Shadows over solside.
With Krater, Fatshark are jumping into the always growing Dungeon Crawler Action-RPG genre, but are doing things a little bit differently than what you’re used to. The question is whether or not its mix of Strategy, RPG and Hack and Slash gameplay mechanics succeed, or do they make you a little homesick for your favorite loot-filled Dungeon Crawler?
Krater takes place in a post-apocalyptic Sweden after nuclear bombs have wiped out billions of Earth’s inhabitants, leaving a giant Krater in its wake. This is where Humanity has decided to rebuild, with multiple factions fighting over an opening to deep within Earth, where treasures of the past await. You will control a group of three treasure hunters who have travelled to the Krater looking for adventure and valuable artifacts from the world we once knew.
As I mentioned in the opening of this review, Krater does some things differently than other Dungeon Crawlers you may have played before. To start with, the controls are a mix of Hack and Slash and Strategy, as you can highlight and select all three members of your party or you can just select one of them and command them as you wish while the other two hang back where you left them. It didn’t come up very often that I only wanted to take one character with me, but it’s there if you wanted to send them off in different directions while you explore. It’s not something I would recommend doing early in the game, but once you get some high level characters it’s not as bad. It’s also useful to be able to select only one character by using their icon on the left of the screen if they get separated from the group and you can’t find them on the map.
Having the view and camera controls set up like a Strategy game is great, as you can look around the area you are in without moving your characters, but it also creates a few problems. To start with, the free view can stick and not let you move past where you characters are quite often, which gets really annoying. The other problem with the camera controls is that while you can select an NPC, and your characters will move to them, you can’t have them move to a pile of loot or chest by selecting it. You have to select the ground next to it and then click on the chest to have them open it. It’s a minor issue, but with a game filled with loot it’s noticeable very quickly.
Being an Action-RPG, your characters will earn experience and level up, although the level cap is currently at 15 and you can reach that fairly quick. Another example of Krater doing things differently is with the abilities. Each of the four classes (Bruiser, Medikus, Slayer and Regulator) in the game have two special abilities at the start of the game, and the same two abilities at the end of the game. This is one the things that I liked least about Krater, and I really wish there were new abilities to learn. That being said, the abilities that are there are decent, but it’s unfortunate that you can’t ever learn any new ones.
Krater may limit the character progression with the abilities, but it opens things up a little with implants and boosters, which you can insert into open slots on your character as you level up and unlock them. These can be found mixed in with the loot of fallen enemies, crafted by finding the required materials or bought at shops around the world. Implants can be used to increase your character stats such as Strength, Stamina and Intelligence, whereas boosters will increase your ability stats. You may not find any new abilities, but at least you can improve the ones you have. By equipping a Gadget, such as the Zapper which gives you a powerful long-range attack or the First Aid Kit which provides instant healing to the character, I guess it’s fair to say that each character has three abilities, but you can’t improve a Gadget, only find a new one.
Since Krater is a squad-based game, you will always have three members in your active party, but you don’t always have to keep the same ones though, as you can recruit new characters to join your party. This is more important when you play on the higher difficulties because on those your character will sustain injuries as they get knocked down and can eventually die, so you will then have to bring in a new member to your party. Some injuries can be healed by visiting a Doctor in one of the towns, but some are permanent and if you get too many that character is gone forever. It’s another interesting gameplay feature that I think will be divided by gamers who like the challenge and those who find it annoying to have to start levelling up another character after dedicating so much time on one already.
One of the big selling points of Krater is its size and scope, with over 200+ quests, 60+ locations and randomized dungeons and events. It’s a big game and will keep you busy for quite a while. Adding to the size of the game are random encounters while you are travelling on the world map, which resembles one you may find in an old Final Fantasy game. When you leave a town you will enter the world map and are free to roam around and explore from a zoomed out state. As you explore you will encounter areas that are populated by enemies, and at that point the map zooms back in and you are free to explore that area for loot and fight any enemies that you find. It’s an interesting feature and another reason why Krater isn’t just another run of the mill Dungeon Crawler.
Krater does not feature any multiplayer or cooperative modes, for now anyway. Fatshark are planning on releasing free expansions that will add both cooperative and PVP content. This doesn’t factor into the review score but it’s good to know they are planning on adding more content to the game, and that it’s going to be free!
Fans of Dungeon Crawling Action-RPG’s will find plenty to enjoy in Krater, with its endless exploration and tons of loot around every corner, but some of the things it does differently such as the lack of new abilities and the low-level cap may cause you to grow tired of it quicker than you may like. If you can look past some its technical issues, you will find that most of Krater’s risks pay off and that it’s more than just another Diablo clone.