The Games of Christmas ’11: Day 15

Christmas is a time for giving. A time for giving every spare second of your time to a doomed quest for meaningless glory that no-one else will ever care about.

(Christmas is also a time for party-sized tubs of delicious savoury treats such as Mini Cheddars, Cheeselets and dry-roasted peanuts, but that’s another story).

It’s… Realm Of The Mad God!

Should one of your games of the year be a game that you are actually too scared to play again? Realm of the Mad God was my crack addiction tragedy in 2011 – the whole gamut from curiosity to enjoyment to compulsion to eventual devastation, guilt and partial insanity. It could, perhaps, have happened to me with any game. Clearly, something dark and needy hides within me somewhere, and ROTMG just happened to be the game that brought it out.

There’s reason it was this particular game, however: it’s a concentrated hit of the pure stuff at the heart of both MMOs and shmups. Kill, kill, kill, upgrade, upgrade, upgrade, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me. Nominally a massively co-operative game, in practice it’s nothing of the sort, but instead a rampant, wild hunger for your own advancement and pathetically short-term rewards.

You play near-silently, barely tolerating the presence of others on your screen because, while they help take down the monsters, as soon as the fight’s over they’ll become your arch-rivals for any loot left in the battle’s wake. Look at you all, scrabbling in the dirt for others’ cast-offs. Pathetic.

Realm of the Mad God is the brothel of RPGs, a dark and seedy place where men go to slake their most foul and selfish desires. It offers no pretence about being anything noble, no complicated controls, no real higher purpose to speak of. It is there to cater to your whims – those whims being “killing loads of things” and “making some numbers gradually increase.” It’s just fancy masturbation, kidding yourself that it means something and that anyone else involved cares in the slightest.

There’s barely any skill to it outside of common sense timing and dodging, instead it’s just a high-speed grind. But it’s the proof of why people grind, rather than why they shouldn’t. That sense of progression, even if only you can see it, feels so damned important. You must reach level 12, you must find a better bow, you must find a ring of defence… It doesn’t matter in the slighest, most especially because you’ll just start another character the second you die. It matters completely.

The Mad God? That’s not Oryx, the sadistic world-ruler you’re theoretically there to kill. That’s you, an insane deity bent on self-indulgence, sacrificing legions of tiny, silent heroes simply to achieve your idiot goal of finding items with better statistics.

This all sounds like a diatribe against the raw evil of this simple little free browser game. It’s quite the opposite: a celebration of one game’s absolute honesty in an age where so many others prevaricate and lie about what they really offer us and why we really play them.

Alternatively: it’s just an entertaining twin-stick shooter with RPG mechanics.


  1. BlueMaxima says:

    I liked this game from TB’s Lets Play.

    And what happened to the Hedone giveaway? Nudge nudge wink wink.

  2. Robslap says:

    …and cheese footballs. Why does no one ever remember the cheese footballs at Christmas time??? THE HUMANITY!!!

  3. Maldomel says:

    I completely agree with that description. This game is so simple, so frustrating and meaningless and yet so addictive at the same time. I’m not much of a grinder, but being with others players several levels higher than me and participating in big fights where I could get one-shotted (and I did) was really pleasing.

    Also, I met the mad god himself, and while it was a titanic fight between a horde a looters and every monsters he threw at us, I still managed to survive for at least a minute before dying (and I’m quite proud of that for what it’s worth).

  4. Meat Circus says:

    I cannot allow myself to play this. IT WOULD BE BAD.

  5. rocketman71 says:

    Still no SpaceChem?

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      Well, there’s nine days left on the calendar, and there’s quite a few obvious ones left to go. Here’s my HIT PREDICTION (in no order).

      (EDIT: I thought Frozen Synapse was in last year’s list. It wasn’t, so in it goes. I forgot about Dungeons Of Dredmor too, though I don’t think it’s a given. And I’m thinking Trine 2 will still sneak in despite its tardiness.

      So that’s thirteen games and only nine slots. I’d say that leaves Stealth Bastard and the Wadget Eye stuff out. What else did I miss?)

      (2ND EDIT: Zankmam has pointed out below that Magicka was this year too – I thought it was 2010. Christ on a bike some great stuff came out this year. How on earth did Dead Island make it into the list? )

      To The Moon
      Frozen Synapse
      The Binding Of Isaac
      Human Revolution
      Trine 2

      outside bets:
      Dungeons Of Dredmor
      Stealth Bastard
      The Blackwell Deception
      Gemini Rue

      And I’m almost certain that Skyrim will take out #24.

      Also: It’s been a fairly fucking incredible year for PC games.

    • Meat Circus says:

      I reckon at least three games in that list are more likely to be GOTY than Skyrim, which whilst lots of fun, is just too fucking shoddy in far too many areas to deserve that honour.

    • qrter says:

      I’d hope to see Dungeons of Dredmor to still pop up, too.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      @Meat Circus

      I definitely agree with you about Skyrim, and I’ll be sorely disappointed if it claims the title.


      Gah! I knew I forgot one.

    • fauxC says:

      I’ll be disappointed if Jamestown doesn’t make an appearance.

    • Xocrates says:

      Given that Trine 2 was released after they started the list, I’ll be very surprised if it does pop up.

    • Meat Circus says:

      FROZEN SYNAPSE, you bad gods.

    • TODD says:

      Jamestown was fun as all get out, but mechanically it was just another scrolling shooter. I was playing those in my browser in the 90s. It didn’t even have the single “unique” gimmick that any given indie game typically exploits until you fall out of your chair from boredom. Rock Paper Shotgun loves to suck off indie developers who pay homage to retro games, but there is no way it should be on the list.

    • psycho7005 says:

      Don’t forget, Minecraft was released this year…

    • fauxC says:

      I tend to measure greatness by how much things make me grin like a lunatic (either that or by how much they make me weep like a child), and Jamestown definitely did that for me (the grinning, not the weeping). Also it’s the first SHMUP in a long time that hasn’t seen me just bounce off a ridiculous difficulty curve. Also also the art and music are glorious.

      By the by, if we’re going down that road, it’s easy to dismiss lots of things as “just another x”. At least it’s not an FPS, eh?

    • TODD says:

      FauxC, that’s an oversimplification. I am quick to criticize any FPS that fails to iterate meaningfully on what came before. Battlefield 3, for instance, is fairly similar to previous Battlefield games, but has improved and iterated enough that it justifies its new number “3” and release date in 2011. It’s fashionable to criticize it for being too similar to certain other flashy shooty games… but oh, how quickly we forget Duke Nukem Forever. BF3 could have been much worse, and, single player campaign be damned, to my eyes it’s one of the three best games of the year.

      Jamestown is fun, but mechanically and graphically it’s very similar to something you would play a decade ago. It’s OK to like a game just for being fun without regurgitating the same tired drivel about a low-budget title’s “artistic achievement” between drags on your hand-rolled cigarette.

    • Inglourious Badger says:


      Replace Magicka with Dungeons of Dredmor, and Trine 2 with Gemini Rue and I think you might be right

    • Juan Carlo says:

      The only game left I could agree with as game of the year is “Frozen Synapse.”

      I’ll be disappointed if they pick Skyrim or Deus Ex.

  6. sinister agent says:

    This one almost consumed me, too, and I hate grind. It’s a shooter with RPG trappings for sure, but none of the tedious bollocks of most MMOs.

  7. DigitalSignalX says:

    This game is exactly the sort of thing that makes me anticipate Diablo 3 all the more. As a hardcore only player, I am sooo anxious to get cracking into the nail biting suspense of a 1 life .. erm.. lifestyle again, only with all of Blizzards character diversity, polish and magnificent graphics on top.

  8. cptgone says:

    what a lovely write up! makes me feel like i know all there is to know about a game i never even played.
    it’s a good thing you guys don’t charge us for being our gaming stand-ins ;)

    • Metonymy says:

      Yep, this piece was written properly. I don’t feel like I usually do, that an important detail was left out.

      “The Mad God? That’s not Oryx, the sadistic world-ruler you’re theoretically there to kill. That’s you, an insane deity bent on self-indulgence, sacrificing legions of tiny, silent heroes simply to achieve your idiot goal of finding items with better statistics. ”


  9. Kyrall says:

    I agree, this is an awesome game, but its shocking that you can write about it without mentioning its major feature: perma-death.
    For me, this is where the absolute beauty of this game lies, drawing the perfect line between risk/greed. Do you wager your L20(max) character for better loot? You bet! But are you sure you can hit teleport back to safety like a coward in time? Utterly exhilarating!

  10. Zankmam says:

    Still no Magicka? :C

    BTW, I personally played this game for, like 2 straight hours… But I didn’t die.

    Since then (like, 2 months ago), I haven’t played the game.
    It’s ultra fun, but I just haven’t got to playing it some more. :/

  11. JFS says:

    Oh good lord, why do you bring this up again? It was one of the very few sites I had to put into a browser add-on that limits your surfing on said sites. It’s devastating. DON’T START, KIDS!

  12. Inglourious Badger says:

    Hooray, I was waiting for this year’s Space Funeral! i.e. a game I never even bloody heard of and RPS (quite rightly in Space Funeral’s case) think it’s one of the games of the year. I will play it…

  13. fhfghf says:

    Happy 2012 new year,Merry Christmas ,Christmas top gift
    link to

  14. Buzko says:

    I suspect I was playing it wrong, but I made it to level 20 with my first character in my first play session. Have they nerfed difficulty recently?

    It seemed to respond quite well to hoarding potions, running back to earlier, safer areas when your health gets low, and concentrating on one lot of enemies at a time. I died when I decided to charge for the biggest concentration of green dots. I tried to dodge my way there, but got stuck and killed fairly rapidly.

    What are you supposed to do once you get to level 20?