Krater Review

Though each character has a couple of abilities, there’s not enough variety in the enemies or in the fights to create a situation in which you ever really worry about strategy elements; the most of it is coordinating a healing spell or freezing an enemy, or moving one of your weaker characters away from the front lines when they’re stupid enough to wander out ahead. In my playthrough, each fight started with stunning one character, sending my tank in to start bruising guys, and assigning the healer to fire a prolonged healing spell at the tank. Repeat, repeat, repeat, for hours and hours and hours.

The leveling system is at once interesting and frustrating. Characters each have a level cap: 5, 10 or 15. That basically puts a cap on how many implant and booster slots you’ll open up for them as they progress, so you’ll need to be very careful about what you assign where. Eventually, you’ll need to recruit new characters, which you can switch out at any point except in combat to make a team of three. It’s an interesting dynamic that gives you some room to customize, but there aren’t that many classes, so it really doesn’t matter which group you take into any given fight.

While it’s nice to have what amounts to complete control over your characters, Krater isn’t really all that clear with how to really improve them. For instance, I made it through probably half the game with my initial team of characters before I realized that there was a reason they weren’t leveling up anymore — I’d hit their caps and needed to recruit a whole new team. That meant I needed to take an hour off from working through the story or completing sidequests just to grind up some levels on my new team, and it wasn’t long before I realized that the new group, capped at 10, were probably a waste of money because what I wanted were the guys who I could max out. It also meant that I was opting out of adding implants to my guys in favor of waiting for better ones, since the space was limited.

Recruitment is tied to location as much as funds, so finding the right team with the right abilities is a matter of going to the right towns, and that’s even more annoying. Dying out in the world means you get bounced to whatever town you were at last, and since Krater is kind of huge, that often means repeating a big trek. The game is also hindered by some irritating bugs — sometimes you’ll click on a location to send your guys, only to realize you’ll have to send them nearby first before asking them to interact with that spot. Other times, attempting to move around the map ahead of your guys is hindered, meaning you’ll have to click incessantly along the way to get them where they’re going. It’s little things that make the whole experience feel unpolished, and those tiny irritations certainly don’t help larger ones like forced grinding,

Recruitment has another function: replenishing your ranks when your characters suffer permadeth. When you get KO’d in a fight, especially on the harder difficulty levels, your characters incur “injuries.” Too many injuries and they go down permanently: on lower difficulties you can heal them in towns, but on higher ones, you can lose your primary characters and be forced to start over with new ones. Unfortunately, it’s a better idea on paper than in practice, because Krater has trouble with difficulty spikes — you’ll often wander up on a character that can thrash you that you had no idea was about to thrash you. And then you might lose one of your primary characters, and find yourself required to recruit a new one, grind him up to speed, and then invest in all new implants, weapons and other junk to get him back into battle shape. That’s a sizable investment of time, and it’s enough to make you want to just hang up the game and play something else.

There are things about Krater I like. Loot is central to enjoyment in games like this, and you get a fair amount, plus crafting often results in cool new items you didn’t know you had access to. The setting and writing isn’t bad, and it’s refreshing to play a post-apocalyptic game in which every character wears a gas mask but in general, everyone is happy or at least not miserable. The music is great, and even though it’s repetitive, the gameplay isn’t awful.

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1 Comment on Krater Review

Daan

On August 8, 2012 at 9:53 am

Hi Phil,

After the disappointment that was Diablo3, both Path of Exile and Krater kept me busy for quiet a while in the topdown hack&slash genre. In general I think I agree with with your take on this game in this review, but you made quiet a mistake concerning one or two of the major cons you described, namely the repetitive leveling in the game, and perhaps also the difficulty spikes.

Leveling goes pretty quick, and the main time-investment lies in finding/crafting boosters and implants. That time is lost when you would be forced to create a new character to reach new level caps, and that would be very annoying. The thing is that that is not neccesary. The level cap can be raised, for a price of course, in certain villages (I only found one so far, the second village you go to); first from 5 to 10, than to 15. My initial party has been prancing around at level 15 for some time now. I would say the game is therefor not as repetitive (in an annoying way) as you presently describe it.

I don’t know if I agree on the difficulty spikes being a problem. They can give cause to a partywipe, but at normal difficulty this is no problem because you can heal your injuries before permadeath occurs. I also think these difficulty spikes, ones identified, can be waylaid by using a different party setup. My main party is ballanced in the sense that I have the classic tank, healer, DPS setup, but some encounters just ask for a different approach or you’r in for a lot of hurt. There is enough customization possible (probably with a new character with a different skillset) to allow for different approaches. In my experience these difficultyspikes are not random, but have to do with the encounter itself, and one that knows the game could thus identify these spikes beforehand and prepare enough characters to provide for these encounters. At the highest difficultylevel this means you must indeed know the game to avoid permadeaths, and this can be considered and probably is a big flaw. One might argue that the simple fact a player does not know encounters ahead should never in itself be a cause for permadeath. On the other hand one might argue this actually adds a layer of depth to partydevelopment and makes a secondplaythrough interesting because you go differently about leveling up your party, resulting in quiet a different experience than the first playthrough, and that people new to the game should simply not play on hardmode, which goes for a lot of games (although I admit a permadeath you could not see comming is just annoying, not a matter of playing at a higher difficulty and taking a world of hurt for granted). Of course this doesn’t mean anything for the repetitiveness of the action and questing in the game itself, which might be cause to not want to do a second playthrough anyway.

I quiet like the game. Nothing great or fancy, but refreshing in a way good worth for money.

With kind regards, Daan