Theorycrafting: Why Systematic Engagement Is So Important

A while back I did a video talking about the many methods developers use to engage players.

Looking back at that video, I realized that I wasn’t really delivering valuable information, nor did I explain anything in enough detail as the topic was far too broad to be discussed in a single video.

Now why start with systematic engagement? Well it’s a pretty common method used to engage players in the short term. Systematic engagement involves incentivising players to adjust their behavior in order for them to become more invested in the experience, thus becoming engaged.

Now you may be confused by what this means and for that reason, I shall give some examples. One of the more notable examples of systematic engagement is Devil May Cry’s style system. The style system is a distinctive feature of the Devil May Cry series and is often praised by its fans for making the gameplay experience more enjoyable. The question is, what makes the style system so important?

Anyone who plays the Devil May Cry games for the first time will quickly realize just how relentlessly difficult the games can be and at times it can be tempting for players to button mash out of panic. The style system was designed to circumvent this issue as players who button mash are not enjoying the game to its fullest, therefore they are more likely to become disengaged.

By adding a style rank as an incentive, players will be more likely to experiment with different moves in order for them to finally achieve that S rank that they’ve been working towards. Once players finally manage to reach the highest style rating, they are rewarded with a large quantity of red orbs which can be used to purchase new moves and upgrades to their character.

Another example of systematic engagement can be found in Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria. In Valkyrie Profile 2, battles require that players only need to defeat the leader to end the fight. The purpose of this is to encourage players to end battles quickly, thus saving the players time instead of forcing them to kill each enemy individually. The other enemies are merely an obstacle, which must be traversed in order for the player to reach and successfully defeat the leader.

Now this is fine and all but where’s the incentive? Why shouldn’t I kill all the other enemies first? On the right hand side of the screen there is a gauge consisting of 5 orbs. This is actually a timer which challenges players to end a battle as quickly as possible, if a battle is won with all 5 orbs lit up on the screen, the player will execute a direct assault which rewards them with a massive chunk of experience as well as occasionally dropping an extra item.

On top of all this, players are able to accumulate magic crystals by attacking enemies who are airborne, the purpose of this is to encourage players to experiment with combos in order for them to juggle enemies and acquire more magic crystals. Magic Crystals not only reward players with bonus experience but they are also used as a form of currency that players can spend to transport sealstones to other dungeons which allows their bonuses and penalties to be used anywhere. This can drastically impact gameplay and as such it is important to collect as many magic crystals as you can to give you the edge in battles, by using those sealstones to your advantage.

The point is that by giving players another factor to be aware of, you have essentially bolstered their level of engagement. Valkyrie Profile 2 not only saves the player’s time, but it also encourages players to learn the mechanics to get the most out of it. This is how Valkyrie Profile 2 manages to maintain the player’s engagement and it would not be possible without these two systems, the same goes for the style system in Devil May Cry, it isn’t just a random gimmick, it’s an important facet of the game that keeps the game from getting stale and when a game becomes stale, players become disengaged, just like how wasting the player’s time can also disengage them.

Now In my engagement video, I used the loot system from Diablo as an example of systematic engagement and you’re probably wondering why it is an essential facet of the game. The purpose of the rarity system is to encourage players to explore in order to locate unique enemies and treasures, doing so will reward players with special loot with unique parameters that distinguishes itself from standard loot, giving players bonuses to make their character stronger. This also encourages players to replay the game in order to collect even more loot, which gives an extra layer of engagement for people who enjoy growth.

Before I wrap up this video, I want to talk about the difference between psychological and systematic engagement. Psychological engagement is manipulating players into tedious layers of compulsive activity and compulsive activity in games is never fun. Many people have argued that level grinding in videogames is a tedious process and this is where the theorycrafting part of this video comes in.

What systematic engagement does is remove the monotony of games by building systems to distract players from this monotony and by doing so, you manage to make tedious tasks such as grinding more fun for players to partake in. As such my argument to Keith Burgun’s theory that grinding is bad game design is that systematic engagement exists and all game developers need to realize this.

The good news is that many game developers realize this, the bad news is that there is very little in terms of creativity these days when it comes to developing these systems as developers tend to re-use old systems. I personally would prefer if developers experimented with other methods of systematic engagement as old methods usually tend to become worn out over time. Thus my message to game developers is to come up with something new.


Blizzard Are Going To Retcon Warcraft 3’s Story In Warcraft 3 Reforged


So I read a polygon article today (I don’t make a habit of doing this believe me) about Warcraft 3 Reforged and it is just as I feared, Blizzard are planning on retconning the fuck out of the lore.

Seriously fuck this game, fuck Blizzard and most of all fuck Activision.

I have already talked about how terrible World Of Warcraft’s lore is before and why it is a bad idea to change Warcraft 3’s story to fit in with World Of Warcraft’s dumb retcons.

I could make a long written rant about this but I think it would be better if you watch this video, as it conveys my thoughts better than any written article can:

Warcraft 3: Reforged – My Thoughts

So Warcraft 3: Reforged has just been announced and is to be released in 2019. Considering the fact that I have been a big fan of Warcraft 3, I feel that it is important to talk about this remaster.

Before I talk about Warcraft 3: Reforged, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, Activision. Warcraft 3: Reforged is obviously going to be published by Activision and as a result I will be boycotting the game, I suggest everybody else does the same.

In any case, after taking a look at the remaster, it seems that the top down cinematics are going to be replaced with fully CGI cutscenes which is cool. I will enjoy watching these on Youtube to see those glorious moments once again but better looking.

One thing that does bother me however is that many of the voices aren’t returning as is hinted by Arthas being played by Patrick Seitz like he is in World Of Warcraft. I have nothing against Patrick Seitz, he’s a great voice actor but it does concern me that the Dreadlord’s voice cast will have changed.

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Tichondrius, Varimathras, Balnazzar and Mal’ganis had great voices in the original but in World Of Warcraft they sound a bit too generic for my tastes… except Balnazzar of course. I really hope that Paul Eiding keeps his role as Varimathras and whoever voiced Tichondrius and Mal’ganis keep their roles as well. They could just use the old voice files if they need to. It just won’t be the same without the original voice cast.

Another thing that bothers me is the story itself. So far it seems ok but I am concerned about any potential retcons occurring. I really hope that Blizzard don’t shoehorn their WOW bullshit in this game, it needs to stay pure and true to the original lore or I will be even more pissed off with them than I already am, just leave Warcraft 3 alone Blizzard… please!!!

Anyways with that aside, I want to talk about and what the future may hold for it. You see, Warcraft 3 has been around for a long time now and this could be the end for it. Just imagine for a moment what could happen to Warcraft 3 when Reforged comes out, the servers might actually become deserted, let that sink in for a minute.

I wonder what Reforged will be like, will it be yet another anarchists paradise like the original? Or will Blizzard finally add moderation to the game? Regardless one thing is for certain, the elitists will be back, trash talk will happen and it’s going to end badly whatever happens, it’s online gaming for heaven’s sake.

Still, Warcraft 3’s anarchy did come with some benefits, for starters, you didn’t have to worry about being banned for saying anything that would offend someone, you had to be a man and suck it up. There’s no safe zone on Warcraft 3 and it should stay that way if you ask me. Moderators are always problematic in both games and forums, give us our goddamn freedom of speech for heaven’s sake. Regardless, even with moderators, the game will still have those annoying elitists that are like “Look at this guy, he’s 10 – 13… hahahaha what a shit noob” and with moderators prowling around, the ability to fight back against these remarks will be removed. I see this as a bad thing.

It’s come to the point where I feel as if nothing good can come out of Blizzard now, even if it is a remake of one of my favorite games of all time, all it serves to do is prove that games aren’t as good as they used to be and they need to compensate by re-releasing older games and tarting them up, welcome to the era of paying for games you played years ago just to play them all over again, why should I buy Warcraft 3 again? I already played it and quite frankly I don’t need to see it get tarted up.

Eventually every game will get a remaster… yes even Valkyrie Profile 2 but what then? What will happen when every single game is remastered? Will they remaster them again? Who knows? Regardless, I can’t wait for this era of remasters to end, not because I don’t want these classics to be immortalized, quite the contrary actually, I want them all to be remastered as fast as possible so that once every single game has been remastered, we can move on to playing games that are new and fresh… oh wait, games like that don’t exist anymore.

Call me cynical if you want (it’s literally what my blog is all about) but I don’t really feel any excitement or anticipation for this game, in fact you could actually say that this announcement has made me feel even more upset about the state of the Warcraft series as it merely serves as a reminder to how the series fell apart to begin with.

As such, Warcraft 3: Reforged’s announcement feels like I’m attending a wake at a funeral that should have happened back in 2008… yes I’m talking about the year Wrath Of The Lich King was released because as much as I despise World Of Warcraft, it wasn’t really all that bad until Wrath Of The Lich King came out. I cannot stress just how much of a love/hate relationship I have for this undying series, it’s ironically no different from Arthas’ descent into madness and that moment the song “Invincible” played at the end of Wrath Of The Lich King, Arthas was already dead the moment he took up frostmorne, just like Warcraft was already dead the moment they released World Of Warcraft and while World Of Warcraft was tame at first, it was a deadly poison that slowly crippled the series like a form of cancer.

The History Of Blizzard

Blizzard essentially walked the same path as the very character they created, Arthas was once a paladin who only wanted to protect his people, much like Blizzard were a team of developers who actually made good quality games but both of them descended into madness. Sure you could argue that Blizzard didn’t murder anybody in the process but they did whatever they legally possibly could to make all of their fans miserable and fuck the consumer in the asshole.

The fact that Blizzard partnered with Activision really speaks for itself to be honest, in the words of Arthas in Warcraft 3, all I have to say to Blizzard Entertainment is: “You are past redemption”.

Update: Still busy, Need a new TV for Screencapping too.

Well it has finally happened, My Digilogic CRT TV died last night. All I can say is thank god it wasn’t my computer. In any case, the loss of my CRT has set me back a little. Not that it makes any difference anyways as I am busy trying to deal with home refurbishments at the moment and planning on moving, hence why I have been busy recently and unable to work on much content. Almost all of my games have been packed away into storage and soon, many of my consoles will join them as well as my PC.

So I will have to get a new TV, probably an HD one, the problem is that up until now, I have always recorded via composite cables, I have never recorded via HDMI which leaves me with some unanswered questions that I will need to solve once I get my HDTV. Can I still record from my PS2/WII/PS3/Xbox 360 with an HD TV using composite cables? Is it possible for me to put composite cable splitters in a HDMI/AV converter and still record footage that way? I hope so because otherwise I’ll probably have a bit of trouble recording footage and who knows, I may end up needing to get an elgato.

Other than that, I may still have time to do the occasional stream or two but right now I don’t want to get started on a review project since I have a lot on my plate right now. The main reason for this update was to announce the death of my CRT TV, this means that I’m going to have a really difficult time playing Time Crisis without being able to use a lightgun… oh well, I’m pretty shit at that game anyways so it doesn’t matter really.

So all in all, apologies for the lack of content recently, it’s bothering me as much as it’s bothering you guys, if not more but I have to get all this stuff sorted out so that my mind is cleared, that way I can put my all into it.

Warriors Orochi 4’s launch price on PC is an insult. Koei Tecmo are ripping off Musou fans.

So there’s this game I’ve been excited for wanting to try called Warriors Orochi 4. As someone who shows an interest in 3D beat em ups, I cannot simply ignore musou games as the warriors series shaped the 3D beat em ups we know today and as such I want to play more of them to see if I can actually get invested in the genre or not.

Many consider musou games to be cheap, throwaway titles built around catharsis. Sure they can be entertaining to play but they aren’t exactly known for having much depth/flexibility, they’re just games that let you kill hundreds of cannon fodder with flashy attack strings. Put simply, musou games are no different from sports games like Fifa in the sense that once you’ve played one of them, you’ve pretty much played all of them, however there is a bit of nuance that slightly differentiates them and as someone who shows interest in 3D beat em ups, I want to see how the genre has grown.

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Unfortunately however, Koei Tecmo appears to be a little overconfident with their pricing of Warriors Orochi 4 as they have decided to price the PC version at £49.49… oh but wait, that’s actually a special offer, the base price for Warriors Orochi 4 is a whopping £54.99! Yeah you heard me, they have the audacity to charge the same price of a collectors/deluxe edition for a standard edition game which is insulting to all fans of the series and pretty much everybody who has very little money to spend.

To make matters worse, many people have had salt poured into the wound by having the game run at an abysmal framerate. It appears that people are complaining about the PC port being terrible. When you consider the fact that they have the audacity to charge £54.99 for the game, it’s pretty understandable as to why people are angry about this. Now I understand that the pound has dropped recently and as such, the prices for games are going up (even though the quality is still not up to scratch with the games of sixth generation) and as such, we are forced to accept higher prices as a standard now. However, I have noticed that these prices fluctuate between £45.00, £50.00 and now with the release of Warriors Orochi 4, £55.00… all for standard edition games with no bonuses of any kind.

Warriors orochi 4 is a rip off

Of course this doesn’t stop Koei Tecmo from selling a separate season pass on top of the base game for an additional £24.99 because apparently, paying £54.99 isn’t enough for us to be allowed to purchase a complete game. So if you’re wondering why I named the site Cynical Gaming Blog, it’s because of bullshit like this.

Welcome to modern gaming, where customers end up paying more for less, developers work longer hours for less pay and publishers are practically drowning in money to the point that they claim to need more money in order to resurface… except it just ends up making things worse and now they’re drowning in even more money.

Fuck the gaming industry.

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards Live – Watch me get my ass kicked by a kids game + Update

Update: Sadly something came up recently and as a result,  the site is going to be on hiatus for a bit longer… I’ll try to get back to making content ASAP.

E-Sports were a mistake…

Remember when playing videogames was about having fun and not a contest of ego’s? Those were good times. Unfortunately due to the fact that people are making ludicrous amounts of money playing videogames professionally, videogames are no longer about having fun, they are serious fucking business, you want proof? How about the recent shooting that occurred today at Jacksonville?

You’re probably thinking that I’m crazy for generalizing the entire E-Sports community with this one insane individual… but the fact of the matter is that competitive gaming as a whole has influenced this. Why? Because ever since gaming has rewarded large sums of money, people have taken games more seriously to the point that every single online multiplayer game is filled with toxic gamers, particularly Warcraft 3.

Now it’s one thing to call people names and taunt people and another to go out shooting people but if you think about it, it kind of makes sense how a shooting could occur at such an event considering how toxic gaming has become due to the rise of E-Sports. Even without the violence, E-Sports and all form of online gaming have been known to have heated arguments and conversations. Because of this, many gamers have developed not only a massive ego, but also a hostile temperament.

You can’t play any game online these days without meeting at least 1 hostile individual and who knows what that individual would be capable of if you were playing with them face to face. Considering what happened at Jacksonville, it’s pretty scary to think about the people who we are actually playing with or against in a videogame.

So you’re probably wondering, what actually happened at Jacksonville? Well apparently one person who just happened to lose in the competition decided to shoot one of the competitors, presumably out of spite. This makes perfect sense when you consider the fact that competitive gaming is a battle of ego’s. Even if money was not involved, competitive gaming has always had this problem, it is merely amplified by the fact that money is involved.

My point is that if you have a community that is hostile to one another, you are eventually going to encounter situations like this. It only takes one person to snap before they start getting violent. Now I’m not advocating against videogames in general, rather I am advocating against E-Sports. Videogames do not inherently encourage violence, ego’s on the other hand do. It’s just like getting drunk at a sports bar watching a football and getting into a bar fight just because your team lost and their team won, there really is no difference.

It just saddens me that gaming has this problem as well. I hate what E-Sports has done to gaming and I utterly despise the person who committed the shooting. I hope they rot in hell forever.

I really don’t know what else to say… this is just an absolutely fucking shit day for all gamers, even the innocent competitors. Though I may despise the competitive gaming community, none of them deserve to be shot.


If you want the full news article on what happened, here’s the link:


Castlevania: Curse Of Darkness Review

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Castlevania is one of Konami’s most popular franchises and for the longest time, I had never actually played any of them. My first Castlevania was actually the original NES game which I picked up on the Wii Virtual console. I found it to be extremely difficult and never got far into it, however I later played Super Castlevania 4 and despite struggling through some really tough sections, I eventually managed to beat it and while the game initially felt like a frustrating ordeal, by the end it actually grew on me.

Ever since finishing Super Castlevania 4, I suddenly got the urge to play other games in the series but I didn’t know where to start. One Castlevania game that caught my eye in particular was Castlevania: Curse Of Darkness, a 3D Beat Em Up game set in the Castlevania universe with the ability to summon demons to fight for you, as tempted as I was to pick the game up, I ended up playing Symphony Of The Night instead due to the fact that it was considered the series’ magnum opus and that Castlevania Curse Of Darkness received pretty mixed reviews.

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While Symphony Of The Night didn’t disappoint me in the slightest, when I finally played Curse Of Darkness, I realized that I had picked the wrong game. I mean don’t get me wrong, Symphony Of The Night is a wonderful game and definitely lives up to the hype but Curse Of Darkness was just begging for me to play it simply because it caters specifically to my tastes for better or worse.

Imagine what would happen if Chaos Legion, Castlevania Symphony Of The Night and Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner combined, that’s exactly what Castlevania Curse Of Darkness is, it’s a 3D beat em up, much like Chaos Legion in which you hack n slash enemies and summon demons to assist you but at the same time your demons can evolve and level up much like in Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner.

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The level design appears to be reminiscent to that of Castlevania Symphony Of The Night in the sense that it is tight yet somewhat open-ended. However I would argue that Symphony Of The Night provided more incentive to explore and there was a lot more freedom in terms of where you were allowed to go once you acquired the required abilities to traverse certain areas. That’s not to say that Castlevania Curse Of Darkness removes the aspect of backtracking to acquire new items, rather the progression in general feels a lot more linear.

I would argue however that the game more than makes up for this with its combat which is surprisingly flexible for a Castlevania game. Make no mistake, Castlevania Curse Of Darkness is not a metroidvania at its core, it is a 3D beat em up so if you are expecting a 3D version of Symphony Of The Night then you may be disappointed. Personally I find this to be a good thing as I enjoy beat em ups.

The combat itself feels like a combination between Chaos Legion and Dynasty Warriors, you have your basic attack string which can be cancelled into a finishing move by using the circle button. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well it would have been if it wasn’t for the Innocent Devils. By pressing triangle, you are able to command your Innocent Devil to perform a special ability… sound familiar? Yep it’s just like in Chaos Legion except this time, your summoned companion has several abilities to choose from, allowing you to mix things up. By pressing left and right on the d-pad, you can scroll between each ability in the heat of combat meaning that you don’t have to go into the menu to change abilities which allows for more flexibility in the combat.

Much like Chaos Legion however, Castlevania Curse Of Darkness doesn’t focus on building combos like Devil May Cry, rather the combat is designed around fighting a larger quantity of enemies much like Drakengard and Dynasty Warriors. As such, Castlevania Curse Of Darkness doesn’t try to be like Devil May Cry, rather it chooses to its own thing and in doing so, it manages to hold its own against other 3D beat em ups of its kind. However, I find the quantity of enemies to be slightly lower than other games of its kind and this can make a lot of the game’s arenas feel a bit empty at times as they can be pretty long and wide.

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Speaking of the arenas feeling huge and empty, the game’s protagonist, Hector moves considerably slower than other characters in the series and this is made even more apparent when you are trying to run from one room to the next as it can take a while to get from A to B which can be a bit irritating at times. I often find myself dodging to get to each area as it is faster than jogging but if you choose to do so, be careful if you have the double dodge ability switched on because if you dodge too quickly, Hector will have a long recovery period so you will have to time your dodges as you move between areas. Despite this, I highly recommend turning on the double dodge ability as it allows you to chain dodges faster, thus allowing you to move faster. Just be careful when you use it in battle as dodging too quickly can leave you vulnerable due to the recovery period.

Thankfully the dodge ability is accompanied with a guard ability and they both share the same button which means that even if you fail the dodge, the guard can still save you so long as the dodge animation has ended. Be careful though as enemies can break your guard if you guard for too long so it’s important to keep on the move in order to avoid getting hit. Once you unlock the perfect guard skill, you can time your guard perfectly in order to stagger the enemy, leaving them vulnerable to your combo’s so it’s a good idea to keep that in mind when guarding.

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I really like how the game offers plenty of options for defensive play as not only is guarding and dodging flexible but there are also skills your innocent devils can use to keep you safe from enemies and deal damage simultaneously. Curse Of Darkness may appear to be shallow on the aggressive side at first but once you unlock new Innocent devils and acquire new weapons, it really opens up. There are lots of different ways to play this game which is what ultimately makes Curse Of Darkness’ gameplay so appealing to me.

Aside from combat, Curse Of Darkness has a lot of RPG elements, so much so that it could arguably be considered an action RPG. Each enemy you slay will give experience to both Hector and your Innocent Devil companion. Bear in mind that in order to gain experience, the Innocent devil has to be summoned. Therefore it is often encouraged to switch things up every now and again to spread the experience points between each of them. On top of all that you may also acquire evolution crystals from enemies, these crystals can be collected by Hector to evolve the Innocent Devil that is currently summoned.

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Each Innocent Devil has its own evolution paths and in order to get the evolution you want, you will have to use a specific weapon. It’s often encouraged to experiment with different weapons each time you get a new Innocent Devil. If you screw up then don’t worry as your innocent devil can produce devil shards which give birth to new innocent devils so you can try new paths with them. In addition, these new Innocent Devils will carry over the stats of your current Innocent Devil, making them stronger in the long run.

Weapons and armor are crafted by obtaining materials dropped by enemies and combining them in the combine menu. You can also steal materials off of enemies by pressing the circle button on them when the lock on cursor is purple but it can be quite difficult to do so against some enemies as to trigger the steal option, there are certain conditions that must be met with each enemy and some steal conditions are absolutely ludicrous. Stealing is hands down the most challenging aspect of Curse Of Darkness and can be quite frustrating at times, especially against bosses as you only have one chance to steal from them outside of the boss rush mode which is a pain.

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In addition to stealing and killing enemies, certain ingredients can be found in secret areas which usually require the abilities of certain Innocent Devils to access. This is similar to the form changing in Castlevania Symphony Of The Night in the sense that they’re used to traverse areas of the map that were otherwise inaccessible except this time, each Innocent Devil has its own abilities and some Innocent Devils may not have the abilities you need, requiring you to incubate another devil shard to pick another evolution path in order to acquire the abilities that are needed.

This can be a tad annoying to some and a bit cryptic but it’s only necessary for those looking to get 100% map completion as many of the items can be obtained through stealing anyways, thus diminishing the value of finding secret areas which may disappoint fans of Symphony Of The Night. On the bright side, it encourages players to experiment with different Innocent Devils and make use of the devil shards.

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Aside from devil forging, weapons play a major part in combat as each weapon  type has its own set of combos and finishers. In addition, some weapon types have a one-handed and two-handed variation which perform very differently. For example, one handed swords are handy against mermen as they have the tendency to dodge a lot and are often attack in groups. Since one handed swords have long attack strings, reasonable AOE potential and high attack speed, they are a great weapon to use against them. A two handed axe on the other hand would have trouble hitting them as it is a lot easier for them to dodge a slower weapon despite its reach.

To get the most out of Castlevania Curse Of Darkness, you really need to be experimental and not stick to a favored playstyle. On surface, the combat may not appear to be very flexible but that’s because in order to change weapons and innocent devils, you have to use the menu and since changing weapons and innocent devils is important, you will spend a lot of time going in and out of the menu screen to do so.

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Curse Of Darkness isn’t the first Castlevania game to have this issue as Symphony Of The Night also suffered from this problem. While this could be problematic for people who want to play a more seamless 3D beat em up, I personally don’t have an issue with it as the menu is paused and not in real time. This means that I don’t have to consider time spent navigating the menu as a resource cost. I’d also like to point out that Curse Of Darkness doesn’t require you to equip items in order to use them like in Symphony Of The Night so its menu navigation isn’t half as irritating as the equip menu isn’t as cluttered.

So Curse Of Darkness is not only a solid 3D beat em up but it also has some pretty deep character management to the extent that it could even be considered an action RPG. Despite how common it is to see RPG elements these days, I’d argue that Curse Of Darkness has more depth in its RPG elements than most beat em ups and I personally consider this to be one of the game’s biggest strong points as the ability to level up and evolve your Innocent Devils is rewarding in itself as there are many different possible evolution forms for you to discover which gives more of an incentive to play the game.

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I personally think that this winning formula is ultimately what makes Curse Of Darkness stand out from other 3D beat em ups. If you’re looking for a game that is similar to Drakengard, Chaos Legion, Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner or even Kingdom Hearts 2 then you’ve found the right game because all of these games have one thing in common, they are all action games in which you primarily control a single character and they each have some kind of leveling system to give players a feeling of progression. This is what Castlevania Curse Of Darkness is all about and it’s the best of the bunch in my opinion as it arguably has the perfect mixture of action and RPG elements within the framework of a 3D beat em up.

That’s not to say that the game isn’t without its flaws, while the need to constantly access the menu mid battle and the more streamlined level design could be considered flaws, they can easily be overlooked. What cannot be overlooked however is the visuals which are pretty mediocre for a 2005 game. It doesn’t help that a lot of the locations in the game look as if they were copy/pasted, particularly in the final area. To the game’s credit, there are some unique locations at certain points which help mix things up but the majority of the game has you exploring what looks to be a copy/paste of a previous room.

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If it wasn’t for the in-game map, navigation in Curse Of Darkness would be an absolute nightmare as nearly everywhere you go looks the same. It doesn’t help that the arenas are big an empty as it can take ages to reach an area that looks different due to Hector’s slow movement speed. As such, the value of exploration in Curse Of Darkness is crippled because if all the rooms look the same, what’s the point in wanting to see what is through the next door? It’s just going to be another copy/pasted arena with enemies to kill.

On the plus side, like in most Castlevania games, the music is on point. Despite its dark gothic setting, many of the tracks are surprisingly upbeat which can feel a bit jarring at times but the same can be said for most Castlevania games. The music succeeds where the visuals fail, some of the tracks help build a strong ambiance while others play to the game’s strengths by being more dynamic. As such, there’s a nice variety of tracks on offer.

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Despite this however, due to the game’s lackluster visuals, any attempt for the game’s soundtrack to build a strong ambiance falls flat. So while many of the tracks that build a strong ambiance are nice to listen to, they tend to blend in with the visuals poorly. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed Curse Of Darkness’ soundtrack and I highly recommend listening to it outside the game to better appreciate it. The music is arguably the most fun part of backtracking to previous areas if you ask me.

Aside from the visuals, the only other flaw that could be considered a major flaw is the fact that the Innocent Devils themselves aren’t exactly balanced as some abilities are better than others, therefore you may end up using the same abilities over and over again simply because they are better than the rest. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of useful abilities in this game but some of them just aren’t as good as others and some of them are a bit too good to the point that they could be considered overpowered.

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I personally think that this flaw is justified due to the fact that there are many different Innocent Devils and they each come with their own abilities, it would be difficult to balance them all. With that said, Chaos Legion also suffered from balancing issues and I can safely say that Curse Of Darkness suffers from them a lot less than Chaos Legion despite the fact that Chaos Legion only has 7 legions to manage with only 1 assist ability for each.

As for the story, there isn’t really too much to say really. The story revolves around the characters Hector and Issac primarily who appear to have some sort of rivalry. Hector himself appears to be a dignified yet somewhat paranoid character who is prepared to fight anyone who stands in his way in order to avenge the death of his former lover by defeating Issac, a flamboyant servant of Dracula who scorns Hector for making a mockery out of him by abandoning his service to Dracula.

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While the story does its job, it doesn’t really take center stage. One thing I can comment on however is the voice cast. Crispin Freeman and Liam’ O’Brien were the perfect roles for their respective characters, Liam especially since he has the tendency to voice a lot of flamboyant characters, particularly those who are aristocratic or insane. Crispin Freeman tends to play the dignified role well in pretty much every game he’s been in which makes him very fitting for Hector. I think the voice acting of these two characters is what makes the story as while the writing itself isn’t anything special, the delivery is perfect in every way.

While it might not be everybody’s cup of tea, Castlevania Curse Of Darkness does its best to cater to its crowd. If you’re a fan of 3D beat em ups then I can definitely recommend this game to you, I can also recommend this game to fans of RPGs in general as the Innocent Devils add a lot of growth and personalization to the game that many RPG fans will enjoy. Ultimately I’d argue that Castlevania Curse Of Darkness is a solid game as it manages to hold its own against other 3D beat em ups well enough to be considered a gem on the PS2.

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Plot/Story: Mediocre

Visuals: Mediocre

Music: Great

Gameplay: Great

Lifespan: Decent Length

Difficulty: Easy

Would You Replay? Yes

Overall: Great

Value: £40.00

Purchase Castlevania:Curse of Darkness (PS2)