The game to which Nine Parchments owes its fundamental concept, Diablo, has always been about mindlessly destroying monsters to progress. Besides the more and more elaborate story in the Diablo sequels, Diablo has always embraced a “no brain required” approach. Emotionally, the series focused on depth rather than breadth, drilling down on the concept of desire and ambition. For the Diablo player, the game was all about loot—but that loot represented something even more elemental: power.
Diablo’s characters are always masters at their magical craft, the types of characters who have prepared their whole life for the moment when demons would overtake the world and need to be destroyed. But in Nine Parchments, the characters are almost stand-ins for the player, to the point that they also get agitated at the tutorial and get immediately anxious to just get started fighting monsters already.
The characters you play in Nine Parchments regularly unlock new hats and magical staffs. With minimal actual impact on the game, these unlocks reflect the passing of time and an increasing maturity level. The more elaborate loot, rather than merely offering more power to an unchanging character, offers status symbols—these wizard apprentices are slowly graduating into proper wizards. Ultimately, acquired loot represents the broadening of the characters experiences. They are feathers in the character’s caps first and foremost.
Nine Parchments simulates how experiences can deepen relationships and mature individuals. The beautiful scenery serves as a talking point both for the players and the characters, and conversations between characters often happen during combat-free downtime.
The most valuable unlocks available are called “characters,” but most of them are actually the same characters you already have, but with different personalities, or dimensions to their existing personality. It’s a clever way of systematizing maturity as a form of progression.
Toward this goal, the game does stumble. Emotional and relational maturity should feel much more rewarding—or at least significant—than a simple aesthetic unlock coupled with basic health or power bumps. Instead of going all in on a brilliant concept, Nine Parchments splits the difference between such an approach and Diablo’s mechanized power trip.
Nonetheless, Nine Parchments takes an admirable risk by giving weight to the actual character and personality of its protagonists. By shifting focus from the powers and monsters to humanity, Nine Parchments breaks new ground, if only in theory.