Comprehensive dungeon delving may not seem like a natural fit for casual game enthusiasts. Regardless, WildTangent’s FATE proved the approach could work and blew the doors off traditional role-playing conventions when it debuted three years back. Given that the original was downloaded 4 million+ times, token follow-up FATE Undiscovered Realms was a given.
Subject to similar drawbacks, neither fans of the original nor newcomers should be worried, however. While long overdue, this latest sword-n-sorcery romp nonetheless retains and expands upon its predecessor’s most endearing qualities, making it a must-play for any armchair adventurer.
Having successfully conquered the evil which threatened the town of Grove in the original game, our intrepid hero – star of the monster-infested, maze-clearing saga alongside his intrepid, transformable pet – is quickly confronted by new intrigue.
As an amusingly-narrated intro explains, an old stranger soon arrives bearing news of a hidden temple filled with danger and treasure, plus prophecies which threaten the welfare of the realm’s innocent inhabitants. To wit, you must scour a variety of new townships, labyrinths and even worlds in search of the powerful Book of Fate, with a number of unexplored, elementally-themed lands (based on fire, ice, earth, water and primal chaos) yours to cleanse of darkness.
Cue a non-linear, transport hub-based journey through randomly-generated levels filled with tricks, traps and treasure, not to mention a host of vulgar beasties from spell-casting humanoid squids to living mushrooms, sentient insects and rotting cadavers.
If nothing else, the title does a stellar job of picking up right where its forerunner left off, delivering a host of new magic items; quests; characters; surroundings; and challenges to tackle. What’s more, you can even import previously-saved characters into the tale, which – despite giving you an unfair edge up-front – does help further the epic’s sense of continuity.
Still, newcomers won’t be at a loss either, as despite the wealth of material players must process (deciding which assignments to accept, arms/armor to equip, spells to keep in one’s magic book, statistics to upgrade as experiences levels are gained, etc.) – the action’s still purely mouse-driven.
So, even if it takes some time to master the concept of limited health/magic points; collectible fish that transform your sidekick into flame-spitting salamanders and lithe, lynx-like beasts; or hotkeys that let you activate healing effects or summon beasts on-demand, eventually everything comes naturally. A simple button press is all it takes to move, sprint to a nearby locale, swipe with axe or halberd and conjure up the odd lightning strike or stamina-restoring incantation on-command.
That being said, perhaps the outing’s greatest achievement is simply how it manages to cram yet more depth and detail into an already vast and open-ended odyssey while remaining so all-encompassing, yet effortlessly accessible.
And while still prone to growing ridiculously repetitive after a while; beholden to endless backtracking; and difficult, especially for those unfamiliar with Diablo or Dungeons & Dragons‘ basic conventions, this improved variety translates directly to more addictive play. Now, you won’t just explore stony corridors plagued by vampires and were-bulls, but damp, moist forest worlds or frost-choked caverns home to living trees and crystalline warriors in search of priceless artifacts.
Likewise, completing major tasks doesn’t merely involve slaying a particularly huge, screen-hogging monstrosity constructed from a pastiche of organic parts or animated stone adversary, but escorting allies or protecting targets from destruction.
So, although slave to standard genre conventions like clichéd plot twists, waves of similar foes that come washing over you at the worst possible time and formulaic quest generation, it’s hard to complain. Although more FATE v2.0 than proper sequel which pulls out all the stops, it’s just much more of what countless fans the world over already know and love.
Never mind that the sheer amount of depth and range of stunning 3D audiovisual effects on display here further leaves the average downloadable outing looking years outdated by comparison. To wit, competitors still remain mostly content to rely on simple mechanics, limited power-up or collectible item upgrades, occasional visual tricks, and rigidly-confined level structures.
The current contender instead operates multiple systems (i.e. combat, spell-casting, character growth, weapon customization and dynamic stage generation) in tandem, and does so in spectacular real-time fashion, no less. Go ahead… Let loose a ring of crackling flames; watch as your computer-controlled buddy strategically claws its way through opponents without user prompting; or summon a swarm of independently-thinking skeletons in to help on the fly, and try to tell us the experience comes anywhere near to what you’d see in the next closest rival with a straight face.
Too jam-packed with depth and excitement to chronicle in a single review, FATE: Undiscovered Realms more than delivers its fair share of excitement and charm. Just know that, despite suggested system requirements, you’ll need a burly PC to truly make the most of its capabilities, and ample patience to see the quest through. While we still hold out hope for a bar-raising sequel, let’s just say this in summation. Though unlikely to win over those repulsed by the original, such a superb second act is hard to disparage, and guaranteed to offer fantasy fans of all stripes legendary amounts of replay value. Take up sword and shield today, thank us later.