Think Nippon Ichi Software's newest PSP puzzler has a long title? Think again, because at one time this obscure Japanese import was going to be called: Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! 2 - Time To Tighten Up Security! Not only was this a funny play on a classic catch phrase, but it would have marked the first time two exclamation marks had been used in one single PSP title. It would almost be worth doing just for that. But alas, NIS decided to change the title so as to not get sued by the Dark Knight himself. No matter what comical name you use, the What Did I Do To Deserve This, My Lord? series is unlike anything you've seen on the PlayStation Portable.
I'll be honest, for the first few hours I didn't know what was going on. I didn't play the original, a PSN-exclusive that somehow passed under my radar last year. I knew that the game was some sort of real-time strategy game, yet it looked more like a classic dungeon crawler. No matter how many screen shots I looked at, I couldn't make heads or tails out of this game. And that confusion continued well into the lengthy tutorial process. Even now that I've made my way through the lengthy story mode, I'm still not sure I can coherently explain what this game does.
In essence this game has the rules of a traditional real-time strategy game. You start with nothing, must earn/create different units and then, every so often, you need to use your units to defeat an invader. Instead of having two similar sides battling it out, you play the God-like friend of a vampiric demon character. This character seems to dwell deep underneath a bunch of towns around a traditional 8-bit role-playing game map. From time to time heroic knights and magicians will travel to your dungeon and attempt to take and kill the demon. If you play the game correctly you will keep everybody safe and live to play another level.
Where the game strays from the real-time strategy game roots is when it comes to creating and earning your various units. In a lot of ways the game feels like a two-dimensional version of Viva Pinata, Rare's crazy gardening simulator. Like that game, you will need to create the ecosystem needed to create and sustain the life of your units. And not just sustain them, but also put them into situations where they will evolve and become more powerful. And you do all of this by balancing the food supply and making paths for your characters.
Are you lost? Yeah, so was I. Initially the game gives you four lessons in the tutorial, each teaching you how to harvest slime monsters that fertilize the soil, which eventually leads to new species, magic and much, much more. After you've graduated from the four unlocked tutorials you're off to play the first story mission. At least, that's what I thought. After getting slaughtered by the heroic knight, I went back to the tutorial to figure out what I was doing wrong. It was then that I made the shocking discovery that there aren't just four tutorial missions, but actually 30 different lessons. Needless to say, the game's depth is staggering.
For much of my time with the game I felt like there was too much to know. Maybe it's just a difference in what I want in a real-time strategy game, but I'm one of those people that like to keep it simple. What Did I Do To Deserve This, My Lord? 2 is not a simple game, it requires a level of knowledge that I wasn't expecting. To the game's credit, the lessons are introduced over the course of the game, so there's never a time when you'll need to play all 30 lessons in a row. But even with that caveat, it definitely felt like I was getting information overload. And then, after several hours listening to the demon act like this was simple stuff, I started to get the hang of it.At its best the game gives you a compelling real-time strategy experience where you're spending time planning for the inevitable. When you know how to build everything you need, the game becomes just as exciting the classic PC RTS games I grew up playing. The only problem is that your organic dungeon doesn't always work the way you want it to, so there's a bit of luck involved that can hamper the fun. And let me tell you, before you understand how the ecosystem works, there's very little fun to be had in this game.
For the most part I enjoyed What Did I Do To Deserve This, My Lord? 2. I didn't mind that the game looked like a glossy 8-bit game or that some of the writing grated on my nerves. What kept me from loving the game was the huge learning curve and the intense difficulty. Perhaps I just didn't have the knack for the game, but I found the second half to be unbearably difficult. There are only a few times where I really felt like I had control over the game. And even now, after I've gone through and played the tutorials, I still have a hard time explaining all of the nuance found in this deceptive title.
What I do know is that this real-time strategy game is unlike anything I've ever seen before. It has a lot of great ideas that make sense when you understand how the universe works. I can see hardcore RTS fans really getting into the way the world comes together, even if it isn't very clear from the start. The game has a great sense of humor and there are ideas here that I wouldn't mind seeing added to more established titles.
The problem is that most of the good things about this title are marred by the frustrating difficulty and repetitive levels. There's a lot about this game that I really enjoyed, but I rarely had a good time playing it. I can't see anybody wanting to play this maddening game for more than a few levels at a time, and even then it feels like a grind. If you're an RTS fan looking for a crazy challenge, then this game will scratch that very specific itch. Everybody else may want to do more research before committing to this title.
It's worth noting that this game comes in two different packages. The physical UMD version retails for $29.99 and comes with both the original game and this sequel. I reviewed the edition found on the PSN store, which lists at $19.99. For what it's worth, the cheaper version found on the PSN store does not include the original game. No matter which version you try, What Did I Do To Deserve This, My Lord? 2 is the kind of crazy game only the Japanese seem to come up with.