Coldfire Keep Review
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Coldfire Keep Review

Our Review by Carter Dotson on February 28th, 2014
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: A KEEPER
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Coldfire Keep is perhaps only for those willing to stomach some old-school dungeon crawling, but they will dig it.

Developer: Steve Jarman
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini Retina, iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Controls Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

Like RPGs to be old-school? Like first-person dungeon crawlers to be old-school? Then, dear reader, may I suggest Coldfire Keep? This is the kind of game where help and advice are rare, but difficult challenge is not. It's for a certain audience not softened by modern gaming's challenges, and they will eat this up.

Players control a team of four explorers who dared to venture into the eponymous Coldfire Keep - a dungeon that seems to be summoning nasty creatures back to the surface - so it's up to the player and these four intrepid souls to make sure that doesn't happen while getting stronger and more loot-filled in the process. Combat is quasi-turn-based, where players can undertake so many actions in a short amount of time, though movement is free while not engaged. From top to bottom, everything about Coldfire Keep and the way it plays harkens back to an older, more challenging time of gaming.

What is interesting about the dialogue is that all the lines of dialogue in the game are the same no matter who is in the party, but who they are assigned to varies depending on the classes and genders of the various characters. One moment early on is when a character remarks that the innkeeper on the first floor of the dungeon is "cute" - a team of all-female characters will not drop this line, in a punch to the stomach of heteronormativity (though a male character will take the line if there is at least one). But this whole aspect means that the game feels more personal as the experiences are based around who the player has in their party, and their perception of those experiences. It's a subtle but clever feature.

The auto-saving in Coldfire Keep at the beginning of each level could eventually doom a team if they get stuck in a tricky situation, especially since resources are so limited, and hunger plays a factor. More save slots wouldn't hurt. Characters not earning experience when they die really hurts, as grinding enemy spawns isn't really possible. Be very careful with low-HP characters, as death could put them permanently behind the eight-ball. These are a part of the game's old-school charm, I suppose, but they wind up being more frustrating than anything - particularly when basic things like the hunger system and how turn timing works are never quite explained.

I think that these things will be largely looked over by the people that Coldfire Keep appeals to: gamers not afraid of a challenge with a love for old-school first-person dungeon crawling. It's an acquired taste, but sure to be a good one for those who have it. Me, I find it a bit clunky and easy to get lost and confused in, but I see the appeal.

iPhone Screenshots

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iPad Screenshots

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