Friday, May 3

Review: The Swords of Ditto - Mormo's Curse [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While I know there are people out there who’ve kind of gotten tired of the label roguelike being thrown around I continue to view it as a means to give well-known genres and tropes a bit of a shaking up. The latest classic to get this treatment is now the classic top-down Legend of Zelda series in the form of The Swords of Ditto: Mormo’s Curse. The distinction of including the DLC’s name in the title is an important one, as when I looked into what was added by it that roughly corresponded to everything I enjoy most about the game. Ditto not only looks pretty amazing, it’s also smart, features a world begging to be explored that’s full of hidden dungeons and secrets, has some truly oddball weapons, and is easy to lose a few hours at a time into without even realizing it.


As an alternative take on the Zelda series you’ll see quite a lot of parallels. You’ll play as a chosen (but ultimately disposable) warrior, armed with a legendary sword, who’ll accumulate an odd mix of weapons and items, discover and conquer dungeons, and terrorize any inanimate breakable objects in sight. The stock weapons you’ve become accustomed to have been replaced with generally much sillier toy counterparts though, whether a bowling ball, vinyl record, pop gun, or a variety of other choices. While these seem unusual at first for the most part you’ll find them to be pretty powerful, and in many cases they’ll have their own secrets they’ll help you uncover as well.


Aside from leveling up you’ll acquire the power you need to take on the threat of Mormo by conquering dungeons and acquiring both stickers and weapon upgrades. You’ll find these in chests, through completing mini quests, buying them at a shop, or sometimes just finding them randomly. Stickers correspond to your sword, body, head, and arm and provide a pretty wide variety of effects, whether giving you new attacks, providing a buff, or helping you find special items. Upgrades you’ll be able to take back to town and apply to your weapons, helping them do more base damage or adding elemental effects, and to an extent these can be stacked.


A great Zelda game absolutely needs to nail dungeons, and while Ditto absolutely has its own approach to puzzle mechanics and general style I really appreciate what it’s accomplished in this area. First, there are simply quite a lot of monster types you’ll need to learn to deal with effectively, and taking some of them on without the right strategy can and will absolutely be fatal. You really need to be on top of what items you have and what they’re capable of to be effective. The game won’t hold your hand and point out what weaknesses to exploit, you’ll need to use some trial and error experimentation to work it out. The puzzles themselves also fall into this mold, with techniques you’ll need to learn through some trial and error and in a few cases they caught me off guard with how familiar and yet still very different they feel.


Getting into the downsides I’d say the most crucial thing to understand is that it may take a little while to get your legs under you and begin to understand what’s going on and what you need to do. You’re given some direction but starting out the world is a big and sometimes a bit confusing place. This is exacerbated a bit by the fact that every time you die 100 years passes and the world has been reconfigured, though once you’ve explored enough you’ll begin to understand the pieces and roll with the punches. Dying doesn’t mean all is lost, your sword will retain its level of power thankfully, but you’ll need to understand death is to be avoided and carries a pretty heavy consequence, though there are ways in the game to help avoid it as well for a cost. One benefit is that you can then experiment with other base character badges and try out new looks and weapons, so it isn’t all bad. There’s simply a lot going on in the game, and not all of it is explained well or even at all, so come into the experience expecting some initial frustrations as you get your bearings and you should be fine.


While over a year ago when I got the chance to play The Swords of Ditto at PAX East I was impressed by its visuals and weird weapons I didn’t get enough time with it to appreciate how terrific the overall experience was. Based on what I understand Switch owners got a bit lucky as the game with the expansion seems to be an improvement on all fronts in terms of accessibility and variety, giving us the best experience right out of the gate. While the DNA of Zelda games is obviously present, Ditto is thoroughly its own game, standing apart from that series not only visually but with plenty of its own ideas as well. If you’re looking for a world to explore full of discovery, some unusual characters, and plenty of surprises it’s easy to recommend, just be patient with it as you’re getting started.


Score: 9

Pros:
  • Has a fantastic art style
  • Mixes familiar elements from the Zelda series with an abundance of quirks and elements of its own
  • An abundance of things to discover as you explore the world and prepare for your final battle
  • Oh, and you can play it co-op as well

Cons:
  • Getting started can be tough as there’s a lot to understand and not everything is explained
  • Being a roguelike at heart, death carries a pretty steep penalty, though there are a number of game systems that help minimize the blow a bit
  • Load times can be a little long in spots