Nightmare of Druaga


posted 12/20/2004 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
One Page Platforms: PS2
There is only a single save-game slot per character. The only time you can voluntarily save the game is at the end of the play session, after which the game simply shuts down. The game is automatically saved upon each entrance and exit of the dungeon, recording everything that happened there (including death). If, for any reason, you try to reset the game to avoid the death being recorded, upon starting the next play session, you’ll be greeted with a visit from the goddess Ishtar, who proceeds to scold you for “meddling with the flow of time” or some such nonsense. Try it multiple times, and the scolding gets longer. Oh, and you’ll lose all your stuff and half your money, just like dying. Now, I would have no problem with this save system if this were an optional, hardcore mode. But I’m a fan of being able to save often. It’s just my style. To take that from me, and then have the audacity to preach at me and tell me save/restore in a single-player game is “cheating”…well, something about that just got me riled up. Incidentally, I did find a workaround to this save/restore problem that didn’t make death quite so devastating. Funny that I hardly ever go out of my way to exploit loopholes in games until the game tries to tell me now naughty it would be.

If the main dungeon levels aren’t enough, there are plenty of bonus levels and quests to partake of. Almost each floor of the main dungeons can open up its own 4-level special dungeon. These dungeons are quite a bit nastier than the regular dungeons, not only because the monsters are a lot more powerful, but also because feathers don’t work there. Escape can only be made by finding the key and hitting the exit. While no experience is gained from killing the monsters in the bonus levels, they do tend to drop some pretty nice stuff, so it is worth taking a trip every once in a while. In addition to the bonus levels, there are also extra quests that can be undertaken. These quests annoyingly require you to remove and store all equipment. At the beginning of each quest, Gil is reduced to 1st level, and forced to complete the quest only with the special quest equipment or stuff he finds in his dungeon travels. Thankfully, you can still feather out of the quest dungeons. After the quest is finished, Gil is returned to his pre-quest level, and given some sort of award.

For those who absolutely have to complete everything, most floors of the main dungeons also contain hidden Silver and Gold chests, chocked full of some powerful items. How these chests become available is something of a mystery to me. I was able to find most of the silver chests by simply wandering around and killing stuff for a while, and stumbling on the correct requirement. The Gold chests, as far as I can tell, only appear on a level that has been cleared once, and then only after fulfilling some sort of arcane action. I only found a handful of Gold chests myself, and I’ve no idea how I uncovered any of them. I guess the point of the Gold chests is to get the gaming community in general working together to find each chest, but I’m not thinking this game is going to have all that much community support.

Graphically, things are a little drab and muddy. There are a few different tile-sets for the different dungeons, and these soon become repetitive. And, since much of the game requires moving through the same levels again and again, things become tedious quickly. The monsters themselves, and Gil, aren’t all that impressive either. In addition, only a small portion of the dungeon is in view at any given time, as the rest of the screen is buried in inky darkness. Sounds are even less impressive, and there’s no voice acting at all. The music is decent, though. Control of the game is pretty simple, and the menus are manageable. I would have liked a better equipment control scheme, especially when trying to store everything I owned for the optional quests.

The Nightmare of Druaga will undoubtedly find a few fans out there, but I’m guessing it won’t be a game that ever finds wide appeal. There is plenty to do, with the bonus dungeons, a whopping-big end dungeon, and the ability to combine and upgrade most of the items to find that perfect dungeon hacking tool. However, even though I found myself somehow drawn in when I played, it often felt more like work than play. This is a definite “try before you buy” title.

A bland, though somehow addictive, turn-based dungeon hack-n-slash. Would be a decent enough title if it weren’t for the horrendous save system and penalty for character death.

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