Checks Out The Enchanted Cave 2

As sometimes happens here on, indie developer Dustin Auxier was good enough to provide me with a build of his recently released game, The Enchanted Cave 2. I’ve played it a bit here and there over the past few weeks, then finally sat down to play and record the results. You can follow along right here:

So, what’d I think?

I enjoyed my time with The Enchanted Cave 2–it’s a light and easy play experience, and very focused on just a few things. The developer really wasn’t kidding: TEC2 really is a game about looting, grinding, and knowing when to say “that’s enough for now.”

However, that’s pretty much all it is. Despite the variety of enemies and equipment present in the game, there’s a certain lack of variation that makes things start to feel a bit hollow after a while. Combat, for instance. While combat is fast and satisfying to watch play out, there are very few decisions for you to actually make once it starts. You can use potions or cast spells, but there’s a distinct lack of variety to them. Potions restore health or mana; combat spells act like a health potion, or else add extra damage from one element or another to your next attack. That’s about it.

Preparation before combat is a little more involved than the fights themselves, with the crafting system in particular adding some extra wrinkles to your equipment decisions. However, even here there aren’t as many interesting decisions to make as there should be. The game has lots and lots of equipment with different properties, but only one or two such items will be viable at any given point in time due to TEC2’s rather pronounced equipment treadmill. You’ll find something great, craft some helpful modifiers for it, then find an item a few floors down with stats so much better than your current item’s stats that the older item’s unique, beneficial properties are totally overshadowed. With few exceptions, choosing whether or not to replace your old equipment with new equipment is hardly a choice at all.

Even as a relatively poor/inexperienced player of roguelikes, I’ve been finding this game surprisingly easy. It’s not that enemies don’t deal enough damage or anything like that; it’s that they can’t move, leaving me free to loot and wend my way down stairs to a new level with impunity. Pressing ever downwards isn’t all that risky, since I have Escape Wings that will wisk me away to safety at a moment’s notice. I don’t even have to worry about getting into fights that are over my head; the ability to see enemy stats ahead of time means that I will always know how much damage the enemy will do to me, and how much I will do to it. If I’m ever stuck in a position where I have to risk my life to proceed, I can just collect any remaining accessible chests, then use Escape Wings. There’s no real penalty to using Escape Wings, other than providing you with lots of easy grinding opportunities against enemies who can now do little to no actual damage (thanks, once again, to the equipment treadmill).

In short: you have to be playing really carelessly to have any real chance of dying in this game. (For the record: I’ve played The Enchanted Cave 2 for roughly 7 hours now, and I have not died once, which is frankly pretty astonishing given that it’s a roguelike.)

The Enchanted Cave 2 has NPCs, which is pretty great, but I think there’s a lot of unused potential there. I was hoping to encounter unique characters with arcs or side quests spanning multiple levels of the dungeon. In actuality, NPCs are mostly of the jRPG “one-line villager” variety; only a handful show up in the dungeon, and the best you can expect on this front are trapped villagers who want to buy your Escape Wings. Incidentally, selling your Wings is far and away the best chance you’ll have to experience something like actual tension during a playthrough; but at the same time, you’d have to be a moron to sell your Wings, since that’s your guarantee of survival if you miscalculate your moves through a coming level.

Personally, I’d like to see the developer produce a follow-up title where he tamps down on the equipment treadmill, increases the variety of tactics available in combat, makes Escape Wings less common, and offers a greater variety (and depth) of NPC encounters in the dungeon. Still, given the game’s miniscule price tag, it’s hard to fault it for keeping things as simple as it does. The Enchanted Cave 2 is a light little cream puff of a game; if you want some fast and breezy looting and grinding, then it will scratch your itch nicely.

The Enchanted Cave 2 is currently available for $4.99 on Steam (Windows and Mac), or $2.99 on iOS or Android.

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