First Impressions: And So It Was

I’ve taken a little over a month to get down to writing this, which is quite shameful because And So It Was seems like a pretty good game. I say ‘seems’ because I’ve only spent a couple of hours with it and haven’t finished the game yet – but I think that’s down to my skill rather than the game’s difficulty. That’s also why this is a first impressions, not a review. If I do actually finish And So It Was, I’ll attempt a review.

Now, onward and upward.

Health = damage

And So It Was caught my eye because it seems a bit weird, the sort of thing I don’t see very often. And that’s really down to the game’s central mechanic, which seems incredibly simple as a concept, but makes the game tricky and surprisingly fun to play.

You start the game with 3 health, depicted by a circle around your character. Each of those bars represents how much damage you can take and how much damage you deal. At full health, you’ll take down a 4-health knight in two swings. At 1-health, you need to whack him 4 times. This system is what makes the game so much fun and is simultaneously why I haven’t been able to get past the first boss yet – he has somewhere between 10 and 20 health, I think, and the fight requires more skill than I’ve been able to develop.

Although health is recoverable from crates and barrels, as well as spells, being able to take just 3 hits adds an incredible sense of tension to the game. Fights become a fair bit of frantic clickery, because you need to run or dodge out of the way of enemies once they begin their attack and hop back in for a swing before they start the next. The need to actually watch enemies, pay attention to attack patterns – which aren’t complicated at all – and respond when the window of opportunity presented itself was a good bit of fun.

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As an example, I was playing a lot of Diablo 3 in the months before I started And So It Was, and I found the passivity of Diablo 3’s combat incredibly boring. My Demon Hunter could simply stand in place and spam arrows for eternity, making combat much less threatening than it was in say, Diablo 2 with my Druid. And So It Was feels more involved, requiring a little more focus and skill than simply running up to something and right-clicking on it until it dies – and that’s what I enjoyed most.

You can also have one spell and one passive active at any given time during the level, and there’s a decent selection of them. With active spells that give you temporary invincibility to passives that allow you to only find health from crates and barrels, there’s a reasonably inventive selection of options here. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you look at it – they’re all random.

Randomly generated everything (with permadeath)

And So It Was features both randomly generated levels and permadeath, which works both in its favour and against it. The randomness kept the first level fresh during each of my many plays. The time between starting the level and dying ignominiously is between 1 and 10 minutes, so if you’re as average as I am at this game, you’ll be seeing the same level very frequently.

Random generation meant that I was always discovering something new, which was nice – new buffs, new spells, new rooms, new secrets. The problem was that I couldn’t map out an optimal route to the level’s boss, which I would really, really have liked.

How the game works is, after you load into the level, you pick a direction and run in it, familiarizing yourself with the level and knocking out enemies – no killing so far, only knock-outs; opponents get up after their forced nap time and you’ll have to knock them out again if you’re passing that way. Along the way, you’ll pick up an active spell, a passive spell, and perhaps get a buff from a merchant who happens to loiter around the area. Then you come to the final boss and, in my case, get properly and thoroughly murdered.

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While randomness keeps the game fresh, if everything wasn’t randomly generated, I might be able to work out a route that gets me to the boss with as few fights as possible, while grabbing the spells and passives I want, putting me at full health and mana with a build that might help me kill the damned thing. Yet, that might also make the game boring – running the same level over and over again until the first level’s boss is toast.

And it is equally important to consider that I might simply be bad at the game. The boss fights seem to demand a high level of precision and near flawless execution, which I haven’t been able to manage over my many, many playthroughs of the first level.

For my part, I do like the randomness, because And So It Was still feels fresh enough for me to make repeated attempts at beating it. I simply can’t decide whether it’s in the game’s favour or not.

So, to sum this up …

I said a month ago that And So It Was looks interesting and it certainly is. The health = damage mechanic is a nice spin on the systems that I’m used to and it makes what would otherwise perhaps be viewed as a Diablo clone stand on its own.

Despite repeated failure I’m still enjoying And So It Was. Finding a new spell or passive is quite the kick – I came across one that prevented me from triggering traps, which meant that I could comfortably run through the level instead of sneaking through suspicious looking sections. Winning fights against the weaker creatures in the level does feel like a victory earned, simply because of how easy it is to get careless and die. And exploring the prison level really is a lot of fun, simply because there are new things to find pretty often – which is one of the things that’s kept me going.

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That I haven’t finished it could just as easily be a commentary on the game’s difficulty as it could be a testament to my own lack of skill at the sort of twitchiness that And So It Was requires.

If my extensive rambling has sparked something resembling curiosity in you, give it a look? It’s on Steam here. For what it’s worth, I’m having fun with And So It Was – but since I’ve only put a couple of hours into the game, I’m not confident about recommending it just yet. If I manage to beat it in the course of the next few weeks, I’ll tell you whether or not I think it’s worth buying.

Trevor Coelho

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