Muschamp Rd


October 24th, 2010
RPG Dice

The latest game that has been sucking me in is Undercroft on my iPhone. It is an old school RPG in the style of Eye of the Beholder, though the puzzles and humor remind me more of games by Steve Meretzky who created Spellcasting 101 which I definitely played, I think I played the sequel, but not the three-quel, the first one was very hard, even with the walk through I could never get through one part, it also had the Maize. Hero’s Quest and the old Sierra style games along with Diablo (II?) obviously influenced Undercroft.

Hero’s Quest and Diablo II are two games I played through more than once as different classes, taking slightly different paths. I doubt I’ll play Undercroft through again, I used four of the five classes in my party and although I made some early skill allotment mistakes perhaps, my team kicks quite a lot of booty and I haven’t had to resurrect many characters. Of course sometimes you’re just dead and need to restore. Hero’s Quest was designed by Lori Ann Cole who deserves mention as being one of the great old school game designers in a very male dominated field back in the 80s and early 90s.

Hero’s Quest and Diablo II have one feature that was also present in Wolfenstein and DooM which visually look similar to Undercroft, which I wish Undercroft had, they gave you a score when you completed the section or the game such as 78% complete or whatever. I know I skipped one quest early on, but in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th stages I completed a lot of side quests. Now I’m in the capital city and I have several ongoing quests, including one puzzle I haven’t worked out quite yet. The 3rd stage has the toughest maze, being an old school gamer I saw through a few things right away, others I solved by trial and error. The runes puzzle I’m still not sure why the exact answer is correct. I had various theories I tried. Undercroft’s designers published a walk-through fairly close to when the game came out. In the olden days there was no internet and walk-throughs were rarer, now they make them as they create the games I imagine.

Like Wolfenstein, the Quest games, old Infocom and Legend games, it pays to push buttons and switch levers, sometimes the order matters, sometimes it doesn’t in Undercroft. Also there are some walls that aren’t really walls. A map is provided for you unlike the iPhone version of Final Fantasy, use it, it can show you areas you haven’t explored fully and give clues to where you want to search harder. It is easier to find hidden stuff in Undercroft than in the old Quest games and text based adventures. There is only a few things you can click, but there is of course the one riddle I haven’t solved yet, along with somethings I seem to be able to manipulate but I don’t know what they do yet.

There are five classes in Undercroft. Someone online recommended the Summoner in his review so I didn’t use that class. My fighter seems to do the most damage and gain the most experience followed by my Mage. My Priest was the laggard of my party, I gave him all kinds of extra bonus experience and skills to try and offset this. My Assassin did a little bit better than the Priest. I followed the advice given on but I have to disagree. Early on I split my upgrade points between one of the three stats (Strength, Constitution, and Dexterity) and a preferred spell or special power for each character. I went with Poleaxe Expert for my fighter, Exotic Weapon Expert for my Assassin, Heal for my Priest and Fireball for my Mage. This caused me troubles.

First of all finding exotic weapons isn’t easy early on, either is Poleaxes or or Polearms. So I recommend choosing a passive power early on and wait until you find or buy a good weapon before specializing your Assassin or Fighter in a particular weapon type. The Priest healed my party, but this might not give him experience. Also you can find potions and food that can heal too, so you can make the Priest a more combat oriented character, he has a lot of decent powers if you try them out. The Assassin and Priest have an extra powerful strike skill this is very useful and potentially powerful later in the game I used it a lot on bosses and such. I think eventually my Assassin would do more damage than my fighter, as I put so many points into Exotic Weapon Expert, but the Fighter always leveled up first regardless.

I recommend putting a token point into Cure Poison and Thaw as you will get poisoned and frozen a lot. Conversely Stunning or Freezing your opponents is good. I played the game for many many hours and was unsure if enemies attacked from the sides. The game limits you to fighting two monsters at a time in front of you. The top down view in Ultima and some of the old SSI games is more tactical for combat. Monsters can attack you in depth throwing or shooting through the front too. There is no big “run” button like in Final Fantasy and once locked in combat you’re kinda stuck, but you can avoid monsters.

I don’t recommend arming your Assassin long term with a ranged weapon, bows are alright you find lots of arrows but the more exotic throwing weapons you can run out of ammo quickly. I did try the Retrieve skill but by then maybe had given up on throwing stars as a primary weapon, just not damaging enough. You seem to be able to carry an unlimited amount of stuff, but there were a couple points in the game where I was cash poor and was forced to eat rat meat or just about anything to survive. The Assassin can get a power which lets her (my party was half male and half female) make a ranged attack with her regular melee weapon. This is worthwhile putting a point or two in. I used my Mage as my ranged attack specialist, she also went through the most Mana potions, though they are not called that in Undercroft, they are however blue.

Final bits of advice are you can use one character to force feed another character a potion or an apple. This doesn’t count as an action in combat for the force feeder but does for the force feedee. So you can use say your Priest or Assassin to cure or recharge your Fighter and Mage which as I mentioned seem to do the most damage at least with the gear I found and equipped them with for the majority of the game. Two handed weapons are worth it for the Fighter and Assassin in my opinion, there are a wide variety of shields but doing damage is more important as you can carry around a 100 healing potions if you really wanted to. The Priest has the most variety of skills of the four classes I used, he can do extra damage to daemons and undead which you will fight.

Specializing in Fireball is great until you fight fire monsters, so I recommend splitting your Mage skill points among hot and cold spells. The ability to attack multiple enemies at once, which the Mage, Fighter, and even Priest can do with the right skills and weapons is good, it can eat up your Mana/Stamina but with other magic items you can offset this to a degree.

Good luck. I plan to try some more tonight, but not play as late as I have been, with work tomorrow. I also might give Perilar a try, it has inferior graphics but is supposed to be even more true to the old Ultima style game play. The engine for Underworld is quite good, I hope for a sequel or an expansion. Some of the old TSR/SSI games you could bring your party forward into the sequel more games should allow this. Hint, Hint! Here is a big list of RPGs on the iPhone.

One more thing Undercroft has an auto-save which you can do as often as every five minutes. I had it going and wasn’t making my own saves. Finally I ran into something that beat my party to death, so I figure I’ll just restore and not go in that door or whatever until I’ve got some more gear or at least more potions. When I restored it was in the middle of combat with the thing that killed me. I had to fight that monster many times and really be efficient with my stamina and health and potions. You can also lower the difficulty, even mid-game, possibly even mid-fight. I tried that against this particular monster. It wasn’t until the fourth and even more the fifth stage until I ran into anything that killed one of my characters and really threatened my party as a whole. Most of the time, if you’re smart and carry enough potions you can get through most any fight then you can retreat and heal up at a tavern or temple.

Good luck with Undercroft, the current owner also makes RuneScape which is free and MMO, JAGEX didn’t make Undercroft, it was made by Rake in the Grass originally. I’ve always avoided persistent online games, I only play games when I have the free time, often months can go by without me doing any gaming, but then I’ll get involved with a game heavily for a while. Maybe now that I have Windows 7 on my MacBook Pro and a job I’ll look at a new game for the PC or Wii.

Of course Civilization 5 is supposed to come out on Mac OS X this quarter, I eventually put over 1000 hours into that game, I’m not sure if I ever got Red Steel 2 I think I did and a Wii Remote Plus.


  • 1337 says:

    Nice review bro i just started playing undercroft and im like hooked on it. I hope the storyline like never finishes…

  • Muskie says:

    Can’t sleep so I played a little Final Fantasy, the original. I prefer Undercroft, I guess I’m more of a Western true RPG fan than the Asian RPG/Quest/Action games most typified by Zelda. A new Zelda on Wii is coming out, but Red Steel or Civilization V are more my style. I may try to finish FF but it seems pretty repetitive, there are other iPhone games out there. Both my iPhone and Mac are having issues, right after I install Windows on my MacBook Pro.

    Ever since I did that Opera won’t work. And Disk Utility seems to think part of my hard drive is corrupted, but hasn’t been able to repair it, may have to give Disk Warrior a go, but my version isn’t the newest and Disk Warrior has kinda lost its prominence with all the additional checking that modern hard drive file systems do such as Journaling and what have you. More RAM won’t help my hard drive corruption or Opera, but it will help Civ, Windows, and general productivity on my Mac, too many pauses and spinning beach balls of late.

  • Muskie says:

    So it appears I finished Undercroft this evening. There is no Starwars ending with Princess Leia giving everyone medals. There is however a hook for a sequel or an expansion. I don’t know if they’ll change the engine, but hopefully they’ll change it so it doesn’t autosave during fights, I had one other little bit of advice, but I can’t remember. I may check the walk-through to learn what I missed… Oh and some sort of scoring system like level 78% done and the other bit of advice to anyone making a game these days on any platform, a means to show off your progress to your friends, such as posting to Facebook like Playstation Network does, or updating Apple’s Game Center like some iPhone apps now do.

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