Grotesque Tactics 2: Dungeons and Donuts Review
Game: Grotesque Tactics 2: Dungeons and Donuts
Developer: Silent Dreams
Publisher: Silent Dreams
Available on: Windows PC Only
Grotesque Tactics 2: Dungeons and Donuts is the second outing from German indie developer, Silent Dreams. The first title served as a quirky little farce that failed to satisfy the unending hunger for depth that fans of the genre crave. Unfortunately, the sequel has set itself up for an even worse fate, compounding the lingering old problems with a distinct and undeniable spectre of an unfinished product.
STORY: The player takes control of Drake, a sword toting hero afflicted with “Hero’s Amnesia”, a common ailment for heroes embarking on their second quest. As such, you will have to relearn your abilities and re-acquaint yourself with old allies.
These allies, and indeed a vast majority of the game’s characters, amount to little more than strong stereotypes, often times feeling uninspired and predictable. Within the first few hours of gameplay, you will have amassed all of the people you need in order to officially establish the heroic faction known simply as The Guild of Glory. At this point, the “emo” Drake and his ensemble of archetypal allies must run errands, misleadingly deemed quests, for the other factions of the underground hub world known as The Sanctuary, however, these “quests” lack a natural order to them and often involve a lot of aimless running around.
This is more or less how the story progresses. A series of tangents whose sole purpose seem to be facilitating pun-filled chatter, eventually leading you closer to the end of the game. I suppose you’re working towards saving The Sanctuary from evil forces but the more persistant, and far more enjoyable, element of the narrative is the strengthening of bonds between the members of your guild.
GRAPHICS: This time around, the art style has been overhauled to feature less obnoxious, more human looking character designs. Drake and Candy in particular look much better. Also different in this sequel are the locales you’ll be visiting. Grotesque Tactics 2: Dungeons and Donuts sticks to much more darker locales, forgoing some of the vibrant and lush environments of the first game. Fittingly enough, most of the maps are dungeons.
The enemies appear just as uninspired as the game’s maps, writing and humor. Like the first game, you will be harassed by the same handful of enemies throughout your quest, albeit with slightly different stats. By no means does the game look bad, RuneScape players will feel right at home, but it doesn’t excel in the art department either. That’s sometimes the price a smaller studio has to pay.
SOUND: The biggest flaw is simultaneously the biggest appeal; the sound design. The characters are so over the top, and often times incredible that you can’t help but be enamored by their charm. At first, not having accepted the tone of the game, the voiceovers grated on my nerves but after a few quests and an overall “lightening up” of my mood, I couldn’t help but find them comical. I particularly enjoyed it when the dialogue sounded as if the voice actors weren’t aware of the proper context of their statements. It’s every bit as fun as a B movie.
GAMEPLAY: Gameplay is a combination of two control phases. In exploration mode the party will be able to move freely, collecting items and talking to NPCs. This mode continues until Drake or one of his allies come into range of an enemy. It is at this point that the controls switch to a more traditional Tactical RPG grid system. Battles play out in a series of turns wherein players move around the grid and then choose an attack. Attacks can be strengthened by positioning the attacking character behind their target.
In terms of progression, each character has a small and simple skill tree that allows for a small degree of customization. Unfortunately, for a Tactical RPG, Grotesque Tactics 2 seems to be void of much tactical gameplay. The sudden changes between the exploration and battle phase robs you of even the basic ability to arrange your party into a starting formation. At times, this can lead to the frustrating annihilation of weaker characters who start the battle in less than ideal locations.
Adding to the grief is an uncooperative isometric camera that often times makes it is possible to overlook important details solely because you weren’t fortunate enough to have the camera angled in the right direction at the right time.
Factor in a common glitch that would render important quest NPCs unable to be targeted and the otherwise enjoyable experience is plagued with unnecessary frustration.
LONGEVITY: While longer than your average video game, Grotesque Tactics 2 falls on the short end of the spectrum in terms of RPGs. Rounding out at about 15-20 hours, and offering little replay value as the game offers little chance to grow your characters and explore the world. I would’ve liked to have seen more quests and a bunch of more equipment and secrets hidden within the world of Grotesque.
VERDICT: Grotesque Tactics is in every way a parody of the genre, rife with pop culture references and jabs at iconic games and genres. I promise that you won’t find an emotionally resonate epic in the game’s story but if you can manage to enjoy it for what it is, a farcical romp filled with lighthearted humor, then Grotesque Tactics may offer a rewarding experience. Even if you base your experience on the humor alone, Grotesque Tactics 2 is a very hit or miss title, more often than not falls into the “miss” category. Calling something parody is simply not an excuse for bad writing.
Personally, the game feels like a missed opportunity and I can’t help but wonder how things would’ve played out if this title spent a little more time in the oven. It particularly could’ve benefitted from a little more time in localization considering the grammatical errors in text and the “translation is missing” dialogue option. Keep an eye on the title over Steam and perhaps poach it if it goes on sale. It may not be worth your money but it may be worth your time, assuming cheap laughs and fourth wall breaks are your sort of thing.