Just Browsing: RPGs While you wait to log-on
Some fool gave me the task of reviewing Diablo III recently. They did not consider that petty server issues and error messages are the bane of my existence. That fool may have been me, but that fact is irrelevant. In order for me to survive this extreme suffering I have had to revert back to the stable and reliable world of browser gaming to sustain me. Fortunately there have been some superb RPGs (albeit turn-based) released in recent weeks that can stand shoulder to shoulder (well maybe waist) with the likes of AAA giants such as Diablo. No error messages here - just plain old fun.
Monster’s Den Chronicles by Monstrum Games
Monster’s Den Chronicles is pure statistical / tactical pleasure. It is dungeon crawling at its dirty, virulent, basic level and because of that it is insanely enjoyable. You create a team of four adventures (with a dizzying amount of personalisation for a free browser game), then begin your quest into the depths. Instantly clicking around the dungeon, the arduous task of running around empty areas is removed. Find gold, pick up gold, find equipment, equip equipment, find monster, attack monster. The whole experience is so streamlined and efficient, it could run its own database company and still have time to play golf.
Monster’s Den Chronicles has clearly benefitted from being a sequel to the superb Monster’s Den Book Of Dread. Every little niggle that was found in the prequel has been ironed out, leaving a completely smooth and worryingly additive game. Your heroes will give you advice on whether a new weapon is better for them, or the UI will highlight who would benefit the most from using it. As you venture further into the impenetrable depths the strategic turn based battles, that follow a similar line to JRPGs, become more and more intense and deliberate as your heroes gain a huge array of skills. There is definitely hours of time that can be whiled away with this little gem, waiting for that error message to disappear. Hell, you may even forget that was what you were meant to be doing with your computer...
Immortal Empire by Tactic Studios
Normally the idea of ‘freemium’ multiplayer RPGs fill me with an overwhelming sense of dread. Similar to that feeling you get when you realise you have poured out of date milk into your wonderful cup of tea. Normally this is because the game hooks you in early, then suddenly crashes you into a brick wall as you realise you must spend real money to progress, or slave away for hours, if not days, to achieve the same result. Immortal Empire, a party-turn-based RPG somehow avoids that trap. Sure, it has freemium content, but none of it really gets in the way of the actual game.
For a free(ish) game, the plot is surprisingly deep. It even goes so far as to have character tree conversations with responses that affect your stats in the game. The gameplay, which perhaps can be compared to Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre, is very entertaining. The learning curve also bends at the perfect rate, with more characters to control and skills to use as you progress. One of the most interesting parts of Immortal Empire is the multiplayer element. Essentially you can play any map in an open cooperative format, and players can simply join in to help others at random, and yes there is a PvP mode as well, if you're into all that. And due to a very efficient and simple control scheme the players’ turns never live out their welcome. Immortal Empire is certainly one to check out, if team-turn-based tactical RPGs (that is a mouthful) take your fancy. One word of warning however, I was once kicked out of the server for losing connection during a game... and lost my progress for that level. Those that suffer from Diablo Induced Stress syndrome may wish to proceed with caution...