Depths of Peril
Imagine yourself as being a new game developer – you have some resources, willing and eager staff and a modest ambition to produce titles that players will purchase and enjoy. Possibly the first and most important decision is what kind of game to produce: one might have a preference but that won't necessarily translate into sufficient sales to make it worth it. Thus there's plenty of sense in choosing something familiar and popular, although it's not an easy path, as Soldak Entertainment must be finding with their opening shot: Depths of Peril.
We were given the opportunity to have a play with an early build of the game (perhaps too early) and assess its gameplay qualities so far. The title can be best summed up as being a collection of old but popular ideas, held together with some cross-genre elements and the odd new feature. One plays a chosen character that leads a barbarian horde against endless enemies; tasks and quests fill one's daily planner, along with the usual duties that are given to being in charge: diplomacy and management. In other words, there's nothing really original here but what is these days?
Before we move on to an examination of how DoP currently plays, let's get the obvious out of the way first. This game is not a graphics extravaganza; in fact, the visuals are not much better than one would expect from a title 10 years ago. The fixed isometric perspective isn't exclusive to the dark ages but the low polygon counts and simple textures certainly are.
The decision to make the graphics so simple lies in Soldak's wishes for Depths of Peril to be playable on as many PC configurations as possible; this is sensible in terms of ensuring that sales aren't confined by hardware limitations but first looks count an awful lot in PC games. The quaint simplicity though is marred by crude animations and weak character models – one only has to look at the shot of the player choices to see this; bandy barbarians with cute, smiling faces don't exactly set one's pulse racing. With the detail settings at their highest values, the backgrounds frequently annoy as it becomes considerably harder to spot paths; there's nothing worse than trying to escape from a swathe of monsters, only to find oneself trapped on a large shrub.
There are other aspects which may well be a symptom of the earliness of the build - for example, text boxes are ugly and overly large and the map wouldn't look out of place in a SNES game. Whilst there is no doubt that these could all be resolved in time, there is no escaping the fact that, visually, Depths of Peril is not going to attract the typical PC gamer, who often justifies the purchase of high end graphics card by only playing games with the best graphics.
There is, of course, more to a game that just its appearance and if a title plays right, then customers will forgive a multitude of pictorial sins. After the initial 30 minutes of gameplay testing with Depths of Peril, one word repeatedly popped up into my mind though: chaos. My first steps out of the starting town location were greeted with a flurry of monsters, most of which seemed to be knocking seven shades of sun cream out of each other. No gentle, introductory steps to combat; no gradual increase in the enemy count. It was full-on, right from the start.
In amongst the maelstrom, like the collateral items in a tornado strike, were other players... err, hang on! This is a single player game, so what gives? Actually they were NPCs, masquerading almost as gamers in a MMORPG, fighting for the other covenants.
News: Depths of Peril v1.006 Patch Jan 14, 2008
News: Depths of Peril v1.003 Released Oct 31, 2007
News: Depths of Peril Interview Oct 12, 2007
News: Updated Depths of Peril Demo Sep 27, 2007
News: Depths of Peril v1.001 Released Sep 20, 2007