Dragon Fin Soup
PAX Prime 2015: Hands-On Preview
"The developers are clearly aiming for an edgy, raunchy tone; skeletons joke about having a boner and Red gets into a bar brawl in an underground strip club."

Subverting classic fairy tales and folklore is old hat in video games at this point, but there can still be something endearing about seeing familiar characters given new life in your favorite interactive medium. It is a fine line to walk between endearing and cliché however. Grimm-Bros. attempts to walk this line with Dragon Fin Soup, a tactical rogue-like with a dash of "twisted fairy tales."

Dragon Fin Soup's story follows Red Robin, a bounty hunter who is the only surviving member of her village after it was wiped out by a mysterious man with superhuman strength. Red is based on the Little Red Riding Hood character, and she inhabits a colorful world replete with references to Grimm's Fairy Tales and other Western folklore. For example, she is often accompanied by her pet wolf, Big Bad. She is also an alcoholic, which feeds into numerous playful jokes as well as certain game mechanics. I did not get to see much of the story, but my primary hope is that the developers are able to treat alcoholism as the serious condition that it is rather than just a punchline.

Like many of the games at PAX Prime this year, Dragon Fin Soup is both a rogue-like and an RPG. Story mode has some scripted events, but their configuration is procedurally generated so each playthrough will be slightly different. Survival mode is a classic rogue-like experience where you explore a procedurally generated dungeon for as long as possible, fighting monsters and collecting loot. Combat takes place on a tactical grid where each move is a turn and both allies and enemies move at once.

Red's main weapon is a shotgun, but she can also pick up and use a variety of other tools in her adventure. These tools, along with the magic she acquires, are at least partially randomized as well, creating greater variety in subsequent playthroughs. In addition, the game sports extensive crafting of equipment and items to aid your journey. Red can also destroy environmental objects and interact with traps for good or ill effect. When she gets low on health she heals by drinking some alcohol, but if she drinks too much too fast her alcohol meter will fill and she will enter a drunken rage. In this state the player loses control of Red and she attacks recklessly for several turns. Finally, Red can have up to two pets on the field with her, such as the aforementioned Big Bad.

The game has a very nice color palette and the artwork is appealing enough, particularly if you like the disproportionate cartoony look. Nothing about the music really stood out to me, but I felt it set the mood properly. The developers are clearly aiming for an edgy, raunchy tone; skeletons joke about having a boner and Red gets into a bar brawl in an underground strip club.

The jury is still out on whether this combination of humor is classic or cliché. No doubt many will enjoy it, and the game's mechanics are strong enough to stand on their own. I just think the developers have a chance to do something mature and powerful with Dragon Fin Soup and I hope they seize it.



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