A small band of adventurers, probing the dark mysteries of an ancient cave, dungeon, or tomb, looking for loot, fighting monsters, saving the kingdom, is part and parcel going back to the beginnings of roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons, not to mention the myriad video games that have built off such themes since then.
After all, what are most first person shooters but a one man dungeon crawl? Instead of treasure, you have big guns and bigger guns.
And don’t even forget about MMORPGs. The dungeon crawl is alive and well in those. Every night thousands, even millions, of people crawl through all kinds of dungeons, in group sizes from the smallest group you can have (two, after all just one person isn’t a group!) to forty man raids in World of Warcraft and even more.
But sometimes, you just want to get in, get out, and stop screwing about. Maybe you only have 30 or 45 minutes until it’s time for bed or some other potentially calamitous deadline approaches. (Sleeping isn’t calamitous for me, necessarily, but can be hazardous for objects, people, or pets in the general area – but I digress.) Or maybe you just don’t want to play for long.
Then you need FastCrawl.
FastCrawl is a fantasy hack-and-slash dungeon crawl. There’s no tedious character generation and tutorial you have to go through every time you start. There’s no backstory past a quick, one screen description. There’s nothing BUT the dungeon, the size of which is determined by how long you want to play – 30, 45, or 60 minutes.
Each time you start a game and pick a length of time the dungeon and the adventuring party are randomly generated. What, you don’t want to go into the dungeon with two rogues and two mages? Just restart.
There is a tutorial of sorts, if you want to leave that box checked – it’ll simply explain how attacks work, how to move around, etc. It’s not long, and it does a perfectly adequate job at describing most things. A little bit of extra clarifications – such as how range works for melee characters, what a potion of rushing does, or if keeping loot until the end of the game helps your score – might’ve been nice. But usually it’s nothing that you don’t figure out after a couple of times through the game.
The basics are quite simple. You have a group of adventurers. The maximum party size is five; the minimum I’ve ever seen is three (assuming, of course, everyone is still alive). Your party shares an inventory system, though only weight matters, and has to carry supplies to make it through the dungeon. Each “segment” moved into costs 1 supply, and if you rest (which will recharge your health and mana to full) it will cost supply based off the party size.
The characters always start off the same per class, but for every level you go down in the dungeon, they level up. You can pick to level them up as you use them – for instance, if your cleric is only healing, you can improve her healing – but if she’s fighting a lot, you might improve her defense and health.
There are four character types. You have the warrior, the basic fighting type. Typically his attack and health, or his defense and health, go up as he levels – but you can also train him in some minor healing. You have the cleric, who can also fight hand to hand and has healing spells, as well as the possibility of learning how to resurrect dead characters. The mage is the ranged firepower of the group, typically, and can use staves that you find in the dungeon as well as cast spells such as fireballs (or, upon leveling, switch to area effect or ice spells). Then you have the rogue, who is important for helping you pick locks and detect traps.
The game is turn-based. When you enter a segment with treasure in it, you automatically get it – though if it puts you over your encumbrance level, you’ll have to pick what to drop to carry what you need (including supply packs). If there’re monsters in the segment, it’s time to fight.
Fighting is very interesting, and also turn-based. The first thing you do is set up your group in a grid of three rows and two columns (thus, six possible places). Your enemies will be set up similarly. Front rows melee each other, and have to get through them before they can melee behind that row (unless they have a weapon with further reach); the rear rows can’t reach in melee, but can fire ranged weapons (such as crossbows) or use spells.
After defeating the enemies you may find some treasure.
The goals are typically straight forward – go down, find the enemy “fill in the blank”, and kill him or her. Sometimes you might have a “find a lost adventurer who will join your party” or “find an object” to proceed.
But, either way, typically your game will last 30-60 minutes.
Obviously, this is a game that’s more about the game play than anything else. The graphics aren’t super advanced, but they’re not bad – they’re more like art. The sound is adequate. But that’s not what the game is about.
It’s about having fun, and fun it is.