Review: Gates of Tartarus

Gates of Tartarus title screen
Gates of Tartarus

 Last year I reviewed Doomsday Ascending, a 2D RPG adapted from a mediocre fanfic by the same name. The game's creator, Bhaalspawn, has made a point of telling his followers not to submit his various works to Equestria Daily or other fansites, so until today I was not aware that he had later created another My Little Pony RPG under the name "The Gates of Tartarus". The game seemed to be in a decent enough state (although still in an unfinished state), so I downloaded it in hopes that it would be better than its predecessor...

 Does Gates of Tartarus manage to overcome its predecessor's flaws and become a decent game in its own right? Find out in our review after the break.

 After opening the game and sitting through an unskippable cutscene, it becomes fairly clear that Gates of Tartarus is a different kind of game from Peet's last project. Gone was the story-centric design, and in its place one can find a heavier emphasis on combat and more traditional dungeon crawling. This is somewhat of a relief at first, until the player realizes that the game lacks quests of any sort, leading one My Little Game Dev member on their Cloudsdale group to (rather unkindly) remark that Gates of Tartarus shouldn't even qualify as an RPG. In fact, there is very little plot in the first place, aside from "Go to Hell and kill stuff" and some dialogue between Twilight Sparkle and a character who may or may not have appeared in Doomsday Ascending.

A bunch of scorpions.
These are scorpions, of course.
 Since Tartarus is where all the bad ponies and monsters go after they die, it's no surprise that GoT features plenty of combat. Problem is, it contains "more grinding than a highschool homecoming" (as put by Fearless Pie, another fangame developer from the MLGD community). The first dungeon is especially bad for this, as it contains hoards of identical slimes that are easily defeated, and thankfully easily avoided if you don't mind being a bit weaker for the boss, who is just another damage sponge. If you don't get bored and quit after that, the incomplete second dungeon is much better for variety, although the third regresses in that area a bit. The entire level is filled with ghosts that can instantly kill any one of your characters, and this is before you have any items or skills capable of reviving, which pretty much forces the player to either hope for impossibly good luck or participate in some save-scumming.

 Shortly after beginning the first dungeon and murdering a few slimes, Fluttershy gains a game-breaking skill titled "Bandage" that heals a relatively small amount of HP for free. Problem is, she can use it multiple times per turn, which leads to GoT becoming one massive FREE HEALING PARTY™. With this skill, combat with anything but an instakill ghost is risk-free (and therefore rather boring), as Fluttershy can heal away any damage her friends have received for free. It can also be used outside of combat, making all other healing skills and items completely pointless unless she is killed.

Apparently this was supposed to be funny. Also, Bhaal keeps getting Equestria Daily and Equestria Gaming mixed up, perhaps because he secretly wishes that his games really were featured on such a big fansite.
 The strangest part of this game, however, is that the current build supposedly features two new dungeons with a Chrysalis and Fluttershed boss, but they are inaccessible because Peet spawns the player inside of a swimming pool which they are unable to escape from after completing the third dungeon. If his word is to be believed, it's because he somehow forgot that noclip isn't a part of normal gameplay and thought that players would just be able to, ya know, walk through the walls. Just...let that sink in for a bit. Yeah.

 There are many more things I could complain about in detail, such as the fancy lighting in the bonus dungeon leaking out into the regular levels, the quirk about players not being able to backtrack and a couple instances where escaping the map is surprisingly easy, but you probably get the general idea already. Gates of Tartarus could make a decent game with a little work, but there isn't much point in playing the game at the moment unless you really like the non-sexual variety of grinding and staring at yet another game using RPG Maker's default tilesets and monsters. Even if the game is ever fixed up, you'll probably be much better off playing Super Lesbian Horse RPG or Curse of the Lost Kingdom unless Bhaal manages to pull off some kind of miracle.
2/10 Hound Grade

 No, this game does not feature pony porn. Also, Led Zeppelin would be insulted to find their music being used in GoT.

- Tuxxy

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