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icon Review of DROD:GatEB at TIGSource (+2)  

A review of GatEB from SirNiko has been posted at TIGSource:
04-10-2012 at 10:02 PM
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Boris Carl Orff
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Well, as the reviewer states: "If youíve never played a DROD game before, you may find Epic Blunder to be a great point to start." Good point here - I have read similar comments elswhere. If I'm honest I'm not totally new to DROD but consider myself an absolute beginner really.

The reviews I have read are clearly written by DROD veterans who are comparing GatEB to previous versions (none of which I have had much success with by the way).

I suppose this may be a tad off-putting to a total novice, however I agree it is a great introduction to the series. Perhaps the marketing and/or title should have been a bit different?

It would be nice to read a review by someone coming to DROD for the first time.
04-10-2012 at 11:01 PM
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Agreed. It's good to get press, I guess, but that's a sad review, in more than one way. It does take a fair amount of time discussing various aspects of the game at a high level, and I acknowledge it is fair in assessing the artistic merits of the plot progression and side characters, but this review strikes a sour chord with me. :?

First of all, it's hard for me to make the leap from the introductory assessment that the game is "a little disappointing" to a long-time DROD fan, to the concluding judgment that "you should give this a pass". I admit there seems to be a surreal cult hype built around the Next Big Project that makes anything less than perfection feel a bit disappointing, but this doesn't make sense. The review judges several parts of the game content as excellent, yet still you shouldn't play it? I don't get this.

Here on the forum, I'm reading that the general consensus is that the world is beautiful and the puzzle levels themselves are solid and well designed. In my opinion, they also do an excellent job of skirting a fine line between presenting both easy yet challenging game play. DROD has always been first and foremost designed with the goal in mind of presenting the player with some beautiful puzzle-solving experiences. Story, character development, and fetch the pie quests (not trying to knock the excellent Fetch the Pie hold here) have always taken a back seat to puzzle design. DROD:KDD, that got many players, including myself, excited about DROD in the first place, has no in-game plot and no plot resolution. You are some ugly guy, and there is some other ugly guy at the end who you have to fight, but that part has nothing to do with the rest of the game, and it simply serves to present some nice, novel puzzles that feel like a good climax to the puzzle solving. I don't really remember anyone complaining about the lack of plot in KDD, but maybe expectations have just risen so much in the past years. That's not a bad thing, and we'll work to meet those expectations in TSS. Still, I don't buy that a cliche story is sufficient reason to skip playing a game entirely, especially when it's a puzzle game, of all things. How many AAA titles these days don't have a cliche story? And, when previous DROD games were simply about going from L1 to L25, then I'm not clearly understanding how the game becomes more "ungood" by putting some incidental reasons along the way. I don't understand why someone would perceive "you get a key at the end of a level" makes the game fundamentally worse than "you take stairs to the next level", without any mention of any keys at all, like KDD and JtRH had.

Also, I'm ambivalent that this review seems mostly to be a leveled at the Caravel community, but is written to the gaming community on the TIG forums at large. We know that DROD games have a niche audience, and the development team worked to expand that audience with the more approachable puzzles in this game. Warning new players that the plot and characters are going to be nothing special is one thing I could understand, but recommending players steer clear of a game entirely for this reason seems hyperbole. Also, pointing new players to a better entry point into the franchise, or comparing specific pros and cons to past titles, would have been more useful in a review than simply telling new players that if they're long-time fans of DROD, they shouldn't play it.

Hmm...and, looking at the game length, I've been playing DROD about as long as anyone, but it took me about 20 hours in all to get through all of the content, including Flood Warning. I'd guess that players in general who need only ten hours to play through all of this content are expert at the game, and they have spent months or years playing DROD to get to this level of skill. I can see that an expert who can blow through the game this quickly would (correctly) assess it's shorter than previous titles. This game's point wasn't to be as long as previous titles. New DROD players are not going to want to play 1000+ move rooms that require 15+ minutes each to clear, like in TCB. I don't think it's fair to share an expert's experience with the game to players who've never played DROD before about what they should be expecting from the game. I would have liked to have seen the expert player's view balanced out even more often with something like "...but if you're new to DROD, you'll get a good sense of the type of puzzle experience this game can offer by trying out this game. The difficulty curve is fairly smooth, and if you have fun solving these puzzles, there are several more challenging DROD titles available."

As we start work on TSS, we will attempt to provide a new, rich set of puzzles and puzzle elements that will challenge the experienced DROD player. We will also work to provide a full and satisfying climax to Beethro's adventures in the Beneath. This is already mapped out to some extent by Erik himself, and it is going to be awesome. I fully expect the dev team is still going to make the quality of the puzzles and game elements the main focus of the offering. If more in the way of satisfying side characters and side-quests is expected, though, then we can of course devote a larger percentage of time to making sure people won't complain about those aspects of the game. Some will still complain about hub areas, while some will complain the game is too linear. We know we can't satisfy both camps at once, but we'll augment the 5.0 game engine to show we're making an honest effort nevertheless. We'll try to work more closely with the community on these aspects during development than we have during work on earlier titles.

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[Last edited by mrimer at 04-10-2012 11:25 PM]
04-10-2012 at 11:14 PM
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Wow, another rant :)

I agree though, Mike. I've probably put a good 4 or 5 hours into the game so far and have finished 80 rooms or so, according to my high scores list. Clearly I am no expert but while I have been able to solve more complicated rooms, I really enjoy these ones because:

1. Everything is beautiful, aesthetically pleasing.
2. The story is quirky and interesting enough to make me want to get to the next stage.
3. The puzzles are clever.

That last point is probably the most fun for me. I like being able to look at a room for a few moments, try out something, and deduce what I need to do. These aren't hack and slash puzzles; these aren't puzzles that require exact movement and complete understanding of monster order. They are puzzles that are clever without tedium or requiring too much though. Much like "Chaco's Hold", which I have also thoroughly enjoyed.

Surely someone who wants tough puzzles will play a hold that focuses on tough puzzles, not story. The new engine alone seems nice enough to make this game worthwhile.

04-10-2012 at 11:30 PM
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slimm tom
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The 'game length' argument is indeed a bit unfair. When I first played the JtRH demo (which was my first DROD game), it took me a couple of days to play through it, and I loved how the demo was so long, and that was only 3 out of 25 levels. Right now, with more than five years experience, and thousands of rooms beaten, I can play through it in under an hour without much thought. If JtRH would have come out now, I would find it rather short.

GatEB is a lot less difficult than JtRH, but still challenging for a novice player. If I look back to my novice days, it would have taken me countless hours to beat GatEB, slowly working my way through, getting stuck once in a while, learning new techniques every day. Right now for me it's an enjoyable hold, but it only took me 8 hours to conquer.

It's taken me, and surely a lot of you too, years to get this good at DROD. Of course we think GatEB is easy and short. But when we began playing, DROD overwhelmed us with a new, unique playing style, taking much practice to master, in the same way new players will be overwhelmed by this new game.

I guess this game just can't please us veterans in the same way the games did before, raising the difficulty along with our experience over the years, but It's made to please new folks, and I sincerely hope it does.

Now go play Flood Warning already, it's excellent! :)
04-10-2012 at 11:53 PM
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Iíve been playing DROD for a long time, but Iím hardly an expert player and Iíve come to accept that Iím never going to be. I found the difficulty level of GatEB to be just fine for me. There were some puzzles that were tricky, but nothing that I was stuck on for days. Unlike Caravelís other major releases, I was able to complete it without resorting to the Hints and Solutions board. It took me about 16 hours to complete everything in the main hold. That said, Iím completely stumped on several rooms on the third level of Flood Warning.

Iíd have to say that I have no complaints about the puzzle levels of GatEB. I do agree with the criticism that the story and characters are not particularly well developed, however, while Iíve enjoyed the stories of the earlier DROD games, I think Mike is right to say that the main focus should be on the puzzles, and that is where the game excels.

As far as the hub levels, while I think they are well designed from an aesthetic standpoint, I do feel like thereís too much empty space. In TCB a fair amount of backtracking was necessary, but I was at least left with the impression that Rooted Hold was a bustling city. There were a number of secondary characters for Beethro to interact with. Still, even though hub levels feel kind of empty, the puzzle levels are chock full of content, so itís fairly easy to overlook.

Over all, Iím pleased with GatEB, but I do see where some of the criticism is coming from. The puzzles are excellent, and while Iím not exactly a newcomer, I do think they would serve as a better introduction to DROD than any of the other official holds. I think the story is being criticized not so much because itís bad, but simply because it doesnít live up to the high standard set by JtRH and TCB. Shame on you, Caravel, for making those other games so good.

04-11-2012 at 03:58 AM
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The review was definitely overly harsh. And I agree with Mike that it's a bit of a confusing jump from "a little disappointing" to "give it a pass". If I never did anything that was ever "a little disappointing" I never would have seen Star Wars prequels.

Okay, bad example.

But still, when he mentions what it is that he finds disappointing, it's a ridiculous jump nonetheless. DROD is a friggin' puzzle game. (Sorry for my friggin' language.) We're lucky there's a story in it at all. Tetris anyone? And yes, the hub areas are a bit sprawling, but I found it fun to discover all the nooks and crannies. And it isn't necessarily as hard as an expert gamer might want, but so what? The game's fun. That's first and foremost my measuring stick with a game.

It's a great entry point for newbies. And it's "yet another hold" for people who are dying for the next official hold. What's wrong with that?

(Oh, and why on earth didn't he praise the voice work on both the Rasarun guards and Old Graybeard? They're clearly the most important characters after Gunthro. And Beethro. And Halph. And the monsters.) ;)

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04-13-2012 at 04:29 AM
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icon Re: Review of DROD:GatEB at TIGSource (+5)  
I'm biased and, as some of you know, occasionally outspoken.

I will prove both as follows:
Apart from the acronym itself, GatEB is a phenomenal piece of work. I have personally been playing DROD for a while and have not enjoyed a storyline as much as this. Feels like an adventure and thank you for making that happen.

Some players might think it's easier than other releases. That's because it is. I've personally spent more than 20 hours though and have just finished the maze which is not a maze. 3 of those hours were spent looking for the stairs in the first level. During those 3 hours I conversed with, annoyed and met other DROD players. GatEB has managed to be an experience unlike any other of the DROD franchise. For those close to the forums, we have seen so many features grow and GatEB brings them all together - director's cut-scenes, amazing atmosphere, downloadable styles, excellent music, hours of voice acting straight from the community, humour, artwork...

Which bring me to the outspoken and biased bit:
The reviewer missed the point. Repeatedly.

I could agree that we're trying too hard to attract new players. I could say we feel that DROD is *ours* because we have been part of this underground niche for so long. I may even admit that stairs should show up on the minimap with a glowing circle around them.

But I won't.

Most of us learnt DROD the hard way and if some "reviewer" can't appreciate the evolution then he's missed the point. Just wish he'd abstained from writing anything.
04-22-2012 at 12:58 PM
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