Under Review: Krater
by, 06-29-2012 at 09:14 AM (1551 Views)
Krater is a really cool game, but it isnít finished yet. Developer Fat Shark chose to release Krater even though it was lacking several its key features. They are rolling out updates consistently, however, and on July 10th, the final necessary piece of the game will come into being. That piece is multiplayer, and until I get my hands on it and see how it affects the game experience as a whole, I wonít be posting any kind of review. For now though I would like to offer up my personal thoughts on the game thus far because itís quite good and deserves some recognition.
Krater is a squad based, top-down dungeon crawler like Diablo and Torchlight and any other dungeon crawler you can think of. But the game has done a few cool things to set itself apart from the godfathers of the genre. Instead of giving you one character to control, the game gives you an entire squad to throw into combat. In this itís a lot like Dragon Age, only you canít stop the battle to pause and micro-manage your troops. Thatís okay in Krater because each squad member is only capable of firing off two permanent abilities and a changeable gadget, making three deployable attacks in all. You can control three characters at once, so at any given time you have 9 hotkeys to play around with. Combat is fun and quick and becomes challenging early on, even on the ďnormalĒ difficulty setting. This is a game that requires you to stay on those tactical toes of yours.
In addition to basic gameplay, Krater handles leveling up differently than most dungeon crawlers. Each character has two trees of empty slots. One tree is for implants and the other is for upgrades. The implant tree pertains to the character in question, and as you level up more and more slots will be unlocked. You can find, buy and craft implants to put in each slot. These implants permanently upgrade the stats of your character. Similarly, as you level more slots will open up on the upgrade tree, which affects your characterís preset abilities. Upgrades also come in the form of loot, and they can be purchased and crafted as well. Upgrades will permanently alter the abilities they are slotted to. This, in my opinion, really sets Krater apart. You have to be smart about your upgrades and implants because they will matter in the long run. Donít waste your slots; think tactically about what you want to boost and the game will reward you. Be careless with your leveling and soon enough the combat will engulf your squad all too easily.
While you can only control three squad-mates at once, the game has more than three classes. You can visit recruitment officers in the towns to buy more team members and promote your current team members so their level caps are increases. The promotion ability was rolled out with a recent update, and was not always a part of the game. Originally, early characters had fixed level caps, and reaching new major settlements meant buying a new team with higher level caps, grinding them to an equal or better state than your old team and then continuing your adventure. This was a fun way to manage your squad for some players, but not for everyone. By including the promotion update Fat Shark have made Krater a bit more accessible, and they havenít robbed their hardcore community of the option to do it the old way.
On top of all its neat-O innovations, Kraterís got a great look to it. The game was built entirely in DirectX 11 and the look and feel is polished and attractive. The art direction makes for a downright charming post-apocalyptic Sweden, and the glass-box world map is an especially nice touch. Moving around this delightful world is also a joy. As you progress, new areas of the map will open up to you. The developers built the map to change. A large chunk of the locations are hand-crafted and will come into play primarily in the story missions; the rest of the mapís locations are randomly generated, ensuring each play through is unique.
Right now itís too early to say if Krater will be a great success, but itís got a lot going for it. As developer Fat Shark keeps adding more polish and beneficial updates to the experience, we get close to a game that will truly deliver a challenging, unique experience. Even though the game remains somewhat incomplete at this time, it is available through steam at a fairly low price. My own review will be out sometime after the July 10th multiplayer update.