I recently purchased Fate, a role-playing game by Wild Tangent that's designed with the "casual gamer" in mind. The brief description is that it's a Diablo 2 derivative with vastly better graphics, vastly more color, simpler gameplay, and a slightly more cartoony style. But there's more to the game than that.

By saying it's designed for casual gamers I mean that, unlike most modern RPGs, Fate isn't weighed down with a cumbersome storyline and endless subquests that require a detailed journal to keep track of -- in that sense, it's more of an adventure game than an RPG, but stylistically it fits more into the RPG genre. If you're looking for an involved plot full of intrigue and mystery, this isn't the game for you. However, considering that the stories in most RPGs are pretty weak and contrived, I find it quite refreshing to be free from remembering whose cousin in which town has asked me to avenge his wife's death at the hands of which bandits, who turn out to be ogres in disguise, polymorphed by some wizard trying to undermine the mayoral council of a town that's infested by giant spiders. Or whatever. In contrast, the plot of Fate is simple: you go into the dungeon, kill monsters, and harvest treasure. You watch your stats rise so you can kill bigger monsters, so you can get more treasure, so you can kill bigger monsters. You can play for a few minutes or a few hours without having to keep track of what you were doing, which makes the game ideal for people with real lives who can't sit in front of the computer all day. If that sounds like fun, Fate's your game.

Developer/producer/designer/programmer Travis Baldree, who's very active on the forums, added several twists to the Diablo formula, such as giving your character a pet that follows you around, helps you fight, and carries treasure. When your pet is loaded up you can send him back to town to sell the treasure he's carrying and bring back gold, eliminating the need to waste time returning to town yourself every time your inventory fills up. It'll take a minute or two for your pet to return, depending on your depth, but there's plenty to do if you're too scared to fight monsters on your own. For instance, you can upgrade your items with gems you find along the way, or you can go fishing for fish to feed your pet when he returns, each of which transforms him into a different type of monster that can assist you in your journey.

Once you've got the gold, the town of Grove has a myriad of ways to relieve you of it. You can buy mundane items, of course, along with spells and magic items from various merchants. You can gamble for unknown items. You can pay an enchanter to attempt to enhance one of your current items. You can even pay a bard to sing songs of your adventures to improve your reputation. Basically, the game has interfaces to do just about whatever you'd be tempted to do through cheating, but within the game system. It's not all well-balanced, but as you get more powerful you can always go deeper into the dungeon. The main game is designed to be played through around level 50, but the the dungeon goes to 255, and from reading the forums few people can get past 100.

All that, and a price tag of just $19.99. I downloaded the demo and got hooked enough to buy the game, and I don't think you'll be disappointed. From reading the forums I see that the game is easily modified, and many fans are already creating add-ons to expand the gameplay and variety. Finally, you can adjust the difficulty of the game down to a level where even children with basic computer skills could play and thrive without frustration; the level of violence is moderate and not directed at humans, so this would be an ideal game for any little gamers you might have.

Other Reviews:
- GameShark: A+.
- GameSpot: 7.9, but readers gave it an 8.5.



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