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Posted on May 30, 2012 AT 02:56pm

Armageddon never looked so good

The apocalypse is long overdue for a makeover. Sure, barren, inhospitable wastelands are great, but once you’ve trudged your way across enough of them, they all start to blend together into one big, colorless mess. Isn’t it time the end of the world got just a little bit cheerier?

Here to answer that call is Krater, a new action-RPG from indie developer Fatshark. Set within a sprawling nuclear blast crater in the Swedish countryside, Krater offers up exactly the sort of postapocalyptic world you’d expect from the land that brought us ABBA. The landscape teems with lush greenery and wildlife, the run-down cities are as brightly colored as they come, and the gas-masked locals strike the perfect blend of charming and weird.

Predictably enough, Krater inherits most of its gameplay from Diablo-style action-RPGs. That means mouse-driven movement and combat, class-based skills, and a whole lot of randomized loot to deck out your characters. Yep, that’s “characters”. As in, more than one. Unlike most titles in the genre, Krater doesn’t cast you in the role of lone hero.

Instead, you’re placed in control of a three-man squad. While they’ll move and attack in unison, each member of your team has their own stats, gear, and class-specific skills. In a nod to classic tactical games like X-COM and Syndicate, you’ll need to custom-tailor your squad to suit your needs.

To that end, you’ve got four classes at your disposal, each of which offers its own strategic advantages. There’s the Bruiser, a heavyweight melee brawler; the Regulator, a long-ranged support class; the Slayer, a knife-wielding maniac; and the Medikus, a healer who’s light on combat.

There’s a comfortable synergy between their various skills, and you’ll need to put it to good use to survive. Take too much damage, and your units can suffer permanent injury or even death. Lose a team member, and you’ll be forced to head back to the nearest recruiting station and start from scratch with a brand-new, level-1 squaddie.

Travel between settlements is handled via a beautifully rendered overworld map, an approach that should feel familiar to fans of the classic Fallout games. The camera pulls out to a bird’s-eye view, and you’re free to do as you see fit. You can head straight for your destination, seek out new settlements, or even just trawl around for one of the game’s frequent random combat encounters.

Rounding things out is a crafting system that’s so ambitious, it borders on insane. Just about every item you can pick up or equip is craftable, including weapons, implants, and even skills. Yep, with the right ingredients and a bit of knowhow, you can whip up new abilities for your team. The effects and magnitude will vary based on what you throw into the mix, so you’ll want to experiment plenty to find out which combos work best.

With dozens of hours of gameplay and more than 200 sidequests, Krater promises an experience that’s every bit as deep as it is fun. If that’s not enough to whet your appetite, though, Fatshark intends to support the game heavily postlaunch. They’ve already announced plans for regular free content updates, as well as meatier episodic expansions that’ll extend the game world, continue the story, and introduce new playable characters.

In many ways, the game plays like a love letter to all the old-school gameplay mechanics that have fallen by the wayside in this era of FPS dominance. It’s an admittedly niche market, but for fans of classic RPGs, Krater’s refreshing marriage of retro mechanics and modern innovations is one apocalypse that can’t come soon enough.

Josh Harmon, Associate Editor
Josh Harmon picked up a controller when he was 3 years old—and he hasn't looked back since. This has made him particularly vulnerable to attacks from behind. He joined EGM as an intern following a brief-but-storied career on a number of small gaming blogs across the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @jorshy. Meet the rest of the crew.

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