I’ve somehow been bitten by the dungeon-crawling bug lately. Maybe it’s because Diablo II recently had its disc-checks removed. Though I only played the game long enough to verify that the CD-check is indeed gone, I’ve somehow managed to lose large tracts of time to two other games in the same vein at roughly the same time, Baroque and Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon.
Baroque is something of a train wreck of a game. You play as this silent protagonist whose actions somehow brought about the end of the world. You have to travel to the bottom of this massive tower in order to unravel the mystery. There are some other characters in the game, both inside and outside of the dungeon, and they give you clues, but they’re neither coherent or clueful. So you just kind of wander around trying to figure out what in the world you’re supposed to be doing, because the game doesn’t really tell you other than ‘go into the tower, get to the bottom’. So you go along and go into the tower, fighting enemies until you run out of health. Run out of health and you leave the tower, all the experience points/level ups you got are gone, as is any weaponry or armor or special items you may have found. Essentially, it’s like the game just gives you a giant middle-finger when you die. Oh, but you can send items back to the start, so that if you do die (and you will) you can grab them and start anew with stronger stuff and last a little longer before you die again. Problem is, though, that you can send a pathetically small number of items back to the start. ‘Pathetically small’ in this case meaning four. Four items when your inventory can hold over twenty. Four items when one of the subquests involves collecting souls of creatures in the dungeon, and you find far more than four. So, do you send back the souls to start to complete that quest, or do you send back items that increase your attributes, or do you send back weapons and armor? Either way you go, you’re going to be making a lot of runs through this dungeon to do anything worthwhile. I poured over twenty hours into this thing and managed to get far enough that I saw one of the fake endings, after which the game restarted and I began anew without all my stuff again, and still didn’t know what in the world was going on.
On the flip side, Chocobo’s Dungeon was far more coherent and had a storyline I could follow without having to resort to mailing the developer a Bundt cake to ask for an interpretation of the story. It involves a chocobo, those big birds from the Final Fantasy games, named Chocobo, who ends up in a town where everyone’s memory was erased due to some calamity before the game started. Chocobo has to go into the memories of the townsfolk and restore them to normal, and unravel the story along the way.
The dungeons here are a lot the same as Baroque. Each one is randomly generated, there are items laying around all over the place, you have to work your way to the bottom, that kind of thing. But! The game is far more lenient. You die in this game and you lose all your items except the ones you have equipped, so you won’t lose that super-awesome weapon or armor you found. You leave the dungeon and you retain your strength levels, and get to carry everything out of the dungeon you can carry, assuming you left of your own volition, that is. But other than that, Chocobo’s Dungeon shared a lot with Baroque, so I’ve put together this chart showing the similarities between these two games:
|Silent Protagonist||Yes||Chocobo talks in bird-speak, I think that counts|
|Lose stuff when you die||Everything you’re carrying, all your levels||Everything you’re carrying except for what you’re actually using|
|Cursed stuff you can’t remove once you put it on||Can’t tell until you put it on and can’t take it off||The item is a different color, warning you|
|Gotta save the world?||The protagonist did something real bad and has to make amends||Everyone in the town forgot what they did, but it was probably because of something bad|
|Can understand the story after twenty hours||Probably not||Probably so|
I guess it kind of goes without saying that I really liked Chocobo’s Dungeon a whole lot better than Baroque. I just have some sort of odd compulsion to know what’s going on with the story in a game, if it has one (yeah, the story in Tetris was riveting…), or if I can’t understand the overblown complexity of the story, I’d at least like to have enough information that I can at least pretend that I know what’s going on, or at the very least hit the highlights (see Final Fantasy VII). Which is something that FFF:CD was able to provide, while Baroque was just… broke.