"You know, not every game needs a RPG levelling mechanic"

January 10, 2010 § 1 Comment

Castle Crashers is a game I’ve been dipping in and out between more heavy-weight titles such as Borderlands or Halo 3: ODST. While it has a fantastic presentation and a lot of content, it doesn’t come across to me as that great a brawler, and here’s why:

  1. AI enemies can continually hit you while you’re incapacitated on the ground (cheap and irritating design).
  2. RPG stats levelling dictate, to a good extent, how fast you progress through the game.

Recently, it seems that you can’t find a game that doesn’t have some form of RPG levelling mechanic in place. In many games they are well implemented and compliment the core design, adding a layer of superficial depth and giving the player incentive to progress. Batman: Arkham Asylum, incidentally, does it pretty well.

Unfortunately, sometimes the shoe just doesn’t fit, and here we come to Castle Crashers.

The problem with Castle Crashers is that you are forced to grind and repeat levels over and over so you can progress through to the next one. Now, if the combat was as well designed to allow a player to win purely through skill, this wouldn’t be an issue. As it happens, it’s not. Because your attack and defense stats are directly tied to the levelling system, you just aren’t going to get very far on skill alone, unless you are also very, very lucky.

Another perpetrator of this kind of design philosophy was Dead Rising, which used roughly the same system. Again, all it meant was that the player had to replay sections of the game over and over, just so they could get their stats up to a certain level where they could get through.

Now, I’m sorry, but at what point did playing the same part of a game over and over equate to fun? I must have missed the memo or something.

Castle Crashers would have done far better not having stats levelling in there. It would have been a better game for it if all enemy stats were balanced against the player’s in a fair and even-handed way. If they felt they just had to have some manner of RPG-style progression in there somewhere, it could just be that for every level you gain you unlock a new combo – something ancillary like that, something that doesn’t totally unbalance the game and arbitrarily prevent the player from advancing.

Overall, Castle Crashers is a game I’d recommend, in spite of the flaws I’ve just outlined, because of its “charm”, in the way it references and pays homage to the genre. Purely as a brawler, though, in terms of the combat mechanics, it is merely competent and not much more.

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§ One Response to "You know, not every game needs a RPG levelling mechanic"

  • Dudacles says:

    I was kinda interested in Castle Crashers, but this text has sort of turned me off from the game.

    I agree with your sentiment. I have not played Castle Crashers (aside from about two minutes of gameplay in the trial version) but having to grind because it’s literally impossible to overpower a boss with your current level is a crime in terms of game design.

    On the other hand, I did not mind having to replay the beginning of Dead Rising so many times, but that was simply because I loved that game, and it’s probably one of my favourite games of all time. So yeah, my view may be somewhat… slanted there.

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