Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Review: Din´s Curse (+ add-on Demon War)

The current action-RPG genre looks like that: you have two gigantic mammoth trees called "Diablo 3" and "Path of Exile" that pretty much get all of the sun. And not much can grow below in the dark. Surprisingly enough, some strange but beautiful flowers still manage to blossom down here.

Title screen of Din´s Curse with Demon War Expansion

Game Title: Din´s Curse (add-on: Demon War)
Genre: Action RPG
Difficulty: High
Multiplayer: Yes

1. General setting: Divine errand boy

Screenshot of Din the God from Din´s Course.
Say hello to your new god and slave driver.

Din´s Curse is an action-heavy hack&slay game that takes most of its inspiration from Diablo 1 and 2. Your character appears to have lived a sinful life because after his death he is tasked by Din, the god of justice, to protect settlements from evil monsters and be a good and nice guy overall if he wants to be granted salvation.

2. The Twist: Dungeons strike back

Every town is structured much like Tristram from Diablo 1. It is a place where you can buy and sell your junk and receive quests for the dungeon halls below the town. Unlike Tristram, these randomly generated towns are no safe havens. The monsters below will regularly sent up troops to raid the town or install devices that will make the life for the townspeople miserable. Especially if you let them go unmolested for some time, hell might break loose in the town and the city may even be lost to the monster armies.

A town under attack from Din´s Curse.
The town is invaded, innocent people are being killed.

3. Combat: Looks crude, feels good

Din´s Curse is developed by a tiny indie studio. Make no mistake, the game looks very ugly. Blocky characters, textures that don´t mix well and a poor variety of sound effects. It takes a while to get into.

A screenshot of the combat in Din´s Curse.
The game is not very pretty.

Under this rough surface, the combat is surprisingly fun. It controls much like any other action rpg, left-click to move, right-click to attack. And a few hotkeys for additional abilities. Unlike other action rpgs, your character is not locked in place when he performs an action. He pauses for a brief moment, then you are free to move again while the animation plays out. It looks pretty weird but gives you way more mobility than you would expect. By using hotkeys for your abilities, you are even able to pull off tricky shots while sidestepping.
Combat has one major flaw, though. Like most indie games, Din´s Curse leans towards higher difficulty. In action rpgs it usually results in tough boss monsters that can easily kill you with one or two hits. This is especially painful for melee characters who have not many choices besides soaking up all the hits. Ranged characters have the advantage although Din´s Curse also has a nasty surprise for them: running around monsters drains your stamina, fast. And when it´s gone you slow down to a crawl. Although you can influence the difficulty everytime you enter a new town, you should prepare to die. A lot.

Death screen from Din´s Curse.
Get used to it.

4. Character growth: Diablo 2 with some World of Warcraft

Killing monsters and solving quests grants the hero experience that is needed to advance in level. Each level grants you attribute points and skill points to further strengthen your hero.
Surprisingly, the attribute system is more elaborate than in many other action rpgs. The developer intended each attribute to be useful for every class in some way. Intelligence, a typical attribute for caster classes, also grants you increased critical strike chance with all your attacks. Instead of focusing on one or two primary stats and neglecting everything else, Din´s Curse attempts to make you think about your attribute distribution everytime you look at the character sheet. This is one of the many strong points of its character development system.

Screenshot and description of the attribute Intelligence.
The attribute "Intelligence" in detail.
Each starting class comes with three skill trees where you can spend your skill points on passive and active skills as well. For added variety, you can create a hybrid class out of 2 skill trees of different classes, this adds lots of replayability to the already strong line-up. The skill trees take heavy inspiration from the World of Warcraft skill trees (which were kicked out of WoW some addons ago, to my dismay). For example, the warrior class comes with an weapon (arms), a gladiator (fury) and a defender (protection) skill tree. This is not neccessarily a bad thing since the skill trees from WoW offered strong themes and varied gameplay, which is still the case here. Another good idea in the skill system is an increasing cost for each talent for the next higher rank. This makes diversification and investing into different talents instead of only focusing on a single one a viable option, since the single talent may become too expensive. Again, this makes you think about your talent choices more carefully than in other action rpgs.

Screenshot of a talent tree of the Demon Hunter class.
A talent tree of the Demon Hunter class.

With all the thinking going on, it is pretty easy to invest into the wrong attributes or talents. But Din´s Curse is very forgiving about that. There are no full resets of your character but every choice can be undone, for a small fee. This allows you to constantly trim your character and cut off unwanted or less useful things. Again, adding up to the fun and strategic thinking involved with character progression.
Gear and equipment is another big part of character progression. Din´s Curse offers a solid variety of items of varying quality and different enchantments (even some enchantments that trigger different abilities). But there are no real crafting options to influence and tailor your loot. There is definitely some room for improvement in this area.
Overall, the character growth is impressively deep and it is also very accessible. Din´s Curse can easily compete with the two mammoths of the genre in this regard.

5. Exploration: Race against the clock

A town and a dungeon with a random size. This is your playground to explore and solve quests in order to save the town. It is all randomly generated but the variety of towns, dungeons and quests is limited. It repeats pretty fast. It gets better when you install the add-on Demon Wars as it expands the variety of quests greatly. But the limited random generator remains a weak spot.
But there is a pretty good chance that you won´t notice it. There is something that will hold your attention: there is a chat box that informs you about events in the town or dungeon. These messages usually are bad news for you. Raids on the town, outbreaks of the plague, new bosses arriving in the dungeon. There is so much to keep an eye out for, you usually have more pressing matters to care for than complaining about quest variety. It is a captivating and exciting feature.


Rating table for Din´s Curse

So do you think that melee is much more punishing in action RPGs? Or do you prefer to stay at range? Sharing your oppinion in the comments below is definitely not punishing.

Useful links:

Homepage of the Creator
Buy the game at
Trailer of the game

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