Design Impressions: DmC (Devil May Cry)
Lately i’ve been jotting down thoughts and observations while playing random games for fun. A few friends expressed interest in reading my notes, so i’m posting them here in case anyone else cares. Who knows, maybe some fun conversations will come out of it. Today i’ll be delving into DmC: Devil May Cry, developed by Ninja Theory.
Disclaimer #1: This is not a review of the game. These scattered notes are just my personal impressions as a player. Please don’t take them too seriously.
Disclaimer #2: I’m not trying to say i could do better by any means. If i point out a flaw, it’s usually because i think it’s interesting; not to criticize anyone involved. There are countless reasons why a feature might be imperfect, buggy, or incomplete. Game development is a chaotic human endeavor, and it’s very rarely easy to figure out why something went wrong. Anyway it’s a safe bet that the dev team thought of most ideas or solutions i might suggest, but they couldn’t be implemented due to some unfortunate constraint.
• Combat feels crisp, responsive, and satisfying.
○ The Demon Pull and Angel Lift mechanics are awesome. Controls can be hard to remember at first; but if you make a commitment to the game, it’s an incredibly fun and versatile system.
• Level design is often spectacular and exhilarating, especially during dynamic environment transformations. The church exit and car chase were both amazing experiences.
○ Those must have been an interesting challenge for the environment art team. I can’t think of anything quite like it in prior games.
• Rebellion is Dante’s basic melee weapon and feels good throughout the game. Reliable combo starter on the ground (Hacker into whatever) and in the air (Hightime launch).
○ The delayed Death Coil chain also feels strong and adds variety.
○ Stinger is the only weak link, because the double tap input feels unnatural on a pad stick and mashing for Trillion Stabs gets tiring.
• Arbiter feels both amazing and effective in combat, and it’s fun to figure out how to overcome its slowness. Presenting clear tradeoffs in an otherwise open-ended combat system is such a great way to encourage critical thinking and exploration!
○ Osiris isn’t a bad alternate since there are some stylish things it can do, although it felt significantly less powerful than even Rebellion and its upside wasn’t entirely clear.
• Eryx was probably the weakest weapon design in that it never felt fun to use or more commanding than Arbiter, despite requiring a lot more patience to deploy. It was useful for launching armored Butcher enemies, and that’s about it.
○ Aquila is probably the second most fun weapon – but it only shines after unlocking the Buy In upgrade, which pulls in all nearby enemies. Until then, it’s largely a situational gimmick weapon used for the Round Trip ability.
• All three of Dante’s guns are fun at first, but ineffective and therefore largely forgettable.
○ In fact, the ranged weapon trophy was the last weapon-based achievement i unlocked. It’s the only reason i used guns in the last 1/3 of the game. That and shattering occasional Demonic Shards, which felt more like a tacked-on mini-game than part of the core combat experience.
• Kablooey is an intriguing gun design, but it’s unlocked too late in the game to become familiar and requires too much patience to utilize. I used it against Vergil, but mostly as filler to accompany the real strategy of reflecting his own projectiles back at him, which yielded far more damage. Definitely a cool weapon for advanced combo construction though.
• Healthy mix of small troops, large threats, flying target practice, and unique enemy designs encountered in later stages. Not much to say about most of them; i think they worked well.
• Harpies were my least favorite enemies to encounter. They’re pretty damn tough to kill, and extremely annoying in groups with other enemies. The strategy to fight them is just very murky and one-at-a-time.
○ It would be more fun if there was some way to hurt the whole group at once, maybe by catching one of their (extremely painful) lances and causing a shockwave that stuns them or damages their wings.
○ I wonder if there was supposed to be another airborne enemy type which got cut, so a few extra gameplay elements were added to Harpies without giving them the full endgame enemy treatment. So now they’re in that middle zone of annoying to fight, but not quite respected. (This might be worth discussing further in another article.)
• Odd tangent, but i don’t understand the marketing strategy for DmC at all. Judging by trailers and commercials, i thought new Dante was a jackass. Everyone did, apparently.
○ Playing the game, i was shocked to find out that DmC Dante is one of the coolest, chillest, most likable protagonists in any action game – with a genuinely compelling story! He’s certainly more relatable than classic Dante. How did that get lost so completely?
• Choosing the Succubus boss battle out of context for the playable demo was a terrible idea. Not only is she disgusting, but it’s easily the low point of the story, dialogue-wise. Just questionable decisions all around.
Vergil’s Downfall DLC
• Very interesting to play as Vergil through a solid 3-4 hours of content, with many new mechanics to explore.
• Vergil’s abilities seem more intricate than Dante’s, but there’s certainly a lot of power to unlock through precision. It’s fun to tackle some of the same demons with a different moveset, finding new ways past their patterns and defenses.
• Platforming is noticeably less polished than in the main game. A lot of it stems from giving Vergil an upward dash on neutral L1 and downward dash on neutral R1.
○ I don’t think i used the downward dash once all game, and i got killed dozens of times trying to get used to the upward dash controls. It takes an extra split second for the pad stick to return to neutral after letting go, which meant i got forward air dash while attempting an upward dash all the time.
○ Jumping forward then neutral dashing upward then forward dashing is such an unnatural input sequence.
○ This could’ve been easily remedied by keeping upward dash on the X button like Dante’s double jump, even if it meant mapping the same move to two inputs. Who cares about redundancy if it feels ten times better right out of the gate?
○ Anyway, platforming felt much better in my second playthrough after getting used to the controls. (Which is why it’s so difficult to avoid becoming comfortable with overcomplicated control schemes during long development cycles.)