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Review - Slayer

Posted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:24 pm
by Martin III
[As promised, I'm back with a full-fledged review. As always, suggestions for improvement are appreciated. Next up, I'll be reviewing the one 3DO game no one has dared to review...]

Given the 3DO's modest lifespan, there's a surprisingly good number of RPGs for the system, spread out pretty well among the major subgenres, and of generally decent quality. Slayer, though, is probably the cream of the crop. More than that, it is a game whose like you probably won't find on any other console.

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Rather than an epic quest, Slayer is a customizable challenge which you can play for as little as a two-minute break if you like, though it also holds interest for multi-hour sittings. To start a game, you can choose from 22 predesigned characters, or create one of your own. You have a whopping 32 portraits to choose from, and can also select your character's class(es), race, alignment, and name. You can also keep "rolling" for stats until you get ones you like. While some of these elements are unimportant to the gameplay, replaying Slayer with a different character class almost feels like a completely different game.

But that's only the beginning. Slayer is a Mystery Dungeon RPG, meaning the dungeons are randomly generated, and unlike other Mystery Dungeon RPGs, you can pick the parameters for the dungeon. You decide the number of floors, monsters, items, and traps, and can even choose which types of monsters to an extent. Too many decisions to make? No worries - Slayer also lets you pick from three predefined sets of parameters, labeled as Easy, Medium, and Hard difficulty. You can even tweak parameters after selecting a difficulty. Say you want a hard game, but not so long; just select "Hard" and then turn down the number of levels. Want an easy game without so much clutter in your inventory? Select "Easy" and turn down the number of items.

Mystery Dungeon RPGs inevitably lack intelligent design in their levels, and that's both a curse and blessing. The curse is obvious, but for Mystery Dungeon aficionados, there's a strong appeal to exploring organic dungeons layouts. It's the excitement and unpredictability of a world where not every locked door has an item behind it and not every level's end is guarded by hordes of monsters and traps.

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And while some Mystery Dungeons suffer from every level feeling the same, Slayer doesn't fall into that pit. The bestiary is so large that you can't encounter every enemy in a single playthrough, even discounting the fact that the boss of each dungeon is randomly selected from three possibilities! There are also a variety of graphic sets for floor, wall, and ceiling textures, and an epic soundtrack which ensures that you won't hear the same tune more than once every three floors. Oh, and I do mean "epic"; there's a power and deep emotional resonance to the score which firmly places it among the best soundtracks of any 3DO game I've played.

On top of that, there's a massive variety of items to keep things interesting. In addition to the 12 equipment slots, you have 24 slots in which to carry items, but except on the harshest dungeon parameters, those slots will fill up fast. This enforces a "use it or lose it" principle on items, which keeps things lively; no hoarding items until you finish the game and realize you never used them! And some of the boosting items, in particular, are an absolute blast to use.

For all this splendid variety, perhaps what most sets Slayer apart from other Mystery Dungeons is how wide open the levels are. You don't navigate corridors in Slayer; you wander open areas with little rooms set inside. Together with how quickly your character moves, it's rare that you encounter a floor where you can't run from the entrance to the exit in under 15 seconds.

To keep players from rushing ahead to floors where they'll be in over their heads, each exit is locked, and only the gold key hidden on each level can unlock it. This makes it something of a game of "find the gold key", but you'll be having too much fun collecting items, changing equipment, and killing enemies to fixate on that much. But back to the point: the open levels create an experience which is far less elegant than a typical dungeon crawler, but there's a certain appeal in being able to run all around, and it certainly makes it a lot easier to survive against the enemies who can walk through walls!

Moreover, running around isn't always the safest thing to do, due to fireball cannon traps and what I like to call "land mine enemies". Instead of wandering the dungeon, these guys lie in wait until you come near, but once you do, they'll pop up right in front of you wherever you run, and they're considerably tougher than normal foes. Run around too much, and you'll have several of these guys on you at once! A True Seeing spell or orb lets you see where these guys lie hidden. Just another instance of how varied the gameplay and graphics are.

Besides variety, Slayer has a surprising amount of visual depth. Some walls have windows in them which you can see and even fire spells through. Pits of slime and ceilings of varying height stretch out to a length which leaves you feeling dwarfed. Psuedo-lighting effects add to the realism. You can look up and down (remember, even PC Doom didn't let you do this), and while this feature isn't strictly needed to progress, it makes it a lot easier to keep eyes on enemies that slither low to the ground or crawl across the ceiling!

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To help even the odds, Slayer has an impressive map feature. You can pause the game to view a detailed automap, but while roaming the dungeon you also have a dynamically updated mini-map which covers your near surroundings. And since the dungeons are dangerous enough that you'll be dying a lot, it's fortunate that upon dying you're taken immediately back to the main menu, and can have your save loaded within ten seconds of death. You can also load a save anytime.

And now, the minor stats and the final judgment:

Graphics 9/10 - Stunningly detailed textures, vivid enemies, and pretty much every trick available to 1st person games at the time.

Sound 10/10 - The pipe organ-laden musical score is so atmospheric and haunting, you can almost smell the stagnant dungeon air. A variety of creepy monster sounds let you know when one's bearing down on you.

Longevity 10/10 - Just one average playthrough is ten hours, and with almost limitless customization and randomization, Slayer is enough to satisfy all your future dungeon crawling needs.

Save feature 8/10 - You can save anywhere (and you'll need to). Better still, you can transfer your character's earned levels and stats to a new dungeon. This category only loses points because you're limited to one save slot.

Slayer has its quirks and glitches, some of which can add to its distinctiveness, some of which simply detract, but the overall experience is a combination of breathtaking presentation and rich, addictive gameplay which combines skill and randomness. If you don't like dungeon crawlers, Slayer won't win you over, but for the RPG enthusiast, this is a must-have.

Re: Review - Slayer

Posted: Thu Oct 10, 2013 4:17 pm
by Martin III
Hmm, no comments... I guess that just means that, my own opinion to the contrary, I already did an irreproachable job with the review! So it seems like a good time to brag that, with less than 24 hours since it was posted on GameFAQs, this review has already received a positive recommendation! 8) That's the first time one of my 3DO reviews has been recommended that quickly. I know it's trivial, but it still makes me happy.

Re: Review - Slayer

Posted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:12 pm
by Austin
You should really try "video-ifying" your reviews. There's a large audience for that (probably bigger than written reviews), and platforms like the 3DO especially get little to no love in that area.

Re: Review - Slayer

Posted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:50 pm
by Martin III
Austin wrote:You should really try "video-ifying" your reviews. There's a large audience for that (probably bigger than written reviews), and platforms like the 3DO especially get little to no love in that area.
I've thought about doing that. Not so much for the individual reviews, but being the RPG fanatic I am, I've thought I could do an "RPGs of the 3DO" video. The trouble is, I have no experience in video editing. Plus, right now I don't think I have the time to devote to taking all the gameplay videos, recording myself talk, and editing it all together.