Last year, NIS published the strange Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do to Deserve This?. It was well-received, though flawed in many ways. Despite bringing some interesting ideas to the table, the experience ended up being a bit too deep for its own good, and the fact that players couldn't save meant the experience had to be completed in one, long, difficult attempt. With the sequel, What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord!? 2, the developers have tried to streamline things a bit, and make a more enjoyable experience without the flaws of the original. Oh, and they've managed to be even more meta than before, which should put a smile on the face of anyone to ever sleep in a tavern to save. The humor is there--and abundant.
It's hard to describe the gameplay of What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord!? 2, especially to anyone who didn't play the prequel, Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do to Deserve This? It's part puzzler, part RPG, and part simulation, with a heaping spoonful of management thrown in for good measure. Yet, despite that, it's still completely unique, in a genre of its own. It tries to do something that very few other games have done: flip typical RPG dungeon crawlers on their heads and let players be the enemy. Square-Enix's recent Wiiware release of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles - My Life as a Darklord is likely the closest cousin, but that, too, takes a different approach. Players control the Lord of Destruction, who needs to build a dungeon for Badman. This involves digging tunnels in a large grid, and creating monsters to populate the halls. While this might sound like a simple task, the puzzle elements keep it from being anything short of maddening.
Instead of dropping in enemies, they are dug up from the soil itself. Different soil types have different enemies inside, with the lowest rung on the ladder being "producers," that walk along paths and create more powerful foes. After they've moved enough nutrients from one plot of soil to another, a more powerful "consumer" is created, which reproduces by consuming producers. Slowly, a food chain emerges, with different types of enemies relying on others to thrive. Right here, with this mechanic, is where the first game ended and the sequel picks up. Now, each creature type has several different mutations, changing to meet the needs of a different situation. It's not as easy as just selecting one, however, with this series nothing is that simple. A lack of food might make a lizard into a larger, fatter, more powerful lizard, meaning the player can destroy food sources in order to try and breed a more powerful creature. Different situations will spur evolutions, and learning these is key to success.
Success in amassing a powerful army is important to defeating the game's foes: heroes. Adventurers will show up from time to time, working their way through the dungeon to capture Badman. Either alone or in a typical RPG party, they'll cleave through monsters with ease. As the game's difficulty rises, more varied heroes will make their way in, with abilities ranging from typical magic to the ability to put down "Save" markers that will ressurect them unless destroyed. Unless there's a well-made dungeon in between the entrance and Badman they'll walk right out with the darklord, and the game boils down to protecting the character. Before, this was done with one long level. Now, it's a series of worlds, and while players might need to fight the same few heroes each time they fail, they'll never need to re-complete entire levels they've finished. It might sound like a small change, but it's actually one of the largest, and should give anyone nervous about picking up the first game a good reason to try this one, instead.
Besides tweaks to the gameplay and the inclusion of different "worlds," there are a few other features to waste time with as well. "Training" is actually more of a puzzle mode after the initial tutorials are out of the way, giving players assignments while teaching them the game mechanics, and "Badman's Chamber" is essentially an ant farm, allowing players to create levels without fearing hero intervention. While neither will likely pull away the spotlight from the traditional story, they provide the tools needed to understand how the hell the game works. The mechanics can be overwhelming, and there have been few changes to make things easier for new or old players.
Luckily, while the updates haven't exactly made it more "user friendly," they've cleaned things up just enough to make it a slightly easier to get into. In a way, it's like Peggle, in that the fun comes with watching the game play after setting everything into motion, not constantly tinkering and pressing buttons. At $19.99 on the PSN or $29.99 on UMD (the UMD version comes complete with the first game on the disk), it's worth investing in for anyone who would enjoy seeing the other side of an RPG. Even when things are hectic, confusing, and seemingly out of control, it's still a blast to play, and moves the series a few minor steps in the right direction.