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The Swords of Ditto Review

**This review contains minor spoilers from the beginning sequence of The Swords of Ditto.**

Developer onebitbeyond’s The Swords of Ditto may taste deceptively like an old-school action RPG in the Zelda (pre-Breath of The Wild) tradition, but don’t be fooled. The Swords of Ditto is simultaneously much less, and much more, than what you expect it to be at the start. Its simplistic cartoon art lends it a cheerful attitude — an attitude that is quickly dashed by a strangely morbid, strangely humorous, and strangely motivational plotline. Meet The Swords of Ditto, a cheeky indie title that isn’t afraid to try numerous innovations in a single game, despite the strong potential for these innovations to clash.

Become the Hero of Legend

The Swords of Ditto thrusts you into its world with very little hand-holding. So little, in fact, that one of the first things that happens to you is that you die (a dictation of the plot, never fear). You are the Sword of Ditto, a hero of legend that awakens every one hundred years to challenge Mormo, an evil witch. You are guided by Puku, the mystical dung beetle, who takes you to your sword, and then promptly to Mormo’s palace. Spoiler: Mormo murders you. Easily. And you wake up again, one hundred years later, as a new person who’s been summoned as the Sword.

You have four days (or more, depending on the difficulty level you’ve set) to defeat Mormo, who has enslaved and ruled the land for a century. There are ways to prolong and rewind that counter, but once your four days are up, they’re up. You’re forced to challenge Mormo in her palace, working your way through its dungeon levels and destroying any enemies standing in your way. If you’re lucky, you’ll make it through — and maybe even put an end to her wicked dominion.

Dying Is… The Worst

There’s a reason The Swords of Ditto introduces itself to you with your own death. Dying in this title is soul-crushingly inevitable and heartbreakingly punishing. Why? Because onebitbeyond thought it would be amusing to combine a timer with permadeath. Or, at least, semi-permadeath. And everything in this brutal indie really, really wants to kill you. If you do die, you get to keep your experience level, but that’s about it. Not only do you lose your items and your progress, but the whole world gets shuffled and you’re forced to start as a new person in a new town with new assortments of monsters and spaces to explore.

There are ways to rewind before Mormo destroys you, and there are ways to pass along the special items you’ve collected to future lifetimes, but none of these ways are explained to you and you have to do a great deal of digging to unearth them. And if you never unearth them? You better hope that you’re a dungeon and sword-slashing virtuoso. You can also adjust the difficulty level if you’re finding that you’re dying too often, but even with The Swords of Ditto on Relaxed mode, you’ll never be able to call this title “easy.”

Which Is… Kind of a Shame

The Swords of Ditto’s town and surrounding areas are an absolute pleasure to explore. The map is new every time you die, so even if you’ve already spent a great deal of time in-game, you’ll still have new things to look at and appreciate. The writing for the main and secondary characters is stellar, and onebitbeyond never hesitates to make smart jokes at its own expense. This inspires you to speak to everyone you meet, even if it’s clear that they’ll have nothing to offer you. Some people have small quests for you to go on, but most will only offer clever quips that are actually worth reading.

Because the world of The Swords of Ditto is so good, the countdown timer is more painful than it would be otherwise. You want to spend time cutting down bushes for gold and items and investigating every nook and cranny, but you really can’t. You want to fight everything you see for the experience, but you really shouldn’t. Besides the major dungeons which you defeat in order to weaken Mormo for the final battle, there are tiny puzzles in the outside world for you to enjoy. Besides that, there are Stickers to collect to boost your stats, a myriad of enemies to master and murder, and loads of other goodies that onebitbeyond bothered to put in, but then made impossible to leisurely appreciate.

Rough, But a Triumph for the Future

While doing battle with different sorts of enemies in The Swords of Ditto is entertaining to the utmost, the dungeon puzzles feel substantially less rewarding. They consist of classic tropes like flipping switches, moving crystals, and defeating monsters, but their pace and layout are neither engaging nor refreshing. At one point I found myself stuck in a room that was locked no matter what I did, and was forced to quit entirely. A few other quality-of-life issues also steal from the success of this indie. Small things (like the burdensome process of starting a new life and the fact that coins you get from the field fade on a timer) weigh on the greatness of The Sword of Ditto’s many other redeeming features.

The Swords of Ditto is an outstanding work of creativity, though. From the wonderful sound design to the engaging combat system, it’s diversely enjoyable. The issues it does have hinder it from being a revolutionary triumph, but its potential makes onebitbeyond a studio well worth watching for the future. The Swords of Ditto is an action RPG that pushes the boundaries of what the genre is at its core, and seems to chuckle the whole time while it’s doing it.

7

The Verdict: Great

The Swords of Ditto mines a shining gem out of a combination of lighthearted art, dry humor, and delightfully Zelda-esque gameplay. This indie title hooks you early and keeps you playing long after you’ve first been slapped around a bit, despite its many quality-of-life quirks.

Taryn Ziegler
Written by
May 02, 2018
Published in Adventure

Taryn is a digital content strategist with an avid appetite for literature and gaming. She graduated from the University of Washington Bothell with a degree in Culture, Literature, and the Arts, and since then has been engaged in copywriting for businesses from AutoNation to DirtFish Rally School. While she'll happily play most games set in front of her, Taryn heartily prefers a good ol' turn-based strategy RPG, such as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and Divinity: Original Sin.

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