Krater (AKA: Roshambo: The Game)

By Seán O'Sullivan - July 15th, 2012


Krater is a squad-based RPG that takes place in a surprisingly upbeat post-apocalyptic Sweden. Other than its setting, there’s little else noteworthy about this effort from Fatshark. A squad of three soldiers journey from town to town, running errands for the inhabitants that take them to dangerous basements, caverns, underground complexes, and meadows – all overrun with a variety of grotesquely mutated fauna. There’s a wry humour to the undertakings, which makes filling the quest log less of a chore; but when it comes to performing the tasks, the characters’ acknowledgement of how cliched clearing a basement of giant rats is doesn’t do much to alleviate the fact that it is still a dull exercise.

The combat is unfulfilling, in no small part because of how limited the characters are. Each of the four classes are typical archetypes – a bruiser and slasher for close range, a ranged projectile guy for kiting, and a medic to support the combatants. Each character only has two special abilities; and while the stats improve, these moves don’t evolve or change in any meaningful way. Since enemies rarely require different approaches, each encounter devolves into the same rote implementation of what has worked in previous battles.

Didn’t your parents teach you that it’s not polite to interrupt?

If you don’t have patience for micro-management, Krater is not the game for you. The combat, while repetitive, does require quick reflexes, and the steep difficulty curve means that you will regularly be squaring off against enemies that are difficult to stand your guard against. You will have to keep swapping your attention back and forth to keep the medic doing what he should, while reminding your front-line troops to use their special abilities – or instructing them to move out of the acid pit that they’re otherwise happy to melt into. I fatigue very quickly playing this game, mostly because of this unrelenting combat system. Similarly, there are many menus to trawl through, upgrades to implement, and item stats to pore over to decide what of the mostly worthless loot is worth equipping.

It’s clear that Krater has been crafted for the hardcore, given how unforgiving its many systems are. When downed in battle, party members acquire injuries that can be debilitating to their stats – some of them permanent. Pick up three injuries and that member is dead – ditching all the effort you invested into him over the past few hours of grinding. Coupled with an autosave-only system that means that there is no undoing a combat experiment gone awry, each session’s tension gives way to a sort of oppression. It’s a system that discourages player creativity – early in the campaign, I swapped out a squad member for a new recruit, and the results were so immediately disastrous that I was hesitant to move outside of my comfort zone again for the rest of my time with the game.

Don’t cross the streams!

My overall experience with Krater was blighted by myriad issues aside from the core game-play. There were a flurry of hefty patches at launch, substantial enough to delay me playing the game for yet another evening. Having to scroll to the end of the patch notes to access the game every time it loads is an unnecessary ritual – no matter how hardcore you believe your user base to be. Also, the ‘Quit’ button on this game is on a hair-trigger – if you accidentally click it, there’s no confirmation, you’ll be deposited back to your desktop instantly, and even if you were 45 minutes deep into a perilous dungeon, the game will deposit you back to the nearest town. It’s a completely boneheaded UI oversight for a game that already seems to treat newcomers with contempt.

Ultimately, Krater is a game with a difficulty that goes beyond punitive and into gleeful sadism, given that its ‘lessons’ serve only to kick you while you’re down, hurting your stats and robbing you of vital party members. There’s a way to execute punishing game systems that heighten tension without embittering the player (see: Dead Rising), but Krater is a game that simply does not reward you for persevering. So why bother? Save your time, money, and patience, and play something else.

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