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Fate is a game I discovered long after it came out and I heard it was the precursor to Torchlight. They’re both action RPG’s, the art styles are similar, and both were designed by Travis Baldree. I love the Torchlight games and I’ve been wanting to play Fate for a while. Fate and its sequels or standalone expansions can be purchased on Steam for pretty cheap nowadays and I’ve noticed they never seem to go on sale which is why I haven’t played any of them until now. If they ever did go on sale, I missed it. Well I finally said “fuck it” and just bought them. Developed and published by WildTagent, Fate was released for PC in May, 2005. Surprisingly, this is a single-player only game and it does support mods. I’ve read there is an active modding community, although I have yet to find a treasure trove of fan-made content. I found a few mods from searching through the game’s Steam Discussion forum but I get the feeling much of the modding community for this game and possibly the whole series has moved on.
There is some kind of story here but it’s not very interesting. In fact, I forgot what my main quest was only after a couple hours of playing. After creating your character, the game opens with a narration and text accompanied by some images that give some backstory and explain your character’s purpose. You have to battle your way through about fifty levels of a dungeon to defeat a powerful monster. That’s it. That’s the gist of it.
Like many games in the genre, you start out in a safe location where you can interact with NPC’s and equip yourself before heading into the dungeon. In this case, that safe location is the town of Grove. There are numerous NPC’s to interact with and each one does serve a purpose. They’re either merchants or quest-givers. The quests, dungeon levels, loot, and monsters are randomized. You can only have three active quests at a time which I found to be an odd limit. Once you complete a quest, you can acquire another and all quests feel the same. You’re either killing specific monsters or retrieving items. You can decide to keep the quest items which means you have to cancel the quest and doing that means you forfeit the reward which is fame, experience, items, and/or gold which is the game’s form of currency. The first thing I would suggest any new player buy is a fishing rod. There’s a spot to fish in Grove and fish are a good source of gold when you first start playing. Fishing can also reward you with items. In fact, you can find ultra rare items which sell for a ton of gold and if you take the time to fish for some of these items, you can end up with more gold than you know what to do with. After completing the main quest, you have the option to keep descending or retire your character in favor of playing as a new character which will be a descendant of the first one. Descendants will receive different perks and bonuses and an item handed down from his or her ancestor. I didn’t play through the game multiple times but from what I understand, if you keep passing this item down, it becomes more powerful so that’s pretty neat.
You can move around, interact with things, and cast spells by clicking things on the screen which should not be a new concept to veterans of the genre. You can run which does drain stamina, casting spells drains mana, and you can assign things like potions, fish, and spells to hotkeys. The game is played from the isometric perspective and you can zoom in and out and turn the camera with the arrow keys to see around corners. When you first fire up the game, you’ll have to choose the difficulty and create your character and the customization options are pretty limited. You also have to select and name your pet which accompanies you throughout the entire game. You can choose a dog or cat. You can equip your character with weapons and gear and your pet can only be equipped with jewelry. The fish you find, buy, or catch throughout your adventure can be fed to your pet to transform them into different creatures permanently or for a limited time. The transformations enhance your pet’s stats. And permanent does not mean they are not able to transform again. Your pet will attack enemies, gain experience, and level up just like you but they’ll never die. They will flee if their health is drained but you can always give them a health potion. But the best thing about having the pet is that they have their own inventory and you can send them back to town to sell shit. You can also have them pick up items. You have your own inventory space and I would transfer anything I wanted to sell to my pet. This allows you to keep progressing through the dungeon without having to frequently go back to town. It’s really nice.
You can technically be anything you want in Fate. Your character build and play style is determined by your stats and skills. There are no preset builds to choose from so you’re free to build your character as you see fit. It makes Fate very accessible. As you defeat monsters and complete quests, you’ll earn experience and fame. After earning enough experience, you’ll level up earn points that can be spent to increase stats like strength, dexterity, vitality, and magic. You’ll also earn skill points to increase various skills. After earning enough fame, you’ll reach a new rank and earn skill points. Some gear and weapons can only be equipped when you’re a certain rank. Defeated enemies will often drop loot when killed but loot is also found in the environments. You’ll have to meet the appropriate stat requirements to equip certain gear and items can have different magical properties. Items come in different rarities and if an item has sockets, you can insert gems into them to give the item bonus properties. You’ll come across all kinds of equipment and weapons on your journey and equipping the right gear is just as important as knowing what stats and skills to pump points into if you want to survive.
Sometimes you’ll come across merchants and fishing spots throughout the dungeon but most of the time, you’ll have to go back to town or find loot if you want new stuff. In town is a healer who will restore your health for free, a minstrel that can promote you to the next rank for a fee, and different vendors. You can gamble or in other words, buy an item of unknown magical properties that are revealed after purchase and the enchanter can add magical properties to an item for a fee but he can sometimes curse it so there is a risk involved. Curse meaning a negative property. Several of the merchants offer different types of items you can buy like health, mana, and stamina potions, spells, town portal scrolls, and identify scrolls which are used to reveal the magical properties of unidentified items. If you’re a Diablo veteran, most of this is not new. Your inventory space is kind of small but there are some items that can help you save space. You can buy or find books that will store scrolls and health charms which restore health can be used multiple times eliminating the need for health potions. Any items you don’t want to get rid of or sell off can be stored in the storage trunk in town. If it wasn’t for the pet, inventory management would be very tedious.
Fate is a very accessible game but it’s also very repetitive. I think this might be the most repetitive action RPG I’ve ever played. Each dungeon level layout is randomized and I noticed there’s usually two types of styles. The level is going to be filled with either narrow corridors or open areas. There is a map you can reference and more of the level is revealed on the map as you explore and there’s only a handful of visual styles so you’re probably going to see all the environmental diversity there is before reaching level ten. After a short while, every level will start to feel the same. Fate is very simplistic in its environmental design and it’s obvious the developers put a bigger focus on slaying monsters and building your character than anything else. Every level feels the same, every quest feels the same, you’re just doing the same thing over and over again for fifty levels. And you can keep going ever after slaying the final boss monster. I guess Fate is an endless dungeon crawler. It just keeps going and going and going. If you like the gameplay, it’s the monster variety and chance to acquire new loot that will keep you going. It is wise to explore each level fully and kill all the monsters in a level before descending to the next one so this way you can gain the most experience. Every now and then you’ll come across Magic Anvils that let you enchant items and Statues and Shrines which can reward you. There are chests, breakable objects, and weapon racks scattered around which can house loot and you’ll come across spots to fish from time to time and the only environmental hazard you need to watch out for is traps. If you die, you have the choice to come back where you were or in a nearby level at the cost of fame and/or gold. If you choose the option to be teleported three levels upward, you’ll have to work your way back down and retrieve all your gold.
One of the things I really like about Fate is the monster variety. It feels like the plot was intentionally minimal so the fantasy world here could be used as a foundation to include almost every type of enemy imaginable. The monster variety is incredible. Some are just reskins or recolors of others with different names but many are unique types. You’ll engage rats, gels, bats, goblins, demons, beetles, zombies, mummies, skeletons, timberwolves, ogres, giants, salamanders, orcs, vampires, unicorns, spiders, ghosts, drakes, abominations, centipedes, imps, lizardmen, Komodo Warriors, gargoyles, yetis, and the list goes on and on. And new enemy types are frequently introduced as you progress and come in different classes like Normal, Elite, and Legendary for example. Monsters can either rush you and utilize melee attacks and weapons, use ranged weapons like bows, or cast magic spells. The ones that cast spells can be a pain in the ass because sometimes they will dispel your summoned creatures if you have any, slow you down, or inflict other status effects like freeze or poison, among others. Enemies can have different attributes and are weak or resistant to different types of elements and attacks and the quest monsters are usually the tough ones. The levels do become more challenging as you progress and the later levels can be deadly if you don’t have the right equipment or built your character incorrectly. Although, some encounters do seem cheap, even with good stats and equipment. In the later levels I often found myself getting ganged up on by tough enemy types and would just get annihilated. I browsed through the Steam forums and some other sites and have read about other similar encounters. So basically what I’m saying is, the game can start to feel more unbalanced the further you progress.
Fate has a cartoon-y visual style and the presentation is very is bright and colorful. Overall, I like the art style but I do wish there was more visual variety. As mentioned before, there’s only about a handful of visual styles for the levels so everything will look and feel the same after a while. The visual effects for spells look satisfying but I find the lack of gore effects to be disappointing. When you hit an enemy, it’s indicated by stars and some release what looks like green blood but you won’t be blowing enemies to bits or spilling their blood all over the environments. The character designs are solid and most of the monsters differ in appearance and size. The soundtrack is just as repetitive as levels. You’re going to hear the same handful of songs over and over again. Despite that, some of the songs are pretty good and add to the charm and atmosphere of the game. The sound effects are good complete with monsters making all kinds of different noises and loud bangs and clangs during combat. On the technical side, the frame rate dipped on me frequently. Usually when there was a lot of monsters on-screen which can happen often especially if you like to summon monsters. The dips are noticeable and can be annoying. The only bug I encountered was a quest item ending up out of bounds so I couldn’t get to it. However, exiting the game and loading up again resolved the issue.
Ultimately, I had fun with Fate. The gameplay is accessible and there’s depth to it. The replay value comes from building different types of characters and the randomized elements. However, I do feel the repetition is the game’s biggest downside. You can say many games in the genre are like this but they at least offer more detailed and varied environments. They include enough visual distractions to somewhat hide the fact that you’re just pointing and clicking your way through the game. What makes it worse is that you have to battle your way through about fifty levels to complete the main quest. It seems excessive for how little environmental variety is on offer and there’s basically no story and no multiplayer component of any kind. Fate feels like a game that was developed on a limited budget but thankfully, the developers succeeded in making the game actually fun to play and there’s depth to the character building which is one of the most important parts of a game like this. I imagine mods can really improved the experience and if there is still an active modding community out there, I would love to check out some of the content.
I would absolutely recommend Fate to fans of action RPG’s. It’s got problems but I think for the time it released, it was a good alternative to the Diablo games. It’s accessible and fun to play. It feels more repetitive than any other game I’ve played in this genre but that’s mainly due to the repetitive audiovisual presentation. I am interested in the sequels and hope they expand on things further. If you’ve played Torchlight, you can tell this was the precursor and I do think the Torchlight games are better. But considering how cheap Fate is, I would say it’s worth the eight bucks on Steam to check it out. Most of what Fate offers isn’t new but being moddable is a big plus and the pet concept is certainly welcome. Sending your pet back to town to sell off unwanted items is just a delightful convenience and prevents you from breaking from the action so much that it becomes nuisance. Over the years, other games in the genre have introduced new ideas and more convenient ways to do things but Fate is still fun and a solid entry in the genre. Definitely check it out if you’re at all interested in action RPGs.