I find so many indie titles to be unoriginal and uninspiring that, at times, it takes effort for me to continue to try new titles. Just when I am about to turn away from them for good, an original, well-made game like Depths of Peril crosses my keys. Suddenly, I'm doing an about face and really rooting for it to make a name for itself and do well.
Depths of Peril is an interesting combination of a role playing, hack n' slash and strategy. You are an up-and-coming hero in the barbarian kingdom of Jorvik. Only the strongest hero will live to rule the kingdom as you vie for power against other barbarian leaders and covenants while protecting the city. You gain experience, items, relics, knowledge, gold, equipment, skills, statistics, influence and crystals by the completion of quests and through the destruction of competing covenants.
A very rich background of lore and a series of quests that continue along a main storyline really fill out the game. There are four levels of difficulty which change the map levels/layout, yet the quests maintain consistency throughout each game world - they are well written, and moderately challenging. While adventuring, you'll find up to 40 books you can place in your covenant house library; there is a lot of reading material to get lost in. The lore covers general history, ancient wars, enemies and other heroes from your land; this is definitely something you won't find in your typical hack n' slash game. This extra bit of detail is what really sets Depths of Peril apart from other indie titles.
Procedurally generated content results in highly randomized quests including the killing of single powerful enemies, escorts, rescues, deliveries, collection, elimination of rogue barbarians, and groups of powerful enemies on regional maps. There is also a whole series of town defense quests involving the curing of plagues, townspeople, the water supply, stopping thieves, and raids of monsters; left unchecked the entire town can become heavily damaged and nearly destroyed. Unfortunately the town you play in is small; having only eight NPCs total, leaving the world feeling a bit too mechanical at times.
The hack n' slash element of Depths of Peril is implemented surprisingly well. It would be easy for the routine quests to become dull quickly but the random factor forces it otherwise. The goals for your quests are rarely the same, and change locations all the time; most importantly the unique and elite enemies found throughout the world are random as well. The attributes of these powerful enemies can range from simple to extraordinarily difficult, often requiring a different approach and thinking to your strategy.
I have really enjoyed Depths of Peril but I found it difficult to stick with in the beginning. Introductory combat is rough, and it isn't until later that the character development system really shines. The game could stand to have a clarified statistics system. The tutorial explained how everything is calculated but it was rather confusing; eventually, I got the hang of it. Equipment is also random, including the combinations of statistics from virtually worthless to those rare combinations that you'll be able to keep and use for a dozen levels. The lore filled books add to your statistics, as well as found relics throughout the world which apply to your whole covenant.
Combat is point and click with hot keys for special attacks, statistics, inventory screens, and inventory items. There are four classic character classes: warrior, rogue, mage and priest; they are decently balanced, but a few start off a bit slower and weaker than others. My first character was a rogue that never really could accomplish much against other barbarians, but had great potential for damage avoidance and critical hits. My warrior was more solid and has really developed into a good tank and massive damage dealer, able to switch up offensive and defensive at will. You can only adventure with one NPC party member at a time, so choosing the right support class can be equally important as beefing up your own statistics and skills when you level.
Strategy elements for Depths of Peril come primarily from your goal to eliminate enemy covenants. There are numerous ways to accomplish this, from raids on their house, to a war, sabotage, alliances, and more. You can fight alongside enemy covenants, or watch as they fight and then join in on a war to rub one out, or even play more defensive by maintaining a high level of party members and guards at your house. If you maintain your relationship with enemy covenants by trading, giving gifts and fighting alongside them you can stay out of trouble, or you can attempt to instill fear into them by hammering out more influence gains (primarily gained by quest completion) than any of them.
Covenant relationships are similar to playing turn-based strategy games because of the style of options available when dealing with them. When you have destroyed all covenants (or allied but reign in a superior position of influence) you actually beat the game. Large reward chests are provided and you can either continue on in a single player style game, or start over (while retaining your character) with a new world and difficulty.
For an indie game Depths of Peril has a pretty impressive set of graphics. The isometric view tends to make it feel a bit dated, but once you zoom in you'll see maps and characters just full of detail. The music is decent, but most importantly, it is not annoying. Sound effects are a little basic, with thwaps and clunks, but fit the style of the game. I did encounter an issue with a few crashes during gate jumps home; luckily, the game auto-saves so you aren't out anything and it didn't happen very often. Also some of the quests appeared bugged; on a couple of occasions the counters just wouldn't register anymore.
Depths of Peril is a unique and addicting little game that I've played for many hours already and intend to keep on playing. Though the game could use more attention to detail - and a bit of filling out of world areas - as it stands, it is far from the typical static environments I find in so many games. The leveling and statistics are complex and interesting; it just keeps me always wanting to fool around more with it. One of the best elements of the game is the shear randomness. Maps, enemy types, quests, items, loot, locations, rewards, and difficulty all find ways to change each time you play, and even while you play. While Depths of Peril doesn't seem to stand out in any area in particular, there is just something about the game that won't let me stop playing. It is one of the rare cases where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I hope the developers keep up their enthusiasm and expand their vision further.