What happens when you take Diablo and mash it back together with the roguelike genre that inspired it in the first place? Odds are, you'd come up with something similar to Din's Curse, an action RPG from indie developer Soldak Entertainment. Since you were apparently a godless heathen in your previous life, the god Din decides that you need to make penance and save the people and their towns from the monsters who inhabit dungeons that just so happen to have entrances in the town square. Not the smartest move, but it's mighty convenient for our hero.
You can choose from your standard gallery of RPG archetypes to play as, each with three skill trees, or as a "hybrid" class, who can choose their skill trees from any of the other classes, but only get to take two. If you've ever wanted to be a badass warrior who wears mail armor and wields an enormous two-handed mace, but has the nimble grace and stealth skills of a rogue, this is your game.
Just about everything in Din's Curse is randomly generated, similar to your standard roguelike game. After creating a character, you begin by generating a world, which will create a town and its quests as well as the dungeon you will inevitably conquer. Completing quests for the townspeople will earn you reputation points, which will earn you special gear, and just might make Din look more favorably on you.
While hacking and slashing your way through the various dungeons will feel immediately familiar to anyone who's played a PC Action-RPG in recent years, there are some nice twists that give Din's Curse a unique feel. While other games of this type will often throw a trap at you here and there, in this game, you can use environmental traps against the horde of enemies that await you. Flip a lever and you might cause an explosion, trigger a poison trap or even cause the roof to cave in. Named mobs can incite conflict with other monster types, which you need to quell quickly, as enemies will gain levels and champion status when they kill other mobs.
While you're busy clubbing orcs over the head, enemies can leave the dungeon and attack your town. If you hurry back, you can save the townspeople and retain your hard-earned reputation points, but if you dawdle, townspeople might be kidnapped (which triggers a quest to rescue them) or even killed. Losing townspeople causes you to lose reputation, but as a nice side bonus, killed townspeople can be searched for loot. Hey, they don't need it anymore! If the three main questgivers (Warmaster, Steward and Apothecary) are killed, you will "lose" your town and be forced to generate a new town to save.
Quests are dynamic, and the game is rather serious when it tells you to prioritize quests where you're told that you need to hurry. Wait too long to talk to that informant or townsperson locked away in the dungeon and the monsters will overtake them, dinging your rep. If you don't take on a quest that has a time limit, the NPCs can still die, so don't blindly grab quests upon entering town. Thankfully, a lot of the kill quests will grant you credit for killing their target before you snag the quest. I wish more games did this (I'm looking at you, WoW!).
Clearing all of the quests in a town will save it, and you will earn you a victory chest full of booty from Din, proving he isn't always a jerk. You may still head back into the dungeon to explore further, but at this point, you can bask in the glory of the victory screen (complete with fireworks) and generate a new town. If the game's feeling too easy for you, whenever you generate a new town, you can choose to beef up the enemies found within.
The co-op play works exactly as you would expect. Invite as many friends as you want to your game and go slaughter some kobolds. Reread that last sentence. There's no hard-limit to number of players in a co-op session. Players can initiate trades or revert the time-honored tradition of littering the town square with all the loot they don't want. The choice is yours! All quests and experience points are shared by the players, so if someone decides to head back to town, they can take care of turning in quests for the rest of their friends.
More games like this, please.
Players can connect to each other in a variety of ways: via broadcasting a server over the internet, over a LAN or even good old direct IP connection. Oddly enough, in a reversal of fortune for the Co-Optimus editors, we had no trouble connecting to each other. Bonus points for stable netcode!
I really only have one major gripe with Din's Curse, which is how it deals with player skills. I mentioned the character skill trees before, but that's sort of a misnomer. You have three sets of skills (two if you're a hybrid) to choose from, but rather than your standard tree of skills, you can take any skill out of a set, provided you have enough skill points to purchase it. While this feels like a nod to Diablo II players holding on to all their skill points until they're level 20, I can't help but feel this robs the high-tier skills of feeling earned. Of course, this is personal preference, so you might enjoy being able to turn into a Lich early on.
All in all, Din's Curse is a solid Action-RPG, a fun co-op experience, and though it's definitely not the prettiest girl on the block, it scratches the loot-whoring dungeon hack loving itch quite nicely, and the unpredictability that the game's random elements provide keep the replay value high.
Din's Curse plays much like any good Diablo clone should. You make your way through dungeons killing tougher and tougher enemies while collecting better and better loot and spending skill points in the various skill trees in order to turn your character into an all-out one-man, or one-woman, wrecking machine. What really stands out with Din's Curse, though, are the quests. The fact that NPCs can be kidnapped and killed by the dungeon monsters lends the game a bit more dynamic feel than all the other action-RPGs out there. The ability to create your own hybrid character class also allows for some very interesting possibilities when teaming up with a pal, such as an assassin/healer or a hunter/druid. While Din's Curse may not be able to rival a game like Torchlight in terms of overall polish or control, it does have the advantage of allowing players to co-op their way through the game and share in the fun together.