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“A recent rumour has it that a certain cave at the edge of the woods guards an unfathomable treasure. While a handful of intrepid adventurers have ventured into the cave already, none have returned. You on the other hand, know you’re different, and something draws you to these caverns. Undeterred by the potential danger, you set out by caravan to investigate…”
And that’s the story of Vagante. It’s not much but then then this game doesn’t want to spoon feed you an RPG adventure, it wants you to create your own epic tales of dungeon delving. Many of these hunts for treasure and glory will end bloodily for you but if all of the above sounds like your kind of game then read on fellow adventurer.
Death comes often in the 16 bit world of Vagante. As you travel through the cave networks in search of treasure your untimely end could come from falling on spikes, being crushed by a boulder, char-grilled by a dragon or chopped to pieces by goblins. The list of ways to leave this mortal plain is long and varied.
If you were thinking that you might be able to learn where the enemies and traps are for your next attempt I have to burst your bubble. Each level of Vegante is randomly generated every time you start it. With no two games ever being quite the same Vagante does not allow you to get complacent. If I had to offer one bit of advice when playing this game it would be to look before you leap… or do anything at all. The number of times that I started an adventure, took one step and was squished by a boulder or fallen straight onto some spikes is frankly embarrassing; but was still fun. I got similar vibes when playing Spelunky and the similarities between the two games are there for all to see.
My first attempt at this game was with a friend. Together we set off to explore the dungeon and together we screamed and shouted as we were torn apart by the various trap and monsters we encountered. Our first few attempts didn’t last very long but slowly we learnt what to do in certain situations and even made it out of the first floor on a few occasions. All the time we were experiencing a mixture of intense frustration and joy as we inched through the game. Having a partner or three makes this game a very enjoyable experience and a bit easier when taking on the various mini-bosses that spring up. Sadly its only local multiplayer so you’ll have to actually get your friends all in one spot to play together.
Right from the start you are given the usual character class choices. Warrior, Mage and Rogue all have their strengths and weaknesses and if you can get a few friends together to play at the same time you will find that their skills complement each other nicely.
Moving through the levels your character will level up and allow you to increase their basic statistics or class specific skills. Mages for example can be levelled up so that they know what each potion will do before they drink it; Very useful if you don’t want to poison yourself. Knights on the other hand can learn to block incoming attacks, helping keep themselves and other adventurers alive in the process.
Difficult as the game may be, the developers have filled the levels with chests and crates full of useful items to assist you on your quest. Potions, spell books, magic scrolls, weapons and armour can all be found as you explore. Most of which will not say exactly what they do. This item lottery can really work in your favour one time (A jelly cap that stops boulders crushing you) or it can make your quest 100% harder (a Tunic that gives you extra health but makes you very slow or weak).
If you prefer to know what you’re getting yourself into you can visit stores to purchase equipment with the gold you have collated on your adventure. Just be careful not to accidentally attack the shopkeeper, he does not respond well to being hit.
In the end it was the thought of finding new items that might help me advance further that kept me coming back to try again.
It’s important to remember that this is an early access game. The version that I have been playing to write this review has been stable and I’ve not experienced any bugs or glitches. That said several elements of the game still require balancing and tweaking. Some of the default controls didn’t feel natural to me so resulted in a longer than usual amount of time getting used to the controls. Occasionally I would also be advised that I was killed by ‘Mysterious_Force’ when it was quite clear I’d been killed by one of the enemies or traps which had previously had a name.
Early access games have come under a lot of fire over the last 12 months and in many cases it’s been justified. Vagante appears to be stable and does not seem to have the usual technical issues of an alpha build that you might have come to expect. A little fine tuning and this game will be ready for the masses.
A Lack of plot or story doesn’t detract from the fact this game is a lot of fun. Playing by yourself is a good fun but getting some questing companions together really brings out the best this game has to offer. Collecting items and spells keeps each run through fresh, as do the randomly generated dungeon layouts. A very solid alpha worth checking out.
- Rewarding gameplay
- Local multiplayer is a blast
- Cool 18 bit visual style
- Lack of story
- Still requires some fine tuning
- Missing online multiplayer
- Brutally tough