The Weaponographist Review
When I sat down to write this review, I found myself at a loss. With a game that fails this way on so many levels, what could one possibly address first?
It's pretty clear the game isn't good. There's not really a unifying theme, a lot of the mechanics are better implemented in other games, the weapons boil down to "mash attack as hard as you can," there's no real way to pick a loadout other than blind luck, and the near-constant waves of enemies are actually numbing at a certain point. I found my sensory input dissolving into generic music and bright colors as my fingers tapped the attack keys for reasons I could no longer understand.
But, even with all of that, it's hard to pinpoint somewhere to start. Somewhere to point out where in the horrifying and sad mesh of monstrous machinery things begin to go wrong.
But if it wasn't clear from the paragraphs above, I'd give The Weaponographist a wide berth. Despite the occasional good joke, there's really nothing to recommend the game when there is a glut of roguelikes that do it better and with more style than this one.
The Weaponographist stars Doug, a jerk of an adventurer who refuses to help the town of Hellside, and so is cursed to have all his weapons and gear disintegrate after repeated use. To save the town and weaken the curse, he must journey repeatedly into a dungeon full of strange monsters, clearing out each level with a variety of weapons he finds on the bodies of his foes, and the occasional chests that gallop across the screen. While death sends him back to the town above, Doug can weaken the curse and strengthen his abilities by giving the various denizens of the town "demon goo" in exchange for upgraded weapons, abilities, and chests.
The game is a top-down arena shooter with elements of a roguelike. You charge into the dungeon, lay waste to as many monsters as you can with the weapons you can pick up, die, and then are resurrected in town to spend goop on upgrades and do it all over again. At the end of each "depth" of the dungeon, there's a big boss fight against a large enemy and a bunch of smaller ones, and then it's on to the next one. Lather, rinse, repeat. It's a formula many games use, and when you play a roguelike, it's half luck and half learning the systems through trial and error, then applying what you know to future delves into the dungeon.
But the game doesn't seem to be able to make up its mind. It gives you procedurally generated rooms, but limits them to the same three basic types per area, with little variation. It fills the dungeon up with monsters, but the enemy designs are kind of plain and have no real ties to any overall theme. The weapon degradation mechanic is interesting, but since not all enemies drop weapons, it's possible to face down an entire room of people armed only with the fists that serve as an ineffective default weapon. It feels like a lot of thought went into the idea of these systems, but not very much into the implementation of them.
This is a problem that extends to the art, too. While the drawn art is well done with distinctive styles and ideas, from a top-down perspective, it looks like you're fighting clipart. Between the generic dungeon design and the painfully generic designs of ninjas and tommy gun-toting mobsters, The Weaponographist's visual style is best described as "boring cartoon fantasy". In fact...actually, I have the perfect way to describe this.
It looks like a lazy online game. It plays like a lazy online game. In fact, if this had shown up in some form or another on Kongregate or Newgrounds, I would have killed an hour or so playing it, then promptly forgotten about it entirely. It's not a particularly good arena shooter, as waves of the same four or five enemies careen around an empty room until you kill them all and a door opens to do it all over again and hope you're closer to the boss. It's not a particularly good roguelike, in that there's no strategy or skill or discovery. There's just persistent wave after wave of shooting. It gets frustrating after a while, because no matter how long you play, there's no appreciable difference in the gameplay.
To compare and contrast, I loaded up The Binding of Isaac recently. Isaac, a shooter/roguelike hybrid released in 2011, plays in some respects similar to Weaponographist: It's a dual-stick shooter with RPG elements where you go from dungeon to dungeon fighting monsters and bosses with a variety of weapons. But the difference is that Isaac is actually a lot of fun to play, combining a bizarre atmosphere with a vast weapon variety, distinct artwork, some interesting strategic quirks in gameplay, and haunting, discomforting music. Isaac feels like you're going somewhere even when you lose. The Weaponographist feels like you're going nowhere, and then slightly further into nowhere when you win.
In the end, I'd say I don't recommend The Weaponographist very much. The Binding of Isaac is currently on Steam for a little cheaper. If you want a better roguelike or a better arena shooter, both are in ample supply. I suggest playing any of those, and leaving this one alone.
Score: 1 out of 5
Full Disclosure: The reviewer received a review copy of this game