Frayed Knights: The Skull of S'makh-Daon Review

Article Index

Eschalon: Book II

Developer:Rampant Games
Release Date:2011-09-28
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • First-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Fatigue, Spell Upgrades, and Drama

Where I feel Frayed Knights pulls away from some other dungeon crawlers and makes a more unique mark is in some of its additional game mechanics. One of the main things you'll need to manage during the game is Endurance, which powers everything from standard attacks, to active feats, to spells. While you're out adventuring, your maximum Endurance rate will begin to fall the more times you rest up, and also depending on if you're over-exerting your party in combat. This means that, when you've got a good night's sleep, you'll be ready to take on the world, but spend too much time out in the wild and you'll find yourself clinging to the edge of life and struggling to perform even the most basic of feats. Most of the game's quests and dungeons seem specifically measured to bring you to the brink, as well, so while you'll often find yourself waltzing in, overconfidence and poor management of your Endurance and resources can often lead to extreme difficulty later on; thus, taking steps to ensure efficiency is key. On top of that, while characters never die, they will become incapacitated when their Health drops to zero; while there are a couple of ways to revive them without heading back to the inn, the most common, Potions of Recapacitation, will sap them almost entirely of Endurance, meaning that you'll ideally want to keep everyone alive as long as possible and make sure your entire party is strong, rather than relying on a single character to bring you through.

The approach to spellcasting is also interesting. Frayed Knights has a very wide variety of spells available, ranging all the way from levels 1-2, up to levels 11-12, for about 150 in total. Some of these are basic elemental damage spells, like Hotfoot, and others, like Smart Pill, are your standard buffs. The most useful, in my opinion, are disabling spells, like Blindness and Crash, which, assuming an enemy isn't immune, make larger fights much easier to handle than with simple direct damage. Spells adhere to different schools, namely Sorcery, Divine Magic, Nature Magic, and Dark Magic, with Chloe starting out with experience in Sorcery and Benjamin in Nature Magic; in order to learn new spells in the other schools, you'll need to invest in the relevant feats, and then either level up to gain access to common spells, or transcribe scrolls or complete certain quests to gain the more uncommon ones. However, the game's most powerful spells are limited by Spellstones, items which effectively serve as ammunition, and must be present in a given party member's inventory for said spells to even be available.

On top of all this, given the correct feats, spells can be augmented up to level 5, increasing either their damage or duration depending on the spell, but also increasing the amount of Endurance and/or Spellstones required to cast. Not only does this mean you'll have more options when using magic, it also means that those level 1 spells that you might be otherwise inclined to scoff at can still be extremely valuable later in the game, provided you're willing to spend more Endurance on them. While magic never outright dominates as it does in some RPGs, ignoring it is complete suicide, as the mid- and late-game enemies will disable, poison, silence and generally turn your party into gibbering wrecks before tearing them to shreds.

Another interesting design choice in Frayed Knights is to have the turn-based qualities of the game carry over into the exploration portions. Similar to something like Baldur's Gate, which under the hood operated using turns, Frayed Knights keeps the turn counters going even when you aren't in combat, meaning that certain actions like casting spells, resting, and searching the environment will take a turn or two. While this can potentially expose you to the danger of random encounters and patrolling enemies (which is why it's best to rest up in smaller rooms off the beaten path), it also means that you'll have to make certain decisions about pre-buffing your party - namely, what is the ideal order to do so, considering that different spells have different durations, and whether to do it in safety but waste some of that duration running off to the next fight, or to risk another battle by casting those spells in the open.