Impressions: Dragon Fin Soup

The story for desperately poor role-playing game Dragon Fin Soup eventually stumbles into view a couple of hours or so in. When it arrives, it turns out it’s about having no bloody memory and your bloody family you can’t remember is probably involved with some bloody thing and there’s this bloody enemy who wants to get you. Grief.

Unfortunately, what at first glance appears to be a cutesy top-down RPG with intriguing procedural missions turns out to be a dry, dreary, and most of all, glitchy bore.

Dragon Fin Soup’s [official site] attempt at a cold opening is perhaps something that will work for those familiar with RPGs, and something that will be utterly off-putting for anyone attracted by the game’s cheery presentation and lady protagonist. So, an odd choice.

In fact, the whole game is made of odd choices, odd design decisions, that reek of not having been properly play-tested with real people.

There are no in-game options at all – even quitting requires going to the “save” menu. Which means there’s also no way to assign short-cut keys. Opening your inventory and character details require repeated mouse-clicks, and getting rid of them again involves jumping around the screen to find the various Xs that will let you get back to the game again. There’s no short-cut options for health potions, no explanation given of weapons or their use, and although playable with keyboard and/or mouse, when you pick up a controller you realise why it all feels so clumsy – it’s designed for console, and the conversion wasn’t very carefully considered.

When you travel there’s a chance of an encounter, a typical affair of bandits demanding gold or a fight. And in another example of the game surely not listening to feedback, defeating the enemies causes you to be forcibly taken back to the map before you’ve finished exploring the little area, meaning you miss out on any bonus items that might be around. There’s not a single person on Earth who wants a game to play like that.

I’ve also found some entertaining exploits. Finish a mission and it once again drags you to the map no matter how much you had left to do in that zone. But when I clicked back to return to one area, the mission completer was still there, and speaking to him let me trigger the mission reward again. It added a thousand gold to my pockets every time I did it!

Sadly not all the bugs and glitches are nearly so friendly. All movement feels clumsy, no matter the controls (and, if anything, movement is worst on a controller), making you as likely to hit something as walk past it, and occasionally seeming to refuse to let you face an enemy. The top-down perspective really neatly demonstrates why games use isometric views, causing most of everything to be blocked from view, and leading to confusion over where you should be clicking for any obscured tile. Amazingly, there’s no transparency when in combat behind a building or similar.

But most of all, there’s a bug both Adam and I encountered. For him, it told him that if he left the mission area without killing all the enemies, he’d fail the mission, despite there being no enemies to kill. Annoying, but possible to restart. For me, it trapped me in a cell about ten tiles big and told me it wouldn’t open the door until I’d killed all the no enemies. At which point I clicked the far more amenable X in the top right of the game’s window, and it troubled me no more.

Randomly generating your locations for missions is a good idea in many games, but it carries the huge risk of creating dull spaces. In Dragon Fin Soup they’re almost uniquely so, with laborious chopping of foliage leading to dead end after dead end, rather then hidden treasure or bonus finds. It’s just not the sort of game that lends itself to the notion, and the result kills off just about any desire to continue playing I was left with.

Dragon Fin Soup is out now.

45 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    What a shame.

    • archgaden says:

      Only bug I’ve hit with the PC version was a fishing bug that got fixed with the 1.02 patch last night. I haven’t had any crashes or stuck missions, although I know some of those issues exist by watching the forums. There is a 1.03 patch out soon that will fix some of that. PS version is slower to patch due to the longer sony process.

    • C0llic says:

      I bought this to try it, and after just over two hours of trying to like it, I requested a refund. Thankfully steam accepted.

      I’ve never tried to get a refund before. This game really is bad, stay away.

  2. RedViv says:

    Odd. I wonder whether my current streak of not seeing bugs is due to playing the filthy peasant station version, or if I was merely lucky. Those are some might ones though. :/

    • Mokinokaro says:

      The PS4 version seems to run okay (and controls better than what this article makes m+k sound like) but it’s still not a great game.

      Guess that’s why they’re giving it away with the annual subscription.

    • tehfish says:

      I’m playing the PS Vita verson. There is definately some bugs to fix (had it crash out twice during battles, but thats over 3-4hours playtime) Haven’t yet had any actual gameplay problems yet though.

  3. anHorse says:

    I went to try it.

    I got to the opening menu and almost immediately gave up, when the gameplay wasn’t any better I was done.

    I don’t know if it is a mobile/tablet port but it feels like a desperately poor one

    • anHorse says:

      I clearly stole “desperately poor” from the opening of this very article.
      How rude of me

  4. Thurgret says:

    “The top-down perspective really neatly demonstrates why games use isometric views”

    This phrase confuses me.

    • Jeremy says:

      I am also confused.

    • kwyjibo says:

      In an isometric view, the vertical axis (the player character) is not parallel with the horizontal axes (the movement plane).

      You can more clearly see stuff.

      • MadMinstrel says:

        No. An isometric view is any view where the scale is equal along each axis of projection.

        • MadMinstrel says:

          Addendum: This does not mean you were wrong, it’s just that that’s not the definition of an isometric projection.

          P.S. Implement an edit button already RPS, this is 2015.

      • Premium User Badge

        Drakesden says:

        In other words, you’re not playing on square tiles, but rather diamond tiles, Walls are diagonal rather than horizontal and vertical. Think SimCity 2000, or Civ 3 (but not 4), etc.

        I hadn’t really thought of John’s point before now, but the isometric view probably does make it a bit easier to see. Even then, walls & trees should get at least a bit transparent when there’s something behind them.

    • LogicalDash says:

      “Top-down” in this instance refers to a flattened perspective where objects are seen as if from the side, but they’re laid out on the screen as if seen from above. So you only see the one side of most objects. Makes it hard to tell how long they are.

      With isometric projection — dimetric, too, which is what many game cameras called “isometric” really use — you can see two sides, and if those sides are the same length, perspective will shorten them the same amount.

  5. reggiep says:

    I must’ve been drunk when I kickstarted this shit. I was sold on the art style alone.

    • Baines says:

      With decades of other Roguelikes to draw information from, and even decades of other Roguelites designed specifically for consoles, one would expect a polished-looking project to not fall prey to such design issues.

  6. archgaden says:

    I don’t think they’re really giving the game a fair shake. It really is quite fun if you’re willing to get over a short learning curve (practically no learning curve if you’re an RPG fan). The art style is awesome and the humor has kept me laughing through story mode so far. The game has some decent depth to it, which is the rogue-like element many of us craved when the game was first announced. I’m having fun with it.

    Fair negative points: The controls and interface are console nerfed… so us PC gamers have to suffer that inefficiency. The movement is a bit wonky and it’s hard to see everything going on because of the view.

    On the flipside, the game is getting patched to fix a lot of the control and interface oddity. I even made a suggestion to nerf the craft timer on the forums (because who needs a craft timer in single player?!).. and that’s going live with the next patch! The Devs are freakin awesome.

    • C0llic says:

      It’s just incredibly bland though. There are loads of rouge-likes on steam that do everything this game does but better. The art style really doesn’t help it either, since to me at least it started to feel very cheap and lifeless once i realised every character was pretty much just a pixel snapshot of the art at the top rotated as appropriate.

      You can almost never see what you’re doing either because of obscured tiles, or horrible, far too opaque clouds or mist, or whatever it’s supposed to be.

      Try Sword of the Stars: The pit instead, or any other rogue like that plays in the same way.

      • LutherBlissett says:

        This is a Zelda-esque game with some procedural elements and crafting and for that I enjoy it. Seems like everyone else expected Tales of Maj’Eyal or Sword Of The Stars: The Pit. It is nothing like those games.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      I really didn’t struggle to know how to play the game. The game struggled to be played. I believe I gave it a very fair shake.

  7. ScubaMonster says:

    It seems like *most* of this could be fixed with updates. The email I received said they were working on patches so fingers crossed.

  8. tehfish says:

    “I’ve also found some entertaining exploits. Finish a mission and it once again drags you to the map no matter how much you had left to do in that zone.”

    I’m playing the console version, but i’ve yet to see this happen, when you finish the quest objective, it spawns a portal to exit the area near you, but i’ve never been forcibly ejected to the map screen.

    That does happen on the random encouters, but it also gives you a few seconds leeway which is enough to pick up any items you have left on screen. I agree it shouldn’t auto-return you to the map though.

    My only real bugbear with the game so far is the incredibly fiddly inventory (and on the Vita it’s near requiring a maginfying glass level to read) where you cannot drag an item with anything less than full prescision, you need to drag items to their slots with near pixel-perfect accuracy, which is fun on a touchscreen when your finger is obscuring this :P

    • Ringwraith says:

      I haven’t even tried to use the touchscreen controls, as everything’s kinda small.
      Instead been using triangle > ‘equip’ to do inventory. Although it’s less an equip command and more a ‘shove over into the other open window’ command, it’s even just an arrow!
      At least it intelligently replaces the weaker weapon of two if you’re dual-wielding though.

  9. TheAngriestHobo says:

    “Dragon Fin Soup’s attempt at a cold opening is perhaps something that will work for those familiar with RPGs, and something that will be utterly off-putting for anyone attracted by the game’s cheery presentation and lady protagonist. So, an odd choice.”

    I don’t understand this statement. People’s preferences in regards to the gender of their video game protagonists have pretty much nothing to do with their opinions on story structure. Clarification please?

    • Bradamantium says:

      I believe he’s referencing the fact that the story begins with sparse, serious dialogue amid a rainstorm, which stands in heavy contrast with the Red Riding Hood-inspired, bubbly looking protagonist and more humorous (apparent) nature of the game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      The marketing stuff appears to show a cheerful, somewhat goofy game starring Little Red Riding Hood. The opening scene involves a villain who ambushes Little Red Riding Hood, murders her friends while she screams helpless defiance, brags about having murdered her family, and then apparently murders her. (I assume she gets better, but that’s as far I watched.)

      So there’s a wee bit of dissonance in the presentation, there. I assume by “lady protagonist” John meant “the protagonist, who is a lady and resembles Little Red Riding Hood,” not the bare fact of her gender.

  10. Jac says:

    Tried this with the PS4 free games thing. After trying to keep a straight face through the intro I uninstalled it about 30seconds after the game starting.

  11. Rhodokasaurus says:

    I think if this massive flood of indie games have taught us anything, it’s that there’s a reason big publishers didn’t give unproven designers free reign on expensive projects.

    • socrate says:

      or that these dev have any innovation or anything to bring to gaming overall…i mean all kickstarter as been doing is literally bring back game from 10 year ago but badly made or slightly modified…the very few that are worth buying are rare.

      it also show that indie dev like triple A dev can’t manage big amount of money

    • KreissV says:

      Ive always said this. Theres a reason why publishers exist, theres a reason why there is a wall of professionals standing between your ideas and a game. Its easy to fool the masses with art style and blah de blah but not so much veterans of the business.

  12. Bradamantium says:

    I grabbed this for free on my Vita and promptly put it down after about a half hour of trying to suss out its systems and failing miserably at figuring out what it wanted from me. Unless I inadvertently skipped something, there was no tutorial to speak of. Wasn’t helped that I got whiplash from start screen to in-game between the handful of different art styles it swept through.

    It’s perhaps unfair to pass judgment this harsh on a game I only played for thirty minutes, but even having gotten it free I felt irritated by it. The best I can say is that it seems like there’s something interesting here, but it’s buried under a hodge podge of systems and decisions that make little to no sense.

    • tehfish says:

      As much as i’m enjoying the game, i really agree that the mechanics are not intuative.

      If you’ve played a bit*, have a quick browse of the in game manual, explains some of the more obscure game systems.

      *quite why they disabled this manual before you’ve played the game a litlle is completely beyond me, this is really the most bizzare game dev situation i’ve ever seen.

      • tehfish says:

        it’s the ‘read or die’ option in the main menu, bizarrely disabled if you haven’t played the game yet…

        • Ringwraith says:

          Weird, when I first played it the other day it wasn’t locked for me. Weird bugs ahoy!
          Also, the item description font is bad at small resolutions and it’s too small anyway, so it’s a bit dodgy to read on a Vita screen, which the game otherwise seems designed for.
          Although I didn’t go out of my way to buy it, so it might sit on Vita for a bit. I’ll admit being able to pull out a shotgun to thin hordes in roguelike is kinda fun though.
          There’s a bunch of things that reek of them trying too hard or trying to be funny, like the fact the wolf pet you start with is called Big Bad, and the world generator seed uses letters so you can spell words… and a lot of randomly-generated names you can flick through are just memes.

  13. X_kot says:

    I saw this at PAX a year or so ago, and if I recall correctly, the devs had to give the demo players a fair bit of guidance to get through the slice available at the time. The presentation was slick (a big comfy couch!) and the richly colored art style looked appealing, but the mechanics of the thing seemed lacking. I hoped they would be able to overcome that deficit, but alas.

  14. jomon jim says:

    I find this game fascinating in just how poorly it was designed. It really does reek. Even the parts that looked good from a kickstarter distance manage to mangle the gameplay. Such as the weather.

    When it rains there are drops on the camera/screen. The camera is facing down.
    Fog + sun = overly bright soup that covers the screen and hides enemies, treasure, trees, everything.
    The day/night sequence continues while deep underground. Night time in caves is especially dark.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Phasma Felis says:

    And in another example of the game surely not listening to feedback, defeating the enemies causes you to be forcibly taken back to the map before you’ve finished exploring the little area, meaning you miss out on any bonus items that might be around. There’s not a single person on Earth who wants a game to play like that.

    I really wish someone had mentioned that to the folks who made Skyshine’s Bedlam. They didn’t just step on that landmine, they called it out as a feature.

  16. Rack says:

    I only played about 15 mins of it on Vita before putting it down. They’d made no efforts at all to make it work on the smaller screen, and considering the difficulties it has on PC that’s pretty brutal. The other thing that struck me was the tone of the Read This section made it really obvious they’d had a ton of feedback that the game was too opaque and needed a better learning curve but they’d decided they were too good for feedback and the testers should ltfp. It might not be a fatal error but it wasn’t a great sign.

  17. BooleanBob says:

    They’ve quoted this site on their Steam page..

    “…there’s an old-school zelda vibe crossed with tactical combat and crafting. That appeals.”
    Rock Paper Shotgun

    Pretty brazen considering the verdict given here!

  18. sigmawaiting says:

    Well i don’t know, reading the article i feel like the author is very biased and somewhat unfair.

    I have played the game DRM free and had no issues so far 7 hours into the gameplay, encountered some bugs initially with fishing but that was addressed in the last patch. Had some difficulties figuring a couple things out but was helped on the forums. The controls need more work and the UI as well but the developer announced days ago that they collect feedback and will improve things, such as UI, keyboard mapping and so on.

    Also the UI controls are only sub-optimal if you play with a joypad, all works fine and rather easy with mouse as you can drag and drop or use a command popup with right click. Also Esc was mapped to open UI days ago. “I” and “U” opens UI as well. Diagonal walking is mapped on the keyboard. there are plenty of shortcuts, one has only to read the manual.

    I did read various posts on the game forum and steam and this article to be honest sounds like a random mix of quotes the author found in other peoples complaints. especially that one exploit bug.

    Not saying the game is perfect, it sure needs more work and patching but it’s fun and i am not alone with this opinion.

    • Kala says:

      You found it fun, and aren’t alone in your opinion. Ok. John didn’t, explains why, and isn’t alone in his. How come he’s “very biased” in his opinion and you aren’t in yours…?