Mazes of Fate
With Mazes of Fate, you’re getting exactly what the title indicates. Well, not so much with the Fate thing, but this game is all about dungeon crawling through mazes. And I mean massive mazes. The enormousness of the game’s dungeons and hideouts and passages prove to be a positive when travelling with this game; it’s easy to get happily lost in some subterranean area and before you know it, hours have gone by during that tedious flight to Alaska. However it’s a bit more likely that you’ll get swallowed up uncomfortably by MoF and the bigness and banality will together conspire to elicit the ‘flee’ response from you.
MoF has a grand story of course, telling of mankind’s greed and other sins against God, and of hatred nurtured between us and a race of goatmen. I can’t say that the tale did anything for me other than give me a chuckle at the word ‘goatmen’, but it could be that fantasy fans live for this stuff. In any case, there are three characters to choose from: the male fighter, the female fighter, and of course, the obligatory mage character. The mage is the guy who is usually good with magic. The others aren’t so hot at it, but they make up for it with superior swashbuckling skills.
If MoF strikes as you as by-the-numbers so far, you’re not alone; most everything about the MoF experience bespoke cliché to me. Everything that is, except for the game’s 80’s feel–something the programmers clearly aimed for with some amount of love and reverence. So take note that if you were born in the late 80’s onward, this game isn’t your brand of RPG. It’s an old man’s, old school, first person dungeon crawler. And in those dungeons, where you spend most of your time, you’re allowed to move one block at a time–that’s all. Accordingly, and somewhat disappointingly (throwback attempt notwithstanding), enemies show off only one frame of animation per block as well. When you track their progress toward your position, you’ll see their ‘side view’ dragged along until they reach a point directly in front of you, at which time they flip to their ‘front view’.
While I appreciate any homage paid to games of olde, especially given my date of birth, logical updates are preferred to copying and pasting technical limitations over a 20-year span. So, even MoF’s plusses are marred by minuses in close proximity, to ultimately arrive at mediocrity.
Graphics are another issue demonstrative of this. Some characters are sharply realized, especially those meant to be on the larger and more menacing side, while others, such as the goatmen, are equally badly drawn and coloured. Besides their mostly unspectacular appearance, enemies present even greater problems in the way you must interact with them.
I was pleased to find that you engage foes in real-time, necessitating running into them to be given the option to attack, use magic, or use items. But strangely enough, an inordinate amount of your attacks will be met with a “MISS!” declaration on the screen. Stranger still, often to the point where you may find yourself laughing, your enemies will miss as regularly as you do, setting the scene for scores of MISS-MISS-MISS-MISS exchanges, and making things quite a bit more time and patience-consuming than need be.
At least MoF is easy to get into, furnishing the player with plenty of quests and side-quests for the checklist-happy RPG fan. A questlog actually keeps track of what you’re working on at any given time, automatically removing tasks as they are completed. From ridding an old woman’s basement of rats to collecting obscure ingredients in order to gain entrance to much grander destinations, the sense of satisfaction that task completion awards you in this game is its saving grace.
And MoF also offers welcome touches such as allowing saves anywhere and anytime, providing new (although random) additions to your group (should you choose to accept them), catchy and suitable adventuring music, and an engrossing dungeon-exploring experience–the latter being a boon to otherwise generic gameplay, appreciated when it’s not toppling over the precipice into the realm of overwhelming.