Take That, Diablo Clones!
You know that game where you play the lone hero who comes into town, solves all the locals’ problems, completes all their menial tasks, and saves the world? You know, pretty much every RPG or hack n’ slash you ever played. Well, Din’s Curse is not that game. The plot is pretty simple and straightforward. Your character was some sort of supreme jerk in a previous life, and has earned the contempt of the god of honor: Din (Thus the name of the game!). Din figures the most fitting punishment for your life of meanness is to bring you back and force you to go around from town to town solving all their problems and completing all their menial tasks.
Except you fail. A lot. Din’s Curse is a game where events often happen regardless of the player’s actions. If you’re tasked with ridding a dungeon of the growing army bent on destroying the town above, but spend your time hunting loot in a different part of the dungeon instead, that army will form, and it will invade the town above. The villagers will die, the shop keepers will be slaughtered, and all those quests you completed for the now-dead people will be so much wasted ink filling your quest journal. It’s not just invading hordes that can kill the villagers, either. In the third town my Demon Hunter showed up in, the monsters built one of their many doomsday machines before I had a chance to stop them. Soon multiple magic tornadoes tore through the town, and killed off every last shop keeper in sight. This meant I had no one to sell my goods to, nowhere to buy much needed healing potions, or repair my gear, or get much of anything done. Suffice it to say, I left that town to its fate and moved onto the next one. Hey, jerk-like habits die hard.
Before going on with the actual review, I’d like to state for the record that I’m not the biggest fan of Diabloesque games. I sort of exhausted my interest in the genre by playing way too much Diablo 1 & 2. Dungeon Siege 2 only got a couple of days of my attention, and by the time I got around to Titan Quest, I realized I just didn’t care anymore. Hell, I didn’t even make it through the one hour demo of Torchlight, despite the game’s beautiful graphics and style. So it was a very pleasant surprise to realize I was really enjoying Din’s Curse.
A Sense of Urgency
Din’s Curse, and its expansion Demon War are brought to us by indie developer Soldak Entertainment. Like many indie projects, the game has its flaws and weak spots, but as an overall package is a unique and interesting take on the hack n’ slash genre. The dynamic elements of the game are really what set it apart from other Diablo clones. Whereas most developers these days let even the most urgent in-game quest hang on for all eternity if the player decides to do something else before embarking on their expected adventure, Din’s Curse doesn’t let you get away with such idle behavior.
Many times, I’d be en route to slay some boss monster or another, only to receive a message that someone already killed the bad guy. I can’t even be sure if it was another in-game adventurer and do-gooder like my character, or an opposing group of monsters (yes, they fight each other!), but suffice it to say, I missed my chance. Now, most games are probably right in letting you take your time to complete a quest. After all, part of the fun of videogames is that they are, in fact, meant to be fun, and not a chore. But Din’s Curse brilliantly uses this very issue to create a different take on the whole “urgent” element of an urgent quest.
As alluded to above, your failing or succeeding in one quest can lead to the development of later quests. Didn’t deal with that growing army in time? Sure, you failed that quest, but your new task is to deal with the very same army invading the town. That ugly tornado killing all your buddies in the village? Guess it’s time to go down and deal with that weather-controlling machine that caused it.
“Ooh, What’s This Button Do?”
As also mentioned, the game can be a bit rough around the edges. I still don’t know what purpose the many torches in the dungeons serve. Are they just aesthetic lighting or do they actually help in some way? What do all these levers I keep pulling do? Some have an obvious effect, but others feel entirely arbitrary. I imagine they did something, somewhere, but I’ll be damned if I know what. And why are my character’s pants glowing an ugly aqua color!? I’m sure they’re enchanted somehow, but as to why exactly I have to look at the “glow” I couldn’t tell you. The game’s graphics can also leave something to be desired, along with the lack of camera controls (if you can turn the camera around somehow, I wasn’t able to figure it out). The game also doesn’t let you save whenever you want, which can be a bit harrowing for an obsessive quick-saver like myself, though usually this isn’t a problem. The biggest problem it caused was that at one point, Windows 7 decided to restart without telling me so it could update some feature I never use, but that’s more of a Windows problem than that of the game. Of course, these really are minor (and possibly personal) issues, and don’t really detract from the overall experience.
As would be expected from this sort of title, you’ll find plenty of loot drops from the wide range of monsters you’ll kill in the dungeons, labeled with multi-colored names we all now recognize to mean just how sack-worthy said goods are. The game provides a wide and varied range of options to help tweak the difficulty and other game elements to suit any dungeon crawl preference — lots of game options are always appreciated! It also gives you a nice selection of player classes that encourage creating multiple characters and replaying with different styles. You can even create a hybrid class, taking tech trees from two different classes and merging them into your own kick-ass character. Finally, what might be a minor plus, the game starts up very quickly, meaning I don’t have to watch animated logos for eighteen different companies involved in bringing the game to me before I even get to the main menu. Again, that is only a minor plus, but one I appreciated. The game also has co-op multiplayer, a feature I wasn’t able to try, but which could be wild fun if you can play it with some friends.
That Old-School Vibe
Finally, the game taps into a certain classic PC gaming vibe most modern games don’t have. While playing Din’s Curse, I constantly felt a kind of satisfaction I only really get from classic computer RPGs: The titles of the ’90s that weren’t bent on streamlining every element of the game to the point where it almost plays itself (as many modern games can feel like). The game developers almost seem to spit in the face of modern design concepts and focus on what made PC gaming fun for me in the first place. This is a bit harder for me to put my finger on exactly, but suffice it to say, it is a very satisfying feeling I find missing in a lot of modern games.
In short, if you’re a fan of Diablo-like games or classic PC RPGs, and don’t mind the lack of much story or fancy graphics, then Din’s Curse may well be for you! At $20 for the base game, it’s a steal! And for an additional $10, you can get the expansion and really fill in the title for a game that’s bound to keep you entertained for a long time. I myself would be playing it for weeks if Portal 2 weren’t releasing any day now (sorry, but it’s freakin’ Portal 2!!!)
Check out Soldak’s site, try out the demo, and give the game a chance. It could take a bit of getting used to, but will end up being a very satisfying experience!
Final Verdict: Recommended!