The Deep Paths is major retooling of a previous Crescent Moon release from a few years ago called: Coldfire Keep. If you remember that game, you probably also remember that, while it was essentially a fun dungeon crawler, it wasn't a perfect one. The Deep Paths fixes many of its predecessor's issues. Unfortunately, however, it introduces some new ones, which prevent me from recommending it in its current state (almost entirely having to do with the interface). I don't say this easily because I'm really rooting for this developer. He's been active on various gaming sites, patiently listening to complaints and taking suggestions. Further, the core gameplay is quite solid. I'm hoping to be able to update my review in the coming weeks so keep your fingers crossed, and check back in later.
I'm about to use a phrase here that I feel like I've been throwing around a lot lately: Old School. Unfortunately, there really is no other way to describe a game that borrows heavily from some of the more hardcore elements of games back in the early days of electronic gaming. First of all, to create a party, you must "roll" them up a 'la Dungeons and Dragons. Through the game's interface, you essentially toss four 18-sided die, one for each attribute (strength, dexterity, intellect, vitality). The downside here is that there is really no quick way to dive into this game without severely handicapping yourself going forward. The upside is that the patient player can REALLY give him/herself a big advantage by spending a few extra minutes to create characters with favorable stats. Fighters need strength, Rogues need dexterity, and mages need intellect. It's not quite this simple, though. All characters benefit from strength (resist status effects like poison), dexterity (protection level), intellect (spot hidden secrets), and vitality (total health, health regeneration, and resist status effects) which is why persistence is necessary to build a strong party. If you have the patience, keep re-rolling your characters until they have 18 in his/her primary stat, and at least 14 in vitality and dexterity. All of this information is available at the character creation screen so don't panic. No guidance is given, however, regarding exactly how many of each class to bring along. With 4 slots and 3 classes, you're going to have two of something; probably either fighters or mages depending on your skill and play style.
Once gameplay begins, movement is managed by a series of directional arrows at the bottom. All movement is turn-based so you do not move smoothly. Tap the arrow, move one square. Yes, this is also very old-school; and you're going to love it or hate it. There are puzzles to solve, secret areas to find, loot to, err, loot, and monsters to fight. Here is where the interface gets squarely in the way of my enjoyment. Want to pick something up? Tap it. Or tap/drag it to a party member. When do you do what? I have no idea. Sometimes tapping works, sometimes dragging is necessary. For example, if you want to use the pickaxe on the rubble, you don't equip the pickaxe, or simply tap on the rubble and let the game decide if you have a pickaxe in your inventory. No. You must open your inventory, tap on the pickaxe (don't try to equip it!), click the close inventory button WITH said pickaxe, then click the pickaxe on the pile of rubble. Also, some weapons cannot be used by some classes, but the only way I could figure out what was unusable was by attempting to equip it and failing. There are a lot of details in The Deep Paths, most of which are important, yet very, very difficult to see. It's just too darn dark. Fortunately, you have a lantern. Once you turn it on, you will never, ever turn it off, which makes me wonder why we are given a lantern in the first place. Also, most of the loot is on the ground and you are unable to see the ground of the square you are currently occupying. You also can't see the ground of the square in front of you very well (see previous issue: DARK), which forces you to move forward, look up, then look down, look left, look right. Rinse/repeat. To make matters a bit more tedious, you are unable to move at all while looking up or down so there will be no sweeping through previously explored areas with your head down to see if you missed anything.
Combat is difficult because healing during combat can only be accomplished through potions that are found through exploration. Therefore, success in combat requires solid tactics. When an enemy appears in the distance, pepper it with ranged weapons until it closes with you. Once you are in melee range, standing in place and trading attacks is a path to certain failure. Let the enemy move to you (don't move to it), and once it does, side-step and try to get behind it. If you do this correctly, you can wear it down without taking any damage (in most low-level encounters, anyway). Once combat is over, you will gradually regain health as you move about so don't pop a potion after you fight something. Lastly, there is no way to map the area you are on until you find the map. It's super easy to get turned around because of this.
As I said previously, there is a great dungeon crawler in here somewhere, but the interface makes me grit my teeth while I play. In spite of this, I'm not willing to dismiss The Deep Paths as a failure. After all, the desktop reviews on Steam are positive. Instead, I think perhaps it was released on mobile before they managed to adapt it completely to touchscreens. I'll keep an eye on it over the next few months. Hopefully, it will receive the attention I believe it deserves.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Nice looking but way too dark for a game that require strict attention to detail. Sound: - 3 - The music and effects don't particularly stand out as either good or bad. Controls: - 1 - This is where it falters, and needs a considerable amount of love. Gameplay: - 4 - I enjoyed the puzzles, I like the fact that there is no food to worry about, and I enjoyed the old-timey character generation.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Take the time to roll good stats. Examine every wall, ceiling, and floor tile. Don't go toe-to-toe with your enemies. Conserve your healing until you really need it. Moving about after combat will heal you so don't use potions unless you're fighting something.