Dynasty of Dusk

Dynasty of Dusk is a JRPG made by three college students.  It’s an early contender for Worst Game of 2013.  When a game is putridity bad, it usually is because the developer bit off more than he could chew.  That’s not entirely the case here.  Dynasty of Dusk is so stripped down and minimalistic that it’s shocking there’s enough here to be classified as rancid.  But what really startled me is this very much comes across like one of those “getting your feet wet” type of games.  Those usually are bad, but not THIS bad.  I actively looked for something, anything, I could praise, and came up empty-handed.  Now I know how Amanda Bynes’ agent feels.

I’ll start with the story, which apparently revolves around an evil king kidnapping spirit animals to try to gain immortality so that he can rule the world forever.  I’m not sure why you would want to rule a world that has like ten people living in it.  Despite what Tears for Fears would have you believe, I have no interest in this world at all.  The writing could not possibly be any more bland.  It’s so boring that a big screen adaption would star Kristen Stewart and end up making like $300,000,000 at the box office.  Okay, bad analogy.

My point is, the only thing a throwback, turn-based RPG can possibly do to grab attention these days is have an absurd story hook and/or snappy writing.  Without those, you probably shouldn’t bother.  Yea, I know games like this used to be this badly written and completely lack characterization, but RPGs aren’t exactly like platformers.  A story is all they have.  Without that, you’re just playing a glorified menu simulator.  Being just like the old school games doesn’t work in RPGs because retro charm doesn’t translate to them.  It wasn’t the retro graphics that made people like Breath of Death, Cthulhu Saves the World, or Doom & Destiny.  It was the writing and the characters.  The retro graphics were just good set dressing to take the piss out of the classics.  That’s why they worked.

I try not to pick on bad graphics too often, but let's face it, Dynasty of Dusk looks awful. But it's the music that's really bad. Even Gitmo won't use it for Enhanced Interrogation.

I try not to pick on bad graphics too often, but let’s face it, Dynasty of Dusk looks awful. But it’s the music that’s really bad. Even Gitmo won’t use it for Enhanced Interrogation.

Ignoring the story (you know, sort of like the developers did), Dynasty of Dusk is a complete mess.  Right off the bat, I want to gripe about how fucking unresponsive the controls are.  Far and away, the least responsive of any game I’ve ever played in my entire life.  It’s the menus.  Not necessarily the ones you use during fights, but sometimes they’re stubborn too.  I’m talking about the between fights menus.  The ones you go through by, you know, just pausing the fucking game.  You have to navigate them using the bumpers and the triggers.  I swear to Christ, at best the game recognized a button press once every five times.  I would be trying to scroll through the various characters to check and upgrade their stats, but the game couldn’t keep up with such simple actions as pressing the bumper once, indicating that I wished to move to the next menu.  It was like having an argument with a hard-of-hearing geriatric.

“Okay, now I wish to see the Warrior’s stats.”

“HUH?”

“I said I wish to see the Warrior’s stats.”

“WHAT?”

“The Warrior’s stats!”

“You need to speak up, child!”

“FUCKING HELL, LET ME SEE THE WARRIOR’S STATS RIGHT NOW YOU GOD DAMN BROKEN DOWN PIECE OF SHIT!”

“The Warrior’s stats?”

“YES!!”

“Why didn’t you just say so?”

And this goes on and on.  It got to the point that I physically got out of my chair to check and see if something was blocking my controller’s signal.  Nope.  I checked my controller’s battery.  Full charge.  I switched packs anyway.  Didn’t help.  I changed what controller I was using.  Still no good.  Hell, maybe some other signal in the house is causing interference.  Not that either.  I got more exercise trying to fix Dynasty of Dusk than I have from three years worth of Kinect ownership.  As it turns out, the game is just an utterly broken piece of shit.

And it gets worse once you’re actually playing the fucking thing, as opposed to arguing with menus like you’re the star of Bravo’s newest reality show, The Spreadsheet Whisperer.  I’ve always enjoyed abusing level-up systems in games.  Indie Games are often prone to this.  Pour all your upgrades into one stat, throw the game completely off-balance, then spend the next couple hours mowing down enemies like they’re dandelions and you’re the world’s most efficiently built weed-whacker.  Crazy as this sounds, I usually have a better time when I can do this.  It gives me a chance to feel all smug, wondering how the developers never saw the potential for someone to do this.  Well actually, I do know why.  It’s because they have a specific logic in mind when they build the game, and operate under the assumption people will play their game exactly the way they would.  They won’t.  It’s like those competitions they have where people have to create the most elaborate Rube-Goldberg machines that only serve to make toast, and I’m the one person who says “fuck it” and shows up to the party with a loaf of bread and a flame thrower.

Yea, it's as boring as it looks.

Yea, it’s as boring as it looks.

Here’s how abusive you can be towards Dynasty of Dusk.  The game starts with you quickly acquiring the four different attack forms, Warrior, Archer, and.. you know what?  Fuck it, you don’t need to hear any more.  The archer has a nifty move called “pierce” and that’s all you will need for the rest of the game.  It does massive damage and goes through every enemy.  Battles consisted of me selecting the archer, selecting pierce, and winning in one shot, two tops.  I poured all my upgrades into letting me level up faster, and then spent the next five minutes grinding, because you can force battles with a simple press (or multiple presses, fucking piece of shit game) of the X button.  In the span of five minutes, I took my archer from level 1 to level 20.  I’m not joking.  Before I was even out of the opening caves of the game, the main dude had leveled several times and my archer was a level 20.  Later, when I found enemies that paid off even better, I did it more and got him up to level 30 within just a two or three minutes.

And you know what?  For once, I didn’t feel that satisfied about it.  I felt downright horrible, like one of those assholes that kicks over sand castles for jollies having a sudden, sharp attack of conscience.  I vowed to play the game on the straight-and-narrow from here on out.  Sadly, not too long after this, the game crashed and kept crashing.  Because saving is the most clunky of all the clunky menus, I didn’t give it too much attention and subsequently lost all my progress.  Not that it matters, because there was no potential that anything was going to come along and save it, but I still felt bad.  Yea, Dynasty of Dusk is among the worst games I’ve ever played in my life, but I did kick over their sand castle and I want to apologize for that.  Sincerely.  Stick with it guys.  Build another sand castle, and I promise I won’t kick it over.  I’ll just let the tide come in and wash it away.

xboxboxartDynasty of Dusk was developed by Tropic Tundra Games.  Hey, wait a second.  You guys are from Wisconsin.  How do you even know what a Tropic is?  The rest of the country has gone to great lengths to keep you cheese-eaters in the dark about them. 

80 Microsoft Points would have been more interested in a game called “Dysentery of Dusk” in the making of this review.

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