Hellside hath no fury like a witch scorned!
Going retro in everything from clothing (bowties are cool) to home décor to video games is gaining steam, so it's no surprise that top-down battle arena games are making a comeback. Since the gameplay is so basic, simply rebranding them as “roguelike” isn't enough to garner the attention of core gamers. What these titles really need to do is set themselves apart in a significant way. Adding a bit of humor isn't enough, so the developers of The Weaponographist opted to redesign the basic combo system. Sadly, this is the most annoying part of the game.
Dapper demon-hunter Doug McGrave is a narcissistic warrior at the top of his game. His fantasy world revolves around him (or so he thinks), until one fateful day when he refuses to help the troubled town of Hellside, and thus becomes cursed by a witch. Not only does he lose his weapons, power, and wealth, but every weapon he wields falls apart and his strength constantly drains away. The only way to escape the town and end the curse is to destroy the demons in a nearby dungeon. To be honest, this yawn-inducing story is barely enough to pique my interest and barely sets up a reason for the dungeon-crawling combat.
Before entering the combat arena, players arrive at a central hub that features several vendors. This is the place where valuable upgrades, like increased damage for certain weapons and spells as well as temporary buffs, are purchased. I bought a few basic weapon upgrades first and then the “slow down combo meter drain” upgrade because the combo meter drain is uber-fast (more on that later). Players can expect to play and die a few times before they can purchase enough upgrades to make any real progress. Moreover, I found the temporary buffs to be a waste of money until later in the game when I actually made it to the boss fights.
Combat is very basic and consists of attacking in four directions, picking up and using weapons, and occasionally casting spells. Fisticuffs are the player's only weapon until they get random weapon drops, and weapon durability degrades with use. As a result, players are forced to pay constant attention to the weapon durability meter and pick up new weapons when the current ones break. Some of them are vastly superior to others, so it's a learning experience to figure out which ones work best against certain enemies. Unfortunately, some weapons (like the bow) are practically useless while others (chainsaw) are only distinct in appearance and not effectiveness.
I like having to constantly adapt to the situation, but the combo meter really kills the fun! You see, the only way to make Doug more powerful is by leveling up, and the only way to do that is by filling the combo meter. This is achieved by quickly killing enemies, but they don't always spawn fast enough for this to happen. In addition, simply traveling from one arena to the next can make the combo meter start to drain. I can't imagine what my neighbors think when I played this game because the combo meter drain made me curse at the screen every time I played. It's too bad that a feature that's supposed to set the game apart actually decreases my desire to play.
Another incredibly annoying thing I discovered is how valuable drops, like health and weapons, sometimes drop on the edge of the screen and cannot be picked up. It's maddening to rush to a drop that's sorely needed only to find it can't be used due to a design flaw. Add this to the incredibly repetitive combat, lack of level variety, irritating combo meter drain, and cheap attacks of some enemies, and the result is enough to make me yearn for a different gaming experience. Oh, and this is yet another game that won't let players remap the controls, which is a trend that really needs to end.
But not all is bad with The Weaponographist. I enjoy the basic gameplay, and the Saturday-morning cartoon-style visuals and light humor add to the fun. However, the lack of variety and poor design decisions make it seem like I'm the one that's cursed whenever I play.