The Swords of Ditto Lets Your Write Your Own Legend [Preview]
We've all heard the stories about the amnesiac hero who washed up on the shore of a dangerous island only to become its savior. Or perhaps the version you heard told of a teen with extraordinary courage, who stepped up in a time of need to make the lands he lived in safe again. Whatever deviations you may have heard, the stories all share a familiar core. The Swords of Ditto follows that same narrative thread, only this time it gives it an explanation. It also does it with one of the more delightful and humorous presentations we've seen.
Built to reflect on the top-down, 2D action-RPGs of the 16-bit era, The Swords of Ditto is a clever take on the likes of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Earthbound, Secret of Mana, and too many others to count. The Super Nintendo's catalog of role-playing games was a major influence on Ditto, but one of ways onebitbeyond is hoping its game will stand out is in the length of play. Rather than having to drop 40 or 50 hours into a game, The Swords of Ditto will take place over a fraction of that length. And that's if you can even get all the way through without dying.
Yes, Swords of Ditto will include a permadeath feature, giving the title a smidgen of rogue-like elements, but that's not the primary focus. The permadeath is built into the narrative of the heroic legend of this island. When you die, the game world will reflect back on your time as the attempted hero of legend, and your new character will wake up centuries later to pick up where you left off. The same is true of completing the game. If you banish the evil forces of Mormo, you might find a statue of your previous character erected in the town center. There you can go worship before setting off to fend Mormo's curse off once more a generation or two later.
It's quite a simple bit of connectivity for all your various playthroughs, and one that we've seen touched upon in similar RPGs, but never outright given this exact explanation. It's not just a smart way to explain how you're able to come back from the dead all the time, but to also give your replays more thoughtfulness than merely rehashing the same story again. Additionally, The Swords of Ditto incorporates randomly generated dungeons, caves, castles and maps, so no two playthroughs will ever be exactly the same. The central challenges at the heart of each dungeon, such as finding a special weapon to unlock new areas, will remain. However, the dungeon layouts and enemy generation will be totally different. Again, it's another smart way to reintroduce "new" player characters to the fold without having to entirely rehash things that have already been done.
In our time with Swords of Ditto, we explored a bit of the world, one of the special dungeons, and a battle arena inside a cave. We did it cooperatively too, with the second player randomly generating a character for however long we were in the game. All our items were shared, and any time an item was gathered, both of us had it in our inventories. The action was simple, with a basic melee attack, a ranged bow attack, and any special weapons tied to the d-pad. One such special was the vinyl record, which we could fling around like a Hard Rock version of Captain America's shield to take out enemies. It was also very useful in dungeons for activating switches across chasms or otherwise out of reach.
Ditto also features character buffs in the form of stickers, which you can apply to various parts of your body for added bonuses. Single stickers and sticker packs can be found, but anytime you find a pack you must bring it to a specialist in one of the towns to open. Lone stickers you find in chests or dropped from enemies can be applied at any time. The buffs we saw were simple things like X% more health, +X attack power, etc. The final game is likely going to have more tied to the special magic abilities you can discover in the game, as well as some that do more than improve the basic RPG stats.
Through it all, the thing that kept us most invested was the excellent world design. That's not to say Swords of Ditto doesn't play well or have compelling map design and challenge, but when you've seen this kind of game so many times in the past, you have to have something that sets your game apart. Ditto's animated style is just the thing to make it unique. When playing, the game looks like a cross of any number of Cartoon Network shows like Gravity Falls and Adventure Time. It's incredibly smooth too, which lends to the impressiveness of Ditto's animation-inspired look. There are also some cute moments built in, like the concept of hugging fallen comrades to bring them back to life. In any other game this would be schmaltzy, but it works perfectly here because of the design and world onebitbeyond has crafted.
There's a reason The Swords of Ditto was one of the most talked about games at E3 this month, and every positive thing said about onebitbeyond's RPG is true. It's a smart, cute, engaging game that puts a new spin on classic RPG ideas. We still don't know exactly how replayable Ditto will be when it arrives next year, but everything we saw when playing gave us the indication this is a title we'll be returning to often once it drops in 2018.
The Swords of Ditto will be out on the PC and PlayStation 4 in early 2018.