Nostalgia is a fickle mistress. Often when we look back on old memories, feelings of happiness overcome us. We become entranced thinking about the good old days as we reflect back on those fond moments. Sometimes this is brought on by recollecting with friends and family, other times it may be the result of revisiting a long forgotten childhood treasure, and suddenly you are are 10 years old again, and the world is a magical place once more. Or you find something new, something new that recreates something you have fond memories of and it triggers this feeling. And sometimes, those rose tinted lenses we use to look backwards in time are nothing but filthy, filthy lies. The Legend of Candlewind unfortunately falls into the latter category. When I started this game the title screen featured an adventurer and a goblin that appear as it they could have been hand drawn, so initially I think there is some good artistry in the graphics, and a beautiful piece of medieval sounding music plays over the prologue when I began a new game. I was psyched, thinking this is going to be a high quality throwback RPG in the vein of Eye of the Beholder, which I am aware that I referenced this relic already but I can’t think of a better game to use as a comparison point off the top of my head. Alas, sorrow and despair replaced my childlike wonder as the rose tint on the way back when lenses became replaced by the crimson fury of rage as I felt Lady Nostalgia’s dagger pierce my vertebrae as this was the only part of the game I liked. Your party of four adventures whose names remind me of table top RPG characters I created when I was 10 years are in a labyrinth that was built long ago to protect the inhabitants of Candlewind from the Dragons of Rukh and is now home to a group of rogues. They appear to the standard mishmash of classes in this sort of scenario, two melee warriors, a nimble archer, and a magic user. Zero customization is allowed, including names, therefore you are stuck with the likes Wulk Oakcutter and Shailee Frostflower. Not terrible names, but I stand by my earlier statement.
The character portraits are a mixed bag. I do admire the hand drawn appearance and whoever made them definitely has some artistic talent they have very generic designs. The prologue gives them all different last names and brief backstories hinting they are from various backgrounds but they all look like they are from the same branchless family tree. It is hard to keep track of where you are traveling in the dungeon because every screen looks exactly the same. There is a compass, and if you want to be thorough you could use pen and paper and map out the dungeon, but the game is not enjoyable enough to put forth that much effort into advancing. At some point early on in my travels my party finds a woman in need of aid, at least that’s what a text box on screen told me. I didn’t see any damsel in distress in the dungeon, so I am going to have to trust the achievement that popped for helping her. As my spelunking expedition continued, my party was attacked by four goblins. I saw one of these foul creatures, but there were four goblin heads at the bottom of my screen. I thought this will be easy, they are 48 feet away and I have a magic user and an archer. I toss a fireball at the goblin to damage him, and open the archer’s inventory and ready my bow. I can’t click on the arrow supply and drag them to the bow, I have to hold the mouse button down, and do a release and immediately press the button type of maneuver to place the arrows in the bow, which in itself is awkward enough but don’t worry, it gets better. I try putting the arrows in my other hand, combining with the bow, even clicking on the quiver icon. No luck. I am sitting here dumbfounded as to why I can’t put the arrow in the bow and shoot this stupid goblin. Everyone defends because they can’t do anything until the enemies are closer except the magic user, and eventually the three surviving goblins reach us. The magic user is out of mana, the archer is useless besides being a target, so the two warriors hack the goblins to death and both almost die in the process. During a later play through, I figured out that to use the arrows you have to first separate them from the bundle and them combine with the bow. Is this implying that the game things I expect to fire all 71 of my arrows in one shot because I did not specify “only shoot one at a time?” This is just bad design. What else will they make me do, lace up my boots before I can equip them? To top that off, when I did go into battle with five turns before the advancing enemies were close enough to attack with melee weapons, one of the five arrows hit the goblin. So not only is using the bow a counter intuitive mess, when I did figure it out the archer has the accuracy of a drunken man aiming for the toilet after polishing off a case of beer and a fifth of Jack. Combat feels lazy visually as well. If you are fighting three goblins and a goblin shaman, you see one goblin at time. Kill it, the next one shows up, after you kill all three goblins, the shaman shows up and kills you in six turns.
Only the two party member in front are able to use melee attacks, so the magic user can either defend every turn or cast spells which will deplete his mana in just a couple of battles. In the time I played I found no place to rest and his mana does not regenerate. The sparse treasure you find is generally pretty useless. Some arrows, two gold coins, and some loaves of bread that make me wonder how much mold is covering them since they have been sitting in a treasure box in an underground labyrinth for who knows how long. If you exit the treasure chest menu before you take everything, any unclaimed treasure if gone forever. The chest magically disintegrates into nothingness after you open it. The difficulty is unforgiving. Intelligent resource management is paramount to any success in this game due to limited healing and mana recovery options. Random encounters even in the early parts of the game can wipe out your entire party quickly. Some games thrive on unrelenting brutal challenge, but the advantage those games have is that they are enjoyable to play. The Dark Souls and Ghouls of Ghosts of the world may repeatedly stomp your face in, but those games are so well put together you go gladly go back to the abuse over an over again. The high difficulty of this game is simply adding another layer of frustration to bland environments, generic design, counter intuitive procedures, poor controls, and generally boring combat. There are hints of a good game buried deep in here, but that is all there is. The intro music is great, and if the artist branched out with the designs this has the potential to be a visually interesting game. The components of good, older RPGs are present, but the execution of the final product is a forgettable and bland experience. I see potential from the team that made this game if they addressed these complaints in future efforts, but as things stand if you are feeling nostalgic for an old fashioned first person party based dungeon crawler, this is not the game to go to in order to scratch that itch.