Chances are you've not heard that much about Mazes of Fate DS. I hadn't either when I first saw it on the list of upcoming Nintendo DS titles. Mazes is a first-person action RPG developed by Sabarasa Entertainment, a mid-sized development studio based in Argentina, and published by Graffiti Entertainment. Mazes of Fate was released originally for the Game Boy Advance late in 2006, but received little publicity. It has now been remade on DS and includes fully 3D movement and touch screen controls.
The game begins by letting you pick from either a few predetermined characters with their own unique looks and skills or by creating your own character. Wanting to check out all of the options, I opted to create a new character. You are allowed to name your character, allocate their starting stats (strength, endurance, etc.), divvy out skill bonuses (1-handed weapon mastery, Fast Healing, etc.), and pick your avatar image. Sadly, when picking an image, you can only choose from images of the pre-made characters. Thankfully, the process is simple and quick, so it takes little time to jump in start playing.
"Considering that this game does not have the budget or support of some of the larger RPG development studios, Mazes of Fate is still a rather solid title."
I didn't get too deep into the story of Mazes of Fate, but the little I did encounter was similar to many other dungeon crawling RPGs. The player is told that a temple was recently uncovered and since that time people have been having bad dreams. Shortly after getting briefed on the latest town gossip, you are sent on your first of many quests. On the overworld, there is a top down view of your character as you explore around the town. You have to take your character a few steps across the town to talk with a specific NPC to gain access to start the first quest. Once this is out of the way, the true fun of Mazes of Fate starts: exploring dungeons.
You hop into the first dungeon and get to kill a few enemies. Combat is easily handled via the stylus and touch screen. Players can look around by dragging the stylus and can attack enemies by tapping on them. Fallen enemies often drop items that can be tapped to pick up. Dungeons also contain hidden items to loot as well. Within each dungeon, the game automatically maps your progress on the opposite DS screen, so you do not have to worry about losing track of where you are. Mazes of Fate offers a touch screen inventory management system that can be accessed without leaving the main action screen. The off-screen menu lets the player select from the character skill management, the option menu, and the save menu.
The game features more than just mindless first-person dungeon crawling. Characters must interact with many NPCs, opening certain side quests if the correct option is chosen. Mazes also features secondary party characters that will join or leave the party depending on the decisions that are made. The player can have up to two party members join them at any one time. The strong focus on decision making is one of Mazes of Fate's most endearing qualities. From what I got to play of the game, it is not punishingly difficult. Yet it provides enough of a challenge to keep players on their toes. Enemies can ambush you and take you down if you do not pay close enough attention, so be careful and you should be fine.
Though graphically more impressive than the Game Boy Advance version, the visuals are nothing extremely outstanding and the music is nothing special either. For a subgenre of RPGs focused around gameplay, Mazes of Fate is enjoyable, at least for the time that I was able to play. Considering that this game does not have the budget or support of some of the larger RPG development studios, Mazes of Fate is still a rather solid title. For anyone that missed out on the initial version, keep an eye out for Mazes of Fate DS coming out on February 26. It has been rated "T" for Teen by the ESRB. Check out the latest screenshots from Mazes of Fate DS here.