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Krater: Shadows Over Solside

Score: 70%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Fatshark
Developer: Fatshark
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:

When something is described as "post-apocalyptic," one of the images most often conjured up is that it's bombed-out, a wasteland, or simply barren. Krater: Shadows Over Solside from Swedish developer FatShark goes in the opposite direction by creating a vibrant, colorful setting that's full of life, even if most of it is irradiated, feral, and murderous.

Krater is a top-down adventure RPG that follows a team of mercenaries, or "freediggers," in their exploits trying to strike it rich in the region of Solside. Towns, ruins, industrial complexes and mines are scattered about in a gigantic and beautifully-rendered world map which gives you a glimpse of the local terrain and funnels down toward the crater itself and the Underside, where ancient technology and unknown terrors await those foolhardy enough to go digging where they shouldn't. Solside's towns are a ramshackle collection of steel shipping containers and concrete constructs, topped with rooftop gardens and populated by the gas-mask wearing inhabitants of the region. The player's team of freediggers are likewise equipped with a mish-mash of scavenged equipment, such as armor made from road signs and weapons made from garden tools, vehicle motors, plow shovels, and anything else large and metal that would have survived a nuclear blast. While lower graphic settings will still look as colorful, higher-performance PC owners will get the most mileage out of all the detail FatShark put into their game.

Many of Krater's NPCs come with voiceovers (in English, not just garbled Swedish like in alpha versions of the game) for at least a portion of their mission text, with the distinctive Swedish lilt coloring the accent. Your freediggers also have a few bits of dialogue that can be annoying or entertaining, depending on your disposition: my big tank digger kept calling the other diggers "puny" at every opportunity, and complained every time I took longer than ten seconds to sell equipment or do some crafting.


But while Krater's visuals are unique and interesting, its gameplay is decidedly less so. You start with three freediggers and gain a fourth type shortly into the game, but can only field three at once. As you level up those diggers, you can use more powerful weapons and gadgets, and need to fill Implant slots on their bodies as well as Enhancement slots on their two powers in order for them to stand a chance against the irradiated fauna you're more often than not sent out to kill in large numbers. You can buy better versions of those upgrades, find them as drops in the world, or craft them using blueprints. Crafting becomes the easiest and most effective way of keeping up with the power curve and making sure your diggers can take a hit, dish one out or buff their allies to be more effective.

Krater's big problem comes when you reach level 5. At that point your starting diggers stop gaining levels completely, and must be traded out with other diggers purchased through the Recruitment NPC found in most towns. The catch is that nothing explicitly tells you that you've reached a level cap, or how to get around it. That can lead to situations like mine where you suddenly notice your guys haven't leveled up in a while, and keep playing thinking that maybe you need to reach the next chapter of the story or find some other unlockable to start leveling again. After getting my digger keister handed to me a few times, I discovered through a forum how to deal with the issue, but Fatshark definitely needed to do a better job explaining that in the game proper.

When you do get your new diggers, though, they start at level 0 and have to be leveled up from scratch. That means also filling all those Enhancement and Implant slots, which can get mighty costly and time-consuming as you get your new team caught up to the place your old team was, just so you can move them forward a few more levels and have to do the whole thing all over again. Sure, the new diggers come with some different abilities than the previous ones, but the sheer magnitude of how much prepping and leveling you have to do for each one is staggering. On top of that, your previous diggers wind up sitting on your roster with nothing to do: you can't send them on missions, use their skills and experience or anything useful, which made me sad as I left behind my original crew at level 5 and then just mad every other time I was forced to replace my team and re-level.


Krater's difficulty is typical of other adventure RPG games like Diablo and Torchlight: if you have the numbers, you can steamroll over most enemies and packs of enemies. If you don't have the numbers, it'll be either the fight of your life or a massacre. Rarely did I find myself in fights that actually required careful and tactical use of my abilities. More often I simply draw aggro with an AOE from the tank while spamming my melee attacker's high-damage, quick-cooldown ability. Every so often, the healer would have to jump in, but they were rare enough occasions I prioritized finding weapons with high damage rather than ones that boosted his healing abilities.

Krater also has a "never-ending dungeon crawl" element to it once you've reached the actual crater into Underside. Now matter how deep you dig, there's always another randomly-generated level you can delve into if you really want to. Monsters get progressively beefier, but most never get past simple swarm-and-bite strategies.

Game Mechanics:

Krater actually has the most in common with the current iteration of Diablo and old squad-based RPGs like Baldur's Gate. Like BG, you patrol through a series of screens and maps, including random encounters, as you complete missions and follow the quest storyline with your party of characters. Like Diablo, you have a small selection of powers to use in combat, depending on the freediggers you have in your team. Each digger comes with two powers, mapped next to each other as a default on the 1-6 keys. You have simple click-to-move commands, including attack-moves, that are familiar holdovers from other adventure RPGs, but come with their own set of quirks. Sometimes the squad moves in formation, with the tank leading and the others following; when their move is interrupted by combat though, one of the squishier diggers would often keep on toddling down the mineshaft by himself while the other diggers stood in place, leading to some rather unfortunate pulls that usually ended in a wipe.

The bottom line: Krater's colorful setting makes a compelling world to adventure in, but the gameplay and frequent party resets simply become too much of a burden to make the journey worth it.

-Dark Lantern, GameVortex Communications
AKA Russell Jones

Minimum System Requirements:

OS:Windows Vista / Windows 7, Processor:Dual Core 2.4GHz processor, Memory:2 GB RAM, Graphics:Shader 4.0 compatible card (minimum: Nvidia GeForce 8xxx, AMD Radeon 2xxx), DirectX®: DirectX11 drivers (the game support DX10 hardware), Hard Drive: 5 GB HD space

NOTICE: : Krater requires DirectX 10, a DirectX 10 compatible video card, and Windows Vista or Windows 7. There is no support for Windows XP or DirectX 9.


Test System:

OS: Windows 7, Processor: AMD FX(1)-4100 Quad Core / 3.61 Ghz, Memory: 8 GB RAM, Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 7700 series, DirectX: 11, Sound: Integrated

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