In keeping with the spirit of Year of the RPG, I recently had the opportunity to play Lucid Path, an indie RPG-dungeon crawler released this past August (2018) and developed by Michał Kędzierski of Grevicor. Full disclosure, I was given a Steam key in exchange for this review.
So without further ado, let’s jump in!
As per the description on Steam, Lucid Path can be summarized in one sentence: “Tired of your miserable life you have decided to set out on an adventure.”
That’s it. Get to it, RPG Man.
Unlike most modern RPGs, Lucid Path does not offer any backstory or motivation for the main character to go questing. He is just a young man who sets off one day, abandoning whatever life he led before in the hopes of finding something more exciting. Upon stumbling across a town, he decides to stay for awhile and earn some coin and – oh yeah, if you could just help us with this pesky monster problem, that would be great. No big deal. So much sameness, right?
Warning! Unmarked story spoilers below. Skip to “The Good” to avoid them
The story sets itself up in a fairly boring fashion, In my correspondence with Mr. Kędzierski, he described the first portion of the game as a chance for the player to simply have fun, and once the player thinks they have everything figured out, present them with a twist and “more unexpected and twisted situations.”
And he was right, at least for the first part. The story was very much “Go to the dungeon and kill the monsters, then play minigames to regain your health.” Then we were introduced to an ages-old story of a monster’s soul being trapped in a vessel, except in this case, it doesn’t give the monster – or evil god, in this case – strength, but rather binds him away where he cannot hurt anyone.
From the instant I met a few of the supporting characters, I knew they were on my side, even though the game seemed to try and paint them as “bad guys.” Yaromir was supposed to come across as opposition, and indeed the main character kills him, but if one were to listen to what Yaromir says it’s clear he’s on your side and the game pretty much tells you, “Hey you’ve got to attack this guy for story purposes, so go to it.” But more on that later.
As the game progresses, I did find myself interested in what was going on, despite the game’s flaws that I’ll discuss in a bit. The last third of the game, when the aforementioned twists occur, did become pretty exciting, and I was not expecting a few of the twists that the story took. I am always appreciative of a story that can surprise me, and Lucid Path did that very well. But there is more to a video game than its story.
To be blunt, it sometimes felt like the developer forgot to put the game part in the game. Instead of going on the very-interesting side-quests, the player played a series of arcade-style minigames, which was cool insofar as playing the minigames did act somewhat as training for, you know, two battles in the entire game during which the player had autonomy, but otherwise got very boring, very quickly.
Additionally, toward the end of the game I was so irritated with how the grinding part was implemented that I just picked the game I was best at and could rack up points/gold the fastest, and eschewed the other games, thereby not practicing the skills that would unexpectedly come up in the final battle.
And to be honest, it took me 11 hours to clear the game, and I’d say 95% of my involvement was playing either an Asteroids or one of those “Don’t Touch the Walls” games, or, occasionally, saving a princess from some arrows, but mostly ignoring the last two minigames (including the princess one), which was utilized in the final battle. I think I played the final bouncing-ball game once or twice, but it was never used in the battle part of the game (as far as I know) at all.
I spoke with the developer, and he was very responsive to my feedback. He mentioned that the mini-games were meant to be played as they became available, each offering higher amounts of points. I did not do this, as it seemed to me – on paper, at least – that I would receive more points for playing the maze game instead of some of the higher-level minigames (or, in the case of the bouncing ball one, I was so bad at it that I rarely received points for playing it, but that might not be the game’s fault). This may have contributed to the overly-long playtime (most people clear the game in about five hours).
Back to Gameplay
There are perhaps two battles during the entire game that the player controls the movement of the playable character and all of his functions, one of which is the final battle. These two battles were the most fun out of the entire game. I was challenged with actually having to control the character, execute attack commands, and implement skills that I had learned in the other parts of the game, which is exactly what boss fights are supposed to do. My only issue here is that, compared to the grind of the stat-building portions, the boss fights were short. Satisfying, perhaps, but way too short for the amount of grind I had done.
But Athena, you ask. What about the rest of the game?
The rest of the game was sitting there watching my character fight monsters in The Dungeon (in a 2D dungeon-crawler, turn-based RPG way) until he ran out of health. If I really felt like being involved I could click up to four buttons to use special attacks. I’m not going to lie to you: during one of my play sessions I walked away during one of the dungeon bits, got a glass of water, and came back and the main character had progressed through three rooms without me.
The rest of the time, I was playing minigames and leveling up my character so he could go questing without me again.
Don’t get me wrong, Lucid Path has an interesting story, and I was interested enough in seeing how it ended to put up with the lack of the type of gameplay I would have liked to have seen. The question of who is the monster is handled brilliantly, and the game forces your hand in these instances with great effect. You the Player don’t want to do it, but you are compelled to act in a certain way, just like You the Avatar is forced to do.
I love when games do this; it is a fine line between using this as an effective storytelling device and hand-holding the player to the point of taking away their free will/choice, but Lucid Path uses it to great effect, with me sitting there wondering if maybe I just sat there and didn’t act the game would, well, let me not act. But no. I didn’t have control at that point, and neither did my character. And to that I say, Well done, game.
Also, I enjoyed Cacto the Talking Cactus. There was a distinct Undertale vibe from this section, and decided to take a peaceful route when given the option. The contrast that occurs with Cacto later in the game, as well as his response to the situation, makes it just that much more heartbreaking.
Overall, I would say that Lucid Path’s biggest selling point is its story, which, when taken as a whole, is very well done. It’s also a good game to play if you’re not looking for a lot of involvement when playing your games, which isn’t always a good thing…
The game was developed by a Poland-based developer, and so at times the English translations were a little awkward, which occasionally made the characters seem like caricatures, but this was just a small detail. There is one major issue I think Lucid Path has.
While I think some modern RPGs go too far overboard with sidequests, Lucid Path seems to suffer from whiplash in this department. But interestingly, it still manages to feel overly-long at times.
I have some major concerns about the way the grind-to-dungeon ratio is set up. The game tells you at the start that you will have to “work” to regain health, but not to worry, you get to play some games while our hero goes and does all the legwork off-screen. While I realize this is part of the mechanic of the entire game, and the minigames do prep you for the boss battles, it felt like my input was hardly needed for a majority of the game. I am willing to grind, but my interaction with the game outside of minigames was limited, and it was during these brief instances of play that I enjoyed myself the most.
While I might not recommend that all minigames are removed, or that the dungeons are completely interactive, toward the end of the game I found it to be tedious. The story picked up, and the plot and gameplay went through this wild crescendo, and suddenly Oh boy I bet the big bad boss fight is next! Nope. Wrong. Go play Asteroids for another half-hour. Sure, I guess you needed to be “powerful” to fight the boss, but at that point in the story it was hardly necessary. In that regard, the combat felt a little bloated: stat-building for padding the game out.
As I mentioned before (in the spoiler-free Important Note, for those folks who were avoiding spoilers), some of this may have been to my not playing all the minigames as intended, so I would recommend future players play through the minigames as they become available.
Regardless, there were times when I was playing that I had never been so angry at a game for pacing before in my life. I made the comment to my friend that the game had ended before it was actually over.The grinding was long and the payoff was hands-off and the actual gameplay payoff was short and had long stretches of grind in between. But is it worth playing?
Overall Impressions and Conclusion
Despite the quite literal grind, I did find myself wanting to play to the end of the game, just to see how it ended. Even the final grind that interrupted the beautiful crescendo to the boss fight was something that I just rolled up my sleeves and pounded through in order to see the end.
I would say that means the story was compelling enough for the price of admission, as it were.
Overall, I think Lucid Path has a certain niche, where it’s sort of a dungeon-crawler, and sort of an RPG. If you go in expecting more of an RPG experience, you may be disappointed at first, like I was, and if you go in expecting more of a dungeon-crawler experience, you might be left confused. It is its own special breed of game, best experienced without preconceived notions about its genre.
After all, I played this through with a friend of mine, and despite some of our frustrations, we were committed to getting to the end of the story, so right there that is a huge point in favor of the game, regardless of its flaws.
Can I recommend it? At $4.99 on Steam it’s certainly a game that may be worth checking out, if only to experience a game truly like no other.
Have you ever played a game like Lucid Path? How much involvement should a player have in an RPG/dungeon crawler? Or did I miss the mark on this one? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
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