You’re forgiven if you hadnâ€™t heard of Mazes of Fate before. Itâ€™s a US only release at present, has been put together by a small unknown developer based in Argentina, and appears to have had only a small print run. Itâ€™s odd that there hasnâ€™t been much coverage of it though, as not only is it very playable and surprisingly fast paced for an RPG, but it has been in development since March 2003. Which also explains why it isnâ€™t on DS.
From the outset itâ€™s evident that a lot of time, love and effort have gone into it. Itâ€™s very easy to get to grips with, and rewarding from the start – within the first ten minutes youâ€™re well into your first mission, that being to rid an old ladyâ€™s cellar of giant rats. In first person, no less: Mazes of Fateâ€™s trump card is its 3D engine which is really quite fancy. The wall textures are nicely drawn, packed full of detail and repetition has been kept to a minimum to make each area look significantly different from the last. There are all sorts of puzzles, traps, switches and other objects to interactive with, and in the top right hand corner thereâ€™s a tiny map that serves its purpose perfectly.
If youâ€™ve played the 8-bit classic Dungeon Master then youâ€™ll probably see this as a spiritual successor, although you arenâ€™t limited to exploring dungeons – there are also caves, forests, tombs and a multi-storey tower with a power hungry Mage to overthrow at the top.
Combat is pretty simplistic – itâ€™s simply a case of running up to an enemy and tapping the A button to bring up the attack menu before they have a chance to give you a clout. Up to three people can be in your party, each of which can be equipped with various weapons and armour, while experience points can be used to improve skills such as lock picking.
When youâ€™re not running around youâ€™re talking to people in the various villages and settlements, looking for clues of where to go next, learning new fighting manoeuvres, or picking up new missions. The script isnâ€™t super slick, though there is the option to employ a sarcastic twang during conversations, and you can pester for rewards. The map screen graphics are very crude, but there are no random battles and it takes mere seconds to get from A to B, with the speed that the lead character runs at.
Although thereâ€™s a quest log, sometimes progression can be hindered by something stupid – like missing an item of importance in a dungeon – so you do have to backtrack or spend a few minutes just retracing your steps. Itâ€™s a bit annoying, as otherwise itâ€™s very easy to progress, in that you can play it for fifteen minutes or so and actually achieve something.