Doug McGrave, legendary adventurer and unrepentant jerk, was living the good life until he passed by the demon besieged town of Hellside. A witch pleads with him to help save the town, and when he refuses to lend his sword to the cause, the witch curses him. Until he purges the demons from Hellside, his items and wealth will decay, dooming him to fight the monsters with whatever he finds lying around. The Weaponographist’s main twist: while you gain new weapons from defeating enemies, they are brittle and will wear out quickly, forcing you to constantly pick up new ones.
The game is essentially a top-down dungeon crawler where you battle wave after wave of randomly generated enemies in identical square arenas. As long as you are actively killing monsters, your combo meter increases. If you slow down, it decreases. This can be problematic since your combo meter is also your character’s experience, which means if you aren’t killing monsters quickly enough, you won’t be strong enough to face the more powerful enemies in the next area.
Combat itself is fast-paced and hectic, requiring the player to constantly avoid projectiles and learn enemy movement patterns. Doug can move in one direction and attack in the opposite thanks to the way the attacks are mapped to the keyboard, where pressing one of the directional keys will cause him to attack in that direction.
Outside of the dungeons, the town of Hellside serves as a hub world, offering shops for upgrading weapons and bonuses to increase Doug’s health and make the combo meter drain more slowly. Since Doug can’t hold onto any money, the townspeople have agreed to accept payment in the form of the demon goop he has collected from his prey. The basic structure of the game comes down to die, upgrade, repeat.
While the characters and story of the game are charming and humorous, there is far too little of either once the game gets going. Once the introduction is over there is no story to push the game forward, which is too bad considering the residents of Hellside are well designed and look like they have stories to tell.
Sadly, what the game does have going for it doesn’t make up for what is ultimately a tedious grind through the same arena (with different color schemes) battling the same monsters ad nauseam. Despite all the different enemy designs, they don’t end up being drastically different from the monsters you’ve fought earlier. The weapons the enemies drop don’t really stand out from each other, the whip being a faster version of the spear for example.
In the end I found the game to be fun in small doses, but the repetitive levels and grindy gameplay turned me off. The combo meter is an interesting idea, but ultimately leads to frustration when all the enemies spawn on the opposite side of the arena, causing you to lose precious experience while you chase them down. Unless you are looking for something to speedrun or desperately want a roguelike you can enjoy in bite sized increments, I can’t recommend The Weaponographist.