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About the Story
Bluex the divine king of Surya has decreed for you to locate the Arch Mage Wizard Necron. Necron built an enchanted castle deep within an ancient forest to protect himself and his people. Esentially, you are being sent to investigate since no communication with the outside has occured for over twently years. Your master gave you a dragon skin tome from his own private library, and a magic bag of holding. The magic bag allows you to place an unlimited amount of things into it. As a magic user your primary ability is to cast spells. By collecting experience points, you may progress upwards in "level". Your odyssey pits you against the supernatural forces that oppose your efforts to reach deep within Necron's Keep. Read on, adventurer. Your quest awaits!
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Whenever I play a game that makes big-time typos (roll playing) and tells me I have scored more than it was possible to score, I know that I'm in for a bad time. Such is the case with Necron's Keep, another game in the long list of games that have never graced a beta-tester's fingertips.
Despite the typo, the game starts well, nearly very well. However, once the intro text is done, you're in a forest missing your sense of direction. That's not very realistic or very entertaining. In fact, it's straight out of the instadeath (TM) school of bad DMing. You remember those DMs, don't you? The sadists who took particular delight in killing off characters that took you months to level? Necron's Keep steals a few ideas from their campaigns.
But wait, there's combat, a true test of any role-playing game. This system seems to be based on the AD&D system, but Necron's Keep informs you of the Actual Die Rolls. Yes. When you attack, you get to read your to hit die roll, the monster's to hit die roll, and the die rolls for the damage! That just doesn't make for a good gaming experience, and decent DMs didn't tell the players about the mechanics anyways. They'd say something like, "The kobold is really staggering now, after your mace connected with his skull."
But that's not the only annoying thing about the combat system. There's the assumption that your character always attacks whatever baddies he finds, which means when you're wounded, you'll soon be dead. That's right. In Necron's Keep, a character with half of his hp gone automatically attacks anything he finds!
Then there other gameplay issues -- for example, not being able to use undo even though the option is provided when you die. When you pick up objects, the game tells you the room from which they were picked up; why that is necessary, I don't know. That along with combat might lead you to think that information overload rules the day. Not so. Most of the information provided is useless or annoying, yet the help is a threadbare affair. What's really happening is a kind of textual anorexia nervosa.
The descriptions are decent (except for one plagiarized from Zork), but the grammar is haphazard at best with typos, misused words, missing punctuation marring the experience. The points and what they do are obscure, the puzzles simple, and the combat, maddening.
All in all, Necron's Keep comes across as half-baked. I'm sure that the author can polish this, and I encourage him to do so; until then, there are just too many typos, bugs, and annoyances to make it worth your while.
Version five of Necron's Keep is a great advance on the buggy original I tried many years ago. I played this hardcore CRPG to completion over four hours and found it to be very entertaining, in spite of the continued presence of many bugs of inconvenience (mostly involving the automatic inventory management). In a nutshell, Necron's Keep is a challenging, detailed and unforgiving single-character fantasy CRPG. There's no UNDO, and you'll need to keep and label many a save file to make it through. What you get in return is an interesting spellcasting system, transparent die-rolled combat and a satisfying gaming challenge with plenty of danger. The story style is probably most like that of a 1980s Fighting Fantasy gamebook, complete with nasty surprises, while the combat adds some AD&D-like detail.
You wouldn't expect someone called Necron to be a nice guy, but the truth of this game's background story is that you don't know. He's an archmage who went off to live with his people in an enchanted castle and fell out of contact with the world. The king has sent you, a mage, to Necron's place to find out what's going on.
In the fashion of many an old-school (or old-school-styled) RPG, the beginning of this game can be the roughest time. It's when random die rolls and traps can kill you off quickly. Traps and monsters will eat your hp (there are both fixed and random encounters), and the spells you cast to try to protect yourself also cost hp. The multi-page tome you're given to read at the game's start is semi-overwhelming, but it combines lore on how the spell system works with hints that will help you later in the game. You start off with a good number of spells; they show up in your inventory. More spells can be learned from scrolls you find (doing that also costs hp!) and some require material components that you need to find on your journey. This is quite a cool aspect of the game, though it takes a lot of observation to work out which components get eaten by the casting of spells. In bad but amusing news, the game is prepared to incinerate your only held wooden weapon to cast a spell requiring wood if you don't have any other wood in your inventory. You can detect traps, mend broken items, divine the nature of things, cast offensive spells in combat. There's a good range of stuff and a lot of it works on a lot of the game's contents.
The thing that might drive some players spare is the inventory. You've got an unlimited holdall, but only finite hand space. So the game autoswaps items in and out of your holdall as required. This constantly results in situations like you putting away one of two things you need simultaneously when you take the first one out, or accidentally forgetting to get the wood out and burning your weapon as a spell component. This is the main site of bugs in the game that still needs fixing.
The early game is about battling through and finding healing items to sustain you. Once you have the power to create your own healing sphere (this is a cool effect, where you ENTER SPHERE, then sleep or meditate to recover), you enter the midgame, roaming around fighting monsters, collecting xp, healing, learning new spells. The late game could be considered tackling the bigger puzzles and challenges of the keep directly. I was stuck for ages in the midgame because one room exit wasn't mentioned, but I'm not sure if this was semi-intentional – there's a magic item you can acquire that gives you an exit lister, and it was the exit lister that showed me the new way to go.
Once you've worked everything out in Necron's Keep, there's a degree of optimisation in stringing all your knowledge together, and probably revisiting older saves where you were in a better position. I felt really satisfied when I completed it.
This is definitely one for people who like this kind of game, and in spite of its inconveniences, I think it's a good example of the CRPG in parser game form. I wouldn't normally give a game with this many bugs remaining a four, but I can't go below four for a game that kept me this involved.
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This is version 18 of this page, edited by Dan Welch on 23 January 2019 at 1:02am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item