Review: Maze Lord23 Feb 2017 1
Review: Maze Lord
Released 08 Feb 2017
Maze Lord looks a lot like a roguelike game with RPG elements. It looks a lot of the Dungelot games, in fact, right down to using many of the same art assets. Looks can be deceiving, however, and this game belongs firmly in the puzzle-game genre. As the name suggests, the goal of Maze Lord is to work your way through a labyrinthine maze. You are an old-school hero and a dragon has kidnapped a princess you had your eye on and needs some slaying. Like I said, old school.
The gameplay is all about finding your way through successive levels of a dungeon-like maze. This means finding each level's exit in the fewest possible moves. You are awarded three stars for taking the optimal path, and two or one stars for solving the level sub-optimally. Blocking your path are a variety of monsters—skeletons, slime, snakes, spiders, bats, ogres, and more. You can slay these vile creatures but it'll cost you one life, represented by a heart, and you only have three lives with which to work. Luckily, the maze also has potions scattered throughout it and quaffing one will restore a life.
There are more obstacles than just creatures. Locked doors will bar your path, requiring a key from somewhere in the maze. Irregular maintenance has also led to some pretty massive cobwebs which must be burned away. Some keys and potions require a small bribe, in the form of a coin, to collect. You'll need to find a merchant and trade an existing item to them for a coin in order to pay the bribe. Maze Lord adds in new mechanics, twenty-four different ones to be precise, as the levels mount in order to increase the challenge. Many of these add interesting dynamics to the game. A pickaxe that lets you go Kool Aid Man and bash your way through a cracked wall changes up the paths you can take. The aforementioned cobwebs snag the first item in your inventory and forces you to plan the order in which you grab things. There's a torch that'll burn those pesky cobwebs away and make you invulnerable to aggressive tree monsters that somehow live in the subterranean dungeon maze. Other new mechanics feel like the game is just running up the "new stuff" score without adding much to gameplay.
The tactics in Maze Lord come down to an order-of-operations puzzle. You must determine the right path through each level. How many keys do you need to bypass locked doors on the way to the exit? How many keys are there overall and do you need to get all of them? Do some required items call for a bribe and if so where is the merchant so you can get some coins? Where are the potions you'll need to stay alive to do all of the above? There are lots of levels, one-hundred in all, and many are quite difficult. Those will call for a mix of planning and trial and error to complete, especially if you want to earn all three stars.
When you complete a level you earn gems or loot that can be converted to gems. Gems allow you to resurrect your hero wherever he fell, which is a bit of a cheat that allows you to buy your way out of a particularly challenging level. This is a bit odd for a premium puzzle game and makes me wonder if gems are a vestige of a free-to-play past. I'm not sure what, if anything else, gems can be used for. It looks like you should be able to buy more items before going into a level—torches, keys, and the like—but nothing happens when you click on the gem buttons below those items, so it seems like that has been disabled. There's also a shop, but rather than using gems to buy things there it serves mostly to convert other loot you find into gems.
Maze Lord has more trappings of a role-playing game than just loot, and again, I'm not clear on their purpose. As you complete levels you gain experience and level up but doing so just gains you more gems. There are also quests, which are really achievements and are won by doing things like completing 50 levels or winning 100 coins. Both experience and quests seem to be window dressing more than elements designed to add much to the game.
I'm also not a big fan of the assignment of stars based on number of moves. It makes sense in some games but feels like a tacked-on and unnecessary addition to Maze Lord. Some of these levels require 50 or 60 moves. Most gamers aren't going to sit there planning out that many steps. Many will do what I did and just take what seems to be the best path and see if it works out. Getting three stars seems to earn you more experience, but again, I'm not sure that really much matters. Many levels feel like you're meant to take the easy way out and use gems, again giving me that free-to-play vibe, and I would have preferred a simple pass-or-fail approach.
Despite these concerns, Maze Lord is a solid puzzle game. The mix of different mechanics on many of the levels creates an entertaining and challenging experience. Though it feels a bit like a freemium game, it's not. One price gets you all one-hundred levels with no ads or the like, which is a good bit of content. While it would not be my top puzzle-game recommendation the roguelike look and feel will help sell many gamers who don't normally gravitate toward puzzlers. If you're a puzzle-game aficionado and like to try out a lot of different titles, Maze Lord is a reasonable addition to your games collection.