Reviews

Adventurer Manager Review – Shave The Cows And Be Rewarded With Quiche!

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Platforms: PC
Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Vigilant Addiction Studios
Publisher: Vigilant Addiction Studios
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer: No

How many times have we taken up sword and shield and stormed a dungeon in the name of loot? How many dark corridors have been plumbed looking for chests? How many monsters have we fought? How many stats and skill points have we agonised over, wondering if we made the right choice? But have you ever thought it would be sort of cool to act as a manager to the people who go delving into those dungeons? Probably not, but that’s exactly what the developers of Adventurer Manager thought.

You take on the role of the sole heir to the King or Queen of Adventuria, and your goal is to build up a small army of adventurers whom you can dispatch at will to tackle quests and retake the land from the evil Miraj. Despite the name of the game  you’ll actually participate in the questing often, taking a group of four heroes into deep dungeons while other parties partake in their own objectives. The first step is to go through the limited customisation options to create your wannabe ruler, a somewhat pointless step since you’ll see very little of them throughout the game.

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Much of your work is done through the map of your kingdom. To gather new minions you just visit a town and click the hire button to see a selection of classes, starting with the basics like healers and warriors. By levelling up towns, done via several ways such as completing quests, you can unlock even more classes to play with, such as death knight’s and warlocks. These classes are in turn further modified by race; A halfling, for example, probably won’t make an exceptional warrior, but a giant will, and of course elves are just awesome with a bow. Furthermore every character you hire is randomly created, as are their strange and often hilarious bios. By questing you can level up your characters, allowing you to increase their attributes and invest points in a small selection of skills.

Adventures can be dispatched on automated quests at any time, thus you can farm new gear and level up your crew without having to manually deal with it all. These quests are also randomly generated by putting together a few sentences, and so it’s not unusual to find missions which task you with grooming the 71 men in a cave, for which your reward shall be Quiche. Regardless of the text the goal is just to kill everything in the dungeon. The first few quests you read like this are funny, but very soon they stop being amusing and you’ll never even bother reading the text.

You can always choose to control the party yourself. Dungeons are a series of interconnecting rooms which you navigate by choosing north, east, west or south on the compass and by keeping an eye on the map. When you enter a room you’ll usually have to fight a bunch of monsters or be greeted by a chest, or on occasion get targeted by some weird randomly generated “event.” No matter what direction you choose your intrepid adventurers will trundle toward the right-hand side of the screen, advancing to the next battle.

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Once in battle things are quite simple,  using time-honored mechanics; there are two rows of two slots for your characters to be placed, and so you tend to stick ranged and magic users toward the back while tanks and damage dealers sit at the front, with rules governing what weapons can hit which row in place. After that you fight by opting to use either one of the two basic actions – attack or defend – or launch a special ability which uses up some of the character’s spellpower, a resource that can be regenerated over time. The barbarian, for, example, could use Bear Fury to deal some extra damage, while the warrior could taunt a foe to attract its attention. The combat system is…okay. It’s hard to find much more to say about it. It uses mechanics we’ve seen time and time again, but lacks any real spark to make things exciting. Tactically there’s not much going on, and so battles are just wailing on the other party until victory or death is achieved, spamming normal attack until some specials are available. The most you ever need to consider is which bad guy to take out first and whether you should maybe skip using one special skill in order to recharge enough energy to use a better one. If you’ve ever played an RPG with turn-based combat you’ll be in instantly familiar territory here.

Battles also have a nasty habit of dragging on for too long if you encounter a group equal to your own simply because neither of you is doing very much damage to the other, leaving you to mindlessly chip away at health bars. This is at its worst during Invasions, missions in which you must battle through a host of enemies ending with a powerful foe. These apparently auto-level to your party, but this in turn means that invasions can take an age to complete, and on far more than one occasion the balancing seemed so heavily in favor of the enemy that victory became impossible, regardless of the party used.

A random loot system spits out new gear at an astounding rate, items dropping after every battle and chests popping up often, and thus you’re constantly adjusting and customizing your small army of freelance adventurers, swapping out their helms for better ones or giving them new weapons to play with. Combined with separate stats and skills it gives you a fair amount of flexibility when customizing characters.

There’s some small problems, though. The sheer amount of stuff constantly arriving can honestly turn into a chore, especially given that the gear rating system is pretty useless at indicating, at least in general terms, what’s the cream of the crop. Taken on its own the loot system is extensive, if not visually so, and sifting through it is fine, but coupled with how many adventurers you have at any given time it can irritate. After a while I began getting tired of trawling through a vast inventory in order to mildly improve my equally vast roster of characters,  and this is coming from someone with a love of the Diablo series and Borderlands.  Other small  details indicate a developer that could do with studying the pros just  a little, like how you can compare items in your inventory with items that you’re wearing, but not to other items in the inventory. Or how if two pieces of gear have dexterity bonuses they won’t be shown side by side, making quick comparisons just a little trickier. These aren’t game breaking or huge problems, but worthy of mention.

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In regards to difficulty Adventurer Managers can be something of a mixed bag, almost like it’s not quite sure what it wants to do. Enemy encounters can be tricky and losing characters or even the entire battle is quite common unless you go out of your way to over-level your party,  but a quick gold fee at the graveyard, which grows with every resurrection performed, allows you to bring back adventurers from death. There’s a selectable ironman mode should you wish to add perma-death to the game as well. Meanwhile in between fights in a dungeon you can opt to portal out entirely and return later, even using different people if you want, thus grinding away is an option as you just throw party after party at the problem. You can also choose to use the rest option between fights to regenerate health, though there’s a chance you’ll be ambushed in the process.

Back at your home castle you can take some of your hard-earned gold and use it to build add-ons that provide global stat bonuses, like better chances of grabbing extra money or faster earning of XP. Every new add-on to the castle costs more money than the last, thus expanding your little fort can seriously destroy your gold reserves. Oddly the new additions don’t visually match the rest of the castle, so you end up with a strange mixture of pieces. It’s a small detail, but things like this can make a difference.

There’s even a university where you can pay for your adventurers to take courses that can improve base attributes, their adventuring skills and individual abilities like fighting with swords or bows. Each course takes a certain amount of time to complete, but your adventurers can study even while they are busy tackling a dungeon. Like other aspects of the game each course will cost more gold than the last, and gold can be hard to come by.

The passage of time does play a part in the game as it’s possible for your adventurers to grow old and die, although strangely your wannabe King or Queen remains forever young.  After questing your characters will often need to rest in order to regain their endurance or else suffer penalties, and so you can opt to fast-forward time in order to hasten the process or to get automated quests finished up, but fast-forwarding increases the chance of an invasion mission occurring. Fail to repel an invasion and a town will be ransacked, stopping you from entering for a few days and dropping your reputation with them.

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Make no mistake this is a game that demands you grind and grind and grind away. For at least a few hours you’ll likely be doing nothing more then replaying the first few story missions and sending your adventurers on automatic quests just to level them up and gather enough gear to actually stand a chance of taking on the next story mission, such is the huge gaps in difficulty. And by the dark Gods does that make the initial chunk of the game a drag. There’s only so many times you can clear a crypt and fend on invasions before you begin to question why you’re even playing. Even after six or seven hours of play I had barely cleared the first few story missions and was therefore stuck with just a few quests. Eventually you settle into a repetitive yet still quite enjoyable routine, dispatching your minions to farm loot and experience in order to get to the next story mission which will also require vast amounts of grinding. In time you’ll actually have more than just a few quests to do, and a roster of powerful heroes with cool gear. It’s a game with quite a specific target audience, then, the kind of people who are happy to farm loot for hours on end.

The presentation of the game throughout is pretty rough, hardly surprising given that it’s an indie title. Adventurer Manager boasts what has become an overplayed pixel-art style meant to remind gamers of the good old days, but is mostly used due to a lack of budget. The game’s world maps look beautiful and the characters do have a certain charm, but the dungeon backdrops are completely boring. As for the audio there’s some truly horrible NPC sounds, and in fact there’s an option to disable them entirely. As for the music it’s…there. That’s about it. Sometimes it’s enjoyable, sometimes it’s a tad annoying.

There’s a lot to like here, and plenty of feel largely ambivalent about too. It’s a slow game where grinding is the king of everything and skill is largely not needed, even in the actually fairly limited managerial aspects. That’s somewhat surprising because when you break everything down there’s a lot of stats and things to check out, but during actual play all they seemed to fade into the background.  Yet there’s charm here, mixed with an addictive quality that’s hard to pinpoint. Sure, I couldn’t play for long sessions at any given time, but after a break I’d find myself wanting to go back for another quick play. Although the game is now out or Early Access development is seemingly carrying on and the developers themselves are very active over on Steam, so Adventurer Manager could have a bright future. Right now, though, it’s a good effort that doesn’t amaze.

The Good:
+ Building your favorite characters.
+ Loot!
+ Freaking loads of missions.

The Bad:
– Very repetitive.
– Battles tend to drag on.
– Too much loot. ( I can’t believe I said that)

The Verdict: 3/5 – Good
Repetitive and heavily reliant on grinding Adventurer Manager is nonetheless enjoyable, provided yo’re willing to sink a lot of time into it.

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