Monday, January 6, 2014
Encrypter is something of an oddity, a short total conversion for Heretic released in 2013 by Doomworld Forum superstar Fenriswolf, to be played in ZDoom. It truly is a total conversion, with a bunch of new assets, though the quality of the new textures and sprites does not necessarily compare to the game it is building off of...at all. But that's okay, because they're all pretty much from the same fountain, combining to give Encrypter its own distinct aesthetic. Encrypter isn't really an action game like Heretic; there's action, to be sure, but the actual feel is something of a little role-playing module in first-person shooters' clothing.
It's set in some kind of fantasy world, your local location having an Arabic / Egyptian flavor. You're an erstwhile adventurer who gets called by the sultan to investigate tomb robbers only to uncover the initial foray of an undead army under the sway of a powerful sorcerer who you are tasked to defeat. Your journeys lead you to the mountain hideaway of a high priest who sends you first to a world of psychedelic mushrooms and then back in time to an era where humans were but slaves to another, more powerful race. Finally, you take on the stronghold of the necromancer himself, with a pretty eye-rolling plot twist, but whatever, the final screen has a floating castle on it, which leaves me looking forward to the next installment...and I'll explain why.
Encrypter isn't a knockout mod. The enemies are pretty basic fare. You've got easily disposable spiders and bats, slightly tougher scorpions and spitting cobras, floating undead warriors and mummies, red and blue devils, and guardian ghosts, all of which only face in one direction - toward you. Some enemies have ranged attacks you might have to dodge, and some of them have drops, like scorpion tails which can be traded in for cash at the beginning. They also tend to respawn during gameplay. Not like "whoops, triggered a trap" respawn, but plain ol' dungeon re-population. Overall, it's kind of like a more sophisticated Catacomb 3D, because while the level layouts are sub-par compared to Heretic's base levels, they're a cut above Wolf3D, plus you can interact with NPCs.
Yeah, Encrypter has a bunch of dudes to talk to, even if the conversation is on par with your average JRPG - think mostly one-liners. They're also willing to give you little quests, keeping in mind that these are your basic fetch quests. Grab an antidote some guy left in the desert, find a tome another man left in the caves, go kill a giant snake, that sort of stuff. A lot of these little sidequests are wholly optional and some are required to progress, like in the mushroom forest. You don't really have to go very far out of your way, though, especially with the Doom engine's liberal idea of player movement. The important thing is, they can get you gold or potions, and gold is very handy because it's the first and easiest way to get your ranged weapons.
You start out with the sword. Meek, uninteresting, and quite frankly dangerous to use against anything with a ranged attack. The crossbow is a direct upgrade; it just takes some time to reload, but it's got a lot of utility even after grabbing the elder staff, a weapon that shoots fire along the ground that does damage and pierces enemies, great for hordes of the undead, but useless against monsters that can actually fly, I think. Which is why the penultimate level gives you the raven wand thingy, so you have a mana dump that can strike flying enemies, namely the boss. It has a bit of a chargeup time, and is a waste against weak monsters, but is still handy to have.
I dig the dungeon crawler atmosphere of Encrypter, warts and all. If Fenriswolf wants to step it up, he can spend some time on texture alignment and just plain making areas like the wasteland or the tombs look less like butt. I'm not saying go full on overdetail, but classing up the architecture and using stuff like midtextures for canopies or curtains or banners and stuff would go a long way toward making the sequel - if there ever is one - very nice. The unidirectional monster and NPC sprites don't bother me at all, especially in the absence of infighting. Better area design and a more persistent world to hunt around in would be great, something even more resembling an RPG than this mildly entertaining RPG-lite Fenriswolf has going on.
I would say that Encrypter is worth a playthrough if you enjoy older dungeon-crawling RPG-ish games. It's definitely nothing like Heretic, but if you see all of this and aren't put off by the description, load it up and give it a shot. It's a decent little mini-adventure, whose music lends it a lot of atmosphere (and a hefty file size!).
...BUT THAT IS ANOTHER STORY