Saturday, March 22, 2008


What a pleasant surprise. While in an obviously incomplete state, FreedroidRPG is a surprisingly functional and full-featured attempt at blending a Diablo-clone with a more traditional RPG. I'd definitely recommend it to fans of Diablo-style RPGs or fans of sci-fi humor, without a second thought.

The plot is just weird. You're on a far away planet, where bots were the friends and helpers of humanity until just recently; they revolted and are out to slaughter all the humans. You play the part of Tux, a Linerian (read: a penguin). Linerians are an ancient and wise race said to be able to communicate with computers via their minds, and they came from an unknown galaxy for an unknown reason centuries ago. Tux was in cryogenic sleep until he was awakened by a human who was hoping he could save the world.

Yeah, it's really that bizarre. It's actually got a decent amount of depth; there's a city run by the tyrannical Red Guard, who offer folks security at the cost of outrageously high taxation and lack of personal freedoms. The city is well-populated with a diverse and unique cast of characters. The surrounding countryside, as well, is peopled with bizarre personalities that are a joy to interact with.

And that's the best thing about FreedroidRPG: its personality. The game is full of amusing jokes about Linux culture and geekdom in general, making it a delight to uncover new characters. While the writing is occasionally clumsy, it's usually witty and clever.

Unfortunately, there's not as much personality or cleverness in the general plot progression, as quests inevitably devolve into going into the same type of place (a dark and cramped dungeon) and doing the same type of thing: killing all the bad bots.

Its lineage is partially to blame for this; you could say similar things about Diablo, but Diablo did feature unique and varied locales which contained unique and varied creatures to kill. Here, everything looks pretty similar, and the bots are mostly derivative and unimaginative. This could change as more art assets are created for the game, but at its current state, outside of the city there's an awful lot of awfully similar terrain.

The graphics are a slapdash mix of aesthetics, with romantically pastelled post-apocalyptic trees surrounded by futuristic classic sci-fi looking buildings - it's Star Trek-meets-Fallout, competently done to varying degrees of success. It's never ugly, but it's occasionally boring.

The music is pretty but it gets old really fast. The music changes whenever you hit a different area, which makes for grating rapid transitions whenever you're near a border; this isn't the first game where I've noticed this, and it's a bit annoying.

Everyone's played Diablo so the basic game mechanics should be easy to pick up. Click to move, click to attack. Unfortunately, the pathfinding blows in constrained spaces and there's enough of a problem with item-finding that to pick something up or to attack something sometimes requires a bunch of random repositioning to find the sweet spot where the game will recognize what you're trying to do. It's manageable, but annoying. A little work on the part of the dev-team could fix it.

The only other real problem I found was that quest items are not indicated as such. This directly led to me quitting the game, as I discovered that I'd inadvertently sold an item needed for the completion of a quest, before I even got the quest. After wandering around the game world for hours, some Googling revealed that I had been wasting my time, and that I would have to start over to finish the quest. Game-breakers like that suck.

Outside of those faults, however, it's a fun romp in a geektastic post-apocalyptic world. Forewarned is forearmed (don't sell the energy crystals!), and keeping the flaws in mind, you should have a good time with FreedroidRPG. If it ever makes it to 1.0, it will be favorably comparable with any of the commercial Diablo-clones of the past few years. Open-source games, like ugly people, prove that personality goes a long way. FreedroidRPG has personality in spades.

No comments: