I’ll be the first to admit that I have a soft spot for board, card and other “analog” games. Forgive me for waxing poetic, but a well-made tabletop game is a sensual delight of dice-rolling, card-drawing, and figurine-moving choreography. Consequently, when one is ported to cyberspace, it’s easy to botch that carefully crafted dance. Designers have to think hard about reinterpreting the physicality of the meatspace: how can the new medium convey the same emotional and intellectual intent of the original using the affordances of a digital interface?
In other words, when converting board games to digital games, don’t f*%# it up (especially in the Android market, because I will write about it).
Unfortunately, Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night, Auroch Digital’s sequel to their 2013 title, Chainsaw Warrior (based on the 1987 board game of the same name), fails to take any of that into account. In fact, the developers clearly haven’t learned from any of their past mistakes.
The game is essentially the same as the original: a retired US-army cyborg is called on to save the world from the godlike Darkness, whose presence is causing all sorts of nasties to run rampant, from undead crocodiles to radioactive zombies. The difference this time is that having been defeated once, Darkness has allied itself with a fallen Aztec moon-deity and installed itself in a ruined city amid the steaming jungles of Mexico. Yeah, you get to enter a couple of lost temples and gain a cool “blessing” or two from Aztec gods, but other than that, gameplay, unfortunately, remains unchanged from Chainsaw Warrior. Just like the original, you randomly roll up character stats and equipment at the start of the game. Just like the original, the entire game consists of drawing encounters from a deck of cards, and rolling dice to resolve them. And just like the original, luck is a frustratingly integral part of the game. Didn’t pick the right equipment at the start of the game to help you deal with your random encounters? Too bad, you’re probably going to die. Didn’t roll up a good special ability during character creation? Again, you’re probably screwed. Steam’s description of the game boasts “unique mini bosses that require careful tactics to defeat”. Perhaps I’m too picky, but I don’t consider “Roll dice to see if you hit the kamikaze cultist with your gun, and if you miss your first and only shot you die!” to be a careful tactic.
Besides the wanton chances of success, gameplay itself is excruciatingly slow and poorly explained. It took me a full playthrough to figure out what all the dice rolling actually signified, and only half that time to begin wondering why I was being shown any of it at all. The user interface is also irritatingly nested : melee combat with your chainsaw is your most common attack (as the title might suggest), but each time you enter battle, you have to go through “Fight > Charge > Melee > Chainsaw” in order to make your attack. All of this is a direct consequence of poorly translating the board game into a digital format: the developers, rather than figuring out how to make a compelling mobile title using the source material as a model, instead chose the lazy route and transcribed the original game mechanics directly onto their consoles, resulting in a shoddy, annoying play experience.
If you’re a die-hard fan of the 80’s board game, enjoy 1-player board games (which always make me raise an eyebrow), or are intrigued by the idea of radioactive, Aztec zombies (a novel one, I admit), you might find a couple of hours of enjoyment in Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night. Otherwise, I’d give it a miss.
Didn’t learn anything from its predecessor. Still monotonous and supremely random.