Preview: Krater Should be on Your Radar «

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of you have played at least one post-apocalyptic game in your time; at the very least sat through part of a Mad Max movie. And I’d venture to guess there are a handful who’ve finished one or two (or three) dungeon crawlers. If that’s the case, I believe the upcoming action-roleplaying game, Krater, might be of some interest to you, since it capture bits and pieces from many of our favorite PC RPGs over the years from Fallout to Baldur’s Gate to X-COM. Did that get you interested? Yeah, I thought it would.

In the Year 3000

As its name may indicate, Krater takes place inside a gigantic crater that’s full of lush vegetation and contains the last remaining pockets of humanity. You’ll play as a small three-man party, known as Freediggers, a group of humanoid mutant scavengers who have been making their living as treasure hunters exploring the caves in surrounding areas, and selling their findings (toilet seats, tires, rubber ducks) to local villages. In the middle of the crater is the Center Hole, a gigantic abyss where you’ll do most of your dungeon-crawling adventuring. And as we’ve been told, it’s during one of these scavenging missions when something mysterious is uncovered inside the Center, and that’s when the real adventure will begin.

While the premise of living out a life in this post-apocalyptic crater with a small band of scavengers seems cool, it’s how we’ll be able to customize and modify the three-man team that makes this game seem really interesting.

Team Building Skills

“We don’t want players to focus on the individual characters too much,” says Krater Game Designer Victor Magnuson. “We want you to focus on building a good and diverse team.” Part of this team building is deciding what type of party you want to bring into the surrounding dungeons. The basic roles are available, Tank, Medic, and DPS, with each having their own special attack power. For example, the Tank will have a smash attack that deals significant AoE damage. But it’s possible to buff this attack, so for example, it would deal damage as well as heal nearby party members.

“If I don’t want to have a healer with me, I could spec my tank to be a self-sufficient tank,” explains Magnuson. “He would never become as efficient as a pure healer, but depending on how you set up your team, you’ll be able to make it without a pure healer.” Creating a tank character like this does have consequences, because choices will be permanent. “If I decide to give one of my characters more stamina, that’ll be a permanent choice — I can’t take that back,” continues Magnuson. “The weapons are switchable at any time, but upgrades and components will be a permanent choice.”

Good to know that small cottages will make it through the apocalypse.

It’ll be equally important for you to make sure to take care of the characters in your party. Because party members will incur an injury each time they fall in combat, you’ll need to make sure to get them healed ASAP. If they get, say, a broken leg that impairs their movement and it doesn’t get healed in time, it’ll become a permanent fixture for your character that you may have just spent hours molding into a Tank-Healer. Then you’ll be faced with a choice between keeping this injured tank in your party or consider investing in a new character.

As far as controlling the party goes, it is a lot like Baldur’s Gate in that you can issue commands to the entire group, or individually move your Freediggers around, like keeping your ranged attackers away from the battle and letting your Tank go in to soak up all the damage. Although during the brief demo, it seemed like the character-types did a good job of playing these roles automatically, like when the Tank would rush in towards the enemy.

Loot, loot, and more loot.

A finite number of other Freediggers can be bought at the local bar in surrounding villages, using money earned from completing quests or selling off scavenged goods — the more expensive, the more powerful they’ll be. Magnuson alluded that some missions might even be easier if we choose to mix up the standard party, like switching out the Tank to have two DPS and one healer, although we’ve yet to see this example in action to see if having a different party makeup really makes a difference.

Crafting the Experience

One area of Krater where you’ll have a ton of choices will be through the variety of weapons to create from the items found in the dungeons. “We can use things that we think are really cool. We can use any item for our recipes,” explains Magnuson. “The main thing might be crafting materials, but you might find some recipe that will need something really strange like a lawnmower, a road sign, a toilet — all debris that’s been recovered can in some way be recycled into a weapon.”

What mysteries are hiding in the damp, dark, dungeon factory?

Beyond weapons, you’ll be able to put together gadgets that’ll impact gameplay. Magnuson gave one example where you’ll have to create a map gadget in order for the minimap to appear on the HUD — although I suspect this to be part of the tutorial; no sense in handicapping gamers who don’t find the necessary parts to create a map device. But I’m interested to see what others will be craftable — something I hope to find out when Krater comes out later this year.

Better With Friends

Krater will be released in an episodic format as a trilogy, with the first part known as Shadows Over Solside. The following episodes will be priced cheaper (although no specific price has been given for any of the episodes) as well as a free co-op mode that will allow players to journey through some of the dungeon instances. Also, if co-op isn’t ready by release it will then be patched as a free download after launch.

With both Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 coming out this year we’ll definitely have a fair share of isometric dungeon crawlers to choose from. Even so, I can never seem to get enough of loot drops, quests, or engaging post-apocalyptic settings and I’m eagerly awaiting to get my hands on the finished product of Krater.


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