Apocalypses can be such dreary places, the whole world turns into a sandpit and the survivors are generally all bastards. Krater bucks the trend by giving us one of the most verdant apocalypses I have ever seen. I guess if any country was going to make an apocalypse pretty, it would be Sweden. Unfortunately there are still a lot of bastards in Krater, most of which are completely mad, plus there is the addition of mutated bears. Although the titular crater of Krater may seem at first to contain a picturesque apocalypse, the people living there still have plenty of horrible things to deal with. This reflects Krater as a whole; at first it seems like a pretty and polished action RPG but over time its bugs and rough edges, while not horrible, certainly detract heavily from the experience.
Krater sees you in control of a team of three maladjusted adventurers. The “heroes” you control, along with every other inhabitant of the crater, are all slightly crazed. Krater doesn’t take itself too seriously and the irreverent approach to the apocalypse is as refreshing as the abundance of trees. The gasmask wearing NPC’s all have certain fetishes or obsessions and the game has great amount of personality to drive home the weirdness of the people who live in the crater.
Another strong facet of the game is the art design, the character models in particular not only look fresh and interesting but re-enforce the madness of Krater’s inhabitants. The environments are well presented and as noted previously are surprisingly pretty for an apocalypse. That said there are the obligatory action RPG dungeon areas which unsurprisingly take place in caves and abandoned power stations. The industrial dungeon areas are in the process of being reclaimed by nature, so flora and fauna are abundant even there. My only complaint about the graphical side of Krater would be that, especially above ground, the colors are really samey giving the world a slightly washed out appearance. This is especially noticeable after many hours of playing Diablo 3, which uses color fantastically well to ensure everything on screen is always easily distinguishable.
Krater is in the unenviable position of being released just after, and in the same genre as, the fastest selling PC game of all time. Although Krater is a different beast to Diablo 3 in so much as action RPG’s can be different to one another. Of course the basics are the same: killing hordes of enemies to slowly build your characters in power to kill more enemies in isometrically presented dungeons. But in Krater the mechanics are slightly different. Each of your team of three is taken from a pool of characters referred to as the roster. Characters have a max level that initially is only set at 5. As you progress you are able to purchase more characters to put into your roster pool that still start at level 0, but have increasingly higher level caps. This means when you get your characters to their cap you will have to replace them with an initially weaker team member and level them up over time until they are better than those they replaced. I like the feeling of investment you get from nurturing characters that start off weaker than the rest of the party but whom eventually become more powerful. It also adds an extra level of complexity and planning to party management. This is needed as characters only ever have two abilities at one time and without the risk/reward planning of the roster Krater’s party system would be overly simple.
Krater’s form of character levelling is also different from the norm. As a character gains ranks you aren’t given skill or attribute points to allocate instead empty “booster” and “implant” slots are opened up allowing you to slot in upgrades to their stats and abilities as you see fit. Now that I think about it the system isn’t all that mechanically different from the norm but it’s nice to see a change in presentation from the traditional “level up” screen.
The “good” of Krater is that it’s a visually well presented game that brings a few nice new ideas and elements to the action rpg staples. The “bad” is that it often feels like your playing an incomplete beta version of the game.
For starters the UI is wonky as all get out, and searching through your inventory trying to work out what’s an upgrade and what you should hang on to and what you should sell is painful as everything is too small and finicky. Then there are further annoyances like the fact you originally couldn’t change the order in which your party traveled (incredibly annoying when your healer is stuck at the front of the party formation) and even when that was patched into the game the process for doing it is obtuse and un-documented.
Things are chopped and changed each patch (since release there has been almost one a day): Buttons that did nothing disappeared from the over world map, the way the inventory was sorted was changed and the options to change the volume of music and sound was only patched in a few days after release. Along with this are items, characters, and text that are unnamed so they appear as <certain_Item_name_type> to the player which really ruins the mood. The fog of war in the dungeons seems to reset itself at random, so exploring them is at times an exercise in frustration. These things aren’t a comprehensive list of issues, but there’s a fair number of little problems that makes playing Krater a bumpy ride. There’s also the fact multiplayer isn’t even in the game yet (It’s coming early July).
I’m certainly going to continue playing Krater, and I definitely feel the game will only improve over time. In terms of a recommendation for others unsure if they should purchase the game the right now, it depends on your patience and how much you like the genre. If Diablo 3 re-whet your appetite for action RPG’s and you’re chomping at the bit to try some fresh meat in the genre, then Krater will definitely keep you occupied. Just don’t expect the same amount of polish that’s evident in Blizzard’s opus. Bugs and beta-ish presentation will probably be too much for some high-horse sitting gamers to handle, but even with the games current shortcomings I honestly feel there is enough fun to be to warrant the $15 price tag. The good outweighs the bad in this pretty version of the apocalypse also I really like the music, so Krater’s getting 3 out of 5 stars.