Gamesradar: Depths of Peril Review

By Kieron Gillen on May 6th, 2008 at 6:37 pm.

I die in a few seconds from this screenshot, but that's okay because I wasn't really trying.

Gamesradar decided to avoid going straight to the sexy and have repurposed my PC Gamer review of GameTunnel’s Indie RPG of 2007 and lobbed it online. I start like this…

At the time of writing, Iron Lore, makers of Titan Quest, have just gone bust. A THQ Creative Director put the blame pretty firmly at the feet of software piracy. While it’s easy to sympathise – there’s nothing funny in hundreds of thousands of people playing a game for free while its makers run into financial difficulties – you can’t help but think if Iron Lore had actually displayed even a fraction of the imagination this indie action-RPG does, they’d still be here today. With Depths of Peril, the only element in the game that doesn’t display vision and quiet confidence is its somewhat underwhelming name.

And continue for about 450 or so words. Some after-match editorial gubbins beneath the cut.

Well, kind of regret the opening, if only for a speaking ill of the dead fashion. Walker will jump in to give the other side, I’m sure, but I simply didn’t like Titan Quest and can barely remember anything about my ten or so hours with it. It’s theme a little. Something with the camera I liked. And… that’s it. But the truth is, the only way for a developer to actually make a real degree of money is to take a risk and try something new (The Sims, Half-life) or at least execute an idea something well which was never executed well before (World of Warcraft). Cloning one of the most polished games of its time, minus some of its better functions… well, it leaves nothing, not even memories.

Conversely, Depths of Peril is the sort of thing which you could wind me up and just let me jabber about indefinitely. This review, for a single page in PC Gamer, plays it straight to fit in the space, but it’s the sort of thing which would entirely support an Adventures of Violent Trevor-esque piece. It’s an enormously dense game in terms of strategic decisions – which is the thing which would alienate some RPGers – quests exist to be solved or destroy you rather than just existing as a means to get XP, as in most games. That ticking clock before a hero monster recruits a mob of fellows and then ends up leading a raid on a village… well, it’s putting you in a situation where the decisions have weight and meaning. It captures the sense of a besieged and beknighted settlement better than any other Action-RPG I’ve ever played.

My other reservation is I wish I’d used a different word than “Solid” to describe its mechanics. I was trying to imply that worksmanlike robustness of an RPG – not a criticism, but not a major recommendation either. But “Solid” implies “Polished” a little too much. It’s not hyperslick. It’s functional. And, with everything that Depths of Peril offers, it’s more than enough.

The demo’s lets you play up to level 7 and is 70Mb in size, and is available here. The full version’s available in the terribly fashionable digital download format.

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24 Comments »

  1. Pemptus says:

    Downloading from Reflexive as I write.
    I hunger for a decent Diablo clone.

  2. born2expire says:

    both Mythos and Titian Quest are great Diablo clones, and Titan Quest Gold is only $20 on Steam now.

  3. Lorc says:

    I think I tried to play this a little while back, when I was hungry for a Dablo 2.5. I didn’t get anywhere though – while I liked the sound of it, the actual game was impenetrable to me.

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    The learning curve *is* sharp.

    KG

  5. Rook says:

    It should probably be noted that Iron Lore themselves didn’t blame piracy for their downfall, but rather the uncertainty and mergers of publishers, and timing.
    http://www.gamebanshee.com/interviews/ironloreclosure1.php

  6. UncleLou says:

    Oh, unnecessary side blow at Iron Lore, especially when I bet millions will buy Diablo 3 which will be terrific, but not really anything new, either. Bu then I am an unashamed Titan Quest fanboy. :-)

    I tried the DoP demo a while back but thought they got all the basics so wrong (absolutely no flow to the combat, which is essential for this sort of game, for example) that I didn’t give it much of a chance, admittedly.

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    The second point of that argument is that when you’ve begat your own successful name at the top of its genre, you can ride it and make lots of money.

    C&C1 was massively innovative and made the name which sells C&Cs to this day, more than a similarly budgeted generic sci-fi RTS would.

    KG

  8. UncleLou says:

    That’s more of a commercial argument than something gamers *should* care for, though. In theory.

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    My argument was always a commercial one: it was about what you should do to maximise your chance not to go bust.

    KG

  10. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    And if that maximization winds up forcing you to be creative and make a damn good game, then that’s Darwin for you.

  11. UncleLou says:

    I suggest you tell that the former Clover-studios employees. ;-)

  12. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    I can perhaps see, if one isn’t a fan of the hack ‘n’ slash in general, why Titan Quest didn’t prove popular, but for me it was the ultimate refinement. Graphically LUSH (LUSH, note. The detail was incredible) and with some superb classes allowing for really good customisation. It also let you !change your mind! later in the game, by allowing you to move around your “talent” points or whatever they’re called, unlike in Diablo 2 where if you fucked up and put points in a redundant skill early on then you were screwed.

    So yeah, I understand not liking TQ, but I don’t get how people can like Diablo and not Titan Quest. I think it’s the best example of the genre yet. But I am of course in the minority here, as D2 still elicits mental amounts of praise, often from the same people who bash TQ.

    Anyway, on topic a bit more – hmmf, i’m with Lou on this one. The concept is BRILLIANT but the execution is flawed, combat just feels like you’re pressing a button, and I think when the only thing you’re doing is hacking and slashing you need to feel like you’re hacking and slashing.

    Genius idea though, so I will persevere a bit.

  13. UncleLou says:

    So yeah, I understand not liking TQ, but I don’t get how people can like Diablo and not Titan Quest. I think it’s the best example of the genre yet. But I am of course in the minority here, as D2 still elicits mental amounts of praise, often from the same people who bash TQ.

    Well yes, that’s what annoyed me a bit recently – people salivate over even the idea of Diablo 3 (including me), but it turns out many didn’t even try the *demo* of TQ.

    Really think TQ was a bit underrated, it was the only game in the genre in 8 or 9 years that’s even worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Diablo 2 – in a genre that didn’t even need much innovation, only someone to finally get it right again after all these years – and it got ignored by many just because it didn’t say Blizzard on the box.

  14. fluffy bunny says:

    “you can’t help but think if Iron Lore had actually displayed even a fraction of the imagination this indie action-RPG does, they’d still be here today.”

    Or more likely: They wouldn’t even have gotten a publishing deal, and would have gone bankrupt before ever releasing anything…

  15. Kieron Gillen says:

    Lou: Maximise isn’t guarantee, mores the pity.

    KG

  16. devlocke says:

    Does their webhosting completely suck or did you just generate so much traffic that it’s not working? The first few times I tried to download it, a few hours ago, I was getting a weird error. I’ve tried again twice in the last few minutes and both times it’s locked up and timed out after getting a few megs in. I really wanted to check it out, but I think I’m giving up for now. :)

  17. Chris Nahr says:

    First, thanks for the review of a game I wasn’t aware of.

    But your intro makes no sense. If the failure of TQ was in fact caused by excessive piracy (and I don’t know that it was but that’s the rhetorical assumption you make here) then the game cannot possibly have suffered from insufficient quality in the eyes of the public (specifically excluding Kieron Gillen), because otherwise people would not have bothered to pirate it. A game gets pirated widely because many people want to play it, not because it sucks. If it does suck the pirate audience will largely ignore it, just like everyone else.

    So either sales of a game are poor because of insufficient quality or because of excessive piracy, but never because of both at the same time. They’re mutually exclusive. Claiming otherwise is a common pirate excuse (“I only pirated because the game’s not worth the money!”) which is basically the software version of the old joke, “The food was terrible and the portions were too small.”

    Or did you mean to say you didn’t actually believe that TQ was widely pirated? I’m reading your intro as if you did believe that was the case.

    Besides, in the eyes of most people imagination is a completely optional aspect of a game’s quality. It’s not like the top-selling shooters are terribly original, for example. More likely it was TQ’s unusual historical setting that turned people off (i.e. *too much* unwanted originality), combined with some really ugly character art that made the game look as if it came from some Eastern European garage developer.

  18. Janto says:

    On originality, it’s interesting to compare this to the Tom Chick interview with Brian Reynolds about Rise of Legends featured in last weekend’s Sunday Papers where the lack of recognizable fantasy gubbins seems to have confused the slack-jawed gamer population.

    I’m very curious about this seeming navel-gazing. Why aren’t people bored with the same old stupid (and frankly, ethically dodgy) fantasy stereotypes? Why are some good games with fresh settings (Thief) successful while others (RoL) fail to catch people’s attention?

  19. calabi says:

    I played Titan Quest for me it was both too similar to Diablo and yet not different enough. It was too slow and didnt have the speed and huge numbers of enemies of Diablo. It was too easy to game, you could pick the enemies and lead them away, whereas Diablo the enemies would fly at you, and it was difficult to avoid being in the middle of a huge maelstrom of chaos. The story and creatures were boring and unoriginal, I know what monsters to expect in the greek mythology, whereas Diablo I still dont know what those little red things are at the beginning.

    This game sounds good to try out, and I would, except its stuck downloading at 9%.

  20. Kieron Gillen says:

    Devlocke: It may be us hammering the site. The demo’s also up on Gamer’s Hell.

    Chris: It was me noting that games that are genuinely awesome tend to actually not go bust as often while straight clones with nothing else tend to go bust more often. Piracy is always an excuse, because every company gets excessively pirated in the PC mainstream. Quality really doesn’t matter to pirates.

    Janto: Was thinking about this on the way back from town. I suspect the best way of introducing a more unsual fantasy world now to the players is to start small with an indie project and try and grow. Regarding Thief and RoL, it may be as simple as Thief’s unusual nature isn’t quite so much in your face. It’s steam-punk, sure, but not enormously so – it’s just a medieval city in a lot of ways.

    KG

  21. Morph says:

    Never played any Diablos (gasp!), but tried TQ and found it rather boring.

    Wander around to find some monsters, kill one or two before running away, then go make a cup of tea whilst your health regenerates. Over and over again.

    Are Diablo and Depths of Peril just the same formulas? In which case I think I’ll give them a miss.

  22. Ginger Yellow says:

    As a Diablo II lover and someone who found Titan Quest a bit meh, I’m really enjoying DoP so far. The dynamic quest and diplomacy aspects are a really good way to mix up the action and give it some meaning.

  23. Janto says:

    Kieron: True, Thief lures you in with the promise of being a thief and stealing stuff, then starts throwing in the weirdness, Zombies? Gas breathing lizards? Magicians? Pagan Gods? Wait, what?

  24. kcdrummer says:

    Late post but I have to comment. :)

    I have played through diablo 1 and diablo 2 multiple times, I really wanted to like Titan Quest but found it lacking in too many areas. For a couple of you that posted I will put it like this so you might understand.

    Diablo – Tons of atmosphere, TQ – not so much
    Diablo – Narrative that helps the game flow, TQ – pretty weak
    Diablo – the right amount of good loot drops to keep you wanting more, TQ – Total overkill with loot
    Diablo – Random map generation, TQ – I don’t think they had this
    Diablo – Easy party system through Battle Net, TQ – not so much
    Diablo – Music and sounds that really bring you into the game, TQ – Weak sounds/music