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Video Game / The Dark Spire

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The minimalist box art.
The Dark Spire is a 2008 Wizardry spin-off for the Nintendo DS, developed by Success and...

No, hang on, that's not quite right.

While The Dark Spire is not affiliated with the actual Wizardry series, it is quite clearly a loving Homage to the venerable dungeon crawler. The Dungeons & Dragons-inspired spell slots, endless featureless 3D dungeons (there's even a wireframe mode!), fiendishly difficult encounters that can wipe you out in a single turn if you're unlucky, and the Excuse Plot all make their appearance here. The game even uses Armor Classes instead of a defense stat!

As far as storyline is concerned, there's a dark tower called, well, the Dark Spire. After the King's court wizard, Tyrhung, stole a jeweled necklace from the Queen, he fled to the tower and holed himself in there, where he's apparently plotting... something. A reward is offered to any who successfully reclaim the necklace, and you're just the party of adventurers who're willing to try!

Upon release, the game garnered notice from being an unashamedly old-school throwback, the striking artstyle (thick, dark colors abound with nearly everything being half-hidden in shadow), and the fitting and hummable music. It was localized and published in English by Atlus.

Has no relation to either Slay the Spire or The Dark Tower.

Tropes found in this game include:

  • Anti-Frustration Features: Surprisingly, poison doesn't kill anyone so long as they're not in battle.
    • You can perform a normal save at any given point in the tower.
  • Bonus Dungeon: The ???? floor.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The final ending.
    • The game even begins with the Guild Master addressing the player directly.
  • Breast Plate: "Bikini Armor" gives a bigger Armor Class bonus than Fine Platemail. Its in-game description is "Although skimpy, this armor offers good protection. However, many heroines are too modest to wear it." You never see your characters in-game, but there's a picture of it in the manual.
  • Canon Name: Your Guild has four premade Level 2 characters: Gustav (a Lawful Dwarf Warrior), Emile (a Neutral Halfling Thief), Royce (a Lawful Human Priest), and Martin (a Neutral Elf Mage). That said, nothing's stopping you from creating your own party of four Level 1 newbies.
  • Cast from Experience Points: Casting the eighth and ninth tier spells casts from your alignment meter on top of consuming spell charges, which can render them temporarily unusable if their faith goes below the required level. Chaotic characters get off more or less fine due to possessing the eighth tier, but Lawful Druids need to be more careful due to the higher tier giving less alignment to work with.
  • Character Alignment: invokedGoes for the 'Lawful vs Chaotic' stripe instead of 'Good vs Evil'. This primarily affects which final set of spells your Priests and Magi get, due to each option having exclusive (yet balanced) final spell tiers. Also, while humans and halflings can choose their alignment, Elves are Neutral by default, and Dwarves are Lawful. High Elves are Lawful, and Dark Elves are Chaotic. You can also convert characters to different alignments through praying enough at the opposite church, which can result in things like a Chaotic Dwarf or a Lawful Dark Elf.
    • Additionally, though the final spell tiers are balanced, there's a slight edge to both sides, again making it more up to preference. Priests are better Lawful, due to both Salvationnote  and Angel of Deathnote  being better than what the Chaotic spells have. Chaotic Mages, however, get Extincto Magnus, which is the single strongest spell in the game, doing 30-165 damage to every enemy.
  • Chiaroscuro
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Sir Garland. Being repeatedly killed as part of a training exercise may have something to do with it.
  • Critical Hit: Notorious, because being struck by one of these means One-Hit Kill. Several enemies can pull them off, as well as certain weapons.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Using a suffocation spell on a skeleton won't do anything.
  • Dump Stat: Both Strength and Charisma have very niche purposes:
    • Strength affects your physical weapon output, except this is more or less useless because swinging a physical weapon is generally a waste of time compared to casting a spell. Plus, weapon stats tend to be independent of characters stats anyway, meaning a good weapon will be good regardless of the user.
    • Charisma affects two things in the entire game: whether your character can become a Paladin, and whether or not you can unlock the third ending in the potential last few minutes of the game, at which point there’s a way to boost it anyway. On top of that, it combines the party’s total Charisma for the check anyway, so a few characters lagging a bit behind isn’t a big deal.
  • Early Game Hell: Until your Mage is powerful enough to cast multiple spells without losing all their spell casts early on, the game is unforgiving.
  • Foreboding Architecture
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The quest to slay the Mist Giant is bugged so that the fight doesn't trigger if you get an encounter as you enter the room, which is an immensely common occurrence. Retreating from the fight (and thus back out the door) lets you try again to enter without an encounter, but winning the encounter prevents it from activating unless you leave the spire.
  • Guide Dang It!: Oh, loads. Fortunately, there's an insanely detailed guide on Gamefaqs.
  • Honest Axe: Found in Floor ????. There’s also a different puzzle found on the same floor, though your reward is a plot coupon.
  • Killer Rabbit: There's an enemy named "Killer Bunny".
  • Luck-Based Mission: It's entirely possible to have a Thief declare a lock is too hard to pick, which prevents any further attempts until re-entering the tower. This has a very realistic chance of happening despite the fact that locks can always be picked. There's also treasure chests, though anyone but a Thief trying to remove the traps from one has a near-zero chance of working.
    • A quest later in the game requires you to win a gambling minigame five times in a row. Even with the gambling skill on your party, the odds of winning are pathetically low.
  • MacGuffin Title: Its original Japanese name, The Tower of Mist and the Sword of Law, refers to the main dungeon of the game and the sword Tyrhung turns himself into in the first ending. Brynhildr seems to become the sword's sheath in the second ending after it moves on its own and runs her through.
  • Money for Nothing: After the first couple floors, you’ll have more than enough money to not need to worry. At most, it exists to buy sold items back from the store because your bag is limited to 64 slots. By the end of the game, you’ll have so much that you may want to test the shopkeep’s claim of being able to sell you a castle, assuming it were possible.
  • Multiple Endings: There are three "endings", and they must be seen in sequence due to each using events from the last.
  • Nintendo Hard: It's a Dungeon Crawler localized by Atlus. What'd you expect?
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: On Floor ????, the entire fight against Bolverk in the third ending happens offscreen, with the only hint being that it took seven days and "became the stuff of legend".
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Ninja. They get additional hits faster than any other class, have the best default AC, are the absolute best physical damage dealers in the game, and can instantly kill on a crit. Their downsides? They're the only class that can't use magic, which makes them outright worthless near the end of the game. Samurai can cast magic in addition to having the instant kill, and Paladins have access to healing and better instant death priest spells and gear that gives them better AC.
    • The seventh domain of arcane spells tend to suffer from this. While two of the spells are good - Sagitta Candida does consistent and strong damage to a single devil enemy, and Gladius Candidus gives a respectable sword for the duration of the battle - they're both single target, and most importantly, have competition with Extincto, a spell that hits almost as high as Sagitta and targets every single enemy on the field. Outside of rare circumstances where what you're fighting requires that little extra boost in power, Extincto will see use even when you get the final set of spells, because the better damage spells eat alignment and can't be spammed like Extincto can.
  • Retraux: The game itself plays almost like an older Wizardry title. And just to add that extra layer of delicious old-school topping, there's a "Classic" mode that instantly converts the whole game to Wireframe mode (even the music is changed!) for the truly retro experience.
  • Save Scumming: Partially averted. Like Wizardry, the game rerolls your entire (albeit based on a consistent formula) HP every time you level up, which means that you can't manipulate your HP gains beyond the first few levels. Of course, the first few levels are where an extra hit point or two would make the most difference...
  • Shout-Out: To, of all things, Hello Kitty.
    • One of the floors is overrun with Small Figures identifiable as white rabbits. Considering the "magic and wizards" theme, it wouldn't be much of a shout-out, but the same floor has a looking glass behind which is a Jabberwock.
    • If the Killer Bunnies aren't obvious enough, keep in mind that their regular attack has a high chance of dealing a Critical Hit, which in this game means instant death by a bunny.
    • Until you can repair the elevator, the only way to get back to the entrance from the third floor is through Scotty's Teleportation Service. The room in which it is located contains a persistent humming sound. Subtle.
    • The entire plot of the game (so far as it has one) is based on the Eternal Champion series by Michael Moorcock. For evidence, we have Tyrhung who goes by the name "Stormbringer".
  • Squishy Wizard: Guess which class is likely to get stuck with single-digit HP the longest?
  • Useless Useful Spell: Almost inverted. Your characters get much better use out of the basic sleep and silence spells than the monsters. Most magic-using enemies are vulnerable to the silence spell. Furthermore, by the time you run into enemies that you can't silence consistently, your characters will have enough status ailment resistance to shrug off sleep and silence spells cast by enemies. The sleep spell also works wonders. You can put just about any early game enemy to sleep for the entire battle, and even higher level enemies will often fall asleep for at least one round, which is long enough for your front-line attackers to take advantage of the fact that sleeping monsters are easy to hit and take increased damage from physical attacks. And the One-Hit Kill spells are high level spells for a reason - they work.
    • That said, some spells do become this later on in the game, long after you've already gotten lots of use out of them. Susurrus Fatalis is the most notable example: it instantly kills any enemy below level 8, which does wonders and works as a fantastic panic button or encounter wipe until you reach floor 6. There's also one spell that falls into this category, but only if you're Chaotic. Absolution is a tier 4 spell that cures poison... but Chaotic Priests get Divine Touch in the same tier, and that spell cures all ailments, including poison. Since the spells have the same cost, it's a waste of a spell slot to use Absolution over Divine Touch.
    • Played straight with some of the skills, as they do nothing in spite of their cost. Some also do have use, but it only amounts to having a chance to affect a puzzle in the bonus floor.
  • A Winner Is You: Invoked in the True Ending. After the four heroes unmerge, they pray to the heavens and in specific the Player. After thanking them for their courage, strength, and patience, the four heroes declare the player WINNER.