Review: What Did I Do To Deserve This, My Lord? 2 (Sony PSP)

What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord? 2
Developer: Acquire
Publisher: NIS America
Genre: Strategy
Release Date: 05/04/10

When the first game came out, back when the game’s title referenced the famous Dark Knight, NIS’s last minute decision to pull the plug on a UMD release loomed over its release, even as its oddball gameplay caught the attention of a niche but devoted audience. In spite of any controversy, the game seems to have done well enough for itself, as the demo for the second game came out last December, portending its coming. However, the first game and the demo for this game were taken down temporarily and the release of the full game delayed to accommodate a strongly worded (to say the least) request for a name change. Those who still have the version with the old name, then, have a collector’s item (or would, if digital copies could be traded or sold secondhand).

Let’s see how well the game formerly known as Holy Invasion of Privacy Badman! 2: Time to Tighten Up Security measures up to its predecessor.

Like in the first game, What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord? 2 – henceforth referred to as My Lord 2 – places you in the role of the God of Destruction (depicted as a pickaxe), who has just been woken up by Badman. From then on, he serves as your own personal adviser, as well as the one you constantly have to protect from invading heroes. This time, you travel to five different continents on the surface (no land must remain unconquered, after all) and conquer them all one by one so that the Overlord Castle can rise up from the water and loom menacingly over those mere mortals in a grand show of dominance. The quirky humor and pop culture and RPG references return, with such names as “Byson’s Punch Out”, “She’s Just a Girl, the Girl U Want”, and “Firlion”; there’s even a allusion to Albert Camus and his famous book The Stranger (NISA sure covers all their bases). Naturally, they’ll only be funny if you understand those references, and NIS did a good job in coming up with jokes and references that would make sense to and be amusing for those outside of Japan.

In terms of modes, you’ve got Story mode, which is self explanatory, Training mode, where you can learn the basics and tackle various challenge missions, and a brand new one in Badman’s Chamber. There’s a Downloaded Stories section in Story mode, though nothing is available as of yet. However, I imagine NIS will rectify that sometime in the future. Challenges can range from beating a stage with very little dig power to creating a certain amount of a specific monster to keeping your Battle Power below a certain threshold while still managing to defeat a hero. In addition to those, there’s now the aforementioned Badman’s Chamber mode, which acts as a sandbox wherein you can set how much nutrients and mana are in the soil, which monsters will emerge (you can only select monsters you’ve already unlocked), and how much dig power you’ve got (which you can set it to infinite if you wish). You can even add more monsters without digging, though you can only do so with monsters you picked before creating the dungeon. It’s useful for when you want to brush up on how the ecosystem works, experiment with mutations (more on that in a bit) and dungeon layouts, and just sit back and watch your monsters go about their business without any impudent interruptions. You can save your creation and load it up whenever you feel like it. It’s like having your own personal virtual demonic antfarm – charming, isn’t it? Of course, if you feel like siccing your monsters on some hapless heroes, you can do that as well – can’t let a perfectly good dungeon and legion of monsters go to waste, after all.

The graphics look identical to the ones in the first game, save for some new sprites and corresponding animations. The retro 8-bit style fits the nature of the game, so there wasn’t a real need of an overhaul in that area, and their quirky style still work well. That’s not to say there weren’t any additions on the graphical front. The little live feed box that pops up from time to time when heroes are in the dungeon helps you keep track of what’s going outside your field of vision, and the heroes’ scrolling comments are amusing to read. You can also turn these off, if you prefer. You can also see what kinds of monsters can be summoned in the loading screen when you start an area. The soundtrack received some new tracks as well, with each continent having its own theme. The tunes from the previous game return as well. However, oftentimes you’ll be hearing the same songs a lot, and while they never become grating, you’ll probably stop noticing it after a while, mainly due to all the multitasking you’ll be doing (ah, such is the life of a destructive misanthropic god). Badman retains his sniveling gibberish, and the heroes shout out random babbling as they make their way through your dungeon, which actually suits the overall feel of the game more than full voice acting would.

The flow of this game is much like the first game, though a number of mechanics have been added or tweaked. For the uninitiated, here’s a basic rundown: you dig underground to develop a self-sustaining ecosystem and build up an army with which to repel and crush intruding heroes before they reach Badman and invade his privacy (no, not like that) while dragging him kicking and screaming to the surface. It’s a ruthless circle of life in there, with the strong feeding off the weak; those higher on the food chain pyramid feed on those lower than them, and those on the bottom of said pyramid absorb nutrients or mana from surrounding blocks of dirt and distribute them into the adjacent blocks. Mushrooms also sprout up randomly, and poking them with the pickaxe will disperse mana (blue mushrooms) or nutrients (green mushrooms). The color of the soil and amount of nutrients and mana it contains determine what monster will emerge when you dig it with the pickaxe. Once a monster has sufficiently gorged itself on the flesh of its fellow inhabitants, it will lay an egg and reproduce (well, they ones with the equipment to do so, anyway). In addition, some creatures – namely Wookiemons, Golems, and Ladies – also give your other monsters a boost or hamper heroes, either through an ability or just by existing. Aren’t symbiotic relationships grand?

That being said, you can’t just dig pell-mell; you’re limited by the amount of Dig Power you have remaining, and the only way you can get more Dig Power is by beating a stage, so you have to make every dig count. In addition, there’s a new tool in your arsenal: Dungeonquake. When activated, mutations are canceled, and heroes become stunned. This consumes Dig Power, however, so use it only when you really need to and have Dig Power to spare. Dig Power has another use: after each stage, you can invest some Dig Power into a monster type to level them up. While it makes those monsters stronger, it also leaves you with less Dig Power for the next stage, so choose wisely. Like everything in life, however, there’s a catch: after you beat a continent or challenge, you lose the upgrades. Sorry, them’s the breaks. Where you dig matters as well, as what monster emerges from a rune depends on which level of soil the rune is dug out.

Monsters can now mutate, depending on the environment in your dungeon, the ratio of monster types, and the ratio at which they increase and die. The game will announce when a monster is about to mutate. You can mutate your monsters by starving them (you sadist you), which will result in giant breeds. Giant breeds sometimes eat each other and gain more power and vitality, as well as change color and split into two when they have enough nutrients or mana. However, because of this cannibalization, it’s difficult for them to multiply, and they’re also slower. Abnormal breeds, on the other hand, are highly reproductive and can inflicit status effects like paralysis and poison, but they have weak attack power and little vitality. They come out whenever their regular types are being eaten by predators to the point of near extinction. However, if a pure breed emerges, that’s a warning that the creatures can’t handle their environment much longer, and they don’t reproduce or eat. If they mutate again, they revert to their regular types. Each time a monster is born, your Battle Level (how strong your army is) rises; the stronger the monsters, the higher the Battle Level. At the end of each stage, you receive a rank ranging from D to S (with S being the highest) based on how much Dig Power you have remaining, how high your Battle Level got, and how long it took you to beat the stage.

Of course, it’s impossible to forget those bellicose heroes, who come along and cause a clusterfluster in your meticulously constructed dungeon. Vexingly, heroes can now set save flags, meaning that when they’re killed, they’ll revive at the place they put down the save flag. Luckily, a poke of the pickaxe handily takes care of that problem, as well as most of the other things they litter the dungeon with. The only thing the pickaxe can’t touch are torches, which heals the heroes’ HP (curses). The pickaxe also can’t touch the monsters heroes summons. While it gets confusing when those summons mixed in with your monsters, you can generally tell which is which by the fact that they’re attacked your monsters, not the hero. Heroes’ motivation (indicated by an arrow to the left of their names) lowers as they wander the dungeon, use skills, and are pummeled by monsters; the less motivation they have, the more they lean towards support skills. Conversely, the more motivation they have, the more aggressive the skills they use. However, Lady-type monsters can slow the rate at which their motivation increases. Killing heroes (and monsters dying) will cause mana and nutrients to be distributed in the surrounding soil.

Is all of this making your head spin? Fear not, for the all-knowing Almanac can be consulted at any time whenever you pause the game. Thanks to Badman’s Chamber, you can also hone your dungeon growing skills unfettered. The training missions provide you with a good introduction to various aspects of gameplay, though if you’ve played the first game you won’t need to do much adjusting for this game (except perhaps triggering certain mutations).

There’s a lot more this time around, and you could theoretically play forever trying to improve your rank, go through stages in different ways, and tinkering in Badman’s Chamber creating different dungeon layouts and monsters. There’s also completing the Almanac and unlocking every monster. Even if you build your dungeon the exact same way, your army won’t be quite the same as last time, which keeps things from feeling monotonous. This also helps making retrying areas less tedious, which you likely will end up doing at some point (trust me on that). Still, even when I failed a stage, I kept wanting to tackle it again so as to conquer it and go on to the next stage. There were times when I got tired of trying to get through an area in Story mode and would attempt the Challenge missions instead. Since those come with less commitment and a strict time limit, and finishing one often provided enough motivation/inspiration to face that troublesome area again.

One issue with the first My Lord game was that you had no way to save any progress, which is particularly demoralizing when you’d gotten far in an area only to be squashed. However, this time around, you can save anytime by choosing “Quit Game”, which will save the state of your dungeon as paused data. However, once you load that save, it’s gone, so you can still end up having to replay an area should you fail. Still, it’s a big help if you need to stop suddenly, and while failing a stage will still sting, being able to retain some of your progress (you can save between areas as well) takes away some of said sting.

While the game seems easy enough to play on the surface, there’s a lot of micromanagement involved, and understanding the underlying mechanics of mana/nutrient distribution and mutation is essential to using them to their full efficacy and your advantage. You also have to keep an eye on multiple things and constantly turning gears to keep the ecosystem going. The two main factors that contribute to your odds of emerging victorious are balance and strength in numbers. However, forming a concrete strategy can get difficult, as the randomness of the monsters’ behavior can throw off any plans you may be trying to put into action, and triggering a particular mutation can turn into a waiting game. You’re also dependent on the whims of those that form the base of the food pyramid. There were times when I’d go to dig up a block with the monster I wanted, only for a Spirit/Slimemoss to absorb enough nutrients/mana from that block that a different monster came out instead. Observation, learning which way a hero tends to head first, and trial and error will also help you through those tough stages, but it can still take a few tries and a little luck to break that wall.

Given that this is a sequel, it’s not quite as much of a groundbreaker as its antecedent, since that already blazed the trail. However, this did build up on a lot of aspects from the first game, and there’s not much out there that plays similarly to this. The mutations add variety to your fiendish army and help the ecosystem feel more alive. The nature of the game screamed for a sandbox mode that would allow you to build and observe an ecosystem without worry of any dastardly heroes trampling it, and thankfully that was bestowed upon us in the form of Badman’s Chamber.

The quirky nature of this game limits the scope of its appeal to various demographics. Being able to retain some of your progress and the sandbox mode makes this a bit more user-friendly. In addition, the fact that the game is now available on UMD as well as on PSN gives it much needed exposure and accessibility since it’s more widely available. The fact that the UMD version comes with the first game sweetens the deal, and those that didn’t pick up the first game can have both games in one package – handy, right? However, not everyone will have the patience to acclimate themselves with the way the ecology, mutations, and heroes’ attack patterns all work. Furthermore, those that didn’t take to the first game probably won’t find this to be their cup of tea either, despite the new features.

It seems NIS listens to its fans well, because even though their offer to put the first My Lord game on UMD fell through due to an insufficient amount of preorders, they still decided to offer this game in both UMD and digital formats, thus pleasing everyone (and hopefully this was also a positive indication of how well the first game did). As a bonus, the UMD version of this game also includes the first game. If you input the code “L, R, L, R, L, R, L, R, L, R” in the UMD version, you’ll unlock the first game. However, doing so in the digital version just earns you a long and somewhat amusing lecture from Badman. On top of that, if you have clear data from the original game, you can unlock more challenges, which provides some incentive to play through the first game as well.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Good
Graphics: Above Average
Sound: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Very Good
Replayability: Great
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Very Good
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Very Good
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary:
What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord? 2 took what was good about the first game and built onto it. The dual format release curtails the controversy that plagued the first game, thus making everyone happy. However, the learning curve is just as steep if you haven’t played the first game, and not everyone will want to try to transverse it. Those who stick it out will have their efforts rewarded.