Watch the anime instead.
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
Publisher: PQube Limited
Release date: Aug 10, 2020
I have only heard of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? before which about sums up my entire experience with the series prior. My anime enthusiast friends haven’t said any bad things about it from my anime enthusiast friends, so I figure that giving the game a try would be a good idea to get my feet wet. Then it’s time to dive in the anime! Some good idea that was. I will say one thing though: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Infinite Combate, for better or worse, will most likely make the players want to go watch the anime, as I did.
The story of the game retreads the events of its source material. The game focuses on Bell Cranel, a novice adventurer and how he came to fall in love with Ais Wallenstein, an experienced and powerful swordswoman who saved his life. They both have feelings for each other but Ais will not accept a man that is weaker than she is. Bell sets out to become stronger while other things happening along the way. This is what the visual novel style section of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Infinite Combate is about.
The rest of Infinite Combate and the core gameplay is the dungeon exploration. You either assume the role of Bell or Ais to fight through the ever spawning monsters via top-down camera until the assigned objective is completed. These objectives are usually in the form of defeat X number of monsters, obtain X number of items, and reach Xth floor of the dungeon. It’s all quite simple and this would have been fine if the same doesn’t apply to the general combat system and how battles are fought.
There are not many things that can be done during combat. Moving around, dash, and two attack buttons (light and heavy) are the full extents of tools that you have access to. As one would expect, light attacks are fast and can string into a combo if pressed consecutively while heavy is a slow and powerful hit that has a large amount of uncancellable recovery time. The former is a vastly superior option to the latter as heavy attacks are incredibly unsafe and leave you extremely vulnerable. In a game where movement is vital but extremely limited, such a cumbersome move is best avoided.
The Many Flaws of Infinite Combate
For a game that has the term “Infinite Combate” in the title, its actual combat certainly does not feel like it can be played infinitely. While there are, in fact, 3 types of weapons, their movesets don’t vary much save for the range. This is attributed to the angle, lack of animation flairs, and overall simplistic graphics of the gameplay section that I can only describe as a step better than Harvest Moon: Back to Nature of PlayStation 1. Anyway, the core gameplay can be essentially boiled down to move around to hit enemies and move away, rinse, and repeat. I realize that a lot of games can also be boiled down to this but the difference is how they shake things up to keep them fresh. That is not really the case here. The hit and run style gets really monotonous after some stages. Outside passive upgrades like attack or HP increase and the likes from the linear skill trees, there is really nothing else. No new attacks or something else to get excited for. Other RPG elements include the basics like buying stats altering equipment, recovery items that can be taken to the dungeons, and assign an elemental attribute to weapons. These things can be done via the intermission menu which is also where you go to accept both side quests and main ones that progress the story. All of these can probably be forgiven to some degree if your characters at least look cool while going through the ordeal but this is most certainly not the case due to the extremely stiff and lackluster animations. The core gameplay neither looks good nor feels satisfying to play.
The experience is made worse due to how the gameplay section is divided. The story is told from two different perspectives early on. One is from Bell’s perspective while the other is from Ais’. The gameplay parts of the two are chiefly the same except for the fact that Bell is a lesser character to play as when compared to his counterpart. This is fine and it is also true to the lore. What is not fine is how this translates to the gameplay. Bell lacks access to the core mechanic that is the support attack for a good portion in a game where combat options are already limited. His dash also has far more recovery time than that of Ais.
I understand why the game is structured this way, I do. This is the same as early entries of Megaman X, when the players often get to control Zero for a limited time before having to switch back to X. Zero, or Ais, in this case, represents the potential of what Bell could become and eventually surpass. The problem here is the frequency of how often you get to play as Ais. You get to play a better version of a character followed by a lesser variation halfway of a chapter. This pattern repeats for about half of the game. The difference between the two becomes more and more jarring with each repetition and eventually, I just come to hate playing as the main protagonist. This would not have been the case if Ais was only playable once or if the combat/movement system is robust enough that the proverbial gap can be filled. The idea is here but, unlike Megaman X, the execution is not.
Lastly, and perhaps the worst of the offenders of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Infinite Combate is the disconnection between the story and gameplay. What I am referring to is specifically how sometimes the story spends no effort whatsoever of why the protagonists need to visit the dungeon. Sometimes you are just thrown into dungeon even though it has no relation whatsoever to the ongoing story. This is a recurring thing that keeps happening. It is unthinkable to me as to how this could have been overlooked. How can the one thread that connects the only two major parts of the game be treated with such inattentiveness? It’s almost if the devs don’t care. “Well, the game has the word ‘dungeon’ and that’s where all the actions and main gameplay occurs. Just put the players there, adapted story and immersion be damned!” is the kind of vibe I’m getting. This is the final nail in the coffin and what compels me to just go watch the anime instead if you value immersion in videogames in any capacity.
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Infinite Combate is difficult to recommend to both the general audience and fans. For the masses, not only is the graphics dated, but the gameplay is also fairly repetitive due to its simplistic mechanic and lack of variations which can make it quite tedious. This is made worse when you are forced to alternate between Bell and Ais. The difference between two becomes more pronounced the more you have to swap around which just makes you end up disliking Bell. So this game is not for the general audience. Big deal, right? What about the fans? For the fans, If you were expecting to relive the entire story of the series but in playable form, this game is unable to meet that expectation in its entirety. Before the end, let us part with a question: If the people behind this game don’t care enough to at least consistently weave the story and gameplay together, why should you?