Krater Review (PC)

You'll laugh at Krater - sometimes at its self aware humour, other times from sheer self pity that you're still playing such a tiresome game. Some may argue that’s harsh but despite boasting ‘Unlimited Adventure’ i.e. randomised dungeons, loads of quests and a huge world to explore, Fatshark’s blend of action RPG fundamentals with squad based strategy falls a bit short. That’s to say, it falls to earth with a giant bang before fading away with a whimper.

You could label it wasted potential as Krater has a bucketload of the stuff. Irritatingly it almost reaches the point of excellence, but then seems quick to cast it aside in preference for tedium and oddly peculiar character development design choices. Anyway, more on that krater (badum tish).

Welcome to the jungle

Set in a post apocalyptic landscape sharing a lot in common with RAGE / Borderlands, i.e. there's a colour pallet past grey/brown and everyone seems to have read too much Dune - Krater is a quirky title that begins strongly.

Awaking with a humongous hangover, it's your job to get your tank, healer and ranger (replaced with thinly veiled cyberpunk Sci-Fi equivalents) together to find out what the hell is going on. Except at no point, bar a brief opening cinematic, are you really told what the gig is. Even when you've moved through various quests, it's apparent the limited tutorial and 'dropped in it' storyline has left everything as murky as meteor dust.

Sometimes this sense of handheld confusion and intrigue can work to a game's advantage, but in Krater's case it takes far too long revealing what you should be doing, how you should be playing and whether you should be.

It's not so much the combat – that’s pretty easy to pick up. Anyone who’s played an ARPG before will feel at home, even if its promised squad-based strategy is lacking. As a standard multi-character genre-title, it’s extremely adequate (attack, mash some skills, rinse and repeat).

Lifting weights at the gym

Instead, the confusion comes from the levelling of your characters. You see, to carry on growing your team you have to pay money to people to increase their cap. Annoyingly this is never explained and it's only when you realise you're not gaining XP does it become apparent to the player.

This alone doesn’t illicit a game-hating reaction, but when your team has the rudeness to fall over when out of health (four times being the maximum allowed), they'll find themselves subject to perma-death. Yes, only in gaming would death not be permanent enough and there be a requirement for a phrase that cements its infiniteness. Here’s looking at you Diablo Hardcore mode.

If someone does die you have to pay a visit to the recruitment officer and start training a new recruit all over again. This means more grinding. More repetitive battles. More wondering why you’re still killing the same mobs over and over. That said, arguably repetitive gameplay is a staple part of ARPGs, especially for loot-based boss-battlers (Diablo / Titan Quest).

However, and here’s one of the cruxes - Krater struggles to give enough rewards for repeatedly killing the same mutated animals. Loot is surprisingly anaemic and while your characters develop not through gear (you can only equip a weapon and gadget), but with implants and buffs, it’d still be appreciated if you weren’t picking up junk all the time. Patches have made the situation better, but you’ll still rarely come across decent gear.

On a cliff edge

Tracking back - as your characters grow you unlock more slots. For base stats you can improve your whole character with improvements you find, while skill-focused buffs can be applied to bulk up your hotkey attacks. It’s an interesting system and one that makes you think more about your method of attack and less about whether you’ve got +4 dexterity. A solid crafting system provides support (as well as offering weapons and gadgets to create) to what is Krater’s strongest point.

So, it’s a mixed bag. Krater has a lot of promise but it ends up as a genuinely average game. That’s not a blemish on it, it’s the truth. It could have been a lot better, but at the same it had the risk of ending up a lot worse. Krater presents an intriguing world, a new take on character development and clever design but at the same time the design choices to support its interesting mechanics are the negatives.

Top Game Moment: Starting a game with hungover characters.