Ahh, dungeon crawlers. There's something that will always be worthwhile about them. Nothing is more satisfying than heading deep into a stone-walled keep (a Stonekeep
if you will), slaying monsters, and returning with the loot and hey, sometimes you might just save the world while you're at it. It seems as if the dungeon crawl is the genre of RPG that will never die, as even the recent Etrian Odyssey
falls into this category.
Thankfully, Anvil of Dawn by DreamForge, is nowhere near as unforgiving as Etrian Odyssey, and has a few things going for it to make it an excellent entry point for anyone who has never played a dungeon crawl before. Ease your way into this, and you'll be a Dungeon Master
before you know it. It's like I'm really there!
For starters, every step you take is automatically added to an automap, which far from being only a grid of floors and walls, will also keep track of pressure plates, switches, dead enemies, and any hidden passages and other items of note that you've found. If you don't find that informative enough, you can use a text tool to leave your own notes on the map, anywhere you'd like.
Secondly, the game is played using only one character, and the statistics are simplified enough that there is little number-crunching or optimization needed. Upon starting, there are 5 characters to pick from, each with their own stats, and you will also be able to pick a favored weapon and spell school, giving your character a little bit of customization without going too far into craziness. As an added bonus, you will meet the other 4 characters during the game as NPCs, and the ending is different depending on who you choose. Replay value in a dungeon crawler? Yes please.
Man, this guy doesn't look too good...
Graphics are fairly standard for a title released in 1995, and enemy sprites are well animated. Enemies react to hits, and all have unique death animations, leaving behind remains so you know just where you laid the smack down on that evil enemy soldier. Your portrait in the corner changes along with your health, appearing more beaten up as your HP drops.
Unlike many RPGs, leveling up does not directly affect your stats. Instead, it makes you more proficient in your weapons and spells, which, in a realistic way tends to make more sense. What's more probable after all, that you kill a bunch of guys with your sword and suddenly get more HP, or that you kill a bunch of guys with your sword, and are better with using your sword? But not to fear, there are magic potions laying around in secret and well guarded areas that can boost both your max HP and MP. Elllliooooot.....
The interface is fairly intuitive as well. The entire game can be controlled with the mouse or the keyboard, or a combination of the two. When facing an enemy in combat, the two mouse buttons become the items in either of your hands, so fighting is as simple as clicking the button corresponding to the weapon you want to use. Spells are listed as icons along the side of the screen, and MP slowly recovers as you explore along your way.
As a little visual treat while casting the spell, your character will motion as they draw out the rune with their finger, MP being drained with each stroke until the spell is finished. Unfortunately, it IS possible to try to cast a spell without enough MP and the spell will fizzle if you run out of mana before the casting is done.
The storyline to Anvil of Dawn doesn't make it stand out, as it's the fairly standard "Big Evil Guy wants to rule the world, you're going to stop him." fare. However, the writing is fairly well done, and the accessibility of the game makes it easy to pick up and play, even without being a hardcore RPG Veteran. Keep at it, and maybe someday, you'll be the subject of a passing Bard's Tale
Download Anvil of Dawn here: Anvil of Dawn at Abandonia
And of course, the venerable DOSBox: DosBox