Din’s Curse: Demon War Review

The term “Diablo Clone” is thrown around a lot these days… So much so that it has become cliché to say that the term “Diablo Clone” is thrown around a lot these days.

Din’s Curse: Demon War is the first expansion for the action RPG Din’s Curse, a game that has been labeled by many as a Diablo Clone. Demon War adds new quests, new dungeons, new monsters, and the Demon Hunter class to this indie title — and I’m sure it’s just an uncomfortable coincidence that Diablo 3 will also have a Demon Hunter class.

Including the Demon Hunter, there are seven classes to choose from, which are mostly your standard fantasy fare, but the ability to custom-build a Hybrid class can result in some unique combinations. Each class has three skill trees, and a when you create a Hybrid character, you select any two of the 21 trees available — the cost of selecting your own trees is having one fewer than stock classes.


Din’s Curse: Demon War (PC [Reviewed])
Developer: Soldak Entertainment
Publisher: Soldak Entertainment
Release Date: February 22, 2011
MSRP: $9.99

Once you load into the game with your newly-made character, Din’s Curse begin by slapping you in the face. Apparently, you’ve angered the god Din with your “pathetic, despicable life,” so he offers you a chance to redeem yourself by performing various tasks.

That’s the extent of the storyline: you suck; save this town. In this regard, Din’s Curse plays much like an MMORPG: you complete a series of quests with no real concept of an overarching plot. And the quests themselves are your usual MMORPG fare:

  • Kill # of monster X.
  • Collect # of item Y.
  • Collect # of item Y by killing monster X.

But then Din’s Curse’s dynamic quest mechanic kicks in. Most quests are on a timer: if you don’t complete one in short order, you will either fail the quest, or an NPC will complete it for you. That’s right — NPCs in this game aren’t the helpless, lazy blokes that every other RPG makes them out to be. They take arms and spring into action — sometimes with disastrous results.

You’ll occasionally get a quest that involves rescuing an NPC that ventured too far into a dungeon — and you must reach him before the monsters do.

Sometimes, magical gates will spawn in town, spewing forth monsters that attack the NPCs. The first time this happened to me, I was fighting my way through a dungeon and failed to heed the text warnings that the town was besieged. By the time I arrived on the scene, half the townsfolk were dead — including all but one vendor. If he had died, who would I sell all my precious loot to?

Fortunately, as ready as Din’s Curse is to kill off NPCs, new NPCs can move to your town if you complete certain quests, rescue them from the dungeon, or just by happenstance.

Monsters aren’t the only dangers that NPCs face — you must also valiantly protect them from the dangers of starvation and debt. I had one NPC that kept going broke every few minutes. Time and time again, I would give him money to get him out of the red, until I started to believe he had a gambling problem. Whether this was just random algorithms converging in an amusing way or intended game behavior, it actually added depth to the character.

To add to the dynamism of the game — and to further prove that the NPCs are busybodies — townsfolk will occasionally fight each other. I couldn’t understand why, or how to stop them, but as the game went on, I was slowly losing townsfolk through attrition as they engaged in deadly quarrels.

This dynamism is what makes Din’s Curse addictive. You always want to complete one more quest, save one more townsperson, or explore one more dungeon level, because you know time is of the essence. The game conveys a sense of urgency absent from most other games with artificial time limits that have you succeed “just in time.”

As you complete quests, you gain reputation. Like experience points, gain enough reputation and you’ll gain a reputation level, which comes with a gift from the town in the form of a powerful item. But it’s a double-edged sword: fail quests, or let townsfolk die, and you lose reputation.

After completing the major quests your town has to offer, you get to travel to a new town that faces bigger, badder threats, and start over.

New towns will look different, thanks to random generation, but that brings us to the game’s visuals. Din’s Curse is an indie title, so I can’t hold it to the standards of AAA publishers, but even by indie standards the game lacks visual polish. The 2D icons for items are well done, but that’s the extent of it. The animations feel slow and awkward, the interface reeks of amateurism, and the characters have so few polygons that I couldn’t distinguish men from women.

On the plus side, the game is so light on the processor that I was able to crank the antialiasing up so high that I couldn’t spot a single jaggie.

Din’s Curse presents a variety of creatures, some with special quirks like the Leprechaun, that runs up to you, steals money, then scampers off, or the Amorph, which, upon death, splits into two smaller, faster Amorphs, that split into even smaller, even faster Amorphs…

Keeping with the game’s dynamism, monsters appear to be grouped into rival factions that fight one another. Monsters that amass kills will “level up” to champion status and become akin to mini-bosses.

Unfortunately, barring some exceptions that involved careful kiting, my strategy for dealing with any creature that came my way consisted of hitting it in the face until it died. And this brings us to the issue of repetitiveness.

Each town has one dungeon, and only one dungeon. For the entirety of your sojourn in a given town, you will spend your time looking at the same houses and exploring a dungeon whose dozen levels are visually identical apart from layout changes. There’s some variation in the appearance of monsters, but little variation in how to defeat them — do some have resistances? Vulnerabilities? Who knows — they all died after I clicked on them a couple times.

Even the music gets repetitive — after an hour of playing, I had a looping tune stuck in my head. The music isn’t bad; it just needs a few more songs on the soundtrack.

So what we’re left with is a paradox: a game that, on one hand, has a lot of replay value thanks to randomized elements, but on the other, is repetitive.

The game offers many options upon starting a new town, including an abstraction for the amount of time you’ll spend in the town, and configuring this to the lowest setting was a huge step toward alleviating the ennui of delving in the same dungeon over and over.

Din’s Curse also offers more difficulty options and customizable settings than I’ve ever seen in a game, such as modes in which your character needs to eat, or the rate of XP acquisition is halved.

There is a cooperative multiplayer option, which I wasn’t able to get to work — either that, or there were no multiplayer servers at all — but I’m guessing it’s similar to Diablo 2′s multiplayer.

Is Din’s Curse a Diablo clone? No. Sure, colored itemization, “set items,” gamblers… all the calling cards of a Diablo clone are there. It borrows the basic combat and item mechanics that Diablo has patented, but it builds upon that base by bringing new elements to the table in the form of its dynamic quest system.

For action RPG fans, Din’s Curse is worth checking out.

Besides, we gotta play something until Diablo 3, right?

Pros:

  • Engaging gameplay through dynamic quests
  • Fast-paced action
  • Various options that increase replay value
  • Hybrid characters let you customize your class

Cons:

  • Lackluster visuals and clunky animations
  • Repetitive music and visuals
  • Little variety in gameplay

 

Score: 80/100

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