In my run through the Humble Bundles, I polished off Lugaru HD today. Quite a fun little brawler – reminded me a lot of a more interactive Arkham City, with floppy ears.
One of the subtle things I appreciate in Lugaru is the use of mechanics that really gel with the story. It is a brawler, and the character you play is famous for his skill in combat. The level design is quite clever in this regard: you’re always up against enemies that seem much more powerful than yourself, such as being armed when you’re unarmed or being *frickin wolves*. This keeps the fight from feeling mundane – you’re always battling something stronger. While the vengeance plot itself is a little blandly stereotypical, the arc that it follows – betrayal, a foreign army, a question of ecological sustainability – is an interesting take on it. In these respects, I like it better than Arkham: you’re punching up in a quest that might not always be virtuous but that your bloodthirsty rabbit feels is necessary.
It also has an excellent use of a HUD – or rather, the lack of one. Aside from a minimap and a (mostly irrelevant) score, there’s no meters or bars or collectibles or other clutter. You know how you’re doing mostly by the behavior of the characters – especially the blood.
It’s a good sign that the minor flaws I’m seeing are mostly a situation of wanting to see more. I want more contextual fighting moves, more world exploration, better use of the variety of weapons, armor, and enemy strategies (I could’ve used more stealth, or more situations where enemies alerted their allies, or more verticality to the stages). Brawlers are quite different from my normal fare, and I would’ve appreciated a little more involved strategy – I feel like a few of my victories were more based on getting off lucky Leg Cannon attacks than on any real meaningful choices – but honestly the game was short enough and combat was fun enough that the run-block-kick-run-LEG CANNON cycle I found myself using didn’t get that old. The thing felt really cohesively done.
In many ways, this reflects the other side of the issue with Gish and D&D-style teleport: Lugaru gives you all the abilities, and lets you use them in any combination you wish to overcome your enemies. Some just become a little less useful, and could use a few scenarios to specifically use them more.
Three Things to Learn
- Use the world, not a HUD (players pay more attention to the details)
- Enemies should make use of each other – ganging up, sentries…expanding this to the D&D world, combat roles for adversaries might be interesting (enemies are dyanmic challenges)
- Ragdoll flailing into space is never NOT hilarious – even when its your dude who does the flail (it’s hilarious to die, and it gives victory a certain panache)