Sequels are tricky. You don’t want to do the same thing over again and risk boring your audience, but you don’t want to change too much and lose what made your game/movie/what-have-you special in the first place. Ideally, a sequel will keep what made the first installment great and build on it – see: Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back or Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Sometimes, a concept is so novel and its success so unforeseen that revisiting it is doomed to failure – see: any Highlander sequel or Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2. Doom & Destiny Advanced, the sequel to the 2011 indie hit Doom & Destiny, falls a little into both camps. While everything from graphics to gameplay are upgraded, what made the original charming is lost in its sequel.
The original Doom & Destiny, was a spoof on the typical turn-based fantasy RPG. Gameplay was simple, and the focus was on the main characters, table-top game players magically transported into a fantasy world, picking apart the various tropes and inconsistencies in their adventure. It was cute and amusing. It was also rough, but that can be forgiven for a fun idea well executed.
Doom & Destiny Advanced follows its predecessor. It is, technically, not a sequel but a parallel universe with the same characters but where things happen in different ways. (I thought it was an interesting concept, but it is mostly used as hand-waving to negate the previous game’s story.) Instead of meeting a King McGuffin you meet a Queen McGuffin, etc., etc.
Story-wise, there is little innovation. It’s a bunch of fetch quests that lead you from one king or queen to another. This is exactly like the first installment, except for one crucial mis-step. The humor is missing. The characters still crack jokes, but rarely at the expense of the game or genre. Instead they’re making crude puns and having obvious “comical” misunderstandings. The first game certainly had its fair share of crude jokes(some of which landed, many of which didn’t), but the game’s propensity for pointing out the absurd nature of fantasy RPGs lent it a certain charm.
Doom & Destiny Advanced seems to have forgotten it started as a spoof. The characters are fully immersed in their setting and take everything too seriously. In Doom & Destiny, even when the stakes were high, nothing seemed at stake. We got to laugh with our protagonists at the silliness of it all. Here, our protagonists are actors in a generic fantasy story. Essentially, the game has become what it once lampooned. It’s like if the Jump Street movies suddenly became cop dramas..
While Doom & Destiny Advanced has lost its comic charm, it has invested heavily in streamlining and optimizing gameplay. A poor decision for a game that relies on comedy, but a limitedly successful one nonetheless. Combat involves an array of status buffs and debuffs, characters have multiple classes they can switch between, which not only change their abilities but also give them alternate puzzle-solving and world-exploring skills. The gameplay is vastly improved from its simple predecessor, and yet I can’t help but ask what that has accomplished. Turn-based RPGs are almost as old as videogames themselves. They came about perhaps because consoles and computers lacked the capacity for more engaging combat or perhaps because the developers wanted more of a focus on story and less on action. There have been many spins on turn-based mechanics in order to add new life to them, from the semi-programmed system for Final Fantasy XII or the third-third-person-shooter additions to Valkyria Chronicles’ RPG combat. Doom & Destiny Advanced improved on the previous attempt but offered nothing new. Like the writing, the retro combat is not self-aware enough to be praised.
There was clearly a lot of love put into Doom & Destiny Advanced, and that shines through, but it’s unclear if there was a lot of thought or planning put into it. Despite its many faults, the game is fun. The world is expansive, the characters are silly, and gameplay, while antiquated, is challenging and rewarding. I often found myself smiling when I discovered a new secret or beat a challenging boss. Perhaps, ultimately, the failure is making a sequel at all. Maybe the joke was played out and all that was left to do was carry on with a regular old fantasy RPG. Doom & Destiny Advanced is enjoyable, but less so than its predecessor. Here’s hoping there isn’t a third.
Doom & Destiny Advanced loses the humor and charm of its predecessor, but levels-up its gameplay. Unfortunately, the humor and charm were all that kept it from being a generic fantasy RPG.