In this week’s Breaking Down the Backlog: I hacked, slashed and magicked my way through grass, a forest, water, two deserts, a volcano and a cursed tower in order to save the world.
3D Dot Game Heroes is my first proper introduction to the Legend of Zelda series in a way. Well needless to say, I will be on the look out for the next Zelda game when it comes out because holy crap is this game good! There are parts that are rather problematic – the way From Software designed the side quests and one dungeon in particular – but overall it is a great game, surprisingly so in fact. The humour, the design of the world and the game-play is top notch in my book.
Look at this game. LOOK AT IT. There is nothing else out there that looks like that. I love how everything, yes everything, is made out of blocks. The ground, the trees, the people and even the projectiles are blocks. It is really impressive, even in a post-Minecraft world. The tilt shift camera really adds to the overall ascetic it makes the game look like a virtual model village. You can play it without the tilt shit on, but doing so is a disservice to how good the game looks in my opinion. One other thing that I liked about the fact that everything is made out of blocks: when you kill stuff, it just EXPLODES and pieces go everywhere. It is certainly gratifying on a very basic level, especially when killing bosses.
The game play of 3D Dot is as ‘basic’ as the look, in a way. You only have one attack, discounting the bombs and arrows you collect as you go, in your sword. You press a button and your sword extends out, causing damage to everyone in its radius. You can then swing it from left to write to attack more people. And that is pretty much it. The skill comes from stopping you from taking damage in order to use your sword to its maximum potential. At full health, your sword is HUUUUGE, does much more damage and can piece walls among other things. You can also upgrade it to make your sword ludicrously massive in both width and length, along with power and special abilities like shooting out beams of energy when you swing it. If you take damage, however, your sword turns puny which forces you to get closer to creatures to kill them which means you are more likely to take damage and so on. It makes the game, in certain spots, exceedingly difficult. Which is a surprise considering its cute aesthetic.
Structurally speaking, the game pretty much copies the Legend of Zelda games. You are tasked with collecting six gems to defeat some big bad mage and save the world. Boilerplate stuff. You travel through the ‘over-world’ going from dungeon to dungeon solving puzzles that require equipment and magic that you get from solving the previous dungeon. Each one is even based on elements, roughly speaking and has their own enemies, traps and layout. They are mostly well designed and give a stiff challenge. The exception being The Fire Temple. That one is completely bullshit because you have to go through in a specific order in one go. It is immensely frustrating and needlessly difficult.
There are other annoying things in 3D Dot Game Heroes. The side quests so deliberately obtuse it makes no sense in the context of a game like this. You are given no indication that there are even side quests in the game. You have to talk to everyone everywhere and even then, there are side quests – most of them in fact – that are impossible to do if you finish the next dungeon. I admit that I used a guide to see them. But I did it so I could see the content which would have otherwise been entirely hidden from me. That kind of design is cool in say…The Souls series, but in a Zelda-clone? Ridiculous. Another niggle was the way the frame-rate tanked momentarily when a few enemies die on-screen. One of the problems with everything being made of blocks, I guess, as the game has trouble handling so many things on the screen at once.
In the end I enjoyed 3D Dot Game Heroes immensely. The writing was frequently funny, especially the references to other From Software games, with its self-deprecating and referential humour. It’s a cool game, if a bit…basic I guess? Saying that, it took me twenty-five hours to finish the game and it was challenging from beginning to end. If you desperately need an old school Zelda game but don’t own a Nintendo console, you should totally get 3D Dot Game Heroes.
Next time on BDTB: Papo Y Yo