We want to love indie role-playing game The Swords of Ditto so much. Not only because of his funny cartoon style but above all because of his attempt to stand out from his prominent role model with his ideas despite many Zelda gameplay borrows. The playful concept of The Swords of Ditto sounds exciting, but it breaks up because of many questionable design decisions. And they turn our initial delight into frustration and boredom.

TitleThe Swords of Ditto
Platform(s)PlayStation 4, Windows, Linux, macOS
PublisherDevolver Digital
DeveloperOnebitbeyond
GenreAction role-playing
Release24 April 2018
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
esrb-rating-everyoneEVERYONE - Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

Let’s dive into the adventure

At the beginning of the adventure, we initially indulge in sweet nostalgia. In the style of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening we wake up unsuspecting on the beach. But we don’t slip into the role of a fixed hero. Instead, we start with a randomly created character. In our case a robot with a cape and a mischievous smile.

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A magical dung beetle named Puku pops up from nowhere and appoints us as Sword of Ditto. Our noble task? We must stop the nasty witch Mormo, who is terrorizing the people of the world of Ditto.

But we don’t have much time to get used to our sweet robot hero. It dies right after the introduction through a thorny tentacle in the middle of the heart, which hits us at least as hard. But we should get used to death as a constant companion here. 100 years later we wake up with a new character. We pull Ditto’s sword from the grave of our fallen robot and go witch hunting again. At least until our new heroine blesses the temporal.

Many heroes for one goal

The basic concept of role-playing is a well-known rogue-like principle. The Swords of Ditto does not send us on a classic hero’s journey of a single warrior but lets us successively experience the adventures of many chosen ones who cling to only one life at a time.

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Two hours of play elapse before the final battle against Mormo. Depending on whether we defeat Mormo or spoon up prematurely during our adventure, we start another world rescue attempt.

Similar to Zelda

The Swords of Ditto’s game world is reminiscent of Nintendo classics like Zelda: A Link to the Past. Rogue-like-typical, however, it is generated procedurally with every new hero we send on a witch hunt and therefore changes with every attempt.

New dungeons appear, old ones disappear, cities are moved and have different names. A dark veil would cover the game world if we failed before because of Mormo. Juicy green, however, when we have defeated the witch with our previous heroes. Besides, there are many secrets like hidden characters to discover. So the makers want to offer us something new with each new run, but the changes in the game world remain minimal, and the graphics elements repeat themselves after a while.

Another difference from Link’s adventures. In The Swords of Ditto we are under time pressure. Four days remain on the average difficulty level to prepare for the final fight against Mormo, either alone or in pairs in the local multiplayer. To do this, we cloak through monsters, gain experience points, advance through the level and fight our way through dungeons inspired by the 2D Zeldas, including chests, small and large keys and bosses in the last room.

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But no false hopes, The Swords of Ditto can’t match his role models’ dungeon design. Hard but ingenious clout like in the eagle fortress of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, don’t expect us here. For the most part, we are facing simple switch puzzles that you can often solve with the very first idea.

The fact that we don’t have to try so hard in the dungeons is rewarding. If we complete a dungeon by destroying a so-called Anchor, we weaken Mormo and thus facilitate the final fight. With the Toys of Legends, we also get necessary equipment like a golf club or an exploding drone. Additionally, it support us against Mormo and her monster henchmen.

While the fighting system relies on sword clubs and dodge rolls, the fights gain variety through the many creative Toys of Legends. Each with its cooling effects. Let’s be honest. Who wouldn’t even like to roll a burning bowling ball through the field to knock down a whole row of zombies? For the Toys of Legends, The Swords of Ditto made more sophisticated use of Zelda.

Levels

In black and white this sounds like fun solo or couch-coop action. Which promises that certain something despite obvious Zelda borrowings. In fact, however, the witch hunt turns out to be a grind-fest, where we run out of breath after the second game. It is the system of progress that is to blame. Although we keep our level progress after the screen death, there’s no motivation to continue playing. The reason? Opponents level with our knights and therefore never leave us with the feeling of really getting stronger and being superior to Mormos henchmen.

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But we still have to level up, whether we like it or not. Dungeons are sealed by a level lock that increases with each new game run. Once we have left our first dungeon behind, we must have trained our hero to level 2 to open the gates of the next dungeon and so on.

To give ourselves the best chance in the final fight against Mormo, we have to kill every monster. And that becomes repetitive and boring after a short time despite the fun fighting system and the creative Toys of Legends. If you’re not familiar with rogue-like elements, it’ll be even harder to get into the game in the first few hours. As intimate as we want to cuddle the roleplay because of its charming style à la Gravity Falls, as powerful we want to grab it and shake it because of its wasted potential. But it’s no use.

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