I like dungeon crawlers quite a bit. Torchlight was one of my favorite games of 2009, and as soon as I get my new PC assembled I’ll be rolling my pennies for Diablo III. I also like controlling multiple characters, and RPGs tend to satisfy that need. Krater combines these two concepts and is a lot of fun all the while. You’ve accepted quests, found new weapons, and leveled characters before. And you’ll keep doing it here because it’s still satisfying to earn another skill or find a new and better weapon.
In the future of post-apocalyptic Sweden, you’ll control three characters. Those three characters are chosen from a pool of four classes, and there are no wrong choices. Choose characters based on your play style and you can succeed. No mission requires a specific setup, but you’ll find a group that works well for you and recruitment stations will allow you to trade out group members and experiment with different teams.
Quests are what you’d expect. Sometimes your task is to kill a set number of a certain creatures. Other times you have to explore a dungeon, find a thing and bring it back to the quest giver. It’s all a convenient reason to dive in and fight stuff. Succeed and your reward is experience, levels, money, and items for your team. The items that you’ll receive are where Krater differs from your standard dungeon crawl. You won’t (usually) be picking up new equipment. Instead you’ll be picking up ability and stat boosts. In addition to these upgrades, Krater features an interesting crafting system. You’ll be able to create new weapons, boosts, and stat upgrades if you’ve got the ingredients and the blueprints to work from. Blueprints, like crafting materials, can be found lying around in dungeons, given to you as a quest reward or bought from one of the game’s shopkeepers.
In addition to standard actions, each character class has access to two unique abilities. These abilities are unlimited-use but are managed by a cooldown. I like this quite a bit, as it feels realistic. No rogue worth his salt is going to forget how to backstab, but he might need a little recovery time between uses. Each character can equip both a weapon and a gadget. Weapons work as expected in this type of game: read the stats and equip what lends itself to each character in your group. Gadgets are additional abilities that work like class skills, with the added benefit of being able to trade them out along the way when you find a better gadget or craft from a new blueprint.
Combat is flexible and strategic. In each bout, you can choose to use all three party members simultaneously or go in one at a time. Early encounters can be run as a group, but after a few hours you’ll be comfortable enough with the mechanics to move characters individually to really make the most of having a tank and a sniper available. And it’s a good thing, because the difficulty ramps up at a nice clip and rushing everybody in at once won’t work for long.
Krater offers three difficulty settings. Like you’d expect, Casual is pretty easy, Normal is challenging without feeling punishing and Hard is difficult enough that you’ll encounter permanent death a few times. On Casual, nobody dies for good. Everybody picks themselves up, dusts themselves off and lives to fight another day. On Normal, everybody gets three chances. Going down injures a character. Get injured three times without seeing a doctor, and you’re out. On Hard, going down once is game over. New characters can always be recruited in town, so while losing a characters isn’t game-ending, it can be frustrating.
As much as I like adventuring on my own, Krater is begging for online multiplayer, and it will get it within a month. Even as it stands right now as a single-player experience, Krater is a great mix of Diablo and Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War. The combat is fun, the skills are diverse, and that fact that any group I put together can make it through the game make Krater highly replayable.
Pros: High replay value; good selection of character classes, skills, and gadgets
Cons: Menus can be a little obtuse; no online multiplayer yet