First Looks// TinyKeep

Posted 8 Apr 2014 09:20 by
'Run! Run like hell!' Those are the words that entered my head as I stumbled about the dungeon of TinyKeep during EGX-Rezzed 2014. I start out as a lowly prisoner in a dungeon (for what, I do not know). I do notice the open door to my cell and proceed to dash through it, only to be met with a wall of guards all brandishing clubs, which they want to test out on me over and over again. It is then that the chaos ensues and the true measure of the difficulty that infests TinyKeep is made apparent.

For this rogue-like dungeon explorer is very light on information to the player, which demands a great deal of careful thought and observation in order for the player to be within any chance of making it out alive.

TinyKeep is a top-down dungeon exploration game that places the player in the precarious situation of being imprisoned, from which they must escape using their wits and sword-swinging ability. The player is not the only prisoner in the keep and while some fellow inmates will aid them others are even more crazed than the guards. This can lead to fighting amongst the prisoners and guards, which the player can use to their advantage to cause disruption or to slip past a guard unnoticed.

The pacing of TinyKeep is largely up to the player. It's possible to run around with no apparent care for your own safety in a desperate bid to gain freedom at any cost. Or you can creep about, watching guard movements and avoiding their gaze as you steal provisions and items from within the dungeon that will aid your escape.

I sadly attempted the former tactic, with very little success. For while I had created chaos in the dungeon by letting all of the prisoners out, the sheer weight of numbers of enemies from both guards and prisoners along with my lack of weapons lead to my untimely demise. I was told by the developer that if I had been considerably more cautious I would have discovered the sword and shield, which would have increased my chances of survival significantly.

As subsequent attempts at completing the level continued the dynamic of the environment changed thanks to the arrival of a horde of undead appearing, seemingly from nowhere. At this point the guards switch their attention from the prisoners, and therefore the player, to take out the invading animated skeletons. This places the player in even greater peril and demonstrates how time does impact on the play of TinyKeep. It can give a false sense of security while the player manages to mow down several guards only to be confronted by a mass of shambling undead.

Combat in TinyKeep is a carefully timed affair, with enemies only exposing themselves to attack once they are in mid-swing. Otherwise they are constantly blocking, which forces the player to time their attacks meticulously, preventing the Diablo-like hack-n slash engagements that can lead to tedium. I was quite surprised to see this level of complexity in TinyKeep as to the uninitiated it bears a remarkable resemblance to that Blizzard behemoth, even if the camera angle is top down rather than isometric.

Visually TinyKeep is very detailed, well-animated and features impressive dynamic lighting effects that have the torchlight along the walls flickering rather convincingly. The shadows are similarly affected by this lighting design and I felt it did much to draw the player into TinyKeep's dingy world.

The developers are busily creating content for TinyKeep as they have now created what they believe to be a robust framework to build the game from. It will be a little while before it receives a general release, though, with launch aimed at September 2014 for the Windows PC and Mac.
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