Crawl Preview – MOUSE n JOYPAD

Crawl Preview



Recently, a fair number of Early Access games tell the audience that they have a unique and imaginative game mechanic or feature that’s different from anything you’ll see in the mainstream market. They’ll then sell a half finished product, sometimes with a list of all the missing features that may or may not make it into the final release. Crawl is definitely not in this category. It’s a fast, fun and creative dungeon crawler that has you and up to 3 others are running through a series of catacombs, trying to reach and kill the final boss. Judging from that description, I know that does not sound very creative at all, since we multiplayer dungeon crawlers have been done before. However, this game has one thing that the others don’t have – a shared humanity mechanic.

Let me explain: only one person at any time can be a human. The human player fights through monsters, dodges traps and makes progress in the dungeon. Once they’re a high enough level, they then fight the end boss. Again, the human just does what everyone else does in dungeon crawlers, not particularly original. Things get interesting when you aren’t human. Post mortem, you and your dead pals are ghosts. Just wailing, flailing, colour-coordinated ghosts. In this form, you can’t attack him directly, and you can’t move from whichever room you want (you’re forced to occupy the same room as the human). However, you are far from useless.

Dotted around some rooms in the dungeon are pentagrams on the floor. If you hover above them as a ghost, they’ll glow red. Press the attack button, and you’ll transform into one of three monsters. These monsters are different depending on which god you chose to worship before entering the game, so different gods have different “loadouts”. When you first start out, you and your monster buddies will get absolutely destroyed, unless you work together. Some are good at setting traps for the human to walk into, others are good at melee and others at ranged. All are weak to begin with (the skeleton is especially worthless). Once you’re killed as a monster, you drop experience for the human, which lets him level up. This adds a level of “I really don’t want to die, otherwise he’ll just get better”. But it seems the ghosts get better too. As the human levels up, you’re awarded something called “vitae”. This is a sort of currency that you spend between dungeons, which makes your monsters stronger and better.

Once you finally manage to kill the human, whoever dealt the killing blow takes his humanity for themselves. You gain an instant level up from regaining your humanity. As you were fighting as a monster, every time you hit the human you shed his blood. You accumulated this blood for when you were human, which you then give to a golden statue. He trades all the blood for coins to spend in the shop. Here you can buy weapons, secondary actions and potions.

While this is all happening, ghosts do have a couple tricks up their sleeves. They can occupy traps, for one. This can be especially helpful when there are no pentagrams in the room. Some traps shoot fire, spears or orbs. They’re also good when you’ve been killed as a monster, but your allies are still alive. Not only can you offer support and limit where the human goes (without taking damage) but you might be able to steal the killing blow!

While you’re floating around as a ghost, you can see these swirling pale yellow orbs. Collecting them will fill a bar above your head. If you keep collecting these, you’ll see a blob of your colour following you. This is a jelly monster. You can dispense one whenever you like as a ghost (apart from in shops). Dropping these counts as a monster, so any open doors become locked until the human deals with it. While these are not very powerful at all, they can keep the human in the room for longer. This means that if there are any good traps around, you can use them for longer and deal more damage to him. Plus you can dispense them, then fly into a pentagram to add more chaos for the human. They are AI controlled, and they fire a series of coloured blobs every so often, which have actually given me my humanity back, so these aren’t to be scoffed at.

The entire point of this game is to reach the final boss, obviously. To reach him you have to go through a portal, which only activates for humans who have reached level 10. This is the incentive to be a human throughout the game, instead of a monster (though the latter is admittedly very entertaining). The portal opens on a triangular sigil, which loses power each time it’s used. Basically, you have three attempts between you to kill the final boss, as on the third the sigil detonates, leaving a crater in the ground. Once you’ve travelled through the portal, you’re given a chance to heal up before going into the boss room. This leads to the best and most frustrating part of the game- the boss. As the human, you have to dodge his attacks and look for an opening which I won’t spoil so you’ll have to figure it out (though it’s hardly a mindbender). The real fun is what the others do.

The ghosts fly into and possess parts of the boss, each part corresponding to a different attack. On my first few play through’s I wasn’t aware I could do this, so I was just collecting yellow blobs and dispensing jellies like a moron. Each attack needs a cooldown though, and can leave the boss vulnerable in some way, so you have to be strategic with your attacks. This is such an awesome mechanic because I personally remember various bosses countless games when I’ve thought “Why attack now and leave yourself so open?” or “Wow his patterns are easy”. Now if ever the boss is defeated when you’re playing as him, it’s because you messed up, your team messed up, or whoever is playing as the human is simply too agile and easily exploits your weaknesses.

As a summary, this game is great. Powerhoof really did a great job with this game. The incredible thing is – this is still in Early Access. This genuinely feels like a finished game, apart from the fact that there’s only one boss. But with new monsters, weapons, potions, secondary actions and even gods to worship unlocked with every play through, there is plenty to keep you occupied and satisfied. The only thing that absolutely needs to be implemented is online multiplayer. A brilliant piece of entertainment.