There was a reoccurring Chris Farley skit on Saturday Night Live where he’d interview celebrities, only to ask them if they remembered various things and follow it up by stating, “that was awesome.” If you removed the self-awareness from that skit, turned it into a game, and centered it around jRPGs, that game would be the comically inept (but not comically effective) Doom & Destiny, a game that indulges in the same brand of do-you-remember without a shred of irony. Put simply, this is a game that only works if you find lazy references to other games the most hilarious thing in the entire world and are willing to overlook a number of major game flaws regarding the writing and mechanics in order to get to them.
The writing is a train wreck
The most obvious reason for this is the fact that the devs are Italian and the English translation is unbelievably awkward as a result, being filled with phrasing rare outside of Europe (“holiday” instead of “vacation,” usage of “pole position,” etcetera) in addition to being littered with numerous spelling and grammatical errors despite the game being several years old by this point. It’s honestly embarrassing that so much time has passed without someone going through and correcting the many, many typos and miscellaneous problems with the script.
Even if the translation was fixed to be perfect, however, there would still be glaring problems with the story, and the reason for this is that there really isn’t much of a story. Rather than creating something that parodies the kinds of quests you obtain in fantasy-style RPGs without indulging in them, the game exists solely to set up a number of ill-advised “jokes.” I put that in scare quotes for a reason, mind you; the humor in this game is truly humorless, being comprised of little more than lazy references to other games and immature bits of humor so devoted to tastelessness that they become every bit as predictable as they are cringe-inducing. Something to keep in mind—before playing this game, I bought the sequel on a whim based on footage where snowmen had the carrots in an anatomically-amusing part of their bodies, so it’s not like I have an aversion to immature humor. Doom & Destiny rarely bothers to ensure that its immaturity is actually humorous, though, to the point where I was embarrassed that someone out there considered any of the “jokes” amusing enough to include. It’s not shocking-but-still-hilarious so much as it’s reminiscent of someone trying way too hard to be funny (and/or edgy) and coming across as little more than sad for all their desperate efforts.
The characters are equally bad
There are four playable characters, each fulfilling a different role in your team (one is faster than the others, one can use magic, one is strong, and the last one is a healer), and yet they seem to have all been written by the same person. At least, that’s the impression I got based on the dialogue throughout the game; from beginning to end, all four characters speak with a nearly-identical tone that makes them interchangeable. All four are immature douchebags with a penchant for overusing exclamation marks and indulging in eye-roll-inducing stupidity, and if you removed their portraits from the game, you’d be unable to tell who’s saying what because of how indistinct they are. It should go without saying that none of them have a character arc, nor do they change over the course of the story. Like everything else, they exist solely to set up a number of stupid non-jokes.
D&D is a pretty basic jRPG
Like most jRPGs, you wander around the map and fight a bunch of random monsters so that you can grind your levels up and breeze through the next parts of the story. For a game that lampshades many of the mechanics and features inherent to jRPGs, it’s kind of astounding that grinding is still required. In fact, it’s so required that I found myself woefully under-leveled trying to force my way to the end of the game so that I could move on to something better, forcing me to lower the difficulty to the easiest setting. I like to play games on the default difficulty since that’s usually the difficulty setting the game was balanced around, but I was willing to toss both that and my pride aside for the sake of getting this piece of trash behind me. I’m simply not going to grind through dozens of meaningless battles against the game’s uninspired enemies for the privilege of wading through typos and period jokes. I have standards, and this game falls well below them.
Let’s talk about the uninspired enemies
There are basically two types of enemies: magic users and non-magic users. These come in various forms, from living snowmen to orcs and everything between, but all enemies can be broken down into these two basic categories. The trick to dealing with them is similarly straightforward: kill the magic users first because many have spells that damage the entire party, then trade blows with the rest of the enemies until they’re dead. The game includes a “quick battle” option used on the mobile version by holding a finger down on the right side of the screen, but this is really only practical once the magic users are gone because of how much damage they’re capable of doing. They’re almost always in the back of enemy parties, too, and auto-battle automatically sends you after the nearest enemies first, so it’s honestly a pretty worthless feature.
Speaking of worthless features, there’s also the grudge system. The way the game explains itself to you, your characters who do a lot of damage will be prioritized by enemies. The thought is that you can use special moves that increase an enemy’s hostility to certain characters to draw them away from others. Problem is, this system doesn’t actually work at all. I played through this game in something like 10 hours, and in all that time I didn’t once see the effects of this so-called system. In fact, I noticed that enemies consistently went after the last person to strike regardless of anything else that happened prior. I could have one character hit for a million points of damage and then send in my magic-user to strike the enemies for 1 HP, and every single enemy would go after the magic-user because of it. This makes combat incredibly annoying, too, since your enemies consistently gang up on a single character and this increases the likelihood that they’ll knock one of your characters out (especially if you’re using the auto-battle). The whole thing is a mess that pales in comparison to the jRPGs it parodies.
Leveling up is at least interesting
Your characters have four stats: might, charisma, grit, and dexterity. Charisma is basically your magic stat while grit increases your critical hit rate and immunity to negative status effects (as well as increasing the experience you obtain a negligible amount). The other two are pretty self-explanatory, being the same “physical damage” and “speed” stats you’ve probably seen in a million other games. While most jRPGs automatically raise your stats when you level up, you gain three points to manually invest into your stats with each level, and there’s a certain strategic element to this because of how it ties into magic/special abilities.
Magic attacks and special abilities are available to all four characters, but they’re found or bought rather than being obtained through leveling like in many older jRPGs. They also happen to be equippable and expend PP, which are gained whenever one of your stats goes over a threshold (15, 21, 28, and so on), with stronger skills requiring 2 PP. This forces you to not only manage which skills you equip before a fight, but also put points into stats each character might not excel at for the sake of being able to equip more special skills. Not only that, but you’re also able to use PP to equip passive skills that grant you stat boosts so long as they’re equipped. All of this becomes a balancing act when taken together, and it’s really the only thing Doom & Destiny gets remotely right.
Bugs and miscellaneous problems
The first video on this page highlights the biggest annoyance I found while playing the mobile version of this game, that being the movement stick resetting when you enter a door. If you hold the screen just a moment too long, the area you’re pressing becomes the default position of the new control stick and pressing where you want the default position to be (usually in the opposite direction of where you were pressing) moves you in that direction rather than resetting the stick, even if you let go of the screen first. That’s a lot of words, but the basic problem is that you’re constantly walking through doors, only to have the game’s terrible controls send you right back through the same door in the opposite direction.
Then there are the actual bugs I faced, which ranged from dialogue having random returns cutting up words (pictured in the screenshots) to the music randomly cutting out until I reset the game. Thankfully, the save system allows you to save almost anywhere in one of four slots, making bugs less of an issue, but the lack of polish is still irritating given how long the developers have had to get things fixed.
Then there are the miscellaneous annoyances that I found while playing. Fetch quests would definitely be one of these; while the game loves mocking jRPGs and their love of fetch quests, D&D still sends you to collect X number of random things. In fact, its “sidequests” are little more than “kill-X-number-of-Y-enemy,” and the very end of the game sees you running through a castle full of random battles—another thing brought up by the game and embraced wholeheartedly regardless—to find four hidden gems so that you can unlock the door to the final boss.
So much shameless self-promotion
I played through the game in something like 9-10 hours, ignoring a fair portion of side content to power through to the end because I wasn’t enjoying myself at all. I took 8 screenshots of characters who exist solely to beg for ratings or Steam Greenlight votes (which is astounding since the game is already on Steam), and this means that this begging was present at a basic rate of one per hour in a paid app. These characters have icons over their heads which makes them easy to confuse with characters who sell special skills, too, and at one point the icon over one’s head was completely different, ensuring that I’d talk to them. I made an animated .gif of this begging to drive home its ubiquity (here, though it’s hosted on XOMF and will only work if their site isn’t down).
The graphics and music that weren’t
The devs bought the graphics from a development kit, so they look pretty generic. The portraits aren’t terrible, but the sprites all scream “generic RPG-maker,” which it turns out is an accurate designation. I don’t know if they bought the music, as well, but it’s similarly generic, doing its job but never really standing out or accomplishing anything other than being present.