It’s back to the role playing games of old, before Skyrim, before Diablo, before intricate story-lines and fully open worlds.
You enter The Keep on a quest to stop an evil wizard, Watrys who has materialized due to Crystals that hold magnificent yet terrifying powers. These Crystals have enslaved The Keep’s populous for Watrys to control them as he so wishes and it’s up to you as this brave yet foolish hero to end the terror sweeping across the Realm and put down this despicable wizard. An old school storyline for an old school game, told through momentary cut-scenes triggered at certain points of the game consisting of heads talking on screen with mundane dull voice overs. There is nothing spectacular or relatively gripping about the plot on offer in The Keep other than it shares similarities to the fantastic Shadowgate with regards to an unheard of warrior enters a castle to hunt down a wizard. Only Shadowgate was way more interesting and better told.
The Keep is played entirely in a first person perspective which is found in classic dungeon crawling RPG’s. The thumb stick moves you however your movement is strictly limited to an unseen grid giving off the illusion of being part of a life-sized board game. There are items to find which can range from keys, food for health, items to use for the many puzzles found throughout The Keep and other RPG commonly found items such as potions, weapons and armour. The combat may be a little too old school for most players liking. What I mean is enemies move similar to you on the same invisible grid so if they are not on the square you are stood in front of, your attacks won’t hit and vice versa. Enemies will follow you though so getting trapped in a corner is ill advised. You can attack with whatever you have equipped in your hand whether it is a dagger, sword, torch or even a rock but the combat with any of these things is not executed very well. There is a reason its old school. It’s unexciting and mostly easy as enemies clinch after being hit so you can move back a square before they have a chance to hit you back. With poorer weapons, missing is common and carries its own frustrations when trying to kill the weakest of enemies and they have predictable movement patterns and combat techniques which requires very little strategy to overcome.
The magic system in more interesting. Runes and crystals representing three elements; fire, ice and lightning, can be found throughout the levels of The Keep which can be combined using the touch screen to cast different spells of varying magnitudes. These make combating numerous or tougher foes easier and can even help solve certain puzzles however whilst in the heat of battle, drawing lines on the touch screen whilst fighting is no easy task although you are free to organise the positioning of the runes and crystals for your own convenience. It’s an interesting mechanic that works quite well but it’s not enough to raise the games low excitement level.
The visuals are below par. The 3D works well and adds a nice degree of depth but the graphics of the enemies and their surroundings are blocky and last generation quality. The different corridors and rooms use repeating textures to decorate them out and the draw distance is very close even with a lit torch. The Keep is lifeless with hardly any personality which pains me to say so considering I am a fan of retro RPG’s
Cinemax’s old school title falls short of the mark. It’s a nice homage to dungeon crawlers of old but there are better titles out there for the same price. If you’re a fan of these kinds of games, then there is some enjoyment to be had in The Keep to fill your nostalgic boots but otherwise it’s a dull, lifeless title with little content to keep interest.
Story - 2/5
Graphics - 2/5
Game-play - 2/5
Overall - 2/5
Version reviewed - Nintendo 3DS