Durlindana is a fantasy RPG by Simon Matts. The premise is that you are a lowly but ambitious peasant on a quest for power and notoriety, symbolized by the search for Durlindana, “the most powerful sword ever forged.” It’s a pretty classic example of a McGuffin, but a trope or two can be forgiven if used effectively. On my first day in-game, I did what one usually does in an RPG: I accepted the first available quest and set out to make a name for myself in the big city.
This was a terrible mistake.
I was immediately knocked unconscious by a unicorn. My “energy” and “vigor” stats were knocked to zero, and my “honor” had dipped into negative digits. As night fell in the city, I found myself with no money, no credibility, and no place to go.
Doing missions and other good deeds earns “honor” and some missions have a minimum honor requirement. If you don’t meet the bottom threshold, you’re not trustworthy enough to accept the mission. But if you can’t carry out missions, it’s difficult to earn honor, which makes it difficult to accept missions, and… you get the picture. Instead of a fantasy romp, this game soon turned into a reminder of bleak real-life conundrums like applying for jobs or credit.
I tried to exit the city and live off the grid, camping in the wilderness, but I was interrupted by random encounters, which I lost, putting my honor further in debt. I tried to hunt, but again found myself defeated. I tried to train in the arena and improve myself, but even losing in a practice match to a trainer costs honor, no matter how honorably I thought I was failing. Lacking in every single stat, I tried to resort to a life of crime. But I was quickly apprehended and beaten.
After I got out of jail, I wondered where my fantasy life had gone wrong and decided it might be time to consult the “how to play” guide, unhelpfully hidden in the settings menu. For my taste, the guide spends too many pages describing the various stat displays. But then again, that might be because there are several useless stats in this game. Along with the amount of money you have, and the skills you hone in strength, dexterity, agility, and jousting, as well as a general “experience” category, you also must keep tabs on the previously mentioned energy, vigor, and honor. But in an annoying departure from RPG norms, experience and honor are spent like currency. After painstakingly saving them to purchase useless items or titles, I found my honor had been depleted, leaving me less qualified to accept missions than before.
Eventually I got my honor out of the negative and learned the basics of combat. And by combat, I mean tapping at random clip-art monsters. Soon I was defeating my foes in one hit. But even with some experience and resources to my name, I was never able to complete a mission above the “easy” rating. Every single time I tried to fight a more difficult enemy, I was severely punished, so I never felt any drive or incentive to challenge myself. I had to be content doing the same mindless, easy tasks over and over in order to play. Every morning I would check the job boards around town, often finding none I was qualified to do, and every night I would loiter near the fireplace at the inn instead of paying money to sleep in a bed. The more I played, the more depressing a metaphor for real-life employment Durlindana became.
In addition to being infuriatingly difficult, the fantasy setting is too generic, apparently relying on the fact that I’ve played RPG’s before and can fill in the gaps myself. I don’t interact with any characters besides the poorly drawn creatures and villains I fight, and the city and country in which I’m supposed to be concerned about making something of myself don’t even have names.
A game can be boring or mind-numbingly difficult and still be fun, but not both. Save your money and pass on Durlindana.
The ratio of fun to difficulty is stacked against you from the start. This game feels more like a dead-end job.