No, I’m not continuing the story from my last post yet, sorry to disappoint. I will pick up Jason’s adventures later on, but for now I have some writers block to work through.
So I’m going to talk about a game that I enjoyed far more than I expected. I got it for free in the humble monthly bundle a few months back. Shortly after I had a few friends over for unrelated reasons, and while we had a few minutes to kill we decided to try it. Jump to a few hours later, we had forgotten why we had originally met up, all we could do is play another round. Then a few more.
I am talking about Crawl.
Doesn’t that title make you curious? I knew it did for me. So what is Crawl? It’s a four player competitive/co-op dungeon crawler beat ’em up. It sounds complicated but it’s actually really simple, and the basic premise is extremely clever. See, one player is a ‘hero’, sprinting through the dungeon, slaying monsters, levelling up, and collecting gold. The other three players, however, control the monsters and traps that get in the heroes way. If one of them successfully kills the hero, then they get a turn playing a hero.
The goal is to, as the hero, get to level ten and defeat a boss. The challenge comes from the other players, and every time you level up, they get points which they can use to make their monsters stronger. If three people are level ten, the fourth will have by far the strongest monsters, meaning he’s more likely to get the kill. Even better, every time you deal damage as the monsters, you get gold for your hero self. When that fourth finally gets the kill, they will be able to gear themselves up and wreck face right off the bat. Using these new more powerful weapons, and the fact stronger monsters level up, they are worth more experience.
The ‘one more round’ feeling, however, comes from the fact that each run is completely different. The dungeon layout is randomized, the content of the shops on each floor is different, and even the monsters you pick are different. At the start of each run you pick a ‘god’ to follow. Each god has three monsters they start with, and each of those monsters can be upgraded up to three times. Every upgrade lets you pick between two monsters, meaning that, with some overlap, each god has a possibility of twenty-four different monsters. Their wiki notes there are a total of fifty-three different monsters and they keep adding more every few months!
So you play through a round, which takes anywhere from fifteen minutes to half an hour. You get to level ten, and enter a portal. Now you are up against a boss. There are currently two of them, but there will likely be more added as time goes on. The other three players control various heads or limbs, and try to stop the player from killing the boss. If they succeed, the player is ejected from the boss room with low health, meaning he will likely die in the next room. If they fail, the boss is slain and the player wins. You get three attempts on the boss in total. On the final attempt, the player that tried is devoured, and the three others win.
So you win. Or maybe lose. It’s over in about fifteen minutes, maybe a little more, but you’re done. At the end of each round, you unlock new things. Maybe a new god to try, or a new weapon type for the heroes. Perhaps you’ll unlock a new mechanic for the monsters, or something entirely new. So of course, you want to check that out, so you play another round. After that round, you unlock another one. So you play another round to check that one out, and maybe the last round was super close anyway, so you want to try again so you can win. Next thing you know? It’s three in the morning and you should have gone to bed about five hours ago.
All of this paired with some really solid controls, some satisfying combat design, and a retro art style that is super endearing, and you have a game that frankly isn’t nearly as popular as it should be. It’s super cheap on steam, and even though it’s only in open access, it’s basically done. Honestly you should check it out, and grab a few friends as well. You can play alone with bots, but as with most things, it’s not nearly as much fun alone.