|Publisher:||WildTangent, Encore Software|
Ever since Diablo II took the PC action RPG market by storm, other games have been trying to copy it with varying degrees of success. Fate is one of the many, borrowing from this model. As I mentioned in a recent editorial, there are all kinds of games out there, from the cheapest of shovelware to the biggest, most expensive of premium titles. And as I said, in my mind, there's no shame in making a budget title like Fate. At least there's always a place in my gaming world for them.
Many action/RPGs are light on story and Fate is among the lightest I've ever played. There's an opening cutscene of static images and text that tells you about the village you'll call home and the dungeon where you'll do your adventuring, and that's the last time you'll see anything resembling a plot. At the end of that opening scene, you're given a randomly-generated final objective, consisting of a monster who needs killing and the level where you'll find it. In one game, my goal was to kill a Gryphoness named Rateater on level 40 of the dungeon. The next time around, I was after Kheldal the Overlord, a Dark Taurus on level 48. Once you've killed the requisite "end boss," you can keep on playing for as long as you want, or you can "retire." If you retire a character, you can't play him or her any more, but you can leave one piece of equipment to a new character as an inheritance, giving them a leg up from level one.
When you start the game, you choose your character's gender as well as their hairstyle and facial features (from a small selection), but you won't see anything about class. Instead, every time you level up, you get the traditional skill points that you'll use to increase your proficiency in whatever you see fit. There are skills in every type of weapon (swords, maces, bows, etc.), as well as in different categories of magic (attack, defense, and charm) and a few other miscellaneous things like dual-wielding and shield block rate. On the downside, the only abilities you can "cast" are magic spells, so if you go the barbarian route and specialize in weaponry to the exclusion of magic, you will spend the whole game mashing your left mouse button. I gravitated fairly quickly toward being a bow-using summoner of beasts (summons fall under charm magic), but there are definitely quite a few character builds that will allow you to survive, even if the build you choose makes the game repetitive and boring.
When you start a new character, you'll also pick between a pet cat or dog, but your choice doesn't affect the game in any way, so just choose the animal you prefer in life. Either way, your pet will travel along with you wherever you go, attacking your enemies and leveling up. The best thing about pets, though, is that they have their own inventory, and when it's full, you can send them back to town to sell everything they're carrying. It makes a huge difference in the tedium of transforming your copious amounts of loot into cash. As you travel through the dungeons, you'll occasionally run across fishing spots where you will haul up fish as well as the occasional gem or magical item. Items are cool, but the fish are the real treasure here, as feeding them to your pet will transform it into another, more powerful animal. I started out with a cat, but before I beat that final monster, I was running around with an evil unicorn. Exactly the dream of RPG players from the dawn of the genre. (Or was that just me?)
One last thing in the gameplay department that I felt was worth mentioning: this game's pretty fair with both magic and weapons. You'll find enemies that can cast any spell you can learn to cast, and I'm here to tell you that fair is sometimes annoying. On the weapon front, any enemy who carries one is going to drop it. The reason I like this is that if someone is kicking your tail with their awesome sword, you know that once you finish them off, you're getting an awesome new sword.
Although it's several years old at this point, Fate still looks pretty good. It's a cute, cartoony game unlike many in the genre, and the developers did a nice job with it. Magic spells have detailed, unique visual effects, and if you've been cursed, you'll just have to look at your character to know what hit you. As you travel through the randomly-generated dungeons, you'll pass through three or four different types of environment (lava pools with fishing spots always cracked me up), which is enough to keep things from feeling stale, but it will only take you 10 floors or so before you will be able to immediately recognize what type you've just entered.
As I do so often, I played a lot of this game with the sound off, and I can honestly say that I missed out on very little, if anything. The sound effects are solid, but my cat was far too vocal for my tastes, always meowing or yowling. Maybe I got a cat in heat... The music was simple and uninspiring as well. Aside from the cat, there really wasn't anything wrong with the sound, but there wasn't anything that made me feel like listening was important.
Controls in Fate are intuitive for anyone who's played a game like Diablo II, and the developers did a good job of including logical actions for your pet without making them difficult to use. Essentially, if you want to have your pet do something, hold Shift and press the same button you'd always use. Your pet can even pick up items, and if you visit a merchant with your pet, you can buy and sell items directly from your pet's inventory, rather than having to transfer things to yourself first, which is really nice.
In the final analysis, I can easily say that I enjoyed Fate. If you've got a relatively new computer, you can probably do better with games like Torchlight. However, if you have an older system but still want an action/RPG on the PC, and you come across a cheap copy of Fate, give it a shot.