Dragon Fin Soup isn’t trying to start a revolution, but it is bringing the nostalgia factor and blending it with modern gameplay and a ton of humor. The upcoming RPG blended with roguelike gameplay elements is inspired by the kinds of games the developers (Grimm Bros, a five man team) want to play and spent much time playing. When they got together and left AAA development, where they had decades between them, it came down to deciding just what their first project would be as an independent studio. Dragon Fin Soup is that project, and it’s a fun, darkly humorous take on the 90s JRPG that draws inspiration from fairy tales and then twists them.
The game’s Kickstarter campaign began in March after a year of development and response was enthusiastic. When the campaign closed last week, the game made $119,719 in pledges above an initial goal of $24,000. That led to multiple stretch goals becoming possible, including new story to play through, and a release across even more platforms over time.
So how is the game? While there are scripted story elements common to each adventure, each world is unique and each level will be procedurally generated. These are called seeds, and you can either choose an existing one or create and name your own. You’ll be able to share your seeds with friends, who can then play the same settings. Beyond that, you’ll also have a choice on how you want to play. On the selection screen, you can choose from Classic or Hardcore. Hardcore is where the roguelike elements shine since you have just one life to play around with. Yep, permadeath. No saving, no continuing, just one chance to shine. Classic is definitely the more lenient of the two modes, and that was what I demoed.
The game begins with some lore about a Turtle god and a planet’s collision, and the resulting rain of crystal shards down below. This lore will be key. Dragon Fin Soup is currently in alpha and its currently available story is centered around (Red Riding Hood inspired) Red Robin, who you might have seen as the face of the Kickstarter campaign. Robin is no slouch. Although currently battling amnesia and with a bit of a drinking problem, Robin is a mercenary, a bounty hunter for hire who is willing to tackle even the difficult jobs. Oh, and she’s also looking for vengeance against whoever murdered her family. Little details about the game are charming and inspired, even down to some of the earliest of jokey references. Robin has a pet wolf that comes along with her named Big Bad.
Naturally, after waking up in your house at the beginning of the game, you head out to the tavern. After a chat with Bill, the town pervert, you head inside for a drink to ease your mind. Grab a quest from the bartender, chat with the regulars, and suddenly, Bill runs in and lets everyone know there’s an attack from undead outside. Someone else offers help while Bill cowardly remains inside.
The game’s minimap shows your position and can be zoomed in and out for different levels of visibility and for different parts of the action. You move square by square, and your initial abilities include the ability to plant bombs and more. Robin has a signature shotgun, though you can stab away too. Once the town has been cleared of enough dead by Robin, the soldier, and Big Bad, a new phase begins. Quests don’t look to break the mold but they will come with the humor and fun that is clearly throughout the game. There’s also destructible content all over the place should you be feeling in the mood to destroy everything in your path. As for that drinking problem? Alcohol found along your way can serve as healing and buffs for Robin.
Future content will include a second and possibly a third story campaign down the line, all following this twisted fairytale inspiration, and each with a theme. Morgiana’s story is one of being a slave and then finding her freedom. If Robin’s theme is one of vengeance, then the others, Morgiana (unlocked as a stretch goal) will be one of freedom, and the potential inclusion later of Gepetto (who tried to bring back his son) might be a redemption theme. All of these will include the same style of dark humor, but they will offer players variety.
For now, though, things seem to be well on their way. There are elements you’d expect, like item shops, an armory, and more. And game options like crafting, fishing, and even exploration will be in the game. The game will also start to adapt to your pace as you play. Of course if you choose to play on Hardcore, that could be a good or bad thing. Although the demo came from an alpha build, it felt like something very promising. If the team keeps its humorous approach along with fun gameplay, this will be one to watch.
Christina Gonzalez / Christina is a freelancer and contributor to MMORPG.com, where she writes the community-focused Social Hub column. You will also find her contributions at RTSGuru. Follow her on Twitter: @c_gonzalez