Soldak Entertainment, the makers of Depths of Peril (that innovative and award winning RPG), are now developing Kivi’s Underworld and they just recently released an open beta. So naturally, instead of just sending an email with my review I’ll convert it into a blog post since this place is starving for content. Oh, and because I wanted to share my views with all of you, of course, how could I forget that? 🙂
Kivi’s Underworld could be dismissed as just another diablo clone but with even less complexity for the sake of the casual crowd. However, there’s more to it than this first impression. After playing it for hours I can tell you that the lack of an inventory isn’t missed at all. There’s plenty of interesting things to find, from potions to illusions, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s tackle the ugly aspects first, shall we?
I know fully well that this is a beta, not even a demo, so there’s even more incentive to point to the ugly bits so the developers can work on that. With that said, I find only a couple mayor problems with the game: Overall, the movement isn’t enjoyable by any means, it feels like a chore because it’s far from smooth. Although there is no grid visible you know the character moves on one because he moves his legs continously but his actual movement through the world is continously interrupted for milisenconds every few steps, short enough to not drive you insane but long enough to be very noticeable.
My other mayor annoyance with the game is that you can’t tell the difference between your character, items laying on the ground and monsters. In other words: brown, brown and more brown. You know why diablo 3 is so colorful? This is why. If everything was brown, then how are you supposed to tell the difference between yourself and the enviroment, nevermind the enemies? … Alright, so I’m being a little harsh. There are colors, and not all the dungeons are brown, but when there are more than 4 enemies on the screen, you really can’t tell what the hell is going on, and just click randomly until everything drops dead, hopefully without you included.
That’s it. Those are the mayor problems with Kivi’s Underworld. Nothing more, nothing less. Great! So that means everything else is awesome right? Well, not exactly. You see, I’m not finished yet. I’ve already described the mayor problems, but what about everything else? What about the design choices? What about them indeed.
After 5 minutes of playing and screwing around with it, it becomes very clear why this is considered a casual RPG. The inventory is gone, as I’ve already mentioned, so the potions you pick up are used inmediately, even if you are maxed out on health and mana. Furthermore, you don’t manage any kind of stats, or even customize your adventurer (in the beta at least).
You might ask yourself: What’s left if there’s no loot or stats? Let me answer that for you: exploration and choke point/aggro management. Or in other words: the core of any RPG. Oh, and mindless clicking of course.
However, KU implements some additions to the diablo formula that I’ve never seen before in any other game. Not like this anyway. This game takes the concept of buffs, time constrained performance enhancement items/abilities and applies a new coat of paint to them. In the beta, one will often find special items that you can actually keep. These items would most likely offer you a particular buff for twenty seconds when used.
It’s very interesting since you only have three slots for these buffs and you will find them often enough that you will feel compelled to use them when the situation calls for it, instead of saving them as a last resort. The only inconvenience I see with the system is that you have to click on them in order to activate them. Most likely I’ve already got my right hand busy with monster bashing, so maybe I could use my other hand? You know, that extra hand right here that’s begging me to do something but doesn’t have any function whatsoever? Would it be possible to let this forgotten extremity handle the buffs while my right hand kicks some zombie ass by furious clicking? Please?
Another interesting addition is the concept of seemingly sturdy walls being simple illusions. These can only be uncovered by walking right next to them, in which case they vanish instead of, you know, sticking around and confusing the hell out of you when backtracking. It’s a neat little trick that encourages exploration, and that’s always a plus in my book.
All in all, it is a lot more polished than what I expected. Not one bug, not even a single graphical glitch! And we are talking about a beta here, not a demo! Please download it and share with us your thoughts on it, we’ll be waiting for you. Go ahead. Do it. Now.
I’ll most likely write about KU in the future. Be it another critique of the same beta or something else completely, like a review of the title screen, who knows? (Why are you still reading this? I said go play it now dammit).