Do you ever run into that game that you never heard of, but you think it looks great, only to be slightly disappointed when you finally play it? The Weaponographist, for me at least, is one of those games.
The Weaponographist is a top down rogue lite twin-stick arcade style indie game, developed by Puuba and published by Mastertronic, in the game you play as Doug Mcgrave, a chisel-jawed, shiny teethed hero who fights monsters for a living, but will only do it for money. One day while walking in a forest he is approached by some old witch who pleads for him to save her town from the evil monsters near-by, initially intrigued by the offer until Doug is informed that she has no money to give, to which like a jerk-face, declines to do so because “There are more WEALTHY people to protect.”
However like the idiot he is, he forgets he’s dealing with a witch, so she places a curse on him because of his greed, taking away all his weapons and forcing him to stay at the town, informing Doug that the only way to reverse the curse is to rid the town of all the evils that lye within it.
And that’s all the setup you get. Really there isn’t any story to speak of beyond the intro. While you do get some humorous lines from the main character and some of the towns folk that are there to assist you on your goal to rid the town of the evil, there really isn’t much in terms of a story, which is fine, I don’t need one, and kinda glad there isn’t one.
When you start the game you start out in the town which acts as a hub area, which has numerous folk that are there to assist you on your quest. Ranging from the weapon-smith, who upgrades the numerous weapons you find in the dungeon, The Chest vendor, which sells you runes that gives you temporary boosts in your power, A merchant that sells special perks that gives passive upgrades to your character, and your assistant buddy which is just there to show you the leader boards and a how to play guide.
The real meat of the game however lies is the dungeons.
Right away the thing that I immediately noticed was how similar the gameplay is to both Smash TV & The Binding of Isaac. You attack in four directions with the ability to strafe, you clear rooms of enemies to be able to proceed to the next area similar to that of the Legend of Zelda, and every level is full of wide open rooms with nothing but enemies, which you have to clear out in order to proceed to the next room. The main difference here is that you don’t start with any weapons, you start off with only your dukes, in fact the main draw of the game is that you obtain weapons from the various enemies you fight which drop weapons for you to pick up. The catch here however is that the weapons you pick up don’t last forever, basically after you attack an enemy, the weapons durability will drop, some weapons have very good durability, some don’t, for instance the Whip you pick up from the ‘Lion’ Tamers (haha) has very good durability, and has a fast attack rate, but it’s power is very weak, whereas stuff like the Shield has really good attack power, a slow attack rate, and the ability to block projectiles, but it’s durability is very low.
Also when you die, you are immediately sent back to the town hub to start over, in a fashion similar to Dark Souls, however here you don’t lose your currency, instead, you keep your currency and just have to start the level over again. When you get far enough into a level, you get the ability to save at a checkpoint, the catch here is that any damage you sustained up to that point will also be saved, and you will only get 3 continues from that point, so make it count.
The main thing I do like about the combat is that you have to strategize about what weapons you should use at the right moments, like should I use a projectile weapon to pick off enemies from a distance so I don’t have to get in their attack range and risk losing health? Or should I pickup a melee weapon that does more damage but at the risk of getting hit? Stuff like this definitely gives it some needed tension and makes you feel vulnerable when you are doing poorly, giving you more of a reason to pay attention and work hard to beat the levels, which makes it pretty fun to play.
The game lives up to the title of the game, by giving you a pretty good variety of weapons to use, from the humble sword, to the anachronistic Tommy gun, and even hilarious weapons such as a tuba that shoots freakin’ laser beams! (and you probably thought that subtitle up there was a random joke.) Overall there are plenty of weapons that all have different effects and stats which also adds to the strategy element of the game. Also when it comes to weapons and their upgrades, you don’t EARN weapons, you earn their upgrades, which you can level up to a certain point to make your self more than an even match towards the enemies you fight…
Now in regards to some of the things I don’t like about the game I have several elephants in the room I need to point out.
For starters the music is very lackluster. While the music thankfully doesn’t grate on your eardrums, and is at the very least does the job for what type of game it is, I just feel the music could have added some more action beats to the compositions, and give them some energy, but simply that’s not the case as most compositions are rather dull…although at the very least the one memorable track that plays is the town hub song…so I guess that counts for something.
Another thing I don’t like is the overall art & character designs. Now when it comes to the character portraits they are well done, but when contrasted to everything else, it just kinda feels like a cheap mobile game, or some free to play flash title. Now while I do feel it’s at least a step above both of those, I just can’t help but feel they could’ve spruced the art direction up a bit.
Backgrounds can also feel a little off as certain things in the dungeons, which I THOUGHT were items, or worse dangers to avoid, only turned out to be nothing at all.
As an artist, In terms of the characters designs, some are fine, like the main characters like the townsfolk at least look unique, but people like Doug Mcgrave and some of the enemies just feel uninspired. Gee a chisel jawed hero that only cares about his own self interest at the total detriment of others…gee I wonder where I’ve heard that before…
Also the dungeons while they are randomly generated, to keep things fresh, which is nice, all feel too samey. Oh sure each level has a unique theme to it, and the backgrounds can change from room to room, but the overall feel of the rooms is the same. Big open rectangle rooms, with little to no variation other than enemy placements. Yay.
Sound design is another thing that suffers in this game. Every single weapon, from your bare fists, to you shooting a tommy gun, feels lifeless, and not as powerful as they should sound. Why firing a machine gun sounds like I’m just shooting a fully automatic cap gun, doesn’t really inspire awe into the player.
With all this combined, I ultimately feel because of this, not many people are really gonna remember this game long down the road…which is sad. This is one of the reasons why I feel kinda disappointed with the game. But ultimately it is at least fun to play, but having a good and memorable presentation is also key to a games success and longevity in the long run.
But none the less, the game at the very least succeeds where it matters, the gameplay, and for Puuba’s second game, that’s not bad. Overall in the time I spent playing this game to write this review, I at least had some good honest fun, and at the very least, that counts for something.
The game currently costs $14.99 or your regional equivalent on Steam, and thankfully it has a demo, so if you want to try it out before you commit to purchasing it, I strongly encourage you to do so.
But if you value a good a memorable presentation to go with your game, then maybe you should wait and save that money for something else.