CotAB: Inside Out

It’s been said that D&D is about fighting evil in its own lair. The stereotypical dungeon has a boss in its deepest depths who’s in charge of some sort of trouble, and who needs killing. You spend your time working your way through the guards and the traps and so forth with the goal of penetrating the inner sanctum. And that’s pretty much how most dungeon-crawl RPGs work, too, not to mention a large portion of videogames in general.

Curse of the Azure Bonds doesn’t work like that. It seems like most of the major confrontations have some kind of shortcut to where the quest boss is — say, a friendly NPC from the novel guides you in or something. Only after the confrontation do things get dangerous. The bulk of your time isn’t spent penetrating the inner sanctum, but trying to get out.

It’s a bit like those scenes I spoke of in Wizardry where you walk through a teleporter or a one-way door and have to hunt for a way back to the stairs, hoping you can make it before everybody dies. Except not quite: in CotAB, it’s possible to rest and heal in the dungeon. I’ve been doing that quite a lot. Monsters often find me as I sleep, but not often enough to make it a net loss. It does frequently violate the fiction, though, when the story at that point involves a chase or a brawl or some other time-limited activity that’s somehow still going on after I’ve had a good night’s rest.

Note that even with the ability to rest and even save the game mid-dungeon, getting out is still an urgent concern. There are a lot of things you can only do in town, such as identifying items, leveling up, and curing some of the nastier status effects, such as being turned to stone. (Mere death I can cure on my own by now.)

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