• Dark Quest 2 review by Rick Moscatello


    Simple Dungeon Crawling

    Games just keep getting bigger and bigger, and even “indie” titles now commonly offer procedurally generated open worlds with, theoretically, thousands of hours of unique randomized adventure, using a character (or bunch of characters) you can develop any way you wish. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, of course, but Dark Quest 2 is more old school: you’re here to bash an evil sorcerer in a particular dungeon, using particular heroes with limited options for advancement.

    The developers do a great job of taking advantage of such restrictions, with hand-drawn artwork and interesting mazelike dungeons which procedural generation just can’t match (yet, anyway). The end result is a simple game, with plenty of fun considering you can clear a typical dungeon in 10 minutes or less.

    Things start simply enough, with one character, “Barbarian,” in the village. There’s not much to do without gold, but if you had some you could craft equipment (armor, a better sword, and a big handful of other options), buy potions (you’ll mostly want healing but there are other choices), rest in the inn (regains hit points, and after you clear dungeons you can recruit other heroes), and spend “blue potions,” among other options.

    Blue potions? The game handles experience uniquely. As you trash dungeons, in addition to the usual loot, you’ll often find blue potions (generally between 2 and 4 per dungeon). You can trade these in to improve or gain new skills—save up your potions to spend all at once, and you could use them to instantly turn a new recruit into a highly capable adventurer. Skills are generally low-capped for effectiveness (for example, the barbarian’s “throw axe” ability maximizes at “2 axes per dungeon”), so the system can’t really be exploited too much, and is just as good as any other experience system I’ve seen.

    Eventually you’ll head off to the dungeon, your only source of gold. You’re on railroad tracks here, clearing out specific parts of the dungeon in easily-digestible chunks. “Easily” is a bit unfair, as the dungeons are often quite hard, you can get your whole party killed with a few unlucky rolls or (more likely) bad strategy. You can also run away, instantly ending the dungeon, but that cuts into your gold.

    Regardless of how you exit the dungeon, you’ll end up back in town. Resurrection is done wholesale, for 20% of your current gold—it’s a funny way to do business, but usually you’ll wait until your gold is low (just buy potions, for example) and you’ve multiple dead characters, to get the most out of it. Running out of gold is a common problem, but that’s a sign of good game balance, making resource management important everywhere in the design. You can re-loot parts of the dungeon you’ve already cleared to get more gold (and even more blue potions) but the monsters and traps get tougher each time you do it.

    As an added bonus, there’s a dungeon/campaign builder…it could stand to be a bit easier to use. The “main” campaign that comes with the game is certainly good for a day or two of solid play (though the game is best played in short doses).

    For all its simplicity, Dark Quest 2 is a solid design. While you won’t be playing it a year from now (I still fire up 8-year-old Skyrim from time to time), if you’re looking for a simple turn-based dungeon crawler which still allows for strategy and character development, this one fits the bill and is worth the price. And if some folks decided to use the dungeon builder seriously, the game might even have more legs than I think it does.

    Overall rating: 74
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Dark Quest 2 review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post