Undercroft Hands-On Preview

Besides starting with a slain king and ancient curse like in most RPGs, Undercroft’s journey also begins with a more humble first step: a bar bet. After a few too many swigs of orkish brandy and ale, your character bets that he can bring back treasure from the king’s haunted tomb. The next day, you wake up hungover and in jail, and your first quest is to rescue a half dozen chickens.

The amusing storytelling is just one aspect that we’re really enjoying in our early beta build of Undercroft. The other great aspect is the in-depth, loot-heavy, character-outfitting mechanics. Your characters can choose one of five different classes at the beginning: warrior, mage, priest, summoner, and assassin, and each has particular weapons and items they can and can’t use. For example, a priest won’t be able to throw knives, and a warrior can’t wear certain enchanted cloaks.

Once you’ve made up a party of up to four characters, the story begins. You start in the town of Dunghill, collecting six chickens that you’ve scattered about the night before. One can be found in the garden of a blacksmith with a giant worm problem, others are located in the rat-infested cellar of a nearby tavern. These early quests give you a chance to get used to the basic exploring, quest-taking, and monster-slaying. Oh, and lots and lots of inventory management.

Instead of a typical dungeon crawler, most of Undercroft is spent in the great outdoors. However, the environments are pretty maze-like, surrounded on all sides by trees and boulders. You’ll find a lot of intricate little side-quests along the way, like knocking out a rabid dog to return him to his owner, and a few environmental puzzles as well. One that we don’t mind spoiling is that when you come across a shrine to the god of the dead, and offer it some skulls, you’ll gain a few experience points.

We can already tell that Undercroft is going to be the type of game that sends people scrambling for help online, typing questions like “How do I unlock the treasure room in the second tomb?” into Google. We also expect everyone to have a unique experience due to their own choice of characters, clothing, weapons, and skills.

The iPhone could use a really solid RPG, one that’s about as hardcore and addictive as possible, and we think Undercroft might be that game. We’ve already developed a habit of clicking around, collecting loot, and counting our gold. There are a hundred different ways you can get snared on a game like this. Maybe you just won’t go to sleep until your warrior’s wearing a magical furry hat that glows red. But in the end, a game like this will always win out for your time and attention, so be warned!

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