Chains Of Darkness, A Review

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I haven’t written anything for a while, and that was okay, until I played the worst app game I’ve ever seen. It’s not okay anymore. I’m climbing back onto the soapbox to tell you all a tale. A tale of a game that never wanted to be written. A game that fought its creators, tooth and nail, to keep itself from happening. You might say it lost the fight because the game exists now and you can play it, but trust me when I say that it’s still doing everything in its power to bring itself crashing down. I’m getting way too far ahead of myself, though. Let’s dial it back a couple of notches and figure out what’s going on here.

American_McGee_Alice_cover

A really amazing game. Creative and intuitive. The opposite of Chains of Darkness.

It all starts with Doom and my obsession with it years ago. Wolfenstein 3D was pretty much the computer game when I was younger, but Doom came out and made Wolfenstein look like a joke. I had tremendous respect for the people who were involved in the Doom games because they were a huge step forward. At the end of each session I would read over the names of the programmers, wishing my name could be one of them. Special Thanks to American McGee. It always stuck out in my head. I thought it was a company, to be honest, and didn’t know it was a person for quite a while. He went on to make the Alice games bearing his name, which I always had a tremendous amount of respect for. My girlfriend is an even bigger fan than I am, though, and she would very much like to obtain a copy of the third installment, which is actually going to be a movie. The only way to do that currently is to reach VIP level six in Chains of Darkness, a game made by Spicy Horse, a company McGee started in China. This is where the nightmare begins.

Nothing is as Dark as a bunch of horned skeletons humping a tower. Be afraid.

Nothing is as Dark as a bunch of horned skeletons humping a tower. Be afraid.

I’ll start off by telling you honestly that I couldn’t find a lot of information about what VIP level six entailed or how difficult it would be. The deadline is the end of the month, so I figured I had enough time. As it turns out, time was never really the question. You attain VIP status by paying money for in game currency, but I still couldn’t find any data on how much I’d actually have to pay in order to get to level six. It seemed like an interesting trap where you’d get about fifty dollars in and realize you have to spend a hundred and fifty more or the fifty you spent would be for nothing. Since you only see how much it costs to get to the next level when you reach the one before it, it can be quite a slippery slope. Needless to say, I didn’t discover this until after I’d spent hours playing the game like a moron, though, so allow me to channel my misery to you through the magic of words.

If you’re a recurring reader, you may remember my Blood Brothers blog, where I basically laid out the complicated mess that played as an RPG card game. You do roughly the same thing over and over with a group of different “cards” that are really more like characters. They level up and you do that same thing a little bit faster. Blood Brothers was actually a little bit of fun when it wasn’t rigged against the player. It was rigged, though, and that made the game not fun. Chains of Darkness takes the simplicity of Blood Brothers and cooks it down further. Every map is the same three room crawl. You kill the first room, waddle to the next, kill that room, meander on into the “boss room” and kill them. Then the map is over. This formula never changes, ever. Sure, there are different areas on the big map where you select what you’re going to do, but they all lead to the same three room bullshit. And oh my lord, does it ever fucking crawl.

Oh no, it's four invisible men again! Oh, no, hold on a second. They just need a minute to talk themselves into being a part of this game.

Oh no, it’s four invisible men again! Wait, hold on a second. They just need a minute to talk themselves into being a part of this game.

I’ll grant that the phone I was playing it on was not the greatest, but still, you would think that it would be able to run such a simple game. No sir. Every enemy is 3D, and they aren’t just standing there when you walk into a room. They’re animated crawling out of the floor, usually about twenty seconds after you get into the room on my device, and when they attack your cards they run forward and hit you in the face instead of your cards, though they take the damage. I have to be honest with you, I hate that shit. It takes about a full minute to load and that’s just to get to the menu where you log into the actual game, which takes more load time. I’m pretty sure they’re working on the world’s most complicated inefficiency engine as we speak to apply to a future update. To go from leveling a character to leveling their skill back to the map takes way longer than it should. There are way too many steps and not nearly enough “optimize” options here.

Enhance the shit out of those guys!

Enhance the shit out of those guys!

In Blood Brothers and similar games, you would trade in your acquired in-game tokens for a card of variable values. In Chains of Dickness you get shards of a card instead of the actual card. Just collect sixty of those badboys and you’ll be on your way. On your way to wasting your time even further. Any move that is not a “hit all targets” move is a waste of time. The “boss rooms” are a fucking joke. You’ll be hard pressed to tell who the boss is because they all die just as easily as the next one. I guess it’s the one in the middle? Since there’s no need for a power move to take out a strong boss you basically always want to hit everyone. That’s the other thing. You’re allowed to bring a partner with you into each map. This person is usually way more powerful than you are and will wipe the boss room with a single attack, which is also all you get from them, but when you consider the rooms leading up the boss rooms are even easier, it makes the whole Three Room Fandango an even bigger joke. You don’t deal “damage” either, when you hit targets. You deal “enhance”. I don’t know what that means. There’s a grid at the top right corner of the screen that tells you the order of which element trumps which for attacks and defense, but it’s pretty stupid because it always tells you who is weak to the attack of the player you’re currently using.

"Just to be clear, you said I could name the moves whatever the fuck I wanted."

“Just to be clear, you said I could name the moves whatever the fuck I wanted.”

The real slap in the face, though, is the way the stupid attacks are named. There’s nothing that says “I don’t really give a fuck about my job” quite like the Giant Blade of Triple Ouch. Really? Really. That’s what you went with? I get it. I’m actually working on and off on an RPG and that empty “attack name” window can be daunting at times. I’ve filled in some pretty stupid names early on because I knew I’d go back and change them as I reached closer to a finished product. After the first little bit, to be honest, I stopped using absurd names completely because it felt like I wasn’t taking my work seriously and it detracted from the game. The same thing happens here. You can’t find something from fiction or history that resembles hitting something three times with an axe? It causes “immediate 127% damage” which is rather amusing. I suppose we’re taking dots, or Damage Over Time spells, here, but I can’t be certain because the most shards of any of the asshole cards that I got was two out of thirty for the shittiest card there was. I got to sample some of the more powerful ones other people had unlocked, but I have to stress that only the ones that hit all targets are worth anything. Since everyone starts with the same four characters when you go to the arena it’s just a pile of people with the exact same group composition as your own. Just to make things even more redundant. I never got to use such dazzling attacks as the Spell Of Hurts Things A Lot or the [Fill in attack name later] lvl 44, but I’m sure they’re out there and that the animation for them is going to punish your mobile device for no good reason. They’ve taken away a lot of the decent things from the genre and really only added 3D rendering that tries, poorly, to distract you from how simple the mechanism is.

We're taking back our Special Thanks now. You, sir, are a scoundrel.

We’re taking back our Special Thanks. You, sir, are a scoundrel.

So this is where we stand now. One of the people I always looked up to is making people play and pay money into this terrible game in order to make it look like it’s actually worth playing in order to get something from a completely unrelated game that’s actually worthwhile instead of just selling it like a sane person would do. How the mighty have fallen. To think that this day would come. Younger, teenaged me is rolling over in his grave. Yes, that’s right. Younger teenaged me is dead now. Dead from Chains of Darkness directly to the shame. A crushing blow to my hopes and dreams. Crushing Blows, that’s a great name for an axe move that hits three times. Much more fitting, as this game certainly blows.

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