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 Review: Excave (3DS eShop)

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PostReview: Excave (3DS eShop)

There is No Hope, No Excape

Review: Excave (3DS eShop) Excave_Screen01

Excave is a dungeon crawler RPG made by Mechanical Arms and Published by Teyon, a developer with a very hit and miss library. While Steel Empire and Bird Mania have earned praise, they have also had their hand in critically bashed games such as Rambo and Hubert the Bear, as well as many other forgettable and average titles. Which leads to the question, where does Excave fall in?

Review: Excave (3DS eShop) Excave_Screen02

The story in this title is very simple and straight forward. A magician who has traveled in the labyrinth has disappeared and hasn’t been seen ever since. The adventurers, whose names are never revealed, are tasked with rescuing him. This is the only real piece of story to see for the rest of the game, until the end. In all fairness, Excave is more gameplay oriented than story driven. While it would have been nice to see more context of the labyrinth, the lack of story isn’t going to sink a game like this.

The goal of the game is to gather keys and unlock other dungeons. This is accomplished by going into unlocked dungeons and defeating the boss at the end of said dungeon. The boss will drop a key, which can then be used to unlock other dungeons in the labyrinth, provided the door is the same color as the key.

You can take control of a girl elf, or a boy knight. For the most part, they play the same. However, both of them carry weapons that are specific to them. The boy knight is able to carry heavier weapons such as axes and broadswords. These are weapons that emphasize more damage at the cost of speed. The girl elf prefers items such as bow and arrows, magic wands, and daggers. The dagger provide speed, while the Bow and the wands are long range attacks.

You have to be careful when attacking an enemy with a sword or any close combat weapon as there is a chance that it can break on you. Once that happens, it is completely useless and you’ll have to replace it with another weapon or ditch it. Should you continue to carry around the weapon you broke, you can get it fixed via blacksmith for a price. The blacksmith also allows you to identify mysterious items that you collect. This can come in handy as when you die, you’ll lose all those mysterious items. In addition, you can sell these items and any that you pick up for money. You can also store items you don’t need into the equipment inventory. This is useful as with only 25 slots in the regular inventory, the amount of items you collect is going to add up quickly.

Review: Excave (3DS eShop) Excave_Screen04

The combat itself is simple. To use your weapon, you simply press A. Every third attack will cause considerably more damage. To use your shield or to use an extra item, you press B. The shield is useful as it will block any attack from any enemy. Much like the knives or swords, it is prone to breaking. However, it is much more resistant, so the shield will last longer until you need to buy another one.

You can also find spells after defeating an enemy or by finding it in a treasure chest. They are very limited though as there are only four real elements such as fire, water, and thunder and one that is unspecified. Each of these elements has a few variants of elemental attacks. They can range from a healing magic, a fireball attack, a water ball attack, and a thunder attack that attacks in one spot. In addition to that, there is a rare item that will deal massive damage to any enemy that is on screen.

Also worth mentioning is that there are accessories such as feathers, braces, and rings lying around Excave's world. You can use up to three accessories to increase up your speed, power, or health. Generally they are the only real way to beef up your character as they don’t level up, which means you’ll be relying on these items.

Review: Excave (3DS eShop) Excave_Screen03

This heavy reliance on accessories effectively cripples the main characters as they do not have a chance against the later dungeons with them. Should you lose these items, you may have to do some grinding in other to get enough money to regain access to the stronger accessories or weapons.  

Excave isn't too long of a game, if you don’t run into any major problems or are in a position where you have to do some grinding, you could beat the game in about 6-7 hours. Any trouble you may have get from losing your items will extend it another 2-3 hours.

Strangely enough, Excave lacks a pause button similar to the games Dark Souls. Though, one can make the argument that closing the 3ds counts and the 2ds does have a sleep option, it is still strange that a pause button isn’t included.

Review: Excave (3DS eShop) Excave_Screen05

The gameplay itself is nothing too special. It is technically a solid game since it works and there are no major bugs to report, nor are there any problems with the framerate. However the enemies themselves are not memorable. While there are a few decent enemies, the enemy selection is bland with no real personality to them. The enemies in general also have a limited array of attacks. A large chunk of them have strategy that just consists of getting close to and attacking you. A few might throw some a fireball or two and a few can poison or paralyze you; however, they are not any less predictable.

This lack of variety affects the combat as well. Since the combat is simple in nature, the basic attack patterns of the enemies are prone to making the game boring. The bosses are a little better, though they tend to rely on only two or three attacks with no real attempt to switch things up. The game could benefit from more complex enemies as it would add some needed depth to the game.

Perhaps to compensate for the lack of limited attacks on their enemies, Mechanical Arms have decided to throw tons of enemies at you more than a few times during the journey. These moments when you are swarmed by enemies can be frustrating as even when you attempt to escape, your health will be withered down to zero percent before you can fully escape.

The graphics themselves are also nothing to write home about. The character designs have an anime look to them. The main characters themselves look fine, though the enemies on the other hand look rather choppy as it seems like they are missing frames of animation. The dungeons themselves tend to become old quickly as well. Besides the different colors, the dungeons for the most part feel and look the same with nothing to make them stand out. Also, there are no 3D effects to be found in this game, which is disappointing.

The music itself is rather forgettable as well. There are about 6 different songs in the soundtrack, and they are some of the blandest songs you could listen to. That said, they do their job and they never become annoying. Still, you would be hard pressed to remember any of them after beating the game.

Review: Excave (3DS eShop) Excave_Screen06

Excave feels like a basis for a good game. Besides some questionable game design choices, such as the heavy reliance of accessories, the game isn’t all together bad. Overall, the game isn’t terrible, but it isn’t very good either. This could be a good starting point for a much better sequel. However, with its bland gameplay, forgettable music, and the simplistic enemy strategy, it is not a game you should consider unless you really need another dungeon crawler.


Review copy provided by Teyon.
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