Prepare for the Adventure Time of your life “If you had a Panini album as a kid, it’s time to rekindle your sticker obsession”
Why go on one RPG adventure, when you can go on 100 tiny ones in The Swords Of Ditto?
Sometimes it’s okay to admit it: life can be stressful. There are only 24 hours in the day, food to eat, relationships to manage, sleep to enjoy, a tricksy social media persona to maintain and, oh yeah, games. Games that can happily eat up hundreds of hours in what feels like seconds. ( We’ll just sit down to Stardew Valley for an hour or two. What do you mean it’s dawn? We still need to feed the chickens.) What we need is a game that feels like it’s a hundred-hour RPG adventure but is actually less time-consuming. Say hello to The Swords Of Ditto, a ‘compact’ action-RPG with a roguelike twist. “The original concept was to make a ‘Link To The Past Generator’ – a game that creates a brand-new Zelda-style action RPG every time you play,” says director Jonathan Biddle. “I also wanted to do a modern take on this idea, which is one of the reasons that co-op was introduced (the other being that I have kids, and co-op games are instant hits here).”
Pick up the Sword – yes belonging to the town of Ditto – and you’ll start your adventure as a randomly generated character to try to save the world from eternal darkness. Die valiantly in your attempts and 100 years later a new hero picks up your weapon to continue your quest and keep the darkness at bay. “We refer to each adventure in The Swords Of Ditto as a micro RPG. Each of these micro RPGs contain all of the things you’d expect in a normal RPG – an overworld, dungeons, characters, gadgets, levelling up, and loot – but accelerated,” confirms Biddle. “We’re trying to get players to see a lot of variety in a short space of time, and for that time to be short enough that they want to go in again.”
Each session is bite-sized, making it ideal for a perfect chunk of RPG time before bed. “We’ve aimed for an approximate playthrough of a single adventure to be about two hours long, but really, it will take many times that to see everything that the game has to offer and to experience the story arc that we’ve built across the game as a whole,” Biddle says. “Players keep their XP and level as they play, and the RPGs gets bigger and more involved as stories are finished and new features become available, so that two-hour window becomes a playground in which to see new things.”
Impressively, this is a randomly generated world. From your character to the environments and the weapons you discover in the shape of stickers, everything has been constructed in a unique way. “The random generation is
built into every facet of the game. Pretty much everything changes. We wanted the game to offer something new every time you played,” confirms Biddle. “It’s certainly been challenging. If the game was a normal, pre-built RPG, then I’m pretty sure we would have finished it ages ago! We don’t actually procedurally generate the levels – they’re built by hand and then elements of them are randomised and swapped in and out. We did it this way since we have a lot of level design experience and we also knew that we would need authored content to create aesthetically sound layouts. The biggest challenge has probably been creating dungeon puzzles that have interchangeable solutions.”
And yes, ‘Swords’ means you can bring a friend along for the ride, but don’t expect it to become twice as simple to defeat your foes. “Having another sword in the battle makes defeating the enemies easier, but since the inventory is shared, then that other person is also a liability – they just are another opportunity for your health items to be used up!” teases Biddle. “Another way this is balanced is through the revive mechanic. When a player person runs out of health, they fall unconscious to the floor, and it is up to the other player to wake them up with a loving hug. However, the waking player gives the other player half of their health, so reviving can make the game more difficult too.” Aww, but surely we can focus on the lovely hug for a second before worrying about the next puzzle?
Oh, and if you had a Panini album as a kid, it’s time to rekindle your sticker obsession. Chests, shops, and characters hand over new abilities and powers in the shape of equippable stickers. “You can unlock new sword moves, or leave a trail of fire behind you when you roll. You can poison enemies when you hit them, become invisible in bushes, recharge your health automatically, and many more,” Biddle says. “There are limited edition stickers that have even more special abilities on them, and you can find sealed packs of stickers around the game that need to be opened by the specialist, Lik, in the Sticker Shack. You can swap abilities in and out by changing what stickers you have stuck on your character, changing your strategy in response to dungeons that have different kinds of challenges and enemies inside them.”
The Adventure Time-style visuals are the icing on the cake, delivering a hand-drawn feel to every frame. “We felt that a cartoon-style game would give us a great opportunity to use the high resolution to show facial expressions, such as those that were used in Wind Waker,” explains Biddle. “We wanted to embrace positivity, and see the joy on our characters’ faces as they went on this fun adventure together under a blue sky, and this style allowed us to realise that.” So much for compact – we can’t wait to lose hours under that blue sky…
The cartoon art style came from a desire for things to make the most of 1080p, and “embrace positvity”. Format PS4, PC Developer One Bit Beyond ETA Spring 2018 Web http://bit.ly/gmswordsofditto
Die before you complete your mission and the island will be thrown into darkness until your next adventurer gets there. Spoiler: the islanders don’t like that much.
Co-op makes monster battles a little easier, but puzzle with a friend and you might end up knocking one another out with nasty traps. At least you can revive your pal with an apologetic hug (at the cost of half your own health).
If you’re successful in your quest, your next adventurer will find a statue of you when they return to the island 100 years later. Behold our glorious monument!