Din’s Legacy (PC)

No Man’s Sky has recently released yet another disappointing update that adds a fresh coat of paint to its lifeless Potemkin Village of a galaxy, but fails to deliver the living world promised by the infamous E3 trailers where I could join in, I could take sides. Defenders of No Man’s Sky say that delivering a living world is unrealistic, it’d take 50 years and $500 million to produce a game like that, “you ask the impossible!” But then, like Yoda lifting Luke’s X-Wing out of the swamp, indie developer Soldak not only creates procedurally generated worlds far more alive than even NMS’s wildest promises, it’s been making them for more than a decade.

Din’s Legacy is Soldak’s latest “living world” ARPG. While the game is as straightforward to play as Torchlight, the procedural world building, event generating, and player character mutation approaches Rimworld levels of procedural anarchy. All the more crazy because Din’s Legacy gobbled up all the innovations of its four preceding games.

The game takes place in a fantasy world slowly recovering from the zombie apocalypse of their previous game Zombasite. You’re a member of a mistrusted elf/orc hybrid species cursed by necromancy to constantly physically mutate, yet you remain noble of spirit. The god Din takes interest in you and grants you limited immortality while you travel between threatened settlements to rescue them and make a good name for the mutants.

Each randomly generated settlement has three “leader” NPCs who give you different quests, all of which need to be cleared in order to win the map. Where Din’s Legacy and Soldak games in general deviate from the formula is these quests have a ticking clock attached. The big baddie isn’t just sitting in their dungeon twiddling their thumbs and waiting patiently for you to stroll in and slay them. The baddie is casting spells, recruiting lieutenants, and building machines for the express purpose of destroying your settlement. Spend too long grinding and you could see key members of your settlement turned to stone, apocalyptic thunderstorms brewing overhead that zap your villagers to death, and an army of monsters clawing down the gates of your settlement ready to stream in and slaughter your people. Immortality or no, this is an action RPG that you can lose. Fortunately if you do lose you can roll up a new world and bring your existing character there to try again with all your equipment and experience points intact.

But more than just the big bad, the worlds of Din’s Legacy are not only dangerous, but alive. Monsters have their own factions and you could enter a forest and find a war going on between the giant catmen and the water demons. You could also find random humans fighting for their lives and if you save them you can recruit them to your village to give it more of a fighting chance against an invasion, or turn them into your steadfast AI-controlled companion who goes up in levels and wears new equipment (your castoffs). If you run away from a fight, the monster you were facing will upgrade to veteran status and be that much more dangerous later. And if a monster manages to kill you they upgrade to elites, gain new powers and become a full-blown midboss in the game’s emergent narrative.

But one nice thing I have to point out about all of Soldak’s titles is while the game generates a world to match your character’s initial level, there is no level scaling in-game so you always have that sense of escalating power.

The other big thing about Din’s Legacy is playing a mutant. What this means is two things: first throughout the game you pick up random mutations that do things like add new skills to your tree or gives negative traits that you can spend skill points to repress, or add a proc to an existing skill on your tree, like my warrior who got a flame wave effect added to his whirlwind slash, or my healer who caused a minor earthquake every time she made a kill with her holy bolt. The other thing is you accrue mutation points that can be used to switch to a different class while retaining purchased skills from your previous class a la the job system from Final Fantasy Tactics. Except not quite because the actual skills you gain are random. It’s very messy, but once you get the hang of it there’s a fairness to the system and you can rid yourself of every unwanted mutation and get refunded all the skill points and mutation experience points that was spent on removing that mutation.

This procedurally generated anarchy, so much more pronounced than their previous games, could be make or break for you. My first draft of this review was a lot more negative because my first couple generated worlds were duds. You don’t have full min/maxing control over your character build, some generated worlds can be disappointingly easy to clear, sometimes the rules of the game change from world to world. I’ve generated a new world only to find myself in an enclosed arena with a boss monster and the fact that I couldn’t kill it without a couple deaths myself resulted in a failed world. I’ve also generated worlds with rival settlements that have their own villagers and heroes, complete with the diplomacy system from Zombasite. In yet another game I found myself deep in a dungeon and had to find the exit then rescue all the villagers enslaved in the dungeon. And even within the world things can get crazy. In one game I was careless with a fireball spell inside my village and one of the huts caught fire and burned down, which made the NPC living in that hut really pissed off to the point that he left the village and became a mid-boss bandit I now had to hunt down. This is not a game for an OCD control freak, it’s a game that generates really entertaining after action reports.

Which brings me to the negatives. Din’s graphics are over a decade out of date and sometimes some of the world generator’s creations are downright ugly. Sound effects don’t fare much better, the whirlwind slash ultimate crowd-clearing attack for warriors just sounds like a couple butter knives being clinked together. The music is fine, but it’s stock music you may have heard in other games before. The combat mechanics can be stiff and clunky, especially with the game’s new ability to generate rolling hills and ridges with tree cover that can hide enemies completely. Victor Vran this ain’t! The interface makes it clear that it’s a product of extended early access because it’s pretty slick and handy once you figure it out, but bafflingly obtuse to new players.

(PROTIP: Vendors are rare in this game. Mostly what you’ll be doing with junk is breaking it down at the crafting table for items that can be used to repair/upgrade/enchant your favorite equipment. It also has the option to give your villagers first refusal on whether they want to equip that item before you break it down.)

So would I recommend Din’s Legacy? Absolutely, this game has gobbled up all the best features of their preceding games with the exception of their sci-fi living world game Drox Operative, which I also recommend.

But don’t just take my word for it, they’ve got a demo you can play with a level cap, but you can continue that character after installing the full game!

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Mischief Maker