Game: Tiny Keep
Publisher: Digital Tribe
Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie, RPG
Completed: Not yet
TinyKeep was in a Steam sale recently, so I grabbed it, who isn’t a sucker for a Steam sale? The first chance I got to play it was today, when coming to write this review, however my 3 year old son has had a few goes, and today I noticed that the main menu includes a running tally. A tally of how many times your fleeing prisoners have escaped and how many they have perished – this was sat on 0 escapees and 17 perishes. I need to turn him into a better gamer.
This is rouge-like game, but on the slightly less ‘hard-core’ side of rouge-likes – TinyKeep has a fantasy setting, with procedurally generated dungeons and permadeath … death which will happen quite often, and has done for me.
As TinyKeep is an indie game, it includes some light character customisation, allowing for the creation of quite a few different looking characters. However, this customisation is mainly changing the colours of various aspects of the character, the only changes available to the model are different heads and setting the sex of the character between male or female. There are quite a few different heads, which are the same between male and female options (though I believe the female head doesn’t get a bearded option). I’m not one for spending hours on customising the look of my characters, so the options available in TinyKeep are sufficient for me, though limited.
Getting into the game is quick and easy, load time are fast … between screens the game offers extra narrative in the form of short quotes about the dungeon, these are a nice addition to the game, giving a sense of a world beyond the different levels dungeon, however they can sometimes be on screen for a bit too long and aren’t skippable – perhaps some non-visible background loading is happening. You start off on leve 1 of 20, in a small square prison cell with a letter from an acquaintance, Maggie, who appears to have been your cell mate. Maggie says she has the keys and is getting outta there, but won’t wait for you to wake up, she’s been kind enough to leave the door open for you though, so hurry up and get outta there!
The gate to your cell is unlocked! Hurrah, let us escape this filthy dwelling, it is not fit for us! You leave the cell, weaponless and defenceless, unable to attack at all, not even with your fisticuffs. The first level always includes a shield and a sword to find, so it’s worth exploring the entire level of the dungeon to find both before progressing to level 2. It would be a pretty extravagant dungeon to hold just the 1 prisoner, as that’s not the case, there are other prisoners in cages to be found throughout levels. These other prisoners can be freed, but they’ll do 1 of 3 things:
– Join you in the escape, following you around the dungeon and fighting guards for/ with you.
– Run off trying to flee on their own, fighting guards they meet.
– Become enraged, insane I guess, and attack you but not the guards.
I am yet to reach it to the exit with a follower alive, I hope if you’re able to they join you on the next level. As you progress through levels, your health is replenished but everything else stays the same – same weapon, shield and upgrades. The exit on the first level is accompanied by a shrine, a shrine which asks for 15 gold – gold is acquired from killing guards, or the occasional found chest. Giving the shrine gold upgrades your character and weapons, it’s random each time and the shrine can be used more than once, if you’ve got the gold to do so, so it’s worth exploring the entire dungeon and farming it for all the gold!
Up to level 2!
A bigger dungeon, with more dangerous traps and a locked gate before the exit, which requires you to defeat a boss to get the key and 2 shrines – another 15 gold shrine, and another that requires 100 gold.
The A.I. in TinyKepp is fairly dumb, but it works to the betterment of the game. So far I have encountered 2 types of guards, 2 types of bosses and 3 types of invading enemies (more on these later). The melee basic guard has a club, and will run after you with little care for his own life, only jumping over spikes and not always attempting to avoid the rotating spike barriers in a way that a brutish thug with a small brain would. The archer basic guard acts much like the melee guard, with the addition to running away from you when you get too close, this is to be able to fire arrows at you. Neither the guards or other prisoners feel it necessary to avoid fire, fire which you can push over from fire pits – avoid setting yourself on fire like the plague, though being set on fire doesn’t do a drastic amount of damage to you, it does slow you down drastically allowing for guards to catch up to you and beat/ arrow you to death, all whilst you slowly burn with some DoT.
Enemies that I have encountered so far only require 3 slashes, stabs or jabs (all the same, so 3 hits) with your sword to banish to the depths of whatever hell they believe in, except for the bosses, which require a lot of hits. There is no health indicator on screen for the enemies, this is something you need to track yourself. Bosses are quite a bit harder than normal guards, I’ve only managed to beat 1 boss once so far, and that was accidentally.
Accidental boss kill…
When triggering the boss fight, I had another prisoner with me, for a short while at least. As soon as the boss arrived, a rather large armoured fellow with a shield and large sword, the other prisoner ran to the boss and started attacking him, a valiant effort with his fists and no armour, the boss blocking all his advances. As I neared swinging my upgraded razor sharp sword, I realised I was doing more damage to my prisoner friend, than I was the boss, so I backed off only to see my prisoner friend slayed as I did. I ran, in hope to find traps to help me defeat the boss, I ran into many more guards, and got damaged quite a lot by the speedier-than-I boss. Time came to go defensive, very defensive, and find some health!
Holding block, and backing away slowly, occasionally getting hit by an arrow due to the direction you’re holding your shield to block matters, I managed to get to the food I’d left earlier and gain some health … health which just happened to be near some fire, knocking over the fire, and grabbing the health I was situated in a corridor where the boss got shot in the back several times by the archers. This finished the boss offer, allowing me to finish off the rest of the guards, collect the gold and the key to escape!
Ascending to level 3
Level 3 added another game mechanic, one which I’ve not seen used in games for a long time, one which took me back to my childhood … coloured doors which require the same coloured magical sceptre to open the door. A simple mechanic which works well in this setting, a mechanic I’ve strangely missed a little. Finding all the keys and accessing a new room that entices you with a chained up skull and a note saying “I’ve taken a super dangerous looking sword, don’t touch this super dangerous looking skull …”, well of course, you’re going to hit it loads, leading to an invasion of the dungeon by skeletons, which drop more valuable gold – it was by slaying these dastardly skeletons I managed to acquire over 100 gold, if only I hadn’t died before reaching the 100 gold shrine!
I was out numbered, and had wasted health items before releasing these hellish minions upon myself, there was little time to work out what the big smouldering cauldron of green stuff was for – perhaps a way to send back the skeletons and their massive leader boss type guy from whence they came? Who knows? Not I, I died.
This is the farthest I’ve managed to reach so far, the repetitiveness of starting over again means that I’ll play TinyKeep in short sittings, then turn it off to come back to it later on. [Edit: I’ve since found that on the character customisation screen you can select to start at a level you’ve already completed, instead of having to start from the beginning each time] Looking through the achievements, and I see a few very difficult looking goals, which offer additional replayability should I want to (attempt) to complete TinyKeep to 100%. The achievements here are interesting looking ones, rather than just “Complete level n”, “Kill n enemies” or “Run n miles”, they offer new challenges and ways to play through the game, for example “Complete the game without directly killing any enemies”, “Complete the game without a shield” and “Complete the game without being hurt at all”.
Movement is responsive, with the mouse and keyboard (TinyKeep does have full controller support, but I don’t have a PC controller), and attacking/ blocking is a simple left and right mouse click away respectively. It can be quite frustrating getting stuck on objects and dead bodies around the level, which hasn’t directly lead to a death yet, but could well do so. TinyKeep’s camera angle takes on a top down view, where I find myself trying to constantly view farther ahead than is allowed and would love to rotate the camera a bit on the Z axis to be able to do so – probably making the game easier.
The graphics settings are limited, which is expected with an indie game, with just the option to change the quality from economy/ low/ medium/ high/ best.
TinyKeep is a very enjoyable game, and deserves more attention from the gaming community, go give it a try.