There’s nothing quite like a vast, expansive RPG. Exploration, discovery, combat, puzzles, and traps. You get all of it and come away with a good story. But what if you could squeeze all of that into just a few minutes? That’s the idea behind onebitbeyond’s The Swords of Ditto. I sat down last week at E3 and played a round of the game with director Jonathan “Bidds” Biddle, who previously worked on games like Stealth Inc. and Fluidity.
I often find myself frustrated with games that call themselves Roguelike because it’s so easy to lose meaningful progress. I only have so much time to play games, and a sense of progression helps me walk away feeling like I’ve done something with that time. The Swords of Ditto takes a page from Roguelikes, but doesn’t tie itself to that definition.
The game features the major hallmarks, like procedural level generation and high difficulty, but takes it in a slightly different direction. In my time with Biddle, we were able to finish the game on our first try. Now, he’s the director of the game and has played it countless times this week alone, so I had a slight advantage, but the takeaway should be that, once you make enough sense of the systems and mechanics, The Swords of Ditto is quite digestible. You won’t be simply playing until you die.
But where many games like this are brutally fast-paced, Ditto seeks to take you from the idyllic village life that begins classic RPGs up through the intense boss combat that ends them in the course of one game. Things start out slow. You’ll get the chance to navigate your little town, which combines elements both fantasy and modern into one place.
Visually, Ditto feels a lot like Adventure Time and other shows like it. There aren’t many sharp points to be found in the world. Instead of pointed leaves, trees are filled with drooping, green tendrils. Some things that shouldn’t have faces on them do for no special reason other than that it looks whimsical and cute. The color palette is bright and varied, but not eye-searing. Colors tend toward pastels or earthy tones. Your character is a tiny little stump of a person (or robot), but everything around you is over-sized, making it feel like you’re a kid going on a big adventure.
Maybe it’s a Zeldalike
The adventuring world seems to me to be inspired pretty obviously by The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past. There’s grass to swing at everywhere, and doing so will reveal pick-ups like coins and, of course, donuts. Everyone knows that you should definitely pick up and eat frosted donuts you find in the grass.
Each time you play, you’re on a quest to defeat a great evil, but the exact path and what you find along it are different each time. Exploration will reveal small dungeons to explore, each of which with their own puzzles. One of the items we had on hand was a vinyl record that acts a lot like Link’s boomerang, bouncing off walls and carrying fire with it. That item proved crucial in solving a couple of those puzzles.
This equipment and any you pick up, along with any experience you gain, carry over to the next game. So there’s the risk of starting over after each death, but you don’t lose everything for a silly mistake.
My time with The Swords of Ditto was short, but I had a blast. I felt like I grasped the control and pacing of the game immediately. You can play it fully alone, but you can also dive in with a friend for some local co-op play, and that makes all the stuff I’m enjoying about the game even better. The Sword of Ditto is set to release in early 2018, so we can look for it pretty soon. It’s heading to PlayStation 4 and PC, and onebitbeyond has confirmed that the game will run at 4K on systems that support it.