I snagged 9th Dawn III on a whim from Woot recently, not expecting more than a basic overland RPG. Reviews were decent and the “open world” model appealing. What a surprise to find a massive game buried beneath its 2D veneer.
Like many RPGs, you pick a class which boils down to melee or ranged attacks. The opening “levels” are tutorial enough without feeling grindy while the realization of potential customization is immense. Want to be a Warrior who also uses dark magic? A Rogue who likes Great Axes? A Mage with a penchant for shields? All technically possible.
And then you begin questing.
That’s not to say the game is without faults. There’s a bit of a learning curve with your many, MANY skills. Cooking, for example, has a high rate if failure initially, which can burn through resources quick. Thankfully, those become abundant once you accept the “destroy every barrel and box” mentality.
Creature capturing will drive you to madness as you blow through traps and gold like you’re a trust-fund baby. Even the smallest wolf cub will break a trap, despite dozens of food pellets you’ve thrown at it, to the point you want to shout. But eventually you’ll tame a creature and the thrill is exhilarating. By the time you unlock the ability to communicate with creatures (and thereby increase probability of taming), you’re a good deal poorer, but it certainly feels well-earned.
Dungeons are sprawling and there are a few, certainly early on, that require some back-tracking a la Metroid. Flip switch here, go to the entire other side of the cave complex, flip switch there, etc. But figuring out the maps, while butchering swarms of enemies, is highly satisfying. Especially when you find even more swanky loot along the way.
You can also partner with companions who are essentially AI meat-shields. Spec a magic-user companion and they’ll cast spells (even heal you), but their go-to tends to be rushing into melee and getting bum-rushed by mobs. Learning the Revive skill early is critical to keeping your sidekick along for a dungeon run longer than 10 seconds. They’ll level, learn skills, and serve as a spill-over backpack for the loot-hoarders as befits all good RPGs.
The rest of the game is surprisingly broad. Learning fishing or armor smithing or smelting all include tiny mini-games that, while not mind-bending, aren’t grating. Quests are plentiful and send you all over the enormous world, fast travel is available (but pricey in early moments of the game), and mounts are plentiful once you find them.
Overall, 9th Dawn III far surpassed my expectations for a game snagged off Woot deep sale. The art is a throwback to old-school RPG video games while the sheer volume of “possibilities” staggering. NPCs are plentiful, quests are many, and learnable skills are almost overwhelming. It may not be the next TotK, but it’s certainly a lot closer to Zelda than its $24 Woot price tag advertises. I’m glad to have picked it up and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun romp across a massive and varied 2D open world.