Serpent In The Staglands Review – This Snake Doesn’t Scale To Your Level
It’s reached the point where using the term “old school” while describing an RPG means about as much as the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl. Having lost a lot of its effectiveness as a term of splendor and awe, being old school doesn’t seem to mean as much as it once did. With Kickstarter, the indie revival, and Steam Greenlight still going strong, it’s hard to play the “we don’t get enough of these games” card.
That being said, there are still games out there that can use the moniker, it’s just that in this writer’s opinion, they have to go the extra mile to earn it. Simply having pixel graphics, turn-based combat and a deep statistical underpinning isn’t enough. Perhaps the developers behind Serpent in the Staglands were aware of this, because if any game out there deserves to use the term, it’s this one.
Serpent in the Staglands, which I’ll be calling Staglands from here on out, first attracted me to it by showing off those slick Ultima 7 inspired visuals. Though I’m not fond of the old and decrepit pixelated graphics these games embrace, I was impressed that the developers aped the style from one of my favorite classic DOS era CRPGs instead of just throwing together something low-fi while hiding their inability to do world design within the wide umbrella of nostalgia. (...)
Like any good European CRPG, Staglands isn’t looking to hold your hand or babysit you. It may pit you against hordes of non-leveled foes, but it does at least give you plenty of powers. Matter of fact, the powers it gives you access to are pretty robust for an indie game developed by a very small studio with little game development experience. The skill system, which is divided into three sub sections, contains over 50 different disciplines to specialize in.
Split between aptitudes, skills, and spells, the game gives you plenty of ways to craft a unique combatant in what is a completely classless system. While skills are the typical “Increase critical rate” or “Bash an enemy for 1d3 damage with a shield” sort of thing, the spell and aptitude part of it is a bit more exciting.
Spells are not held back by mana points or cooldown rates like in most other RPGs. In Staglands, a spell can be fired off as many times and for as long as you so desire. This helps a lot, since magic is extremely powerful in the game and having at least two dedicated casters in your group is an absolute must. Though there are only three levels of spells (a 4th will be introduced in the upcoming expansion), you do get a very wide variety of incantations within each of those levels.
The real beauty is in the aptitude section of the skills, where occupational abilities come into play. Including abilities woodwise, linguistics, nobility, herbology, philosophy and harbinger, the aptitude part of the game’s character creation system is the most important one to master.
It’s also the most difficult, since the real uses of these skills are hidden and not talked about in either the manual or their in-game descriptions. (...)