I knew going into this one that I’d be out of my element, but I never expected to be as defeated as I was. On today’s #1 Quick Fix, I’ll be talking about Elminage Gothic. You may have no idea what that game is, and you wouldn’t be alone there – I pay attention to niche games and had never heard of Elminage. Some quick research, however, shows that it’s a small series or first-person dungeon crawlers, and this is its fourth entry. This particular entry was on PSP and 3DS in Japan, and Ghostlight has released a Windows port with higher-resolution artwork and in English as of Thursday. Despite going with a higher-resolution, though, I will note that not all artwork is HD – a lot of the backgrounds in town are blurry on my 900p screen.
When it comes to first-person dungeon crawlers, I’ve generally found that, with a few notable exceptions (like Demon Gaze), the genre makes pretty much no attempt to accommodate new players, preferring to toss people in immediately with few to no tutorials. This game is no exception. When I booted up my review copy, I got a token cutscene at the start about the story of the game, and was then told that the king has summoned everyone. I expected this to mean I’d need to visit the castle, but no, I’m supposed to go put together my party at the tavern and then get an automatic cutscene where I’m told to go to a dungeon.
Aside from the NPC adventurers in the first dungeon who give soft tutorials if you happen to find them, the only way you’ll have any idea what you’re doing unless you’re used to the gameplay of a dungeon crawler is if you check the game’s properties on Steam and follow the inconspicuous link for the online instruction manual. Luckily, this game is very similar to Class of Heroes, so I picked things up very quickly.
However, it is not exactly the same – it’s significantly easier to get lost thanks to how you need to prepare your maps ahead of time, unless you grabbed one of the default characters from the tavern who has the mapping spell. Even if you did, however, maps are limited-use – you need to cast the spell each time you want to see the map, same with using up the map item. Elminage follows the strange system I’ve been dungeon crawlers use where “MP” is more like “you may use a spell from this list X amount of times until you heal yourself somewhere”, and healing isn’t exactly cheap, so your spells are extremely limited.
Furthermore, even with these limitations, these magical maps will only show the spaces you’ve already walked on. Hope you like manually drawing out a map with pen and paper. That said, while I’m sure there are people who enjoy having the old-school feeling of charting out dungeons by hand, I am not one of those people – it’s 2014 and this level of opacity is unacceptable. There aren’t even any landmarks to make use of, either, so it’s difficult to impossible to navigate by memory.
These are not the only things the game doesn’t easily communicate to the player, however. While there’s clearly a front row and back row here, mechanically, the game doesn’t show you in the UI or in any part of the team setup process. Or ever. The characters are simply shown in one straight line at the bottom of the screen with no indication of this. If you aren’t aware that multi-row parties are a thing, you’d be wondering why your short-range character in slot 6 can’t get any attacks off while the short-range character in slot 2 can do so just fine.
Several mechanics receive absolutely no explanation, such as days passing by as you do certain things. I have nothing to say about these because I have no idea what they do.
I think my point has been made by now without me needing to go further down point-by-point. Many of the game’s systems aren’t communicated to the player and are fairly clunky.
In terms of combat, which is the only thing I haven’t complained about yet, this game is simply okay. You have 6 characters in 2 rows, and the enemy can have several rows over 5 or so if they want. Enemies may join in or flee as the fight progresses, which can inflate the length of a fight to be hopelessly long. After you pick each character’s action for the turn, the turn plays out based on speed. If there are a lot of enemies, it will take a while to get through their turns. What rows your characters and enemy characters are in determine who can attack who. You have to be careful to use as few spells as possible while also taking as little damage as possible due to how prohibitively-expensive healing of any sort is. I really have nothing to say about this, since this feels like the basic mold that other dungeon crawlers built upon.
If you can’t tell, I struggle to find a single good thing to say about this game. Many of these issues are likely fine to the core dungeon-crawler fanbase, but anyone outside of said fanbase who wants to try the genre out have many superior options in front of them. As such, the only people I’d tell to buy this game are the people who’ve likely already bought it. Personally, I’m done with this game.
If this game somehow appeals to you, it’s available on Steam for $10. It’s 20% off for its opening week.