Unfinished business from my childhood… not only did I get the nostalgia factor, but also the satisfaction of finally seeing the story through to the end. 😀
Entomorph: Plague of the Darkfall (1995) – RPG, PC
Story: The game begins with your character, Squire Warrick, stood directly in front of a giant talking spider, who isn’t pleased to see him. She teleports him to an island crawling with mosquitoes and zombies. This intro makes little sense until you’re about half-way through the game…
On the isle of Saltmoon, people are rejoicing. The Jagtera, giant insects who were once enslaved by humanity, and who suddenly disappeared many years ago, have returned! Or have they? Eventually you join a bunch of rebels, who believe that the island’s Nobles are turning the commoners into Jagtera, and so begins your quest to save the land from being deforested by ravenous beetles – even if it means sacrificing some of your own humanity in the process.
Your entire journey is narrated by the ‘Storyteller’, who pops up every now and then when you enter a new area or see/do something plot-relevant. Sometimes his words offer clues to the player, but most of the time they’re just for dramatic effect. A great idea, and well implemented.
Gameplay: It’s a 3/4 perspective RPG, but unlike most other RPGs, there are no weapons or armour. Squire Warrick just punches insects three times his size to death in a skimpy toga. My kind of hero! He does have some magic, but aside from healing and a few quest-essential spells like webwalk, they’re mostly useless.
Talk to people and explore to get an idea of where you should go next. There’s no quest log, so pay attention the first time! And while some locations only become accessible later on in the game (as insect hordes clear paths through the jungle), there are some tough areas you can just walk into right from the beginning. Protip: if the opponents you’re facing seem unfairly strong, you’re probably not supposed to be fighting them yet!
As the story progresses, you’ll face various insect queens: bee (BY FAR the hardest boss in the game, despite being the first!), mosquito, ant, mantis and spider (arachnid, I know). Their lairs are mostly inspired by the colonies that they form in real life, for example the ants live in an underground labyrinth of narrow, winding corridors, and identify other ants and their roles by use of scent and pheromones, not by sight – knowledge you can make use of to infiltrate unnoticed!
Controls: The game offers three preset control options… none of which use WASD for movement. I stuck with the first, using arrow keys for movement and mouse for everything else (clicking to pick up items, opening inventory and options, selecting from different dialogue options etc) – awkward, but playable.
Graphics and sound: Entomorph is equal parts pretty and grotesque. The insect lairs in particular are some of my favourite levels from any game ever, design-wise, very unique. It’s a good looking game, if a bit low-res by today’s standards.
The music is also phenominal. I know I’ll be listening to the OST for a long time to come now! Punching, spellcasting and enemy-squishing sound effects are VERY satisfying. Few characters are voiced, only the Storyteller (who I like a lot), his apprentice, and the bug queens (wonderfully creepy).
Overall: Simple plot, few developed characters, but the gameplay + enemy and level designs more than make up for it. 8/10