Indie games are great places to find fresh and inventive entertainment, provided one is willing to overlook the often less-than-stellar presentation. Din's Curse is one such title, containing a great many new ideas in an engine that needs just a bit of polish. Ostensibly a Diablo clone, I soon found that playing this title as a straightforward click-fest would quickly lead to frustration and disaster. Only after getting to know the game in greater detail did I begin to appreciate the innovations found inside. Many players, however, will not have the time or patience to see beyond the uninspiring dressing.
There's very little story to Din's Curse. It seems Our Hero has been very naughty in their life, and died a rather ignoble and pathetic death. As punishment (with a side of redemption), the god Din curses our stalwart protagonist back from the grave to right wrongs and generally do good throughout the land, and eventually be the Hero that they should have been the first time around. This is accomplished by saving a series of towns from the hideous evil lurking beneath their streets. As an aside, this world's urban development committee really needs some work, as each town is nestled atop such notable locales as "The Scowling Den" or "The Torment Tomb".
Regardless, players send their characters off into these dungeons, fulfilling quests and defending the town from the underworld denizens until that town is either saved from destruction or lost to the dark forces. Here's where Din's Curse begins to differ from the traditional action RPG--the quests come fast and furious, and each has a time limit to complete. The quests themselves are gained from the various townsfolk (and the hulking Din himself) who stand around topside. Failure to complete a quest often leads to a loss of reputation, the possible loss of townsfolk, and eventually the destruction of the town itself. In addition, some quests can be failed even if they are not accepted from the quest-givers, so the tactic of lingering on one quest at a time is a poor one. In fact, if played like the traditional action-RPG, in which one methodically clears level after level, the town will soon be in flames. Quests goals are randomly sprinkled throughout the multi-level dungeons, with targets often buried deep within the underworld. Much of my time was spent racing past hordes of foes to find my way to deeper levels before my time ran out.
And the monsters don't just hang out meekly by, waiting to be killed. Each dungeon has a boss monster, who takes an active role in the town's demise. Occasionally warning notices will be given, indicating that an uprising is taking place on a given level, or that a particular monster is getting uppity. Wait too long, and these monsters will take to the streets of the town itself, wreaking havoc on the townsfolk. I found the monsters that made it to town to be quite a handful to deal with, and if I took too long getting back to town to the rescue, half or more of the townsfolk (including vendors and precious quest-givers) lay bleeding at my feet. The pace of the quests is quite fun and exciting, and really drives the game to a completely new action RPG feel.
As for the characters themselves, they run the traditional gamut of fantasy archetypes. There are a handful of core characters, such as the priest, wizard, warrior, or thief, each with three skill trees from which to choose. As characters level, they gain ability and skill points to be spent throughout these areas. It's interesting to note that there are no pre-requisites for any of the skills, meaning that players can save up for a few levels early on and get some of the top-tier skills if they so choose. The core classes alone give a nice selection of choices, but Din's Curse offers a hybrid class as well. With the ability to pick any two skill trees from any of the classes, there are a great many combinations of character types to try out. In fact, many of the skills work much better in combination with out-of-class skills than with those from a given core class. Hybrid characters do get one less skill tree to develop, but that doesn't seem to be much of a problem.
The towns, dungeons, and quests are randomly generated throughout the game, so there will never be a repeat in terrain. This can lead to some frustratingly difficult (and simple) towns to explore. As a player either saves or loses a town, a new screen pops up letting players determine the relative starting difficulty of the next challenge. Saving enough towns will eventually earn Din's favor, although it's a lengthy process. And now for the not-so-great part of Din's Curse: the presentation. This title just lacks polish. For every innovation, such as powerful magics causing dangerous cave-ins, there are several lackluster audio and visual disappointments. Din's Curse simply doesn't look good. The colors are muddled, the randomly-designed dungeons quickly lose their appeal, and the character animations are downright bad. This last point was particularly jarring for me, as I would find my character oddly shooting bolts of fire from the middle of his back, skidding to halt several feet from where I indicated with my click, and woodenly swinging his weapon. Monsters would get caught in slow-downs followed by warp-speed moves. Combined with a slightly clunky control scheme that always seemed to do a little less than I wanted, I was often distracted out of my enjoyment by these quirks. I can often overlook less-than-stellar presentation in a title, but for some reason I just couldn't manage it here.
Still, there's fun to be had for those willing to dig into the subtleties of Din's Curse while overlooking its warts. With a seemingly active community playing this game, and an attentive developer monitoring the forums for suggestions and improvements, Din's Curse could evolve into something thoroughly enjoyable. With a little time, patience, and a desire to support the indie community, Din's Curse could be a solid little title for players willing to take the plunge, blemishes and all.