The Dink Network

Northern Lands (Unfinished)

July 2nd, 2018
Score : 8.0 good
King He/Him United States bloop
A mother ducking wizard 
The Northern Lands takes you on a little adventure until it stops rather abruptly. It's good and (mostly) fun until that last bit, though, and I think it is worth playing.

There isn't much of a plot here; our Dink-like protagonist is not Dink Smallwood, but is Taven, the son of a King. Your adventure is all about getting Taven to travel north to return home to claim the throne. It isn't bad by any means (better than "evil wizard" / "interrupted vacation"), and is a good premise for the action that follows, but nothing is really resolved before that abrupt 'ending'.

There are three main areas of gameplay: Town, Forest, and the Afterlife.

You start out in a small town, and you need to find the supplies and crew needed for the journey. This is really wonderful: the goals are clear, and as you accomplish these tasks it naturally reveals even more mini-goals to do. For example, to get supplies, you need to find some boxes that one character lost. That reveals a wounded character, who needs to be healed, and so on. It isn't a linear progression, and you can accomplish some of the tasks in a different order.

The town itself contains just the right amount of buildings, with just the right amount of interesting things. Sure, there's the typical bar and church, but there's also a woman who sells beds, and a few other interesting characters. It is a little odd how most NPCs in town don't move or say anything, but I much prefer that to NPCs with huge dialog trees that aren't needed to progress.

It's also quite excellent at building up your crew of interesting characters, and I really wanted to see how they would play off each other and with Taven. It is a shame that your crew is disbanded almost immediately after it is formed.

The second area is forest maze, with warps that go unexpected places. I spent a good 20 minutes wandering around, trying to figure out where the exit was (and mostly enjoying myself), until I had been on every single screen at least a half-dozen times and had no idea what to do next. I had to bring up the editor to see a cave entrance halfway-hidden behind a tree. This area is also full of fairly strong monsters, and without many ways of refilling your life (the maze pillbugs drop mostly gold instead of small hearts), and there are bigger nasties lurking about. However, once you find the half-way hidden cave, there's a great riddle thing that works really well.

The last area isn't much to talk about; the Afterlife has a few different areas, and apparently you can accomplish some of the goals, and there area few characters to talk to, but it just stops abruptly; unfinished.

But, overall, it is a very promising start to a new D-Mod. There are a lot of things to like in the first two sections, and it shows it was crafted with some good game design intuition.