Tuesday, February 26, 2008


The creators claim that Egoboo is eventually going to be a top-down (actually isometric, for the record) 3D NetHack-style randomly generated dungeon romp. It's not quite there yet.

The list of annoyances abounds. I'll start with the most important one, though it's not actually a problem with the game. Playing with the mouse was impossible, and playing with the keyboard was infinitely better but still horrible (I'll go into why in a minute). This leaves the joystick.

After I got the hang of it, the joystick was definitely superior to the other two options, but after around fifteen minutes of play, the game would bounce from full-screen to windowed, and everything would go grey. Then it would all lock up. The program was still running, and my PC was still running, but I couldn't exit from Egoboo or do anything else; I had to resort to the reset switch.

After it happened twice, I realized what was going on: apparently, Linux doesn't recognize activity on my USB joypad as input, so it was trying to cut on the screen blanker thingy due to inactivity. When I moved the mouse to try and get back to the game window, it stopped doing that, but left me in some weird limbo state where I was neither in the game, or in my regular OS window, but instead stuck.

After having to reboot twice, I took to jiggling the mouse for no reason every five or so minutes, and the problem stopped. That was seriously annoying, even if it wasn't the fault of the game. Doesn't happen in Windows!

Onto the other issues: targeting sucks. You attack in the direction you're pointing. On the keyboard, there are four directions. It's virtually impossible to hit anything, ever, without tons of work, and taking tons of damage. This is a step above playing with the mouse (you essentially can't even move, using the mouse to control). Even with the joypad, there were more misses than hits; I suck, but I don't suck that much.

Other interface problems? You have three keys for each arm. An attack/use key, a pick-up/drop key, and a put-in-pack/remove-from-pack key. They default to T,G,B and Y,H,N - in the words of the limited but simple Pandion Knight, Kalten of Elenia, it's 'bloody hindering awkward'. The joystick is a bit better, but a more streamlined interface would be nice. Even on the joystick, the setup is innately weird and non-intuitive.

There's more along that vein, but it's minor stuff compared to the movement, targeting, and interaction systems. Let's move on, shall we? The actual content is quite limited, but the game is still in development, so that's to be expected. Rather than any randomly-generated dungeons, there were a collection of static dungeons that had simple objectives; when you completed them, you didn't move on to another one with the character that you'd spent time developing, but instead were told to 'Press Escape' which exits the game.

Most of the levels had objects which had to be jumped on; jumping on switches was relatively painless, but jumping on floating platforms was a reminder to the world that Old Man Murray's Chet and Erik were right a decade ago when they decried jumping puzzles. The control issues make jumping on stuff a pain in the ass.

Outside of the limited levels, lack of character generation, and apparent lack of character progression (some of the levels suggested that characters could be imported from previous dungeons to others, but there was no evident way to accomplish this), the levels themselves were nice-looking and fun to run about in.

The camera zooms too close to the character, and there wasn't any way to pan it on my joypad (I think there is, if you have enough buttons; the config files reference it), so it was a constant struggle to see enemies before they saw me, bu the environments in my limited view were always nice-looking. Somewhere between SNES and Dreamcast quality graphics, at 800x600, which offered little to no improvement over 640x480.

Hrmn... other complaints... oh, each of the levels had a sort of intro-screen that explained your goal, and what you were doing. I think. It flashes by so quick that I never got more than half a dozen of the words. Someone should make that screen wait for a mouse-click.

The graphics, as mentioned, are adequate and consistent if a bit amateurish. The sounds are that, but more on the amateurish and less on the adequate. I didn't enable the music, so I can't vouch for it.

The bottom line is that this game is incomplete, and not a lot of fun at its current state. With control issues, a clumsy interface, no reward for extended play, and no character development, there's just no reason to bother with this release. Perhaps after it matures a bit, and comes a bit closer to its stated goals, it will offer a delightful diversion to fans of rogue-likes, but for now I'd pass.

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