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Impressions: Dragon Fin Soup

Bit of a drag

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.

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