by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Lack of effort
I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed to find out what a game actually is after reading about the premise. Normally, I try and think of something witty, or at least interesting, to say at the start of a review. However the apparent lack of effort put into Depths of Fear: Knossos is sapping my own creative ability. You play as Theseus, you know the guy: son of Poseidon, slayer of the Minotaur. Well apparently he’s stick thin and falls over if insects climb on him.
The goal… I think
Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if there was any form of tutorial beyond basic movement and how to light a torch. From what I can tell, you start off in prison for some reason, presumably in Knossos on Crete. You are led out of your cell, taken to King Minos, and then shoved down off a ledge. You land in a pool, told how to jump out of it, and then that’s it. At this point I had to go to the game’s website to find out what type of game it was. It’s a first person adventure game with roguelike elements, by the way.
Even now I’m not entirely sure what the goal is. As far as I can tell you have to enter the labyrinth and kill the minotaur. Next to the pool is a weapon, with a note left by Ariadne saying that this is the only way you will be able to slay it (she fell in love with Theseus after finding out what a wonderfully heroic man he was). However, the blade is sealed behind stone, with eight animal icons around it. Around Knossos are eight dungeons, handily, each with an animal theme, so it’s up to you to enter them, collect gold, acquire knowledge (and maybe spend it at a shrine to gain an extra ability like heal), find the key, and escape. I think.
Randomly generated dungeons
The entrance to each dungeon is apparently a black hole which no light can penetrate, especially not the light from your flaming torch, which only illuminates about a few feet in front of you at the best of times. Going through one of these black holes takes you to a small lobby with a weapon rack on one wall, and a bell on the other. Ringing the bell summons Daedalus (creator of the labyrinth), who hilariously appears and leans forward behind a metal grate. He also either has a special system of tunnels, or can teleport, because he appears like this no matter which dungeon you enter. He acts as the shopkeeper, and weapons you purchase from him appear on the opposite wall, so you can take them into the dungeon on each new attempt.
Each dungeon is randomly generated, awfully lit, and filled with monsters. These range from strange, indistinguishable beasts to creatures from myth and legend. Early on you will have nothing to fight with, so you are supposed to be stealthy, turn out your light and hide from beasts. In practice there’s no point ever turning out your light, because if you just run away, the things after you can’t really catch up to you. There’s a stealth system which appears to work in a similar fashion to Skyrim’s, only worse, and it’s not that great in Skyrim.
Creature from ancient mythology
Some of the creatures you see are recognisable. I saw a centaur which fired arrows at me and ran over to try and trample me. However, since I’m well versed in ancient mythology, I knew that if I just stood next to a wall, it would simply get confused and start running around in circles, sometimes running over my head without causing any damage. The Griffin flapped around and eventually got bored if I ran around a corner. Again, I used my literary knowledge to lure the Hydra into a vase, because I knew that its heads would clip through the geometry and it would get stuck. Medusa was probably the most dangerous of the bunch, she often caught up to me and flailed her arms in the air, meaning I had been turned to stone.
Dying strips you of any gold or books you have collected and sends you back to the entrance, from where you can try again in a new randomly generated dungeon. However if you successfully escape, you might be able to buy a weapon. That’s where the real excitement begins, because then you will be able to monotonously swing your arm in the hope that you are doing anything because there’s no indication you’re hitting an enemy until it falls over and stops moving.
The game looks awful, and doesn’t run well, bafflingly. The frame rate hitched even when there wasn’t anything else moving on screen. According to the website, it features a “unique and adaptive soundtrack”. What this means is the music gets louder and more intense when you get near an enemy. I’m not particularly sure what’s unique about that. The soundtrack is also “recorded with mind-altering 70’s era synthesizers”. I think the ancient inhabitants of Crete preferred dubstep rather than synths, but I could be wrong about that.
Few redeeming qualities
I never actually entered the labyrinth or encountered the minotaur, partially because I didn’t really know how, but mostly because you can’t make me. I might be chastised for not completing the game, but nothing in the labyrinth can be good enough to make up for the rest of the game. Depths of Fear: Knossos holds very few redeeming qualities, however I will give it some credit for the premise. Playing as Theseus and fighting your way through dungeons filled with mythical creatures sounds great. It’s just not here. Also, Daedalus repeatedly made me laugh, which I’m sure wasn’t the intention, but we all need a good chuckle now and then.
Everything that's not Daedalus.