If you’re hardcore enough to derive happiness instead of pain from the Roguelike convention of starting from scratch when you die, but not quite hardcore enough to have imported this dungeon crawler ten years ago for your Sega Saturn, we recommend this terrific remake of Baroque.
Baroque’s death mechanic dovetails neatly with the narrative - it’s by dying and revisiting that you start to piece together the intriguing plot. Without giving too much away, The Protagonist is the only one who can purify the world. Following “The Blaze,” everything became distorted so that fantasies and delusions are visible as physical disfigurements. The cause is unknown, but you’ve sinned, so take the Angelic Rifle and make it better. Some interesting religious overtones (where instead of God saving us, we save God) and an activist group against the False Angels make for a story that in some ways probably sounds very cliche, but is actually quite compelling.
The Neuro Tower is a dangerous place. Hearts give you vitality, which regenerate health unless you run out, in which case your health will start draining. Eating meat recovers HP directly, and if you eat either item while full you’ll increase the respective bar’s total. Pacing your battles to keep your vitality steady seems like it would be a total chore, but the tension usually creates adrenaline instead of frustration.
There are loads of items and weapons scattered around, so customizing for your battle style is key. The Angelic Rifle is a last resort, with only five bullets, so you’ll mostly be mashing buttons to hack with a sword in light or heavy attacks. Unfortunately, no dodging. Instead, equip a coat for armor, and a pair of imitation wings for other bonuses, such as the inability to be phased by lust, a status ailment that causes every item and character to look like a beautiful, pink, woman. You can also inflict brands and parasites on yourself for other effects. Some things are good for throwing at enemies, even though aiming can sometimes be a pain.
If you find an item you’d hate to part with there are a couple ways to save it for the next round, the most common being to toss it into one of the intermittent Consciousness Orbs. The Collector, outside, keeps those things under his hat until you literally punch him. This planning for your inevitable doom is another Roguelike trait that works excellently in Baroque.
Baroque is obviously one of the most hardcore RPGs you're ver going to find, a real level-grinder. You can even play it first person, like the original. The ambient techno-rock soundtrack isn’t terribly remarkable, but the emo-goth art direction is fun. Completionists will be cheered by a Database to grind. It takes a certain type of person to plunge into a deep and randomly generated dungeon, but if you’re that type, Baroque is a very satisfying plunge.
May 5, 2008