Final Impressions: The Dark Spire (Nintendo DS)

After several ragequits and scrapped parties I finally beat this motherfucking cocksucking game. I’d like to say it’s because I’m so hardcore, but in truth over the last few years of playing my DS in public, even gfx-envelope-pushing games like Ninja Gaiden and Solatorobo, the Dark Spire was the only game that caused strangers to stop and say to me, “Excuse me, sorry to interrupt, but WHAT IS THAT GAME???” multiple times. So I felt obligated to beat the motherfucker.

Art-direction-wise this game gets a perfect 10/10 on the Fussbett Fable scale. It looks like a nightmare. The visuals are all bold colors against black, the camera angle is always a little “off” and even lowly goblins are drawn to look like nasty needle-toothed fuckers you would never want to meet without a baseball bat handy. These visuals wouldn’t look out of place in the movie suspiria. Etrian Odyssey 3 is almost completely superior in terms of gameplay, but that game sadly looks like anime shit. The Dark Spire looks like a dangerous fucking place, the conquest of which would be a mighty achievement. No wonder it attracts so much attention.

Everything else is negative. All the worst parts of D&D RPG mechanics wedded to a “difficulty” that can be summed up as “the Random Number Generator says Fuck You.” Liberal use of the game’s ability to save anywhere is necessary to keep the frustration to a manageable level.

There’s a game-breaking exploit that will make the first 3 floors a breeze, relatively speaking. Only front-row heroes can be hit by melee attacks and if you set your formation to “heroic” only one character will be in the front row taking damage. Well in this game the characters are all naturally multi-classed and while wearing incompatible armor or weapons will stop you from casing spells, it doesn’t stop a character with 1 level in Thief from hiding in shadows. So if your single front-line fighter has a level in Thief and hides in shadows? Nobody takes his place, all the enemy attacks against him are cancelled, and next round all the melee-only enemies will only be able to defend.

Unfortunately the game fights back with its own bullshit: breath attacks. Spells can ruin your party or the enemy in one hit, so the game has a rule that if either you or the enemy get an ambush attack, nobody can cast spells that ambush round and destroy the other team before they can get at least some chance to fight back. Except breath attacks. They can be used in an ambush round, hit the entire party, never miss, and later in the game cause crippling status ailments, too. The true final level is crawling with such enemies and the only way I can beat them is to grind out a team of 4 wizard characters, then grind their dexterities to max for the initiative boost, and even then hope like hell the RNG doesn’t say “Fuck You.”

So I got the first 2 of 3 endings. The game makes all kinds of hay over the fact that the True Last boss is God. Commute or no commute am I going to do the grinding necessary to kill God? No.

Fuck this game. If you’re even slightly intrigued by the idea of playing a western-style RPG on the DS, get Etrian Odyssey 3 instead. Much better game, just doesn’t look unique.

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Mischief Maker