I mentioned at the start of the weekend that I was trying out Depths of Peril, an indie Diablo-style game with some twists.
Now that we've reached the end of the weekend, I find I'm still playing the game and still being surprised by it, so I figured I'd summarize some things I like about the game, and how it differs from the typical Diablo-style game.
Perhaps the most striking thing about Depths of Peril is that it actually takes the standard RPG quest concept seriously. You know how you are always being told by a quest-giver, "There is an infestation of Howling Dogs recently. Kill 10 howling dogs and that should help keep the population down." So you go kill a few dogs and finish your quest, but, darn it, there are just as many howling dogs around as when you started, and even worse, no one seems to care!
Well, in Depths of Peril if a quest like that becomes available and you don't go kill those 10 dogs, then it's quite likely something will happen. Like, they'll evolve into a group of elite dogs and start taking over a zone, and then you'll need to do some other quest in that zone and find yourself getting killed constantly. At some point they'll become powerful enough that they start sieging your home city and destroying your house, and boy won't you be sorry then you didn't deal with them when they were pups.
I noticed a zone where Dimension Gates -- you know, the sort of gates that let in Demon Spawn -- were popping up. Before long the damn things were all over the zone and I could barely walk two feet without getting killed by super-charged demony guys.
Those just represent one style of cause and consequences in the game. Another is the good old "Our well is poisoned!" quest. As you can imagine from the above, letting poisoned water or a plague go in Depths is going to cause you some problems...like, members of your party may get sick, or a vendor may be killed by plague and you won't have access to him for a while.
When I got a notice that the Beastmaster (where you can buy guards for your home) was sick and would die in 6 minutes, I dropped everything and picked up the quest to cure her pronto, because I need access to guards!
So this is the game where actions matter, and it's not forgiving. Pick up a guy who needs an escort to another area, and if he dies on the way...well, he's dead. No "restart the quest" crap here!
That's one vector in the game. Another vector is the meta-game of power...you are one of several factions in the city, and all are vying to rule the city. You can ally and win by being the strongest, or you can try to destroy the other factions...they will go after you to, of course, which leads to why you may want to hire some guards for your place.
And, darn it again, those factions are out doing the same quests you are. If they finish a quest before you do, you lose out on the rewards. Too bad, bud.
Yet another vector is the fact that, in true Diablo style, when one game is over, whether you won or lost you can start a new one with the same main character and built-up party and items you had at the end of the last game. Zones are randomly placed, and you start the game with fog of war in place in all of them, but if you had found a Gate in a zone previously (which allows you to teleport to or from a zone instantly), then you'll still be able to Gate to that zone. So as you play and replay the game, you get instant access to more of the zones. This is critical when you get an important quest in a particular zone.
My first character is Deadron the Rogue (which is how Deadron started life in EQ way back in the day), and he's gotten to level 14. There are very interesting skills that significantly impact how you play your character, and you can pick up a skill at any time as long as you have enough skill points from leveling available, so you can play the game however you want. I have no idea what a "high" level is in this game, but some features like being able to create hardcore games are not available until 25, so I suspect I have a ways to go to experience everything.
Finally, a note on putting together your party. You can take on up to four party members in addition to yourself. But, unlike in most games, you don't get to just choose them at the beginning of the game. Instead, you'll need to run into them in the field (somewhat rare) or, when they show up in town, you'll need to complete a quest to be able to hire them. You can only take one party member with you at a time (the rest of the party guards your house), and they only level from being in the field, so you either need to rotate among them to keep them up, or you need to replace them with hire level mercenaries when they become available. This means it takes time to build up your party, and you are constantly making decisions about whether to keep the people you have or replace them with newcomers.
Overall this is a pretty amazing game, especially for an Indie. Titan Quest is a beautiful Diablo clone, but shows none of the creativity in new features that Depths does...and for that matter, while the just-announced Diablo 3 will undoubtedly be fun to play (and you know I'll be playing it), I'm betting it won't have any of these genre-advancing features either.
In any case, I suspect I'll be coming back to this game for a long time to come!