Although traditional RPGs have been successful in other media, it’s not a common genre in interactive fiction. “A Final Grind” is a simple choice-based RPG dungeon crawl through a short dungeon.
Gameplay: The game is a choice-based dungeon exploration, interrupted by combat following the same choice-based system. There’s not much to do, though. There only a few simple options available in combat, and dungeon exploration out of combat is similarly limited. The high random encounter rate exacerbates these problems, especially given that combat is so unrewarding. 2/10.
Mechanics: In addition to a standard melee attack and a few combat spells, the player also has access to the Parry command. Despite the name, it hits all the monsters for 2/3 normal attack damage; the catch, though, is that the player first has to solve a small math problem (mostly arithmetic, though I did see a few problems from basic calculus during a boss battle) in order to pull off the attack. This mechanic isn’t any fun. I like math; I’m a mathematician in real life. These problems are too uninteresting and unmotivated to be anything more than a time-wasting mechanic, though.
The blurb on the IFComp website says that the character becomes weaker over time, though I must not have played long enough to notice any significant decline. I also didn’t notice anything relevant in the “self-loathing” stat, which the walkthrough mentions has some effects on the plot. These features might be apparent in later levels of the game, but I gave up after the first because of the high encounter rate and frustrating mechanics. 2/10.
Presentation: The game is purely textual, with the minor exception of pop-up dialog boxes during the Parry action quizzes. There were some minor issues with the text (e.g., “Parry succesful” and a non-fatal Twine error), but the bulk of the game is the formulaic combat. The game needs a much longer inventory of questions; I ran into two repeated questions in a single four-turn encounter. 3/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You like old-school dungeon crawls and fondly remember the “Math Blaster” series of video games.