Don't be fooled by the innocent graphics, The Swords of Ditto is a challenging and complex roguelite not for the faint of heart.
The land of Ditto is under a terrible curse and you're the only one that can lift it. Every 100 years, the evil witch Mormo appears and attempts to take control of the world. At that same time, a new hero called the Sword of Ditto arises to defend the world against Mormo. If the Sword of Ditto fails, the world falls into the hands of Mormo's reign for 100 years. Unsurprisingly, you control the Sword of Ditto as you explore the land of Ditto in an overhead action-adventure game set in a beautifully hand-drawn world that could easily pass for a children's show.
The Swords of Ditto has several roguelike elements; one of which being that death is permanent and falling in battle even once means Mormo succeeds and the realm of Ditto must wait 100 years for their next hero. The actual layout of the world also changes after every death with a mix of procedural generation and hand-crafted areas that are blended together to form every new map. Certain areas (like the graveyard, town, and your home) are structured fairly similarly for each playthrough but the dungeons and plethora of secrets are shuffled each time and not every secret area and beneficial NPC is available during every run, adding an element of randomness.
The Swords of Ditto's structure is very interesting and has both benefits and drawbacks. You can actually face Mormo immediately after starting the game and acquiring your sword or you can choose to explore the world, level up your abilities, and weaken Mormo before facing her. To weaken her, you'll need to destroy her two anchors hidden in the world. To access these, you'll first need to complete a Toy Dungeon which will grant you access to a Toy of Legend, an item that can usually be used as a weapon and is also needed to complete the following Anchor Dungeon. There are two Toy Dungeons and Two Anchor dungeons in every world.
There's also a time limit that affects how much of the game you can complete before facing Mormo. On normal difficulty, it's 4 in-game days which pass by relatively quickly. I struggled to complete all four dungeons within that limit, especially since each dungeon requires you to level up before entering. This means you'll spend some of your precious time grinding levels by killing enemies or completing side-quests. The easiest difficulty bumps this number up to 6 days which is more reasonable. I suggest most players start with that.
Combat is one of The Swords of Ditto's highlights thanks mostly to a huge array of enemies who all have different abilities and require you to face them in different ways. While your hero is usually just armed with a sword and maybe one or two additional toy weapons, there is a surprising amount of ways to kill enemies. Some enemies spawn new monsters so you'll want to focus on them first. Many shoot projectiles that you'll need to dodge while others can't be hurt by your sword and you'll have to find other ways to attack them.
The land of Ditto is filled with secrets, many that are rather obscure and require you to pay attention and do a lot of experimentation to figure them out. The game doesn't do much to hold your hand and instead, it expects you to explore the world yourself, figure out how things work, and even comprehend how the game is structured and how your time will be best spent. While I enjoyed the freedom to discover things for myself and explore the world at my leisure, there were times that I wished The Swords of Ditto had opted for a more traditional action-adventure approach as I didn't always feel like the roguelike structure was the best fit.
When you die, you're able to pass on your experience level and gold collected to the next hero although later on, you're given the option to pass on some of your key toys and sticker stat boosts to future heroes at a cost. Passing on experience may seem like a great feature to add a sense of progression in an otherwise punishing roguelite. However, enemies scale to your level between runs so there's really no point to passing on your experience level. In fact, I'd argue that the enemy types get more difficult as you level up so it may be easier to beat the campaign while at lower levels.
The Swords of Ditto is also brought down by a few annoying features that irritated me throughout my experience. After each death, it takes way too long to start your next adventure. First, you have to go through a couple conversation chains that always say the same thing. Then, you have to slowly walk a few screens away to the graveyard to pick up the previous hero's weapons. After completing this dull gameplay segment just a couple times, you'll be bored with it. Unfortunately, it must be done every single time you die. This is made worse by the hero's obnoxiously slow movement speed. There's a roll ability that allows you to move slightly faster but navigating across empty stretches of the map takes a lot longer than it should simply because your character is so slow. I also ran into some performance issues late in the game including a save-corrupting crash that happened right as I was entering Mormo's tower.
The Swords of Ditto is filled with highs and lows. On the plus side, the visuals are top-notch and reminiscent of a children's cartoon, enemy variety keeps the combat feeling fresh, and well-crafted secrets give you lots of reasons to explore. However, the structure and experience system never fully clicked with me and annoying design choices really detract from its overall appeal.
- + Gorgeous colourful art style
- + Enjoyable combat that's bolstered by great enemy variety
- + Packed with secrets and challenges
- - Conflicting structure and gameplay
- - Carrying over experience levels between runs doesn't really help
- - Overly slow movement speed