When a video game is released in a market that is already flooded with similar games it begs the question, “What is this game doing that the others aren’t?” These days a lot of indie games pride themselves on having a unique mechanic or gimmick, or give a fresh take on an existing genre. In the case of The Weaponographist, you’re not going to find anything overtly new or innovative, but rather a combination of smaller mechanics working in tandem to form a solid but familiar experience.

The Weaponographist follows the story of Doug McGrave, a demon hunter who’s been cursed by a witch that wants him to rid her village of monsters that have started crawling out of a nearby dungeon. The curse makes Doug weaker the longer he goes without fighting monsters, and that plays into one of the game’s mechanics--the combo meter. That’s about all of the story you’re given for the majority of the game, and is really nothing more than a framework for the game to take place. There are a few NPC merchants that you’ll interact with throughout your journey, but they offer little in terms of exposition. It would be a bit difficult to justify or explain the extreme enemy diversity from a story perspective, so shifting the focus to gameplay is understandable. Speaking of which, all of the seemingly random enemies and some of the backdrops are tied together by a cohesive and simplistic art style. The character portraits are where the art in this game really shines however.

Puuba

Outside of the village in question, which is just a hub area to buy different upgrades, you’ll spending most of your time in this game’s dungeon. There’s one dungeon in the game that is separated by different floors, each separated by a boss. The core mechanic of the game is that the main character has no weapons of his own and must use whatever weapons the enemies drop against them. Every enemy has a weapon in this game, and they all work differently. They also all break after a certain number of hits as well, so you’ll have to get comfortable with every weapon type you find, and fast.

This is a good way to keep the gameplay varied at every level, especially since the enemies spawn randomly, but each floor has its own set of enemies. You’ll quickly find a favorite among these weapon types since they all play very differently and are useful in their own ways. For example, the sword is one of the first weapons you can acquire and is reliable at close range, but the machine gun and bow are much better for long-distance combat. There’s something for everyone in terms of weapon variety, but getting stuck with something you don’t like using or aren’t used to can be a bit frustrating. There are a few weapons that really do feel more useful overall than others, for example the bow and whip require more patience but don’t do more damage or have any benefit over other weapons. Once you find your playstyle however you’ll know what to look for.

Puuba

Speaking of playstyle, Weaponographist controls and feels a lot like Binding of Isaac, and to a lesser extent Geometry Wars. Playing it like you would play either of those games is not a bad idea either. There’s no puzzle solving or backtracking like Binding of Isaac or frantic action like Geometry Wars though, so it’s not like this game lacks any identity of its own. The controls do feel a bit floaty however, and the character animations are a bit low quality and aren’t as smooth as you’d expect. Once you adjust to the character movement and weapon mechanics, it’s easy to power through a couple of floors in a few hours. There’s one mechanic that becomes increasingly useless as you progress however, and that’s the combo meter.

The combo meter is essentially a damage multiplier that increases as long as you’re killing enemies in rapid succession and decreases whenever you’re not killing anything. There a couple of problems with this meter. Once you start leveling up the different weapons in Weaponographist, you’ll be strong enough for the boost not to really matter until very late portions of the floor or a boss fight. The second problem is the amount of enemies you need to kill just to get to the meter to level two and get any kind of boost from it. You need to kill upwards of 100 enemies to level up, and without upgrading the meter at all you need to kill them very rapidly. This can be a problem if the game doesn’t spawn enemies quickly enough to keep a combo up. Overall it ends up feeling like a waste and you’ll probably forget it’s there at all.

Puuba

Even though The Weaponographist does sport a neat mechanic with all of its different weapons, it feels too similar to other top down rogue-like games to recommend on its own merit. The combination of twin-stick shooter gameplay and simplistic dungeon crawling is fun, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. While it attempts to set itself apart with its random weapon drops and combo meter, these ultimately fall flat. The game also lacks a strong sense of identity due to a weak narrative that feels like it’s only there to set up gameplay and nothing else. There are some intriguing elements at play, but there are more interesting and engaging rogue-likes out there already.

This review is based on a download code of The Weaponographist provided by the publisher for PC.