Don’t let the Skyrim picture above confuse you too much because I’m actually going to talk about a little unassuming game called Hack, Slash, Loot, which I got as part of a recent bundle from Indie Royal. Alas, that game doesn’t do well in terms of screenshots and me throwing stupid text over it, and so I typed in “loot” into Google and found the above. Such is the way the cogs turn behind Grinding Down.
But yeah. Hacking, slashing, and looting. The game promises all three actions, but really only delivers on two, and those two are technically interchangeable, which results in one out of three. I’m not a school teacher, but I know a few, and I can imagine the type of letter grade a score like that would translate into. Despite that and a few other major faults, there are parts that I really do like about David Williamson’s independently developed roguelike that skimps on graphics and strives for missed dice rolls. There’s just something really charming beneath its brutally difficult skin.
Hack, Slash, Loot begins with choices. You have to pick a class, and they range from a Human Saracen to a Woodland Elf Archer. I went with a wizard most of the time. Once you’ve decided who you are, you need to figure out what to do, and there are six different quests to pick from: Journey to the Kimon, Mask of the Boy King, They Dwell Beneath, Dark Hearts and Evil Minds, Battle for Stormrise, and Tower of the Magus. These differ in terms of conflict and goals, but you will ultimately end up in a dungeon, killing monsters and searching for stronger weapons and gear. And each dungeon is randomly generated, making every quest, every adventure, new and unpredictable. In fact, one dungeon spawned my character in a room with two monsters right next to me, which helped to earn me this Steam Achievement:
Wooden Spoon: Die in less than 20 turns
Sweet, delicious failure!
But randomness is good, and it’s one of the reasons that I can go back to Diablo II, Torchlight, Dark Cloud 2, and the grottos in Dragon Quest IX today, in 2012, and still have a fresh experience. The graphics are retro and not distracting, with sprites taking center stage, which makes exploring the grid-based map easy. There isn’t much on the map, just a few candles and coffins, but it all looks good and recognizable. Again, I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff, but gameplay will always trump graphics for me, as it has to be fun to play, otherwise I’m just wasting my days.
That said, there is little loot to look for and the difficulty of Hack, Slash, Loot is more than enough to put someone off–it’s pure frustration. Healing your character does not happen in a conventional way; there are no spells or potions to regain health; instead, you have to loot tombs for scrolls which, may or may not, heal your little hero. This makes taking on more than one enemy at once a very dangerous situations, and I swear my character misses more times than he hits. Same can be said with enemies. It is a lot of missed dice rolls, which does not make for exciting combat; it just then feels luck-based since stats are not as visible as they need to be.
I never really got far in Hack, Slash, Loot, but I had a good time clicking around and trying out different weapons. Ranged weapons like staffs and bows were better for staying alive longer, but it was only time before I ran out of health. It was something to do while hanging out in bed, dog-sitting and watching Frasier. I just might go back again and hope that the next random dungeon is better suited…