Krater, the new action RPG from small Swedish development studio Fatshark AB is a Pyramid Scheme salesman in a box. When you first meet, it's going to charm your pants off with its good looks, big promises and bullet-points that make so much sense that there's no way you can lose. It's not until after you've signed the check and you get home that you realize what you're really getting isn't all that it's cracked up to be.
"...could have been great but instead goes through the motions -- badly."
From the outset, Krater looks and feels like a great game. It's a cheap alternative to Diablo III and its restricting DRM that has turned off so many since launch. It's all wrapped up in a neat little package that makes it impossible to lose, but after spending some time with the game, it'll become evident that the developers didn't really know what makes a game like Diablo so special and has instead created a game that could have been great but instead goes through the motions -- badly.
Developed by Fatshark, who you may remember from Lead and Gold and Hamilton's Great Adventure; Krater places you in the shoes of a ragtag group of freelance explorers as they search for artifacts from previous generations in a post-apocalyptic world. The development team promises open-ended gameplay that causes players to react on the fly and even lose key players for good. These are all lofty goals for sure, and from the start it seems clear that the studio at least tries their damndest to meet them.
Krater sure looks impressive, and it never seems to fall into the same traps that a lot of post-apocalyptic set games do. The game's visuals pop with color, and never seems to be bogged down by the palette of grays and browns that seem to be the norm in games like this. For what it's worth, the game constantly employs settings that are surprisingly cool and refreshing to look at. The future isn't so bleak in the world of Krater -- even with all of the nuclear weapons and stuff.
"... the loot and the enemies you face off with are incredibly forgettable."
But visuals alone do not make a game, and that's where Krater begins to show just how thin of a product it really is. It's easiest to describe Krater like this -- it's Diablo without any of the ambition, heart or ideas. You'll dungeon crawl and use your mouse to attack and pick up loot -- at least that's how it's supposed to work. Nothing seems to have weight in Krater, not your moves or your mouse clicks -- everything seems so lackluster that it may as well not have happened. It also doesn't help that the loot and the enemies you face off with are incredibly forgettable. The game features a crafting system that is almost completely forgotten midway through the game.
The biggest problem with Krater though lies in something that the development team believe to be one of its greatest strengths. Throughout the game, you'll spend time developing your characters just as you would in every other RPG, but Krater often asks you to switch out your characters for a rotating cast of faceless heroes that won't have the same upgrades you've worked so hard for. This brings about obvious problems, as you're going to be constantly trying to go for the same upgrades, which means a lot of repetition and it gets aggravating.
I really wanted to love Krater -- and you will too. I wanted it to be the low cost alternative to Diablo that a lot of you really want, and in some ways, it is just that, but in others, it's not even close. Mechanics are broken and seem to be put in place just to limit the player. The game's creativity seems to be a mere overlay, and runs dry just as fast. It may seem tempting to jump the fence, but trust me, stick with Diablo.
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