Depths of Peril
"Ugh, another isometric RPG," I thought as I set up my character and game options. But after just 20 minutes in, I could tell that my assumption was wrong, and that I'd stumbled onto something special. Developed by Soldak Entertainment, Depths of Peril is an action-RPG with a huge emphasis on political/diplomatic strategy. As you've probably already noticed from the first screenshot; yes, it is another Diablo-inspired RPG. But instead of being one of the dozens of bland, derivative clones we've seen over the years, Depths of Peril kept the best elements of these games and combined it with strategy mechanics similar to Civilization. The end result is something new and fresh; an independent, isometric action-RPG unlike anything I've played before, which also won the "RPG Game of the Year" award from GameTunnel.
Although the strategy aspects make this game extraordinary, the old-school, tried-and-true RPG elements are just as noteworthy. There are four classes to choose from: your faithful warrior, rogue, mage and priest. The mechanics of each class are just the first of many indications that the developers heavily drew from Diablo and World of Warcraft for influence. Warriors use "rage" as a resource pool just as a Mage uses mana. Rogues use "momentum" and Priests use "faith," which is basically the same as mana. Fans of the aforementioned Blizzard games will find this strikingly familiar, as well as the color-coded item rarity system, weapon and armor attributes, skill trees and more. The entire action-RPG system in Depths of Peril screams of Diablo influence, which isn't really a bad thing considering the trend-setting success it had in gaming culture.
Also familiar are the layout and controls, all of which follow the modern-day standard of mouse-click movement and interaction. You can access various menus by clicking their respective interface buttons, or by using the keyboard shortcuts. Left clicks control common actions like movement and interaction, while the right mouse button is used to attack enemies and execute less-common interactions. If you're a seasoned RPG player, you'll find the learning curve to be pretty smooth, with a look and feel similar to most other isometric RPGs.
Where that similarity ends is in the strategy aspect of the game, which I'd describe as a "single player, smaller MMORPG." Yeah, I realize that phrase contradicts itself in more than one way, but let me explain: Depths of Peril is a single player game, although you'll be playing with up to six other "players" just like yourself, controlled by the game's AI. These players (including yourself) are "faction" leaders, which you could think of as guild leaders. All the faction leaders have houses in the main town of Jorvik, a settlement surrounded by the hostile forces that make up the story and questlines of the game. The game world isn't as big and sprawling as some other RPGs, but there are a nice variety of zones in which you'll follow the central storyline and be able to take on side-quests.
The kicker is that Jorvik is a "living town," which means that your fellow faction leaders will be running around completing quests, trading goods and vying for power at the same time you are. Random world events will pop up from time to time, ultimately having positive or negative effects on you and the other faction leaders. The balance of power is the core mechanic of the game, which eventually dictates whether you win or lose the game. Your goal (and the goal of the other leaders) is to become the most powerful faction in the game, whether by influence or by force. It's an ongoing battle for supremacy by gathering recruits, money and power, while at the same time playing a quest-driven, loot-gathering, action-RPG.
The strategy aspect of the game is surprisingly detailed, but not so complex as to require a distracting amount of micro-managing. You can recruit NPCs into your faction to bolster your ranks and even take one of them along with you to complete quests. Opening lines of communication and trade with other factions can be paramount to your survival. Without allies — or at least non-aggression pacts — you'll be leaving yourself weak and vulnerable to attack from another faction, which is something that can happen at any time. These attacks are called "raids," and are ultimately how you take out opposing factions and can win the game. Buying guards and enchanted monsters to protect your lifestone (a stone in each faction house that represents its overall health) is important to prevent over-zealous leaders from destroying your faction.
Analysis: Even a write-up that's double the size of our average game review would only just scratch the surface of all the game details in Depths of Peril. To that end, you're better off checking out the official Depths of Peril game manual (notice more helpful links on the left button column).
More importantly, right now you might still be debating whether it's worth downloading the demo, and to that end, I'd urge you to try it out. Thankfully the developers offer a two-hour demo, which really gives players the time they need to decide if it's worth buying. If you're an RPG fan, you really owe it to yourself to check this game out. Sure, the graphics and sound aren't mind-blowing, but they're pretty good from an indie developer. Total play time isn't on par with the majors either; it's not a game that's going to take weeks to finish. At an aggressive pace you're probably looking at around three hours of playtime, or up to eight hours at a normal pace.
But as a casual RPG, Depths of Peril has a lot of replay value because every game is different. Your fellow faction leaders will never behave exactly the same way twice, and there are different quests, adventures and monsters to fight in each new game. There's also the infamous "addictive loot factor," as you find rare and legendary gear, and even collect unique armor sets. Loot can even be shared between multiple characters in the same game via a "shared stash" mechanic.
Depths of Peril takes the best features of the classic genre and adds an innovative, strategic twist that many gamers won't be able to resist. It's also a great offline alternative for RPG fans who are intrigued by the strategy of MMORPG's, but have never played one.