In post-apocalyptic Sweden, there’s a huge crater where life thrives. It’s inhabited by forest creatures, mutants, cannibals and the descendants of those who survived nuclear war. Mines long ago abandoned by civilized folk, are rich grounds for scavengers and adventurers. People on the surface, in their hobbled sheet-metal homes, pay top dollar for lost technologies, while the power hungry “original families” vie for control over the “Krater”.
You eke out your living by managing a group of mercenaries, working for who ever’s got the money.
Krater’s a beautiful game. Each location presents a lively and rich world. Just because it’s the post-apocalypse, doesn’t mean you should be restricted to a small color pallet of tan and brown (modern-day Chernobyl is over-run with green brush and trees, after all). Krater is filled with wild forests on its surface, and a strange alien world in the mines below.
It’s a big world, with many cities and places to explore. Having visted about four cities so far, I get the feeling I have merely scratched the surface of what Krater has to offer.
Characters have a unique art style and animations to match. Hulking bruisers take big swings, with recycled garbage hammers. Twitchy slayers strike quickly, with double-fisted rusty blades. Arrogant regulators fire out jolts of lightning to stun enemies, while the quirky medikus heals and buffs party members. As you progress advanced versions of each class can be recruited.
Physical appearances of team members don’t really change, aside from their weapons. Everything else about them remains the same from the time you buy them. There are no armor sets, clothes or headgear. This lead me to purchase my new team-mates based on how “cool” they looked, rather than their stats.
Party members cajole each-other and occasionally comment on current events. They thank the healer, and crack jokes following a battles conclusion. At one point, my employer had gone insane and attacked us, my medic made a relevant comment about her losing her mind. It’s cool to see the little attention to details. There are plenty of nerdy references to find in the chatter, like the bruisers “if it bleeds, we can kill it” or “none shall pass!”
Music is Blade Runner-esque. If you like soothing synthesizer compilations, you’ll be happy. It certainly fits together with the rest of the game. If 80’s synth isn’t your thing, you can always visit a bar and catch some Swedish punk rock.
Krater plays like a dungeon crawler, with squad-based tactics and a dash of RPG. You’ll go to a town, find people with question marks over their heads, take quests, then delve into a mine. You’ll loot bodies and replace items with new and more powerful ones, while saving up to hire more efficient mercs.
Crafting gives the game another dimension. Many of the best weapons in the game must be made with hard to locate parts. One of the highest points in the game came when I found an “underbarrel weapon part”, using it to make a mighty weapon of cobbled refuse.
Commanding a team of three has some difficulties. Units move about a foot apart from each-other; they often end up bunched together in the fray. Not good for the Medic. It would be nice to have a formation option, or at least a way to pause the game and decide where to place team-members. Instead you must quickly click between the members using key-strokes to be efficient. After pulling off some tricky situations, I felt like a Korean Star Craft II champion.
Implants can be installed into the body to increase stats, while boosters are jammed into the brain to modify skills. Each character is limited to two abilities, easily managed via key strokes. Gadgets you find on your adventures bestow one more ability to each member of the squad, giving you a total of twelve skills to use at any time.
Each character is limited to the same two skills, as are all members of that class. You won’t be unlocking skills in trees. Boosters will add another effect to those skills, such as the Medikus heal also giving a stat buff, or the slayers attack getting a strength bonus.
No booster will ever change the way you use that character. [Boosters can in fact change a lot about a characters role in the party. For example, an attack can end up giving a buff to team-mates, or a splash damage attack can also heal]. Some times, I wished for some skills to swap around instead of the default two that came with each class.
In lieu of this, your team arrangement dictates skill dynamics. Higher tier soldier will fill the same role as their predecessor, but may do it slightly different. For example, a bleed inducing skill replacing a cone attack. After a character hits their max level, you begin looking for better options. Because of this, each character is fairly disposable.
This leads to having a glut of unused, low level grunts. If you could send them out on missions, sell their contracts, or use them to prop up an un-even table, they might be more interesting. Instead they collect dust in the roster, with nothing to do.
Each time a character hits the dirt, he gets a wound. Four wounds and he’s dead. A Doctor in any town can mend a wound for a very small fee, making death easily avoided. Even just a tiny bit of diligence should ensure everyone survives.
It’s worth noting the game lacks save options, instead doing it automatically. I didn’t really mind, since it saves often. Also it negates my urge to “re-do” failures.
Krater’s got a good sense of humor. It never takes itself too seriously. It often pokes fun at the generic nature of video-game “quests”, like rats in cellers, or the insane nature of somebody who wants you to kill creatures in the forest. Swedish jokes are also fair game, as you do quests for the stylish IDEA furniture company.
While there’s a button for multiplayer, here at the end of the first week, it’s not yet released. It’s left to my imagination as to how it would work, sadly. It’ll be added in a future patch.
On that note, the game makers have been increadibly responsive to community questions, going out of there way to address issues and adding features as requested by the community. Some players wished for a way to boost the level caps of their original characters, so the developers announced a “boot camp” would be included in a future patch. Another person wished to have more key-binding options, and they agreed to address that as well.
It’s good to see the devs are staying actively involved in the community, ensuring Krater has a healthy and long life cycle.
The Bottom Line:
Environments and the unique art style give the sense of a world alive. Mercenary development is simple, as are the RPG elements. Units tend to bunch up, making some fights difficult. Dungeon crawling, then slaying some terrible boss to collect rare components is satisfying. Crafting is a great addition. A witty sense of Humor stole a few chuckles from me. There’s a lot of game offered here for fifteen bucks.
With stylish execution, Krater manages to scratch dungeon-diving, role-playing and post-apocalyptic itches all at once.