game just so I could hear the music playing, particularly for Boss fights and the Final Boss fights. It's a suitable mix of epic and exciting that leads to a satisfying build up, though if you're too overpowered, can detract from the overall expectation of wanting a long, solid battle.

That having been said, it's not going to be everyone's game. You really have to have an affinity for a) grinding through levels to get to higher points and a rather expansive knowledge of tropes for, and around, dungeon crawlers, rogue-likes and other such games, but mainly anything closely associated with Dungeons and Dragons (the tabletop game, not the cartoon series... Even if Eric was whiny, but the best character out of the bunch). However for those that DO get this genre, as esoteric as it might be, there's a rather witty wealth of game contained within that will make even the most ardent player sit back and chuckle softly with a wry smile upon their faces.

Though having said all that... I now want to watch Eric and his shield running around, being sarcastic.