Developer: Puuba Games
Preview Platform: PC (Steam)
Preview Copy Provided By: Mastertronic
Release Date: April 29, 2015
I can’t speak for everyone, but when it comes to RPGs I have a tendency to get too attached to a specific weapon or weapon type. I’ll find a machine gun in Borderlands and keep it for probably longer than I should, level-wise, until something finally comes along to sway me, and I had the same problem during my brief stint with Destiny. Thanks to it’s frantic nature, Puuba Games’ new hyperactive action-RPG The Weaponographist has done much to shed me of my weapon-hoarding ways.
Ostensibly a dungeon crawler, The Weaponographist puts you in the shoes of demon-hunting blowhard Doug McGrave, who is quickly placed under a witch’s curse after refusing to rid a desperate village of its monster infestation for free. But instead of your more traditional curses, like making him super-skinny or turning him into a newt, the spell instead strips him of all his powers and slowly reduces his possessions to dust.
What does this mean for you, the player? It means you better keep grabbing weapons! The Weaponographist plays out much like your typical old-school dungeoner, not unlike the Shining series or the more recent rash of roguelikes that keep popping up on Steam (and handhelds, which is odd), but with a lot of gameplay twists to set it apart from the usual treasure-hoarding, stat-boosting action.
See, you can get Doug to level up, but the aforementioned curse means his leveling doesn’t stick around. Instead of experience points, you’re working to fill a combo meter, where the longer your meter stays full the higher a level you can reach, which provides an instant boost to your attack strength, which allows you to kill more monsters, which keeps your bar full…and so on. The rewards for fighting well are more immediately provided than in most other action RPGs, and the fact you don’t really have any stats to level up during the heat of battle keeps you focused on maintaining a high combo meter, which is exactly the sort of gameplay loop the game seems to be striving for.
Your weapons fall victim to the curse as well, and this is honestly the most fun part of the whole game. Every weapon you pick up has it’s own health bar that decreases the more you use it – for projectile weapons it decreases every time you shoot it, for melee weapons it decreases every time it hits an enemy, so on and so forth. If the bar empties, you’re left with nothing but your trusty fists until an enemy drops something else.
This leads to a pretty unique spin on action-RPG combat, wherein you constantly find yourself scrambling around the levels trying to juggle whatever weapons your defeated enemies see fit to drop. It forces a lot of flexibility on the player’s part, wherein they can’t always rely on one type of weapon because the variety of enemies – including female elven archers, tommy-gun-toting orcish mobsters, and whip-wielding lion lion tamers (like, a lion dressed as a lion tamer) – means you’ll be faced with a different set of weapons for nearly every room. It’s easy to fall into the trap of getting too used to the tommy gun and suddenly finding yourself with only swords available to you, and that sort of enforced adaptability has led to some of the most fun combat I’ve seen in a game for a while.
You’re not totally dependent on the items found in the dungeon, however. There are plenty of vendors in town that are able to buff your stats permanently, but it becomes something of a guessing game. Sure, you’ve been seeing a lot of swords around, so you buy a couple bonuses to the damage you do with swords…but what if swords become scarcer in later levels of the dungeon and you’re stuck using weapons you haven’t put any points into? It asks for a different kind of foresight than most RPGs and it’s kind of refreshing to see.
There’s really a lot to like about The Weaponographist. The art style is cartoony without being too locked into an obviously Japanese and/or European style like a lot of dungeon crawlers go for these days, the dialogue is amusing without trying too hard, and the gameplay proves strangely addicting. Once you really get into the groove (as the directional-based controls really do take some getting used to, and resulted in more deaths for me than I’m comfortable admitting), you’ll find it pretty hard to put down, as the unique thrill of juggling several different weapon types and combat styles never really loses it’s charm. Action RPG fans looking for a new (but not wholly alien) take on things should keep an eye on The Weaponographist when it hits Steam in the end of April, so long as it can remain fun for the length of an entire game.