I don’t play every roguelike that comes out, so my view of them is limited to my experiences with Spelunky, Dead Cells, and maybe a few others. That’s why The Swords of Ditto has surprised me because it has a Zelda-like dungeon system that mixes up the gameplay a lot more than those other games.
The Swords of Ditto is out now for $20 from developer Onebitbeyond and publisher Devolver Digital on Steam. It has you taking on the role of the sword of Ditto, a legendary hero who comes along once every 100 years. As part of your mission, you must defeat the witch Mormo. She is an immortal and uses the lifeforce of the world to remain young. That’s the setup for what is, at its core, a roguelike adventure with a lot of elements from The Legend of Zelda.
But it is much more a “roguelite” than a roguelike proper. Most of your character progression carries over to the next sword of Ditto after you die. Everything else in the world, though, gets reset or remixed. And what I’ve learned through a handful of deaths so far is that this world is bursting with things to do. Sure, you’ll spend a lot of time fighting monsters, getting loot, and upgrading your tools. But The Swords of Ditto also has dungeons that borrow a lot of elements from Zelda.
The Swords of Ditto’s dungeons are all about exploration and puzzle solving. You’ll have to think your way through obstacles to overcome them. These dungeons also give you new toys — literally, the game calls its weapons and tools “toys” — that you can use to have a better shot at taking out Mormo. But what I like best about them is that they make me want to keep playing.
Outside of the dungeons, time counts down to your inevitable confrontation with Mormo. In the overworld, you can take on quests for Dittoan citizens, you can find hidden caves, or grind through enemies, but you are always racing against the clock. In the dungeons, however, time stops. You can spend as long as you want exploring them or even grinding enemies to level up in a vacuum protected from Mormo’s arrival. When you’re ready, you can head back out into the world and continue preparing for Mormo in other ways.
As I said, I think this gives the game an accommodating pace. The threat of the clock ticking down adds some stress to the game, but that’s something that would fade into the background if it was ever-present. But because you can find an oasis away from the timer, the game puts you in these two different modes that are distinct and play off of each other.