The original Doom and Destiny was an exercise in satire, created using RPG Maker and available for a small fee on iOS and Android among other avenues such as Steam. Whilst it could be heavy-handed it served as funny enough to review well and be a moderate success. It’s sequel, Doom and Destiny 2 is far more ambitious in every sense of the word.
Humour is subjective, I want to put that front and centre at the start of this review because whilst not every joke in the game appealed to me, I can appreciate that others will find that same content hilarious. Occasionally the game stumbles into toilet humour and fart jokes – which aren’t my thing, but it simultaneously adds interesting satirical or pop culture nods to the genre that are. The main thing to keep in mind is that if you’re somebody who believes RPGs need to be serious, then this isn’t the right game for you. If you enjoy a chuckle and some light entertainment then you’ll quickly find yourself right at home.
Graphically the title has moved a little further away from its RPG Maker roots this time around by featuring 100% custom graphics in a style similar to ‘Earthbound’ and early SNES RPGs of the era. There’s a massively diverse amount of content that’s been created but some items and objects get a lot more mileage out of them than others, especially objects that can be searched which crop up everywhere. The characters are recognisable from their 2D illustrated selves as smaller sprites and can even take on a number of satirical ‘cosplay’ costumes as bonus content, which is a nice additional touch. It’s not a massively pretty game to look at, but once you come to know the visual style you’ll see how much work has actually gone into each element. Monster designs are massively varied and battle backgrounds are situational, meaning that multiple rooms in the same dungeon space will trigger more relevant backgrounds than just pulling up a single standard one. Character portraits are probably the ugliest addition here, though by no way badly designed they just feel like they’ve been sketched out quickly rather than had serious time or attention lavished on them.
The soundtrack is another element that has a retro aesthetic and this time it plays in the games favour, although resisting the allure of purely chip-tuned music the addition of random sound effects and instruments into the score keeps the game interesting throughout. Comedy can be found in the use of music as well, with some sections amusing simply because of their tracks. Battle effects and sound in general are a little limp, but also in keeping with the retro feel. The games battle music does suffer from a lack of urgency but otherwise no element stands out as a particularly bad decision on the part of the development team.
The story of Doom and Destiny 2 is where the game takes a little explaining, billed as a sequel, prequel and reimagining of the original Doom and Destiny game all at once. The most amusing thing about the game is that this statement is both true and works from a narrative standpoint. As the player you begin the game mid-flow in events with your party climbing a crumbling magician’s tower to speak to a princess there but find instead an alternate version of your own party who quickly defeat and kill all four main characters. A guided tour through a semi-afterlife reveals that you have indeed been killed, but that your spirit can return and fight on. What follows is a nexus of multiple realities, where the player witnesses sections of the original Doom and Destiny as seen through the eyes of an ‘alternate reality’ and eventually is restored into a body of alternate selves before their adventure began where you re-enact the games opening hours you skipped before. Eventually you catch up to yourself and the game continues, but the opening serves to present the idea of alternate realities, the concept of souls and classes and the pressing danger of your other dimension evil selves very well. For those who have read DC comics’ multiverse stories or even seen the animated film ‘Crisis on Two Earths’ you’ll have no problem getting used to the concept. I won’t spoil any more of the twists and turns the story takes but suffice to say most of this plot serves to set up relevant game mechanics and to drive the story in a more chaotic and comedy orientated fashion that parodies RPG conventions, especially those considered retro classics. The writing can be variable, especially in the English (and this is certainly an American-English) translation given that the game development team are not native speakers of the language.
Gameplay raises this game above other similar satirical attempts at the RPG genre, much in the same way as it did for ‘Attack the Light’, with some genuinely brilliant RPG concepts put into practice in this title. All items are split into strict categories from the games outset with several simply filling up gauges in the ‘food’, ‘Rubbish’, ‘Cash’ and ‘Alchemy’ sections. This means that items of all types can be scavenged from all across the map (and each location is a treasure trove for those willing to explore) and that they all boil down to points added to these invisible counters. Food serves as a healing device with different totals of your stock used to restore characters both in and out of battle, whilst Rubbish and Alchemy items are used to power different moves in combat or to pay to get through doors which hide even better stashes of goodies behind them. Whilst you begin the game with a cap on how many of these things you can carry (including money!) you’ll soon find various bonuses as you explore that expand upon this total. This cuts a massive amount of chaff items you’ll not use past the game’s first hour or so of play time. Weapons and armour are purchased with money or found and if they are better they are immediately equipped, the old ones don’t take up any inventory space and simply vanish. The crux of the games systems is the class based structure, which allows you to switch between different roles for each character once you’ve found both the wondering spirit of somebody of that class and a bottle that will hold it. This done you can change to and from that class at any crystal point (which also serves as a handy cloud-save point) and level the jobs up with special elemental stones you encounter on your adventure. Ultimately the system relies on you freeing up slots in which special moves can be placed based on what your class has learned and what special items you’ve found to add additional moves to that list. Passive bonuses also exist and classes each have objects on the world map they can interact with that allow you to solve puzzles, from simple boulder pushing to sacrificing chickens on summoning circles. The battle system itself is a lot like the one seen in ‘Grandia’, with a visual timer, although without the ability to stun your foe out of their turn with a base action. Management of the battles is quick, although cancelling an action can be very fiddly and time stops while you decide what to do, which spoils the ATB effect of the timer somewhat. Winning battles gives resources and experience which can be used to level up key attributes, with every attribute amounting to multiple uses. There’s no dump stat in this title. Killing different types of enemies also completes mini-objectives that unlock rewards, shown through a handy visual 5 star system after each fight. The only drawback to the title is the control, which essentially works as a pop-up analogue stick wherever you press you finger and tap to interact approach like the one used in ‘Final Fantasy VI’s’ recent mobile port. It works well on the field but in battle can be overly fiddly and some areas are so tightly constructed that they feel a chore to navigate. Holding the button down to allow the menu to appear is a great addition, but menu interfaces could also use a little work as they feel ‘floaty’ at the moment.
Overall this is a good game let down by some glitches at launch (the developers still refer to this title as a beta) which have received some patches but still needs work. I’ve personally not encountered anything that would be considered game-breaking but others have, including finding items which fail to equip, spoiling the character progression system. There’s some great material here though, especially with the addition of multiplayer arenas for on and offline modes and hero-making in a manner similar to ‘Demon Souls’ where you can toss an NPC out into the wilds and have it come back powered up and experienced through play with others. Regular attention is obviously being lavished on this title and it has the potential to be a genuinely brilliant RPG given time.