The Swords Of Ditto

PS4, PC

Games TM - - WHAT LIES BELOW -

We love the clever con­cept that un­der­pins The Swords Of Ditto. We’re fans of the game’s many cool ideas. The catch, though, is that we’re not sure that those ideas and that con­cept quite find them­selves in equi­lib­rium.

The Swords Of Ditto opens with you wash­ing up on the shore of a beach, à la Link’s Awak­en­ing. That’s a sig­nal that the game owes a big debt to The Le­gend of Zelda se­ries: 2D sword-based com­bat, tools that can be un­locked by com­plet­ing puz­zle­filled dun­geons, and a re­al­ity where slash­ing away at small clumps of grass is a vi­able way of earn­ing money. The twist here is that af­ter four days of ex­plor­ing the game’s com­pact world, you will be forced into a con­fronta­tion with the fi­nal boss: an evil witch named Mormo. If she de­feats you (and she will), you take con­trol of a new hero on a remixed map 100 years in the fu­ture, grab the epony­mous Sword Of Ditto from the grave of your pre­de­ces­sor and start again.

Much of Swords Of Ditto is about time­m­an­age­ment, then. Should you fo­cus on col­lect­ing cash that will be passed on to the next hero, or spend it all to give your­self the best chance of tak­ing Mormo down? Do you have time to ex­plore, or should you fo­cus on com­plet­ing the dun­geons that will re­move Mormo’s ‘an­chors’, weak­en­ing her for your next fate­ful en­counter? Those de­ci­sions be­come more in­ter­est­ing as the game pro­gresses and you un­lock the abil­ity to carry over items to the next run and rewind time, the lat­ter mak­ing failed runs far less an­noy­ing than they can be in the early go­ing.

Less an­noy­ing, but still an­noy­ing. New dun­geons are pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated, but the rel­a­tively shal­low ideas they use are repet­i­tive and the bosses are too sim­i­lar, so re­do­ing key dun­geons that were en­joy­able the first time around can feel like a chore. Swords Of Ditto’s sim­ple com­bat be­comes in­creas­ingly com­pelling as you gain new tools to add va­ri­ety to the slash, roll and re­peat for­mula that forms its foun­da­tions – a golf club that you can use to thwack en­e­mies off of ledges and into the abyss is one of our favourites – but get killed and lose those op­tions and com­bat be­comes bor­ing again un­til you get some of those tools back. That’s Swords Of Ditto’s fun­da­men­tal prob­lem: it is fun, but too of­ten you have to push through lim­i­ta­tions and rep­e­ti­tion to find that fun. At times, you wonder whether the game wouldn’t be bet­ter as a more tra­di­tional Le­gend Of Zelda-style RPG and that tells you that the bal­ance isn’t quite right when it comes to its rogue-like el­e­ments.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing The Swords Of Ditto is as cycli­cal as the story it tells. It con­trives to frus­trate you, but then it re­minds you that it can be enor­mous fun. It turns you off from play­ing it with a bad idea, then im­presses you with a good one. Then it does it all over again. 6/10 VER­DICT an un­bal­anced but of­ten en­joy­able RPG rogue-lite.

above: The rogue­like el­e­ments that The Sword Of Ditto mixes in with the more tra­di­tional Le­gend Of Zelda-like ex­plo­ration should work well to­gether, and of­ten do, but some­times the bal­ance is way off.

be­low: There’s a good va­ri­ety of en­e­mies with dif­fer­ent at­tack pat­terns. For­tu­nately, you can ac­crue a range of tools to match, in­clud­ing new weapons and stick­ers, which can be equipped to buff your abil­i­ties.

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