The Dink Network

The Last Quest Part 1: The Oraculum

November 7th, 2016
Score : 6.5 fair
Peasant Male Brazil
Some day I'll finish my mod... Some day... 
- Dink is again out of money, out of shape and out of memory (at least when it comes to spells), but this time he's also out of reasons to live and goes visit ol' pal Martridge in seek of help. Martridge then sends him on a quest to find the mysterious object called 'Oraculum', through a path full of mystery, fallen rocks and long convoluted expository talks.

- Right from the start you are presented with the self-aware, and some times fourth-wall breaking, humor of this game. It does work very well most of the time, especially when it presents us with common video-game/Dink tropes and then jokes with them.

"<Dink receives Fireball spell during a conversation> Dink: I now have fireball magic! Martridge: <Sigh>... Stay focused Dink."

At some moments however, the self-aware fourth-wall breaks go a too far and begins to address Dink (actually the player) directly and give him clear, not-so-sublte instructions on how to make the plot go forward. Paraphrasing a section of a book in the game: "Dink (or 'Player') to get to <next area of the game here> you have to use the warpstone that is inside the lower section of the caves, just before the entrance to the frozen lands". On top of that, often Dink will repeat what was just said and break things down even further.
If the path to progress is so complex or confuse that such hand-holding is necessary, it would be better to break it down into small steps or use other more subtle ways to clearly introduce the options beforehand.

- The map is not very detailed or creative overall and suffers from a good amount of hardness errors, many times due to poorly matching tiles, and it is quite a shame because the first three screens of the land surrounding Blartina are very well put together and made me excited for what was to come. Combined with the lack of background music throughout the entire game, it creates a sadly unremarkable backdrop for your adventures.

- The adventure itself isn't much of a challenge. There are pretty much no enemies through most of the game (except the caves) and you have no need to explore much or to find and put pieces together to progress. The most notable challenges are some expensive items you must have to be able to walk through some areas of the game. The issue is that they are consumable and you might have to return to town to restock if you get lost while trying to find the next objective. That is not challenging or difficult to me, it is just annoying - especially when I ran out of candles deep into a cave and was stranded in the complete darkness, while Dink would freeze at every screen change and remind me that I should somehow find my way back to town and get some more especially expensive candles.

- That is one of the few design choices made in this game that I find particularly weird:
To enter the town of Blartina you have to pay a 25 gold toll and you are teleported by magic to the other side of the gates. For unexplained reasons (you can just assume it is greed), you have to pay the toll again every time you enter the town and go through some unnecessarily repeated lines of dialog too.
At one point in the game you are given the choice to either hand over one point of strength or die. After dying once, I chose to give that point away and then I found that my character wasn't strong enough to push a rock that was blocking my path to the next objective.

In the next paragraphs in italics, I'm going to talk about the story ending and spoil it. If you don't want to be spoiled, or hate italics, please skip it.

The plot's premise is that is dissatisfied with his life and is looking for a reason to keep going. At the end of the game it is revealed that your adventure was an illusion and that its point was to send Dink into an introspective journey into his 'own understanding', where he would learn more about himself. Martridge sure puts out some strong and edgy lines during his final long dialog, such as "All of reality is a shared delusion we mutually agree upon as valid", but they all fall flat because there is very little to no background for those lines.
Some attention is given to the fact that the evil fairy was once good and turned 'evil' because of the actions of the residents of Blartina. Dink states he felt guilty for killing her because he could see where she was coming from and Martridge responds "Dink, everyone has a reason for taking actions, even if those actions are evil." That doesn't relate to any actions Dink had to take, nor teaches Dink anything about himself. It simply presents the concept that 'evil' people have reasons to do what they do and, if that idea was stranger to Dink, it shouldn't be buried inside his subconscious - where the game supposedly took place.
More interesting to me was how the player seems to be guided to solve the Bonca quest through violence while having the option to solve it peacefully. It was a good point to bring up a discussion about Dink's (or the player's) definitions of good and evil, moral and immoral, or even a humans vs monsters/animals/nature discussion, but you are never confronted for the choice you make and Martridge doesn't even mention this in his final speech.

All in all, this mod has a good premise, a good sense of humor and some interesting map design, but there is no real challenge to overcome, some map issues to fix - visually and technically, and the premise is not explored very well.

This might have been a bit of a nitpicky review, but, since there is some potential here, I hope my points are considered fair and are of use for the coming 'Part 2' of the series - which I am certainly going to play.