Monday, February 9, 2015

In spite of myself

I am not trying to be contrary for the simple sake of being contrary. I like good games, I like bad games, but I do not like all games and I specifically do not enjoy rogue-likes. Rogue Legacy got a pass because at its heart it was a platformer. Player skill at least had a chance of over ruling a bad random character. I started it, got past initial frustration, and made it through to the end once before moving on.

In rogue-like terms what I did was 'play the tutorial.'

Darkest Dungeon was purchased because I will throw money at any attempt to even tangentially use Lovecraft and because Chance's enthusiasm is incredibly contagious. When the man loves a game he loves that game. He describes in endearing terms things that I despise, like perma-death and the random number generator being a cruel and vengeful god capable of wiping out a part of four on a whim. Three hours later I was not frustrated. I had not sent scores of heroes to their untimely deaths. But I wasn't engaged, either.

I was bored.

I was bored because the very crux of how the game works prevents me from caring about what happens. Heroes arrive via caravan and are sent, four at a time, into a randomly generated dungeon on one of several generic quests. They are literally disposable. Knowing this I was hesitant to upgrade them in any way. It was a waste of resources to buy skills for a character that is just going to die. At the same time I didn't want to lose them, either, as time and experience had been invested in their survival. I spent more money on wine, women, song and religion keeping them sane than on anything else.

They were both meaningless and irreplaceable. This is the very point of the game: it is more management of resources than anything else. When is it worth curing a character's venereal disease (this actually happens) and when should they be dismissed and replaced with a new, level one hero. My disinterest was palpable. This is a shame because the combat is exceptional. Mistakes are punished, de-buffs very important along with position in the group and party composition is literally the difference between success and failure. I would put the combat up against the press battle system of Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga, my two favorites, any day.

I want to play it but I can't because I can't deal with the management side of things. Take this combat, write a story and characters around it, and I will be happy. In other words, make it a different game and I will play it. The quality is there. I understand it and I understand what people see in it but am not interested in seeing any more of it for myself. Darkest Dungeon is still in early access. It certainly doesn't look or feel that way. In fact it feels remarkably complete. There is a chance that it will morph into something that I can play, but I doubt it.

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