Anvil of Dawn, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the darkness

It’s not often that I get into western RPGs, mostly because of the incredibly annoying AD&D party system. Is there anything worse in this world than that? Perhaps just Daikatana. Or maybe not, AD&D is even worse. Anvil of Dawn takes the basic gist of it, but in applying it to a single character game, makes it far more bearable. As an RPG, it’s also far more puzzle-heavy and combat requires less planning skills and more reflexes, which is all the more suited to my tastes.

"If chosen, you get to oversleep"
“If chosen, you get to oversleep”

One of the most interesting aspects of the game, is how it sets itself up as a party-based adventure, then lets you choose a character and sends you out alone, but you still get to meet the unchosen characters throughout the course of the story.  And without dwelving into spoilers territory, let’s say theirs is not such a happy story.

Dungeons range from fiery mountains to iron fortresses, to sunken ships? With zombie pirates to boot!
Dungeons range from fiery mountains to iron fortresses, to sunken ships? With zombie pirates to boot!

In fact, most of the NPCs in Anvil of Dawn have either given up on the fight, or are on the verge of death when you meet them. Your own character’s travels is actualy the one thing that brings them some hope, but unlike some other games (and most WRPGs and JRPGs fall into this trap), it’s a detached thing. You aren’t collecting wolf pelts or joy pendants to solve someone’s problem – most of the times, it’s more like “we are screwed anyway, but your actions inspired me to go on”. It makes you feel more involved, and for once, you actually feel like the hero, rather than some guy running fetch quests.

Gameplay merits are mixed, but overall good. There is a world map, which you can only explore and sometimes interact with in a limited form, and then there dungeons where you also get to fight enemies.  It’s grid-based, and most fights can be won by hit-and-run. It gets a bit tiring after a while. Puzzles also rely too often on pressure switches, teleports, and my personal most hated feature, spinner tiles (you’ll hate them too, trust me). But it’s still pretty fun. I finished it, after all.

You also get to hear dwarves singing songs. What is this, The Hobbit?
You also get to hear dwarves singing songs. What is this, The Hobbit?

The visuals are appealing too, and the music is quite good. What’s not to love? Yeah, you’ll hate spinner tiles, but the game’s worth seeing through the end – oh, and the bad ending might surprise you. Totally worth it.

Well said.
Well said. Spoiler: it doesn’t even do anything important. Magnificent.
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