Elminage Original

Dungeon crawling in Elminage Original will confuse you.

By Daavpuke, Posted 11 Jan 2014

Some classic game genres are so strongly reminisced upon that they create an alternate wave of similar games in later periods, such as Elminage Original does for dungeon crawlers on PSP. Unlike others, however, this rather rigid exploration of confined areas, monsters and esoteric clues doesn’t age well with time. As a modern title, this roleplaying game (RPG) needs to loosen the reins a little to show that it’s versatile underneath. It doesn’t.

Elminage Original,Screenshot,Review,PS Vita,PSP

Sober humility stands at the forefront of this journey, with fully detailed pixel visuals in medieval themes to depict its brown taverns, wealthy royals and authentically crafted utensils. In warring areas, this is altered to crudely rendered 3D environments with bland color schemes, no more contrasting than any ancient release. It’s not like this game needs its appearance to get sold, but as there is a large amount of time spent wandering around, these generic textures do tend to blend into one tired wall. Sound effects follow the same limited scope, with just a few clicks to differentiate anything, though the looping tracks do some more effort to drive the tempo and that helps, because progress is slow.

After collecting a party of different hero classes, ranging from simple fighters to conjurers of spells and wild beasts, it’s off on a quest in the first dungeon.  These endeavors are followed in first person and have a limited field of view, detailing the next few tiles one at a time. Rooms may hold special surprises and at any time there can be an imminent attack through random encounters. Combat follows a turn-based pattern where the party puts in their moves, where after the round continues by giving each person their go according to what initiative they have. It’s also possible to toy around with positioning, such as putting some members in the back, to shield them from most harm, depending on what range attacks have. Longer jabs may still pierce through those lines.

Elminage Original,Screenshot,Review,PS Vita,PSP

In these areas, the group is usually tasked with a specific objective. How to do that is up to the courtesy of the people roaming around dropping hints. Some may be confused that they’re being teleported around, while others are looking for secret entrances. It’s a true mystery, meaning that there’s going to be inevitable times of backtracking, checking statuses and so on. There won’t just be a door leading to an exit; it’s a shiny map point that needs to be accessed by performing several unrelated tasks of randomness.

Making matters worse, enemies can be brutally punishing, if not catered to properly. Some may glance off any physical attack, requiring the limited spell pool from casters to be tapped. Other times, a large encounter may rend defenses, leaving the current search squad crippled with low health. Any drawback will cause a retreat to the nearest village to rest up, gather resources and try again. Here, there are also auxiliary services to help get the show on the road. People can level up and increase their potency, use alchemy to craft a selection of goods from found materials and talk with townsmen. Being well prepared is half the battle in Elminage.

Elminage Original,Screenshot,Review,PS Vita,PSP

Unfortunately, explanation for most of these elements is rarely handed out and that’s a shame, because there are a ton of systems that require at least a fleeting knowledge of them to continue. Balance between party members needs to be carefully weighed to have a thief that can disarm traps, a bishop who can identify items and so on. Equipment needs to reflect the needs of the dungeon, which requires going through what monsters are in there and what their stats are. More annoying than that, items required to complete quests can be an abstract concept to acquire. Experimentation is recommended, but as the base level of skill is so demanding, it can get frustrating. It costs a lot of time and resources just to mess around and fail. There’s no payoff either. There’s only defeat or victory, no real in between.

This dull momentum in the otherwise broad RPG is a mood killer. There are so many items dropped, so many different creatures, but it comes at the price of being lost nearly all the time. During these periods, any other faint clue is more bothersome than it is a reward. A shiny new weapon is only an addition if it doesn’t serve to just continue hacking the same foes over and over in that hall that has been run through seventeen times by now. It should be rewarding that there are so many possibilities and that’s true on the horizon, but in the moment, it’s a task; a chore left to complete.

Elminage Original,Screenshot,Review,PS Vita,PSP

Only the most dedicated, willing to spend countless of hours into fruitless effort, will get a modicum of enjoyment out of Elminage Original. Enjoyment is not the exact term though; rather, it will be a feeling of withstanding hardships, with no lingering gratification present. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Clearing dungeons with many options at hand may sound like a charm, but only a few of those combinations will work. Happy sleuthing.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed (@Daavpuke)

comments powered by Disqus


General Information

Platform(s): Vita
Publisher(s): UFO Interactive Games Inc.
Developer(s): Starfish SD
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Fantasy
Release Date: 2012-11-20

View All

Popular Articles