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Developer:
Graffiti Ent.
Publisher: Graffiti Ent.
Platform: GBA
Release Date: December 04, 2006

by Jason Ferguson




While a lot of developers seem to have moved on to the new handheld systems, every now and then a title manages to sneak onto the GBA. Mazes of Fate, the old-school dungeon-crawling RPG from Graffiti Entertainment, is one such game.


Many years ago, the land of Akhiel was rich and beautiful. With the guidance and blessings of the gods, the lands were fertile and humans lived peacefully. However, as humanity advanced, they began to take the gods for granted. Many took to the temples and began to worship the archmages. With heavy hearts, the gods abandoned humanity and the lands were thrust into darkness. A great war between the gods and the human archmages erupted, but there were those who still strived for peace. Harlac, a great human king, sought to win the forgiveness of the gods. He showed humans the errors they had made and paved a path to redemption. A resistance formed of men who fought against the will of the gods and opposed Harlac’s ways. They sabotaged Harlac’s plans by stealing the sacred Stone of Redemption. Forgiveness was not achieved, and Harlac was forced to face the wrath of the angry gods. Ever since the Stone of Redemption was stolen, the world has suffered. Akhiel is in dire need of a hero to continue the work of Harlac… and that hero must be you!


The story is given a brief introduction at the beginning of the game, but once the actual gameplay starts, it slows down considerably and never seems to pick up. The game’s manual does feature a nice-sized description of the story, and the whole premise seems interesting. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t relay the story particularly well, and it ends up seeming a bit tacked on. Characters seem to join your party for virtually no reason, characters pop out of nowhere with little introduction, and little storyline explanation is given outside of the manual.


You start the game out by picking a main character. Mazes of Fate features three different heroes that you can start as, each with a different backstory that you can read about in the manual. You’ve got the classic archetypes to choose from: mage, rogue, and warrior. You can even create your own character and customize his stats.


Most of the game is played in first-person mode, sort of like Oblivion. Hitting up will move you forward, down will move you backward, and left and right are used to turn your character. Unlike Oblivion, combat isn’t action-oriented at all, and instead plays out in a turn-based fashion more like Final Fantasy. Actions go back and forth between your party and your enemies, and you can choose to attack, use magic, or use an item. Still, it’s all real-time, so you can take off running to avoid a monster at any time or run away and heal if you need to. For the most part, combat is really straightforward and most encounters are easy. Although, the frequency of missed attacks seems ridiculously high. You can pretty much avoid any difficult battles by just turning around and running, so Mazes of Fate isn’t going to pose a particularly big challenge to most gamers. If you run into a bit of trouble, you can always take a break and camp, which restores the HP and MP of your party. Being able to heal in this way made the game pretty easy, but also helped to avoid a lot of frustration.


Basically, you’ll spend most of the game wandering through large maze-like dungeons, battling monsters, gathering treasure, and trying to find secret levers and buttons that will allow you to dive deeper into the maze. Enemies don’t respawn, which is a good thing, because you’ll probably end up getting lost more than once, and having to fight enemies a second and third time while you’re frustrated about being lost can get really annoying. Although, you may sometimes wish they would respawn, because the dungeons can grow quite boring after you’ve spent a lot of time wandering around doing nothing and all the enemies are dead.


In towns, the view switches to overhead, so you can get a better view of the entire city. There are stores to purchase items from, taverns where you can pick up information, and hordes of townsfolk eager for your help. Many of the townsfolk will have a quest they’d like you to complete, which will award you with gold and experience, and sometimes help to progress the story. Dialogue is dull and sometimes lengthy. I found myself wanting to avoid talking to the townsfolk, but considering many of them held important clues required to continue my quest, I forced myself into it. There are times that you’re given a variety of different choices to make during a conversation, but the ideal response is always very obvious, making it seem a bit pointless.


A lot of the areas in the dungeons look the same, so you’ll probably spend a lot of time lost and not realizing you’re going around in circles. It also makes the hours that you’ll spend in a single dungeon pretty dull. There’s a handy mini-map than you can access by hitting select. It points out your location as well as the location of all of the important objects in the dungeon. Considering that each dungeon is a maze, the map ends up being very useful when you’re lost. There’s also a compass at the top of the screen that will point you in the right direction.


As you level up, you’ll gain skills points that you can distribute to power up your skills. Adding points to your parry skill will increase your defense, while adding to your lock-picking skills will make you better at picking locks. The game features a fair variety of skills, and allows RPG fans to build their characters exactly how they want to. You can have up to three members in your party, and you’ll run into new adventurers eager to join up as you progress with the game.


As in any dungeon crawler, going from corridor to corridor will likely grow tedious relatively quickly. Wandering around searching for a lever or key can really get old after you’ve spent an hour in a dungeon, especially when you get stuck backtracking when you become lost. This tedium is probably the game's biggest downfall. In a lot of ways, Mazes of Fate feels like a very old game. Of course, that’s a good thing for RPG fans who yearn for the days of more simplistic gaming. This is a game that hardcore fans of old school dungeon crawlers can certainly enjoy, but it’s definitely not a game for everyone. As an added bonus, the game features five different languages that can be switched between during gameplay, making it a game that anyone can play.


Although the environments in each dungeon are the same throughout, each dungeon manages to be distinct. The overall designs are pretty good, and you’ll surely appreciate the detail put into each dungeon. At least, you’ll appreciate it for the first half an hour. The monsters that you’ll encounter are uniquely designed, and although they’re poorly animated, they manage to look good. Realistically, the graphics in the game are extremely dated and aren’t going to impress anybody… even on the GBA. I was surprised by the game’s soundtrack, which featured tunes that helped pass the time when I grew weary of dungeon crawling.


If you’re a fan of old-school dungeon crawlers, you’re definitely going to like Mazes of Fate. It’s a decent game, and while not for everyone, it can provide hours of entertainment for the open-minded gamer.


Final Grade: 68%




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