Ah, Diablo, Diablo, Diablo: Will any game match your greatness? Probably not, at least without BattleNet. Still, developers keep on trying, and the latest attempt deposited on my desk is The Chosen: Well of Souls.
Within a few seconds of loading up, I couldn’t help but worry. The voice acting here is frightful; everyone sounds like they’re on Valium. Such a tone could work at some points in some games (cf. BioShock), but the storyline is along the lines of “demons are slaughtering everyone,” so the occasional sense of excitement would have been nice. I honestly thought there was some sort of joke the first few times I heard a voice-over, but the whole game plays like that. I honestly think these lines could be given by computerized voice generators, every line was presented with such a startling lack of emotion.
Granted, this genre isn’t about voice acting, anyway – it’s about gaining levels, bashing monsters, and finding suitably impressive beating sticks to facilitate the gaining of levels and the bashing of monsters, with maybe a pinch of story about beating some bad guy tossed in.
Gaining levels is weak. You have a choice of three boring characters, along the lines of wizard, warrior, and rogue (with a bit of crossover): not original stuff. Their skill trees are markedly unimpressive. Many skills are balanced in an unappealing way, such as causing you to deal less damage while simultaneously taking less damage. (That’s what I want in a hero, an ability that cancels itself out.) Bottom line, the skills are all dull, and, as you can see all that your character can become as soon as you get into the game, it detracts a bit. Leveling up is no fun if all it means is an extra +2 % chance of dealing an extra +10% damage – and that’s a good skill.
The only new idea in the game is a player can now have 3 skills up at once, offensive, defensive, and “other.” It’s a neat idea, especially since passive skills are few, and is an idea that really needs exploration – perhaps a way to automatically use all the skills at once that you’ve worked so hard to get. Maybe someday a developer will figure out a way.
"The only new idea in the game is a player can now have 3 skills up at once..."
Bashing monsters likewise leaves much to be desired. You do get a choice of followers, a melee-heavy golem, or a spell-flinging faerie thing. They help a little, but combat just doesn’t have the fun of other games, it’s more difficult than it needs to be to click on monsters so you can bash them. Often you’ll find your character more or less wandering in circles while the horde (which has no difficulty finding your character) pecks away at your hopeless adventurer.
Amazingly enough, it’s the loot system that disappoints the most. There really isn’t enough gold in the game. You’ll need tons of health potions, repairing armor is pricey, and raising your helpers runs 500 GP a pop, too. I have to admit, with so many games in this genre being far too liberal with the gold, this is a change of pace. On the other hand, I’d really like some interesting loot, which is rare, rare, rare, and if it’s a weapon, I can’t scrape together enough money to repair the thing.
One new form of loot is the gun. We’re not talking your 15th century harquebus here, but instead full on colt revolvers, rifles, and even machineguns. It’s a neat idea, but they’re under-powered, and things close to melee quickly enough that they serve no real purpose other than being a unique thing. Ammo is unlimited, at least, so a player can experiment for a little while before getting bored with them, too.
There’s also a “magic cauldron” that allows the player to craft her own items. The thing is stupid-expensive to use, a real problem in a game with a gold shortage, and, from what little I’ve seen, doesn’t have much more to offer than what you can find elsewhere in the game.
The story is a little confusing. There’s some sort of big bad guy to beat, and there’s a school of alchemists that is dedicated to beating him. As far as quests, I quote the official description here: “over 12 blood-curdling quests.” I’m sorry, I have to do that again: “over 12.” Twelve is not a big number; couldn’t they just count out how many? I might have missed a few, but I’ll put the exact number at 13, just to not be argumentative. The point: there aren’t nearly enough quests, and they do nothing drive the storyline. Such quests as exist are based primarily around the alchemists and their desire to stop the evil arch-mage. They’re very dedicated, and even let the player teleport to their lair at any time – a great escape button. Alas, they’re not so dedicated as to give an adventurer a break on costs, no matter how likely the world is to be destroyed if they can’t at least repair his bloody equipment.
"...there aren’t nearly enough quests..."
This is a weak game, and that’s all there is to it. Anyone looking to create their own Diablo-clone should take a peek just to see how to do things wrong, but most everyone else can safely pursue their hobby of being a gamer and still avoid this forgettable toy.
+ Low price.
+ A few minor new ideas.
- Lots of old ideas, poorly implemented.
- Inspirationally bad voice acting.
- No replay value.