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Elminage Gothic (PC) artwork

Elminage Gothic (PC) review

"A getting lost simulator. Now with extra homicidal chickens."

So, this is just a pre-warning; in a bit, Iím going to start talking about stat rolls and class perks and, at some point, Iím probably going to complain about THAC0. Because why is that still a thing? There will also be race bonuses, counterproductive weapon accuracy ratings, job classes that depend on good/evil alignment and the inability to mix the two in a party. Maybe a bit of cross-class training and the need for hours upon hours of patient exploration and grinding that, should you overdo it, your character might just permanently die of old age, anyway. Does this all sound like hell to you? Then Elminage Gothic almost certainly isnít the game youíre looking for.

Heavily based in a kind of customised D&D lore, Elminage Gothic also follows the same path as the Wizardry series in more ways than one. Thereís an overall narrative stringing the game together, but the focus is on exploring monster-filled labyrinths designed by people who clearly want you to die multiple frustrating deaths while wandering around lost. This isnít a new modern slant of the genre; people familiar with Etrian Odysseyís slightly kinder attempts to reboot the series will find a game that largely ignores trying to give you any semblance of help. Thereís no auto-mapping outside of a consumable item that vanishes the second you use it, perma-death lurks around every corner and if you want to make the most of what your party of six can accomplish, you better read that thirty page plus manual,

I, of course, did no such thing. Ignoring the ready made group waiting for me in the opening townís tavern, I rolled stats for my own gang including burly werebeast fighters, study dwarf clerics and lumpy gnome thieves. I scoffed mightily at the retreating party you meet at the very entrance of the gameís tutorial cave, opened two doors, rounded a corner, and was effortlessly wiped out by a band of giant roving dodos.

Elminage Gothic is unforgiving like that. Just getting your stats high enough to register a decent chance at landing a blow is a challenge and the possibility of facing the wrong group of monsters at the wrong time is always possible. Learning from my hot-headed mistakes, I wiped my worthless team of corpses, and started again. My thief became a dragonnewt so it could spit flame breath from the back row. I spent a lot more time fiddling with equipment to give my party a chance of surviving and totally didnít forget that levelling up D&D style meant reaching the required experience cap then sleeping somewhere -- that would a ridiculously schoolboy error that would have me wandering around for hours wondering why I wasnít getting any stronger. Feeling a bit smug after a few hours of travelling, I approached a globe of light curious to see what would happen next. I was promptly assaulted by nightmare fuel.

This was the starting point of a quest which, upon completion, granted me a pair of sturdy leather shoes.

Soon, the odd zombie dog and homicidal chicken became pedestrian worries in the face of ninja platoons that could one-hit kill party members of choice with a swift beheading and aggravating spectres that are impossible to harm through conventional attacks. Back to the church you go to pay a hefty price to raise your team-mate from the grave, then slope on back to have magic points devoured by trapped chests, or get poisoned by two headed vipers. In the meanwhile, thieves slowly learn how to disarm and steal equipment from unwary foes, while summoners can start playing around with contracting enemy monsters to fight on your side. Alchemists drop debuffs in dungeons and craft new equipment in labs. Mysterious loot needs identifying and sold off in bulk, herbs needs combining and ore needs to be smithed into existing equips. Slowly, you plod your way through labyrinth after labyrinth, courting demons and insects and ghouls. Trying to pretend you know where youíre going and hoping you have enough magic maps to find your way back out.

Every few years we get the chance to talk about how first person dungeon exploration games have not been forgotten and how some new title has come along to champion them again. Elminage Gothic isnít strictly new; itís a solid port from a Japan-only PSP release that has left some features on the editing floor. Customisable portraits and sound clips would have been an appreciated touch, letting you save the kingdom with anime schoolgirls and transformers at will, but that the gameís found its way to English speaking shores should make a certain niche market extremely happy. Or very frustrated. Or very lost. Or at least very frustrated and annoyed in ways that are probably new to them. If they donít speak Japanese. Or import PSP titles. Iíll stop now.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (September 29, 2014)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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