Krater – Review

Release Date: Out Now
Developer: Fatshark
Publisher: Lace Mamba
Singleplayer: Yes

Thanks to Lace Mamba for providing a copy of this game for review.

You might be surprised to know that not many games take place in Sweden. Then again, what can really happen in the sleepy ex-viking infested country who’ve since traded in their long boats and axes for metallic music, indestructible cars and flat pack furniture? Well the guys over at Fatshark sure thought it was a good idea as to turn their home nation into a post-apocalyptic wasteland adventure in the form of Krater.

Krater, apart from being bad spelling, is a squad based co-op action RPG set somewhere in Sweden shortly after a nuclear war. Strangely enough the world of Krater revolves around a massive nuclear bomb crater that’s home to three factions, the first of which you’ll discover in the first episode of the game’s trilogy Shadows Over Solside.

From the get go Krater’s storyline is uniquely interesting, told from the point of view of a Solside settler alongside comic book style graphics in the cinematics as well as through dialogue in the gameplay itself. Your team of three plucky mercenaries arrive in the Krater and, after a night of heavy drinking and heavy fighting to celebrate their journey, set off to make their fortune.

What’s interesting is that the Krater/crater itself has become a lush wilderness full of trees and life surrounded by the harsh wasteland outside the crater. This makes for some luscious outside environments teaming with wildlife offset by the harsh ramshackle shanty towns that make up the majority of the human cities. Immediately you’re welcomed to a post-apocalyptic wasteland that’s filled with colour and life rather than your usual browny greys of the Fallout or STALKER universe.

The dialogue and characters you meet along the way are similarly varied and interesting with anything from a group of crazed frat boy party animals to mysterious business men in sharp suits that stick out like a mutant in a petting zoo. One disappointing factor however is the lack of voice over work. It’s there in dribs and drabs with the odd line being uttered at the start of each wall of text but what is there is surprisingly good which makes the absence of a full voice cast that much stranger.

While the majority of the storyline is great however, the gameplay in itself is nothing we haven’t seen many times before. With four classes to choose from being the tanky Bruiser, the healer Medikus, the ranged DPS Regulator and aptly named melee DPS Knife-Looney there’s not a whole lot of customisation to go with. Each character has a number of upgrade points that unlock as they gain ranks. The upgrade points are filled with looted or crafted upgrades that can enhance the character’s stats or improve their abilities.

For example, the Medikus can upgrade his healing abilities with quicker cooldowns or more healing done depending on the upgrade used. It’s a simple change from the traditional attribute points and skill systems of Diablo 3 but focuses more on crafting and loot than just simple leveling.

That being said there’s not a whole lot of room to optimise each class to your own play style as each class only has two abilities that they stick with throughout. Compared the other similar dungeon crawling RPGs the range of combat options is pretty slim in Krater. The monotony soon kicks in with the lack of customisation and abilities running hand in hand with the masses of cloned enemies that are thrown at you in droves bringing down the superb art style and setting. Co-op does help to add a bit of fun back in once you discover the game’s short comings but there’s not much to hold your attention unless you’re drawn in by the non-gameplay elements of the game.

As you might imagine this lack of choice directly affects the core gameplay, making fights rather boring to play after a while. This is further hindered by the relatively easy difficulty level. In Normal mode I was able to blaze through most missions without needing to heal my characters, even after major battles. This seemed to persist through difficulty levels with even the hardest not posing much of a challenge.

As you advance through the game and eventually leave the first town of Norrmalm you’ll be presented with a beautifully rendered world map of the Solside held territories inside the crater. Complimenting the other outside environments of the main game the map lets you travel around the world of Krater, discovering new towns and advancing the storyline. While travelling you’ll also discover random encounters that serve as small side quests, such as coming across a ransacked caravan, which help to break up the storyline.

Unfortunately, once you travel underground the art style takes a big hit, delving into strangely lit caverns populated with dull scenery and the apocalyptic sepia colour tone we know all too well.

Overall, Krater has the makings of a great game. It’s story, setting and art style all have the making of being something truly intriguing and worth while. All that however is unfortunately tarnished by a load of uninteresting gameplay mechanics, drab dungeons and the lack of voice work which would improve the story no end.

The Good:
+ Wholly interesting storyline and setting in a place few games have touched before.
+ Fantastic Art style that shies away from the usual muddy brown apocalyptic colour palette.

The Bad:
– Boring combat.
– Lack of true customisation.
– Dull interior levels.

The Score:
Graphics: 7
Step outside and the game really comes into its own, with a bright wilderness setting offset by the rusted shanty towns full of colourful characters. Shame the interiors are so dull…

Sound: 6
The soundtrack is a fantastic array of electronic wonderment and the voice overs, when present, are great. Past that there’s not much to comment on but with a full voice cast we could be on to something truly excellent.

Story: 8
A fascinating setting for a post-apocalyptic title set in a land untouched by video games thus far. The story isn’t Oscar worthy but it’s certainly got promise.

Gameplay: 4
A lack of customisation and class abilities drags down the entire title, with repetitive combat that’s not only boring but makes progression for the story’s sake a real chore.

Lifespan: 3
If you can find some enjoyment in the combat system you might come back for more, especially with the co-op play but apart from that there’s nothing to keep you playing till the next installment.

The Verdict: 5.5
A promising story wrapped up in a disappointing package. If the story had been presented as a graphic novel with the soundtrack it would have been a thing of wonders but as it stands the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. Lets see if they get it right in the next installment…

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