fatetown.pngTake the original Diablo, add in a couple of bits from Diablo 2, top that off with a few original features, and you have Fate.

The game’s lineage is evident immediately, from the single town with dungeon below, to the point-and-click interface, the merchants with their variable inventories, the capacious (this time) stash, the randomized dungeon levels, and the usual list of “search and destroy” quests.

So what’s original? Mainly, your pet and fishing. The pet can be a dog or cat; both are generic, and differ only cosmetically. Your pet goes with you into the dungeon, and fights by your side. It can’t die, but at 0 hitpoints, it stops fighting and runs in frantic circles until healed.

That is something to be avoided, because while in the flee state, it doesn’t receive any experience for monsters killed in the meantime. Since the pet only gets half the experience you do, the points are precious.

Interestingly, while you can’t command your pet directly, you can load up its inventory with stuff, and send it to town. There it will sell all the items, heal up if necessary, and return with the cash.

Of course, a cat or dog, however advanced, would soon be no match for the monsters in the dungeon. For that, you have the fish. There are different types, each one morphing the pet into another form, complete with buffs to various stats, and in some cases, extra abilities.

The fish come in various strengths, the transformations lasting for 2, 5, or 10 minutes, or permanently (permanently unless another fish of any kind is given to the pet).

The town has a fishing hole to get you started, and the dungeon levels will have one or more, as well. Since the levels are random, though, you can’t count on finding a fishing spot on any particular one.

fatefish.pngIn addition to fish, you can pull other things out of the pond, including rings, amulets, gems, and artifacts. The artifacts are always good, though they may not always be useful to your character. However, they can be sold for hefty amounts of gold.

Unlike either Diablo, there are no character classes as such. You begin with a male or female, both of which are identical except for gender and appearance.

After that, you are free to develop as you see fit, although choice typically comes down to mage, fighter, or the hybrid fighter-mage. Even so, there is room for a little specialization.

Fighters can go weapon and shield, dual wield, or two-hander. Mages can concentrate on attack magic or summoning magic, with some defense thrown in for a little protection.

While there are separate skills for each weapon and magic type, there are no trees. You can add points wherever you like at level up. Unfortunately, unless you really want to specialize in a particular weapon, the skills are pretty much useless.

The only fighting skills worth building are Critical Strike (works with all weapons) and Shield (which improves chances for blocking, but only with a shield equipped).

That’s rather a pity. I’d have liked to see some specialties for different weapon types, which would make concentrating on one alone worthwhile. As it is, you’re better off not bothering.

With magic, it’s different. There are three classes: Attack, Defense, and Charm. That last one is used to summon monsters, id items, and open town portals.

The trick with magic is, you can have only six spells of a type in your book at one time. Sooner or later, you’ll have to dump one to take on another. And once gone, it’s gone forever, unless you find or buy that spell again and “relearn” it.

fatestash.pngPerhaps the most interesting aspect is the “heirloom/descendant” feature. At the start of a new game, your character is tasked to destroy a particular monster – this is your fate – way down on a certain level of the dungeon.

Once you’ve accomplished that, you can retire the character, and pass along one of your items to a descendant. It can be anything you like; canny players choose a ring or necklace, which has no requirements.

The item’s enchantments increase by 25% every time it’s handed down, thus becoming more potent as it’s passed along. The receiving character (descendant) is created immediately, and comes in with a few perks, too.

As a member of a distinguished line of heroes, he or she immediately gains one experience level, and two levels of fame (more on fame in a bit). If that character later retires and passes the heirloom on, the next descendant gets an experience level, and three levels of fame.

Fame is good, because it gives you four extra skill points per level to distribute. Fame is acquired by completing “quests” for the townees, and sometimes by killing random “boss monsters” in the dungeon.

You can also buy fame. That’s important, because as the game progresses, you’ll find yourself, as usual, awash in gold with little to purchase. So the money is used to bump up your fame levels.

The quest system is far better in some ways than that in Diablo. For one thing, you know exactly what you’ll receive as a reward. Gold, fame, and experience are always there (exact numbers, too), and sometimes an item, which may or may not be useful.

fatejobs.pngYou can decline a job, if you prefer. You can also cancel it after accepting, if you change your mind, or you want to keep some item you’ve been asked to retrieve. In that case, of course, you don’t get the reward.

Three quests at a time is the limit. To get the most benefit from that, naturally you want them to be for the next level you’re going down to. And there’s the rub.

Like everything else, this is randomized. So you’re going to, say, level 10, but the person wants a job done on level 12. So you decline that and ask someone else (there are six of these quest givers). He wants level 11.

If you can’t get three for level 10, the you have to quit to the main menu and start up again. This randomizes all the ungiven quests. Sometimes, it’s taken me as much as ten minutes of this to get three tasks on the desired level. Then again, I’ve been able to get them all on the first try.

It would have been better, and less annoying, to have the quests set to the next “untouched” level and leave it at that. The randomized quests add nothing to the game but frustration.

Gameplay itself is simple. Click on the ground to walk. Left-click an enemy to attack with a weapon; right-click to attack with a spell. Left-click an item to pick it up (or shift-click to have your pet do it).

Spells, by the way, can be bound to the F1-F12 keys for quick changes, since only one spell can be ready at a time. Naturally, they use mana, but mana regenerates on its own, and certain items and gems can speed up the recovery. Health, however, doesn’t regen. For that, you need potions or an item that gives you health regeneration.

Sooner or later, you’ll end up dead. Happily, you don’t have to go running back to your body. Unhappily, there is still a cost for dying. You have four choices after biting the dust.

The first and simplest is to quit. On restoring, you’ll be back at the bottom of the stairs, alive and well. Of course, you’ll have to redo the level. This is the one I preferred.

fatecombat.pngThe second one is to shell out a bunch of gold and fame points, which heals you up, and leaves you where you just were. That may or may not be good, depending on the opposition.

Next, you can be healed up, pay less gold, and be teleported to a level at random, within three of your current location. Could be up, could be down.

Finally, you can be fully healed, and sent up three levels. That, however, will cost you all your gold. Perhaps a reasonable choice if you’re poor at the moment.

This is a good feature. You have multiple choice here, and can take whichever penalty best suits your circumstances and disposition. I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like this in any other game.

Dying can easily happen as you go deeper into the dungeon. On some levels, I’ve walked into an area with two minibosses – and friends – together. A very sticky situation, especially if you don’t have any friends (summoned critters) of your own with you.

Transportation is strictly by town portal. It stays open until you go back through to the dungeon. That includes leaving the game, which is the D2-style “save and exit” only.

There are four difficulty levels in Fate: Page, Adventurer, Hero, and Legend. Adventurer is the default; Page is the easiest, and the other two are for the gaming masochists who think Diablo 2 Hell difficulty is fun.

The big difference here, is that you start at level 1 in all difficulty levels. There is no way to take your experienced character from, say, Adventurer into Legend. That, I believe, is the main reason for handing down heirlooms to descendants.

Being rated “E for Everyone”, the game is suitable for children 10+. Your kids can play this and you won’t have to worry about what they might see or hear. No foul language, no nudity (all monsters are non-human), no mess.

Graphically, the game is quite good. The visuals are sharp and clean. Animations, sound effects, and music are well-done. And the requirements are low: a 32 meg video card with 3D acceleration, which most everyone has (or has better than) these days. 256 meg(!) of RAM. 800 Mhz CPU. Win 2K or XP.

fatetreasure.pngMy biggest quarrel with this game is the belaboring voice-over: “You enter the portal”. “You have sprung a trap”. “You are poisoned”. “You have completed a quest”. Totally unnecessary, and repeated time after time. Eventually, I turned off the sound, as there was no way to disable that incredibly annoying voice.

The game crashed on me just once, as I was returning to the dungeon. Fortunately, rebooting my system and bringing the game up had me in the right spot in the dungeon. I suspect that it was doing a lot of those “quit and continues” to get the right quests that caused it. Quitting from time to time to the desktop, and then playing again seemed to have cleared that up.

Overall, Fate is a fun rendition of the Diablo-style dungeon crawl, despite a few annoyances. You can play it a few hours, or just jump in for a level or two if time is short. Like all such games, eventually it becomes over-familiar. In the meantime, though, for $20, you can definitely get your money’s worth from it.miniscorp