DROD: Unarmed

drod-crowdOne of the first things that an experienced DROD player learns upon downloading the demo of The City Beneath is that there are sections of the game where Beethro has to sheathe his sword. It’s natural to assume that this is plot-driven, an excuse to keep the player from going on a slaughter rampage in the City itself. To a certain extent this is true, although the designers have other ways of keeping important NPCs out of sword’s reach when they have to. But the game also sends the player into some puzzles unarmed.

You might wonder how this is possible, given that the goal in every level is to kill all the monsters. Well, that’s the goal in every level, but not necessarily in each room. The goal in a room can be simply to get across it in order to reach another room. And there are places in The City Beneath where this is difficult, most notably a series of rooms in the City proper where crowds of workers bustle between a series of workstations, getting in Beethro’s way. Really, though, the entire series has had parts where the sword was irrelevant, including the infamous maze level in King Dugan’s Dungeon.

Also, killing things doesn’t necessarily involve your sword. There aren’t any monsters stupid enough to simply walk off cliffs, but there are hot tiles, bombs with fuses, mimics and other armed NPCs. The unarmed delver’s most interesting option for killing things is the Fegundo, a phoenix-like bird found in certain rooms. One you take control over it (by stepping on a special tile), the fegundo will fly in whatever direction you face every turn. When it hits an obstacle, it explodes, only to rise again five turns later. Suprisingly, the most interesting part of that is the “whatever direction you face” clause. When you’re armed, you can only turn as fast as you can swing your sword, which is to say, 45 degrees per turn. But when you’re unarmed, you can instantly turn to face any direction by walking that way. (Even if there’s an obstacle that prevents you from moving, you’ll turn to face it.) So in fegundo areas, the sword isn’t just irrelevant, it’s a liability. If only Beethro could sheathe it voluntarily! But that would ruin some good puzzles, and that concern, as always, trumps common sense.

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