The first-person dungeon crawler is, arguably, one of the first RPG genres to see the light of day when computers went from text-based games to games with graphics. Even in the early days of the 8-bit micros, there were first-person games that relied on “dungeon crawling”. Hey, even the Netflix special Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (in itself a kind of choose-your-own-adventure game) was focused, at least plot-wise, on a game developer making a dungeon crawler in the 80s. So, fast forward to 2019, and Idea Factory brings us Mary Skelter 2, a first-person dungeon crawler RPG that aims to capture the intimacy of the genre while providing its own take on it as well. Does it succeed?
Well, let’s backtrack a bit. Let’s start with the story, which, at least in setup, is similar to the first game in the franchise:
The Nightmare continues in Mary Skelter 2! In this first-person dungeon crawler, play as fairy tale-inspired characters called Blood Maidens, each with deeply customizable character-specific classes. Balance between power and madness in turn-based battles with a blood-fueled transformation system, and escape a living prison while indestructible Nightmares give chase in real time. Set in an alternate reality that includes familiar characters from the first installment, players must relive the torturous dungeon experiences and find ways to feed an almost insatiable prison. Will you be able to escape this prison and find sanctuary or will you fall into the clutches of madness?
Does it sound good? Actually, it really is. The story is one of the strong points of this game, and it really, really helps that Mary Skelter 2 includes the original Mary Skelter: Nightmares, which was released a couple of years ago on the Vita. This means that you get an insanely huge amount of content in one package, and the stories between the two games really tie in together well. It is a bit wordy for a dungeon-crawler though, so you better be in the mood for reading in between battles. Having said that, the characters are enjoyable and there’s some really interesting voice acting, so overall, the story delivery quite works for me. It’s also a bit darker in places than the original game (while retaining the playful nature that characterizes Idea Factory games). Overall, yeah, it’ll do me.
The combat system is quite evolved, too, even in a genre as well-threaded as the first-person dungeon crawler. You get turn-based battles, of course, but you also get a few interesting systems to change the dynamics of it all. First of these is the Jobs system, which as usual in RPGs will grant different abilities to the characters. There are also Blood Abilities, which are unique to each Blood Maiden and can help with unlocking new areas and a tons of other cool stuff. There’s a lot of Blood this and Blood that in this game, in case you haven’t noticed. It’s kind of the unofficial in-game plot currency, if that makes sense. There’s also ways to make certain characters go “berserk” to achieve… well, I won’t spoil too much, but let’s just say there’s more than a skin-deep revamp of the familiar dungeon crawler battle system in place. You can also plant Blood Flowers to harvest… you guessed it: blood. It’ll give you access to some rather interesting and useful items. Oh, by the way, did you like the Bravely Default combat system? There’s something similar in place here, and while I won’t spoil it for you, there’s certainly a hint of inspiration in it. There’s also licking involved. I’ll let you figure that one out by yourself.
Presentation-wise, Mary Skelter 2 is what you’d expect a modern-day dungeon crawler RPG to look and feel like. There’s not much in terms of ground-breaking visuals, but that’s not to say the game is ugly. On the contrary, not only does the game run smoothly at all times, but it also gives me some very strong Persona vibes (visually and in certain aspects of the combat, too). It’s just… I wish it did something a bit different. Even the assets from the first game make a big comeback here, which is one of my biggest complaints about the Neptunia series by Idea Factory. Even though Superdimension Neptunia RPG didn’t fulfill my expectations, I was happy that they were not reusing the same assets from the first game. Mary Skelter at least introduces this into the story, and they include the original game in the package, so the pill is easier to swallow. Just be prepared to look at some mighty similar environments and enemies throughout your experience with both games.
So, how do I feel about Mary Skelter 2? It’s good. It’s really better than good: as a package, which includes Mary Skelter: Nightmares, it’s a fantastic deal with triple-digit hours of gameplay available for not much money. It looks good, the battle system is innovative (to a degree), and while I don’t appreciate the re-use of assets, the way it’s integrated into the story and the fact that the original game is included in the package make it up for me. For fans of dungeon-crawlers with a bit of a risque approach, Mary Skelter 2 brings a ton of content on a very solid backbone that looks good, runs well and sound pretty good, too. Sure, it doesn’t break any new ground, but for fans of the genre, this will be a fantastic investment that will set them up for dozens of hours of dungeon-crawling fun. Nothing wrong with that.
Mary Skelter 2$39.99
- Incredible amount of content
- Includes first game in the series
- Combat system tries to innovate
- Runs great even in handheld mode
- Perfect for fans of the genre
- Reuses assets from first game
- Doesn't break any new ground
- A bit risque for some