Mento's May Madness More: #20 - Depths of Peril

May the Twentieth

The game: Soldak Entertainment's Depths of Peril

The source: The Indie Royale Spring Bundle

The pre-amble: Depths of Peril is a fantasy third-person action RPG in the Diablo mold but with a twist: The player's adventuring group, named a covenant, is directly competing with several AI-controlled covenants in repelling the forces of evil and becoming the most powerful group of heroes in the land. It isn't sufficient to simply defeat the big bad: you must do so while remaining the strongest covenant either through violence or diplomacy.

The playthrough: Depths of Peril might be the first game this month that I've quit in disgust. That's a promising opening sentence, right? Allow me to elaborate: That bit in the pre-amble where I said you would be competing with other adventurer guilds, lending a unique level of strategy to yet another hack and slash loot-chaser? Doesn't work. All the quests in the game are pulled from the same pool and having up to three competing groups means they'll more than likely run out and complete the quests you aren't pursuing right at that moment. You can hire additional adventurers for your team to help you out, but you're still left wandering around doing one inconsequential fetch quest while others are being solved on your behalf.

Lord Deathdoom of the Deathdoomerinos, fighting bees or pixies or something. Not pictured: An unaffiliated AI Warrior collecting all the quest items before I can.

It's a shame I couldn't hold out, because on the surface it seems like a really intriguing notion. Rival adventurer parties you can trade with, ally with or fight against? It's the sort of story complication that's been in games before now, but in those cases it tends to be one of those gameplay/narrative disconnects where the rival guild has probably done a whole lot of fighting and questing of their own but you never see any of it: it's simply implied by the context that they're as effective at their jobs as you are, otherwise there'd be no sense of conflict or competitiveness. Having those rival groups be a tangible presence while adventuring, in a manner not unlike an MMO, is a cool idea. Or it would be if they didn't run ahead of you, taking all the treasures and scalping all the quest experience. In reality it's a little more infuriating.

It doesn't help that Depths of Peril is a hopelessly generic Diablo hack and slasher at its core: the same kind of experience you've seen a thousand times since the original Diablo (or even before then with the many functionally identical Roguelikes). Its one novel feature turned out to be a knock against it, so what we end up with is something unfortunately less than a Diablo clone. I feel like a real heel for laying it out that way, but it's still quite discouraging no matter which angle you look at it (though I think a 3/4 isometric angle is probably likeliest).

The verdict: Nope. I have half a dozen better games just like it on my Steam list.

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