Prior to February 8th this year, you might have thought of KEMCO/EXE Create whenever someone mentioned “Nintendo Switch” and “RPG Maker” in the same sentence. Many games from the developer/publisher duo tend to be labeled as RPG Maker games because of how they look and feel, but they aren’t necessarily true products of the engine. Doom & Destiny is the first (AFAIK) legitimate example of an RPG Maker game on Switch that will, if you give it a chance, show exactly why it is not a good idea to completely write off titles based on a stereotype alone. Of course, that is if you can look over a few missteps along the way. Let’s get into it.
Nerds and best buds Nigel, Mike, Francis, and Johnny head over to their friend’s house, Benjamin, in hopes of starting a new D&D campaign, but soon discover that something is amiss. Benjamin is nowhere to be found, and his basement has been replaced with a lava-filled dungeon. Puzzled, but curious, the team makes their way through the makeshift dungeon by arming themselves with shovels and femurs, all while consuming lots of pizza and beer in order to remain in peak physical condition. Alas, the nerds best the dungeon only to be teleported into another dimension entirely, where they are greeted as bona fide “heroes”. Not a bad gig, right?
In this new realm, the chosen few “heroes” are destined to fend off the threat known as the Unnamed – a being that, according to Emperor Destiny, is set on bringing about the apocalypse. With promises of the return to your home world once the task is complete, you set out, armed to the teeth in hopes of making the aspirations a reality – or at the very least discovering just what is going on behind the scenes. Perhaps the fate of your friend, Benjamin, will be discovered as well?
Doom & Destiny is crazy, man. It makes the tomfoolery of any Earthbound-like game look like child’s play in comparison. As you could imagine, the nerds are very self-aware – groaning whenever a fetch quest is suggested – a nod to the all too real task given to gamers by many a title. Doom & Destiny features lots of gaming and pop culture references – to the point that you might be surprised as to just how much they were able to get away with from a legal standpoint.
Basically, the main story has you going through events and befriending characters similar to many well-known franchises, such as the Lord of the Rings and the Dragon Ball series. These aren’t subtle nods either, they are almost identical to their mainstream counterparts. As such, the game is extremely goofy and lighthearted, so prepare yourself accordingly. Furthermore, if you are easily offended, you might want to pass on it because you will be thrown into some situations that are not considered politically correct. However, there’s fun to be had and humor to enjoy should you choose to take everything else for what it is – a game about stereotypical D&D players in a surreal landscape.
At its core, Doom & Destiny is very much in the traditional JRPG vein, but manages to up the ante a bit in regards to world design. In fact, it feels like a small scale open world game – if that makes any sense. In many of the older Final Fantasy games, you might have the choice of going off the beaten path – but only occasionally. Doom & Destiny thoroughly encourages exploration by offering up all sorts of completely optional areas and sub-scenarios. After the training wheels come off at the first town, you have close to a dozen areas that you can immediately check out – or not – the choice is yours. Even if many of these areas only take a few minutes to complete, the variety of options available to you at any given time is a treasure hunter’s dream come true.
The game’s turn-based combat is executed very well. On the surface, it performs like any other turn-based system, with actions unfolding based on each unit’s speed – but only after you confirm the actions. You can be as slow and methodical as you like, and sometimes that becomes necessary against more dangerous foes. Doom & Destiny is not a buttonmashing-fest whatsoever – there was never an instance where I traveled around a level-appropriate area and felt overpowered enough to auto-battle my way out of the situation. Even the most simple of random encounters can potentially give you trouble if you going about them lazily, and that is based on a normal difficulty play-through. I can imagine that the harder difficulty could really test your mettle at times. As someone who enjoys a decent amount of challenge in games without it being overly frustrating, I found the normal difficulty almost spot-on in that regard.
Doom & Destiny deploys an MMO-like “aggro” system in combat, which calculates the “hate” of each character based on the actions they use, setting the most “hated” character up to take the brunt of the punishment. The aggro level can fluctuate over the course of the fight, and even though some characters are better equipped to act as meatshields, sometimes it makes more sense to spread out the damage rather than funnel it to a single individual. While quite a common mechanic in RPG Maker games, the aggro system adds an additional layer of depth to combat regardless.
Character progression is handled by way of level ups and powers. When you level up, you can allocate up to three stat points into four categories. These categories serve dual purposes – for example, the “Might” category increases both your HP and physical strength while “Grit” will increase your resistance to status debuffs and increase your chance to critical strike. Because of this design, you never feel like you’re wasting a point regardless of where it goes, but in reality you’ll only invest heavily in a couple of the categories per character.
Stat bonuses have milestones as well. After putting five points into any category, you are granted a power point. These power points allow you to equip an increasing number of abilities and passive traits. There are a couple dozen ability/trait options available to each character, which can be mix and matched to your heart’s content – granted you buy the abilities beforehand. You will learn very few of these powers naturally – in fact, most of them can only be purchased through trainers found out in the world. As a whole, the power system doesn’t feel half-baked, as I frequently found myself adjusting my power loadout based on the situation and how many power points I had available at the time.
Outside of the the optional areas and secret locations, Doom & Destiny also features “kill X enemy” objectives and distributes them rather seamlessly. Instead of finding a damsel in distress that, for some reason, wants you to clear a random valley of wolves, you simply have to go out in the world and kill stuff – the side quest magic will tally and reward you automatically in the background. A basic sidequest might be to kill 15 undead, and once you fulfill it you will automatically be given a reward for the job. And if you want to kill even more undead, a higher tiered version of the same quest will reward you again – should you meet its requirements. While it is the same mundane tasks you’ll find in any RPG, it cuts the middleman out by giving you objectives and their respective rewards naturally as you play rather than having a forced conversation with a nobody in town.
The graphics in Doom & Destiny scream RPG Maker, and that is going to be a point of contention for many people. Even I found it a bit bland at times, and i’m an RPG Maker fan. While much of the asset work does feel generic, it kind of “self-corrects” the situation through well designed areas and object placement. A recurring issue I have had with many KEMCO RPGs donning the RPG Maker guise is how cookie cutter and unimaginative their locations can feel. But in Doom & Destiny, you get the feeling that of assets were hand-placed rather than something that was copy-pasted to oblivion, and that makes a huge difference in the potential enjoyment factor possible out of even the most basic of assets.
As positive as I have been on Doom & Destiny thus far, it isn’t without issues – one of which is particularly frustrating. But before that, some minor issues involve the music and dialogue. Much like the graphics, the music is primarily comprised of stock works, and they are not designed to loop seamlessly. On top of that, there are instances where it is possible for two separate themes to overlap each other, only to be remedied through completely exiting out of the game. The dialogue can be a bit of a mess at times as well. Spelling mistakes and sentences missing key words are commonplace. While the overarching humorous nature of your quest softens the blow a bit, it still comes off as a bit lazy.
Doom & Destiny prides itself on having a lengthy main campaign (for a budget title), as well as offering some meaty post-game content. I finished up the story in about 10-15 hours, and there’s said to be at least another 15-20 hours of content for those that dig post-game activities. Although I’m not a completionist, I wanted more Doom & Destiny, but a pretty bad bug completely killed my desire to dive deep into the post-game. There’s an ice cavern hidden away in a snow-capped town that is impossible to traverse.
Any time you completely a battle – whether through victory or simply running away – the game crashes. I tested this at least a dozen times and, sadly, the end result was always the same. For a game that bills itself on a hefty amount of side content, the lack of polish present is a bit disheartening. An annoying, non-gamebreaking bug is one thing, but having an entire section of content roped off by a nasty bug is another thing entirely. Judging by past reviews and the following that the game series has accumulated over nearly the past decade, I’m guessing that the bug is native to the Switch version alone. I am a little shocked that it hasn’t been fixed yet, especially since it has been available on Switch since February 8th.
Doom & Destiny is one of the better RPG Maker endeavors that is, unfortunately, held back by some lazy quality control. Some might think it is a bit harsh to be this critical of bugs in a budget title, but history has shown that even the smallest of teams can pump out extremely polished products within the confines of lower tier frameworks. While I stand by my argument to not judge any RPG based on its “RPG Maker vibes” alone, it is difficult to shower overwhelming praise on this particular version when issues, like the ice cavern bug, still exist weeks after launch. If the issues are ever resolved, then we might have a more recommendable title on our hands. Regardless, I have had fun with what works in Doom & Destiny, and I’d very much like to see more things come to the platform from this team.