July is always a hectic month for PC gamers. Mostly, it involves battling the money-sucking dragon that is Steam’s Summer Sale. However, among the random assortment of games I brought over the course of two weeks, Krater has by far and away been my most played.
Name: Krater (Shadows Over Solside)
Available on: PC
Krater takes place in a post-apocalyptic Sweden, and is based around a massive impact site (coincidentally, called “Krater”), where free-lance digging crews search for old-world technology.
While playing Krater, you control a group of three mercenaries from a top-down view, and explore unknown caves, forgotten power-plants, and make-shift cities. There are actually four classes to choose from, so you’re going to have to leave at least one class out of the action. There’s the tanky Bruiser, the high-DPS Slayer, the crow-controlling Regulator, and the healer Medikus, which come in both Human and Mutant variations.
However, even if the classes seem familiar, the level-up and stats systems are something completely new. The biggest difference is that mercenaries don’t actually gain any raw stat increase from leveling up. They do, however, unlock more “implant” and “booster” slots. “Implants” are items which increase the health, defence, strength, focus and intelligence of your characters, while “boosters” improve their skills. Both of these can be found throughout the world, or can be crafted with salvage and scrap. In fact, everything can be crafted, including weapons and secondary abilities (known as “gadgets”), with the items you find while exploring the Krater, making it in your interests to explore every inch of every randomly generated area.
With the inclusion of features like the crafting system, as well as the overall visuals of the game, FatShark really do nail the feeling of a post-apocalyptic world, even when using cartoon-style graphics for larger-than-life characters, or over-the-top effects. My personal favourite part of this are the towns, especially the earlier ones, where houses are just freight containers, with tiny plots of land on top of them. It really feels like whole towns have just sprung out of nowhere, in the middle of the Swedish countryside, to look for the riches of an age long since gone…
Of course, it’s not all bleak in the post-apocalyptic future. The game is actually full of humour, from the cliché-mocking “rats in the cellar” first quest, to “IDEA”, the furniture company. In particular, the voice lines for some of the classes are pretty funny… OK, mostly the voice lines for the Regulator. But all-in-all, the game manages to stay pretty light-hearted, in what could have been a very depressing setting. It’s just another way that Krater manages to mix up the genre a bit.
Speaking of “mixing it up”, maybe the biggest difference between Krater and other ARPGs is the limitation of two skills per class, and the relatively low level-cap of only level 15 (compared to Diablo 3’s 80). Even then, your initial characters can only reach level five, and you must either hire new mercenaries with higher level limits, or use the “boot camps” to increase their maximum level by five.
However, there’s no limit to the amount of mercenaries you can choose from, and at no point are you forced to build a character in a certain way. Even the seemingly limited skill-pool is no longer an issue. For example, the Regulator’s “Slow Field” ability can be stacked up with damage boosters, making it into a deadly zone of death, or have several health and defence boosters applied, making it into an area-of-effect heal. You can have a Slayer that heals himself for more damage than he deals, or a Medikus that buffs the entire group’s strength, while sapping the health from enemies. You can even have multiple classes at once, so feel free to run about with three Bruisers, or have one Slayer be constantly healed by two Medikus. Basically, what might seem like a very limited game is actually massively open.
Krater (Shadows Over Solside) is actually only the first part of three in the Krater series, so look out for the other two. If they stick to the format of the first, FatShark are onto a real winner here.