And this streamlining hasn’t affected the one thing that has always made Diablo and its clones so successful: Fate is maddeningly addictive. Levelling is, as ever, the biggest draw, and because Fate doesn’t have a class system, you’re free to develop your combat skills or magic skills as you see fit. You can specialize in sword and shield or wizardry if you want – and there are definite advantages to doing so – but you’re free to mix and match as you proceed. In any case, there’s a real sense of growing proficiency, with many items or spells only becoming usable once your magic or strength stats increase. Completing quests also boosts your renown, which not only improves an Elite-style rating, but entitles you to use legendary items. It’s an ego-boost, if nothing else.
Don’t worry – cool new toys are also a Fate fixture, with the usual collection of arms and armour to collect, buy and sell, plus a sizable array of unique magic weapons, rings, pendants and other garments. Some are available to buy in town, and others can be found at a cheaper price in the local gambling house, if you’re prepared to take a risk. Certain items can even be upgraded via sockets – add a specific magic gem to a socketed mace, for example, and you can up its damage level against undead targets. Armour can be improved in the same way, and the game even gives you a chance to take the gems with you when switching weapons – a handy chap in town can easily remove them.
As I’ve mentioned, this is a one-dimensional experience. It would be nice to see a little more variety in town and dungeon; the repetition of character models for townspeople is almost inexcusable when there is only a dozen or so of them. And some puzzles or even quests that went beyond ‘find my magic staff on level 7’ or ‘kill whatnot the bugbear on level 12’ would make it feel less like a thoughtless, mouse-mashing exercise. All the same, I’ve had hours disappear into Fate without my noticing, and I’m itching to waste more the same way. For about £11, who’s complaining?
A glowing example of how charm, smart design and addictive power can hide one-dimensional gameplay. Fate will easily fill your time before Dungeon Siege II comes along.