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Holy Avatar returns, as do his maidens

I’m not sure about you, but if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s having Phat_chopps’s voice droning in my ear. But that’s precisely what I’ve had to withstand for the past week as I’ve been exploring Grotesque Tactics 2: Dungeons and Donuts.

See, not so long ago, our very own Chopps took time out to play and review Silent Dreams’ RPG offering Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes. I refreshed my memory of his review just before starting Dungeons & Donuts, and spank me with a +2 morningstar if all of his gripes weren’t just as present in the sequel. So as I sat there, trying to play it, I could hear Chopps’ words echoing mysteriously (not to mention annoyingly) in my head: “Stereotyped characterssss…. Bland and messy graaaaaphics….. demented cameraaaaa!”

Unlike  Mr. Forgiving_chopps, though, I’m afraid I’m far from giving it a 7.5 out of 10. And here is a list of the reasons why:

The graphics are sloppy and dated. The quests are uninspired, and made worse by the way every character involved in them seems bored by the whole ordeal. Teammates wander randomly hither and yon, and freeze in place in the most inappropriate times when combat kicks off, sometimes requiring multiple rounds of running to catch up before the action starts. Maps are filled with narrow chokepoints behind which your characters tend to stack up, idly picking at their fingernails instead of getting into the fray. Pathfinding is shaky at best, and while the ground lights up to show you the extent of each character’s movement, this doesn’t seem to always work properly, or quickly enough. Each character can use one type of weapon, and those weapons appear in the shops in strict order, meaning that every single one of your party will fight in precisely the same way every time you play through. Despite sometimes having several quests on the go at a time, you’re often only really able to attempt them in a linear order, as most quests require certain previous missions to be complete. Some of the text is mistakenly in German and some of the subtitles have no connection to the voice acting. Levelling is a dull affair with lackluster and uninteresting skill trees. Many of the quests involve little more than extended and tedious legwork round and round empty dungeon corridors, only to be assailed at the end by un-funny “in-jokes” about Pokemon and fantasy movies. And donuts. For some reason, the game insists on re-setting your graphics settings to “open in window” once in a while.

Wow. That’s a wall of pretty hateful text right there. Traditionally, I’d follow it up with the bit where I balance it with all of the things that I liked about the game, and the reasons why, on balance, it’s not so awful. But the truth of the matter id that the list if pretty scant. While the combat isn’t really groundbreaking or inspired, it’s not actually bad. Occasionally frustrating, somewhat repetitive, but not out-and-out terrible. Many of the characters are voice-acted by some real talents, too. While the script itself isn’t anything wonderful, the actual actors make the best out of what they have. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs, however, when “high-quality voice acting” is the main selling point in a game. It is put together by a studio other than one of the major players, so we should give a nod for indie pluck. Oh, and it’s pretty cheap too – whenever a game is under a tenner, it’s pretty hard to completely disapprove.

Now, it’s my opinion that even the most hardened RPG min-maxer plays games like this for some semblance of escapism. To explore a magical world and lose themselves in another reality, where they are in control of their own destinies. When the game then lampoons this escapism to the point of exhaustion, what are you really left with? I’m not saying there’s no room in the fantasy genre for humour – just not really the relentless mockery of which Grotesque Tactics seems to be making a habit.

A game like this posed absolutely no system requirement challenge for the mighty Chillaxe, of course, nor are they a particularly big jump up from the previous installment of Grotesquery. Anyone with a halfway-decent machine should be good.

They say, don’t they, that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. That makes life somewhat challenging for games reviewers, as it’s often pretty easy to be sarcastic about something you don’t like. I’ve done enough of it in my time, and even a little in this very article. But when you play a game that is made up, in large part, of sarcasm, it’s easy to see why it has such a bad rep. It gets tired amazingly quickly – way too quickly to really support two full-length videogames – and is usually a defense mechanism for other inadequacies.

I hope we’ve seen enough from this series. Partly because of the painful humour, and partly because of the uninspired game design. But mostly because I’m sick of Phat_chopps’ spooky voice in my head.

Written by: Damien Brailey

One of the rare-ish outdoors bits