Review: Din’s Curse: Demon War (PC)

Din’s Curse: Demon War
Developer: Soldak Entertainment:
Publisher: Soldak entertainment
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: February 23rd, 2011

Din’s Curse is a Hack and Slash style RPG in the vein of Diablo or Icewind Dale. Using a random dungeon generator and real time combat and action, it is a more fast paced role-playing experience than the more traditional turn based and story driven RPG. Each playthrough is, by design, different than the previous, though there will be some similar basic ideas and events. Din’s Curse is heavy on the customization options and it adds a lot to this style of game to set it apart from its obvious Diablo roots.

Primary amongst these differences is the time based nature of many of the game’s quests. Most quests have some level of time limit in play. Some may essentially be infinite where you have to find some object buried deep in the dungeon, while others may require more urgent action, such as finding a person from within the dungeon. In most RPGs, a rescue mission will generally sit and wait for the player to arrive to initiate some sort of story sequence. In Din’s Curse, if you sit and wait around, the person you’re trying to rescue will likely be killed. Your choices also affect how the town people you’re trying to save will treat you. As you complete more quests for a particular person they may give you free items or discounts on weapons and armor. Completing more quests also will open up more optional quests as people trust you more. You’ll also be helping the townspeople become more powerful in the event that the town starts to become overrun by the monsters in the area.

The original game featured six base classes, Warrior, Rogue, Priest, Wizard, Ranger, and Conjurer. Each of these classes have their own skill set to be upgraded as you level up. The skill sets are also divided into more specific class types. For example, the Warrior is divided further into Weaponmaster, Gladiator, and Defender. When creating your character, you can also combine specialties from two different classes to make a custom Hybrid class. You’d first select a primary skill such as Gladiator from the Warrior Class, then you could add a bit of magic with the Warlock specialty from the Conjurer class. Demon War adds the Demon Hunter Class, which is a class specifically designed to kill off Demon type creatures.

1. Story

The core story is one that is fairly generic. You’ve been cursed by the giant god Din and must do his bidding in order to earn your freedom. His bidding involves saving many towns from monsters and plagues and other threats by doing tasks for the people in the towns. It should be noted that the action takes place in the town or in the cave the town has been constructed around. Why the townsfolk built their town directly on top of a cave full of monsters is anyone’s guess.

This story is mostly a throw away excuse for the basic replay-ability gimmick. You create a character, you save a town, and then you move on to another town. The town based gameplay makes for a nice stopping point for anyone wanting to play multiple characters without feeling like they are starting over with the exact same quests they just finished on the previous character.

There are also a large dynamic of mini stories and interactions. The towns and dungeons are randomly generated. They share many of the same basic traits but layouts and the quests that occur are all different each play. There are also time based elements that add to the urgency of the quests. You may find out that some Boss monster is amassing an army on Level eight of the dungeon but you’re still on Level two. You’ll have some time to get there but take too long and you’ll find that army storming the town and killing the townspeople. One person may complain they are starving and if you fail to donate to them they’ll soon die off. This randomness is the main draw point of this game.

Story Rating: Very Good

2. Graphics

This game is an RPG in the tabletop sense more than the console sense. This means your hero is fairly generic and it’s up to you to decide his look and story based on your actions and various equipment you find. This also tends to lend itself to an issue of generic-ness amongst everything. Even the differences between a male and female character are fairly indiscernible. This wouldn’t be so bad except that nearly all of the NPCs also use the same basic character model. The end result is that you have a town full of identical looking dudes being saved by one slightly different looking dude.

The dungeons get a bit better with a few varied environment styles and a decent selection of enemies to fight. Still it’s not always easy to quickly pick out a particular enemy from a group due to the dark and muddy look to everything. This can be particularly annoying if you need to, “Kill X number of Y”. What happens is you end up slogging through a swarm of enemies then getting random pop ups stating say, “5 of 10 enemies left.”

The screen can also get confusingly busy times, especially as enemies start dropping items into a group of enemies. You pick up items by clicking on the name and the name banners are a little large. This can lead to trying to beat back a horde of enemies while accidentally making your character charge head first into the melee to grab some random potion that was dropped. Often the name banners will obscure the screen making it hard to tell what is attacking you and which enemies need dealt with first.

Graphics Rating: Decent

3. Sound

Keeping in line with the somewhat mediocre graphics, the sound is fairly weak as well. There are a fairly limited number of effects to go around and there’s one particularly annoying screeching noise that occurs on a regular basis when certain enemies attack. The sound factor of this game is generally just unremarkable. Not much can be said about it positive or negatively.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

4. Control and Gameplay

Unfortunately, there isn’t any better way to explain the gameplay than to mention Diablo. The gameplay at its core is almost identical to Blizzard’s popular franchise. This isn’t actually a terrible point since it does a good job of mimicking the better aspects of Diablo. It also adds a ton of options and customization not present in Diablo as well which will be touched on in later sections of this review.

The real issue is that there’s almost too much going on at any one time. There’s a ticker of activities that runs in the lower corner of the screen that is easy to overlook. Given the time sensitive nature of many quests this can lead to missing opportunities and not even realizing it. Or worse, failing a quest you’ve picked up without realizing it.

The controls themselves are very basic. Most of the time you’ll be clicking the mouse button repeatedly to attack and move. You also have a pretty standard set of RPG menus to navigate for inventory, stats, equipment, and skills. There are hotkeys that can be assigned for attacks and skills as well.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Above Average

5. Replayability

With the lack of a real overarching story, the random nature is used to essentially create a new game every time you play. The dungeons are randomly generated in each town. A single town can be saved after a couple of hours of gameplay. This is one of the better differences between Din’s Curse and Diablo. This makes it easier to say, play a bit as a fighter, then, start a new game as a thief or try a magic based class. Your characters can be reused after you’ve saved a town, keeping all of their stats and equipment. Over time your characters will become very high level. Fortunately monsters level up to match your character to keep up the challenge.

Another extreme plus for replay is the shared chest. Your character has a personal chest for storing loot that is found that may not be immediately useful or that the player simply wants to keep. There is also a shared chest available which all characters can access. This is great for when your Fighter finds a good magic augmenting weapon that a Wizard could use.

The point is that the replay factor is fairly high. There are good breaks in the flow to allow players to feel less like they are abandoning a character for another one and there are plenty of options to help keep the player on their toes for future rounds. The built in randomness makes it less repetitive to try a new character as well. With the ability to mix classes for custom characters creating nearly 200 class combinations, you’ll want to play several characters at a time.

Replayability Rating: Incredible

6. Balance

This is one area that the game has working for it. There is a nice system in place when you start a Town that allows you to set the level of the monsters compared to your own level. If you’re having trouble you can set them really low level. If you think it’s too easy, feel free to level up the monsters higher than your character. If that’s not good enough you can also enable several custom options to make the game trickier such as the need to eat regularly or the option to play “Hardcore” mode where when you die, that’s it.

Balance Rating: Great

7. Originality

The basic concept presented here isn’t anything overly original. There have been plenty of item collecting dungeon crawling RPGs in the past. Din’s Curse does add a good amount of originality for its open style of gameplay however. You’re not locked into one set storyline and you’re not even limited by the idea that you may actually fail to save the town you’re trying to save. Things may simply all fall against your favor and the place becomes overrun. There will be another town to come back to next round. It’s not excessively original in its concept but if it were too different it wouldn’t appeal to its core target.

Originality Rating: Good

8. Addictiveness

Din’s Curse definitely falls into a category of gaming that relies on compulsion. The need to find better gear or to keep going because one more quest won’t take THAT long to finish is pretty good. The gameplay is a bit repetitive but it also has a good factor of regular reward. None of the quests are overly difficult or tedious to complete which gives it a bit of a casual gameplay feel despite its larger more time consuming RPG core. The myriad of options also work well to keep a player interested.

There’s also an online component to allow you to play with friends. This only helps push the competitive desire to keep going.

Addictiveness Rating: Good

9. Appeal Factor

Fans of dungeon crawlers and item gathering will like this game and all of its options. If you have an overwhelming need to fight monster after monster hoping for the last drop of your special Uber rare set item this game will deliver it to you. For the rest of us it gets a bit repetitious after a few rounds. There isn’t a ton of variety in the quests and the endless crummy items that are good for nothing but selling off in town get old fairly quickly. In short, if you like Diablo 1 or 2, you’ll probably like this game.

Appeal Factor Rating: Very Good

10. Miscellaneous

The real factor that sets this game apart is it’s dynamically generated gameplay. I know I’ve mentioned this before but it is a strong component of the game that makes it unique and helps make up for some of its presentation flaws. The simpler graphics and sound aren’t anything groundbreaking and does add some charm to the game. I used to be a huge fan of RPGs but as time went on, I found I had less and less time to spend on a lengthy story. Din’s Curse does a pretty good job of taking the RPG style of game play and making it more digestible in byte sized components. The random level system is great for this and the almost “Stage Style” nature of the Towns makes it easy to get into a game for a bit, complete a town, then take a break and come back later for some more. You don’t feel like you’re abandoning your characters and you don’t have to try to remember what you were doing last time you played it. Unlike Diablo, you’re not going to be playing the same two dozen quests every time you start a new game either. Yes there is some repetition and similarities in quests but there’s enough variety to make it less noticeable. Demon War also adds some options to engage Town People in combat so if you really want you can just go completely Chaotic Evil and slaughter everyone instead of saving them.

Miscellaneous Rating: Great

The Scores
Story Rating: Very Good
Graphics Rating: Decent
Sound Rating: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay Rating: Above Average
Replayability Rating: Incredible
Balance Rating: Great
Originality Rating: Good
Addictiveness Rating: Good
Appeal Factor Rating: Very Good
Miscellaneous Rating: Great
Overall Rating: Good Game

Short Attention Span Summary:

Din’s Curse is a decent Diablo style clone that takes the core formula and adds a lot to it. Its primary drawback comes in its slightly dull presentation and somewhat repetitive gameplay, though the repetitiveness is part of the territory when it comes to this style of RPG.

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