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    Delver Review

    January 1st, 2023

    Playing Delver today is akin to playing Rogue, the forefather of the Roguelike and Roguelite genres, in 2023; what made these games conceptually or technologically advance back then does not hold up to today's modern gaming standards. If players back then were satisfied with using weapons that are functionally identical to one another, in a combat system that revolves around moving forwards and backwards ever so slightly, against the same AI in different hats and customes - then today it is simply not enough.

    This would have been unfair to say about a game from 2012, had the latest update to it not been made recently. Since it was, indeed, made recently, and the FAQ claims Delver is now complete, I find it completely unacceptable that it is being left in this state after 10 years of active game development.

    Combat in Delver goes as follows: the weapon in your main hand can be swung as is, or charged up for a Heavy. Both attacks are performed excruciatingly slowly for no apparent reason. The off-hand slot fits one of two illumination items, or a shield, which you can equip and never touch again as you cannot bash, parry, throw, or retaliate with it in any other meaningful way.

    Objects lying around the stage (aptly named 'Trash' on the Wiki) can be picked up and thrown to deal damage. Doing so requires switching to a different hotbar slot, because if you place them in your off-hand you won't be able to throw them. Not only does this require you to constantly interact with the inventory system to make space for these throwables, they need to be charged up before use, leaving you defenseless against most opponents. They deal minimal damage anyway, making picking up items and throwing them futile.

    There are no alternate game mechanics that would make interacting with the game world interesting. No stealth, skills, Actives, Passives, pets, crafting, selling or recycling gear; no rolling, blocking, parrying, dodging, strafing, crouching through crevices to avoid damage.

    Even jumping, the most basic of features, was only available through an external mod for the majority of the game's lifespan, and once shipped with base game it came unbound from a key by default. I'd wager most players don't even realize you can jump in this game to begin with, which does become crucial in later parts of this game.

    In terms of weapons, Delver features a dagger, two maces, two polearms, and three sword variants. The Ranged category has a few identical bows, and about 7 different wands. These are meant to be used in tandem with melee weapons, however they too require charging, and either wear down or have a limited amount of uses. If you thought you could utilize them from your off-hand slot like in, say, Dishonored, you'd be wrong.

    No distinction is made between item materials, or piercing, slashing, blunt damage; all weapons eventually need to be replaced. The weapons animate differently, but only differ from one another through minor stat changes. Since they all progressively wear down, you are required to constantly pick up and carry extras to replace the worn down ones, which is not a great experience to say the least.

    Each of the four areas features 2-3 grunt-type mobs that home in on you through solid walls and solely base themselves on close-range combat. This is the majority of all enemies in the game. I must clarify that this is a detriment, since their attacks never outreach yours, and thus none of them ever pose a real threat to you, even in larger groups.

    There's one mob type that engages at range (and needs to be dispatched at range), and one that lunges forward, arguably the most interesting and challenging one. Multiple areas reuse that AI and those enemies - peak videogame design, as we all know it.

    Considering this lack of variety in both enemies and weapons, there should then be no good reason each run takes nearly 2 hours to complete. Each area has two stages, and there is an additional intermission stage between those. Once you reach the last stage and beat the boss, you are required to go through the entire game in reverse to make your escape, which feels like a chore, and as if the devs are padding for your playtime.

    It is then ironic that completing the game increases its difficulty, as if there is an incentive to replay it. The only form of meta-progression in Delver is your account balance, which allows you to purchase starting gear for new runs, gear you'd find in the first few rooms of a dungeon anyway.

    Inventory size is deliberately limited on new saves, and progressively gets bigger the more bag upgrades you purchase or find. No new items, perks, stages, characters, NPCs or monsters are unlocked during any and all consequent runs.

    There are other quirks and inconsistencies that make the game feel incomplete; enemies get stuck inside walls, hitboxes don't match their sprite, weird lightning and level geometry, stuttering and hitching despite the game running on a modern system, water extinguishing bombs and burning entities but not lit candles, moving with the inventory screen open but not the map UI, spritework making it hard to gauge whether you are able to hit an enemy or not, seeing or going outside of map bounds in some spots etc.

    Delver's moddability is the only positive aspect I can think of. The speed at which your character swings their weapon is truly dreadful; I would have not been able to continue playing without the Faster Weapons mod enhancing it. I have also installed Weapon Expansion Pack to alleviate the aforementioned lack in weapon variety. More Chunks helps with seeing the same room patterns across consequent runs, and there's a mod to address game length called Little Delver that might be worth looking into if the long runs bother you.

    Delver is not a bad game, it is a foundation which a proper Roguelite can be built upon. Unfortunately, instead of being introduced more content, as well as features like strafing or blocking projectiles / bashing enemies with your off-hand, the devs have elected to abandon it.

    It is amateurish; but more importantly, it is forgettable. It used to cost $5, now the $15 asking price is, quite frankly, ridiculous, considering you get to see all content within it in a single 2-hour run. I'd advise you spend your hard-earned money elsewhere.