Otaku USA Magazine

Baroque is the sort of game that’s dreadfully difficult to review, because it’s a game that players will either love to death or absolutely loathe.  There really is no middle ground when it comes to something like this, which makes it all the more challenging when, like me, you’re one of the people who falls squarely into the former camp.

So let’s make sure you know right off the bat if this game will be up your alley. Baroque is an old-fashioned dungeon-crawler, an anachronism of old-school gameplay wrapped up in modern presentation sensibilities. The core gameplay involves venturing into a randomly generated, multi-level dungeon, starting from level 1 with very few items each time you venture inside. Much like its other “roguelike•bCrLf brethren, the items, enemies, and elements in the dungeon you encounter are different each time, and you are forced to make the most of what you can scrounge up while inside — some of which may be every bit as harmful to you as to enemies if misused. And if you die and haven’t transferred out some of your collected items, you’ll lose everything and have to start over.

If that did not sound appealing to you in the slightest, then you can safely pass Baroque over. If that sounded challenging and fun, then read on.

Baroque differs from other games of its sort — titles like the Mystery Dungeon series or the ever-popular Nethack — by having a distinctly bizarre and creepy atmosphere that is unlike anything else out there. There is little explanation to the story from the beginning: you are surrounded by strange people and told by an angelic figure to venture into the Neuro Tower to find the truth.  As you explore the tower, you discover deformed, grotesque enemies, bleak and run-down environments, and images of characters saying riddles and giving clues as to what you need to do. Dying actually opens up more revelations and story puzzles for you to piece together, as well as making you slightly stronger for your next attempt. It’s a unique, compelling, and refreshing experience, though Baroque‘s method of storytelling will likely confuse those used to having paragraphs of exposition spouted at them in other RPGs.

Even if you do find it to be to your tastes, Baroque still has a few annoying flaws – the action-oriented battle system and camera are clunky, and the rendering and motion of character models looks horribly outdated. Once you find yourself engrossed in this world, however, these issues become easier to forgive. Baroque won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who do get into it will find plenty to savor.

Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Sting
System: Playstation 2 / Wii
Available: Now
Rating: T